deafening whispers

we all have voices inside of us that speak to us.

in whispers or in screams.

and those voices came from somewhere.

and they need to go.

 

Sometimes I try to remember when the voices started.

Sometimes I wonder when they’ll go away. Or if they’ll go away at all.

It’s better not to think of that last one though, because there’s one voice that whispers an answer every time that I ask.

An answer that I deeply hope is a lie.

But what if the words it tells me in that whisper are true, after all? The thought of that scares me.

So I try not to wonder about that.

 

I can’t even remember a time when they haven’t been there.

They have made my own voice so small, it’s almost impossible for me to find it..

So quiet and hesitant that it barely even tries to be heard anymore.

When it does, it is swiftly shut down and swept away by the collective voice.

A singular voice now, born of the multitude of voices that took up residence throughout the years.

 

I would hear them, inside of me, in their own voices when they spoke to me.

They were voices that were not mine but I knew them all the same.

They were teachers, friends, aunts, uncles, doctors and strangers even.

The voices of those closest were the easiest to believe and allow in to stay.

My best friends, my lovers, my partners.

My mother.

 

Critiqued and judged, found to be lacking. A disappointment and of little value.

Their voices would scold, judge, shame and humiliate me.

Every doubt that my self mused over would be violently wrenched from my grip and

tossed amongst the voices like a game of hot potato.

The intensity and pain of the doubt growing stronger and more powerful as it went from voice to voice.

The self-doubt changed and shaped into a truth in their grasp before it was given back to me where I would accept it and hold it tightly to me.

It was mine now. True and indisputable. Believed.

 

My voice wouldn’t lie to me.

MY voice.

I wonder sometimes when the voices stopped being “them” and became “me”.

When did they start to speak in my voice, sounding like me and not themselves anymore?

Their whispers and shouts no longer familiar or known, but now in my own voice.

The cadence and nuances of what spoke to me made up of the very fibre of my self.

Sometimes I try to remember when the voices started.

Sometimes I wonder when they’ll go away. Or if they’ll go away at all.

 

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Life, controlled

I love lists. To-do lists, short-term, long-term, lists of accomplishments, lists that track data or statistics… oh I love them and I know I’m not the only one. Most of us who are like this don’t necessarily talk too much about it though, we know we’re the minority and it’s almost a closet passion. I’ve met a few kindred spirits though and learned that there are incredibly similar reasons behind our love of lists. Our gathering and tracking (and yes, sometimes hoarding) of information and data makes us feel secure and grounded – safe. They make a person feel like they can clearly see, assess, measure – control – everything in our reach and even those things beyond our current reach. Goals and dreams for the future even factor into the never-ending compilation of lists and spreadsheets. So does looking back and tracking where we’ve come from in so many areas of life. From work performance and tasks to personal activity, health and fitness tracking and goals to budgets, it can all be sorted and tracked and analyzed – almost obsessively so. “Archive” is a word that gives people like me the warm fuzzies – but we’ll almost never admit that, except to another like-minded spreadsheet-loving freak.  I am not exaggerating when I say I have budgets archived from at least 10 years ago and I can tell you exactly how much I spent in a coffee shop in October 2003 ($41.85). Want to know what the postal code was for the apartment that I lived in for a few months in 1990? I have that too. What was my body fat percentage in March 2013, just one second while I pull that up. This goes beyond the usual grocery list on the fridge type of behaviour that is what most people limit themselves to – and I know that. Being in control and task oriented is a good thing, even necessary depending on how you live your life. Yet what I’m looking at here is something other than what would be considered “normal”. An easy analogy: having a drink with friends when you get together is all good; secretly drinking alone every night until you pass out is not healthy behaviour. Same idea but without the alcohol….

So why is it that some people are so bound by lists and the need to collect and track information? Any behaviour that is habitual must serve a need to be continued. The question then is how is it serving a need – and more importantly – if you want to change it – what is that need?

Some introspection this past week has me pondering the reasons behind it all. It’s not the first time that I’ve thought “what would happen if I just stopped?” Would the world stop spinning if I chose to “delete forever” from my drive? Would my ability to function within my safety net of knowing everything be affected? It’s these thoughts that drive me to peruse the “why”. It’s actually something I contemplate every time someone in my life points out that these lists and compilations aren’t always the healthiest of behaviour patterns for me.

Breaking it down, It comes down to two very separate and distinct motivators. From the people who I’ve encountered, and my own experience, these reasons exist with very blurred lines of separation and aren’t mutually exclusive.

