Expressive Arts Carnival Activity No. 7 – Self Portrait

This month’s activity for the Expressive Arts Carnival was to:

Through drawing, painting or any other visual means, create a self portrait. Please also include a couple of sentences saying what the process was like for you.

I’ll say up front: I found this activity the hardest one so far. I’ve never done a self-portrait, and I wasn’t sure where to begin.

At first I wanted to do something realistic and something that represented myself in a positive light. I knew that ruled out drawing, because I’d be drawn (no pun intended) into showing myself as I think of myself, and perhaps not as I am.

So then I played around with photos for a while – creatively distorting photos of myself, creating collages of parts of myself that I actually like these days. I even did a pop art photo arrangement, but none of these seemed right.

Then I wondered how much of my difficulty with this activity was caught up with being a survivor. Do I just lack an image of myself? Perhaps …

The Polyvore set I did today shows more about how I see myself in relation to the world. It isn’t the happy, positive image I had hoped to create, though I’m comfortable with how it turned out. It feels right, or more right than the other self-portraits I had created. I can connect with this image, as how I see myself and how I feel. The other images somehow didn’t seem like me, even though most were created with photos of myself.

I am small, in a very big world.

I am colourless, in a world of colour.

I am ugly, in a world of beauty.

I am invisible, in a world of light.

I’m different; I’m an outsider.

I am hiding my face because I’ve never felt worthy.

That is changing, but I’ve still got a way to go.

Updates, bravery and naughtiness

I’m home. My trip was amazing, but I’m glad to be home. I’ll admit that I didn’t want to come home; didn’t want to come back to my life, but now that I’m here, I’m glad. It’s nice to be around trees and gardens again and nice to have rain, having spent time in rainless countries. It’s especially nice to be able to eat and drink without thinking too much about hygiene or nasty diseases. 😉

The other reason I’m glad to be home is that I’m not around my mother any more. I’ve spent three weeks with her and it’s just about done me in. Enough to bring back the darkness and thoughts of doing myself in. (To all you Captain Obviouses out there, yes that was probably predictable and thanks, I’ll know that in future.)

A contributing factor to the darkness is that I reduced my meds a few weeks ago, just before I went away. Yea, I know, not smart. I know that now. I was feeling good and taking two pills a day was annoying me so I thought I’d reduce the dose. Silly me. Actually “naughty” me, as the Wonder Therapist said, with a smirk on her face – “you naughty, naughty girl.” (She’s a member of the Captain Obvious club, too.)

I could spend this post on tales of woe about my mother’s behaviour, or how ordinary I feel, but I won’t. I’m feeling down enough as it is. Instead I thought I’d share a few marks of progress I experienced while away. I even surprised myself!

  • Almost no pre-flight anxiety on the day of my departure, not even at the airport or on the plane. Once on board, a couple of drinks and some magic pills and I slept nearly the whole way
  • I rode a camel AND on the spur of the moment, without “preparation” (whatever that might have entailed)
  • I rode a donkey, also on the spur of the moment, and even if I was scared to death the whole time it was prancing up the side of a cliff knocking pedestrians out of its way, I still did it
  • I talked to strangers (tourists and locals) interestedly and comfortably, without being embarrassed
  • I went out looking for supermarkets in strange towns – WITHOUT A MAP! and without consulting the hotel concierge about where to go or what I might find
  • I took taxis in countries where I don’t speak (or read) the language, without having a panic attack about where I might end up or what might happen
  • I realised that my body is just my body, it’s not disgusting as I once thought, it’s just as “normal” as everyone else’s. Ok, I still don’t like it, but I don’t feel as disgusting about it as I once did
  • I ate foreign food, without getting paranoid about what it might do to me
  • I generally got through the days rolling with whatever happened, not worrying about what might happen next or getting paranoid that something bad would happen.
  • And even when I was anxious, I was generally able to talk myself through it, without descending into a total panic-merchant

Even though my fortitude didn’t last the whole trip, I did well with these things. So a double smiley face to me 🙂 🙂

Emptying my head

I think I’m depressed. I’m back to blah. Sigh. I’m sick of it. It’s a long weekend here next weekend and I thought I might go away to try to break the cycle. I even thought I’d go to one of my favourite places (the one pictured in my header). Alas, the person who normally kitty-sits for me can’t do it next weekend. Sigh. (Totally as an aside, how this person runs a pet minding business when she’s not available most holiday weekends is totally and utterly beyond me.)

