Archive for June, 2012

My father, part one-million-and-ten

Posted in personal with tags , , on June 29, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

Five minutes ago I was still feeling good. Then my father came back.

When he came back, I was just writing the following:

And sometimes things take a turn for the better. Today was the final of the under-17 Euros of the ladies, and guess which national team won? Germany. Nothing builds you up quite like that. Well fucking done, girls! šŸ™‚

Besides, IĀ“m proud of how I dealt with my father. He entered the room with a face so stern and earnest that it was almost comical. Because what was the big deal?

“Did you read your motherĀ“s e-mail?”
“You know she comes back home tomorrow?”
“She suggested that we all have breakfast together.”

This is how far I got. Then he returned and made sure things took a turn for the worse again. But let me tell you how it went on.

“I think it would be nice if you were there.”

He said that in a tone as if I was already guilty of not showing up.

“Well, okay.” I replied.

I absolutely donĀ“t feel like getting up early just to hear the following: 1.) We went on so many walks but the weather was bad. 2.) It is disappointing that Germany lost; arenĀ“t you disappointed about it, too? Were you in the stadium? Was the audience disappointed? 3.) Do mail Irene more often, she would really like to hear from you. She tells me all the time how much she misses you. (Well, why doesnĀ“t she write me, then? And more importantly, why does she stop replying after two mails?) 4.) And what did you do all the time? Do you remember you have to find a tutor for your thesis?

But what can I do. If I say no, I get the your-poor-mother tirade again. I will snap at my father, and that gives him just want he wants. I think by meekly saying “okay” IĀ“m pissing him off way more. And indeed:

“It would be good if you could shop for some stuff we can have for breakfast.”

“Okay…well, I donĀ“t know what you normally have for breakfast. How about I go for fresh bread tomorrow morning (he knows I hate getting up early, so imposing this on me is some kind of punishment in itself, so not reacting to it is a small victory), and you buy the rest of the stuff today?” (He cannot do it tomorrow since heĀ“s picking up my mother from the airport. Fair enough.)

He, slightly pissy: “Uh, well, yeah, IĀ“ve just been shopping, but okay.”

Well, tough beans. He could have stopped by before to organize breakfast.

Then: “And of course you will have to clean up.”

“Yeah, sure.”

Sudden change of topic: “You are so pale; there are those shadows under your eyes, did you not sleep well?”

Wow, I bet my mother telepathically told him to say that. This is actually her catchphrase.

“No, I slept excellently, thanks.” Blatant lie, IĀ“m hungover and I went to bed at four a.m. Again, though, one point for me.

Next change of topic: “And yesterday…were you very frustrated?”

Me, serenely: “ItĀ“s a pity we didnĀ“t win.”

Him, in a confidential tone: “Well, I guess the German team was sort of overrated, couldnĀ“t that be?”

Me, still calm and serene: “I wouldnĀ“t know, they played a very decent qualification round and until the semi-finals they won all their games. I think they deserve the credit they got.”

ItĀ“s hilarious, isnĀ“t it? If a team loses the semi-finals of the Euros, it must have been overrated. Like there wasnĀ“t more than one strong team in the world! So because Italy and Spain were better than us weĀ“re suddenly crap?

My father made a non-committal noise and left, emphatically closing the door to the living room (where I was) behind him and despite this gesture I could have danced and cheered because I had just beaten him at his own game. I had shaken off all his provocations and given him NOTHING.

And then the under-17 German ladies team won their European Championship on penalties. ThereĀ“s nothing like a good, solid victory to erase the taste of defeat. Now I might even enjoy supporting Spain during the Euros final. (I donĀ“t support Spain because we lost to Italy. I support Spain because I like the team. I even supported them after they beat us in the World Cup semi-finals in 2010.)

I was so hyper and happy and giggly. Now my parents couldnĀ“t upset me about yesterdayĀ“s defeat anymore. That victory was like a big fat fuck-you to them. I guess thatĀ“s not what the girls had in mind, but thatĀ“s what it adds up to for me. Besides, IĀ“m just glad at least one of our national teams excelled.

Well, then my father returned from shopping. I just found out that since the fridge is crowded (something my mother is neurotic about, according to her everything must be as spacey and empty as possible), he simply dumped our (my girlfriendĀ“s and my) beverages right in front of the door of the fridge. Without even saying anything. Rendering the kitchen a whole lot more messy than it had been.

Then, he entered the room where we were sitting.

“You will clean up before your mother comes home, wonĀ“t you?” he said.

I was absolutely baffled. HadnĀ“t we discussed that ten minutes ago?

“Yeah, sure. You already reminded me.” I replied, still as neutral as I could.

“No, actually I havenĀ“t. I had hoped you would think of that yourself, but oh well!”

Right. Like: What the fuck?

My girlfriend and I protested simultaneously, telling him that we had discussed it already.

“Well, I donĀ“t see you doing anything.” he replied.

“ThereĀ“s plenty of time left, whatĀ“s the big deal?” I asked.

“YouĀ“ll also have to bring back the empty bottles to the supermarket; and please make room in the fridge.” Again, in a tone as if I was a lazy little parasite.

“Yeah, I know, thatĀ“s part of cleaning up.” I said, slightly irritated, but without raising my voice. “We know what we are doing, we have so far always managed to clean up in time.”

“The supermarkt closes at eight.”

It is five p.m. WhatĀ“s the big deal?

“ThatĀ“s three hours left. And besides, I can always return them tomorrow morning when I get the bread.”

A disdainful noise on his part that is somehow supposed to tell me that the intelligent person I allegedly am ought to know that returning the bottles in the morning is a bad idea because.

He left eventually, again closing the door behind him, and my good mood was gone. Wiped away. I knew exactly what had happened here; he had come back to punish me for winning our previous confrontation. DonĀ“t give him what he wants the first time, and heĀ“ll come back to try again. He doesnĀ“t give up, and IĀ“m dead scared that heĀ“ll return and find us still not cleaning up. The next stage is either yelling or openly telling me how lazy and useless I am (he once used the expression “antisocial asshole”) and why IĀ“m not a tiny little bit cooperative and helpful and nice to my parents, especially my mother – who, ironically, has so far had nothing to do with this whatsoever.

Because it is true. We always manage to clean up in time. My mother never had to see the mess the flat is currently in, and she probably never will. Somehow, though, me performing well never inspired my parents to trust me. Rather the opposite.

