The Enemy Within

Things impeding me from loving myself…
Things I don’t confess to anyone else, not even myself…
I had a difficult childhood, to say the least…
I really could write a whole book…
My family had good intentions I know, but they just didn’t know how to raise an emotionally healthy child.

I’m afraid, it was a bit like the blind raising more blind for generations on end…
I won’t start from the start, I’ll save that for my memoirs, but to summarise…
I grew up believing I wasn’t worthy of love, I was taught that I had to earn my worth and affection, somehow, through hard work…
This resulted in me being an extremely anxious child, perfectionist, high achiever… all to be “accepted” and hopefully loved by my family and peers.
I never had many friends growing up, I was always quiet a school, and kept a lot things to myself…
I grew up believing I was weird and different from everybody else, given my family situation… I never had a “stable” home, like everybody else, a mum and dad under one roof, siblings and a pet… My upbringing was all over the place, I was like a hot potato my family passed around… from relative to relative, in their attempt to provide me with a better future?
So, I guess I thought I couldn’t reveal myself to other people or they’d think I’m weird, and I’d be shamed and outcasted, so to spare myself this pain, I isolated myself and found solace, in books and writing, and painting and in anything creative where I could escape my grim reality into the wonderlands of my imagination.
In one of those “shufflings” from family member to family member I ended up moving to Australia permanently, just to be abused by my disturbed step mother. The fairytale of Cinderella, literary became my life. Unfortunately, the fairy godmother is yet to appear but I haven’t lost hope…

I was 12 at the time, and found myself in a new country of which I knew nothing about, I didn’t speak a word of English, and away from my mother, the only person in my life, who I’d always felt had unconditional love for me and felt secure around but because of her social condition, and absurd revolts in my family which I’ll never understand, I never got to spend as much time with her as I would’ve liked to…
Emotionally things became pretty dire, when I moved to Australia, although I was now living in a beautiful country, in a nice house, I didn’t have a home, I felt very much lost and abandoned; my world inside was the Machu Picchu ruins I’d left back home, except my ruins also had the the gloomy aftermath of the Hiroshima bomb, not a pretty sight. Lucky it was all inside, and I was always all smiles…
My emotionally unavailable, workaholic father was hardly ever home and appeared to not take much interest in my emotional health. Unfortunately, this is a family trait since he was raised in the same way… I don’t blame him, although at the time I remember feeling quite resentful, and often questioned if he loved me or cared about me at all… I know now that his way of showing me his love was by working hard so he could buy me things me and a good education, which was always important, above all, in his family culture…
I remember “running away” from home on several occasions to see if he’d come looking for me, he never did. He was totally oblivious to the abuse from my stepmother, he didn’t believe me, it was my word against hers. I always lost.
At school, I didnt have any friends. First because of the language barrier, and later my insecurity and shame kept me from approaching anyone. Eventually, I made friends with other “rejects” as we were called… Academically, I was still a “high achiever” and a perfectionist still, but given all the other stuff I had going on in my personal life, much to my distress, I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked to or knew I could, and for this I was always deeply resentful to my father, for never supporting me. I saw and felt envious of all the other kids with parents who were always there for them, picking them up and dropping them off at different events, doing anything and everything for them, I had to beg just to receive any “extras”. I had to complete a list of cleaning chores every weekend just to be allowed to see my friends, the few I had. If I wanted anything other than the bare essentials for existing, all hell broke loose, so I just didn’t bother and resigned myself to a miserable existence. By this stage I was very depressed although I did not know it at the the time, I remember crying myself to sleep for weeks on end, wondering if life was worth living, why my back luck, if there was a god where was he? Why was I Suffering? Why me? Why me?…
At 13, I developed OCD, and because my “rituals” and nervous “tics” (turning lights on and off repeatedly, asking the same question over and over, etc) disturbed my stepmother even more I was sent to see a psychologist. I saw her three times, until she suggested to have some sessions with my father and stepmother to deal with the underlying issues behind my anxiety. They refused to engage in any sort of therapy so I stopped going, she gave me some tips on what to do with the rituals, I took some of it board, it kind of “worked”. I just learnt to internalise the anxiety, so that it wasn’t apparent to others and keep it quiet, I learnt how to “hide it” better.
The cherry on top for me was the fact that I was flat chested, I remember being 13, 14, 15… and waiting… but boobs never grew. I remember seeing all the other girls getting bras and looking like women, whereas I was still as flat as a board. I got this from my mother who has very small breasts but at least something there, whereas I was zilch, zero, nada… I hated myself with passion for this.
I could not tell anyone about my teenage body inadequacy, there was no one I trusted enough to talk about my body issues and since at this time I had very little contact with my mother, first of all because communication back then wasn’t as easy as it is now. Also, I think part of me found it easier to deal with the pain of being away from her by just pretending she didn’t exist anymore. So nonetheless, my lack of boobs became another one of the monsters haunting me all the time… My body, just me in general… defected goods. My mind was a mess, my body wasn’t right… my family was nuts… and I couldn’t talk to anyone about it all. I kept shit bottled up for years.
I didn’t even know what was going on for me… I learnt to numb my feelings and dissociate, put on an act… of everything’s ok, people pleasing…. When inside I was crumbling.

