Happy Monday. It’s been a rainy holiday here, the perfect day to snuggle up inside – which is exactly what I’ve done. For the most part anyway – as usual, Shalimar cannot accept that it’s rainy and cold outside, and begs for me to take her out. So I did. And this is what happened:
She’s gained some weight again. She’s struggled with being overweight for the last few years, actually was obese about a year ago. I was terrified for her health, and put her on a Vet supervised obesity diet for as long as we could afford ($55 a bag!!!! Pet food can be more expensive than people food..) She was a LOT better. Even though I couldn’t keep her on the expensive food for more than a few months, it helped us to get into a routine and set amount for two meals a day – she no longer pesters me for food at all hours, and I no longer give in and spoil her with tidbits and extra feedings.
Well, at least, that was the case. Lately I’ve been slipping – she’s begun pawing for food at all hours again, partly because of cabin fever with all the rain lately, and I’ve been giving in to her. That stops again, right now. It’s scary how fast a few little bits here and there blow her up. I want her to be happy and healthy and she is neither if she gets too fat.
I have always been scared about how much to feed her. When I first adopted her, I vowed that she would never know what it was like to be hungry and not know where her next meal was coming from, or even if she would ever get a next meal again. I also was scared of messing up her relationship with food like mine is. I still struggle with that fear. Especially as I hold a lot of guilt about the number of times I’ve had to board her, and for me, food and love are hard to separate at times. (It was a lovely pet motel who cherished her, but it was horrible for her still – to be away from home in a cage, large or not, outings on the grass and cuddles or not. This is a huge motivation for me to stay well and out of hospital.)
Mostly I just want Shalimar to enjoy her life with food just being food. That’s my goal. I just want her to be as happy as she can be, and as healthy as she can be. When she’s happy, I’m happy – which is why she’s allowed to eat my beans!
The other thing I wanted to write about today, was my ‘Secret Dream World’. In other words, where I go, when I’m in a very deep, almost comatose state of sleep. What has this got to do with eating disorders? Well for me, a lot.
It sounds crazy. It probably IS crazy.
All of my life, I have dreamt about a place, the same place. It’s recognisable to me because it only changes as one would expect with time (trees growing, etc). It’s a huge, complex place, like another entire WORLD. There are still new places that I haven’t explored or discovered yet. And it’s a beautiful place. Utterly beautiful. All the things that make this world of ours beautiful are there but perhaps even MORE amazing if that’s possible. There are buildings there, but they don’t spoil it like our man made crap is spoiling our world. They seem to coexist with the natural landscape as though they belong there (or have been extremely well planned and designed.)
I used to call it the Ether – for want of a better name. Not because I knew of the connotations of the word ‘ether‘ at that time, but because as a dancer, I used to strive to be ‘ethereal’ like the willis in Giselle‘ – and came to love the word itself. Some words are just beautiful to me.
I am a dancer, I grew up living the dance. Eating, sleeping, walking, playing, reading, I danced my way through life. So it was only natural that I tried to dance in my dreams. I found this a frustrating practice, because I could never quite touch the ground there – it was like gravity didn’t have the same force as it does here in our world. Have you ever tried to dance when you are hovering a few centimetres off the ground? (No, I suspect not!) It’s hard. Your movements become more sluggish and not tidy at all. I just wanted to dance!!
And it was this battle to dance that led me to learn to fly. I found that I could ‘step’ into pockets of the air, and that a leap through the air (a grand jeté) became flight. I soon progressed from leaping to flying, full on flying. Oh the exhilaration! Although all this was in dreaming, it was all SO REAL. I would fly and fly and fly and fly, and sing at the top of my lungs, and wake up back in the real world exhausted, breathless, still trying to sing, on top of the world. Deeply disappointed to be awake and wanting only to go back again and fly away forever.
Another interesting thing I discovered is that often I would fly too high, and I’d crash into some invisible shield, sort of like a safety net, that bounced me back again. I found myself believing that if I broke that safety net, I would never wake up again in real life. That was scary as much as it was tempting. Especially as when I used to have these dreams all the time, my life was pretty horrible. I was a broken spirited, sick stick, trapped in a body that was dying and painful. I couldn’t see a way out, and so to escape it in these amazing dreams was heavenly.
These dreams are now one of the biggest pulls for me to sink back into the disorder. I only really seemed to ‘go’ there when I was very unwell – which makes me believe that they weren’t so much dreams as hallucinations. My mind needs to be in a very starved state for it to create all of that amazingness. And it’s still tempting, because living in the real world is still scary and painful. I’m terrified of life, terrified of being a failure, terrified of so much more. It’s the only place I’m free from the PTSD stuff, the depression, the pain and the never ending battle with my body.
And this battle, this epic, life-long battle, has left me so very weary. I often feel like I’m a thousand years old rather than 34. I need a rest – but the kind of rest I need isn’t possible in real life.
Does anyone else have this sort of experience? This sort of rich dream life that becomes more tempting than real life, an escape from fear and unhappiness?
I’m doing my best to make my real life as tempting as possible. Rejecting the oh-so-easy choice of just copping out and letting the eating disorder completely take over me again, so it would be over and I’d be ‘gone’. Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy, and that’s so true of my fight for life, for a real, genuine, LIFE.
My battle is for that feeling of genuine peace and freedom, and for a safety that I’ve never felt here. I hope that some day I can bring some of that beauty that exists only in my dreams into this world – perhaps by becoming more confident with my art again and painting it. Perhaps by finding a way to create little havens for other people here, havens where they can feel some sort of peacefulness and freedom to be themselves – another dream I have long held is to work with people in some sort of professional therapeutic capacity, to heal from what’s hurt them already, and just as importantly, to equip them with tools to not become that hurt and broken in the first place. To do this in a refuge-like setting that I’ve created for them. It’s not a concrete dream so much as something that is still evolving.
To be able to begin working on making this dream happen, I have to first get better, myself. Which means staying in the here and now.
If anyone is convinced I’m a nutcase because of this post, I have one request – please can my straightjacket be rainbow coloured?
If you have a pet, how does your eating disorder affect how you feed them, and how you react to their weight?
Do you have an interesting dream-life? Are your dreams more incredible when you are more unwell? Or less so?
(Self-Battle image from Facebook)