Anatomy of an Eating Disorder, by Xesce - Page 2

Page 1

Much of what appears here can be found in other parts of However, this is an attempt to start to organize this information in context for my eating disorder site. I list more of the possible contributing factors with regards to my disordered eating patterns. I have tried to explain some of the issues that have made it difficult for me to attend therapy or to acquire disability support. I list some associated disorders and issues, some of my methods for trying to cope with the eating disorder or reduce intensity and frequency of episodes, and I make an attempt to explain why at this time it seems unlikely to me that I can give up my eating disorder indefinitely, although I may experience significant remissions.

1. Before Birth?
2. Family History of Depression and Mental Illness
3. Learned Coping Mechanisms
4. The D-I-V-O-R-C-E
5. The Secrets/Unsuitable Info Shared with a Child
6. Erratic Parenting/Discipline Issues
7. Parents not Respecting My Privacy
8. My Inclinations, Habits, Preferences, Emotions and Opinions
9. My Skin Issues
10. The Death of my Mother
11. Post Traumatic Stress
12. Trouble Going Outside
13. Failure to Thrive/Fear of Growing Up and of Adult Responsibilities
14. Why I No Longer Have Contact With My Family
15. Unrealistic Family Expectations
16. Role Models
17. Images in the Media
18. Respect for Privacy VS Apathy
19. Therapy Issues
20. Disability Support Issues
21. Note Regarding Disorders/Conditions
22. Bipolar Disorder?
23. Borderline Personality Disorder?
24. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
25. Attention Deficit Disorder?
26. Paranoia?
27. Am I a Narcissist?
28. Body Dysmorphic Disorder?
29. Self-Treatment
30. Possum Therapy
31. Supportive Friend
32. Further Considerations
33. Why a Complete or Lasting Remission Seems Unlikely to Occur
34. Commentary

Assorted Theories/Possible Contributing Factors

1. Before Birth?

1. My mother gained an unusual amount of weight when she was pregnant with me. Perhaps as a fetus I absorbed that she was eating compulsively and that it caused her distress.

2. This was the only pregnancy in which my mother developed toxemia. (Ditto with regards to the unusual weight gain.)

3. After I was born, she suffered severe post-partum depression. I am not sure, but I think it was either the only time she did, or it was the worst with me of her four pregnancies. Perhaps this depression prevented us from forming a bond at a critical time.

4. I was born 7 months after my parents' wedding. My mother's parents did not approve of my father. I don't know for sure, but I think it's possible that the members of my father's family were never comfortable with my mother, and that this feeling was reciprocal.

5. My mother was Catholic, while my father had no religion. She did not believe in abortion or birth control, and after the fourth child, my father had a vasectomy.

I have heard that who we become as adults is already determined by the time we are 5 years old. I can't remember enough about my early childhood to speculate as to how my experiences might have contributed to my development into the person I now am.

At the age of 3, I was taken to the hospital because of an overdose of baby aspirins - a bulk size bottle. (A binge?) I remember being conscious that it was 'dangerous', and that they tasted good. One of my brothers apparently swallowed one poison or another on a regular basis, such that my father joked that they knew him (my father) by his first name down at the poison control centre. We could have been imitating our parents' approach to alcohol, or food.

2. Family History of Depression and Mental Illness

My guess is that many of my family members on both sides lived lives of barely contained desperation for very long periods. Social changes, the increased popularity of psychiatry and psychology, the 'me generation' in which people were encouraged to find themselves, be 'selfish', 'self-induglent', etc, perhaps paved the way for all of this desperation to channel itself and find a voice in me, or it was like a flood that could no longer be held back by self-restraint and propriety, etc.

My maternal grandmother: My favourite person was bedridden most of the time I knew her due to rheumatoid arthritis. I have heard that she used to dance wildly at weddings. What kind of life did she have? She had a wheelchair, but had to be carried to some areas of the house, she couldn't write or use her hands much. There were rumours of a mercy pulling of the plug when she was hospitalized. (Even though she was Catholic.) I can easily imagine now that she may have been severely clinically depressed. She was in her early 50s during most of the time I remember her. When grampa was at work, Meals on Wheels people brought her lunch. What did she do the rest of the day? What did I absorb about her and her life?

My maternal great-grandmother: apparently babysat me during the first year of my life. After I was born my mother went back to work for a while. I don't remember my great-grandmother. I also don't really remember speaking Polish, but it was my first spoken language, and I guess she was the one who taught it to me. I have heard a story told by my father: when he and my mother came home from work they found that she had put a clothespeg on my nose to help train it to grow thinner. I wonder if I ever panicked, feeling that I wasn't getting enough air. I have also been told that she gave me portions of alcohol to calm me down, and considering the Polish approach to food, perhaps food was also used to calm me. [My father told me that he and my mother locked me in a room by myself so that I couldn't control them, which makes me wonder a bit about my later sensory deprivation experiments and my inclination to isolate later in life.]

Maternal grandfather: always gave the impression of being optimistic. He stood by my grandmother through her illness and would never have abandoned her. Her illness imposed many extra responsibilties and difficult tasks, as he was her caretaker in addition to holding down his fulltime job. He did not complain, or seem resentful.

He might not have understood some of the complexities of what she was going through.

It may be in large part due to his influence that it was important for me to be someone who could support myself, not complain. Many years after it was probably evident to most that I would never work, he would continue to ask if I was working yet. On one of my visits he told me a story of how in the Depression he saw a car accident and then went to apply for the job of the driver of a truck who had been killed in the accident, and got the job. And although I wanted to see myself as a resourceful person who could cope in life in ways others could not, in reality it looks like I was just not made that way.

He had a lot to live up to. People always commented on how young he looked for his age, they saw him as a very decent human being who could be counted on, and he was known for his physical strength, health and skill with certain sports that demanded a high level of eye-hand coordination or precision. When he had a heart attack in his 70s, it was a shock to many, because they expected him to be a beacon of health and strength.

My grandfather probably suffered depression related to life tragedies. He was basically an optimistic and happy individual, or at least very stoic, but I think the loss of his wife and daughter were very difficult for him. He was a good person, did everything 'right', and still tragedy befell him.

My mother: I have mentioned the post-partum depression she suffered after giving birth to me. I don't know if she experienced depression in her teen years, although I heard through the grapevine that she was not as thin as a teenager as she was during the years I knew her. As a mother, I can remember her sleeping in the afternoon, sometimes locking us out of the house to go play while she slept. In family therapy, I said that I thought she wanted to die, and no one disagreed with that. Not long before she died of a burst aneurism, she had told me her boyfriend would kill her and/or her kids if she left him. She said she wanted to leave. Also, although she was only 37, at that time she told me that her doctor had said she had heart problems. I am wondering if it was related to an eating disorder/fasting to control her weight. I wasn't aware of her eating patterns. I always remember her as thin, thinner than I am normally, not just taking into account that she was a bit taller than me. My pattern of bingeing when people left the house could have been something I witnessed in her when I was very young. I don't have any conscious remembrance.

My father: When I was a teenager, I absorbed that he was extremely unhappy about his job and his life, and that he used alcohol (binge drinking on weekends, probably some drinking at work), cigarettes (3 packs per day), coffee and food to help him cope. He also made efforts to live in the country and keep horses, which he probably needed for his sanity, but it seemed that too much of life was disappointing or crushingly stressful.

Later, there were comments about 'no light at the end of the tunnel' when he was in his 40s, a fondness for Blue Oyster Cult's 'Don't Fear the Reaper' and saying that he identified with the Jack Nicholson character in The Shining who tries to murder his whiny and annoying family. I think that a lot of my romantic ideas about love and death were formed through some of my conversations with my father, through my sympathy for him. I probably haven't mentioned in much detail that when I was a child or preteen, I saw my father as something pretty great. I bragged about him to various children I had contact with. I honestly couldn't understand why some of them, upon meeting him, didn't seem to like him. When I moved in, I remember having the conscious thought that he was 'weak' and that I didn't want to be like him in certain ways, but I still cared for him greatly, and it took a few years for me to even start to admit that I felt alienated. And even many years later, I still felt that I loved him and that I wanted things to go better for him. I think the most difficult thing for me over time is that I don't think he ever really understood who I was as a person (although he did show sympathy and acceptance in some areas, in an overall sense I don't think he really had a good idea of who or what I was), that he didn't understand the extent of my sympathy and support, or how difficult it was for me being unable to leave the nest. Also, when I got older and could identify more, some of his behaviours and ways of treating people were unacceptable to me, but I wasn't strong enough to know how to deal with it in the moment. I was too collapsed in on myself and unsure of what was right or wrong or beneficial to anyone. I think that now I might have a better idea of how to handle a lot of different specific situations in his presence.

Although my father had only a 10th grade education, he was better spoken than anyone else in his family, even to the extent of filtering out the family 'accent', and otherwise rough edges. I wondered if it was a conscious choice, and if he had worked at it. He worked his way up from sweeping floors to running large companies. His love was horses, however, and he always seemed to pine for the country. It was never economically feasible to give up the big salaries and expense accounts, especially once he had so many children to think about. He put up with long commutes between work in the city and homes in the country, which were draining and contributed to the need to self-medicate.

Paternal grandmother: I think she suffered from depression and anxiety, and lived a life of quiet desperation. She had a lot of fears and a strong sense of what is proper or shameful and tended to be judgmental in a lot of areas, but also at times to show at least some respect or sympathy for certain types of depression. She was proud and independent, and though she was lonely and perhaps depressed, she was unlikely to phone others or make contact - I think this may have been related to this pride, and to finding it personally unacceptable to show weakness, be an unwanted presence, or burden others. She was able to live in her own apartment and completely take care of herself well into her 80s. The fact that she had to, however, demonstrates an example of the neglect that runs in the family. She valued her independence and was comfortable in her own apartment. She didn't ever want to have to go to a nursing home, and I don't think anyone would ever have tried to force her, but out of kindness and consideration, more members of the family could have occasionally offered to help her with shopping, laundry, apartment repairs, and other miscellaneous items.

I may be mistaken, but I picked up the impression that in her family of origin she had been treated badly, as an inferior, or that she was neglected in favour of male offspring or a prettier sister.

Her husband died young, possibly at age 41. She never remarried or even dated again (which didn't seem to be about loyalty to the dead or romantic sentiment - she didn't seem impressed by the idea of marriage or living with a man), and to my eye treated my father as a kind of substitute, which was probably unhealthy in various ways. He could do no wrong, while his sister seemed to be treated as a nonentity, or secondclass citizen, no matter how much she did for her mother.

She was very prejudiced against overweight (she would repeatedly wonder out loud how 'fat' people could stand themselves), and about people not behaving properly or about exposing too much in public. She expressed revulsion towards a sister who sounds like she might have been a kind of family scapegoat: the sister was a bathing beauty (chosen to parade around in a bathing costume for some sort of public spectacle) who ended up an alcoholic prostitute, and who may have behaved inappropriately with my father when he was young. However, my grandmother's behaviour with my father may have also been inappropriate, although maybe it wasn't as blatant.

She didn't like to have her picture taken. She had one photo that she was proud of, taken in her 20s, I think. I liked it, too. I thought she looked stylish, that the photo captured a look of the era. When others assumed I was like her, in part because of the photo-phobia and lack of social contacts, I would feel defensive. I felt I was more accepting of people, and more open-minded. I wanted to see the world and to be able to handle contact with people, while she seemed to find the ideas of travel or unnecessary interaction unappealing.

My father's sister: weighed 180 pounds when she was 11... I wonder why. It seemed to be something held against her all her life. It was repeated as a story for amusement at most family gatherings. She lost weight later through a serious illness, and was after that of average weight. The family seemed to look down on her for keeping her house clean and in order. According to our father's example, it was ok to find visiting her unpleasant, or to call her and her husband 'the Bickersons', but we still had to visit. My father's attitudes towards his sister, which he had probably picked up from his mother, were passed on to us.

An adopted cousin: The person I liked best on my father's side. She came across as shy, unassuming, thoughtful and kind. She was adopted by my grandmother's other sister. According to family lore, she started out 'as cute as a button' and very smart, and ended up 'obese' and unable to form social ties or relationships. Later in life she did some temp work, but I think she may have always had trouble forming relationships outside the family, or even going out much when not in the company of her mother.

I heard vaguely of a male member of the family, possibly a brother of my grandmother's, who may have had problems with depression, going outside or coping with normal life. This is the person I remember my grandmother expressing sympathy for.

Paternal grandfather: was struck and killed by a drunk driver while he was crossing the street, but I was also under the impression that he drank quite heavily and had a problem. It sounds like he was a successful person, which perhaps formed the basis for my father eventually having the capacity to handle a lot of business reponsibility. (I am not sure about the accuracy, but this is what sticks in my mind:) He was a plumber who had managed to have his house and two cars paid for, as well as $100,000 in the bank at the time of his death in his early 40s. (In the 1950s.)

I wonder what his relationship was like with my father's sister. He died when my father was 15 years old, leaving my father without a male role model. It's interesting how, with genders reversed, I experienced something similar at a similar age. My father dropped out of school at that time and went to work, though.

He was a gifted athlete, and used to tease my father about his skinniness and general wimpishness, which was always strange for me to hear, because my father was a very athletic man, involved with rodeo trick riding when young and skinny, becoming a judo teacher, and also bulking up for the brutal sport of rugger at a world level later on, being a key player on a team that won a North American championship. [An interesting side note: the 11 year old younger sister, who would never live down her previous weight in later years, fought my father's physical battles for him when he was young and 'wimpish'.]

First cousin: My father's sister's daughter appeared to suffer disordered eating. She had a gorgeous figure, but at one time I heard that she ate only one meal per day. If I had to guess, I would say that at some point in her life she was molested, and/or suffered sexual harassment and/or assault. I heard rumours later on that she was depressed and had considered suicide, although the last news I had of her was that she was accomplishing something personally significant.

My mother's sister: appears to have suffered from severe depression for a very long time. People noticed her drinking, but perhaps only commented about it behind her back. As time went on, the problem worsened. She had lived an unusual life, married an unusual but very interesting person, made a controversial choice. I think they paid for their unconventionality. I can imagine that she felt abandoned by her family during the time her husband went to jail for drug dealing. It is interesting that she made this choice of mate considering her upbringing.

Siblings: I think all have experienced some level of depression and/or a feeling of aloneness or abandonment in relation to the family. Some things may have taken time to manifest, or may still be manifesting, as the original strength and pride that was instilled may have carried them through a long period first. One brother found himself in a series of predicaments related to drinking when I last heard, and I think my sister felt alone and abandoned to an extreme extent through her pregnancy/bringing up her daughter. When I still had contact, my sister only rarely drank alcohol, but for special/unusual occasions would sometimes drink a binge amount. She had to deal with the urge to compulsively overeat. We discussed it a little, but I think at that time she felt she was coping reasonably well with her life. (I haven't seen her in over 9 years.) My brothers were both drawn to alcohol, and in the later years, we usually tended to have contact that revolved around drinking in one way or another (I haven't seen one in over 9 years, the other in almost 7 - and that was unexpected, as he was actually looking for my ex at the time). I wonder if the one brother's ingesting of poisons as a child was a suicidal urge manifesting early. I suspect that my brothers in particular may cross boundaries in relationships with the couples they know, which may lead to erosion of their ties or family dramas similar to those of the parental units.

As for popping out sprogs, I think the choices in mate are intriguing, that perhaps my siblings have chosen or been drawn to people who might very well help to address some of the weak points in our genetic makeup, or address certain imbalances and improve photogenic qualities. They have chosen people with finer facial features, better hair and opposite body types that are also structurally quite sound and are naturally athletic. On the down side, they are people who might also have serious issues with alcohol and unresolved family trauma. [I don't have the prerequisite knowledge of genetics necessary to know if my speculations are ridiculous or not.]

I have read about the various factors that can contribute to depression that are documented by mental health professionals. Major life events, like deaths, breakups, divorce, moving house, career change, physical illness, etc, especially if several occur at once, can bring out severe depression in people genetically susceptible. It is natural for even 'normal' people to experience depression in these circumstances, but in some people it may become incapacitating. Looking at my life now, I can see that if I had this knowledge back then it might have helped me to interpret my situation differently. I would have realized that I had indeed experienced a phenomenal number of these events in a very short period of time - that we all had.

I don't think I managed to adequately convey my situation/experience to medical practioners, psychiatrists or therapists. I can see that that might partly have been because I was actually taking responsibility for my actions by not whining about other people or even interpreting the events in my life as having been caused by anyone but myself. With regards to the events that were not under my control, it was probably that I was never able to make those things clear because even I wasn't sure of their relevance with regards to my depression.

At the time (more than 25 years ago), there wasn't the awareness about depression and contributing factors that there is now. My father, me, and the medical professionals we had contact with also didn't have this awareness, which probably had something to do with why we couldn't articulate the situation in full, and why it was difficult to get help.

I did ask to go to a psychiatrist of my own volition first, and then later my father did take me to counselling sessions that were recommended after an incident which caused me to end up in hospital after binge drinking, and then to sessions we were required to take together with a social worker after I was hospitalized for the suicide attempt. My father dutifully drove me to my appointments, and before this had taken me to doctors to check out physical causes when I had frequent severe stomach pains. It could be that since things just seemed to get worse, not better, he assumed I couldn't be fixed and that it wasn't worth it to keep seeking conventional medical or psychiatric treatment. However, many major life events occurred after I was already seriously depressed, and I would guess that nowadays a p-doc would recognize that if anything, I probably needed more regular or intensive therapy.