At 16, I couldn’t take my stepmothers shit anymore, I’d decided I’d take “control” of my life and move out of home much to my fathers disapproval. I seeked refuge with an aunty of mine, I was “lucky” I suppose, to have some extended family nearby, who knew about my evil stepmother. My aunty was willing to help, unfortunately, she lived in a different state, which meant I had to leave my school, right at the most crucial time, the last year of high school, which supposedly marked your entry into university or not…. Although I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to go to university or what was it I wanted to do after school, other than to do something in the creative arts, which had always been one of my hobbies and outlets, but one which sadly, my family never nourished, not surprisingly…

Either way, I ended up moving states, changing schools and developing a full blown eating disorder. Quite rapidly I became anorexic. I did not what I was doing, I obviously did not set out to achieve this. If you are a reading this and know nothing about eating disorders I suggest you get informed. Eating disorders are not a fad or a trend or a diet or a conscious decision a person makes, but a serious and life threatening illness just like cancer or diabetes…

Anyway, this is how it happened for me; I was 16 at the time and “taking control” of my life… so I thought. I decided I’d start eating “healthy” as part of “renovating” my life. I remember always wanting to have a flat belly, a “bikini body”, I was flat chested so much to my distress there was nothing I could do about that, other than plastic surgery (which I did later on), but at this stage I thought I could “improve” other parts of my body, mind and spirit, I devoted myself to exercise, “eating healthy”, reading and doing art. I desperately wanted to be a “better” person other than poor, defected me… Things started spiralling out of control relatively quickly though… I started doing zero school work, I just couldn’t stop exercising a certain amount each day, I was very strict on what I ate and my meals started decreasing more and more, I couldn’t stop thinking about food… At this stage none of my clothes fitted me anymore, I was skin and bones. I remember looking in the mirror and seeing myself looking gaunt, tired and tragic and thinking how ugly I was and how somehow my exterior for once reflected exactly what was going on inside, a bloody nuclear war. So I hid in baggy clothes…
At this stage I’d never heard of eating disorders before, I had no idea about anorexia or bulimia or that things as such existed… I didn’t know what I was doing had a name.
But I knew something wasn’t right, although it was hard to admit it, I knew I was less in control of anything than before… exercise and food had taken over my life, I felt I wanted to die, I did not know what to do, I felt desperate and helpless, my attempt to be in control had failed dismally. It was then when I called my father, who I hadn’t talked to in months, crying my life out and pleading for help, I was desperate willing to do anything, I just wanted to be ok… and be “normal” for once in my life. My father, being a doctor himself knew nothing about eating disorders, but he asserted I go and see a doctor immediately. Which I did, everything happened very quickly after that first doctor’s visit which my aunty very kindly assisted me to. I remember her being very worried the poor thing, not knowing what the hell was wrong with me, why I was acting very strange… she was very kind and sympathetic towards me; and for that I’ll always be eternally grateful, I wish and hope I can somehow repay her kindness just when I needed it the most.
But back to the story, after a quick blood test, which revealed my emaciated state I was told to pack my bags I was being admitted to hospital. I remember feeling somehow relived, that maybe there was hope for me but also shit scared not knowing what was ahead…

