Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How is cutting like eating?

I had a bad day at work. Everything I hate about myself was front and center and seemed to spiral out of control. There are about 20 people I work with on the account I am assigned to and I am really not sure of my role, my responsibilities, or the rules. I also have at least one if not three of what Carlos Castaneda called “petty tyrants.” It’s essentially a snake pit and I was hired – I thought – to clean it up. Now I am not so sure. I apply logic, I come up with solutions, and I am slammed at every turn. By my petty tyrants and by my “friends” I keep being over turned. I make a decision, present it, get buy in, and once I try to DO it, it’s like all my support erodes. I go to a supervisor for support, think I have it, and then again it’s undone.

As the day wore on – and got worse and worse – the stress and frustration built in me. I tried to “feel” how this stress manifested in my body. My toes, fingers, and the top of my head were tingling and numb. The sockets of my eyes were tender and throbbing. My jaw was clenched. My ears were ringing and I could feel the small bones in my ears on fire.

My throat was tight and there was a lump in my throat like I was going to cry/throw up/or both. It felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart was pounding. My stomach was churning and there was a soreness in my hips and knees as if I was squeezing all the muscles supporting each joint. My stomach is burning and I feel the acid churning and have a heartburn like sensation. Oh, and I had a headache. Still have it as I type. I feel physically awful.

Stopping the pain is simple. I have an on off switch in my mouth. Well, it’s more of a dimmer switch. When I bit my lip – hard – it stops. When I think about how I feel or what I should do or how I can fix the situation it feels so bit I can’t even process it. I think a couple words or phrases and then I am overwhelmed with one thought… cutting. I want to take a dull knife and carve the top of my lower arm. Not slit my wrists mind you, I just want to cause enough pain in my arm to take away the overwhelming, vomit inducing anxiety of this day.

I DON’T cut myself because I know if I did that would lead to much bigger vomit inducing anxiety so I do 2 things that feel safe. I bite my lip. Hard. And I itch every little tickle MUCH harder than necessary. When I itch or bite it is nearly orgasmic. I am released. Free. I bite harder to squeeze more relief, but it stops works. And so… I eat. When I eat, my tongue is numb. I try to taste the food but I can’t. In the moment I swallow I can’t feel the need to vomit or cry because the tight lump in my throat relaxes. But then the self hate sets in for eating when I am not hungry. For not taking care of myself. For abusing myself with food.

I search for solutions but my head is buzzing. I want to rip my eyeballs out. I check my email, facebook, twitter, I read people magazine, turn on the TV, play with Jesse, anything to distract myself. Anything not to feel like awfulness. I want it to stop but I feel powerless.

As I am writing this I realize the reason my house is clean. The reason I get As on my papers. The reason I turn my assignments in early. I am not a brown noser as I have been accused. I was doing this work to avoid this horrible feeling. But in my current job I can’t avoid the feeling. In my divorce I can’t avoid the feeling. And what I want is to create a life where I never have to feel these feelings. A life when I don’t have to work on a team. A life where I don’t have to depend on other people or be out of control. I want assignments where I can excel because I am in charge of the output and the results are measured on numbers and logic not emotions and relationships.

I had a boss once who called me transactional and it’s true. I see relationships as an exchange. I give you $5. Do you give me $5 worth of value? If not, I move on. What’s insane about my job is the retainer is $60K a month and my own fee is $10K a month but I am not giving $10K in value and I feel I NEED to. That’s what I would expect. Nothing else makes logical sense.

I talked to a friend about my day and she said, and I know she is right, that I created a lot of the days work drama. And I did. I couldn't sit with the account being unclear. I needed to point out every single problem and get them addressed immediately. and when I say I needed to, I mean, I had no sense I had any control over my need to discuss and argue about those things even though I knew I was creating career limiting decisions.

Even though I knew this could get me fired from a job I need. Even though I knew this urge has gotten me fired before. I promised myself I wouldn't complain and argue and point out what needed to be done to fix the situation and yet I KEPT doing it. Making promises to myself and breaking them just like with food. I promise myself I won't finish the sandwich or eat the chips or whatever, and I break those promises over and over.

My friend gave me examples of how she ignores things at work that she sees and kinda would like fixed. And I know she is right - but I don't want to be that kind of "Not my job" type of person. I want to take everything on and fix everything and make it right. I don't want to live with ambiguity or lack of clarity. And it's more than not wanting to. I can't just make a decision not to say something just like I can't make a decision not to eat the bag of chips. I know it's not out of my control but it sure as hell feels like it is.

Biting my lip. Itching too hard. Eating too much. Thinking about cutting. They are all ways I try to escape the feeling of being out of control which is so painful I just don’t feel I am strong enough to tolerate it. If I were - if there was some book - some prayer - some behavioral technique to let me endure the pain instead of trying to escape it, I think I would have found it by now. I have been looking SO hard and for so long.