Why, if IĀ“m so scared of another confrontation, am I writing this instead of cleaning up? Well, just so I can tell myself IĀ“m more than a puppet on a string. IĀ“m putting myself at peril for the sake of my self-esteem and secretly pray that my father doesnĀ“t return before IĀ“m off to the supermarket. Oh, and I not so secretly hope that he just fucks off. I am so goddamn angry…



Dealing with defeat

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , , on June 29, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I donĀ“t cry over football results. ThatĀ“s a matter of principle. It might be stubborn pride, a refusal to let the enemy see my tears, let him know that he hurt me. It might be a refusal to feel my crushing disappointment. It is also a way to take out my aggression on myself; and if you know that after lousy football matches I feel ready to smash strangers in the face you can guess what that means: I restrain myself to a masochistic extent. Crying is a luxury I donĀ“t want to grant to myself. It is a way of being harder on myself than life has already been.

You may say that if football results are my only problem, then I lead a life of luxury. That, however, is simply not the case. It is just that all my issues and problems and troubles donĀ“t stop me from investing emotionally into football teams. I guess I take all my issues and problems and troubles with me to the stadium, and if I invest devotion, sympathy and excitement, I probably invest those issues as well.

Accepting defeat is not so hard in itself. It can even be cathartic. Nothing strengthens your bond to a team like singing for them when they lose. When the worst attacks of homicidal anger are over, I often feel calm and at peace with myself, which is a state of mind I wish I experienced more often. After matches like the one I just saw, with my national team losing the semi-final of the Euros, I often feel more like myself. I know who I am.

And yet today, knowing who I am, I cry.

I felt like crying ever since Balotelli nailed his second goal. I refused to cry, of course. IĀ“m not going to give the cameras anything to gloat over. Also, unfortunately our fan culture is so shitty that as soon as things go wrong for our team, we start to take out our frustration on each other. It is one of the most depressing things about Germany losing football matches. If I had cried, some jerk would surely have commented on it. It is a law of human nature that you cannot cry in public without somebody making a mean remark.

So I remained my mostly stoic self (outbreaks during the match, such as “goddamnit, MOVE!” excluded) until the drudgery was over. Staying until the end, no matter what the score, is also one of my principles. On the way home I felt my feet getting heavier and heavier. I wanted toĀ  just sit down on one of the little hills and have five minutes all by myself to sort myself out, because suddenly I felt everything crashing down on me.

I dutifully walked on until we were finally at home. It was oddly satisfying to be hard on myself, to not allow myself any reprieve. And then, when we were back at my place, there was nothing more to do. Nowhere to walk, no one for who to keep up a brave facade.

And still I didnĀ“t want to cry.

Now it was denial rather than stoicism. I felt like a robot who will just go on do whatever routine dictates, no matter what had just happened. Just go on, then youĀ“ll always be one little step ahead of the painful feelings, and soon the tournament will be over anyway and the defeat wonĀ“t matter anymore.

I donĀ“t want to run away. It is dishonourable, it is harmful to myself, and it isnĀ“t necessary, either. I know IĀ“m a headcase, but in the end of the day IĀ“m well capable of dealing with a defeat in football. Football-wise, IĀ“ve dealt with worse things.

And so I let everything crash down on me. I thought about how my father would come over tomorrow, cheerfully stating: “Now that didnĀ“t go so well last night, did it? Oh well, I guess I saw that coming!” It will feel horrible, like he is mocking me for being emotionally invested in the game, even though he supposedly supports the team as well. Being cheerful and indifferent about something another person is upset and sad about can be a form of aggression; sadism even. Each time he does that I feel impotent rage. He is doing nothing I could prove; if I called him out on it IĀ“d make a fool of myself. IĀ“d look like a sour loser because a game of footy can make me snap at my father. And while I can try to not be at home tomorrow, I will encounter him eventually and he will mention the game and the only thing I can do is bury my feelings so deeply that I can talk about it without giving anything away. Without having an emotional reaction whatsoever. And IĀ“ll still feel sort of bad afterwards. A vaguely depressed feeling I cannot explain.

And this is what finally made me allow myself to cry.

I could have kept those tears in. I still let out only a few, lest anybody notice. I cannot bear the thought that anybody thinks IĀ“m crying about the game. And indeed, I was not so much crying about our defeat, as much as it pisses me off. I was crying for myself.

It is hard to convey in words the difference between self-pity and sympathy for oneself. Maybe there is none, and sympathy for oneself is just self-pity without the stigma. It was one of those rare moments in which I saw the entire sadness of my life.

You have to imagine this, coming home from a depressing, frustrating defeat – and having to brace yourself for the emotional battering your closest relatives have in store for you.

Well, I guess I donĀ“t have to ask most of my readers to imagine it. Many of them probably know it firsthand.

I think what made me so sad was the thought of how different it should be. Could be, even. What would it be like, I wondered, to come home to parents who are not afraid of their own feelings?

I donĀ“t think that my father is void of emotions. I think he basically applies the same techniques as I do. He does not allow himself to feel anything; and his cheerful indifference is his way of taking out his unconscious disappointment – on me.

What would it be like to come home to someone who is supportive and tactful? What would it be like to come home to someone who doesnĀ“t exploit your pain?

Just how much less might it hurt?

IĀ“m way too old to feel homicidal over football matches. And I believe the lion share of my anger has nothing to do with what is happening on the pitch. I believe I feel homicidal because during those games my fatherĀ“s shadow is weighing on me, turning each defeat into a humiliation. That impotent rage that makes me want to kill and smash is not really directed at the opponentsĀ“ striker, the incompetent referee or the jeering fans. And if I could somehow get rid of my fatherĀ“s shadow, then maybe I could simply cry when IĀ“m weighed down by the unfairness of a sport which, for the fourth time in the last six years raised our hopes just to crush them right at the brink of success. Cry, and then be done with it.

Instead, IĀ“m still caught up in denial. I force myself to look ahead, look away, emotionally abandon the team, the tournament and all it still meant a few hours ago. It is despicable, lying to myself like that; telling myself that IĀ“m not upset, disappointed and angry. That I have accepted that we lost. The fuck I have. I still get adrenaline flashes because I see us run towards the goal, I still see us somehow score an equalizer that never came. It is part of losing. It will get better over time, but bloody hell do I wish I could skip this part! This part where IĀ“m torn between pretending the match never happened and torturing myself over it on purpose. It is absurd to what lengths I go because IĀ“m so frightened of whatever feelings may come up naturally. Am I even any better than my parents? And isnĀ“t it funny, in a dark kind of way, how I tie my self-respect to my ability to suffer?