My projection is that my father may still be as messed up as I am, and may very well still not see any light at the end of the tunnel. I think it makes sense that in time he went back to drinking - in fact it seems inevitable considering the circumstances. He didn't ever really get help. He always ended up having to find his own ways of adapting to life, major responsibilities, unresolved personal and familial issues, and to a high level of personal discomfort.

My siblings all went through many of the same events, with a similar genetic makeup. I would project that either they, or their children, may eventually have to deal with some of the fallout.

One extra issue I would like to comment on: my siblings have chosen ultra-feminine and pretty names for their female children, and I am wondering if some of the family issues will resurface in serious ways (similar to mine) if these children can't live up to the pressure, or aren't as pretty as the parents maybe secretly can't help hoping they will be.

3. Learned Coping Mechanisms

My father wasn't really coping, but was ensconced in life in such ways that he could be seen as functioning normally. I didn't get far enough ahead in life to find a niche that would allow for a paycheque and a reasonably respectable position in the eyes of society.

My father coped with high anxiety through extreme habits: binge drinking episodes in which many drinks were consumed one after the other, at first only on weekends, both nights, but eventually in future relationships many or all nights of the week. He also smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day, drank a lot of coffee and ate excessively. It is likely that his excesses rubbed off on me, but perhaps since I had easiest access to food at a critical stage in my development, food became the primary excess. I was never attracted to cigarettes, avoided coffee for most of my life, but from time to time there have always been binge drinking episodes.

He did what was necessary to keep horses in his life, and when possible, dogs. He also moved to the country whenever his personal circumstances and finances allowed. The only thing that seems remotely similar in me is perhaps an urge to keep trying to speak up for myself when it comes to what I think would be most helpful, or what I need to try, for example, asking for a 'room of my own'. I think that I would prefer to live in a city, but I am not currently able to manage it.

He was also able to find women who were sympathetic and supportive, rarely going long without a significant relationship. Perhaps this was a major influence on me, as I have found similarly sympathetic and supportive longterm relationships.

I may never know how my mother coped with her weight issues. It may have been willpower. It may have been a combination of binges followed by fasting. She may have had access to certain drugs. (Her boyfriend went to jail for a while in connection with my uncle who was sentenced as the main dealer.) She drank wine, but it didn't seem excessive in the way my father's drinking was. My father used to complain about her taking tranquilizers. In all the time I knew my mother, she didn't usually seem impaired, or come across in the ways my father did when he was drinking. However, there was one incident when we were young in which she had been drinking and drove us home from a friend's place. She drove us into the ditch, and then a young guy stopped to pick us up and drive us home. He seemed to like her, and I picked up that they were flirting. She smoked, but only a small fraction of my father's daily total.

She was creative. She drew, she sewed, she made ornaments/decorations for various holidays and occasions. She grew vegetables, froze and canned various vegetables and fruits, and made jams. These may not have been coping mechanisms as such, but her example may have had an influence on the different directions my creativity has taken over the years, and that it occurs to me to try new things.

She learned yoga, and kept it up at least intermittently through the years.

She made an effort with parttime jobs: supply teaching and trying to sell various things, like Avon products, but even with support payments, I can easily imagine that she didn't see how to contribute to our educations. Buying the resort with her boyfriend was a risk, but might have made it possible, in addition to adding unusual experience to our lives.

Living in the boonies, she probably didn't have access to much in the way of help for her personal situation if she finally decided she needed to leave her boyfriend. They were tied together financially, and she didn't have emotional support from anyone other than him, at least not anyone who lived remotely near.

The situation may have been similar when she lived with my father. She coped by finding a new relationship. Somehow, she was able to find a new partner willing to take on a single mother with 4 young children.

My parents were both used to being favourites and special children, and in a relationship together were probably most suited to the romance part of it and not the sharing with kids, which may have something to do with why each of us has always seemed to find romantic relationships in which there is an entrenched emotional bond that works better with only two, is not easily shared. This approach to relationships is probably something all of their children learned as a way of coping with life.

4. The D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Perhaps for a long time my parents genuinely loved each other and were even passionately in love. It is difficult to trust that anything can last if even 'true love' can fall apart. A lot of the fighting and ugliness might have related to how painful it was to find out that love doesn't always fit into the patterns we're taught it will if it's 'real'. It's probably also very confusing.

It was many years before I was able to admit to anyone at school that my parents were having problems, had separated or that they had divorced. I don't know why it was difficult for me to admit. When my mother told me that things were serious, I wasn't upset, and didn't have daydreams, ever, about them getting back together. I remember feeling that it was for the best.

There was a lot of fighting, a lot of verbal and physical violence and disruption. Later, there was a lot of ugly stuff related to the legal aspects. Listening to the fights, and later being drawn into some of the squabbles and power struggles, (effectively being asked to choose sides), I felt a lot of anxiety. I think this anxiety I experienced spilled over into every aspect of my existence. Attached to it (but not something I experienced consciously) may have been the feeling that I wasn't really wanted, that I was an expense (because they fought over money), and that I would be forgotten or abandoned (in the ways they were abandoning each other). I think that to prevent actual abandonment in my life I either choose it first, or act in ways likely to make it happen quicker, or in some way I can see coming. I probably can't really trust any person or relationship in certain ways. I think my relationship with food partly represents my feeling of having no control, or it's a manifestation of overwhelming emotions and fears decimating a life.

It may be my mother's influence in particular that contributed to my inability to commit, such that I 'save' the commitment for a person who would be worthy of it, in the sense of knowing themselves well enough to know they were ready to commit. In reality, however, even very responsible people who know themselves make mistakes, and change over time. So while I realize this, it's still difficult to change my approach to relationships. And at times maybe it's almost like I have a superstitious fear that the info that was withheld from me by family members will cause me to seek out relationships that will trap me in that state of not knowing, or will cause me to learn long, painful, drawn-out lessons. I've tried to figure out ways to bypass all of that, but as a result may have closed myself off from life too much. And then again, I can't completely accept that any kind of commitment is something to aim for in life, when the only constant is change, and when it is a personal ideal to be open to whatever may happen, and to not purposely limit life.

5. The Secrets/Unsuitable Info Shared with a Child

I felt flattered that my father found me intelligent, rational and grown up enough to share what he did. As I gained more experience in life, I didn't find other people who talked in the ways he did when he was drinking. He wasn't violent when drinking, or mean-spirited. He was more relaxed than usual, and generally more open, light-hearted, and more prone to telling jokes. But I think some of his unresolved emotional trauma found expression in intensely personal conversation.

He told me dirty jokes, he talked about sex, and about various women he had had sex with, including my mother and her sister and how it was probably a genetic thing, that since they liked sex I probably would, too. [Perhaps it's a good thing for a female to be encouraged to like sex and to be open about it?] He talked about unusual sexual practices, he talked about different kinds of attraction and companionship. He asked me at age 13 to sit on his lap, and when I looked hesitant, he said there was 'nothing wrong' in it. I trusted him, and tried, but when I did, it felt to me that there was something wrong in it, and so I went back to my own chair. At this time in my life I took to sitting with a big pillow held against me, and it is something I do even now. I think it's possible that it was to protect myself from his looking at me or weighing me up as a woman. [At age 13 I was already close to my full height, and my body proportions didn't really change past that point.] I later noticed him looking over a 15-year-old 'stepsister' in a sexual way, and realized that moral issues don't necessarily dictate what attracts a man's interest. [Years later, I observed a tickle fight between him and another teen 'stepsister' that left me with very uncomfortable feelings. Also, I learned that he discussed various sexual things with her, eg, rimming.]

He also tested my intelligence with various puzzles, and questions pertaining to diverse subjects.

It was probably a controversial but somewhat helpful education. However, I think it may have left me with a deep-rooted insecurity in all my future relationships. Because my father showed me that a person could behave certain ways on a daily basis and seem like a certain kind of person who followed society's rules or was in a caring relationship, I saw that when inhibitions were released through alcohol, all the doubts and dissatisfactions about life couldn't be held back, and relationships that looked strong could actually be seen as severely lacking or disappointing in certain areas. A treasured mate might actually turn out to be someone who wasn't really sexually or intellectually interesting.

In life, I found that I was always wondering what was going on with people below the surface, especially if they didn't share their secrets with me. Was I seen as unattractive, boring, etc? Would I become someone others would choose simply because they didn't feel strong enough or self-confident to try for what they really wanted? Did they secretly find my sister or a friend more attractive than me? Were they fooling around with one of these now, or had there been secret hidden exchanges?

[I found out that on my parents' wedding day, my mother's younger sister told my father he had married the wrong girl - implying that she herself was the right one. I think this has contributed greatly to a feeling of insecurity that right from the start my relationships might be built on a lack of openness. That I would devote years of my life to a person who would nurture a thing for my sister and then one day years later act on it. Why is this so threatening? Is it just in light of ridiculous things we're taught about 'love'? I don't think it's wrong to want to feel that someone is totally with you on your wedding day. And in a case like this, it just makes the idea of marriage or commitment look silly or at least unnecessary to me. You now have to interpret everything you experienced with this person in a new light. If you'd known that was the deal from the start, you wouldn't have spent so many years in a 'foolish' mindset. Or you could have been 'free' to seek someone who could offer you something you'd value more.]

I answered his various puzzles and questions in ways he usually wasn't expecting. I saw that I had something, a special ability or special kind of intelligence. However, I think that if only unconsciously, he was waiting for me to come to the conclusion that incest was acceptable for certain unusual people, and he wanted me to take the responsibility for it so he wouldn't have to. I think that his talks with me were a substitute for social interaction that he wanted, but that he couldn't have in his present circumstances. I think that it's his style to seduce women in a certain way, and I think when he was drunk he did end up using some of his usual techniques with me, or at least to fall into the patterns he did with women. When it turned out that I didn't want to act, I think in some sense I was punished for it.

But it may have all been more unconscious than conscious, and it may have just been an immature reaction to rejection. It wasn't going the way he wanted, or maybe he simply got bored, but I guess I eventually realized that there might be new avenues for him. My sister moved in, and they shared a common interest - horses. She possessed qualities and a kind of cuteness that I did not. I also realized eventually that with each person in his life he probably shared certain secrets. It would depend on the person as to what parts of himself he would talk about.

An unfortunate thing I learned was that I could be in the inner circle for a while, but then I could find myself out of it.

I am left with a couple of different ideas. One is that my father had a certain level of intelligence and a certain kind of potential that he didn't get a chance to explore because although he was able to handle a position of responsibility and power in his line of work, and could always seem to find women, he was trapped in a narrow cross-section. He didn't have the self-confidence to challenge himself.

The other idea is related to the realities of life and about how 'weak' most people are in reality. It doesn't make sense to judge any relationship. What I have seen is that there are reasons people are together that go deeper than the shallow dismissals often made to invalidate the worth or genuineness of any relationship.

I honestly don't think that my father's main interest was young preteen or teen girls. I think they were one interest, and that he may always feel funnier, or more relaxed, with young girls, or experience the natural human interest in the potential and freshness of youth. It's a biological reality that men are attracted to young girls, but accepted morality doesn't acknowledge the extent of it. No one is adequately prepared for the effects of the realities of it, and this leads to coverups and problems that confuse everyone. I do think he was honestly attracted to women, and that for relationships he was genuinely interested in 'age-appropriate' women, or adult women.

My father didn't ever demonstrate remorse over the affair with my mother's sister. The impression I was left with was that he felt it was evidence of his specialness and how the rules didn't apply to him. It didn't sound like the great love or romance or sex of his life when he described it. It sounded like a dare, a fun experience, the kind of thing set aside for those outside the rules, for those who considered themselves (and whose mothers taught them they were the centre of the universe), destined for great things. I don't know for sure, but I can imagine that this is one area in which my mother might have felt an extreme betrayal.

Perhaps all of these secrets related to the complicated affairs and emotions of adults were too much for me to process or handle at my age, in spite of my maturity for my years, and had some impact on my ability to face life or grow up.

When I interact with anyone, I want their secrets. If I can't have them, I will probably pull away before long.

6. Erratic Parenting/Discipline Issues

'Do as I say, and not as I do.' I have to admit that my father at least had a sense of humour about it.

My mother had an instinctual knack for setting realistic limits and responsibilities for us. My father's approach to parenting, which was more that of a friend than a parent, undermined her efforts. I think I should point out that these kinds of discrepancies might actually be beneficial from an educational standpoint, might produce more adaptive offspring, or a kind of open-minded approach to life.

My mother provided healthy meals, reasonable portions, and moderate treats. When my father had visitation, all of that went out the window and it was pretty much a non-stop junk food orgy in comparison. My siblings and I often ate until we felt sick or experienced incredible discomfort.

My mother assigned each of us tasks and chores to complete. When I moved in with my father my duties seemed to change. I was at a loss as to what was expected of me, and because I seemed rational and mature for my years, I think it was expected that I'd just know what to do. I didn't. I was confused by erratic expectations and inconsistent punishments.

When my father talked about sex, he didn't talk about birth control. I find it at least something of a coincidence that my two 'stepsisters', (mentioned earlier), in addition to myself, became pregnant while in our teens.

For a very long time I resisted all peer pressure with regards to drugs and alcohol. When my depression became more severe, I started to try alcohol. I drank exactly the way I had seen my father drink, but my body couldn't handle it and there were a couple of pathetic incidents, one which included a trip to the hospital when I passed out in my own vomit. Also, I made out with boys and came home with love bites, but no memory of events. My father thought that maybe a good solution was to get drunk together. I blacked out, don't have any recollection of that night.

[At this point I would like to comment on my first boyfriends. The first I think ended up wanting to break up because he was ready for sex and I was not. The second knew that I had a problem with alcohol and took me out under false pretenses (a non-existent party that we were to attend 'as friends'): he took me to a secluded spot in the woods to have a couple of beers before the party, and then tried to force himself on me. He said he couldn't believe I struggled so hard. The next time, he threw me a birthday party for turning 16, provided alcohol and when I reached the blackout/pass out stage tried again to have sex with me. His father pulled him off me that time. I am just pointing these things out because there's a certain coincidental nature to these relationships in relation to my relationship with my father, perhaps.]

7. Parents not Respecting My Privacy

I felt a need to destroy everything I wrote or otherwise created partly because my parents spied on me and took offence to the things I wrote, used those things against me, or reacted such that I understood that I was a disappointment.

8. My Inclinations, Habits, Preferences, Emotions and Opinions

Were proof that I wasn't as bright as they wanted me to be, were inconsistent with the potential I displayed through my scholastic achievements. I was weak, and I think eventually it became my unconscious goal in life to be as inoffensive as possible to the greatest number of people. I had no idea who I was, what I wanted or what or who I liked, I waited for everyone and everything to approach me because who I was was not acceptable. Years of consciously trying to dismantle the automatic reactions and think about who I was or what I genuinely liked yielded only very slow progress. I still don't think I've come all that far.

Both parents were uncomfortable with anyone expressing anger, sadness, disapproval or disappointment of any kind, as such expressions stirred up insecurities in ways they had trouble dealing with. My parents were allowed to express these emotions or thoughts, but it looks like I wasn't brave enough to face their reactions to my (often valid) emotions. This may have led to me adapting by becoming understanding of others' emotions and to explaining away my own to the extent that I may have lost touch with some of my relevant emotions. As a compensation I might have learned some deeper truths about human interactions, insecurities and motivations.

9. My Skin Issues

Impacted every area of my life, especially my thoughts of the future and future relationships. In addition to depression and anxiety, I was constantly afraid of situations in which my skin might be exposed and in which I'd face the revulsion of other teenagers. It was difficult choosing the right clothes, caring for my skin took extra time and effort in addition to normal responsibilities, and there was a major letdown each year when the weather turned colder. [To simplify: I have something that is either ichthyosis, or something that resembles it. It's a heavy, scaling build-up that improves in warmer temperatures. In summer, it still wasn't normal- looking, but the appearance was bearable. In winter, it was horrific- looking, and often physically uncomfortable.]

10. The Death of my Mother

It happened very fast and was a shock to all of us. She had a bad headache, fell into a coma and was dead within a few days. My brothers were living with her and ended up moving in with my dad, my sister and me. I don't know if any of us reacted 'normally'.

My mother's death may have had an impact on my inability to delay gratification or to put things off or procrastinate the ways 'normal' people do. Don't save anything for later, do or say it all now, because if you blink, you might never get the chance again. When she died I already had serious problems with food and depression, but her death may have intensified my issues.

I didn't notice immediate effects. Over time, there were different stages of learning and identification. The first thing I recognized was that maybe I was in part trying to take over for some of the 'work' she had started with her children. I became aware of the specialness of my siblings, and there was this imperative that none of that be lost. As I went further into this, I started to understand a lot of what she had done for us over the years that we hadn't really noticed.

As time went on, I grieved for her lost potentials, started to see who she might have been apart from her role as a mother. I had wishes that we could have done girlie things together, and that I could have photographed her in ways that did her justice.

Through my relationships, I think I came to understand the disappointment and betrayal she might have experienced with regards to my father. I think that my need to express might have something in part to do with a kind of unfairness she experienced and a kind of validation that she herself needed.

I am not sure about what our relationship would be now if she had lived, or if my life would be different. Would all our lives be different? Before she died, my life was already in a serious nosedive. I think it's possible that the family would have more continuity or a sense of someone trying to pull things together, and that she would have taken an interest in each of us individually.

