the world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places

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at one point last summer, i told my old therapist that i felt completely and utterly broken. from memory, he seemed to think that i was being a tad melodramatic which may well have been a fair assessment. i remember that feeling so acutely though; mainly because it’s almost exactly how i feel right now.

this morning i had an appointment at our fertility clinic for a couple of internal scans / procedures in preparation for our ivf cycle which will be kicking off in a couple of weeks. it was supposed to be relatively routine – no worse than a smear test i’d been assured – but due to a complication with my ‘flexible’ cervix (way tmi i’m sure) it was a lot more difficult and painful than anticipated. as nice as everyone was and as gentle as they tried to be, the whole experience was incredibly traumatic. i’m still struggling now and have spent most of the evening in tears.

in some ways, my feelings about infertility/ivf are not dissimilar to my feelings about the rape.  there are, clearly, areas where the two are intertwined (like the months where we haven’t even been able to try naturally because of my fear of flashbacks and intrusive thoughts) but, more than that, there’s a lot of guilt associated with both of them and the feeling that either – or both – are no more than i deserve. and then sometimes i think that the infertility must be my punishment for being raped.

both the rape and the infertility play neatly into the construction that i have built of myself; reinforcing the belief that i am fundamentally broken.

(when i was at university, i did a paper in my final year on tragedy throughout the ages going from the plays of ancient greece to beckett via shakespeare, racine and ibsen (amongst others). i think i might have taken the concept of hamartia slightly too much to heart.)

if you’d asked me a few months ago, i would have said that, with therapy, some time off work and a fair amount of medication, i’d managed to fix myself. but it turns out that the glue that was holding it all together was the anorexia. and without that, i’m broken again.

{title quotation from a farewell to arms by ernest hemingway}

i’ve seen more battles lost than i have battles won

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in the week before easter last year, i found out that the cps weren’t going to prosecute my rapist.

there were a multitude of reasons for this, many of which i fundamentally disagree with but there was nothing more i could do to change their minds. after two years of fighting the police (thankfully not very often), the cps (most of the time) and, ultimately, the man who raped me, i lost. sure, i didn’t go through the hell of a trial (at which, i’m fairly confident, he would have been found not guilty) and didn’t end up with hundreds of commenters on the daily mail accusing me of making the whole thing up but still, i lost.

and he won.

he raped me and he got away with it.

and when i realised that i had to stop fighting him, i started fighting myself. i’ve been consumed by that fight ever since; i have the literal and metaphorical scars to prove it. although he knows nothing about it, he’s still winning. and that really has to stop.

{title quotation from the queen and the soldier by suzanne vega}

but still, like air, i’ll rise

20160503-IMG_1088in the immediate aftermath of my rape, i climbed into my bed and pulled the duvet over my head. my rapist was still in my flat, fast asleep in the next room on the sofa where he’d raped me. (i should probably throw in an ‘allegedly’ here given that the cps decided – after nearly two years of considering it – that there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute him). nearly a decade on, i still have a tendency to retreat to my bed when the outside world feels all too overwhelming. it’s where i’ve spent most of the weekend alternately bingeing and trying to lose myself in a crappy thriller that i picked up in the supermarket yesterday.

i have lived and re-lived the hours and minutes and seconds leading up to the rape a million times. every time, i identify the moments where i think i could have changed the outcome. i torture myself with those moments and then punish myself for what i did and didn’t do. i know this is a common trap that people fall into (‘hindsight bias’, i am told) but that doesn’t make it any easier to move on from. i crave being told that it wasn’t my fault (which is what i would tell anyone else) and that i am not responsible for what my rapist did (which i know is true) but acknowledging that means that i also have to acknowledge that i had no control over the situation. and so i still spend every hour of every day, trying to exert control over the only aspect of my life that i can; food.

for the last six months, it’s been very effective. in the first meeting with my new (although not so new anymore) psychiatrist at the start of february, i said that i was pretty sure i was over the trauma and the ptsd. i think we both know now that’s very far from the case. i may be able to get on the tube without freaking out these days but there are far more insidious manifestations of the trauma that i’m only just beginning to understand.

over the past few weeks both my psychiatrist and therapist have talked often about the anorexic-me vs the healthy-me. we’ve done some schema work where the two different parts of me talk to each other (and i get very confused – it’s the kind of thing that i am terrible at; when i started doing cbt work with my old therapist, i got very hung up on whether i was using the right form of the present tense and got myself tangled in all sorts of linguistic knots). clearly, the idea is that the healthy-me is supposed to (eventually) tell the anorexic-me to fuck off.

yesterday, as i burrowed under the duvet to try and hide from the relentless flashbacks that were assaulting me, i realised something. the anorexic-me wasn’t raped. the healthy-me was. when i’m anorexic-me – by which i mean, that me that is eating a couple of hundred calories a day, doing hours of yoga/as many steps as possible and seeing the scale go down every day – i’m not a rape victim / survivor / whatever you want to call it. but when i eat, either a healthy three meals a day or the bingeing which i’ve often used to block out my feelings about the rape, i’m all of those things. and i don’t want to be any of them. but somehow, i’m going to need to accept that i am.