I believe that being so harsh towards myself might be a way of preparing myself for the inevitable encounter with my parents. IĀ“m telling myself that either I deserve the ordeal, the perceived mockings, or that they are a challenge to my stoicism, a test I need to undergo. Writing it down I can see the child behind the fantasies. A child who developed a cheesy, often cringe-worthy martyr attitude in order to have just any positive self-image; a child who finds a sense of safety and self-respect in being more merciless towards herself than anybody around her. A child who learned to choke her self on its own anger in order to protect it from those who exacerbate that rage for their own emotional purposes. I turn the rage inward, so nobody can feed off it. And most of the time I will fail anyway.

I donĀ“t want to conclude this entry on such a pessimistic note, and so, although it is full of cringy pathos, I want to say this to my team: Lads, youĀ“ve played a great tournament; you made millions of people hope and dream, and I donĀ“t demand that you win. You can only do so much. I know you are probably ten times more disappointed than we are, and you donĀ“t have to be brave for us. You donĀ“t have to cheer us up, and you donĀ“t have to feel silly when you come back home and the fans are there to welcome you. They mean it. YNWA.



Memory Lane

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on June 26, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

WriterĀ“s block. Again. IĀ“m starting an entry and, having written two paragraphs,Ā  I think itĀ“s bullshit. Insignificant. Me being a drama queen, embellishing the things that happen(ed) in order to portray myself as a victim. Even the expression “things that happened” makes me cringe. It sounds so dramatic, like I cannot even name them because they were oh so terrible. I feel like IĀ“m deceiving people by writing three simple words. I start to have a very old, very depressing feeling about myself. I used to connect it to the thought that I had no reason to complain about my family and my upbringing, that nothing bad had happened to me. In return, I felt diminished. Now I think: “What the hell? Do I only deserve to be noticed at all if IĀ“m suffering?” And suffering for the right reasons, mind you. Somebody must have done something bad to me, otherwise IĀ“m just an annoying crazy.

I have so far never managed to battle this feeling directly. It has helped writing about “things that happened”, like the time with Dr. Stoneface or the entry about Athena. Writing made me aware that these things had happened and that they were just as bad as they sound written down. But this kind of writerĀ“s block also renders me unable to write about these things. Suddenly there seems to be no more story to tell; there is just me trying to find something to complain about. It always takes a leap of faith to write something nonetheless.

Today I drove past AthenaĀ“s old home.

I could easily have avoided it if I had taken the underground instead. But no. I thought that going home by bus might be quicker. And letĀ“s be honest, that was just an excuse. I wanted to see what happened if I took the bus down the memory lane. I say “lane” because that bus really drives down one street, and Athena has lived in two different houses on that street. She moved during the months before our break-up. The direction I was going, I passed by her second home first.

I never was in that second home. Her parents never liked me, so they prevented her from seeing me all they could. Also, in the final months Athena hardly ever wanted to see me, she said she couldnĀ“t take it. I connect that area with that spring when everything fell apart, everything including my mind. When I drove by that station I looked outside feeling like I was staring at a place where a plane had crashed, a plane in which I had been. I was alive, I had cheated death, but had I really escaped? It was like teasing an angry dog who is locked away behind a high fence. Right now I seemed safe, like I had won, but what if the beast suddenly broke out and jumped at me? That is just how I feel about my feelings about and the memories of Athena. I canĀ“t let go of them, sometimes toy with them, but they can still hit me, overwhelm me and drag me down. The ice on which IĀ“m walking is very thin.

What also came up were some pretty disturbing memories. I remember picking her up there for a concert, waiting outside with my “boyfriend” (another long story). She finally showed up, happy and cheerful, chatting with him and me all the way, but I knew if it was just the two of us weĀ“d be silent. Or we might be arguing. It would be incredibly awkward and scary. I hadnĀ“t seen her in at least a month, and now we were acting as if we were best friends. Again, I was not feeling about her like one independent adult (well, almost adult) might feel about another. I felt dependent, helpless, childlike. I knew she would come over to my place after the concert to spend the night. The thought was frightening more than anything else. Were we even able to talk to each other? I felt a bit like a child who has to host a UN convention. I felt completely estranged from her, but she seemed so normal and her good mood seemed so genuine that it was hard to believe there was this sword dangling over my head, this rift between us. Remembering this, IĀ“m starting to understand the absurdity a battered wife must experience when, at some social occasion, her husband suddenly treats her like a gentleman again. It would have been easier if I had had the impression that she was just pretending.

Another memory that came up was about a night shortly after she had gone no-contact with me. I felt like I had to do something, fix myself, run away from the home that had deformed me so much that I was unable to be a good friend to a person who demanded nothing from me than that I liked her and that I was honest with her. I had no idea where to go or what to do, but I stuffed all my diaries into my backpack, and, with that fairly heavy load, secretly left the house at night. At first I took the train downtown, walking through the crowds of celebrating people like a zombie. I must have looked absurd, like a disoriented homeless person. I walked through some darker side streets, half expecting someone to attack me. I was almost 18 and I had never been alone in the city at night. Or maybe I even had, I donĀ“t remember. In a way, I had regressed to the mental state of a kid, so in a way I was lacking certain experiences I might – chronologically speaking – have already made at that time. So all I knew about the night was that it was dangerous. I moved around pretending I wasnĀ“t there, or at least invisible. I reached an underground station, though, and rode back home. From there I took the last bus into the direction of AthenaĀ“s home.

I got off the bus at the station near her old home. I walked past her home and went through a little park where we had spent some of the best time weĀ“d had together. It was so dark I could hardly see anything and I expected to be attacked any other second. I was so scared I was starting to feel dizzy and not really there. I thought that getting killed was the best thing that could happen to me, and even though I really felt that on some level, my fear remained just as intense. I somehow made it through the park, even though I just wanted to cower down and close my eyes.

The park was between her old and her new home. In a maze of cul-de-sacs I finally found the house. It was the first time I really saw it. When I had been waiting for her, I had been waiting at the station. It was an odd kind of relief to see the house, and how peaceful it looked. It was something real, something concrete. I imagined her sleeping upstairs in her room, and that, too, was a relief. She was there, and she was asleep. She was real and concrete. Not some monster sneaking around in my mind ready to destroy me. Not some phantom that might evaporate into thin air. I could find her, she couldnĀ“t just disappear.