My siblings and I were atrocious with keeping in touch with any relatives, including our grandfather, especially after our mother's death. When he married his second wife not long after our mother died, there were major changes. We may have put her off because we were apathetic and didn't behave the way her grandchildren did. She was an intelligent woman with an enormous family, a lot of resources and impressive organizational ability. I am guessing that my grandfather needed someone to take charge at this time in his life. As mentioned previously, my original grandmother was my favourite person, but I always made an effort to ensure my grandfather's new wife didn't feel like an outsider. I didn't see her as a replacement or a threat, but as a something new altogether, and I sought to understand her as a person. I came to see that she had a lot of responsibility, and that at times it was very difficult for her.

We were shifted to the bottom of the list. We had always spent Christmas Eve with our grandparents, but with the new wife we were eventually bumped back to a dinner in late November. This was at least partly my grandfather's fault for not speaking up. Perhaps he was shellshocked with grief, losing his first wife after a long illness, and then my mother.

I wondered if getting bumped to November had something to do with me, personally. There were rumours that I was 'not quite right', and perhaps it was out of consideration for my anxiety that my siblings and I weren't thrown in with the stress of large numbers of people. Or perhaps I was a secret shame, someone to be hidden away, not fit for normal social situations. I don't know. It could have had something to do with our apparent religious or familial apathy.

11. Post Traumatic Stress

I had horrifying nightmares, was afraid to sleep at night, I had difficulty dealing with the outside world, and my heart would beat rapidly when there was someone at the door. I think it's possible I was undergoing some kind of PTS. Weight gain at this time contributed to my becoming housebound, but may have been protective in a way, such that I would not be attractive, or attract the kind of experiences I had just been through.

In brief: I was 16. My father had made sexual advances after a serious accident in which his skull was fractured (less than 2 months after my mother's death), and I ran away from home in a state of extreme distress. I had no way of processing the experience in a way that felt like it would help. Although I did have the ability to see it had possibly occurred because of the accident, it did trigger other memories and insights. I rented a room near my old school, with money I had earned that summer working as my father's secretary/receptionist. I was unable to concentrate in school or cope with much of anything, and one night I went to a dance drunk and ended up waking up in a field with cut up thighs and fuzzy memories of being in a car, having sex, possibly with several persons, but at least with one while others watched, and memories of my head/hair dragging out the door on gravel while someone drove the car. And then the long walk in the dark, feeling petrified, and then grovelling, asking to come home.

These incidents occurred after a year in which my depression was incapacitating to the extent that I could not do schoolwork, study for tests or exams and I started to self-medicate in desperation and got into trouble. After a suicide attempt in which I swallowed my depression meds and stimulants, after the surprise death of my mother, after I found out I was pregnant and subsequently had an abortion.

[I should also note that we had a history of moving a lot. There was no sense of continuity, ties were always broken. My school tally was 14 by the time I finished high school. During the first year I rarely left the house, when I was possibly experiencing PTS, I took correspondence courses. I took these courses through my own initiative, with no encouragement, reminders or nagging from others, and completed Grade 12.]

When I came grovelling home, I looked around the place, and saw that it was filthy. There were pizza boxes and McDonald's bags everywhere, newspapers, dog and cat hair (there were 3 dogs and 2 cats in the house at this time), and no one was doing dishes or any other kind of housework. I cleaned things up, and started to cook. I washed all dishes after all meals for 5 people, although some of them occasionally managed to wash a cereal bowl. I didn't know how to cook so I experimented. I made shopping lists. I'm sure it was my mother's influence that made it possible for me to do this adequately. There was healthy food in the house, I cooked dinner at regular times, I provided a kind of stability. We sometimes still had pizza and other junk food, but there was a limit. I also did the laundry and vacuuming and daily straightening up which took a lot of time because no one was particularly concerned with tidying up after themselves. I think the disorder was a natural response to the death of our mother and moving to a new place, with our father in no condition to actually be a father. I think that cleaning the place up and providing structure for others may have been related to my survival instinct kicking in, but I do think it couldn't have manifested this way without my mother's early influence.

Previously, I was a teenager with potential, but at this time I resembled a middle-aged housewife who lived for others or whose own needs took a backseat. I think I learned humility and also to identify with a broader range of women.

However, I have never been able to provide that kind of structure for myself, and now wouldn't be able to provide it for others, as I'm too depleted. And I seem to be drawn especially to pizza and burgers and fries when I feel a need to binge.

The fact that I came grovelling home may have had a big impact. It is likely that in accepting that humiliation, I was broken. I was accepted back, but there was an underlying understanding that I was being forgiven for my delinquency, selfishness, immaturity, irresponsibility, etc.

12. Trouble Going Outside

This started at age 16, at the same time as the PTS. I still did go out at times, but not very often. I was no longer going to school but taking correspondence courses. All social ties I'd had were many miles away because we'd moved after my mother's death.

There were a lot of major changes, and in them it is possible to see the potential for serious depression in my father: feelings that he still loved my mother, the head injury, the failure of his horse business, the fact that his girlfriend had left, and that he could no longer afford the mortgage payments on the farm, a new day job in another city. He also had to sell some of the horses, and because of the move would no longer be able to have daily contact with them. At this time he was undergoing stress in relation to his teenage daughter (me) and had also been caught 3 times in a very short period for drunk driving. He was on the verge of losing his licence. That is not all, but I mention some of the other issues later.

I had fewer reasons to go outside, and everyone else was traumatized in their own way and probably didn't notice there was anything so weird about me not going outside or answering the door. When asked about it, I had replied that I felt fat and ugly, and I was not questioned about that, so in a way it was almost reinforced that those were acceptable grounds.

Before this, I would never have accepted those grounds as acceptable for myself. You just go out and do what you're expected to do, you don't complain, you accept what you are, and if you don't like it, you change it, but you do not have an excuse to abandon your duties or hide from the world.

At around this time began a very unusual period for my father. He started to have psychic experiences, and was seen as a very powerful psychic by a new group of friends who were all psychics. On the one hand, this new social group offered validation, while on the other, he lost credibility in his line of work, and for a period of time would find it difficult to get back into it at the same level. He went through his generous severance* payment rapidly, eventually commandeering my brothers' bank accounts and then applying for welfare, and then declaring that he couldn't cope with us any more, he was checking himself into the hospital, good luck, kiddies! But the hospital wouldn't take him, and he was forced to come back. I think he sought comfort in a relationship. We moved in with his new girlfriend and her kids. My father and his new girlfriend self- medicated with alcohol and mj. They smoked up most nights, from what I recall, although I do know that my father was always more attracted to alcohol. At a certain point my father could no longer hold back his depression and ended up severely doused in lithium (librium?), such that he didn't recognize me when I passed him on the street. I definitely think his depression was severe, and that he had exceeded his ability to cope, and that he needed help. It's unfortunate that at the same time I was already going through something seriously incapacitating myself. He asked for help, but didn't get what he needed, and I think he was in the end forced to go on with life and do the best he could with the enormous responsibilities life had given him.

[*When my father went through his severance money rapidly, it may have resulted in my living like there's no tomorrow, or without planning for the future. It was an approach to life that my father adopted, which may have been influenced by his father's death at a young age. His father had saved up a lot of money, but didn't live to enjoy it. At that particular time, when my father went through that money, it forced a crisis, such that he eventually had to think about welfare. I wonder if I keep repeating that pattern in my own way.]

I could no longer find a sense of identity as a top student with potential. I think at this time the fat-phobia evident in both my father's side of the family and the fat-phobia exhibited by my mother affected me when my self-esteem was faltering. While I was inside with no social life, tv might have helped to drive the body image message home.

I didn't receive much feedback from my family, even during major efforts to do something about my life. This led to an unfortunate pattern. I lost weight and exercised while preparing to go back to school, and after being inside for an extended period with no feedback, I suddenly had an overabundance of it, in the form of male attention. The pattern I learned was to exercise, lose weight, and choose a new look or to at least concentrate on a new hairstyle, and then to head out into the world. As time went on, I had no social contacts, wasn't going to school or working, and because I had always had trouble talking to people, my appearance drew people and conversation to me, and it often wasn't long before I had a new relationship. As I got older, I received less attention through this process, but it still was ingrained, such that I probably didn't think there was any other way even possible for me.

Over the years of not going outside, I did focus on my weight and general appearance, but I was conscious that I felt ashamed of myself and my laziness or lack of initiative. It was humiliating to me to be dependent, to not be taking responsibility for my existence, to not be trying to get out into the world. I was afraid to bump into anyone I might have known before, or to start conversations with anyone new, because I was extremely ashamed of who I was and what I'd made of my life. I was afraid of having to talk to anyone. I don't know if it was the perceptions of others I feared as much as my own self- judgment. I wasn't pleased with myself. I didn't accept myself or my place in the world. I lived in a state of stress and distress that was more difficult to shut out when I was out in the world and had contact with those who weren't stuck, those who were moving forward in life.

At present I still have this shame about myself. I don't know how to explain myself if I'm asked questions. But if I'm thinner than normal and have been exercising, it somehow helps me to feel that I'm at least doing something about myself, I feel slightly less repulsive and slightly more confident. In that case, though, I am only able to deal with conversation marginally better. I will try to be honest about myself, and when I am, I probably do get over the embarrassment or awkwardness more quickly.

This is still very difficult for me to articulate. I'm very far from the kind of person I wanted to be, and as a result, it's very difficult for me to ever feel comfortable out in the world. It may be an over-sensitivity. However, my personality is such that I don't want to have to cover up my situation or who I am, or to keep any kind of charade going in order to have a social life. Perhaps pretense is part and parcel of what a social life entails? I don't think I would have the energy or strength to keep such a charade going, even if I found I wanted to try. Most people would not understand my level of desperation and humiliation, and I would constantly feel that these were about to explode through the cracks. I am also self-conscious about burdening others with my dense, heavy emotions.

I end up concentrating on my body because I don't know what else I can change about myself. I am constantly trying to focus so that I can feel more physically acceptable and able to face going out, but I have very little success in comparison to my efforts. On a daily basis, I am aware that if I don't get up and exercise, and reduce caloric intake, I am living in limbo, I am not moving towards anything, and that it will be a long time until I will even have the possibility for travel or for merely going out to have coffee and dessert.

Practical issues at any given time revolve around clothing and hair, resulting in additional stress if I decide to go out. I am only rarely able to find clothing that feels comfortable and that feels acceptable to me for going outside. My inside wardrobe does not feel appropriate for wearing outside - I need something I feel more confident and attractive in in order to have a better chance of handling the extra stress. My hair has always been a problem. Styling takes an effort that I cannot sustain on a daily basis, as it is rather involved due to my hair type/face shape combination. I have tried to come up with solutions, but none are lasting or desirable. Many damage the hair.

Other than optional travel, shopping or meal-related possibilities, I don't have any technical reasons to go outside, and I don't have any obligations that require me to go outside. My life is set up such that there are few unexpected reasons to go outside. I can stay in for months at a time, and aside from walks around the neighbourhood with GK at night when no one is around, I often do. At the time of writing, I am trying to get this entry finished up so that I can be clear of it and 'think', and hopefully refocus such that I will be able to travel again. The walks at night are an improvement over my past - because at times I didn't go outside at all for very long stretches (eg, 8 months or more), and I could not bear to have any curtains or blinds open even a little.

13. Failure to Thrive/Fear of Growing Up and of Adult Responsibilities

When I was still in elementary school, I remember having an awareness that it was difficult to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood. I was always trying to appreciate childhood consciously, and to not let time just go by. I was aware that childhood was the time to try to develop skills. If I wanted to dance or write, I should be concentrating on developing my potential already. I did try. I didn't lack awareness or initiative. I had a lack of stability, follow-through and ongoing personal discipline. A pattern of extremes appears to have been already determined from a young age: feast or famine, major efforts followed by sloth or incapacitating depression or boredom.

I was petrified at the thought of not having a two month summer vacation as an adult. To me, those holidays were absolutely essential in order to recover from the school year. I seriously considered becoming a teacher. I felt that my natural anxiety and inability to speak in the moment would hamper that option, though, and that I'd have to work on developing my ability to speak in front of groups. I did try in high school, and I think I did become better at speaking in front of groups, and almost good at it at times. When I dropped out of life at the age of 16, that progress was not continued.

It's possible the excessive sweating and stomach problems that began in my second year of high school partly represented that I was afraid that I might not be able to live up to the pressure of the standard I seemed to have set for myself in the first year. (I was the top overall advanced level student.) I think I had unconsciously absorbed that my father might be disappointed if I couldn't go on to achieve something spectacular in life. Although he would say that the most important thing was that we (his children) were happy, he would also say when drunk that winning wasn't everything, it was the only thing.

While I may have been capable of reading and writing at a university level at a very young age, it was beginning to occur to me that I might have levelled off, and that by the time I reached university, I might be just like everyone else.

During the first year I had opted not to take physical education because of the issues with my skin (it was not mandatory in my school), but in the second year I did take it. I wanted to face my fear, but partly I wanted to tackle another area in which I could potentially win my father's admiration. It was difficult because of my skin, but maybe the stress of having to perform both academically and athletically was more than I could handle. [I was the top student in my PE class, and I won several races, cross country and track, outside of class.]

I've always had an awareness that life wasn't fair, and that you couldn't expect everyone to behave in rational or reasonable ways. There was an unspoken understanding as well that it was imperative not to complain about the unfairness of others or to sink to using your limitations as an excuse for not doing better. Once you start blaming others, or your personal handicaps, you admit that you've dropped out of the 'real' race.

Even now, I am capable of appreciating how difficult it must be to be a parent, and after you've done your best to find your offspring remembering every little grudge while seeming to have forgotten all about anything good you might have done. It seems like there is no way to be sure that every approach isn't the wrong one in one way or another. My father's big dreams may have encouraged another child to try for more than s/he otherwise would have, and maybe that child would have succeeded. It seems to me that many people start out with unrealistic ideas about what they will achieve in life, but that somehow having hopes and dreams is part of what encourages people to try. Which in turn propels them into and involves them in life, and as a result their original ideas and hopes may undergo changes.

My father did stir up excitement about what it was possible to achieve in life. I can bitch and moan about him not setting a good example with practicalities regarding the achievement of goals, but honestly, it looks to me like he did what he was biologically qualified to do, employing the natural qualities that drew others to him. It is entirely possible that I simply wasn't balanced enough as an individual, or strong enough, to go forward with what he started in me regarding life goals, although I wanted to.

The major obsession that developed in high school may have had something to do with my relationship with my father. My entire day at school would hinge on whether I had some kind of contact with the object of my obsession or not. Was this something to do with feeling that I could not hold my father's attention? I have read that people who develop obsessive tendencies sometimes experience a serious emotional neglect in their families. Was it partly about my mother's rejection of me (extreme anger and hurt related to my choosing to live with my father that was repeatedly expressed)? Was it about my younger sister moving in with us? The boy I was obsessed with became my boyfriend, but only for a short time. He often commented that I was 'jailbait'. We made out a lot, but it didn't even occur to me at the time to take it to the next level. If he could have waited for summer, I probably would have had sex with him (at age 15). At that time, the only way I could interpret the feelings of depression I experienced was to project them onto the drama of whether I had contact with him that day, and if it seemed positive or encouraging, or not. This obsession eventually dominated the whole high school experience, and I felt incapacitated by it.

Was this the sign of something out of whack with my brain chemistry? Was it related to the stresses of divorce and losing the emotional support of my mother, not to mention her practical support related to daily needs? When I moved in with my father, was I ignored most of the time, was it thought that I was rational and smart enough to raise myself?

I was not able to concentrate on anything but the obsession. I didn't care about anything else. Was this a signal that I was failing to do what I was supposed to in high school: test myself, test myself against others, and be tested, and to begin to find out where in life I would fit?

When I moved in with my father, he said that we could redecorate my room. I brought it up again a few times during the years, but by the time we moved out 3 years later, it still hadn't been done. I had ripped off the ugly wallpaper myself, and graffitied my room. One wall was covered with synonyms for the word 'fat'. This is an example of how he wasn't prepared for parenthood. In business, I realize that you often have to ask for things over and over and there are ridiculous delays, and sometimes you have to insist on things getting done. My father had a lot of responsibilities, and probably left it up to me to keep hassling him until his schedule was free enough to tackle this particular project. It's possible that this approach (waiting for me to insist regarding my needs) came into play in an overall sense while I lived with my father.

I feel like I need access to more information, that I can't remember enough. When I think back to my teen years now, I don't think I could have chosen to live with my mother instead. There was a stress involved with living with her that was building, and when I look back now, I don't think I could have handled that, either. With my father, I at least had my own room, and some time to myself.

My father was more interested in me than I can imagine many fathers are. I was doing well in school, I had my own room, I had a good friend at school, I was doing well in athletics, wtf was wrong that I had to throw it all away so pathetically? I honestly can't say it was that I consciously questioned the layout of society and that it looked meaningless to me.

And this is part of why I feel like I need access to more information. I'm not sure I can completely understand why I would feel so anxious and depressed, such that I was seriously faltering even before the major events of my life occurred. Was it somehow about the divorce and my skin? If people think they are unlikely to find partners due to some physical problem or deformity, is it more difficult for them to try in life?

My parents didn't encourage me to wallow in self-pity about my skin. I was brought up with the understanding that there are people worse off in the world, and that it's up to me to make the most of what I have. My father would sometimes make jokes, calling it 'alligator skin'. I didn't allow myself to feel sorry for myself, but it was important to me to hide my skin from others. It was my issue to deal with, just as others had their own individual problems and tasks in life.

