And here’s where it gets real.
I have been sort of coasting on different levels since I got here, much of it has been emotionally intense, but in ways that are more about the transition and homesickness and finding my way socially. Plus the whole stress about all the members of of Team Heidi the Hilltop version.
But today, the shit hit the fan. I read my timeline assignment in one of our groups. It is a timeline of the major events in my life and the development of my ED. For major events, I really focused on trauma related kinds of events. This is the assignment that I can’t post all of because it would be too identifying, but here’s a snippet:
1983: age 11: Just after my 11th birthday, I got my period. As soon as I hit puberty, I started gaining weight. I also rapidly grew breasts and pretty much went from flat chested to a C cup size. I refused to wear a bra until I was shamed by the leering and ogling of my male classmates. The boys also would elbow me in the chest to hurt me. I continued to gain weight.
I was tortured by my peers for being heavy. In gym class they would sing, ‘watch it wiggle, see it jiggle’ At this point, I really wasn’t excessively heavy and wasn’t even the fattest girl in class. But I was still tortured.
This is also the time that I would say my eating disorder started, I started eating for comfort. I needed relief from the bullying at school and also I was really struggling with the onset of puberty and having a grown-up body when I still felt like a little girl. I also was very uncomfortable with the ogling and felt dirty and disgusting.
1983: My parents sent me to my first counselor, a woman who treated me like a child and just didn’t seem very smart. I didn’t go to sessions for very long. I don’t remember much about the sessions except that the woman was not very smart and was condescending.
1984: age 12; I was part of several pull-out groups run by the guidance counselors. The kind of groups which meant I had been tagged as “damaged.” One of the groups was a book/discussion group about a book about a girl with anorexia.
1986: Age 14: I started high school. This is the time when the two middle-schools blend into one high school and everything is new and scary and disruptive. Within a couple of weeks of school starting, a girl who was a freshman too but from the other middle school was kidnapped, raped and murdered. They didn’t find her body for over two months. The first two months of school were all about speculations as to what had happened to her…It was all people talked about all the time. There was a significant unease at school.
There was a woman student teacher in my English class that took a liking to me and showered me with gifts and attention. I loved someone finally paying attention to me and liking me. What I didn’t know was that she was grooming me. Eventually, this led to sexual abuse. I don’t remember how long it went on for other than it was months. Honestly, a lot is sketchy about this time. Like I thought it happened in the fall, but then I remember spring weather and her taking me places in the summer…It is all fuzzy. Eventually, my parents complained to the principal and the student teacher was no longer allowed to spend time with me outside of school hours. I don’t remember how the relationship actually ended.
So, l read the whole timeline from birth to now. And then I got feedback from my peers, lots of them related to parts of my story. And then the therapist running the group asked therapisty kinds of questions and gave therapisty kinds of observations. And it was really hard for me. I feel incredible shame over parts of my timeline, as a matter-of-fact before I read it, I referred to it as my “Timeline of Shame.”
But it wasn’t shame I felt when I finished reading it. What I felt was sad. It really is a simplistic kind of feeling for putting my whole miserable life out there. Except that I don’t do sad. Sad is one of those unsafe and un-allowed feelings. Sad leads to those secret hidden spots that nobody is allowed to see. Sad is the feeling that will consume me. Plus, if I feel sad, then I have to ask what the sadness is about and I am NOT going there. NOT. NOT. NOT.
So…My brain turned the sad off and replaced it dissociation. If I can’t feel sad then I won’t feel anything.
We went back the the residence building for a bathroom break and that’s when the dissociation hit me. I started to feel all disconnected and floaty and like I was pulling away from myself. I felt a little bit wobbly on my feet and just needed to sit down and feel grounded (but I didn’t). And instead of tapering off quickly (as it sometimes does) I was really struggling and it was not wearing off. When I get all floaty like that I don’t even feel safe because I feel so disconnected from my body and I just can’t connect with my functional brain either. Like I washed my hands after using the bathroom and in my totally spaced state, I walked away with the faucet still running.
I knew it was only going to get worse, so I approached one of the Direct Care people that I kind of like and asked her for a wet washcloth because if I rub one on my hands and arms, the roughness of the washcloth and the coolness of the water evaporating off my skin can help ground me.
We returned to the next group and it took me over an hour in that group to pull myself back into my body and be mostly grounded. I say mostly because I wasn’t really grounded. And the next hour or so of time is pretty much lost. I know what I had to have been doing, I just don’t remember doing it.
And then it got worse. We went to our Psycho-Drama group and the woman who was working on her trauma experienced a serious trauma at the same age I had had my first sexual abuse trauma. She hesitantly connected with that painful child part of herself and I could identify really strongly with it. Only she is much farther along in her process so she had the strength and courage to do it. But I am not that strong and certainly not that courageous so I was just overwhelmed and I slid pretty easily back into dissociation.
Immediately after that, I had therapy. I didn’t want to seem my treatment therapist. I didn’t want any members of Hilltop Team Heidi. I wanted my regular, safe, comfortable Team Heidi. I don’t like being here and not feeling safe. I don’t like new everything. I want my own PNP, my own AT, my own everybody (except my own nutritionist).
When I got to therapy, I melted a little bit. But just a little. I just couldn’t let it all out. I mean, my therapist here is nice enough and surely seems competent, but she’s not the AT.
I struggled my way through the appt and only briefly slid a little deeper into dissociation a couple of time…And I don’t think she noticed which is okay with me. I don’t want her to know me. I don’t want her to know when I am struggling. I don’t want anything from her. And I certainly don’t want her to care.
Yes, I know. The whole point of being here is to work with her and everyone else. But it is soo hard. I don’t want my feelings. I don’t want to face my past. I don’t want to eat.
And yet, I will get up tomorrow morning and try again. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much and that I wasn’t afraid all the time. I just wish I was normal and didn’t even have to be here.
I hate being me.