Cognitive distortion and taking up space.


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Cognitive distortion and taking up space.


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My brain is spin­ning with thoughts and con­ver­sa­tions over the past weeks, the cul­mi­na­tion of almost a year’s worth of intro­spec­tion and mourn­ing.

I looked through the jour­nal sec­tion of your blog and noticed you haven’t real­ly writ­ten late­ly,” a friend not­ed. No. I haven’t. I’ve been afraid, frankly. With some good rea­son and prob­a­bly with some over-reac­tion. But shar­ing myself this year has result­ed in so much pain that I’ve been try­ing to close myself off. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I still have hope in the depths of my soul, which means I’ll always try again. It’s weari­some.

Writ­ing is how I process things like grief and rage and even intel­lec­tu­al exer­cis­es of dis­sect­ing beliefs I once held. But when I’m ashamed of what I have to process…when I’m ashamed of what I’ve expe­ri­enced, put up with, ashamed of who I am…it’s hard to process that in any way. I fear being seen as manip­u­la­tive, atten­tion-seek­ing, self-cen­tered, thought­less.

I fear that I am noth­ing but tox­i­c­i­ty, poi­son­ing the peo­ple and rela­tion­ships around me sim­ply by exist­ing in their vicin­i­ty. I am too much. I should not be allowed near oth­ers.

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.After voic­ing sim­i­lar things to my coun­selor this morn­ing, I was giv­en this sheet of paper. My eyes quick­ly scanned the head­line and my heart dropped a lit­tle bit.

Check­list of Cog­ni­tive Dis­tor­tions.”

Tears began prick­ing at my eyes as I began to read. She began point­ing out — with great com­pas­sion and kind­ness — which behav­iors she’s seen me exhib­it the most strong­ly in the six months we’ve been meet­ing. It seemed to be all of them (with the pos­si­ble excep­tion of num­ber one, and only because I’ve spent the last sev­en years of my life care­ful­ly cul­ti­vat­ing nuanced think­ing). Num­bers two, sev­en, and nine stuck out to her in par­tic­u­lar.

It’s hard not to view most of my life as a dump­ster fire, even though in many ways I know that’s not entire­ly true. It’s hard not to look back and see myself as weak, con­niv­ing, self­ish. It’s hard to be taught that who you are as a per­son is deserv­ing of eter­nal tor­ture, and then to try to walk away from that towards the truth that all have intrin­sic worth.

It’s so much eas­i­er to see oth­er peo­ple as whole and wor­thy and won­der­ful. But I can’t see myself that way. “What makes you dif­fer­ent?” my coun­selor asks. And I don’t have the words to explain that I just am dif­fer­ent. Oth­ers are kind and thought­ful and car­ing, and they deserve under­stand­ing and for­give­ness and sup­port. But no one owes me any such thing. No one is oblig­at­ed to me. And I have no right to expect any­thing from any­one. Espe­cial­ly a lis­ten­ing ear, time, pres­ence, ener­gy, or affec­tion.

Ear­li­er this week, the top­ic of our dis­cus­sion in group ther­a­py was “what makes peo­ple stay in abu­sive rela­tion­ships?” To my shame, I had so much to say, to con­fess, to share. But I kept bury­ing my face in my hands and apol­o­giz­ing — for talk­ing, for say­ing too much, for tak­ing up too much space and time. I could hard­ly look at the oth­er women in the room, even when they were full of noth­ing but love and sup­port. One of my fel­low group mem­bers final­ly shook her head sad­ly and com­ment­ed, “Shar­ing helps you — and it helps us. That’s why we’re here.”

Rather than being com­fort­ed, I grew pan­icked. I was tak­ing up more room, draw­ing more atten­tion to myself. How could I pos­si­bly make myself small­er, more insignif­i­cant, less notice­able?

A com­mon refrain con­tin­ues to resound in my brain:

I am too much. Too much. Too much — and not enough.

I don’t know how to over­come this. And even writ­ing it all out is send­ing me into a pan­ic spi­ral. But I don’t know what else to do.

I exist as a fat woman in a world that finds me repul­sive, in a world where I am praised as more of me dis­ap­pears, no mat­ter the rea­son. I cringe when sit­ting next to some­one in pub­lic, lest Too Much of Me spills out of the space I’m allot­ted. I move for every­one in my path, and excuse myself when I walk past some­one even when I’m not in their way. I walked past them, they acknowl­edged my exis­tence, and I must excuse myself for inter­rupt­ing their day for even the split sec­ond they locked eyes with me. I do every­thing I can to will myself to shrink for the com­fort of those around me.