Later I learned that she hadnĀ“t spent that night at home. She had been at a relativeĀ“s, only a few blocks away from me. I had been sitting there on the pavement staring at an empty house.

At the break of dawn I knew I had to leave. I was cold and tired and as soon as I left for the bus station, everything seemed very unreal again. When I looked at the timetable I realized the bus wasnĀ“t coming for another hour. So I dragged myself home, with that heavy backpack on my shoulders, wondering what people would think if they saw me, wondering if IĀ“d make it home before my mother woke up.

I did. I sneaked into my room and feel asleep, but only for a few hours. I woke up from some nightmare I canĀ“t remember, feeling such an acute, piercing sense of abandonment and disorientation that I thought it might kill me. I think this feeling is the closest I have ever gotten to losing my mind. I stumbled out of my room and ran into my mother. I was trying to put into words what had just happened to me, whimpering: “Do you think IĀ“ll ever see Athena again?” I donĀ“t know what she replied, but next she asked me if I had been outside, because the door to the foreroom was open. “No.” I said automatically. The need to lie thankfully ripped me out of that inner chaos. I had to function, I had to lie credibly, that was something I could hold on to. The thought to tell my mother what had happened at night never even crossed my mind.

The bus next reached the station where I had gotten off so many times to visit Athena. I felt the uncomfortable, stiff atmosphere her parents created. They had a way of making me feel as if I had no manners at all. Athena was always very anxious about me behaving “normal” (it was bad enough that I was a goth at the time). Knowing how mean and abusive her parents could be towards her didnĀ“t make acting normal any easier. I was actually scared of them, especially after her stepfather had kicked me out.

When we passed the place where I thought her old house was, I saw a giant construction site and for a moment I believed they had torn down the house. I felt incredible relief –Ā  just to see that I had been mistaken. Her old house was actually right next to the construction site. It was still there, along with the toxic atmosphere.

The bus arrived at my station, I got off and it was weird how I was suddenly back in the present. Well, more or less. That road always leaves an impression.

I also remembered another occasion when I drove down that road. It was ten years ago, on the way to a family holiday together with Lola. I had not even met Athena then. I had no clue she was living in that house next to the road. I had no clue how many times I would walk down that street in complete despair just two, three years later. I had no idea what a significance this road would once gain. Now this is creeping me out. I canĀ“t imagine myself not knowing it. Or at least feeling it.


The aftermath of talking to my father

Posted in health, mental health, personal, rants with tags , , , , on June 23, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

It is probably highly irrelevant, but IĀ“ll just write down how I feel after an ordinary encounter with my father.

I still live at home (that is: with my mother), my father lives a few blocks away and stops by every day. My mother is currently on holiday. My father just stopped by. After he interrogated me about my activities yesterday and the activities planned for today (well, technically he just asked, but whatever I tell him, he just replies with “oh yeah?” or “oh really?”, as if he somehow doubted the validity of my statements, which is annoying as hell), he asked me in that I-hate-to-reprimand-you-and-you-know-I-normally-donĀ“t-do-this-but-this-time-I-really-have-to-say-something tone to please clean up the kitchen because apparently the neighbors had remarked on the “strange situation” our family was living in (it is unclear to me whether they referred to the shape the kitchen was in or to the fact that my mum is hardly ever at home).

So. “Apparently” means that he got this from my mother. I can actually hear her behind his words, he is just the messenger. She has said something that rang the “bitch at your daughter” bell in his head. My mother is on holiday. So the neighborĀ“s comment (whatever he may actually have said) must have been made before she went away, which is also before the kitchen was in the messy shape it currently finds itself in. So whatĀ“s the kitchen got to do with anything, and how will cleaning it up help other than in terms of coziness? I should add that my father is nobody who should be preachy about tidying up. He lives in such a mess heĀ“s had mice in his apartment.

When I quizzed him on what the neighbor had actually said, he wavered, saying that it is clear they are keeping an eye on us. I told him that weĀ“ve been living here longer than our neighbors, and, again, demanded to know what they had said. He made a dismissive sound, said “well, just clean up the kitchen, will you?” in a why-canĀ“t-you-just-be-a-nice-person tone and left.

I am ashamed of the state the flat is in. I am ashamed of the state my room is in. IĀ“ve had mice in my room, too. I somehow had to keep it secret from my mother, who would have freaked out. I donĀ“t manage to keep it even remotely tidy. I simply canĀ“t. I have no energy. Half the day IĀ“m sitting around bored to death, but I donĀ“t manage to do anything useful. And suddenly another day has passed. The minutes creep, the months fly.

Officially IĀ“m still a student, which helps keeping up the denial, but practically IĀ“m a wreck and apparently people are starting to notice. There is so much to fix, so many areas of life in which IĀ“m at the bottom end of what is just about acceptable, but I donĀ“t even have the energy to pick up my clothes from the floor (for any other reason than to wear them). Normally I manage to wash the dishes at some point; cleaning up the kitchen is among the things I can do. But my fatherĀ“s remark has drained me of all the energy I could have used on that task. Now, cleaning up the kitchen would be like repeatedly kicking myself in the face shouting: “You worthless piece of shit!”

Wait, no.

Kicking myself in the face would be cathartic.

Cleaning up the kitchen would not feel like a task anymore, it would feel like a punishment. It would feel like I deserve it that the garbage stinks. I would deserve it that the water is too hot and burns my hands. And when, predictably, our slimy neighbor passes by the window and grins at me, it would feel like he is making fun of me, as if he was oh so in the know: “So they received my message and finally put you to work, huh?”

God, am I paranoid.

Most of all, though, I feel like I have to leave the kitchen in this disgusting state just because otherwise my father will come back, see I cleaned up and praise me in that condescending fashion. Like, “oh good, so you cleaned up the kitchen, and I bet now you feel better, too. Living in such a mess is not good for anybody, it really weighs on your self-esteem. You should make a habit of cleaning things up sooner, IĀ“m sure your mother would be much happier, too.”

Wait, why do I call this praise again?

It isnĀ“t. It is a punch in the stomach. One before I clean up the kitchen, and one afterwards. Both times, he makes it clear to me that the messy kitchen is a shame; and that if I feel ashamed (that is: it weighs on my self-esteem) it is for a good reason. And he also shows me how much influence he has: He says so, I do it.

