Saturday, 14 October 2017

Self Harming, Masochism and Control | Shrink Tales



I realized i wasn’t ready to talk about my weight problems and eating habits. I was just not ready to put it on the list - of things to address. And guess what, i came back home and at night my partner showed me a video from film school where i was dancing in my room and i realized that i had put on weight. Since then my mood has shifted back to those from the dreadful times when i couldn’t stop eating. When i couldn’t walk because i had too much food inside me, when i just couldn’t do anything. Oh my god. That time when i went to a gym in Kolkata. That time when i tried exercising. Even as i type i am welling up. Just because i saw an earlier video of mine in which i appeared thinner. I am now going to on Facebook and delete the recent photo i uploaded when i was so happy that the Hadiya case was moving in a hopeful direction. Probably will end up deleting all the photos in my phone too. 

Ish asked me to remind my psychiatrist of this weight issue when i mentioned how i kept two weighing scales at home. That reminds me. Let me re-re-re-check my weight in the second weighing scale. 

The most hopeful part of that day's therapy was when Ish told me that depression could be shut off forever. It came up because i had been shocked the week before when she had said that it was also her job to make surethat it didn’t come back. It was possible, she said. Usually people kept conditions like ‘i won’t take pills but i can be at therapy’ – this one is just like Mother. She also stopped going for therapy later. In fact people, like how Mother did with me, might even discourage people from doing it. She was very upset when she heard that i had gone to a therapist in Kolkata. The issue was my eating habits at that point of time. There was nothing wrong, that was how all people were, she had said. No, Mother, all people are not like that. We are all, as a family, used to such abnormalities and self-punishment that we feel that it is normal.  

We did a flashback session in which Ish spoke about the major developments in each of our sessions so far. There was a turning point where i realized that the repeated abusive relationships could have come from the normalization of violence in my childhood and life. In fact, i am very thankful to Ish for having recognized that as a serious problem. She herself was surprised, she said, that it was not enough for me to have got abused once, that i went back again and again to different forms of violence in different relationships. I feel so much relieved every time i think of the moment from my first session with Ish, when she said that she would like to start by addressing my recurring abusive relationships. It was an area that only Inji had touched till then. No professional had correctly identified that problem. It was always as if i was waiting for them to identify it and make it go away but when they didn’t figure it out themselves, i deluded myself saying it wasn’t probably important. I thought of Mother’s and Sister’s opinion that it was happening because i had ‘a thing’ for older men. These are educated women, one, a journalist who even writes about abuse. Imagine the horror! 

She also reminded how i always looked up to my sister and how, i always wanted to be like her. Yes, i copied her handwriting, her words, her way of speaking and everything i could because she was the best. But later, when i saw that she was doing things that i couldn't copy, things that i didn't want to copy, it occurred to me that i no longer had anyone to copy. Maybe that's why i stuck to inji like a magnet. Today, i pursue inji's character with the same vigour i pursued my sister's character. That made me wonder why i always wanted someone to emulate. Was it common? 

This reminded me of Mother. While growing up, after puberty, when i started voicing my opinions, i used to find it really annoying when Mother said that she didn't want us (me and Sister) to be like her. I remember getting angry with her even, for always speaking like that. I selfishly wanted a mother who asked their children to be like her, because she was the best. I hated that she had no respect for herself. And look at me now.
 
I think in the next session i should talk about my sex life that got affected. [If it is okay to speak about it during therapy.] The way i am ashamed of being sexually aroused by things that were part of abuse and i got introduced to because of and during abuse. It’s dreadful. I remember a victim of child sexual abuse once telling me that it was a common phenomenon, after i made the film in solidarity with Memories of a Machine. This may also explain why i feel a lot guilty in my relationship with my partner. Sexually. 

Over the sessions we had also touched upon the kind of love i wanted. The kind of love i had. Spoke about Appan. Who never hurt me. About what i thought was motherly love and how i broke that stereotype by understanding that was just a name i had given the love i wanted. 

She asked me when my self hurting methods had started. I told her about the time when i had scored 85% in math in high school and was scared that Mother would beat me or yell at me for that. That was when i firstran a razor blade over my wrist. I remember going home and making some more superficial cuts. I also just remembered that i had the habit of doing stuff like that for apparently no reason too. I remember dripping wax from a candle on my fist to experience that pain. I remember striking my thumb with a stapler just to ‘see if it would hurt.’ These had no triggers, like a poor score in an exam or sadness. 

