I’m writing this over the few days after Christmas, before the New Year’s. Christmas helped me survive December, but I’m glad it’s over now. It’s been so hard to think or write or talk right now. Everything has been so painful and overwhelming that I’ve just shut off, trying to avoid thinking of anything or feeling anything. Even thinking about termination, or the future is too much. I feel so small and hurt and incapable of coping with anything. I feel so alone. I feel bruised and tired.
I did talk a bit about the emotions that accompany termination. Not just grief but the abandonment. The helplessness I feel at home with my parents, the hopelessness, the aloneness. How unsafe it is. How everything was always my fault. I quickly pushed it away. And I didn’t say this, but when I was 10-11, I remember how I gave up all hope of safety, of being loved, of ever being cared for or listened to, and I gave up trying- and I realise how sad that is, especially for a child like me. I remember that feeling, like something inside me just died that day. I just stopped being me, I stopped being anything. A child who loved so deeply and was so idealistic and tried so so hard- only for the world to break her to the point where she gave up and shut down and stopped existing. Only for the constant abandonment, fear, hurt to circle everything she knows. To have that taken away. That sense of feeling safe and loved and not-alone was ripped away from me anyway when I was 5 when he did that and nobody helped me, or cared and I was alone- I will never forget. It surprised me how Dr Kelly pointed out that the worst part of that trauma was the emotional pain. I didn’t realise this, but it’s true for everything else too. It’s not about the physical, or even sexual assault- it’s the emotional sense of abandonment and fear, it’s the fact that I didn’t get the comfort I needed, it’s how it wasn’t safe to feel or to be me or to exist- for a highly sensitive, infp that is the worst thing you can do. We already feel so alone and different in this world. To not feel truly loved and accepted and safe by the two people who are everything to you, absolutely breaks a child, especially a soft cinnamon-roll of a child like I was.
I never knew safety, or being listened to or acknowledged, or believed, until Dr Kelly came. She persisted. She really, truly cared and I felt it. She stayed even through the years where I refused to talk and refused to be present. She stayed through the years I was hopeless and didn’t want to recover. She always held space before I knew I needed it or was ready. She became someone I relied on, a lighthouse in the storms of abandonment and pain and self hatred that I’ve been stuck in. She was always the one I‘ve gone to- when I was suicidal, when I’ve attempted, after the assault last year, after the assault this year, when I’ve felt awful and had nowhere safe. She was the only one. She allowed me to feel. She gave me safety, and then hope. The first hope I ever had. She was the lighthouse after it happened this year and I went to her and it was the lowest I’ve ever been. She was empathetic but firm: she said I had a choice. I was the only one who could choose to believe different things, to let go of the ED, to allow myself to feel. She said I could have a life outside my family and outside the ED. I wouldn’t be alive without her and I wouldn’t have started recovery without her. Now it feels like she’s abandoned me and left me here alone, and it feels the same as it did back then. It’s not just the grief of losing a relationship, it’s her leaving me alone with people that make me feel so suicidal, so unsafe.
This world feels so unsafe, it always has. The entire world feels like it’s closing down on me and I cannot breathe and the fear is so instinctive and my fight-flight instincts kick in around my family. I described it this way: think of your worst fear- that physical anxiety, that lack of safety, the need to get away. That awful feeling. Now imagine: you’re trapped with your fear, there is no exit and it never ends, that fear is all you know. That’s a part of how it feels to be me. I’ve always felt this way and I’ve always coped by ceasing to exist, dissociate, disconnect, isolate, self destruct.
But I also realised, it’s pretty cool that my body has learnt to adapt, I shut down immediately around my parents and stop existing and stop feeling. It’s so adaptive that I’ve survived all these years of pain and being trapped, even if, like Dr Kelly said- I survived by shutting myself away and hurting myself, by emotional numbing and isolation. She said I was always so adamant to give up self harm and the ED, and she understand because that was part of my resilience, my survival. She always said, how I’m really really good at pretending to be okay, I’m really really good at functioning. She reminded me a few months ago- functional isn’t recovery, that I have the ability to prioritise school over the ED for a bit if I need to, and that helps me in performance but it’s not real recovery. We learnt and identified this year especially, the cycles of suppression and then explosion. The cycles of self destruction and self hatred.
I learnt too, why I did all of that- I was in so much pain. Pain I didn’t know where it came from or why it existed, I only knew that the only safe place I had was numbing and not-existing. How do I explain this need to cease to exist because it is safer, the only safe thing I have. If I stop existing it stops hurting so much. If you were trapped like me, you would need to stop existing too. If I didn’t do that, I would have died.
