“Do not tell everyone your story. You will only end up feeling more rejected. People cannot give you what you long for in your heart. The more you expect from people’s response to your experience of abandonment, the more you will feel exposed to ridicule.”~Henri J.M. Nouwen
when the shadow creatures emerge from their hiding places in the dark
grip of curved black talons suffocating a heavy chest
midnight mist silently sweeping over the maze of neurons, blurring it all
visceral pain slices through flesh
threatening to split the soul
author’s note: for reference, this was written with a flashback in mind, how it all feels. shadow creatures = nightmares and memories, black talons = suffocating anxiety, midnight mist = dissociation.
I feel like
one bite of food,
and I will implode.
Pieces of me
in the crevices,
in the dark.
I can only pick up the pieces and put myself together so many times
// each worn scrap held together by cheap stitches that thin and stretch and threaten to break
every tear stained cheek,
every clenched fist,
every strain of the heart,
every breath of exhaustion,
tugs the stitches further and further
so don’t blame me
for holding onto control
an iron heart
bones of steel
I am holding these pieces together.
and I thought this to myself, this morning on the treadmill, running and running despite the slowly numbing feet and pains on the right of my chest, left of my abdomen. burn what you ate yesterday.
and I thought this to myself, this afternoon on my bed, exhausted from doing nothing at all, wrapped up in a blanket from the constant cold. standing up would mean the world spinning around.
and I thought this to myself, as I heard my stomach rumble.. again. as I ponder the possibility of food for tomorrow, wondering if I need it to get through my presentation. but you cannot eat or you will lose control.
And that terrifies me. One bite, and I might just break.
“A hidden wound from the heart always makes people sick, no matter what”
~from the korean drama I was watching- it’s okay, that’s love
Note: Reading up on articles about EDs and PTSD/C-PTSD, I decided to compile the things that are most relevant to me for future reference. what I have posted below has all been taken from research and not my own writing.
Eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders share certain core features that explain some of their co-morbidity. The development of both disorders is based on emotion dysregulation. When a child has experienced chronic interpersonal trauma, he/she will experience dysfunction in multiple areas of functioning: including somatic, affective, behavioral, dissociative, cognitive, interpersonal, and self-concept. These areas are equally adversely impacted developmentally when a person has an eating disorder. Traumatic life events presumably trigger eating disorder gene expression in predisposed individuals, which leads to a cascade of events in the brain that is associated with trauma-related thoughts, feelings, memories and behaviors, as well as associated symptoms of anxiety, depression, and dissociation.
With C-PTSD, the danger of falling into eating disorders is even greater. People suffering from C-PTSD typically have difficulty with ‘affect regulation’, or managing strong emotions. Life for a sufferer from C-PTSD is an emotional roller-coaster with frequent and often unpredictable triggers sending him or her into extremes of anger or sadness. The urge to self-medicate is, therefore, very strong, and often uninhibited by the sort of ‘common sense’ instinct to hold back that most people develop over the course of a more healthy and secure upbringing.
Traumatic experiences overwhelm the person’s internal (neurobiological) and external (psychosocial) resources, and behaviors typically associated with experiential avoidance develop, such as binging, purging and/or substance abuse, and they represent attempts to not only avoid trauma-related thoughts, feelings, and memories but to reduce emotional arousal as well. Clients with eating disorders often experience hyperactivation of their emotions as intolerable. When these clients have a history of avoidant attachment, their desire is to cut off or numb their emotional experience, so restrictive behaviors will become more apparent.
Another way that eating disorders are used for affect regulation is in a manner similar to other forms of self-harm. Binging and purging is essentially a cycle in which an individual would experience trauma symptoms, dysphoria, or another unpleasant affective state and the client would then engage in a binge episode to interrupt or stop the mood state. At times that can produce a dissociative state or another episode of problematic cognitions so purging behavior is needed to provide regulation.
People who have been through traumatic experiences often feel a sense of powerlessness, brought on to them by their inability to prevent the traumatic incident from happening or prevent themselves from being traumatized by it. The act of consciously starving oneself or engaging in purging in order to change one’s body shape is a method the victim uses to reassert control over his/her or own body. In effect, the individual with the eating disorder assumes roles of both the victim and abuser. S/he is typically at the mercy of the eating disorder symptoms as well as simultaneously assuming the role of the abuser who is in effect doing the harm to her own body. The sufferer is able to assume “control” by taking on both roles. The individual therefore is able to maintain recurrent and intrusive abusive events through the use of the eating disordered behaviors while simultaneously enabling herself to dissociate, distract and sooth the pain through the obsession with food.