The first is control. The control that a person has over their lives, or the illusion of control, serves a massive need to feel secure and stable. It is personal safety 101 and it is one of our most basic, primal needs that we search to have met. If you grow up experiencing life with trauma, abuse, neglect, instability or a feeling of not being secure – this is where it can manifest from. From a sense of not being able to control even the most basic of your needs like personal safety or stability in your environment we learn coping mechanisms. Some people put up walls so thick and high that their own internal space becomes the only space they need or want to feel that security. They dissociate, find a secure place inside of themselves and hunker down for the long haul, sometimes for life. Others turn outwards, looking to obsessively control any aspect that they can. For these people, when they start to have control over some areas of their lives, they exert it stringently and with an iron fist. Welcome to homes that are never cluttered or untidy, bookshelves arranged by colour or author or book size, closets that are micro-organized. Lives that are lived scheduled to the minute and smartphones that are linked to every calendar imaginable for cross referencing. This type of behaviour is something that can be a healthy characteristic to possess. It’s when it creeps into needing to control other people’s actions (or reactions) that it can get messy and toxic.  In teen years, or even younger, this control shows up as eating disorders and other forms of self harm. You can’t control if someone is abusing you but you sure as hell can decide to not eat or to secretly hurt yourself with blades. You exert dominance over the one thing you can; your body.

Which brings me to the next option for “why”. Closely linked but different.

You grow up, move out and get away from the external influences that you sought to wrestle control from. Now you are competent and in control and perfection in action… Unless you aren’t. Instead of your mother or father or society inflicting the hurt or telling you that you aren’t good enough or you are a failure, you learn to (outwardly at least) shake that off and be strong and independent! Yet the firmly entrenched and expected feeling of being not good enough or “wrong” somehow is – sadly – a comfortable way to feel. As dysfunctional as that sounds, it’s what is the most normal and it’s been the most consistent feeling in your life for so long that it actually feels better when you feel badly. Messed up, but not uncommon unfortunately. So, what better way to punish or hurt yourself (and create that familiar, if unhealthy, feeling) than by being the one to set up the parameters for how you measure up? This is an easy one to hide from even yourself though. It very often masquerades as “good” and “healthy” to the person doing it, even motivational. These types of behaviours are routinely even praised and encouraged by others. You feel accomplished and organized and you are the envy of your friends who can never find the tax papers they need or who run out of socks because they let their laundry pile up in the corners of their cluttered rooms. You give yourself a big pat on the back for having it all so together.

Looking deeper though, you’ll see the patterns of reactionary behaviour that go with this type of behaviour and tracking and list making. You know the exhaustion that comes from always needing to be perfect and the need to have everything around you perfect. You know that holding onto those spreadsheets of weekly or monthly goals not quite met sends you into an emotional spin. You know that every time you analyze what you consider a failure to meet unachievable goals (that you set for yourself…see the loop here?) you feel badly. Yet you still do it. You have become the abuser and the abused, and in some twisted way, you know this and it’s better than it was because now at least, you are in control of it.  You are the only one who can stop the cycle and be, ironically, in control of ending the cycle that eats away at your self-image and self-love. But how about instead of you being the one to control the hurt, you chose to stop it instead?

Whether it’s about control or self-harm, unhealthy actions need to be changed. It may sound simplistic and it is. Simple, but not easy. Being aware of the “why” is sometimes the first stop on the road to making changes. From there, you’re in control, in a good way.

This could become a “thing”!

So today is my birthday and, unlike most years, I’m embracing it in ways that I normally wouldn’t. I’m not one to put a lot of significance into acknowledging or celebrating it. It’s not a day that has usually had much recognition, by myself more so than anyone else. I don’t mean it in a way of saying that I feel like it’s been ignored or that it’s been a negative thing, it’s just the way that I’m wired for it. Some people make a huge deal out of their birthdays, and that’s all good, I’m just not one of them. I had actually kept my birth date off of social media for years because I don;t like a lot of attention being paid to it, usually.

Last year was a bit out of the norm for me. My partner did make a deal of. She treated me to a surprise night out at an amazing show and a wonderful home-cooked dinner. Being made to feel special was a new experience for me. The way she did it was the best and I loved it’s simplicity and it’s personal nature. It felt good to feel good and to celebrate something that is so intrinsically personal and all about me. Not an easy thing for me to understand.