CanĀ“t let him have that.

Why not, though? Knowing how he would react, I already feel all the rage that his reaction could evoke in me. I am so full of rage that I get extremely irritable with regards to noises; I could slap people for blowing their nose. I want to yell and kick stuff and I think “if only he just died”.

Next, I feel all empty and resigned again, thinking that my rage just shows how immature I am; that IĀ“m a failure for not being able to take criticism; that it is normal that parents reprimand their children and that I have been spoiled anyway, that in other families I would have been beaten black and blue for my behavior.

Then I feel so tired and weepy and think that it might be the best idea to kill myself. No more need to fix myself, no more need to enable myself to manage my life, no more obligations, nothing more to do. And knowing I will not do it, I start to wish that somebody else kills me.

At this point I typically enter another phase: Daydreaming. First IĀ“ll dream that somebody has me cornered, maybe a professional killer working for the mafia who has to kill me because I witnessed some crime, whatever. It will be someone who works cleanly, without great emotions, but with some sympathies for me because at least I donĀ“t make a big fuss, put up a fight or resist in any way. In that dream at first I just sit there huddled up waiting to die, but since I donĀ“t really die, black out or fall asleep, the dream has to take a different direction. I might start to talk him out of killing me, there might be others present and I talk him out of killing anybody. Or I imagine that I am the killer, that I have killed many people and now IĀ“ve finally been caught and people want to know why I did it.

And at some point IĀ“m so far away from that horrible sense of self my father reduces me to that I can resume living. Cook, shop, clean up the kitchen. This is how I work. Set me off – then I will at first rage or feel really miserable or both, then I will just walk away from myself, drift to some different sense of self; and at some point return to mostly normal and continue. I donĀ“t really lose time, but it feels a bit like becoming sober again when youĀ“ve had a glass of wine in the middle of the day. The day does not feel complete. It doesnĀ“t feel like one day.



Anxiety and emotional abuse

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , on June 21, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

IĀ“ve decided to do a little experiment. IĀ“m having an anxiety attack right now. On the surface, it is a typical emetophobia thing, but I believe this phobia just covers up the real issue, the real fear. It is just somatized emotions. So I will try to write about stuff that scared me a lot in my life. What I talk about might not be what caused the phobia, or the core of my fear. IĀ“ll just bring to the surface whatever I can access at this time.

IĀ“ve talked before about the failed relationship that prompted me to consult Dr. Stoneface. I ought to look back at it extensively, like I did with my destructive therapy. But seriously, my stomach goes into knots as soon as I think about it. Which, given the nature of my phobia, is a good indication that I should talk about it.

I will just roughly sketch out what happened in that relationship. I was about 16. There was a girl I was best friends with, IĀ“ll call her Athena. Over the next year, we developed a relationship that went sort of beyond friendship, but we were never officially a couple. We never even kissed. Shortly before my 17th birthday, though, something happened that changed everything.

We had decided that she should spend the night at my place. I was very down in the evening, though, having a slight nervous breakdown. IĀ“m sorry IĀ“m talking about this so hastily, it probably sounds clumsy and irrelevant and I donĀ“t know what. It shows how much I donĀ“t want to talk about it, really. IĀ“d say I should just not do it if I canĀ“t do it properly, but I think it might be most important right now to get the plain facts out there on the table. I can always come back to the details later.

She stayed with me, comforted me, and in the end I returned to normal. I could see she was extremely relieved. In the morning, however, I had a row with my parents. IĀ“d have to go into details I barely remember in order to explain it, but on the surface my behavior must have looked very irrational. After that row I was sitting in my room, angrily muttering to myself – and suddenly I realized Athena had left.

I completely went into shock.

I donĀ“t understand that reaction. I might as well have sulked because she hadnĀ“t even said goodbye.

What I did was run after her. Onto the street, without shoes. I grabbed her, tried to hold her back. She stared at me with something like pity, and I understood that she was unable to say anything. She touched my arm, then left.

I felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the air. Like I wouldnĀ“t survive this. I staggered back to my room and sat down onto the bed. I didnĀ“t feel like somebody had just left me (whether temporarily or in the form of a break-up), but as if somebody had died. Like she didnĀ“t exist anymore. And as much as I liked her, I donĀ“t believe this was all about her.

We had only been best friends for a year. You survive the break-up of a one-year-relationship. Besides, I didnĀ“t even know if this was forever or not. All she had done was leave my house.

My panicky reaction shows that there is more to this. I feared that she would just evaporate, that I would never be able to talk to her again – LITERALLY! I was feeling completely helpless. I knew I couldnĀ“t make her stay – not stay in a relationship with me, but stay in the same room with me until IĀ“d even said goodbye.

I felt like a person who has been bereaved. Like a person whose most intimate significant other has – on a seemingly normal, harmless morning – suddenly died. No warning, no time to say goodbye.

I went over to her place, trying to talk to her. I was crying, trying to hold her. She moved away from me and said coldly: “Why are being such a drama queen?” Then she went inside, and when I tried to follow her, her stepfather kicked me out. I tumbled outside and just broke down crying.

I tried again in the evening, and this time she was seemingly back to normal. From then on, though, I was split into two parts. One part of me clinged on to any sign of normalcy and told itself everything would be just like it had been before. The other part of me was drowning in chaos. I felt lost, helpless and scared – as if I was falling apart inside. I had felt similar after my hospital stay during the “relationship” with the 21-year-old I talked about earlier in this blog. This time, though, it was a whole lot worse. I felt like I needed to be with Athena, like only she could give me back my inner stability. For several reasons, though, we couldnĀ“t meet for more than a month after the incident, and I was deeply scared that she was leaving me. So I spent that month in quite a limbo.

When we met again, at first it was incredibly awkward. I felt disconnected from her, which made me panicky in itself. In retrospect I realize I was scared of her. I felt like she could leave me any time again, so I had to walk on eggshells. Not do anything that could bring out her other side. That cold, icy, disdainful voice in which she had talked to me. That evening, we managed to rekindle things, but soon afterwards we had an argument.

It was only the first in a series of arguments. And those arguments were always about our friendship. If we were really close, if we really trusted each other. If we really fulfilled our (or her) ideals of friendship. Over all, this period would last almost a year.