This was just the beginning of a roller coaster “recovery” battle head on with anorexia, bulimia, my self hate in general.
My first admission was to a psychiatric hospital where they diagnosed me with infamous anorexia nervosa, a diagnosis which no one in my family understood, neither did I, all I knew is I was scared to eat, stop exercising and the prospect of gaining weight terrified me. Even though I knew I was stick thin, I just didn’t want to be worthless and fat, on top of that. After a week at the initial hospital, I was transferred to another clinic with an “eating disorder program”, where I had a three month stay until I reached a “healthy” BMI and with the help of a few inpatient psychology groups I only just started to scratch the surface of the surface of the massive boulder under all the anorexia symptoms.
Unfortunately after this first admission, now at a healthy weight, my family and me were all under the impression I was “cured”. Also unfortunately, the treatment for eating disorders in Australia at the time was mainly focused on re-feeding you to a “healthy weight” and that’s about it… When I was discharged nobody told me I should see a psychologist, psychiatrist, dietitian… have any sort of follow up, things which I learnt much later on are essential for any chance at ongoing recovery. But I was simply told “see you later”… which they did, time and time again, I relapsed. Once too many times, more than I like to admit.

In between hospital admissions I tried to do something with myself, take up study, design, social work, theology, have different part time jobs, in pretty much any industry you can think of… You name it, I’ve tried it… I managed to make a few friends, have a boyfriend, save enough money to have the boob job I always wanted… I tried to live my life as “normal” as I could, but it was all an act… I was still very much unaware of all my internal conflicts and self hate… Although my symptoms were somewhat “controlled”, and I tried to appear “normal”, I was just trying to fool myself and keep my family and everybody around me happy.
Internally I was still very much struggling… Eventually anorexia turned into bulimia, which was a whole another sort of hell. The good news was, I eating now! I was eating alright…. enough to feed a family of five for a week every night and vomiting it all back up, staying up all night doing this. I was working full time as a “Disability Support worker” during the day, not eating anything all day of course , but drinking litres of water and coffee just to get me through the day to earn the pay check, to pay my rent and spend the rest on food I would vomit in self loathing… Looking back I really don’t know how I survived this self flagellation. Needless to say, I couldn’t go on with this torment for too long, after about a year of this “binging and purging” vicious cycle (as this inferno is referred to in the industry), I admitted I had a problem with another type of monster this time called bulimia… which resulted being more expensive than anorexia I must add! I was broke and broken inside, now more than ever.
By this stage however, I was made much more informed about eating disorders and the treatment available. Although my family still and to the day do not understand much about my condition, I researched online, eating disorder treatment centres in Australia where I could check myself in. I ended up travelling interstate to a clinic with a new and reputable “ED” program, it was there where finally, I started making some breakthroughs into the anorexia/bulimia iceberg. Unlike the clinics I’d been to before, where it just was all just about the food and weight. At this clinic, the doctor and psychologist tried to explore with each client what was driving their eating disorder, as they did with me. After I was discharged from their 40 day program, which I returned to a few times later, they recommended I try “schema therapy” to treat the root of my problem with a psychologist in my city. So I did, I was determined to do anything to “recover”. Unfortunately, my family, my father in particular, who never understood the problem was not very willing to support my treatment financially, which meant sessions with a psychologist/dietitian were scarce, whenever I could afford them or whenever my father felt merciful enough to give into my begging for help.

