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Archive for April, 2011

I have written before about reading Geneen Roth’s book Women Food and God. Her book does an excellent job of taking something very complicated (binge eating disorder) and making is simple. As I say repeatedly on this blog, “simple” is not the same thing as “easy.” I had a little success with her methods but then got slammed with being sick for several weeks, and it all fell by the wayside.

I was under stress at the beginning of March (what else is new) as I started training for a new job. I kept finding myself compulsively overeating but not getting emotional relief from it. Instead of feeling better, I still felt lousy emotionally and felt sick to my stomach. So, March 7 was the day that I said, “Enough!” and decided to give Geneen Roth’s methods another shot. I have been doing great ever since!

To recap Geneen’s methods, eat when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are no longer hungry. When you are hungry, eat whatever your body wants, and enjoy every mouthful to the fullest. No food is “taboo.” To help you know when you are hungry and not hungry, practice mindfulness – deep breathing to bring yourself back into the present. She has other tips, but these are the ones that really work for me.

Since March 7, I have lost 9 pounds effortlessly. I have done this even though I have eaten ice cream several times, Mexican food, chips, etc. – all foods that I typical avoid when I diet. I find that I actually enjoy the food more and get to eat more frequently. I am eating much smaller portions than I used to by stopping when I am no longer hungry. Then, I get hungry again in 2 or 3 hours and have a snack without any guilt. So, I get to eat more frequently, eat anything I want, and still lose weight. How fabulous is that?

What’s more is that, this time, it’s not about the weight loss (although I am thrilled to see my pants getting looser and looser!). It’s more about balance and no longer being enslaved to binge eating to manage my emotions.

This past month has been a very stressful one for me, and I have had a heck of a time keeping my blog covered. I did not get a “heads up” that training would require 15-20+ hours of work a week. My kid has been sick for some of this time, and his school has been out a lot for Teacher Workdays and such. It has not been good timing for me to have to find an extra 15 hours in my week. This is the kind of thing that has historically resulted in my gaining lots of weight, but I have, instead, been sticking with the program, and it is working!

I know that recovering from an eating disorder is a lifelong process, so I do consider myself “cured” – just “on the wagon” so to speak – a wagon I don’t want to get off of.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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On my blog entry entitled How to Move Past Betrayal by a Mother Figure, a reader posted the following question:

Question: Are you able to create an alter part as an adult? I’ve never been diagnosed as DID, only have severe PTSD….am I able to create an alter “good mother” part to help comfort me when in need? Or is it simply a visualization technique? ~ AllyValentino

I can only speak for myself – I started creating alter parts when I was very young, and I have always held onto the ability to do so. So, yes, I do have the ability today to create an alter part if I feel that I need one. This is not something I choose to do very often, but it was incredibly healing for me to create a “good mother” alter part at the time that I did. I used that alter part in ways to meet my needs.

I would visualize her rocking my frightened parts when I was triggered. I would practice making eye contact with her as she said the words, “I love you,” to me. I still cannot do that with anyone in real life, but I find “receiving” love that way to be incredibly powerful and healing. When I have insomnia, I will visualize the “good mother” sitting next to my bed or outside my door with a shotgun in hand. I trust that she will keep me safe (even though I know she is just an alter part) and am able to sleep.

My guess is that anyone could do similar visualizations and potentially reap some benefits, although I cannot speak for anyone else since my experience is different. I have used visualization in powerful ways without creating alter parts, such as visualizing sitting in a chair across from my deceased father and telling him the things that I needed him to hear. There were no alter parts involved, but the visualization helped me achieved much-needed closure. For this reason, I am hopeful that doing a similar visualization could be healing for some of you who do not have alter parts.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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*** possible religious triggers ***

I am reading the book The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff for my Book Club and really enjoying it. The book is about the polygamy in the Church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) and has two storylines. The first storyline takes place in the present day in a cult offshoot of the Latter Day Saints. A man’s 19th wife is accused of killing him, but the son believes that his mother is innocent. The second storyline is a historical fiction account of Brigham Young’s 19th wife and her reasons for speaking out against polygamy.

Although I am enjoying the book, there are parts that I find triggering due to having been raised by a religious fanatic who also abused me. I kept thinking that my mother would have fit right in with the cult offshoot because the protagonist’s mother sounds eerily like my mother – doing hurtful things to others in the name of a deity. She does not seem to give any thought to basic common sense or decency. She has bought into the authority of someone else and given all of her power away in the name of religion when she is really just taking no responsibility for her own choices. How many times did my mother harm or neglect me in the name of religion?

Many readers have shared that they, too, were abused by religious fanatics. I have heard everything from being raped by pastors/deacons to missionaries. The worst part is that these abusers are revered by the many, which makes it doubly hard for the abuse victim to feel validated – How can someone so “good” by all account be abusing me like this?

My mother is no saint, but you sure could not tell her that. She is like a religious puppet – espousing all of the things that she believes she is supposed to say to “be religious” while putting very little of the responsibilities of her religion into practice. The sad thing is that I bought into her self-declarations of being so “godly” for much, much longer than I should have.

