Recently I’ve been unable to properly deal with the flashbacks. There have been days where they’ve piled on top of each other, with strange and frightening scenes until I’ve panicked and slipped into the old cycles of compulsive eating and looking at fetish porn that is a direct recreation of the ways in which I was abused. Once I’ve begun that cycle, it’s very difficult to stop it again, and if on my first stable day I have another series of flashbacks I can easily just start it over again. Looking at it honestly, this cycle kills my life; I’m no longer able to write, garden, or otherwise progress because I’m constantly dissociating or feeling sick. That used to be my ‘normal’ daily life, whereas months ago I was having flashbacks every day but seemed on the path to complete recovery. I’ve felt really bad about this relapse, and didn’t want to write about it here–perhaps that is part of the problem, that I still feel some internalized shame.
For years now I’ve enjoyed reading blogs written by parents who use entirely empathetic, non-punitive parenting philosophies. They respect that their young child is a human being with feelings, needs, rights, and they use creative problem-solving, kindness, and relationship-building to solve any problems that come up. Instead of labeling behavior “bad” and proceeding to abuse them by screaming, hitting, or locking the child in a room, they view acting out as unmet needs. They take a step back and consider what does the child need that he isn’t getting, what emotional difficulties in our relationship have arisen that is causing this situation to not work? Looking back on my own life, I can see that this was absolutely the case with me growing up–I was not a “bad kid,” it was not very difficult either to understand what was going on with me and to simply find a solution.
Today likewise, in trying to “reparent” myself, these are the resources that I look to. I was trained from an early age to ignore my surroundings and my own needs, to block them out because I was in terrible danger and nothing would be done about them. But I don’t need to live like that today. The fact is, my external environment affects me a great deal. If there is clutter, if something right in front of me desperately needs to be fixed, it can really block me, and if I ignore that and keep going, it will put a damper on my entire life and I may begin to act out. But that acting out is not ‘bad behavior.’ It is not a matter of talking to myself sternly and insisting that we just need to ‘follow our meal plan tomorrow’ and then everything will be fine again. Empty willpower promises go nowhere when the problem is not my behavior but something I need that I’m not getting.
What I’ve been finding that, in fact, there are often ‘magical’ solutions sitting right in front of me that can resolve the bad states I get into. I’ve become very intuitive about understanding what is going on with my body and emotions, and can pinpoint what the problem is usually. It’s a food allergy, it’s a flashback coming on, a problem in my living space that I haven’t resolved… This is actually a big step, because in the past I only had mind-games, where I could tell myself the desire to compulsively eat was because my meal-plan wasn’t sufficient. But it is, and these feelings that I was taught to associate with food at a young age (since it’s all I could get) actually have nothing to do with hunger or food at all.
I’ve come to realize that engaging in any sexual activity during mid-day, the time when most of my childhood sexual abuse took place, will trigger those old feelings and cycles. Perhaps it won’t always be that way, but for the moment I see that if I want to recover I have to completely abstain preferably until it’s dark outside, because then the reaction won’t come and since my stomach shuts down at night, there is no chance of running into that false hunger afterwards either. I’m not online at night either, so thankfully that also means I have no access to extremely triggering pornography.
Of course I would love to be instantly and permanently recovered. But it doesn’t work that way, and I want to be able to stand by myself regardless, try to more deeply understand what is happening and where this is coming from. I realized today that I really need to try to reach that hope that my life can change–if I fall into a depression where I don’t care anymore and lose my desire for a different life, then of course I’m not going to get anywhere. And I really want to progress, to get back on track and start the process of building myself up again. That’s what I’m doing today.