Anyway, having binged my way to emotional numbness, I thought I’d try to empty my head. Here goes…

I’ve been “dating” – or trying to. Only no one’s interested. I’ve been doing that online thing. The Wonder Therapist has been encouraging me to try to meet (or at least touch base with) as many men as possible, as a self-esteem booster. So, I contacted (another) eight guys last night. Six have already said they’re not interested. Terrific self-esteem booster, that one. Could this be the first time the Wonder Therapist is wrong about something?

The Wonder Therapist is going on holidays next week. For six weeks. Count them: six. She’s travelling the world to exotic locations. I’ll be seeing the Famous Back up Therapist while she’s away, and even though I know this will be ok (probably more than ok), I’m still panicking about the Wonder Therapist going. I feel childish and pathetic. Sigh.

My own motivation to go to exotic locations has totally evaporated. I don’t know where it’s gone, and I can’t seem to find it. My travel agent is still doing things for me, but really, I don’t know if I can do it.

I had to go to a work retreat this week – an overnighter with a bunch of colleagues I pretty much don’t like, and who pretty much trigger a whole lot of sh1t for me. I went. People are telling me I should be proud of myself for going. I’m not.

I haven’t been totally honest here lately. Well, I have been, but I just haven’t talked about the “real” issues for me at the moment. It’s all tied up with dating, and being rejected, and feeling like a fool. And my deepest, most intimate hopes and dreams. I’m a failure. There, I said it. I’m a failure and the things I want most in life won’t happen, so what is the point of anything?

On top of all this, every time I walk past the refrigerator I put on weight. The new “healthy eating” plan the dietician put me on has been working very well – NOT. It’s so hideous. I can’t stand the sight of myself.

The little pills I fought so hard last year have started calling to me again. I know that sounds crazy and I know I shouldn’t listen. I’m just so tired. So very, very tired.

The magic of therapy

A while ago I wrote about not feeling like a girl, and wanting to wear a pretty dress, to feel beautiful and special. Something odd has happened since then.

Yesterday my anxiety and pain levels were through the roof so I made a dash to the chemist (drug store). On the way I stopped by this great little clothing store near work. I came out with two (more) skirts and a pair of pants (trousers).

Skirts? Me?

Yep. I’ve bought a skirt or two and I’ve been wearing them. I even LIKE wearing them.

Ok, they’re long and not revealing at all, but I’m enjoying them. I now have four or five in my wardrobe. I still don’t really feel “beautiful” or “special” but I like the skirts. I feel good in the skirts.

I still don’t understand how these things happen. I guess it’s just part of the “magic” of therapy – things that once seemed impossible are now not only possible, but even enjoyable. 🙂

Control – I lost it

As most of you know I’ve been having a rough time lately. As if the work situation isn’t enough, I am possibly/probably heading for another round of gynae surgery before Christmas (unexpectedly but not emergently) and have scratched/smashed two cars in two weeks. Sigh.

I’ve found myself turning to time honoured strategies… in particular, The Food Thing.

I hate to admit it but I have been binge eating quite a lot lately. The worst episode for a while was last week. I got sick. Quite sick. So sick that it took me a couple of days to recover. And then I turned to another time honoured strategy: not eating anything at all. 

I have been trying to think about why I do this… if there are any triggers or any clues about what’s coming. I think there are. I know that as soon as work gets stressful, I start craving chocolate. And when I get upset or anxious, I just want to run. And when I can’t run, I eat. Even when I can run, I still crave food. Not just chocolate. Any food. Anything at all.