This year, from the moment go this morning, it’s been a new experience. I’m not “doing” anything for my birthday but I am “being” different today and how that is feeling to me has taken me by surprise. It began though, before today even. Last night I took the time to pick up a couple of things while I was grocery shopping. Items that would help make an already planned and looked-forward-to dinner even better. Items that will compliment the scrumptious pasta sauce that my sweetie sent me home with from the weekend.

I took the time to think of how to make my planned experience even better.

I took the time to think of myself and how could I could make myself happier.

I put my attention on myself.

That’s a big thing. That’s not something that is my usually way of being and thinking. Felt good though.

I woke up this morning and made myself coffee and took my time getting ready. I actually dawdled and sat and scrolled through social media and smiled as I saw messages and wishes for a happy day.

I made a conscious and very intentional decision to pick out something to wear that I loved and that made me feel good today. Why? For the unheard of reason that I decided that I wanted to feel amazing today and that I deserved that.

What a concept! One that, as simple and easy and obvious as it sounds, isn’t one that I operate with as part of my life usually. It’s not anything as dysfunctional as “I hate myself” (most of the time) but it’s just that I don;t register on my own radar for doing something, anything, for myself beyond necessity and basics.

Being, what I would consider self indulgent, or even just being attentive to what will put a smile on my face or make me feel good inside or out doesn’t exist for me really.

But you know what? I have spent the day (so far! It’s not over yet!) paying attention to myself and putting myself and feeling good foremost in my mind – even while working a full day and getting things done!

I’ve taken the time to indulge in thinking about  myself and in recognizing that my feeling good is important and worth spending time and energy on. This may have to become a daily thing, it feels so good. This could become a thing!

To be free

I wondered today, as I weighed and measured myself, what it would be like to be free of all this. To just be done with the impact that all those numbers have on me. What would it be like to just look at my body and not measure its value or worth or how I feel about it based on anything other than how it simply IS. What would happen if I saw the little extra here and there and just shrugged and went about my day and felt fabulous and sexy and desirable and strong and all those other feelings that get snagged in the daily net of “not good enough”?

I have days when I feel great… then I weigh myself and all of a sudden I don’t feel like I did a few minutes before. Yet my ingrained sense of self-image is so tied to achieving what always is a work in progress that I am addicted to tracking and critiquing myself. Sure, part of it is that I do feel, physically, so much better when I’m a few pounds down. I feel stronger and lighter and more in shape and that translates to me feeling less inhibited and less insecure. A large part of this all though is the unknown of how do I measure my self-worth and my self image outside of the constraints of scales and measuring tapes and waist sizes? That’s something that I’ve never been exposed to. I see people who do this; I see their freedom and I envy that. I strive towards that. I feel bound by my inhibitions and self judgement of physical self – to the point where I hate the limitations it has had, and continues to have, on my activities and my life.

There have been times, when I am so IN and OF my body that I cease to BE my body. Experiences that are deeply and profoundly physical but are so emotional and intense that my body is nothing so inconsequential as a physical thing, but rather, it becomes what it actually is… a vessel for Me. Times when the phrase “coming back to earth” is perfect for capturing how it feels. My body, at those times, is simply and beautifully, nothing more than something that holds my Self. It gives me movement and expression physically for the wonderfulness that is all inside. Those times have been rare but oh so memorable.

I hold onto to those memories with a strong grasp knowing that if I can get there once or twice, then I can do it again. To dance, to love, to move, fly, swing and swim and everything in between. Freely, openly, abundantly even. Yes. It’s there, I’ve seen it and felt it and will again.

It’s only Me

What’s holding me back?

What is it that confines me?

I wish, I hope, I want to.

Yet I almost always don’t. I let other people’s opinions and beliefs of me reinforce the whispering voice inside my own head that tells me I can’t, or I shouldn’t.

My confidence shaky at best and non-existent most of the time, if I am to be honest about it.

I sometimes actually feel it but those times are the rare exceptions.

The times that I glimpse with my feelings what it’s like to be free.

Free from restraint and fear and second guessing my Self and my choices, my wants, my desires.

Freedom that I crave and want and when I taste it the odd time, it stirs in me a thirst that hurts all the more because of how unattainable it feels to ever own that freedom.

What’s holding me back?

What stops me from the doing and the being and expressing and the living?

Me, simply, Me.

The beauty of a life lived

My body carries the adornment of its experiences.

The permanent crease of my brow as it has furrowed, years of squinting because of eyesight less than perfect and a forgetfulness for wearing my glasses.Leaving behind a deep wrinkle that tells that story, silently like all the other marks and notes in my flesh.