But what I realised, is how the entire world feels so unsafe because as a kid my home and family was my entire world. The world isn’t very big for a child. But now the world.. isn’t unsafe? The world is actually okay because it’s so big now and I’m not trapped anymore. But it’s hard, almost impossible sometimes to feel differently, to feel safe, to feel like I’m not the same trapped and helpless girl that I’ve been for 15 years. Dr Kelly said that it’s not the same but I can’t feel it. She said in her letter that at some point, even though it was adaptive and even though it was safe to stay in my cocoon of isolation and numbness, I wanted more. I wanted emotional connection, and I wanted a life, and I wanted relationships. She’s right, you know. I don’t know when it started- maybe slowly over the past few years- but at some point I didn’t want to isolate myself and hate all humans just to be okay. Now, for the first time in my life, I never thought this was possible but I just don’t want to starve myself or hurt myself or even to stop existing and numb everything, just to be okay. That’s so, so new. For the first time in my life, I don’t want to hold onto the ED at all, I want a life outside of it. Even a few months ago, I was reluctant to give it up. Something I’ve steadfastly held onto for dear life, over the past 7 years.
She said that breaking out of that cocoon is terrifying at first, but so worth it. I sobbed last week because I told Eunice how much it hurts, to finally get a taste of freedom for the first time in my life, only to have to go back into that cage of isolation and numbness because of the pain. I’ve been telling friends the same thing- life is so, so much better here. Freedom is something I never thought I would have, yet recovery and therapy and hope for the future has given me. Belle has always been my favourite princess, not just because she’s a bookworm but because she values freedom so much- “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere”. That scene touches me so much. To be trapped is one of the worst feelings in the world. I have always been sure of who I am and what I love and I know I am someone who needs freedom, I am someone who feels everything deeply and sees everything so beautifully and the world would be nothing without emotions, without love and awe and curiosity and wonder and grief and sadness and rage and pure unbridled joy. I am led by emotions. I live so vividly and I love that about being sensitive. Dr Kelly said that one thing she would describe me as, is likeable, that I am very likeable and I connect so genuinely, that she never believed I hated anyone. To go back to starving and numbing and isolating feels so awful and painfully boring. Taking away freedom and feelings. That’s why it was so painful, seeing my child-self lose all of that life she carried. That vivaciousness, that colour, that deep joy and love and hope and idealism.
Yet I don’t know anymore, because everything hurts so much. Losing my therapist. Being alone. Being at home. Everything unresolved that I haven’t dealt with. It all lives so deep in my bones, it isn’t something I can rationalise.
I’m terrified, more than I’ve been in a while. I know I’ve had a lot of lows this year but it seems to all just pile up and get worse. In Jan-Feb it was the family traumas, then the ED diagnosis and forced recovery. In Mar-April it was family traumas plus the memories of that sexual assault last year plus brief flashbacks of the Bad Thing I couldn’t make sense of. Then the Incident happened and I hit a complete rock bottom. Then in June-July it was the family traumas plus the different sexual assaults plus they brought up therapy ending plus starting ED recovery on my own. I managed to push everything away to focus on school but in Sep-Oct it was family traumas plus the 3 different sexual assaults plus they brought up therapy ending plus continuing to try ED recovery on my own. And then now it’s everything I listen. This year has been the most terrifying year ever, it’s seen the lowest lows and well, the most growth. Not the highs, but the most change, the most leaps of faith, the unfolding of a lifetime, the releasing of the self-hatred I’ve carried 15 years, the bravest things I’ve done for myself: to eat and to feel and to live. I told Dian in art therapy how a lot of recovery was to stop numbing, that’s why eating is so hard. To eat is to feel, to eat is to be present and here and alive. Dian said recovery was finding myself again and it’s so true. She compared my childhood to Elsa and I’ve never related more. My superpowers are my passion and empathy and deep emotions yet trauma took it all away from me and now, on the other side I see that. It took away who I am, it took away safety and love and feelings. I realise now- for me, to exist and be here means to feel everything, to be present, to be myself, to be free. I’ve been able to let go of so, so much self hatred because I saw what this pain did to younger-Ericia and how it wasn’t my fault. I see all the pain, all 15 years of it, and it almost pains me to hurt her anymore. I told Dr Kelly how it doesn’t come naturally for me to hurt anyone- I only hurt myself for so long because the pain was so overwhelming I didn’t know where to channel all that anger, because that’s what I have been raised to believe. But now that I understand myself, it doesn’t feel right to hurt myself.
Everything is.. so different, there is so much good and bad. I am stronger, I can cope better, I have hopes for the future. I have people and It’s so terrifying to admit, but I don’t want to go back into that cocoon, that bubble of numbness and isolation and ED. Because it sucks. Dian said I was hungry- not just for food but everything, life. She’s right.