When younger, I found myself exaggerating a lot of the time in order to make myself or other things sound more exciting than they were. I am guessing that this was related to a type of insecurity that may have been passed on through the family. Over time, I made conscious efforts not to engage in this. Also, to not lie to cover up unappealing behaviour or motivations, and also to not subtly undermine other females - it's a female competitive thing I think to find subtle or not so subtle ways to undermine the attributes of other females, to each other, but especially to those who might have romantic or sexual interest. More and more through the years I have tried to eradicate this tendency in myself. It feels to me that the approach I like best is to notice what is beautiful and interesting about other women, to support them in it if possible, and to I guess hope that there might be something beautiful and interesting in me, to not wait for others to notice, but to develop it myself if I can. But, again, I can see an unwillingness to really compete. I slunk off to my own corner, where it's not all that likely I will be noticed or forced to deal with any kind of confrontation.

When I was experiencing depression as a teen, I do remember questioning myself, wondering if I was over-dramatizing or exaggerating. Perhaps my acting out and my exaggerations helped to develop negativity and caused a snowball effect.

Photographs were a problem. My high school photos were all pretty hideous, and filled me with despair. It seemed unlikely to me that if I actually looked the way I photographed that anyone would ever find me attractive - yet I always did have some admirers. The photos felt like a judgment and an ill-omen, maybe. I couldn't articulate it, but unless I really didn't look like that, I couldn't imagine life as being big and full of possibilities. At times, I wondered if maybe I just needed to find the lighting and situations that would work best for me, or for someone to really see me. When I looked in the mirror, I actually thought I was pretty. When my father saw my school photographs, he would sometimes shudder, and then sympathetically tell me that we didn't have to buy the photos. I would feel relieved.

It could very well be that nothing in life was appealing to me unless I could be pretty. Photographs were proof that couldn't be refuted that I wasn't, even if I tried to hold onto hope that there were circumstances in which I would eventually 'shine', because of the ingrained optimistic approach to life. Maybe withdrawing from the world was a way of suspending time, and a way of being allowed to hold onto unrealistic hope for as long as possible.

I do think that I became more and more overwhelmed by all of the responsibilities involved with adulthood. I still feel very self- conscious when I look at the ways I have to try to encourage myself with regards to my daily 'accomplishments' and how I do see that others manage so much more.

On the other hand, it may be that others have a kind of filtering ability that allows them to deal with problems and tasks as they occur rather than having to deal with the conscious burden of all the added up little things at once.

However, I am also aware that there are people able to be aware of all that needs doing, who do it with a level of perfectionism, and who basically don't crack under the pressure. And I suppose I am somewhat intimidated by those people, while not totally identifying with those who are more laidback. I'm not sure where I fit.

Which leads to a significant part of the whole issue: I think I am a bad sport, or a kind of coward who went away to hide because I couldn't figure out something to be exceptional at.

I think some of this relates to unrealistic expectations. If when younger I had had a more realistic idea about people and abilities, genetic realities and where everyone fits in in the world, I might have reacted to life differently. I 'get' all that now, but at a time when I was 'building' for my future I didn't. I see that the pressure of unrealistic expectations also spills over into my personal relationships. Only 'first' place matters. All other interactions are worthless and in the end amount to nothing, which from today's perspective looks silly, because even then my father had many different relationships and whoever was showing him the most understanding or attention at the time might be 'higher' on the list, or it may relate to what was happening in his life at the time and what he was thinking about - that affected his perspective and who he might have seen as 'the love of his life'. I now realize that things fluctuate in life, and that different people represent different facets of life and of ourselves that we can learn about, or develop, and that it's ludicrous to dismiss everything but 'first' place when there is no absolute first anyway.

However things progressed or developed, or why, I do at this point think I've experienced a level of depression that could qualify as 'illness'. It's just that I'm not sure there are treatments available to me that employ understanding of the complexities of the illness, and I might be better off on my own, trying to find my own approach. I think part of the issue is that treating symptoms will not treat a lack of meaning or purpose in life, and so in some cases maybe a person is better off avoiding the conventional approaches and trying to find something as an individual.

[Extra section that I'm not sure what to do with: I know that there are many people who are intellectually capable of appreciating the meaninglessness of life, but that they are not as out of control or as 'low' as I am. One thing I wonder is if I have somehow acted on some of my thoughts or taken a kind of dare related to it all that others have not, such that my life developed as it did partly because in various ways I was exploring what the natural outcomes of certain thoughts were. Others may not experience the level of discomfort I do, or can still find daily structure bearable, or can find distractions, but perhaps all of these things are more stressful for me because I have acted on certain thoughts in ways that perhaps I wasn't consciously aware of at the time but that were a natural extension of my own conscientiousness? I think this is a thought worth exploring. Because of my actions and what I tried, maybe I can't go back. But it's like I don't have a language or frame of reference for what I've tried or experienced, and I'm slowly trying to explain it.

Of course another explanation is that others have a higher threshold or that for whatever reason their dams have not burst and may never burst. But what holds things in place? And at times it may be a deeply ingrained need for personal dignity, a kind of personal responsibility. What happens if you explore the idea that in the face of meaninglessness, those concepts mean nothing anyway, and what if you actually explore your fears of having no personal dignity, etc? I guess it doesn't seem very impressive if it looks like you've had no self-control, and you've come to your knowledge or conclusions through reactions that seem more like responses to torture. But we're back to what does self-control mean, and why does it matter?

I think that part of what I'm trying to say is that maybe I've jumbled some things up in being unable to filter out some of society's pressures and judgments. Because I don't have anything to compare it to, maybe I haven't realized that my responses to life and my personal situation have actually been in keeping with some kind of underlying thought or idea and I tend to dismiss my efforts because of how the results would be seen by society, when with a slightly different focus I could perhaps see myself as someone who was rebelling against the limitations that were set for her.

If you have the idea that who a person is is not their job or what they do in life or their circumstances, that there is some kind of quality or spirit to a person that exists separate to all of that, one way to test it out is to see what happens when you let go of all the functions and roles and jobs in life that have helped to form your identity or how you appear to others. To demolish all that, not just get your toes wet, but to jump right in, take the idea all the way. I think I may have done something like that. But what happened was that it enabled me to see more of the layers and structure of life. To see that when you don't have the same roles and identity, you are perceived differently, and that this indeed has an effect on how you are treated and how your life develops from there. I learned to see some of the underlying structure of life that other people mostly shut from awareness, and that some of the events of our lives may not be as mysterious or special as we might think.

I think I lacked patience, but it was more than that. It's true that I got tired of waiting for something to happen, for whatever I had that I didn't have to go out of my way to express to become evident because somehow it was still there and would draw things to me, experiences, people. Well, it seemed more and more that it was possible to just get older and older and just keep waiting. And I guess I didn't want to just keep waiting because I wasn't satisfied with that kind of existence in itself. I did see that this life was probably all we really had, and that the rules of this existence as they apply differently to the sexes and what their options are at different ages made me see that if I wanted something more than the boredom extending into old age, I would probably have to make adjustments. I think as a result I became more mired in some of the usual experiences and emotions that I had sought to avoid in part to test my original thoughts out.

What if I realize that I'm not really as intelligent as other people, but that I am somehow more able to face difficult things, and so in a way I might be more rational? And that even exceptionally intelligent people may not realize to what extent their thinking is hampered by a need to save face or appear a certain way, or to adhere to certain standards that have been imposed at a time when they weren't consciously able to accept or reject those standards? Or that life might carry them along in spite of their logical deductions, and since they always have stuff to do and either don't suffer or can manage the amount of suffering, there is no real reason to try to rebel against things like survival instinct or mating instinct etc, or to carry certain thoughts further.]

14. Why I No Longer Have Contact With My Family

It happened gradually over time. There was no one incident or cause. The major issue was that I was in a state of depression that I couldn't cover up well enough to manage visiting. As I withdrew more from life and I got older, not fulfilling any potential I might have once had, it became harder and harder to face anybody. I stopped ever calling anyone, because I didn't feel I had anything to share, and it was difficult for me to go through the same patterns of conversation while trying to maintain a positivity that I didn't feel.

I can identify some contributing factors, though. In the 1990s, my father was in a new long-term relationship. His new partner had 3 children. I didn't like what I observed of my father's behaviour with and attitude towards these new children. They all seemed to have pre- existing issues, but I felt that my father might intensify some of their problems. I wanted to be able to help them. When living with my family, I had tried to build up each of my siblings, complimenting and encouraging them, and when my father behaved erratically, I often tried to tell them not to let it get to them. If he had said something unkind, I would make the effort to stand up to him in the moment. However, my focus was to try to reiterate that he was unhappy, and that he wasn't aware of how he was affecting others. [Over time, I will admit that I did participate in making fun of certain aspects of his drunken behaviour with the others, and to at times expressing disappointment in relation to some of his behaviour and personality: 'He's done such and such again,' and shaking our heads at him. I am sorry for it.]

I wanted to be able to stand up for these new children, to maybe help them to translate their unarticulated emotional confusion and to help them figure out how to deal with his talent for (unconsciously) twisting and confusing issues. I tried, but I collapsed. I knew I wasn't strong enough, and that I couldn't even figure out what was best anyway, or if I'd just make things worse, and I ended up feeling it necessary to pull away. This made me feel very bad about myself as a person. I felt like a cringing coward, or at least a weak, pathetic creature with no realistic chance of redemption, and from that point on, it felt like everything snowballed in relation to my family.

Partly, it was the confusion. His new family seemed to be going through some of the things I had as a teenager. Every time I heard of a new incident, my stomach would tie up in a knot and I'd experience a lot of chaotic feelings. I'd want to help his new family.

One example: I heard my father using a tone of revulsion and contempt when he told one of the boys to 'Get a fucking job, you fucking loser!' But after this boy was caught for stealing and tried to kill himself, my father helped get him an opportunity to try out for a position in his line of work. Once given the shot, the boy proved to have the potential. He did well in the testing process, and was one of a handful of applicants selected out of a very large group. I don't know if he had finished high school or not, but at a young age he was able to command a very decent salary. So, is my father hurtful or helpful? This is just a good example of the dualistic nature of all interactions with my father. I was confused, and afraid that I was bitter or mean, and I had a lot of trouble sorting it out. As a result, I said nothing, and just withdrew.

I realize this is probably grandiose, but at times I can't help wondering if I had been capable of becoming more involved, and putting in some effort to build these kids up, or to offer a perspective or input different to my father's, maybe it would have helped to balance things out somehow.

At the time, I think everyone thought I was doing well, because I was in a supportive relationship. However, I was stuck and I wasn't moving forward. My life pretty much consisted of me constantly coping with the various phases of my disordered eating - although I did have a supportive relationship. When I saw my family, though, I felt a kind of pressure to come across as more normal than I felt. As soon as I left any family gathering, I would feel the need for a major binge/purge session, and I would usually be even more out of control than usual for an extended period following that. It would take a long time to 'recover'. My ex and I referred to these episodes as 'breaking down'.

When my sister had a child, that was another factor. While she was pregnant, I tried to be supportive, and some of the only times I went out at all during that period were in relation to her. However, when her child was born, I felt panic. I didn't know what to do. I felt self-conscious. I had this weird issue with thinking a baby has no choice about who holds it, and what if the child feels distress, and wants to escape, but can't? I also felt that I could only be some kind of negative influence best avoided. This vague feeling was reinforced when my sister was adamant that her daughter not be told I was unhappy or had problems. When her daughter asked why they didn't see me, it was because I was 'busy'. I realized that if I saw them in person, I would have to be careful not to undermine my sister's approach.

Also, it is difficult to handle the idea of fresh young things with their own potential if you are still stuck, unable to get past your teens, or where you levelled off.

For a while, I made an effort to help my grandmother with her shopping and laundry. She still had a fat phobia, and commented about people we saw on the street. I had stood up to her years ago on the issue, and did so again now. She did seem to take some of it in, but even years later it seemed that she probably couldn't really change her attitude deep down. Another attitude she held bothered me: she made comments to the effect that since I was doing nothing with my time, it made sense for me to be the one helping her. (I had offered on my own initiative.) On the one hand, I could see that she had insecurity issues and didn't want to be a burden, and didn't want to intrude or take people away from 'important' tasks (since she herself didn't feel important enough to warrant help or attention), but on the other it felt to me that she didn't understand how bad I felt about my situation, or how hard it was for me to make the effort to do her shopping, etc, how hard it was to even leave my apartment. (The other deduction was that she considered me as 'unimportant' as herself.) I tried to keep going, but in the end I just couldn't, and it was one more thing that I felt ashamed of. I felt increasingly anxious about the trips to her place, and eventually cancelled them. Her sister and the adopted cousin I mentioned in the family history section lived nearby and ended up helping her out.

My maternal grandfather continued to ask me if I was working. It became increasingly difficult to face his disappointment the older I became. The last time I saw him was at his 80th birthday party. That was the last time I saw my siblings as well (except for the one I saw by chance a couple of years later. However, I talked to them on the phone in late 1999-early 2000.) I was conscious of feeling strange, or out of place, such that I felt my behaviour and speech were weird, or came across as misrepresenting who I was, although for the most part I probably still seemed like me. It just felt like I was losing it, that there might be some unpleasant loss of control.

When I saw photos of this occasion (80th birthday), I was horrified by how I looked. I had the reaction I often had to photos of me - I wanted to die rather than be that person. When I attended family gatherings, I had to repress who I was and what was really going on in my life, or the extent of it. So all I really had was my appearance. And if I looked like that, it put me in a role that distressed me. I wasn't contributing anything to the family, I was no longer able to show any interest in anyone, and it seemed that all that was left was to come across as some shrivelled up little person with nothing much going on - who at best could dye her hair or change clothing styles in order to do something 'different'. And maybe that was the truth of what I was, but it became unbearable for me to have to see it. If others saw me that way and only commented behind my back, the way the family tended to do about others, then I'd let them comment amongst themselves, but I wouldn't put myself in situations where I'd be forced to act weirdly and end up giving them more info to work with that would lead to further misunderstandings about who I was.

I called less frequently through the years, until I didn't call at all. Everyone eventually stopped calling me as well. My sister tried in later years to phone me a few times, and I think she was honestly making an effort, but I may have hurt her by my non-response to the phrase 'I love you'. I hadn't been able to say that to anyone in my family for a long time, felt that the words meant nothing because I had stopped feeling what I used to feel, and because I didn't think any of them knew me well enough to know who they 'loved'.

I think this lack of feeling was related to the emotional distress I had experienced for a very long time. Eventually, probably partly in my efforts to self-medicate and cope, I also withdrew emotionally, such that while I might have been able to shut out some of what was painful, I also shut out what was good. Also, when you get far enough outside of it all, you can see that there are biological reasons for everything people feel, and it can end up seeming unreal to be interacting with people who aren't aware of the underlying reasons for all of our emotions. They can look superstitious, but they can also look like creatures you'd observe on a nature program. Everything they say can look like it's scripted or predictable, according to what is expected of them in their particular role. I wasn't so far out of it that I couldn't remember what it was like to experience the emotions they were experiencing, so I could never shut out that they were honestly feeling. It's just... how do you get back there when you've passed a certain point?

When my sister first heard of my 7 year relationship breaking up, she phoned me, and she offered to let me stay with her. One of my brothers and his wife also made an offer - but it was passed on to me by my ex-partner, who wasn't always comfortable with verbal communication, and I wasn't really sure what the offer was.

I do appreciate the offers, in spite of how I may have reacted at the time. I may have reacted in such a way that those who offered felt I was rejecting them. The issue was that I didn't think they knew what they were offering. Having only seen me now and then through the years, they weren't aware of what it was like to live with me. Also, having a partner would often calm some of my outward distress, and if I were to be living with a sibling, I think there would have been no way to calm my distress. My eating habits would have been out of control and probably shocking and disturbing, and I would have felt a lot of guilt and panic related to them, which would have made the problem worse. They weren't aware the extent to which I didn't eat like a normal person. In addition, without some kind of plan for the future, I would just sit there and never be able to move out on my own, which would have caused unbearable guilt and shame. I may also have been panicked at the idea of reliving family trauma - I may have been unable to control the associations that would have been triggered.

I realize that probably no one called me partly because I had told my sister earlier that year that in stressful situations, it added stress to have contact with family.

Sometimes I think that moving across the world was about the weakest member of the tribe going away to die without draining the remaining resources of the others.

Another issue related to my ex-partner. When he and I got together, neither of us had a social life. He got on very well with my brothers eventually, played sports with them and online computer games with one in particular. He also continued to socialize with them, go to parties, movies, clubs, restaurants, etc, with them when I felt unable to any longer. In a way, I felt that maybe I had helped him to become more involved in life, through my personal contacts. Everyone liked him. Eventually, people stopped asking me anywhere, and only rang to invite him places.

I thought that if we broke up, we would definitely be able to remain friends. We tried for a while, but it seemed that since my problems hadn't gotten better there was nothing for us to base a friendship on - our relationship had from the start been totally dominated by my patterns and issues. And he was ready to move on, and was more 'healthy', and for his own sake maybe had to concentrate differently. But he didn't try to conceal his impatience or disgust with me, I could see that it seemed to him like asking too much for him to help me go through the process of applying for disability, and it seemed I had to reluctantly admit that maybe it was for the best that we stop having contact. In our relationship, I had been dependent, and had asked him for a lot. He had brought me food. I tried, but it was difficult to just stop that completely after. Also, at the time he was seeing someone new, and it could be that it harmed the chances of the new relationship if he saw me very often or seemed to be putting too much effort into helping me.

I had no one else in the city to call. My brothers still socialized with my ex or had contact even on a daily basis. It seemed to me that I probably was a less appealing person to have around than my ex - he was fun, easygoing, helpful.