{title quotation from still i rise by maya angelou}

god, how i ricochet between certainty and doubt

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i started writing a blog post on friday afternoon. it was full of positivity. i’d eaten breakfast and lunch. i’d made an appointment with our fertility clinic to discuss next steps. it felt like something had clicked into place and that i was going to beat the eating disorder. i was even considering cancelling tomorrow’s appointment with a nutritionist because who needs that? i was feeling pretty fucking good.

and then, somewhere between the stress of eating in a restaurant, a difficult session with my psychiatrist and the realisation that i am nowhere near at peace with the underlying cause of (this bout of) my eating disorder, it all went a bit to shit.

i sat at dinner on friday night in one of my favourite restaurants, too anxious to be able to let go of my husband’s hand under the table. every ptsd-battered synapse in my brain was screaming at me to run. but i couldn’t because we were out with some extended family and i had to be polite. by the time we finally managed to escape into our cab home, the anxiety was overwhelming. my therapist has given me all sorts of techniques to try and manage the anxiety but when i’m in the middle of the storm, i feel like i can’t do anything other than give into it. and so, when we got home, i waited until my husband fell asleep and then binged on anything i could find. anything that would make me feel something other than that crippling anxiety.

and that’s really set the pattern for the weekend. the sense of being out of control on friday night – both of my environment and of myself – spilled over into a saturday which alternated between restricting and bingeing and, just to top it off, some laxative abuse. because what else are saturday nights for? i’m sure at some point i used to have some kind of life that didn’t look like this shambles.

today i’ve tried to get some control back the only way that i know how. by not eating. this morning, i cooked brunch. avocado toast (because we like to pretend we are millennials) with crisp rashers of streaky bacon and some imperfectly fried eggs (in my defence, it was actually my first time frying an egg). and then i didn’t eat anything. instead, i ignored the messages from my psychiatrist pleading with me to eat and tidied up the spare bedroom because, clearly, when all else fails, i can tidy (i’m aware that this is just another way to impose control).

i wish i knew why i woke up on friday feeling certain that i was strong enough to beat this. and why i woke up this morning and couldn’t even find the strength to eat the miserly portion if yoghurt i usually let myself have. and i really wish i knew when i was next going to have a moment of believing that i can actually do this.

{title quotation from sylvia plath}

that happy-go-lucky wandering life

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i saw this t-shirt in new look a couple of weeks ago and had to buy it. not only was it black and white striped (and you can never have too many black and white striped t shirts in your wardrobe) but i felt like ‘happy go lucky’ summed up my approach to life.

as much as i am fully aware of everything that anorexia has taken / is taking from me, it made / makes me pretty happy most of the time. i probably shouldn’t say that. even though it’s true.

i’m happy because i have (the illusion of) control. it’s my safety blanket allowing me to focus on other areas of my life – work, my marriage, all the life admin that comes with being a grown up. it manages the feelings of instability and anxiety that otherwise cripple me. it gives me something that i can feel successful and, for want of a better word, ‘good’ at. i feel like it allows me to be the best version of me.

the last few days have been hard. harder than i even know how to put into words. harder than i found the weekend when i was only really at the start of my spiral downwards.

yesterday, having already eaten whatever i could find in the cupboards, i purposefully went out and spent over £50 on food that i then binged on, possessed by a force far stronger than anything i’ve ever had to fight before. within such a short space of time – a week maybe, no more than that – the foundations on which i’ve built my recovery from the rape, from the long, emotionally draining and ultimately unsuccessful battle i had to try and get justice, from the ptsd that made me feel like i was losing my mind, have crumbled.

my psychiatrist’s answer is to eat three normal meals a day. the rational part of me knows that he is right and that will help to prevent the bingeing. the anorexic part of me just desperately wants to get back to the restriction which gives me the strength to fight everything else.

{title quotation from guy de maupassant}

you truly belong here among the clouds

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i saw this quotation written on a wall when i was in oxford a few weeks ago. i liked it until i realised it was a slight mis-quotation from star wars which is something that is totally lost on me. it doesn’t really have anything to do with this post but i still like it, i think.

the last few days have been a bit of a shit show really. my psychiatrist said to me last night that he’s not sure i’m ready for recovery yet. on some level, i think he’s right. i don’t have the resilience and skills to deal with this emotional maelstrom that has been unleashed. i’ve spent hours this weekend eating. eating anything and everything that i can get my hands on. the list is endless; the calorie count horrendous.

as a result, i feel absolutely disgusted with myself. that disgust then translates into self-harm and a flare up of other ptsd symptoms (primarily intrusive thoughts and flashbacks). honestly, i haven’t felt this bad for seven or eight months. and this is after i took a diazepam this afternoon to try and make it through the day.

the only way that i can describe anorexia – or restriction in general because i certainly don’t feel justified in calling it anorexia at the moment – is that it makes me feel safe. the impact of my rape and the subsequent ptsd symptoms took away my sense of security. anorexia gave it back. now that i’m fighting the anorexia, i’m not safe again.

at the moment i’m curled up in bed writing this in between reading chapters of the woman in the window which the blurb on the cover told me would be unputdownable (sadly, not true). bed is where i feel safe. when i was off work last year, there were days when i wouldn’t get out of bed because everywhere else felt too dangerous and unstable. in the immediate aftermath of my rape (which happened in my flat although not, thankfully, in my bed or even in my bedroom), my clearest memory is hiding under the duvet, burrowing down to try and block out the fact that my rapist was snoring away just the other side of the wall. even now, i don’t want to move from my bed to the sofa (although my laptop battery is just about to run out so sometimes practical requirements take priority).

i’m seeing my therapist on wednesday and my psychiatrist on friday. this has all the makings of one of the toughest weeks of my life.

 

 

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