Sometimes I’m not even aware of what I’m doing… not until afterwards when I can see the mess, or when I’m suffering the consequences.

I know this can’t go on. For one thing it just generates more self loathing. Not to mention the potential weight gain that is itself a giant trigger. A ridiculously vicious circle.

I talked to my therapist about it this week. I foolishly gave her permission to tie me down and bludgeon me into talking about it. For some reason the stupid little leprechaun who lives in my head thought this was a good idea. Now I’m not so sure.

I came away with one side of my head screaming, “I HATE MY THERAPIST” and the other side saying, “No you don’t. She’s just trying to help.” In the cool light of day I realise she is just trying to help. It’s just incredibly hard and incredibly shame-inducing dealing with all this.

Sigh.

In which the flood gates open

I’ve been walking around in a daze for days. Weeks, actually, including while I was away. How is it that you can be with people 24/7 and yet still feel so isolated? So completely alone and empty inside?

My head is a muddled, jumbled mess. In many respects I feel like much of my progress over the last few months has evaporated. I’m not sure how this happened – was it spending too much time with my mother? Or not enough time alone? Or just too much time stuffing down every conceivable emotion while with my mother? Or … who knows?

I’m hoping that writing will help. I went to the gym earlier and treaded the treadmill for an hour, almost completely unaware of what I was doing. I think it worked, emotionally at least. As soon as I got in the car I burst into tears. I’m not sure why, I guess the proverbial flood gates just opened.

So here we are. I suspect this will be a rambling dump of things swirling about in my head. Apologies.

