michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 97)

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all of these fluctuations are entirely frustrating.  to never know when the depression is going to come on; and to not know when you’re going to fall to the bottom.   and when you fall to the bottom, it’s as if you’re never going to get back up.  you’re relatively happy, and the next moment anxiety has taken over, where it’s impossible to deal with day to day interactions.

i hate this feeling so much, the unpredictability of it all.  people have suggested meditation, therapy…  i have done these things, and they may calm things slightly, but the anxiety is so high it cannot be contained.  the part of the brain which gives one the ability to cope just shuts off.  this can happen from a couple of days, to weeks, to months.

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i saw this thing the other day- it read something to the effect of ‘are you seeing a therapist, yet are still depressed?’  i read that and thought to myself, someone understands…   i’ve seen various therapists and counselors over the years, and the same pattern happens. the only way i can describe all of this is that you become two different people…  i don’t exactly recognize myself when i am this other person, despite this person existing in my life for years.  she is like an unwanted visitor.

when she shows up, there’s not much i feel…  everything is hollow.  when the ‘visitor’ shows up, the person who usually resides gets evicted, and is essentially a ghost.  so i have to do things to myself in order to know someone else is there.

And who gave you the right to scare my family?
And who gave you the right to scare my baby? she needs me
And who gave you the right to shake my family tree?
And who gave you the right to take intrusion, to see me?

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and so, i hate this period, where you have to start your life all over again.  you take second-by-second steps to make sure you never return to the bottom, knowing very well there will be a time you will.  you just don’t know when, since anything can trigger it.  you have to again, pick yourself up in a world which does not understand.  you have to move in a world and pretend nothing has happened.  this can be, and has been another trigger which has sent me to relapses.  i’m just not good at pretending.

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i saw a film yesterday, about a man who wanted to cut off his arms…  he spent most of his life feeling this way, in secret.  when he became upset he went in the closet and whispered to himself, “there’s nothing there”…  the closet (of course) lends to a double meaning:  not only was the closet a place of safety and familiarity to him in, again, a world which does not understand, but the closet also represents the secret he’s had to keep, in order to not be ridiculed by even those he loves.

he met with rejection from people, who said he was ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’.  his mother was in the picture, but we are never aware if she is aware of how he felt.  he spoke of the desire to have no arms since the age of 8; and those feelings would go away every once in a while, but he would enter relapses.  everything he said sounded very familiar to me…  right on down to the body language.

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his distrust of most people and his fear and anger at being touched a certain way were familiar to me.  to live with this fear for so much of your life…  for people close to you to be familiar with some semblance of it (like his wife was in terms of him going in the closet to hide), but never know the extent of your fears.

the film alluded to the main ‘protagonist’ as having body integrity identity disorder (or BIID), but this was not the main focus.  the film was more about acceptance, and love.  to be loved and accepted by someone without the fear of, as he said, “say(ing) the wrong thing”…  not losing anything if he said “too much”.  it was important for him to know he could “lose those things (job, house, car, marriage, etc.)  and be okay.”

again, i recognize this fear of revealing “too much”.  of never knowing if people are going to truly understand and accept you, even though they say they do.

i’m not familiar with BIID at all, and wondered if it was the same or similar to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).  it is not.  while BIID is solely about a desire to amputate (or lose use of) one or more limbs to feel ‘whole’:

Individuals with such desires to have a limb amputated, unlike those with BDD, are not concerned about the limb’s appearance. They do not perceive their limb as inherently defective, and they are not ashamed or selfconscious of it. Rather, the distress appears to center on the feeling that the limb is not congruent with their sense of self.

http://biid-info.org/BODY_DYSMORPHIC_DISORDER:_SOME_KEY_ISSUES_FOR_DSM-V

The term Amputee Identity Disorder, suggested by Furth and Smith was a precursor of the term Body Integrity Identity Disorder, although the later is more accurate and representative of the condition.

Most people who have BIID report memories related to the condition going back to early childhood, often before the age of 5.

