I’m reading Lost Connections (subtitle: Uncovering the real causes of depression and the unexpected solutions) and above is a quote from an obese woman who, like most in the experimental group she was in, lost a lot of weight quickly and easily then instead of feeling better got depressed and anxious and deliberately gained it back.
What the doctor found out was that an overwhelming number of them were sexual abuse survivors. Being overweight makes you sexually invisible and that made them feel safe. Even if the weight was killing them.
It struck me because I know the dual comfort and pain of being invisible. I was thinking the other day about how I react to pressure – which I took for granted that I did really well because in situations where other people would feel it (performing on stage, running 21k in a timed race, working in a hot, busy, noisy, kitchen with bills piling up) I usually didn’t.
But dealing with pressure and not feeling pressure aren’t the same thing.
I actually crack under pressure almost instantly. When I do something well and people want me to do it again I get the dopamine hit of reward but also a lot of fear and then resentment. How dare they have expectations of me?
I’ve been convinced by the cruelty of my upbringing that I’m a loser, that I will fuck everything up and let everyone down. So while I want to be seen, to be loved, admired, acknowledged to fill that void it also starts the clock of now that you have it how long til it’s taken away?
And rather than wait I’ve trained myself to make the inevitable happen just so I have a sense of control. Desperate to be the center of blame so the universe isn’t random. There’s more comfort in thinking I could have, should have been different because it means maybe I could be different next time, in telling yourself you deserved it last time because maybe you can make yourself not deserve it next time.
Wanting something you fear/ fearing something you want is a hallmark of addiction, whether to drugs or food or attention. It becomes easier – while not easy – to be nobody, to stay invisible. To build a private world you can see out of but no one else can see into, or actually that they can see right passed because there’s nothing there.
And then it snowballs. Once you’ve done a negative thing to cope you now have to cope with the fact that you’ve done a negative thing. This is why shaming addiction or weight or self-harm kills people. And it’s also why sometimes what you think is encouragement can hurt.
The above mentioned rape survivor panicked and gained the weight back when men starting flirting with her. What you might think is a compliment could be heard as you’re going to get raped again just like we’re counting on you can sound like here’s a chance to disappoint everyone.
And for me, then it snowballs. I just want to be alone. The pressure to be nice, do well, earn the pride of others, never slip, mustn’t ever slip or it will all be taken away, breaks me. I want to be good, I want to be perfect and I can see a perfect version of myself, but I’m too tired and I think that if I’m mediocre – if I’m imperfect at all – then I’ll get nothing and deserve nothing.
I’m Natalie Portman at the end of Black Swan, killing one identity to kill all identities. Except instead of dying for my art like I aspire to it’s more like Fight Club where I (implausibly) survive and have to go unto a world of chaos that I created with no identity to protect me. Then there’s a cock.
There’s this thing inside me that says you can be perfect, you can be in control, but only if you’re alone. I want to emerge as perfect and then I’ll get to bask in it, then I’ll be worthy of love, but I feel like if anyone sees my flaws once they’ll never look again, I’ll never get a second chance, never get a real chance.
I know the scorn I perceive from others is scorn I’m heaping on myself and I know it comes from early home life but then… what? It’s like saying we know the fire is destroying the forest and the wind is fueling the fire but then… what? How do we stop the wind?
Anytime I fuck up, anytime I’m imperfect – just less than the greatest version of myself – and someone doesn’t leave me I feel like I’m abusing them. That I’m just this broken, infantilized black hole. Then I really want to be alone just so I’m not dragging anyone down. Followed by the feeling that everyone’s better off without me.
Which is odd because in the wake of Carla’s death I felt like I’d let her down because she’d have been better off with me. I’m having a positive effect on the people around me as I get physically healthy and she could have been one of those people.
Because right now I’m getting healthy for health’s sake, it’s an intrinsic value to me, and when one engages in intrinsic values it tends to radiate outward and provide value to others.
Like how I was writing songs because I simply felt like they were in me and they had to exist rather than later when I felt I had to write them because other people would hear them and I had to make a public statement of my extrinsic value.
This is it; I pressurize things from being intrinsic to extrinsic. Whenever I find something I like by myself for myself I offer it up to others in the hope of being loved and I therefore take it away from myself. That’s why I so often feel like I’m giving all of myself out of an emptying account to others and I need to hide just to recharge.
It’s why having a lot of hobbies and no passions made me more consistently happy than a single burning purpose but also why I feel like I’m nothing underneath. I went from being one person, all or nothing, to being a hundred little pieces that add up to looking like a person, like a life.
It’s the difference between eating a bunch of food and having a meal.