Those arguments terrified me. The worst part was that they typically took place over the phone. She could easily have left me at any time just by hanging up. Especially towards the end, there would be lengthy periods of silence on her part, while I would try to say just something that would generate an answer. Silence started to scare me even when we werenĀ“t arguing. I feared it might mean I had done something wrong and she was just waiting for me to notice.

It was so easy to say or do something wrong. Most of the time I didnĀ“t even realize it, and suddenly we were in a deep crisis and I had to figure out how we had gotten there. I could make it worse by trying to figure it out the wrong way. If I asked “Are you mad at me?”, she would snap: “Am I the evil one again?” If I asked “Did I hurt you somehow?”, she would reply: “Saying that IĀ“m hurt would just make it sound like IĀ“m stupid and hypersensitive. Is that what you think?” Replies like that left me stuck somewhere between anger and helpless fear. I felt like I had to be extremely stupid because I just couldnĀ“t get it right, no matter what I said. It also terrified me because apparently I was a horrible person who had to be extremely grateful that Athena even tolerated her. I started to scrutinize myself. Did I love her properly? Was I really being 100% honest? Did I really have only good intentions and feelings towards her, no envy, no competitiveness? During every argument, I feared it might come to the light that I did not love her properly, that I was not honest. Once she was convinced that I was hiding some evil feeling from her, I would sometimes admit to it without being convinced of it, just in order to evoke the impression of honesty and determination to change. That, however, made me feel even more like a liar, and the thought what would happen to me if she found out was unthinkable. I was dead scared of her while telling myself that I loved her.

Being scared of her, of course, was in itself a crime against our friendship. It was irreconcilable with the idea of unconditional trust.

Very soon a routine established. When I realized that, despite my hypervigilance, I had said or done something wrong, I felt my entrails turn into ice. I felt that moment of shock, the physical effects of intense fear, often I got belly cramps. I felt helpless, desperate, like I was never going to be the friend I was supposed to be. I felt devastated, knowing that by the end of the argument I would feel even more like a horrible person than I already did. Being emotionally dissected like this sometimes hurt physically; there was a pain in my chest. Part of me, though, also switched off, hoped it would just be over soon, no matter how. That part held a certain disdain for Athena, thinking: “Yeah, well, let her talk, it doesnĀ“t matter, just nod, donĀ“t try to defend yourself, it would just prolong the argument.” In a way, that is my motherĀ“s voice. That second part of me made the other part of me feel very guilty for not taking this seriously. It seemed like further evidence of how much of a rotten person I was.Ā  I was extremely scared that Athena might find out about this little voice, and when I forced myself to tell her about it, all in the name of honesty, she told me sheĀ“d forgive me if only I truly I had the will to fight that attitude. When I hesitated – I wanted to be honest, after all, and that voice ridiculed her demand as well – she got impatient and immediately I promised I had the will. Now I was scared that she might find out my will was not as strong and non-ambivalent as she wished.

I saw myself as a very bad person who was being forgiven again and again because she truly regretted her wrong-doings, saw how wrong they were and was determined to become a better person. So what I was scared of was that Athena might find that I did not truly regret or regretted for the wrong reasons (her being pissed off with me), that I didnĀ“t really understand what I had done wrong, that my will was not quite so strong – and that, for one or all of these reasons, she would be unable to forgive me. That would not just imply that sheĀ“d leave me. Her leaving me would come as close to spiritual death as an atheist can get. See why I said I would have needed a sect specialist after the break-up?

I doubt it was her intention, but when she left on that morning, she broke me. From that moment on, there was a bizarre power imbalance in our relationship, and I was essentially scared of her. And dependent on her. As all the power shifted to her side, she was trying to fix all of our problems by demanding that I fix myself. As a result, I was trying to live a double-bind. Be absolutely honest with her, but donĀ“t have any negative feelings about her, or any other impulses, needs and ambitions that might threaten our friendship.

I have thought about this relationship for many years, so I have figured out much of the double-bind part. In fact, I decided to study philosophy in order to free myself of this double-bind, even though I couldnĀ“t fully articulate it back then.

What I havenĀ“t figured out is why her leaving affected me the way it did. Why the power shift happened. Where this inner chaos and disorientation was coming from.

Nobody has ever helped me figure it out. I was in therapy for more than two years, but we never really talked about this relationship. A relationship in which I regularly froze up with fear. It is madness to think this hasnĀ“t changed me; that just because I entered another relationship everything is like it was before I met Athena. That IĀ“m still the same. It is all still inside of me, that entire fear. The fear of abandonment, the fear of ultimate psychological destruction. Of course I get anxiety attacks. This relationship was abusive, and, ultimately, it constitutes a trauma. If IĀ“m really surprised that IĀ“m not doing well, then IĀ“m obviously still caught up in some kind of denial. After eight years.


My parentsĀ“ messages

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , on June 18, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

IĀ“m trying to write more about my family, but immediately I get a severe case of writerĀ“s block. I canĀ“t get any order into my thoughts, so if I ever manage to write an entry it will probably be a mess. But why exactly do I even feel the need to write something clear, structured or “brilliant”?

Because if I donĀ“t nobody might bother listening to me. That clearly is the feeling behind this. That people donĀ“t listen to me because my feelings are important to them, but because I entertain them. ItĀ“s not a feeling I always have when writing. The desire for writing something “brilliant” is also a genuine part of me; I simply love to write, also stories. But when I donĀ“t feel up to it, when IĀ“m feeling completely down, like right now, something else happens. There is the voice of my father in my head, the voice of a man who had a high position at a publisherĀ“s house, telling me that the idea that strangers listen to me for any other reasons than for their own entertainment is cute, but naive. That I even have an obligation to put my audience before my own issues. And so IĀ“m sitting here thinking: “Well, then pull yourself together! Write a good entry! ItĀ“s not that hard, just write something!” In my motherĀ“s voice.

IĀ“m not mentioning what is going on in my head in order to elicit assurances and sympathy from my readers. Since none of them know me personally, I can only assume they read my blog either because it is entertaining or because it is interesting, and actually IĀ“m fairly proud that I can interest people in what I write. So talking about my blockades is more about what my father told me about the world, how that makes me feel, and how my mother responds to it. Which, thankfully, even brings me to my initial subject: My family. Not my issues with writing.