Through having to do things alone, and through making the desperate choice of moving across the world to prevent homelessness, I felt that the person they had known had died. In order to cope during that time, I had to pull away further emotionally. My emotions were dead. It was a reaction to torture and panic that my own mind had forced me to endure for too long.

Anyway, when my ex and I broke up, it was one more contributing factor to my not seeing my family any more. I felt they probably did like him better, and that maybe it was for the best.

I worry sometimes that the members of my family feel that I left without speaking to any of them as an angry gesture. If it's examined very thoroughly, there is probably at least some anger involved, but not anger that can be reasonably directed at anyone. It's anger about my own helplessness. At the time I left, I was afraid to have contact with any of the members of my family. When my long-term co-dependent relationship broke up, I was left with no foundation. I was lost, and terrified. I was afraid of breaking down in a way that would take away even more of whatever I had left of my self-esteem. It was necessary to hold myself together in order that I could take the big risk of moving across the world. Once I had made the leap, it was like I had taken a leap into a new life, and that the person they had known had died. The effort it had taken was so extreme that I was seriously changed by the experience. I couldn't go back. I had been living for a long time wishing and waiting for death, and as a result, I did die.

I realize that there's a lot left out that other family members would remember, or that is relevant. Some of what I've written may be inaccurate. I can only do or remember so much at once. I often can't add some of the relevant info until someone questions me or otherwise helps to trigger more associations, memories and insights.

Apologies again to my father. He is a 'walking contradiction', and it's difficult to address enough of his various contradictions to describe him well or be fair to him. One thing the tone of my writing never gets across is the way he comes across as an understanding, open-minded buddy a lot of the time.

I wouldn't know what to talk about with my family now. The few emails I received gave me the impression that communication would be on the surface, and that I wouldn't be able to adapt to it. In some of the emails I sent, I made an effort to communicate in more open ways, but my style may have been off-putting. The more open thoughts were ignored or dismissed. (I've found that this is a 'normal' approach to email for most people. However, I don't want 'normal'.) Just in the catching up, I realize there would be a lot of potential for conversation, but listing the events would negate the reality that I don't really feel I've been living a life, no matter how the details of my life would sound. And listening to the events of their lives would at this point feel distressing. I did it for as long as I could, and I can't now, not without some kind of major change that I find it difficult to even imagine.

I would have preferred not to air the family's dirty laundry publicly. I honestly would have preferred to die when I was still in my 20s or even earlier, and take it with me. I had on many occasions previously burnt all I had written. The fact that it is out there now perhaps demonstrates the uncontrollable nature of the mental and emotional diarrhea of a shrivelled up invalid.

A less self-critical idea is that I needed to go off on my own in order to 'find myself'. I was surrounded by so many strong personalities and talented individuals that it may have been difficult for me to develop my potential without feeling I was being watched, under the pressure of expectations, or that there were standards to live up to.

15. Unrealistic Family Expectations

Even now, even though I'm probably seen as 'not all there' or 'fucked up', not normal, etc, and not expected to function as a normal adult, there is still a feeling of pressure. Because I was seen as an intelligent child with potential, there's a kind of residue all wrapped up in my particular family's particular brand of exaggeration and need to believe in our specialness. I feel that I have something to live up to, a standard or level of intelligence and ability that is just not realistic for me personally. For example, if I'm at all involved with computers, then surely I must be some kind of prodigy or whiz, when the truth is that even after all this time, I still don't really know very much about the technical parts, haven't had the curiosity to try to learn more, or fill in the gaps.

I am still affected on a daily basis by the standards that were set when I was young and full of promise. This probably contributes to my reluctance to face the world. It's only through choosing a new name, one not associated with academic performance, that I can express myself in the ways I now do. I was never known for my creativity - that was not part of my identity. I was aware that in order to come across as intelligent, I had to be very careful with language usage, and in all the choices I made in every part of life. There were subjects in school I wanted to take, but was afraid to take in case they brought down my average. As I write this entry, I feel that it is incredibly painful and difficult, and that the longer it drags on, the more anxious I feel. I think it is time for me to take a break, come back to this later when I'm able, and work on other projects for now. I try to tell myself I've made a good start, a good effort. But, there's this nagging voice in my head that tells me I can't leave this entry in the condition it's in, because unless I do some research, make an effort to clean up language usage and more clearly connect the dots, all the effort I've so far put in will come across as laughable. I will be a joke.

The world can be a harsh, judgmental place. There could very well be people who hold the opinions of me that I have mentioned above. How do you learn to distinguish between what you are realistically capable of and what you're not, and how do you learn to deal with not being someone others can respect? Was my response to go into hiding?

How do I know when I'm legitimately exhausted, or when I'm just making excuses and being a wimp? I don't know for sure how to set limits for myself that are realistic, because there's always the internal response that I should try harder. I may try to accept myself and my various 'accomplishments', but the reality of internal disappointment may have continued to affect how I feel about myself in relation to the world, such that I can't face the world.

16. Role Models

There wasn't anyone I could see that I wanted to be like, although I could usually see qualities in others I admired or respected. I used to tell my father he had 'good taste in women', and it's true that they came across as intelligent, decent human beings, but I think they had all had difficult lives, and as a result were emotionally scarred and blocked/repressed. My father was a more emotional and verbal man than most, and so perhaps these connections made sense. However, the relationships that lasted longest seemed to be the ones in which the woman was more likely to make his problems the central issue, or to make him the centre of the interaction, often putting her own tastes or abilities or problems to the side, or not totally realizing her own worth. The relationships that didn't last long were probably those in which the woman wanted something more equal. The lack of equality may have been one of the key reasons for the eventual breakdown of most relationships.

I picked up a lot of info about exercise and nutrition through my father's partner when I was 13, and it has stayed with me throughout my life. She was artistically gifted and creative, and offered suggestions, demonstrations and supplies for a couple of my school projects. I think it's likely that she had an effect on the eventual development of my creativity.

An adventurous partner of my father's may have had an impact on my approach to travel. (I already had a wish to see more of the world.) She had travelled on her own, had gone mining for gold in British Columbia (while living on her own for several months in a tent), and had worked as a private detective. My father didn't like to travel, and hated airplanes. His mother expressed a fear of travel.

This partner and I also discussed spiritual issues, unusual coincidences, and personal life paths. In the end, she wanted to find a structured religion as a personal outlet, while I went in an opposite direction.

My own mother kept her weight down, was slim, and probably somehow imparted the importance of being slim, especially with my body type. She was more socially adept than I ever managed to be. In many ways, I think my mother was a good role model. She was intelligent, organized, responsible and paid attention to detail. She was always planning and thinking ahead, capable of balancing everything from finances to nutritional requirements. I think she had a stronger sense than most of what is decent or fair. She also instilled the idea of finding a partner who would treat me as I would treat him. She was a deeply caring person. She was feminine and sexy. However, her lack of power or options in life might have affected me negatively.

I think most of the women I had contact with through my father were depressed. Most of my father's partners didn't seem to be overly involved in the world or what was happening, and with many of my father's relationships it was like the pair ended up huddling or hiding together from the world.

In reading books, I don't remember very many people in particular early on standing out to me. Anne Frank and Marie Curie had ended up tragically dead. Later on, in my 20s, Anaïs Nin stood out to me. I read everything of hers that I could find. I also came to admire PJ Harvey, Bjork and Hope Sandoval (formerly of Mazzy Star). In addition, I admired the strength, beauty and creativity of Madonna.

The women in my life I've found to be the most generous with compliments and who have tried to build me up or encourage me were usually the ones who were the most physically beautiful. Early in life, I didn't know how to compliment most people, except my siblings. That changed as time went on, and it is now natural for me to compliment people freely, genuinely.

After my mother's death, an old friend of hers wrote each of us an individual letter. These letters were thoughtful, deep, and personal. We didn't know how to respond at the time, and so we didn't respond to these letters. We may have hurt her with our non-response. We didn't have any further contact. However, I think the emotional risk she took was one I learned to emulate later in life. It may have developed slowly, but I eventually found myself daring to approach others, share thoughts or ask questions, in case someone might have needed another to approach them first, or take an interest, or offer support or encouragement of some kind.

Another woman my mother had known since childhood took an interest in my life from time to time. She was a very beautiful woman, had travelled a lot, and was involved in many different ways of helping people. She tried to help me restart my life in my mid-20s. She had access to various resources, and knew a wide variety of people, including artists of various descriptions. Contact with her, and visits to her home helped me to clarify an unarticulated wish I had had for art and diversity in my life. However, I was never strong enough to take advantage of the help or connections she offered. I was lacking enough of a foundation, background or self-esteem to make it possible for her to help me.

My best friend in high school was a beautiful, intelligent girl, and a good person. She tried for a long time to be understanding and sympathetic to my problems. In the end, I don't think she could relate any longer, but through the time we knew each other she complimented me in various ways, articulated what I meant to her, and stood by me through some difficult times. A lot of people wanted to be her friend, or wanted her time and attention, and yet she had chosen me to be her best friend. Through her I might have learned the importance of letting those close to you know that you value them.

If you experience great emotional distress and suffering, and the members of your family appear not to notice it and don't talk to you about it at all, does it diminish your ability to express sympathy for the pain of others? If you don't have an example of how it's done, or if certain extreme circumstances don't seem to warrant sympathy yet others do, can you always tell the difference? I became hyper-aware of all possible signs of distress in every person I met.

17. Images in the Media

Probably the best way to cope with media-related pressure is to encourage individuals to develop their own interests and their own individuality, and to offer support to one another. However, I think it's possible that we may have to accept that cosmetic surgery and procedures are the wave of the future, and that we may be heading towards a future in which overweight is eliminated.

I don't think the media cause eating disorders. I think that possibly the various media represent evolutionary cues to teach us in what direction evolution is heading. Perhaps being photogenic or beautiful is more important than personal qualities, or it is now necessary to combine beauty with desirable personal qualities.

If you stop going outside and having contact with the 'real' world, and at the same time start watching a lot of tv, it may be a natural human response to compare yourself to those you see most regularly.

Part of the problem with women comparing themselves to 'unrealistic' images is about the nature of certain media. They give not only females, but males an unrealistic idea not only of standards of attractiveness, but of how much competition there is (females) or how many exceptionally attractive mates are available (for males). In males, this may stimulate the competitive urge to seek out something 'better' than the females in their immediate surroundings, or leave them with the feeling that perhaps they could do better. Females pick up on this. It comes down to competition. Females may despair that they can't realistically compete with what they see, or with the images in men's minds. In a way, I do see women's preoccupation with weight and looks as being an understandable response to unfair pressure.

[My apologies to gay viewers. At present this is all I have for this section.]

18. Respect for Privacy VS Apathy

I was able to live without going outside for many years without anyone commenting. I was able to perform a sensory deprivation experiment (I did not watch tv, listen to music or read, I sat in the dark all day long with no furniture in the room, and just spent the time thinking) in which I did not leave my room for a month or see anyone in the house, and no one said anything. The first person to talk to me was not a biological family member, but a stepmother. Of all my father's partners, the only one to ever really even attempt ongoing communication after the relationship with the father or mother was over was my father's second wife. None of the others expressed any interest in what was going on in our lives, even while we lived with them. The exception to this was my mother's boyfriend, who tried to talk to me a couple of times, but after my mother's death none of us had further contact with him. I find that weird, but it may make sense considering the dysfunctionality, insecurity and low self-esteem in the family history.

I don't think I learned how to maintain relationships. I learned that people were likely to see me as an inconvenience at best, to be quickly forgotten when the relationship with the 'important' person ended. I did eventually figure out that I needed to take more of an interest in people and learn to observe at least some social niceties in order to maintain relationships, but it didn't come naturally, it had to be consciously thought out and acted on. When you live in an isolated state, at a certain point you may become very self-conscious about your problems and lack of stability, and may feel that you have nothing to offer others. You may simply not be strong enough to make the necessary efforts to maintain relationships.

19. Therapy Issues

I don't have a history of violence against others (in spite of the violent scenes I witnessed or heard between my parents). I have only had one suicide attempt, which occurred at the age of 16. I have persistent suicidal feelings/a wish to die, but in all this time I have not felt sufficiently functional to carry out a suicide, and don't want to do something impulsive that leads to mandatory incarceration in a psych unit. I would feel a need to avoid any therapist or doctor who due to personal liability issues would think it safest to prescribe a stay in a psych ward because I express suicidal feelings.

How do you find a therapist who will allow you to discuss suicidal feelings?

I always tried to approach therapy with an open mind. I could see, though, that I wasn't articulate enough in the moment, not assertive enough, or others didn't have a feel for who I was, or didn't know what to do with the info I gave them. I would only go into self- protective mode after deducting that a particular person or place would be more likely to harm than help me.

My first experiences with psychiatry and therapy weren't encouraging. I didn't know how to articulate it then, but I think I felt that my experience was invalidated.

Suicide attempt: I had swallowed the pills because I saw no other alternative. I was at the end of my resources for coping. My depression was incapacitating, I couldn't do my schoolwork, and during a conversation in which I told my father I was failing in school (I exaggerated it because I didn't think my problems would seem significant otherwise), my father became so angry that he told me I had half an hour to get the fuck out of the house. I had no idea where I could possibly go. We were out in the country, and I had no money, nobody to call. When I was hospitalized because of the suicide attempt, not only did people treat me with no compassion, and as if I were spoiled and manipulative, but I witnessed something that scared me a lot: a woman who didn't want shock therapy who was screaming, and ultimately forced to have it. This incident occurred after a night during which I had been awake all night and forced to think about my attempt and all that had led up to it. It was a frightening experience. My survival instinct kicked in, and I began to wonder if I was in some kind of insane asylum where those in charge were just as insane as the inmates, or at least didn't really know what they were doing.

When I started on antidepressants, I had thought they made sense: there was no real reason for me to be depressed, I had a chemical imbalance that could be adjusted with medication. But the meds didn't help me (I stopped taking them after a few months, then hoarded them and used them in the attempt, along with some stimulants I had purchased at school), and maybe unconsciously some part of me wanted someone to realize that I actually had valid reasons to be depressed. Later, when released from hospital, I stopped taking the meds, and after some time went for blood tests and asked someone if my chemical imbalance had been restored. I was at the time, through sheer effort and desperation, coming across as taking responsibility for myself. When the person answered in the affirmative, I had a kind of proof that the approach to medication wasn't exactly scientific or accurate - I was led to believe that the blood tests showed improvement. I was still as depressed as before, just scared out of my fucking mind, and acting desperately to try to save myself from being lobotomized in one way or another by people who were misguided and ignorant, although they may have had the best intentions.

My second hospitalization occurred when I was 23 years old. My father's second wife had recently left him. For more more than a year, though, he had been drinking a 26 oz bottle of alcohol every night of the week. (This contributed to his wife's departure. There was a period he may have stopped for a couple of weeks when his mother visited us.) He had just quit his high-paying, high status job, and had fractured his collarbone. (An alcohol-related accident). The house we were in was rented with the lease soon being up, and he was moving to a place in the country. One day he gave me 5 minutes' notice that the police were coming to take me away.

He probably didn't remember, but many of the nights he was drunk, I listened to him and offered support regarding both quitting a job he didn't like, and the loss of his partner.

I had more than once offered to go to a hospital if he would arrange it for me or tell me how to go about it. (Not just when he was drunk, but also when he was sober.)

I think he told the police and p-docs that I was violent. The police looked like they expected me to do something unpredictable. I went with them calmly, but I couldn't control the tears from running down my face.

Even in the moment, I could see that my father didn't feel he had any choice, and that for his own survival, he had to make a decision. But in that moment, I felt like I had been thrown away, like garbage, that I had been shown no consideration, or thought, that I was a problem that was left unattended for a long time, and when I didn't just go away or kill myself like my father's psychic friends told him I would, he reached the end of his tether. If he had approached me in a compassionate manner, saying he didn't know what to do and thought it was best I go to a hospital, I wouldn't have been so badly scarred.

It occurred to me that he probably didn't see things the way I did, partly because he was spending all of his time either drunk or recovering. And I could see it was probably for the best, and that it was also necessary to be supportive of him at this time. The very day he had me taken away, he stopped drinking, and stayed sober for many years.

My mind was already trying to find ways to understand and accept, and I didn't hold on to feelings of anger and disappointment. I felt that it was up to me to work on my own situation, and to work on my relationship with my father.

The hospital experience was frightening. This place was sick and weird. I managed to get out in 11 days, acquire welfare with the hospital's help, and find my own place.

When I was brought to the locked ward, there were people screaming, and as I walked down the hall, some of the patients were trying to touch me. One of these was a woman with diarrhea running down her bare leg (she was in a hospital gown that wasn't fastened properly). There was a strong smell of urine, which I continued to notice throughout my stay. My doctor talked to me for a very short time before deciding he knew all about me, and wouldn't answer any of my questions about what he was prescribing and why. I didn't the like the side effects of my meds, and so refused to take any more until I could speak with the doctor. The nurses swarmed around me (pretty much all of the on-duty ones) and told me I was sick and that if I didn't take my meds I could be strapped down and forced. In desperation, I cried out: 'Don't I have any control over what goes in my own body?' and later I overhead one of these nurses relaying the story such that I had been adamant: 'I control what goes in my own body!'

To me, it seemed that all of the patients were over-medicated. Most of them had a foggy affect, and extremely poor short-term memory. A man who was dying was ignored, even though he was crying out in fear. I went and held his hand until they took him away to another part of the hospital. When I inquired about him at the nurses' station the next day, I was told in a very uncaring tone, 'Oh, he died.'