Throughout the years I’d seen many psychologists, all of which apported a bit of wisdom I suppose, CBT, DBT.. all the therapies, you name it, I’d try it. Self help books, I’d read them all, but to be honest nothing seemed to make that big of a difference in my emotional state. Until, I met my “schema therapy” psychologist, Catherine, who knew me better than I knew myself. Only here, I became aware of parts of me I dissociated from, my “abandoned child”, my internalised, punitive father and step mother, who although I’d long ago stopped living through their hell, I was still tormented by their voices… The enemy within.
And this is a constant battle still, I still struggle to accept, love myself.
Í still restrict my eating.
As much as I’d like to say this is a happy ending I very much don’t know…
This is only a very brief outline of “my story”,
I’d like to say I’m “recovered”, but I’m not.
What is that even?
“Normal”? No one is, that much I’ve learnt.
I’ve also learnt that everything happens for a reason, although I may not understand it at the time, I believe there is a God syncing the universe, not necessarily punishing or rewarding people for their actions, but I believe there is a higher power overseeing this cosmic, comical tragedy… one which we just can’t comprehend with our tiny human minds and huge ego’s…
I don’t know if it’s a he or a she, if he/she wrote the bible or the Koran or any other holy book. But I believe the Universe works in weird and wonderful ways, a bit like me, I try to tell myself…
I know the antidote to my self hate is love, but heck….
Love, sounds so fluffy, so easy, breezy and wonderful, when the truth is, everyday I struggle, I wrestle, I slither and grapple on the filthy floor to even reach an inch of love for myself.
Going through this torbellino, has had its “plus sides”, I suppose… If you want to find a positive to every negative and “see the glass as half full” rather than “half empty”.

This quest for “recovery” has pushed me to “better myself” in a lot of ways I would not have otherwise ever been interested in exploring. I’ve discovered I’m really curious in understanding more about how the human mind and our emotions and body’s and “beings” in general and how we work… I’m deeply interested in what you’d term as, psychology, philosophy, spirituality, natural medicine… all of course with the hope of finding a “cure” for my internal ailments. I contemplate the meaning of life everyday…
I’ve also rekindled a passion for writing, one which I had as a kid but because of all the other shit I had going on, never pursued…
I’ve also developed compassion and understanding towards others, I’ve learnt to forgive and give others the love I can’t give myself.
I just yearn to break free of this jail where I keep myself captive, just surviving…
I know I still have a very long way to go on my “recovery”, although I don’t have a long way to go in life, I’m 28 and I feel I’ll soon be dead and I’m still struggling, the thought which makes me feel sick to the depths of my soul.
Who would’ve thought, loving yourself, would be the hardest task of a lifetime…
The opposite is so much easier, running a marathon each day, restricting my eating, depriving myself from living…
But I’m not giving up… until my last breath.

The doctor at the last clinic I went to, his name was Peter, who became like a father figure to me, ironically enough he resembled a lot my stern grandfather, (who my father got his charm from). But anyway, Peter had the motto of “turtle steps”, slow and steady wins the race. And I really took his advice on board.
I don’t know if I’ll ever see Peter again, for my sake I hope not, in an inpatient situation anyway. I hope to stay clear off hospitals for as long as I can and hopefully it’s all “up hill” from here, but I really don’t know…

If theres one thing I’ve learnt last year though, is that anything is possible, and you can expect the impossible, in both a good and not so good way.
Life give you lemons and melons in ways you least expect it. And it’s all to polish you and make you a better person, better than your former self.
We are here in this earth to learn love, compassion, patience… all the virtues and wisdom, oftentimes through suffering, for the evolutions of our souls, I have a feeling…

My story is not yet finished, and heck this is only the prologue of the prologue, which despite my perfectionistic tendencies, which in the past would’ve prevented me from posting this, I’m gonna do it. Even though I’m highly dissatisfied with it, even though it’s far from perfect, even though I’ve left so many important parts out, even though I’ve written this having only had about three hours sleep from the insomnia that’s been haunting me lately, (obviously from all my unresolved unconscious issues).
I’m going to publish this, because one of the things I want to do this year is to be true to myself, who ever that is… Let go off the rosy mask I try to put on and present the raw, real, broken, limping me.

I’ve learnt the clock is ticking and there’s no better time to do the things you want to do than now! Tomorrow, might never come, no one guarantees me I’ll live to see a new day, I’ve literally been close to death so many times…

So I’m determined to be brave, bite the bullet, and live my life the best I can, with what I have and can/know-how, now.
Be happy now, despite…
So this is part of my truth.
I’ve taken off my mask, so please excuse my ugliness….
But I’m daring to peak outta my shell for a little bit and face the world…. and man it’s bright out there, so turtle steps…
And with this, here’s the minuscule glimpse, into “my story”….

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