So, what I think my father wanted to tell me was that the masses have a short attention span and that you, as an author, have to keep them interested if you want to be successful. He phrased this in an emotionally charged, maybe even aggressive way, though. I always felt like it was an attack on me. Like he was trying to tell me: “The world doesnĀ“t give crap about you!” It made me feel inadequate and dumb, like a naive country girl moving to the ghetto of a big, evil city, thinking her expectations of people still apply. This angered me because I didnĀ“t see myself that way. I knew I wasnĀ“t dumb. I was unwilling to accept, though, that “nobody out there gives a damn about me”. Still am. I still dream of proving him wrong by being just who I am and succeeding anyway. He makes me feel as if, in order to become just anything in this world, even a dishwasher, IĀ“d have to orient myself to what “people” want. IĀ“d have to stop being myself and start being the person that suits the others best.

His tone wavers between apologetic and aggressive, though there is a lot of disdain mixed into his apologetic tone. His message, however, remains the same: “The world doesnĀ“t care about you. Out there, you are nothing. The unconditional attention you receive in this family is the exception, a luxury. You wonĀ“t even get that in relationships!” Unconditional attention pratically meaning that weĀ“re sitting at the same dinner table and that he talks to me. It doesnĀ“t even mean that he doesnĀ“t constantly interrupt or misinterpret me. If sitting at the same dinner table and having a conversation is a luxury, then what would my life look like if he wasnĀ“t so damn generous? And if it is an exception, what do I have to expect from people out there? Like – classmates? That they rip off my head if I donĀ“t entertain them? Maybe not. But his portrayal of “out there” as a dog-eat-dog-world might have contributed to my shyness and my uncertainty towards others. Wow. Understatement of the month.

Trouble is, how do I prove that this is really his message and not just a warped misinterpretation of mine? Maybe IĀ“m crazy. Maybe I have Paranoid Personality Disorder. We donĀ“t know where PDs are coming from. People might be born with it. Maybe I was. Maybe I entered this family as a ticking time bomb; destroying a formerly harmonious three-person-household by being the poisonous, distrustful forth. The harmonious three might well agree to that version of events. It is very hard to articulate what is going on when the harm that is done to you lies in subtleties like tone and choice of words. How can you ever prove that you didnĀ“t just hear “what you want to hear”? Something that gives you an opportunity to hold a grudge?

But let us assume for a moment that I am definitely right. That my fatherĀ“s message is an attack on me. The person who tipped me off about my sister also wondered if maybe my father was loading all his self-hatred onto me. We were talking about my love for writing, and his derisive remarks about the writers he was working with. That person (IĀ“ll need to give her a name soon) asked if maybe he had wanted to become a writer as well. I think it is very possible.

I also think it is very possible that his telling me that the world doesnĀ“t care about me is an expression of his disappointment and anger at the world not caring about him. Or not caring the way he wants it to. Ironically, my mother keeps on admonishing me to be more caring towards my father, ever since I was 8 or 9.

Even as a kid, I used to be sarcastic towards my father, or even disdainful. While I was scared of him, I never had any respect for him; nor did I like him a whole lot. So when he entered the flat, he often asked “Well?” in an expectant tone. It wasnĀ“t an unfriendly tone per se, I just never knew what he wanted to hear. Was it a way of asking “how are you doing?” or “whatĀ“s going on?”? I have no idea. When I was 8 or 9, though, I used to imitate him, saying “well?” when he entered the flat. My mother told me to be nicer to him, since “he has feelings, too, you know!” That intervention wasnĀ“t necessarily wrong in itself, but if you consider that she didnĀ“t intervene when he yelled at me or even hit me (which happened only once), you get the impression that his welfare was more important to her than mine. Or that she felt caught up between two people who were having a conflict and that she thought it was easier to make me give in.

Which brings me back to her imaginary reaction to my writerĀ“s block. “Well, just write something! Pull yourself together!” So, first of all, my problems donĀ“t matter. I just have to pull myself together, there is no doubt I can do it. It turns out I can, since IĀ“m writing this entry, but it takes up a lot of my energy and I feel as if IĀ“m treating myself like trash. It feels like IĀ“m telling myself “I donĀ“t matter.” Which is absurd because IĀ“m writing down this stuff in order to get better. I write it for the cathartic effect it often has. It is crazy how the messages I received can sabotage my efforts at undoing them to an extent that making these efforts reinforces the messages.

Then there is the “just write something” part. It speaks volumes of her disregard for what I do. It doesnĀ“t matter if what I write is true. It doesnĀ“t matter if it helps me or not. I just have to write something. Which renders this blog a few pages of worthless waffling. Something that is a nice hobby, but doesnĀ“t have any real value. A place where you can cheat.

It isnĀ“t a hobby to me. Sometimes it is my only hope. It is my “safe place that belongs to me alone where I can reflect on everything”; it is what therapy was supposed to be. (By which I donĀ“t want to say that I expect my readers to be my therapists.)

And yet I constantly have to reclaim that place. I have to reclaim my right to reflect and to look for the truth instead of “just writing something”. I have to defend my belief that there is a truth that goes deeper than “you are just a spoiled white middle-class child in a society that celebrates a culture of victimhood”, deeper than “you are just seeking for excuses for your inadequacy”. In order to write entries like the last one, I have to believe that there is something wrong with my family and that this something isnĀ“t me. Or at least not me alone.




Mother-daughter, little sister

Posted in health, mental health, personal with tags , , , , , , on June 13, 2012 by theweirdphilosopher

I never gave the idea how my position in the family might influence my life much thought. It sounded too deterministic; esoteric even. Then recently, though, somebody who barely knew me listened to my life story and, having been informed of my other family membersĀ“occupations, said: “How come you always copy your sister?” And that made me think.

Because, quite frankly, I do copy my sister. I was at the same school, I graduated with the same grade point average (I worked extra hard to do so!), I study the same subject. If it can get worse, well, here it is: I always inherited her old clothes, was even proud of it (and then disappointed when I realized that somehow me wearing them wasnĀ“t the same thing). I even inherited her old furniture, and, when she left home, her old room. When I was 10 her (in the end mostly our) pet hamster died and I got one that looked just the same. I even considered giving it the same name. And when I was 11, my sister (who was 6 years older than me) was all into anarchy. Therefore, so was I. At age 11. Seems I even entered puberty prematurely just to keep up with her. (My family was somewhat politically engaged, so when we went to protest marches against some war, or nuclear power plants, or whatever, my sister even took me along to her punk friends who were also there protesting. I might actually have been younger than 11.)