The next time i scarred myself like crazy was when i heard of Appan. He was losing his memory. I knew that this was the first in the series of things that was going to lead to his death. I thought of him, sitting in the room where i had stuck some of his sketches on the brick wall and scarred my wrist – all superficial cuts, just enough to let me bleed. That was the day i started preparing for his death. 

I remembered how i had broken a bangle and scarred myself in front of Mother when she and i were having one of our arguments. Ish asked me what i felt during those. Frustration. When i thought of it, even though i don’t even remember what the fight was about, i got that feeling i get when people don’t understand what i say. She said that it could be because they weren’t yet there. That made sense to me. I too, have come a long way. I do understand things i never understood when i was younger. It could also be that the other person was shunning me. Could that be intentional, i asked, thinking of Mother. ‘Could be,’ she said. They could be doing it also to protect themselves. From the truth or pain of realization. 

I totally loved that. I no longer feel frustrated. I no longer feel like wringing my body like a cloth till every word that will help others understand how i feel will drip out of my body. Instead, when i think of people who have put me in such positions, i feel sorry, that i even tried so much. Every time i tried, maybe Mother was getting hurt. Or trying hard, not to listen and tried to shun me in ways that hurt me. I feel like hugging Mother now. [Maybe because she isn’t here now. Why don’t you call her, i ask myself. ‘No, that wouldn’t make any sense.’ I will write a mail. I know. Hey Gmail, are you hiring?

I also spoke of how i viewed therapy. How i could see and feel changes. Like how i laughed more, or joked more. There is no desperation about the sexual harassment battle or any battle. There is no thoughts of giving up. How i felt happy that my partner was less burdened with my sadness. Feeling responsible for Mother. The way in which i was handling the situation. 

Ish then said that hurting my body was part of human beings’ strategy of being hard on themselves. All our social values and morals etc. taught us to be kind to others, loving to others [Was Jesus a conspiracy of moral science?] It does not teach us to love ourselves. When she said that, my hopes diminished. It was true. If there ever was a lesson called ‘love oneself’ i was absent in it. Or, it could also be that it wasn’t taught properly. Facebook is always flooded with images of women who say ‘in love with myself’ i don’t think i can ever do that with my whole heart. I got scared that i wouldn’t be able to solve the self harming problem because i was sure that i wouldn’t succeed in loving myself in the manner that Ish was talking about. She further explained that we turned to our bodies because that was ALL WE HAD. That made perfect sense to me. 

Mother, sister, abuser, venomous words and verbal fights could only help so much. Beyond that, i would have to turn to something i had absolute control over because i possessed it. I HAD my body. I could do anything to it. I clench my fist as if to hit someone when i think of it. Get visions of a knife running through my leg exposing blood and flesh. Many more bloody images flash. To think that i had something that i could do stuff to, the power it gave me, it must be really soothing to my brain that i had control over something. That there was one thing i could abuse. For once, i could be nasty as abusers were to me to someone. Something – my body. Whenever i write ‘my body,’ you know what i think of? A sack. Filled with potatoes or something. It’s just a thing i carry, i feel. 

[Read Raya’s update the same day. Commented there.]
Ish’s method of joining feminism in therapy was really good. I thought of NN's mother who she said was a therapist. Her views on things had scared me. It's not about feminism either. It is about dealing with victims. Professionally. Even when i am an atheist i should be able to deal with Mother's problems regarding her faith. 

The sketches i had made for Sanghadita upon Inji's request got published. One day Mother abused Inji and pappu and baby and i thought it was because she had seen those illustrations. I felt horrible and the wound is sore. I need to get out of the frustration to be able to help Mother. I am the strongest and i have the most love. I really long for Mother. There is just this wall in between. I should start making tools to break it. 

One of the sketches i made for Sanghadita on the theme 'Mother and i'. Even though the picture here is not from my life, i added elements from my childhood and filled it with the same love i feel for Mother. The task is to make Mother understand that i love her and that my love is perhaps different from hers.


During the week i thought of an abuser’s psychology. Wouldn’t it be great if i could figure them out? I think it is important to understand their psychology just as i try to understand all aspects of a victim's psychology.