I vividly remember the moment that I finally challenged the truth of my mother’s claims. For decades, I had taken for granted that my mother was “g*dly” and I was not. She “heard from G*d” while I did not, and I was so angry with G*d for choosing her over me. The moment the blinders fell off my eyes was huge for me! I finally saw her for what she was – a self-deluded liar who did not bear any of the “fruit” that should exist in the life of a person who is truly g*dly. I realized that descriptors like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control did not apply to her … not even close. That awareness was a huge step in healing for me. The proof was always there, but it took me a long time to see it.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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My sister and I had an interesting conversation that I thought would make a good blog entry. She was talking about her reluctance to see a doctor, even when she was clearly in need of medical attention. She is not really “afraid” of doctors, but she has this deep-seated fear that the doctor will think she is just whining or making up her symptoms. She would rather not go to the doctor than risk a doctor not taking her seriously.

My sister frequently waits so long to go to the doctor that she will be prescribed prescription-strength pain medications because the doctor cannot believe she is not in unbelievable pain. My sister has a very high tolerance for pain and dissociates the pain away. So, she has gone to the doctor after draining the puss out of an abscessed tooth for weeks and not being aware of being “in pain.”

I am not as extreme as my sister is, but I, too, am guilty of disregarding my body’s signals, which is how I wound up flying on a sinus infection and getting vertigo as a result. I have been fortunate enough to find a great primary care physician, who I have been seeing for at least five years. She has done a great job building my trust, and she believes me and takes me seriously no matter what my symptoms are. I have never gotten the impression that she thinks I am whining or that I am making anything up. In fact, she is more likely to express concern about me waiting too long to see her for medical issues.

Before I found this doctor, though, I had the same issues that my sister describes. My body frequently does not exhibit common signs of an illness. As an example, when I had the sinus infection over the holidays, I had no yellow or green discharge and no fever (two common symptoms of sinus infections). I had a bad headache and congestion, but I attributed that to allergies and being cranky. So, it doesn’t occur to me to go to the doctor unless I have uncontrollable bodily fluids or a fever. My body rarely runs a fever (pretty much only with the flu), so I generally decide I need to suck it up and deal with it.

I think this ties into the messages my sister and I received as children. Our mother rarely took us to the doctor. When she did, it was generally after we were on the mend, and the doctor would accuse us of faking. So, both of us have dealt with a deep-seated wariness of medical doctors, expecting them not to believe us.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Being Willing to Try New Strategies after Child Abuse, some readers got into a discussion in the comments about the importance of setting boundaries. Here are some words of wisdom to consider from some of my readers about setting boundaries:

I found the thing that I needed the most was to be willing to set boundaries with people. Every time I did something out of a sense of obligation to other people I was hurting myself (and that girl). When I became willing to say no, and to spend my time and energy in the way I needed to, I built up a level of trust with myself. It was hard to do at first- e.g. telling my family I wasn’t going ‘home’ for Christmas when I didn’t appear to have a ‘good’ reason not to (I’ve always been way too concerned with other people’s feelings). It’s an ongoing practice but gets easier all the time. And I notice that other people treat me with more respect and consideration than they did when I was a nice door mat. I think this has been an incredibly important step in my healing. ~Christine

Once my inner child knew she could trust me to protect her, stand up for her, set boundaries for her, nurture her, etc…did I feel a profound sense of healing. And guess what helped me….setting healthy boundaries with EVERYONE in my life. Until then, I didn’t realize how important boundaries are for healthy relationships. Even setting boundaries with myself is healthy. I mean it is KEY! The two things I finally did differently that made a difference:

1) TRUST myself to make the best decisions for ME.

2) Setting healthy boundaries.

These made a huge, huge difference in my healing process. ~ AllyValentino

Also relate to what Christine says about keeping the inner child safe, a big turning point recently for us was stopping listening to people (especially therapists) telling us we needed more friends and closer ones. Sure, it’d be nice, but what we really needed (and have finally started doing) is to stop bending over backwards to please everyone else, regardless of how they treat us, just so they’ll be our “friends”. Yep, boundaries, so that’s what they are! So, ok we lost a few “friends” and don’t have so many now, no one ever calls (but it’s ok cos we don’t expect them to) but at least we feel safe and don’t feel taken advantage of. And maybe, just maybe, some of the people we are friendly with will become real friends in the future. ~ Bay

What everyone else said was so great that I don’t have much to add. My therapist made “setting boundaries” my homework assignment after each session, and he assured me that if I thought I was “being a b@#$%,” I was probably moving toward nearing normal boundaries. I couldn’t really “get it” until I worded it to myself in this way: Whenever I don’t say no, I am choosing to hurt myself rather than hurt the feelings of an inconsiderate person.

Setting boundaries made me feel safer and less “used.” It was eye-opening to recognizing that I was not obligated to do everything that other people asked me to do for them!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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