Some­times,  I’m told, my body is “redeemed” by my pret­ty face and uh, you know, as they look point­ed­ly at my chest.

This sparks the fear born of vio­lence against me.

I don’t know when I became a space to be filled,” Rea­gan Myers remarks in the video above, and I near­ly sob from the relief of being under­stood. I can’t help but think of the shad­owy hands and mouths of abusers long since for­got­ten. The per­son who assault­ed me in col­lege, tip­ping me back­wards into his lap and leav­ing hand-shaped bruis­es and phan­tom kiss­es along my jaw. Vio­lence I’m afraid to speak, afraid to believe, afraid to own or share, that lurks behind every cor­ner and in every room and almost every mem­o­ry. And of course, the cat­a­lyst to my involve­ment in the domes­tic vio­lence shel­ter in the first place: the man who raped me, who knows where I live and is only a few short min­utes away from my door.

My body is a memo­r­i­al of many wars. I know, because the ghosts of my ene­mies con­tin­ue to haunt me. And it seems only a mat­ter of time before I am a bat­tle­ground once more. That’s not even say­ing any­thing about the war I’m wag­ing against myself.

Believe it or not, I’ve spent so much of this year in silence. Not because I have noth­ing to share, but rather because I feel I have noth­ing worth shar­ing. I feel that I am not worth shar­ing, or being, or doing. Just as I must con­tain the fat­ness of my body and the vio­lence I’ve absorbed, I must also con­tain my iden­ti­ty and expe­ri­ences and thoughts and desires and fears and and and. And all of me.

I take up too much phys­i­cal space. My exis­tence invites the vio­lence of men. My words rip­ple through my cir­cles where I take up more space. My need for human inter­ac­tion and affec­tion bur­dens all who know me, so I do my best to nev­er ask unless I’m reach­ing for knives or pills. And even then, I usu­al­ly don’t reach out, because isn’t that manip­u­la­tive? Isn’t it cru­el to say, “I want to hurt myself to feel­ing some­thing, I want to die, please, I can’t be alone right now, it’s not safe”? How can I put any­one through such a thing. How self­ish can I be. How pet­ty I am.

My coun­selor and I start­ed an exer­cise a few weeks ago that was noth­ing short of pure agony. I was to list neg­a­tive thoughts that I have, then write ratio­nal respons­es to those neg­a­tive thoughts. I cried. None of the respons­es feel ratio­nal. Don’t you know my heart is deceit­ful and des­per­ate­ly wicked? Don’t you know that I am inca­pable of good? Don’t you know that I must decrease so Christ can increase? Don’t you know that who I am as a per­son is an affront to the sup­posed cre­ator of the uni­verse?

But is that even fair? Am I allowed to trace my prob­lems back to the faith I held so dear­ly for so long? Am I shift­ing the blame? Is this some sick sort of “com­ing to myself” that the Bible pre­dicts will hap­pen to all prodi­gals? Now here is a ratio­nal thought I can believe: no. There is no com­pelling evi­dence for either super­nat­ur­al realms or beings.

That seems to be where the ratio­nal think­ing stops. Because while I’m not reli­gious, I still know more con­crete­ly than I know any­thing that who I am is a dan­ger­ous tox­in to any­one I meet. That my exis­tence, the space that I take up in the phys­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal world, is wast­ed space meant to be filled and over­rid­den and con­sumed. How can there be any argu­ment against this? The poi­son of me runs through the core of my being. It is what it is. No one owes me any kind­ness, and there­fore I should expect none.

And now I have the wor­ry of this being viewed as fish­ing for com­pli­ments, air­ing dirty laun­dry, manip­u­lat­ing peo­ple into car­ing about me by say­ing they shouldn’t. I don’t know. I don’t know how to exist and grieve and rage and hope with­out inter­fer­ing in the lives of oth­ers or mak­ing myself seen or heard or felt. I don’t know how to be okay while I’m in exis­tence, and I have no oth­er tools avail­able to me to fig­ure this out.

I’m so tired. I’m so very tired.

Posted in Fat Girl,