It should be noted that people who have BIID do not chose which impairment they desire. They don’t wake up one morning and think “Oh, I want to be a LAK today.”, or “I think it would be dandy to be an L1 paraplegic”. For most people, the body image far precedes the understanding of what an amputee, or a paraplegic, etc is.

http://biid-info.org/Body_Integrity_Identity_Disorder

…someone with body dysmorphic disorder is preoccupied with a body part, and wants to change it.  the preoccupation with that body part may lead to depression and, alas, suicidal thoughts and attempts.  here are some of the symptoms  (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/body-dysmorphic-disorder/DS00559/DSECTION=symptoms):

  • Preoccupation with your physical appearance
  • Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly
  • Frequent examination of yourself in the mirror or, conversely, avoidance of mirrors altogether
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way
  • The need to seek reassurance about your appearance from others
  • Frequent cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Excessive grooming, such as hair plucking
  • Extreme self-consciousness
  • Refusal to appear in pictures
  • Skin picking
  • Comparison of your appearance with that of others
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • The need to wear excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws

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i do not know for sure if BDD is something i have, but i do know that if i had access to a bunch of money years ago, i would have done a rhinoplasty procedure…  i used to hear so much about my features when i was a kid, that i ended up hating my nose, and other things.  i also wished i had a longer neck.  for years i used to obsess over photos of, say, women in the ndebele tribe in south africa. the women are just so beautiful.

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but most of all, i hated (and still do) the parts which ‘identify’ me as ‘female’.  i have no problem with being a woman, i just want all the parts to go away.  this is really difficult to explain.  you see, i also obsessed for years over that initial post-supremes album cover of diana ross, where she looks like a starving child, or a little boy. i still obsess over it to this day.

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this is where it gets tricky, or why i don’t like to talk about it…  because i know people would not understand, or call me ‘sick’…  why i have been ‘in the closet’ about all of this.  i don’t think how she looks there is in any way attractive.  i don’t intend to starve myself (because i know i would never get to the point that photo is at, even if i tried).  but ever since i encountered puberty, i wanted everything to disappear.  i don’t mind people hugging me, but there is a certain way some people do it, and it makes me move away.  i hate when people want to hold on to my waist.  or when people comment on how i look.  i always wanted to be flat-chested and skinny, with no evidence of ‘womanhood’, so no one would look at me.  if i was, i could just disappear.  that’s how i always felt, and still feel.  granted, there are people who fit that description who are happily married, have jobs they like, are healthy, have friends who support them…  still, more than anything, i harbor a (not so secret anymore) desire to look like the woman on that record cover.

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i do not know if you’ve ever been technically diagnosed with BDD.  what i do know is that you’ve worked to maintain a certain image of yourself, in terms of age and character….  with the heavy pancake stage make-up, ala vaudeville and silent film performers…  the need to change how your features look, as you’ve said, to please your father…  it is sad that those who are ‘supposed’ to love us find ways, in our minds, to prove the opposite.

with that, even if you haven’t been diagnosed, it’s easy to see how you could be.  people always want to accuse someone of  hating oneself in terms of ‘race’, before looking at how it comes down to how one feels about oneself.    sometimes, in the body you were given, it feels like a shell.  this is not always about vanity.  those who criticize may not acknowledge how obsessed they are with, as i spoke about before, the ‘externals’…  those who criticize do not necessarily look at the effects of familial and societal abuse.

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it’s not easy to live in a world, where you feel like a ghost some of the time.  when you never know when the ‘visitors’ are going to come back.  you just say ‘it will be better tomorrow’ and just hope that is actually the case.  you sit and take baby steps.  you hope that, if the ‘visitor’ does come back you are in a place where people understand, and that they help you to walk through it.

right now i’m in a very sensitive place, where she left to go impatiently sit in a corner of my body.  she’s rocking back and forth, waiting for a trigger to happen.  sometimes you can tell when she’s completely gone…  right now she is not.

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one thing i like to do is sing, in order to know things are still there…

i practised more singing before i went to bed the other day, thinking maybe this would help get rid of the visitor…  when i sing, i acknowledge that much of what i experience is fear.  i have a paralyzing fear of singing in front of people.  my voice freezes up.  that time we did the show for you and i sang, i was not there.  there was someone (or something) else which took over, in order for me to do what i did.  in my everyday interactions though, when someone asks me to sing for them, i cannot do it.  i need to know there is no one else around in order for me to use my ‘true’ voice.

that said, i haven’t yet found my ‘true’ voice, but i still like to practise, to work on my breathing.  working on it serves as a sort of catharsis.

if only the visitor will come down and sing with me, that would be the best thing.  whenever you’ve had ‘visitors’, did you sing to them?  what was your way of communicating with them?

i’m still trying to navigate this whole thing.

love, jamilah

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About jamilah

i am here to spread the teachings of michael (and the joy of cats) around the world. this blog is essentially a series of conversations with my teacher, and one form (out of many possibilities) of therapy through expression of words.
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