I had to get out of that place. I pulled myself together long enough to at least manage that. I was extremely wary about pissing the wrong person off. I had to come across as calm and rational as possible.

When I got out of the hospital, my father and I saw each other and actually got along well. I did not hold a grudge at all about the hospitalization and the way it was handled, and he also seemed to want to go on from there and maintain family ties. And in the end it had accomplished getting me out of the house and into my own life, albeit a severely dysfunctional one.

Many years later, this hospitalization would keep coming back to me, and with it the persistent feeling that at that time I had been thrown away like garbage. I think what that signifies is the lack of thought and concern I was shown. My father apologized in family therapy for the years of drinking, but he didn't seem to have conscious awareness of what many of the implicatons had been. And, even while apologizing, it came across that he didn't actually think it was all that bad, and that really we were all whiners, but that if he was supposed to placate us by humbly taking responsibility, then he once again would be the big person. I am sorry for the tone of those words, and I know that if I leave them in I will feel guilt, and like I've copped out in a way. I don't know. I think I may need to leave them in. The words may be unfair, but for now I think they should be here.

I was weak and whiny. I had that awareness for a long time. It was humiliating to find myself dredging things up when I wanted to be strong enough to give up my stupid patterns and just concentrate on my own life. My parents had very different approaches and had different ideas about what was 'fair', but I think they were both conscientious and fair people, according to how they defined those terms. The discrepancies between their belief systems might have resulted in confusion for the rest of us.

I am not against the idea of therapy, or even medication. I used to be more wary of medication, but partly through acquiring caffeine and alcohol issues late in life I feel my original stance makes less sense, and I am also less worried now about preserving the 'health' of my brain. I am exhausted in ways that perhaps make me more desperate, willing to try anything that might alter my current state. [However, if I had a choice between psychiatric drugs and various illegal ones, I'd go for the illegal.] I don't have any idea about how I'd go about finding a therapist I'd feel comfortable with, but I am open to the idea of a new experience, learning to view life from other perspectives, and to possibly viewing my own situation differently again. When it comes to medication, I always have issues with side effects (eg, I could never get used to a dry mouth) and there is always the possibility of a hoarding compulsion, which may result in a binge, regardless of the consequences. I am well aware of the unlikelihood of suicide with most p-drugs, but my binge compulsion is strong enough that I think no matter what it might always be an issue.

The biggest problem, aside from not knowing how to find a compatible therapist and being unable to articulate the situation quickly and succinctly enough, has been attendance. Right from the start, the anxiety will be high, but may not manifest in ways that therapists are trained to spot. I will seem controlled in the moment, not panicked, but the repressed panic will manifest in me ending the therapy with no one to question me or talk to me to see if I really want to end it. Getting someone to drive me to therapy probably always would have been a good start, but aside from that, I think I needed someone to take an interest in my attendance, maybe. It's at the starting point that I have problems. In the beginning, as I adjust to the therapist, I feel very vulnerable and scared about leaving some emotions and thoughts dangling without clarification, without enough other info, and without emotional support. I will need to understand the therapist's approach. Right from the first session the therapist will probably need to help me focus, help me to see what her approach to therapy is, and show me the kind of structure that she intends to try to help me work within - even if that structure is to change over time, I need a guideline right from the beginning.

I don't think I can accept prescriptions for meds or any kind of labels or diagnoses until I feel I've articulated enough, or feel that I am comfortable enough with the info the therapist shares with me. The person may be 'right' from the start in a diagnosis, but if I am not allowed the opportunity to acknowledge my own experience first, I will feel invalidated as a person. If a diagnosis is made, I need it to be possible to approach the whole thing in non-traditional ways, and to participate on as many levels as possible in examining the issues and finding ways to deal with them. If someone takes the approach that they are the professional, and that I should leave the technical stuff, or stuff they think I can't handle, or any stuff, up to them, I'm likely to bolt.

A lot of the issues that people work on in therapy are issues I've probably worked on to some extent on my own and with partners.

I think I'd be likely to see therapy as something new to try in life, as it may stir up more insights or be stimulating in new ways. I think I may be seeking a feeling of validation. I think it's unlikely, however, that therapy would change certain wishes or preferences.

I've always experienced self-consciousness when it comes to anyone who works in mental health. I wonder if they think of me as having a bad attitude, or as being hostile to therapy. I need to learn how to articulate it, because it's something that leaves me with a lot of insecure feelings. It's like I've felt that I didn't have enough of a foundation to start with in order to be able to cope with therapy in the first place, and so I made the projection that I wasn't stable enough for what was coming. Now, I could have misjudged or underestimated both the therapists and the possibilities. Perhaps I was similarly misjudged. But, I could not pretend. I felt that there was something I had to consent to that I could not consent to. I had to pretend that I was honestly trying to get better and that I thought they could help, that I had to do it in ways that felt utterly false to who I was as a person or where I was at, and I just couldn't do it, not even in self-interest. I could see ahead, I could see the pace, and I knew it was not going to be enough to help me cope with the panic or the chaos, and that it was better for me to try my own thing.

I always thought I'd have to face some kind of serious crisis or that I would be dead soon and none of it would matter anyway.

What is the big deal with psych wards, anyway? Why do I fear them so much? Could it partly be a control issue? Some people like to be told what to do, and so it is comforting to be in a psych ward, whereas I feel panic when I don't have control? I think part of the discomfort lies in schedules and routines that are unnatural and uncomfortable for me. Part of it relates to having to be constantly 'on'. It may be somewhat positive, a desensitization measure, to force me to have constant contact with people because I'm 'afraid' of it, but it normally doesn't seem to help me to become more desensitized. I end up going into emergency mode and holding myself together until I can get out. But in the meantime, there is nowhere I can go that feels private. Flashlights are even shone on your head at intervals while you sleep. I deal with it ok in the moment, but when I get out, it is processed as a traumatic experience.

It may look to others like I handle the experience well. I am not sure about this, but it may almost be like the competitive urge that I've normally stifled comes into play, or that within the boundaries of this isolated non-threatening community, the social skills that were left undeveloped reawaken, and I start using them. I end up looking more 'normal' or 'healthy' than the other patients, and even some of the staff, perhaps. I take an interest in others, ask them about their problems. People come to like me. Some patients express attraction. In group therapy sessions, I come across as reasonable and full of insight. I think I exude physical health as well.

But underneath, I am panicking, and waiting for a time in which I can be alone to try to deal with all the overwhelming thoughts and emotions. Because of how I appear, I am expected to know how to take responsibility for myself, but I only appear to be doing well because of the uniqueness of the situation - I can see the limits clearly, and can focus in the moment. This experience does not extend to the 'real' world, as I do not have the connections or foundation from which to begin to use my social skills or anything else out there, and it is more difficult to focus in and set realistic goals. There's a big gap, a big step that I've probably always needed help with.

I didn't realize that I could manage to have some kind of life for so long. I also couldn't have foreseen that I could continue to 'survive' without government or healthcare assistance. If you had told me back then that I would have consented to the kind of dependence I now experience, I would never have believed it. The only way I can even begin to understand it is in that I do not withhold who I am. I am open about the disgusting patterns, behaviours, wishes, weaknesses, etc, and lack of commitment, and somehow I am accepted. I don't like who I am, but I do not have to conceal it, whereas when it comes to the mental health professions, I would not be able to be open to the same extent. I'd have to play the game, conceal some of the suicidal feelings, and the bad attitude, not only for my protection and continued survival/disability payments, but for the sake of the professionals and their possible liability. There would also be an incredible amount of stress related to keeping to their timetables, and it's likely that over time I'd crack under that pressure, sabotage it, and nothing would intervene to prevent any of that.

[Aside from the dependence itself, another drawback to being dependent in a personal relationship is that I can't hold back the feeling that the person is accepting an imbalance that they should not be accepting. That it may be because of their own low self-esteem and personal issues, and that they need to learn how to assert their own individuality, perhaps in some of the ways I've been learning to try to assert mine with regards to what I genuinely think and feel. How hard all of that can be to uncover if you have years of burying things because you've picked up that who you are is unacceptable. And so you wait for the time bomb to explode, or for the right catalyst to appear to bring on the personal development. With these others, and with yourself.

I see that both of us still need some kind of support or help that we are weird enough to be able to provide for each other, and that there may be no real way to speed up our personal individual development. But at times I don't feel I can wait any more, or most of the time, and I try to figure out ways to focus in order to make some kind of change possible.]

One significant extra issue that I want to make note of: my parents seemed to have an ability to 'seduce' their therapists. When my parents went to couples counselling together, the counsellor ended up asking my mother out. When my siblings and I were in family therapy together, I think the two female therapists were attracted to my father. He had a way of speaking to them and making eye contact that gave misleading impressions as to the reality of any given situation, in order that he might win their approval, or receive validation from a person in authority. I could see the insecurity involved with this, and also that he may not have had conscious awareness of what he was doing, but it's an example of how his need to be respected or justified took precedence over honestly working through the family issues. He did have an understandable need to be validated in regards to his depression, traumatic life experiences, and the efforts he made to deal with all of it while supporting children - it's just that he didn't know how to seek it in ways that were not at the expense of his children's mental health.

If I went to a therapist, would I in a sense be looking for romantic validation?

I have read both self-help books and mystical books of various kinds that seem to encourage a following of the inner voice. Has it gone astray in me? Is it more harmful than helpful? It hasn't yet led to me finding a way to support my existence in a way that would feel less humiliating, and so I wonder if I need to be more open-minded about it? Am I going about it wrong? Are the books wrong about following the inner voice in the first place? [While I do stay open to creative impulses and to whatever unexpected turns life may take, it does not seem realistic to me that this particular issue is going to be solved in my life by following an inner voice, or that everyone will 'benefit' by listening to an inner voice in a particular kind of way. I do find the idea of an inner voice or inner voices interesting, and worth examining.]

20. Disability Support Issues

Partly because I didn't think deep down that I deserved to be on disability - I was just lazy or not taking responsibility - I didn't call attention to the direness of my situation. I didn't have people in my life sufficiently involved to understand my issues/anxieties.

My family went to family therapy with me for a while. The sessions began during my third and final hospitalization shortly after I turned 24. [I signed myself in because I was effectively homeless. I had to lie about immediate suicidal ideation, but at the time it seemed the most responsible way to handle things, such that my family wouldn't have to do anything about my homelessness. It wasn't so far from the truth, as I bolted from the emergency room after waiting over 3 hours, and headed to the subway where I was later retrieved by police.] It was after I was released from the hospital but still attending sessions with my family that I started the process of applying for disability.

One of the therapists seemed to disapprove. When I had asked her a few months earlier, out of curiosity, what the 'day program' at the hospital was, she had replied that I didn't need that, that it was only for the hopeless cases. When I said that I wanted to apply for disability, she had (in my interpretation) a judgmental look, and used a judgmental tone when she asked me if I wanted to attend the day program. This reaction caused me to feel insecure and guilty. However, at the time my life situation was dire. I lived in a state of panic, which may not have been evident at the family therapy sessions. I was nowhere near being able to get a job, my eating habits were extremely out of control and outside of the family therapy, I didn't have much of a social life, aside from my family - but most of the time I was on my own. I was on welfare (the hospital helped with this), but I wasn't going to be able to keep getting it without some kind of reason, and homelessness loomed again. I did think that maybe it was best I'd have to face that, but from what I read in certain hospital literature, it seemed that I was a candidate for disability. My family attended family therapy sessions once a month with me until I was granted disability. That was my only therapy at that time.

One of the tenets of family therapy was that the family as a whole needed to come together to help the various members work things out and develop more of a support system. I was not meant to be the focus, the only sick one - the family itself was seen as unhealthy. But while the others sometimes skipped sessions, the one time I did turned out to be the last time anyone ever went. The message was that it really was because of me that everyone was going, and that if I wasn't going to turn up then it wasn't worth their time. I don't think anyone really understood my problems with showing up anywhere regularly, the incredible stress I endured for the whole month in between sessions, with that one day looming as some huge monster stress that had an effect on every other day leading up to it.

In family therapy, a big issue was that everyone was living up to a hidden standard or pressure. Everyone wanted to come across well, and everyone contributed to the coming across as a close, supportive family, a funny family, an interesting family. When I was in the hospital and had to wear a red gown because I was considered a suicide or flight risk, my family members showed up to our session all wearing some red item or other, as a sign of support. I think that demonstrates that there was something interesting there, and I found it quite amusing, supportive and pleasing at the time, but what I found in therapy was that everyone seemed to have a need to keep things at the surface, to gloss things over.

I had gone long enough to be accepted for disability, but beyond that, no one asked me about what was going to happen for my future. No one in my family seemed to wonder about it. They knew that without family therapy I had no therapy. I had received a ride to therapy with my father. Disability does not continue indefinitely if you do not go to therapy and periodically at least have a doctor fill out forms about your ongoing issues and prognosis. I stayed inside more than I went out. I just accepted that disability would probably end at some point and that that was fair. I hoped to kill myself before then.

How can you tell your family what you 'need' from them if you just don't have any idea about what that is, if you have no examples of what family support actually means? And when everyone in the family has a similar mindset about not complaining or asking for unreasonable hand-holding?

I received disability support from 1991-1995. In all this time, I think I only had to see a doctor a couple of times, and social services a similar amount of times. I didn't have to go in and wasn't asked for further info for a very long time. It could be that social services were overworked and overlooked my file.

I stopped receiving disability support after living with my ex for 3 years. At that time we were considered a commonlaw couple, and he became 'responsible' for me. I didn't attempt to reapply for disability until 2000, at which time I was living alone in Toronto. I was told I wasn't likely to get it, but the biggest issue was that I wasn't functional enough to go through the various steps I would have had to go through, and I didn't have a support system.

When you are on disability, don't you pretty much give up the right to travel? You are given money because you are seen as unable to cope with life, and if you can travel, then you can probably support yourself or take responsibility for yourself. But what if travel could be an effective part of your treatment? Being on disability marginalizes people, puts them in a category, and probably makes it more difficult to get out of their corner. At the same time, I've seen that you have to possess a basic level of functionality and enough connections or help in life in order to be able to acquire and stay on disability. It is not difficult to surmise how a lot of mentally ill persons become homeless.

21. Note Regarding Disorders/Conditions

The following sections have not been researched, and should be taken only as a non-academic approach to exploring possibilities, which says more about my personality, prejudices and flaws than about knowledge I possess in these areas. I am making a note of these to be included as possible avenues of future research. There are other disorders/conditions that potentially apply to my situation.

When I have started to research any of these in the past, I have been seriously put off by what seemed to me prejudiced ways of phrasing symptoms. It seemed like dianosis and treatment could only be starting off on the wrong foot. For me to get off to a good start, I would feel it incumbent upon myself to tackle all the prejudiced language from the start, in order that I could give a mental health practitioner a good idea of where I stand and what my objectives would be. And that always seemed like an overwhelming task.

What can a psychiatrist do but address symptoms? Isn't that what they are trained to do? Perhaps the problem starts there. In my experience, perhaps because I was not assertive enough, I was not able to list symptoms that might throw the first ones listed into a different light. I think also that each individual may weigh the pros and cons of different symptoms differently, as well as the potential benefits of various medications, their side effects, and how they match up with the different types of therapy suggested. I needed an individual approach, and I needed to be very involved. I always felt that psychiatrists did not want to listen to enough of the story before prescribing whatever, or putting me into some category that would make things simpler for them. Again, the problem was probably at least partly related to my inability to be assertive enough in the moment. When people tell you to 'get help' or find a therapist, they often suppose it's simple from there, and they don't realize that some of your symptoms might prevent the professionals from recognizing all the relevant symptoms and information, and that as a result they may choose a diagnosis and course of action that inadvertently result in the multiplication or increased severity of your original problems.

P-professionals are human beings, with their own prejudices and values. When a person is in a chaotic state, they might not work out right away that they are at cross purposes with their doctor or therapist. It is difficult sometimes to sort out what is an undesirable thought process (symptom) and what a person's core value system is aside from symptoms. So-called normal functioning individuals can have serious disagreements and heated discussions without having their differences labelled as some kind of mental illness. While part of the aim of these professions is Objectivity, in reality what human being can be perfectly objective?

I do not consider myself Agoraphobic or Social Phobic. And I seriously think the term 'Social Phobia' is terrible and should be changed to something else. If I continue to draggle on, at some point I will make an effort to explain my reasons.

22. Bipolar Disorder?

I have not researched this at all. It's possible. I am inclined to say that if I've ever displayed bipolar symptoms, I haven't for a very long time been able to experience highs. While it's true that I have periods in which I am more 'productive', I never feel like I actually have energy. It feels like I have to force myself to do everything, and I do it because the alternative of having to get through the agonizing hours with nothing to do seems slightly more unbearable. I do remember highs, and still seek them. It seems possible that I might not ever get to experience them again.

23. Borderline Personality Disorder?

From what I've read this diagnosis stigmatizes all those who receive it, is criminally vague and not at all helpful. I think it's likely that I could receive this as one of my diagnoses.

I have to ask myself why I don't put more effort into looking into the various clinical descriptions of these disorders. I think it's that when I look at them, they all look judgmental and unhelpful to people (not just the descriptions and criteria that might pertain to my personal situation, but to those of others). On the one hand, they say you have a legitimate disorder. On the other, the wording of criteria lacks understanding or compassion. It looks like the aim is to use medication and therapy to eliminate all behaviours and traits that are currently judged as unappealing, without looking into further associations and implications with regards to personality and personal values.

24. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

1. Rituals, finishing up b/p before 12am, cleaning house, grooming, etc - is there a kind of energy, mental and physical, that compensates for previous excessive behaviour, something like having to say so many Hail Marys or Our Fathers? However, often these activities are performed prior to excessive behaviour - as a compensation in advance.

2. Finishing up a project, either on my website or with the house or something along those lines - there is a 'celebratory' binge, and then a major attempt to focus.

3. Obsessively fixing typos and other little issues, which includes an annoying preoccupation with losing spelling skills.

4. The same psychological issues have to be sorted out in similar ways, again and again and again. I sort out and talk about or write out the thoughts that are nagging at me. Two different ways, one on a more regular basis, the other a more major type of effort that occurs when I'm trying to focus, give up caffeine, exercise, etc. The issues that arise are extremely repetitive and annoying to both GK and I, but it's like a certain process has to be gone through, I have to deal with all the feelings that come up related to each issue and resolve them for myself with a witness, again and again and again. Perhaps this stimulates a release of certain chemicals that restores a kind of balance, precarious as it may be. It could be that there are drugs of some kind that would eliminate this process or reduce its frequency, however, at present this (talking, expressing) is perhaps one effective way of handling my 'condition' at least to some extent.

5. This is one of the most difficult to admit to, because it seems incredibly irrational. If I am beginning a phase in which I want to consciously try to give up b/p, start exercising, etc, I can't seem to begin on dates that I associate with people's birthdays or other occasions that stand out. It seems very superstitious to me, or like it's about not feeling my own energy is 'strong' enough to overcome the power of someone else's personal day or occasion.

6. I don't count on there being any kind of 'spiritual balance' or fairness in the universe, and if there were I doubt I'd be high on the list of priorities to address. I don't think I'm counting on anything like that, but wondering if somehow superstitiously when I get these nagging urges to work on something that it will somehow make things worse for me if I don't try to work it all out or express it. Is that superstition, a kind of ocd-related thing?

25. Attention Deficit Disorder?

I continually babble about the need to focus. With all my list- making, inability to think or speak on my feet, in the moment, with the various impulse control disturbances, could part of my problems be related to some form of Attention Deficit Disorder?

Maybe. However, it seems that these sorts of symptoms may be more widespread than people realize, and may be a result of the climate we live in. The more we take in passively, probably the more difficult it is for us to communicate, concentrate or even think in certain ways or directions. We may lose the ability, 'muscles' may atrophy.

I honestly don't know. I wonder to what extent all people could perform more effectively in scholastic/work/social/life situations if their various 'handicaps' could be identified. Where do we draw the line between disorders and variation and diversity in human personality and approach to life?

In spite of any attention span limitations I may possess, I somehow have seemed able to organize a gargantuan website, in my own personal way. I am able to be aware of detail, and to remember perhaps even a freakish amount of personal details pertaining to individuals.

26. Paranoia?

I've always had a feeling that I had no real privacy, that someone was watching, and this feeling relates to weird behaviours, including issues regarding window coverings. However, for the most part I am usually able to go on with things without concentrating too much or being overwhelmed by paranoia. With windows, it's not really the paranoia aspect, but the low self-esteem that is the focal point. I often need the blinds closed just in case someone happens to be wandering by outside. It's like I have that much difficulty with my personal appearance.

In 2005, when I felt I was being cyberstalked, I sent a few paranoid emails to people. I feel embarrassed about these emails now. At the time, there were unusual things going on, but I was unsure as to what level they were occurring. I didn't have access to enough technical knowledge to know what was actually possible, but I felt that my personal privacy had been invaded. One person admitted to what I think was a low level of cyberstalking, but it seemed to me that something more was going on. I may never know for sure, but I took whatever practical steps I could not to let this lack of knowledge continue to stress me and run my life. (Major computer check, ongoing updated virus protection, new and major firewalls.) This included giving up certain activities in which I would have contact with the perceived stalker. To me, it seems that I handled the situation in a practical and reasonable way. Of course, if it was all based on a major delusion in the first place, my responses don't look as 'healthy', but I guess this is something that will always remain a question mark.

27. Am I a Narcissist?

There is obviously narcissism involved with the creation of my website, but I tend to feel hurt if someone genuinely thinks I am a narcissist. I don't relate to the DSM descriptions of narcissism. I honestly don't think that I possess unusual or special qualities that by rights should be recognized. I think I have a realistic view of the abilities of others in relation to myself, and that if anything, I am more likely to think others' abilities aren't recognized enough. I am especially hyper-vigilant about being open with people, and giving them the info they need even if it might be difficult for me or result in discomfort for me. I think it's possible that my websites may give the impression I am self-confident or in love with my own image and that that is why there are so many photos of me on my various websites.

Many years ago, when I was still living with my family, it was my family members I took pictures of when on a few occasions I had access to film, processing, etc. (Most of the time I didn't have access to these things because I had no personal money.) I approached it in very similar ways to what I do now with myself. At that time, I did want to be photographed myself, but I didn't feel that I was worth photographing. Digital photography allowed me to face my fears and experiment - with more privacy, in my own time. I could admit to myself that I wanted to have photos of myself, and that I probably had always had a secret wish to be 'discovered' in some way in life. I had the opportunity to face that in myself, and to do it for myself. What came out of it, though, was an unexpected kind of communication. I found that the process took up time and preoccupied me, but through it I could find ways of communicating concepts and emotions that were not easy to communicate in words, or to link up different types of info in unexpected ways. I felt that if others wanted me to do the same for them, or to help them access other parts of themselves and different modes of communication, I would like to, if we could get comfortable enough together.

28. Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

I feel that I was born in the wrong body, with a personal appearance that does not reflect the qualities I want to associate with myself. Is it possible that for some individuals the feeling of being born in the wrong body could be as extreme as someone's certainty that they were assigned the wrong gender at birth?

If I have a realistic appreciation of how others view my proportions or peculiarities, can it be called a disorder? I suppose it can if it affects functioning in life as severely as it does mine. I have been faced with people thinking that I weigh more than I actually do or that my body measurements are greater than they are. Also, comments I have received here and there support my observations about certain parts of my appearance. However, this does not actually mean that all of these people have found me unattractive.

I am not sure, but it seems to me that with the examples I've seen of this disorder the person may be overly sensitive to criticism and may have very low self-esteem.

I do tend to see the preoccupation with various aspects of appearance as a problem that could probably only be dealt with if I had a full enough life. Presumably, those with this disorder at one time or another were able to cope with life in spite of insecurities about imperfections. For me, I think it was about a time and place where I fit into the fabric of life if not smoothly, at least in a way that was endurable.

I will readily admit that I am not educated about this disorder, or the other conditions I have mentioned, and even when it comes to eating disorders, I stopped making an effort to read up a very long time ago. I thought, though, that perhaps these might be some of the conditions that apply to my situation, or that others may wonder about my various diagnoses. I am afraid that my ignorance may be offensive to those who suffer these disorders. I apologize. You'd think that after all this time I'd be more sensitive to validation issues, and that I'd be hesitant to comment on issues I realize I am ignorant of. At present, I'm not sure why I did. It is becoming difficult to edit this entry, and to figure out what to keep and what to prune.

I haven't actually been diagnosed with any of the above, or if I have it's been withheld from me. General terms only have been used: longterm depression, anxiety, bulimia. One doctor diagnosed me with 'Schizoid Personality Disorder', but I didn't find out until a social worker accidentally blurted it out, unaware I didn't know. (The doctor had refused to answer any of the questions I asked him, including about why he was prescribing certain meds.) I think that diagnosis was unfair, and was based on the doctor not having enough information. I wonder if any doctor reading this entry would come up with the same diagnosis. [Of particular note: Lack of concern about personal appearance? Lack of ability to empathize or show understanding of the feelings of others?]

[I am including this as an example of my thinking processes: I no longer go to public libraries, which was where I picked up books on eating disorders in the early years. There are no libraries within walking distance. I don't buy books. This is for me partly an accumulation phobia (which relates to a non-permanence issue), a money issue, a money weirdness thing, but it's also a having-problems- shopping thing, and a shopping priority thing. I am behind in certain other 'necessities'. When it comes to books, I would think that if I am to buy books, books in other areas would be just as 'necessary' to offer a more complete picture. When treating any illness, I think my approach is always to look at a life as a whole, and that if you are reading books about eating disorders specifically, overall it is not really enough. You need to read books that approach different parts of who you are, and if you're spending money on books, you should also be spending money on music, because really music is probably one of the best therapies there could be. So, it's an expansion thing, I have trouble with the overwhelming issue about where to focus priorities, I remember all the things I think are important parts of life that should not be ignored, and it's like I see parts of what is wrong and ways to fix some of the parts, but I see too much and become overwhelmed and do nothing. Or, I engage in behaviour to ease the stress and then meanwhile a lot of time goes by, and I'm back to the start again.]

29. Self-Treatment

1. Self-expression via my website. I acknowledge my own existence. I make diverse efforts to explore my psyche. If you have never attempted something similar, you may not realize the stress involved with sharing publicly what you once thought it would be better to die than to share anywhere. I often feel that I'm fighting an invisible war that only I'm aware of, and I'm unsure as to my reasons for fighting. It's difficult to describe all the ways I feel violated and attacked, and what it takes to keep trying. I need to take the risk of being where others can see and harm me, maybe. All of this is part of addressing the fears I've had in facing the world. I still don't like to think of this self-expression as therapy, but I am capable of appreciating at this point that it can reasonably be interpreted that way.

2. When I feel stress, anxiety, anger or any unpleasant emotions, I deal with them as soon as I become aware of them. I talk about them, write about them, and approach them in non-verbal directions, often through the images I create.

3. I speak openly with my ex, and before him, I spoke to my previous ex. People with eating disorders are seen as secretive, but I make an effort to describe the feelings, and not to hide any of the associated behaviours or patterns. I make an honest effort to sort it out, but also on an ongoing basis to make adjustments as I go along.

4. Taking risks, creating new stimuli. eg, trips that I planned myself and carried out with at least some measure of independence. For example, I have planned and taken trips to New York City, Sydney and Melbourne. In Sydney and Melbourne, I walked around by myself for hours, just exploring.

5. Repetition of 'positives' or a plan of action. Even when highly distressed, I can often get myself to articulate what might be helpful. I often speak in a highly repetitive fashion in these circumstances. 'Maybe if we could walk tonight, and if tomorrow I could eat cereal for breakfast, paint the window frame, have a shower, eat a sandwich for lunch, some fruit later, a stirfry for dinner and then a walk again tomorrow night...'

6. Exercise does help, the more the better, the more stable my body and moods feel. It's a natural way to handle the high anxiety level that seems natural to my body. I have never found relaxation techniques, yoga, etc, to be exceptionally helpful in themselves. They might temporarily do something for an isolated instance, but better results are achieved if I combine strenuous physical exertion with yoga and/or other relaxation techniques. There's a certain level of chemical intensity that needs to find expression in some kind of intense activity, and trying to channel it all in calm ways feels like trying to squash something that shouldn't be squashed, it feels like a repression or denial.

7. When my previous partner and I moved in together, I suggested a walk after dinner. At the time, it was partly to help me get used to the time change (I moved from North America to Australia), because I found I started to get very sleepy after dinner and walking helped me make the adjustment. But over time, the walking helped to stabilize me. Somehow it stuck, and we still now always seem to go back to it, even if we have short breaks. It is probably related to how isolated and quiet the neighbourhood is in certain areas. I don't always want to, but often I do make a conscious effort to do it as often as possible, and I think it has something of a stabilizing effect, even extending to my eating patterns, reducing the frequency of b/p behaviour.

8. I seem to need change in a lot of areas, I have a low boredom threshold, but at the same time often feel unable to cope with the stresses related to change. I need to occasionally put in conscious effort to make changes or create new stimuli. For example, repainting or redecorating a room, or dressing up in an unusual outfit or costume.

9. Having a daily shower and applying makeup seems to help, as does keeping up with certain grooming rituals, for example, painting my toenails.

10. I make lists. Then cross stuff off the lists.

11. I make lists of movies I haven't seen or have heard something intriguing or interesting about - this is a non-food approach to emergency situations. There is a nearby video store that rents movies for $1 per movie, even new releases, on tuesdays, but has reasonable prices overall.

12. Whenever I can manage, I begin tasks on the spot, make a note of something, jot down ideas, start to write something out, rather than procrastinate or leave it until some time when I think I'd do a better job.

13. I am almost always trying to stop b/p when I am in the midst of an extended episode. I make efforts to focus, and when I start trying to eat 'normally' I try to eat a lot of small meals during the day so that there are no extreme feelings of hunger. I taper slowly so as not to shock my system. I eat small meals usually of 200-300 calories, fruit snacks, etc. If my ex-partner cooks something for me, I have already discussed with him what portion sizes are comfortable for me, and I make an effort to pay attention to when I feel comfortable, when I've had enough, and to make decisions as often as possible to forego what I don't really want or could put off.

14. After eating, I find that if I brush my teeth, removing the taste of food, I am less likely to be nagged by the urge to eat more.

15. I have to do a lot of thinking ahead and I have to be realistic about my various triggers. I have to plan carefully in order to cut down on the number of overall binge/purge sessions.

16. We have lockable cupboards (and an extra fridge in a spare room that is lockable). A lot of the time, we need to use them. If I don't have easy access, I will sometimes go for longer periods without bingeing. Also, when I am in the beginning stages of withdrawing from an extended binge period, it helps to have binge food out of sight and easy reach. I may be able to ignore it, but I find it helps not to have the choice. However, there are of course times when just being aware that certain foods are present will be an irresistible temptation - especially if I'm not seeing any reason to keep trying or I'm at a particularly self-destructive part of the cycle. In these cases, the locks won't help. In order for the locks to be useful or helpful, I first must have decided that I want to make a serious effort to stop b/p.

17. I try to set realistic goals for myself, even if that includes just getting through one day without b/p. I try to do whatever will make it possible to help me stay calm enough, not stressed.

18. I try to remind myself of various things I have 'accomplished', no matter how lame on some levels such an exercise might appear to me. Even if it's something like 'I managed to have a shower today, do some laundry and forego the b/p.' But sometimes I go through the things I've managed in the last year - it helps to do this in my ex-partner's presence, partly because he offers support/ encouragement or a kind of validation.

19. Another non-food approach to deal with difficult times, although I can't always manage it, is to put on makeup and just start taking pictures. Often I do not do a good job on the makeup, but I'm already thinking ahead to what it will be possible to do with processing, and sometimes just the whole process of going through this when I feel like crap helps me to come up with something I wasn't really expecting, but that chips away at another little aspect of what I need to explain about myself. It has occurred to me that this sort of activity might be a thing to do instead of drinking alcohol on weekends - an approach to 'date night' that allows for fantasy and imagination in a way. [Weekends are usually particularly difficult for me, I tend to have a wish for some kind of social activity, but know that it's not realistic at this time, and so I feel a lot of distress and in the last year I've probably on average participated in binge drinking once a week as a kind of desperation measure.]

20. If I am working on a project and feel that I just don't give a shit and don't want to continue, I often try to step back and think to myself, 'Ok, realistically you always go through this. It is extremely unpleasant, but look a week ahead, and realistically, even with all of the stress and fluctuations you will probably have worked on this project to some extent and will see that you have come a fair distance since the previous week.' Also, I usually have an awareness of new ideas forming, and that new projects inevitably seem to thrust themselves upon me.

21. I try to look at my circumstances not as most of the world would, but taking into account what I personally have had to deal with in my life. I put a lot of effort into my personal websites. Other people have responsibilities and jobs in which they have to do a lot of things they don't like doing, and perhaps in a way my websites are my own particular 'job'.

22. I try to be aware of the times when I feel able to put in a stronger effort, and when I am not able, to ease up and wait until I've recharged and can try again.

23. The name Xesce probably represents an attempt to hold the fragments together in a constructive way. The name isn't a reference to anything, and has no meaning in itself. It is perhaps a blank slate on which I can write something, but it is probably also an attempt to create some kind of structure for myself. Through it I may be able to translate some of my experience, through a perspective that may be temporary, but less temporary than some other aspects, and which doesn't impose as many artificial limitations. I think that part of what it may represent is some kind of unknown in life to me, and/or some kind of gestalt.

24. It is often difficult to get out of bed, and there is often a temptation to just collapse into bed during the time I'm up. I try to be aware of how much sleep I'm getting and try to force myself to stay out of bed as long as possible so as not to experience insomnia. I can usually get away with spending 10-12 hours per day in bed on a regular basis, but even then I do often have restless sleep/discomfort.

25. The possibility of further travel is something to think about or daydream about, and maybe eventually make a reality. My ex-partner has provided me with the means to travel for the times I feel up to it.

It's one thing for me to keep writing all of this out, but what I've always found in life is that it is easier for me to try to communicate with one person at a time, getting to know that person and how that person communicates, such that I can more effectively translate.

I am hampered by the persistent conclusion that there is no real reason for me or anyone to do any of these things, or to do anything at all, and also by an inability to shut out that when I look at this list I sort of see myself as a completely tiresome freaking tosser.

30. Possum Therapy

I do think that animals have the potential to relieve stress or take us out of ourselves for at least a while. The possums intruded into my life, but in a way that I personally was able to cope with. Baby possums are pretty cute in themselves, but even the adults are full of surprises, and there is a continuity and affection. In addition, it takes time and some mental effort to organize the photos and info about possums, which in itself is one more thing for me to do which produces results I can see. It also allows me to contribute something for my ex-partner: I organize his photos and put them on the web where potentially others can see them.