Families with children who develop eating disorders display more conflict and disorganization, low maternal and paternal care, less cohesion and expressiveness, more conflict, and less emotional support than families who do not have children who develop eating disorders. Similarly, in families who have children who experience attachment trauma or childhood abuse or neglect, many of these characteristics are present. The two disorders co-occurring in families with these dynamics is clear, particularly when additional characteristics such as increased isolation, less involvement, less supportiveness, increased contradictory communications, increased belittling, ignoring, trust, nurturing, and helpfulness, increased chaotic patterns, and hostile enmeshment are added to the description. Given this constellation of qualities, the child’s negative response to abuse or an attachment injury at the time it occurs and a negative evaluation in retrospect of the experience, is associated with eating disorder symptoms.
Eating disorder symptoms can become the transitional object for the client, so that when the client who has been traumatized needs comfort, the eating disorder behaviors soothe him/her like the primary caregiver would have, but when this soothing fails due to its very nature, then self-hate and blame arise, creating an addictive cycle. This experience is often re-enactment as it reflects the early experience of needing the primary caregiver as an attachment figure to soothe, and thereby needing to dissociate the experiences of abuse or neglect or attachment injury, which led the child to internalizing the blame for the traumatic experience in order to receive some safety and care and attempt to make sense of his/her internal and external experiences.
Treating eating disorders is hard, but treating eating disorders with co-morbid conditions is way harder.
When a person with PTSD seeks therapy for an eating disorder or other issue, it usually becomes clear very quickly that they have PTSD, often they will have vivid memories of this event which they struggle to escape from. By contrast, C-PTSD is frequently characterized by absences of memory. Indeed, one way of understanding C-PTSD is an elaborate and self-destructive strategy by the brain to force out memories that are too painful to bear. People starting therapy will often have forgotten entire chunks of their childhood and be highly resistant to the idea that their problems are related to childhood trauma. (this is so accurate for me though)
“No one will understand what you really feel, the magnitude of it all”
~what my best friend said. she says it will get better. it’s hard to see that.
This sadness is not familiar
Not the soothing numbness of the waves
or the tide that pulls me down
This sadness is
Born out of the embers
of fires once ignited
This sadness is
the scorching flame
blazing everything in its path
and they say a Phoenix rises from the ash.
It doesn’t feel that way.
It feels like pain.
And it is now that I realise,
after all these years,
the thoughts that run through my head
remain the same.
same reel of thoughts
every time he gets angry
every time they look at me that way
every time I feel so
I’m sorry for existing
Sorry for being me
I don’t know what I did
But I’m sorry for what I did
Sorry for saying anything, doing anything, feeling anything.
It’s my fault
It’s all my fault
Please just go away
I want it all to go away
The feelings, the yelling
Please just stop
I’m sorry, really, I’m really really sorry
don’t be angry
I promise to be good
But the one thought I never realised
Please don’t hurt me
I seem to revert to this exact same set of thoughts every time, usually when something triggers it, like when my dad gets angry again, and in the midst of my anxiety I just become a child again, the way I speak- the things I said. Even my voice changes to that of a small child. It surprised me when it happened and still surprises me now, that I would end up in that state. That when he yells, I turn into this.. fearful child again? And all I do is apologise over and over again. I’ve always known that I always get bad anxiety and panic attacks when people yell or get angry, and I know that’s because of my dad but I didn’t realise this thought process is also something that happens a lot. I’m assuming it was something I learned I was younger, and then it became ingrained in me. I suppose that’s why I also feel so.. unworthy. Empty. I suppose that’s why I feel like I’m a mistake, because all my life I’ve learned to apologise. And the worst part, is when they start yelling at you for saying sorry and I don’t know what else to say but I am sorry. I am sorry for everything.
the pain spreads
like a dark poison through the veins
filling every cranny, every capillary
flooding these lungs that fail to inflate
no room for the beating of a battered heart
the pain spreads.
warning: chemical is highly toxic. beware of overflow, keep out of reach.
when reality seeps through
the gaps between your fingertips,
pain quickly eroding the solid ground,
two feet on cold glass
and a number staring up at you
is all you can run back to
when reality seeps through
the gaps between your fingertips,
nothing is what is seems
what it seems isn’t what it was
where is my safe haven now?
when you question all that you feel, all that you are. when memories lie and your head spins. when nothing seems to matter and everything doesn’t seem right. where love is pain and pain is anger. where little girls cry alone. and big girls cry alone.
none of this matters, you’re just making it up // your pain isn’t real, stop pretending it was more than it is // you’re not really sick, are you? how dare you claim it was trauma or abuse or ptsd // what is wrong with you? // i hate you // worthless and useless and good for nothing // perhaps it’s all your fault, you’re the problem // go ahead and self-destruct.