  • My mother: From the moment she arrived two weeks ago she started messing with my head and unwinding any shreds of confidence I had started to build. One of her first comments to me on arriving was “your bum is getting bigger again”. Sigh. In the time we were away she added to this happy moment saying I have to lose weight; that I shouldn’t eat nuts because they’re fattening; that I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mother; that I’m too old for a relationship; that a skirt I tried on was too short – or rather, needed to be longer to cover my legs because they’re too fat. She doesn’t mean any of this maliciously, but doesn’t understand the impact it has on me. My therapist said something like “God, if I asked your mother what she thought of anyone who said all that she’d probably realise just how awful it is.” Possibly, but it’s unlikely my therapist will ever get to ask her anything again because my mother flatly refused to go and see her. She even referred to my therapist as “that woman”. Sigh.
  • My therapist says that my father, my mother and I have a nice little malicious circle going on. My mother puts up with rudeness and nastiness from my father in the same way that I put up with it from my mother. That she uses my father as an excuse for not having a life in the same way that I have used my mother. I’m not quite ready to delve into this yet, so just throwing it out there.
  • Being triggered: I was triggered a couple of times while away. Especially by fish. Somehow my mother convinced me to try barramundi, which she says is beautiful and very unfishy to eat. Stupid, stupid me for agreeing to try it. I could smell it before it even came to the table and started freaking out and shaking and panicking and flashbacking and wanting to run away. Every morsel I put in my mouth made my throat close over and made me want to gag. Of course, I had to sit there like everything was fine. Pretend I’m normal and not a complete freak. Thankfully I had that old pattern down pat after spending so much time with my mother already.
  • I was also triggered by relationships. Specifically couples. Couples everywhere. Old and young. On the beach, by the pool, at the shops, on the boat, on the plane…. surrounded. Feeling like the only single person in a paired-up world. In many ways I long for a lasting and meaningful relationship. For the companionship. For knowing someone and someone knowing me. Connecting, even when you don’t speak. Even for holding hands. Trouble is, I’m too afraid to even admit I want this, let alone do anything to make it happen. I’m so afraid that everything I’ve always been told will be proven true – that I really am an ugly, nasty and horrible person and that no one will ever love me.
  • I also got mildly triggered by some friends, and listening to them talk about children and childhoods and our past.  I’ve known these people since … well, for a couple of decades or more though they don’t know about my past. I found it hard to sit there and listen to the memories of teenage years, of boys, of families, of … all sorts of things. I ran away to the kitchen where I could bury myself in preparing food without fear of freaking out.
  • The Body Image Thing: The hell of the body image continues. It was hard being away in a hot, summery environment where I was seemingly surrounded by models in bikinis 24 hours of the day. I did wear bathers/togs/swimmers (whatever you call them), though I felt hideous. And more hideous as time wore on because of my mother’s comments. Something odd happened when I got home, though – despite the mess in my head. I looked at my sun drenched toes and I thought, “hey, they’re not so bad.” I also looked at my eye in the mirror as I was putting the finishing touches on my makeup and thought, “that looks good.” Rationally I know these are good things. But they’re completely alien to me and with all the mess in my head I can’t accept or understand them.
  • The Weight Thing: This is still an issue as well. I’m still embarrassed to be seen. But one thing I realised while away is that gaining weight is a MASSIVE trigger for me. When I gain weight I think I don’t deserve to look nice, and “have to” buy whatever ugly potato sack fits. Somewhere in my crazy head I think fat is ugly and fat means you can’t look nice and fat also means you have to buy what you can because you might not find anything else that fits. So I buy whatever I can, which generally doesn’t suit me, or fit my personality. And then I feel worse.
  • Social Phobia: This is back with a vengeance. Somewhere over the last few months I’ve managed to come out of my shell enough to speak to people. Randomly, I mean. Like people in shops. Somehow that’s disappeared. A couple of friends from the past have been in touch with me via Facebook. People I lost touch with long ago. They’ve suggested catching up. Part of me wants to but the rest of me is too afraid. Of what I’m not exactly sure. Just too afraid. Afraid that they’ll judge me, I guess. All that stuff about me not being good enough has come right back again.
  • Pilates: I started back at Pilates just before I went away. My instructor is healing from PTSD as well, from what I’m not sure though I have some suspicions from clues she’s given. She somehow understands this thing. She even wants to talk more about it, outside Pilates. Part of me wants to. Part of me doesn’t. I don’t trust her (yet). And she carries a lot of anger, which is fine except I’ve been working hard on just accepting that what happened happened and not carrying that anger around anymore. I don’t want to get sucked into that again. And I don’t want to carry her anger. So I feel mean and horrible for not catching up with her this week. And weak and pathetic for not being able to say I can’t. And a bit angry at myself for being unable to have the kind of compassion I’d like to have for fellow survivors.
  • Abandonment: Somewhere in all this my fear of being abandoned by my therapist has come back as well. It’s always there, lurking in the background, but the last couple of months I’ve been able to convince myself of its irrationality. Not anymore. I hate this feeling because I know it’s stupid. I talked to my therapist and she did what she could to reassure me that she’s not going anywhere. The fear lessened, but still peaks. Or flip-flops between that and my terror at having to end therapy somewhere in the future.  We’ve had no conversations about ending (in fact, quite the opposite), but I’m still afraid. I know it has to end someday, and I used to think that when that time came I would be ready. Or more ready, at least. I’m far from being ready now, and I’m scared to death of the end. Part of me thinks I should quit now so I don’t have to deal with that. I feel hopeless and that therapy is pointless. Nothing will ever change, so why bother putting myself through the hell of therapy?

I have rambled. I’m just dumping. I haven’t really processed much of this. Just needed to break it down. I’m sorry.

Repeat

Two things happened in my therapy session last night that keep playing over and over and over in my head.

  • My therapist said she learns something from every client. I’m sure that’s true, but what on earth could she possibly learn from me???
  •  We talked more about the fact that summer is coming and all that means to me. In a moment of unguarded openness – and amidst snivelling, childlike sobbing – I said, “For once in my life, I want to look like a girl.” I can’t get this out of my head – nor the annoyingly doe-eyed nod of understanding from my therapist. Is this a good thing? A sign of progress in disguise? I don’t know.

Therapy is hard enough sometimes without having the session on endless repeat as well.

*Sigh*