Next thing I realized is that I enter all my relationships with girls as a little sister. For as long as I can remember, I was almost always in the weaker position with any female friend. I let themĀ decide what to do, what was cool, what was a no-go, what I could and what I couldnĀ“t wear. If they had a hobby or an interest, I dutifully adopted that interest. This, however, always came at the cost of dropping my own interests, or never developing any in the first place. In some of my relationships, my own interests were actively discouraged. Also my own clothing style. And sometimes I even dropped my own opinions on things. I never fully realized how much of a follower I was, however, because those friends were typically somewhat “alternative”, that is goths, metalheads. Well, look at me, now IĀ“m hanging out with nerds. Which is cool, I like nerds. But IĀ“m not interested in computers. Which automatically makes me the pretty-but-somewhat-dumb-female-friend-who-will-hang-out-but-never-sleep-with-me a.k.a. Penny.

The lack of identity is not the only annoying thing about this. Also, I tend to let friends and partners exploit or even abuse me without protest. Even my earliest best friend (the neighborsĀ“ daughter) was always the one who decided what to do. If we role played a fairy tale, she was Cinderella. I was the evil step sister. Always. It sounds funny, but it really isnĀ“t when youĀ“re little. Evil step sister became my role in life.

Lola, my best friend in early and middle high school, might have been one of the worst. At times she actively bullied me, and still I considered her my best friend. She criticized everything I said, did and wore. She told me I looked childish; when I bought new clothes she scornfully asked: “Well, do you think youĀ“re cool now?” Next, she would say: “Well, too bad your face is so chubby, otherwise you might look really good.” And when I talked about a subject that interested me, she told me not to get on her nerves. When it suited her, she dropped me for someone cooler; when it suited her, she returned to me without a word of apology. Somehow I always waited for some godlike entity (even though IĀ“m an atheist) to intervene and say to Lola: “Now is enough, she isnĀ“t that bad and stupid and evil. You should treat her with some respect, she has been your most loyal friend over the years!” And then everything would be alright and I would finally be treated like a decent human being. Just that it never happened. How? Who would have intervened?

A mother.

Not between me and Lola, no. But between me and my sister. She never did, though. When I was six or so, my sister was fed up with me “never saying thank you or please”. Which is funny considering that my family sees itself as liberal and unconventional, and that manner policing is frowned upon. My sister therefore told me that I wouldnĀ“t get the butter unless I said “please”. I angrily refused, trying to snatch it away from her, but, of course, without success. Did my mother intervene, tell my sister that child-rearing was not her job? Nope. Which left me at the wrong end of a power struggle.

At another point, she told me that each time I said a word IĀ“d have to drink a sip of grape juice (which I hated). Did my mother say anything about that? Nope.

Or when my sister decided that my hair looked to messy and started to brush it aggressively. It was obvious to my mother that it hurt, but she didnĀ“t stop her. If anything she asked, or more like pleaded with my sister to go a little softer. It gives you a good idea of the power dynamics in this family if you think of it…

Indeed, now that I look at it, is seems to me like my sister took up the role of the mother, and my mother contented herself with the role of the older sister. When my sister was mean to me, I could later go to my mother and complain, and my mother would comfort me – but then sheĀ“d explain to me why my sister might be behaving the way she did (typically something along the lines of: “She means well.”) and give me advice on how to respond in an appeasing fashion. As if there was fuck all she could do about my sisterĀ“s behavior. ItĀ“s not like she was her own daughter or anything. ItĀ“s crazy when you think of it.

My mother really showed the type of behavior youĀ“d expect from an older sister. Someone who takes the parents as a force of nature that can at best be dodged or carefully manipulated. It was the same with difficulties between me and my father. My father was prone to anger and impressive temper tantrums. I was scared of him as a kid. I usually didnĀ“t want to talk to him without my mother present, at least not about important stuff. When I wanted to get a pet, however, my mother told me IĀ“d have to ask him. I asked her to accompany me to his room, and she said that she was sick and tired of mediating between the two of us. I was 9 or 10. Also, when he yelled at me or dragged me away from the dinner table to send me to the fore room, she never intervened. She didnĀ“t even intervene when he slapped me left and right and pulled me away from her at my hair. It was my sisterĀ who told him off. It is something she could be proud of, but unfortunately she decided to deny this ever took place. ItĀ“s not like she (or my parents, for that matter) donĀ“t remember it happened. They explicitly remember that it didnĀ“t happen. I wonder how you do that.

If I wanted to interpret this in a psychoanalytical fashion, I could say that my sister resolved the oedipal conflict by winning. She successfully killed my mother and took up her role in the family. (Not to make this sound like she had incestuous relations with my father, IĀ“m very sure they didnĀ“t.) Between me and my mother, though, there developed a very strange and uncomfortable intimacy.

At night I often went over to my parents bedroom to sleep in their bed. They never send me back, even when I was…I donĀ“t know, six? Sometimes when I was ill or when something bad had happened I still slept in my motherĀ“s bed when I was 12 or 14. When we were on holiday together (the two of us), we would share a room, sometimes even a bed. I was as old as 14. We were staying at a huge hotel, going to the pool together, and dressing up for dinner at night. We were behaving like a couple, in a way. We spend all or most of the time together, I rarely ever made any friends. Even now, when she comes home from her new flat, she sometimes tells me “I missed you!” in such a weird fashion that makes me shudder with disgust. When I was younger (8? maybe older?) she would tell me stuff like “you were soo warm last night, it was really cozy, like sleeping next to an oven” or she would comment on how cute my snoring was. I think much of my disgust and my alienation towards my body is down to behaviors like this. Not just disgust towards my body. Towards my entire self. She had a certain tone that created an intimacy that should be left to couples. There was nothing motherly about it. Like when I was little and had a nightmare and came to my parentsĀ“ bedroom. IĀ“d tell my mother “I had a bad dream!” and she would say: “Oh dear, come here!”, but in a tone that didnĀ“t sound pitiful at all. There was something greedy about it, also something slightly disdainful. I always felt that jolt of disgust when I cuddled into her bed (and arms). I knew beforehand I was going to feel it. I knew it was the prize of being comforted. I somehow attached it to myself, made it part of my self-image as if I was something disgusting. Or not so much my self-image. Rather my feeling about myself, my sense of self. Down there, at the core of me, is something extremely gross.