The relationship with possums involves food, and possibly a 'positive' aspect related to food. I get to feed creatures other than myself. They appreciate it, they let me know their preferences, and they keep coming back. Before the possums, when alone in the house I didn't really go outside at all. Now I will face exposing myself on the balcony because the contact with the possums is important to me. I am able to set limits or show some semblance of moderation in my approach to feeding possums. I don't want to make them sick, and so I try to keep things in balance as much as possible, feeding them the 'healthier' foods in greater proportions than the 'fun' foods.

31. Supportive Friend

My ex and I are still friends and he encourages or supports my efforts. Even if I've only gone a day or a week without b/p, he treats it like an accomplishment, and offers me praise. He doesn't like the b/p behaviour or some of the associated chaos and stress, but seems to find that the intermittent periods of calm make up for it. Also, as long as I keep creating new things or occasionally working on house projects or taking new Xesce risks of whatever kind from time to time, it adds to his feeling that things are reasonably acceptable, and that perhaps the bad periods are simply an unfortunate part of my creative process.

He also encourages me significantly with regards to my creative projects. He looks at the new things I've done, and often offers comments and compliments. He taught me html, and throughout the time I've known him has helped me with many technical aspects of my various websites. It is due to him that I am able to express myself online at all.

My ex also tries to find out during any given crisis if it is possible for me to choose any option other than b/p. Sometimes it is possible to perform some other activity, or to compensate with an indulgent meal, dessert or snack of some kind, and keep it to one indulgence, as opposed to a binge. With regards to the food indulgences, I will try to think about what food specifically I might be craving. His approach, and the ways he offers support have come from our many talks, and from my efforts to try to help him understand what might help in the moment. Granted, he's a very patient, tolerant and accepting individual.

I have used my organizational skills and experience with house painting (for example) to help my ex-partner in areas that on his own he wouldn't be able to deal with. It does make me feel better to be able to contribute. My ex-partner is a person who also needs a lot of reassurance and support, and I do think that I offer these to him. For example, I listen to his various work-related issues, concerns and stressors, and I provide input regarding his own personal websites or projects.

[Both of my long-term partners have been willing to put up with behaviour and weirdness that most people would not tolerate. For example, in both relationships, most of the time I would not answer the phone or door, and while in both I started out participating in grocery shopping, as time went on, I only went grocery shopping on rare occasions. They both adjusted to the bulimic patterns that most people would find unacceptable. Neither felt it unacceptable that I didn't have a job. Both have put up with me not going anywhere publicly - for months at a time, or more. I have often felt self- conscious and guilty, and that they should not have put up with these behaviours.]

In brief: My life is maintained by a lot of effort to cope with the various phases and ups and downs related to my personal chaotic mess - without prescribed medication. However, I think eventual suicide is a real consideration, and I also think that I may eventually go through periods when I can't create or contribute as much, if I go on living for many more years.

32. Further Considerations

1. When you live feeling extremely depleted for a long period, you don't have much to draw on in the case of an emergency or an unexpected extra problem. Your responses may end up seeming inappropriate or nonsensical, non-caring, etc. As I get older, it seems more likely to me that unexpected issues will be harder and harder to deal with. There's a kind of panic in hoping I will be able to kill myself before things get even worse.

2. I don't know how to measure, but I think a serious inability to experience pleasure in life contributes significantly to the ability to motivate oneself in any area.

3. I give up extremely easily in some areas, am easily discouraged, and if I feel unwanted or that I am embarrassing or stupid in certain areas or in the presence of certain people, I tend to think there's not much I can do about it.

4. For a long time, I was under the vague delusion that there was something in me that not all people could see, something that took time to recognize, but that I had something unusual. The more I manage to express, the more I think I see what it is, and that perhaps it's not as unusual as I would have hoped. While what I have to share may not be earth-shattering, I think I do have more of a sense of myself as an individual now.

5. I think I've managed to see the 'positives' and that I've adapted or my mind has opened to a very great extent through being forced into a kind of life I never would have imagined for myself, but I still can't really say that this is all I want.

6. I find it difficult and uncomfortable to hold onto anger and resentment. If I can't resolve something immediately, I try to write about all the feelings involved from different angles, sometimes just privately and then burning what I have written, until I feel I have reached a kind of peace and understanding about the issue. However, if there are still negative or dualistic feelings, I am unable to cover it over or hide it. So I keep trying to deal with the negativity until I reach some solution that feels 'genuine' to me.

7. I think my mother's comments about me becoming an 'ugly person' had a big impact on my life, when the comments were probably unfair and coming from a place of hurt and even immaturity. Teen girls are known for being bitchy and self-centred, but from what I remember, I was probably less bitchy than most of the girls I had contact with. I've bent over backward to be understanding in many situations in which maybe I bent too far and it wasn't reciprocated. A certain level of judgmentalness and ability to trust in oneself and one's own preferences probably makes it easier to handle life. If you think everyone's feelings are more important than your own, it's also easy to see how everything that happens ends up looking like your own fault, such that you can't experience the natural irrational antagonistic feelings that most people get to feel they have a right to. It's confusing to eventually look back on how you've handled certain things and see this other perspective, and find that maybe it's not 'ugly' to feel anger in all situations. It's difficult working it all out, when the ground beneath your feet continually shifts from under you, and you go back to what feels 'safe', in trying again and again to understand, and let go of anger, but wondering if that's genuine, or a copout of some kind, because you can't see it in exactly the same way forever.

There's a fear at times that I'm losing even more identity. Am I now coming across as the kind of person I was originally trying to avoid becoming? I was aiming at something other than 'normal' life and reacting, I wanted to be something different, even when it was difficult. And then it started sinking in, over a series of experiences, that I had to admit to myself at least what was honestly going on with me. I could no longer be as understanding. I was too exhausted, the balance was so far out of whack that I couldn't even pretend I thought it was fair. I guess I had to learn what it was to allow myself to sink down into a certain kind of mire, to experience it not only in theory, to help me to understand more. haha. But I wonder, even at my most angry, wasn't I still making an effort to explain why and wasn't I rational within the irrationality, at least to an extent that most people could not be?

8. I've kept trying to force myself to get out of a kind of consciousness I don't like. If I stay up all night, if I engage in excessive behaviours of various kinds, if I write or try to express in some ways, then somehow answers will come to me, and life won't just continue on in this slow, boring, unappealing way. But it does continue on. I have the added bonus of things I can see, expressions I can see. So are those the 'big' things? It is disappointing to me, I can't help that. It's not enough in itself for me to put stuff out there without the idea it might eventually lead to some kind of interaction that feels fulfilling. It looks like for whatever reasons what I do leads to further isolation and then more expression of that isolation.

9. Unfortunately, my binge/purge behaviour has over time become linked to other behaviours that in combination are likely to have more pronounced effects on my health - these other behaviours include excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption. Caffeine has a strong effect on me, but I end up overdoing it, and eventually it doesn't have as much of an effect, and I give it up in order that I can eventually experience at least a fleeting 'high' again. Coffee detox causes me to get very sick unless I can taper slowly, and often I can't. Alcohol is becoming more of a problem. I used to be able to leave it for extended periods, but in the last year (2005-2006) I've probably engaged on average in one binge drinking episode per week or once every two weeks. (No moderate drinking - a binge consists of 10-14 drinks in the space of 1-3 hours usually.) I link all of these behaviours to try to alter my consciousness or take me out of myself. I suppose I am becoming more desperate to escape, even at the expense of making myself sicker and more housebound.

10. I thought that if I didn't choose something practical like teaching as a career, that perhaps I might realistically become some kind of writer one day. I wrote a book at the age of 10 that was printed up and placed in the school library. As a child I read a lot of different things and was able to perhaps 'mimic' different styles of writing to suit whatever occasion, and maybe now my lack of style is not really a bad thing so much as an effort to avoid copying other styles and a wish to find my own 'voice'.

I am not impressed with my writing skills or how they have developed over time. When it comes to this particular entry, my vocabulary is limited, I greatly overuse some words, and my grammar is atrocious. I am not precise or concise. I am afraid that my writing is so foggy as to lead to serious misunderstandings.

33. Why a Complete or Lasting Remission Seems Unlikely to Occur

I don't see bulimia as romantic, glamourous or cool. Still, as sad as it may seem, I think I get more pleasure out of the release part of the behaviour than I do out of any other activity in life. Even the most positive things are filled with ever-present stress, and a feeling that if it's good it can't last. There is a feeling that I just can't hold on, that I'm already holding on by my fingernails, that I'm losing my grip, I'm exhausted, and I just want to be allowed to let go.

As long as I'm alive, I may occasionally have long remissions. I have on several occasions gone for a year or more without any b/p episodes. However, even during these times I did not actually feel psychologically healthy or happy. In fact, there is often a dull, slow, weighed-down feeling, a lack of hope, a feeling of drudgery. At other times, it feels like I am waiting for something to happen, waiting to lose weight, work out, feel attractive again, so that I will be able to go out and do something, so that I have the chance to deserve 'love' or for something exciting to happen in my life.

I don't know how to get rid of the feeling I am living that nightmare where I am naked at school or wherever. It starts every day when I wake up. And doesn't stop. I try to consciously accept the nakedness, I consciously try to confront the possible contributing factors, in part with my website, but I can't get ahead of it, it's a self-consciousness that increases over time.

There is a persistent feeling that I'm a baby being held by someone who has complete control and who finds me ugly and hard to love.

Often when vomiting, I feel overwhelmed with the feeling I want to break down crying, but I'm blocked, and I can't. And I want never to have to vomit again, and yet I know I will do it, that I will feel I have no choice, because I can't solve the unsolvable issues or emptiness.

My track record is poor. I have never been able to live alone and eat like a normal person. All my reasons for living life slowly, patiently, etc, dissolve, and I have nothing to hold on to. All distractions and pretenses fall away, and I'm left with nothing but food and distress. And if there is no significant contact with anyone in the outside world, it seems all I am able to do is gorge, purge and fast. The one extra possibility would be to stock up on large quantities of weet-bix and longlife milk. In that instance, I probably would not go out at all during the periods I was eating that cereal. I would see it as a preparation. I'd probably do it for a while, then go out and buy binge items, then go back to the weet-bix. The object would be to reduce the number of binges until I had achieved a desirable weight and fitness level. And then 'live'. And at this point, what does that mean? How in my present condition can I attract friends, a social life or a lover? It seems that I am isolating myself from life further as I go along. The internet seems my best possibility, and yet I may scare people or put them off in various ways, and if I ever achieve a desirable body image, I won't have anyone to share it with, or anything worth sharing other than my appearance, which will probably lead to more coping with food to compensate.

When I am in the part of the cycle where I am trying to focus on giving up bingeing, making an effort to deal with what I need to in a psychological sense in order to focus, when the decision is made there is a feeling of relief that I don't have to keep going through all of the horror, and that there will be a chance to be 'free' and 'clean'. And for a while, it may not even seem so difficult, and I may wish for it to continue, and it may even seem like it is possible for it to continue for a very long time, or even that there is no reason to ever go back to the old ways of coping. Repeated experience has shown that that is an illusion that cannot last, because eventually the old issues will resurface, and I still don't have any lasting solutions to those issues.

Maybe once you've experienced a certain kind of hope in the idea that it is possible to die you can't really ever go back. It seems a desirable thing in itself for me to die. It's just that when you get to a certain place, people's arguments end up looking empty if you can't feel that human survival imperative any more. I can sort of remember what it's like to have that blind survival instinct that manifests as an imperative to focus on how important life is, how important that you fight and do anything at all but die and push all that in someone's face because it's important, but even if you understand where it comes from and can figure out how to translate what you are feeling well enough that a person at a different stage sort of gets that you are at a different place, there's still a stalemate. What it seems to come down to is that it is fine to have your own take on things and to see suicide as a rational solution, but there are some people it's best not to inflict that heaviness on, and it's best to act on it yourself without drawing others into it. It is a very lonely thing, though, and personal weakness and a wish for comfort or pain relief may result unfortunately in burdening others, spreading the misery around in one way or another.

My personal wishes and inclinations feel deeply rooted, and I can't see any realistic way of changing them.

When I am working on any creative project, it does preoccupy me, but there's a stress involved that feels like something I want to get out of or away from as soon as possible. I can see that I might be caught up in a particular project or task for a certain amount of time, and I can sense other projects on the horizon, but in a way it feels like an overwhelming amount of energy is being channelled through me, and it's a superhuman effort to stay calm when it feels like the stress will make it impossible to hold all the pieces or fragments together. It's very unpleasant in itself. I end up trying to get it all over with as quickly as possible, and can't concentrate well enough or I'm too exhausted to do things more thoroughly or 'better'. Often this makes me feel bad about myself. I keep stumbling from one unpleasant phase to another over and over again in circles. When I have 'finished' something, or at times during the process when I can see potential, I do sometimes have positive feelings, but it's all so fleeting in comparison to the rest. I just finally want to be released from it all, it's constantly like I don't see how it can continue, even at the most 'positive' moments.

If I were to have some kind of 'success' in life, if late in life I found a career which enabled me to support myself or I received compliments regarding the 'work' I do, I think I am now beyond the point of being able to feel the sense of fulfillment or pride or satisfaction that I could imagine when younger. I think now I'm so far out, so full of fear and insecurity that it would be the everything-falling-apart-in-the-house-at-the-same-time syndrome. One issue addressed isn't enough if the plumbing is shot and the house is flooded, the electricity has been turned off, and the walls are caving in, and the whole place is likely to be replaced by a hyperspace bypass anyway.

I crave social contact, but when anyone approaches me, I tend to panic, in part worried that I am complicated and 'strong' enough to drag them down, and in part panicked because I can't see any foundation on which to build, or I can't slow down my responses or pretend that my needs aren't enormous.

I just don't know if I'd be able to handle life with less panic, and I don't think I would. I'm exhausted in a way that I don't think can be fixed.

I think there's a kind of perverse pleasure in eventually dealing with mounting stress by saying 'what the fuck' and just giving in to excess of various kinds. I may actually feel lost without this kind of approach. An incredible amount of stress or a certain level has to be reached before I can get a 'satisfying' release out of letting go. The idea of living calmly, with no extremes, looks frustrating beyond belief to me, and is something I don't think I could ever accept indefinitely.

A big problem with people who have addictions of various kinds is the big hole, or emptiness. The addiction is used to fill the hole, but it digs a bigger hole. There is no real way I can see to fill my hole. I have nothing to stand on, nothing to get a grip on. I can't develop interests or relationships or take an interest in the world around me, build a life, etc, because I'm lacking some kind of foundation from which to start. I am too depleted and unstable to manage any of these things. At best, I could if forced force myself for a while, but the whole structure of anything I tried to build would inevitably collapse in on itself. I'm not genuinely interested. It is best now that I drag as few others into my mess as possible. I think I have to accept that I won't ever have anything firm to stand on, and that I will spend my life hopping from one disintegrating-beneath-my-feet surface to another perpetually. And perhaps addictions of various kinds are some kind of temporary solution that make sense for people in my position, who will never find more lasting solutions due to complex or controversial personal circumstances, or to mental frameworks that don't allow for permanence.

I unfortunately have a pattern of stress that feels like it is building and building, and for a time I may try to hold on and not engage in excessive behaviour. I may use the time to 'accomplish' as much as I can, whether that's some kind of personal project, exercise or housework, or a combination of various things, and then when I've completed a certain amount, it will seem like nothing else could be a 'reward' except excessive behaviour - b/p, binge drinking, etc. Or, that I just can't hold on indefinitely, and so I must eventually make a decision to try to get the most out of a loss of control as damage control, so that I can get more out of it in a psychological sense, and so that there is a better chance that I will be able to try again soon. If I don't recognize my limits, I risk losing control in a way that will feel a lot more devastating.

If I could go back and choose, I would choose not to have been born in the first place. As it is, death appeals to me, and I am more curious about it than I am about life.

34. Commentary

If I hadn't lived as a fugitive from psychiatry, would I through therapy and/or medication have lived a more productive, full life? Would I have utilized my intelligence and creativity in more 'impressive' ways? Would I have become a contributing/participating member of society? Would I have suffered less? Would those I've known have suffered less through association with me? Would I seem more awake? More alive?

I leave these questions with the reader.

I still feel that I am far from having access to enough info. Not just with regards to relevant family data or a more accurate memory regarding the events of my life, but to more of the factors outside of these that I haven't yet considered or don't yet have a frame of reference for. It may take a long time before I know how to and have the energy to articulate more of my thoughts. I am aware that there is always more to know.

When I discuss my family and the possible impact they have had on me, it's obvious to me that there were reasons they acted as they did. I just don't have access to enough info. It may seem that a lot of what I write is just speculation, or is a fruitless attempt to understand, since it can't really encompass enough. If I myself deserve any understanding or compassion at all, then certainly do the rest of the people I mention or who I've had contact with in my life.

[For the last week, I have been eating small portions of food at regular intervals throughout the day - no b/p. The process of writing all of this up has been incredibly draining. Dealing with all of these uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, trying to sit still and look at things objectively and then organize it all is not something that comes easily. After a week of working on it, I was finding it increasingly difficult to control the anxiety, such that I felt nauseous and had trouble sleeping. It is cathartic or cleansing in a way to tackle this, but only momentarily. It won't be long until I need to go through this process again, although it may be in a different way or with regards to a different topic. When I have done as much with this as I feel I can for now, I am pretty sure I will feel the need for b/p behaviour, or for some kind of excess. Is that because even as I'm writing, I'm holding back some of my natural or valid feelings, repressing? Is it because there are no real solutions or no lasting solutions to my issues?]

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