The lines around my mouth and eyes , the deeper ones on my forehead all speak,if you know how to listen. They tell of a life full of rambunctious laughter and giggles as well as simple smiles and kisses that have puckered my lips more times that my mind can remember.

A love of lifting my face to the sun to feel its warmth and embrace has left its kiss on my skin.

My belly sings with a gentle softness and shines with the shimmer of marks from the story of people who were conceived and grown there. Four wonderfully miraculous souls who shared my body for a while before they embarked on their own journeys.

My scars each have their own moments to share. The loudest voice that they speak with though is the one that whispers that I survived and am still here to wear them.

I am all of this on the outside.

The vessel that I live in gives a glimpse of where I’ve been.

As the years come and go, my life leaves more impressions on my body.

I see it, far from imperfect or flawed… I see the beauty and expression of a life lived.

Really, it’s not you, it’s me

I have spent most of my life dealing with and trying to have a normal life despite, anorexia and bulimia and body dysmorphic disorder. But what happens when someone who sees herself as gross and disgusting and fat actually *becomes* truly overweight and “big” and it’s not just in her head?

Even at my worst with starving myself – or when I was “better” and just throwing up the food that I ate – I knew, rationally that I was not the size and shape that my eyes saw and my hands felt. I was logical enough to be aware of my distorted view. It didn’t change how I saw myself or how I felt but there was a sliver of talking myself off the maniacal ledge of self-hate with reason and logic. I am first and foremost a logical person and emotions can, and have been, simply put on hold to listen to reason.

But here I find myself 18 pounds up in the last almost 2 years. Time after time trying to lose the weight and finding myself now heavier every month. A body destroyed from years of abuse of starvation now metabolically messed up. Eating a “normal” amount of food causes weight gain. I have had by basal metabolic rate tested and it is well below “normal” range. A caloric intake that would maintain on most, on me packs weight on fast. A simple fact and one I am trying to change with regular, structured eating but it appears to have no impact. I exercise 6 days a week and workout hard. Sweat dripping off of me. 60 plus minutes of cardio plus weight training… all to simply watch the scale and the measurements slowly go up over the last 2 years. I have had every blood test imaginable to check hormonal function. Nothing. Everything not only normal but , according to my doctor, better than most people in their twenties. So it’s not medical.

A closet full of clothes that no longer fit, no matter how I try to squeeze my ever-growing, disgusting body into them. Mornings filled with shame that I can’t wear my work clothes and seeing another summer come toward me knowing that none of my dresses or skirts fit properly. A week of down 2 pounds followed by one of up 3. Down 3 pounds, up 2. No changes the best I can hope for. Any hope or belief that I can actually make a change seriously faltering and giving way to the realization that no matter how hard I try, I can’t love myself like this.

It’s not all in my head. Clothes don’t lie. Sizes on labels that are up 2 and 3 sizes from what is “normal” show that yes, it’s really me getting fatter and fatter and more and more gross to myself every week. This is not case of me just needing to decide to love myself how I am. I can’t and won’t. I can’t be bigger every week and just shrug it off and declare that I’m beautiful no matter what and I’m fabulous. I shrink from the idea even of anyone being near me physically.

My intimate life non-existent and with no prospect of that changing starting to devastate me. I can’t fathom the idea of anyone touching me or having their eyes on me. It’s not as simple as what people tell me… your body is a vessel etc. Yes, I know that… and I have brief flickering nanoseconds of feeling that… but the actual ability to be naked in front of someone, anyone… is an impossibility to me. The disgust and self-hatred that I have for my body and how it looks and feels trumps any desire to be close or intimate with anyone. Factor in that there is the underlying base feeling of such intense loathing for my body that why in the world would I want to have it feel good when it (and I, by connection) don’t deserve to feel good… and you have a recipe for celibacy and isolation which is where I have been for a very long time now.

There is no happy ending to this. A lifetime of wanting so badly to be free of this and now facing the reality that I am not only no closer, but in fact getting worse almost daily. At 42 years old my potential to finally find the self acceptance that I’ve yearned for is slipping away quickly. I can’t even tell myself that I need to just move past what’s in my head because now, it sure as hell isn’t just in my head anymore… and that isn’t something I can just get past.

So I put people off, I turn down offers and dates and don’t even want to casually socialize most of the time anymore. I can’t explain fully enough that really and honestly, it’s not you, it’s me.