The bitch inside

I was leaving a long day of meetings, lost in the myriad of parking lots and unable to find my car, feeling like a total idiot, when I heard her again. You know her. She’s the one who nitpicks every thing I do, from how I dress, to what I said, to who I talked to, and to how much I ate. At that moment, she was berating me for having a glass of wine, eating chicken at lunch, eating appetizers with my fingers in front of one of my bosses, and talking too much in the meetings. Oh, and overdressing for the meeting, and wearing the wrong shoes. And losing the car. And not picking up the kids (DH picked them up). And forgetting to drill my youngest on his spelling words this week, not calling my father, leaving the house messy, being behind on laundry, and not filing my taxes. I think that’s the exhaustive list. For today.

But I realized after I was done beating myself up that I hadn’t done that in a while. And I wondered once again why I do this to myself instead of focusing that the Bitch hasn’t been a regular visitor even though life has been hellish lately. I came across this article on self-punishment. I love the quote: “When reaching out into the world no longer feels safe or helpful, we take our anger and rage and turn it back onto ourselves. We begin to believe, on an unconscious level, that ‘I am the problem. When I feel rejection or failure, it is my fault and I must punish myself.’”

Which is probably why T has me focusing not on the Bitch’s methods, or on my responses, or even on what the Bitch has to say. She’s been asking me when the Bitch shows up. A few months ago, I couldn’t answer because the better question was, when didn’t she show up. I realize now that she comes when I’m tired, stressed, and insecure. Today I was surrounded by brilliant minds, many of whom wield a great deal of power where I work, far more power than I could ever amass. It was, to say the very least, humbling. I was surprised that I didn’t make an utter and complete fool of myself. Because that is what the Bitch expected of me. The comments she makes the most are always around my being too big, too bold, too loud, and too stupid. No wonder I want to be small and quiet.

When I listen to the Bitch, when I give in to my unbelievable desire to punish myself, I destroy my will, my heart, and most of all, my body. I purge, I starve, I harm, I do whatever I can do to take that emotional pain and make it physical. I beat myself into submission because there’s a part of me that believes the only thing I lack is self-control and willpower, and that I’m not really anorexic because I can’t seem to drop below my current weight, and because I always give in to eating in the end. If I were stronger I’d need to be in the hospital because I’d be scary thin. Now there’s a twisted view.

My family has warped views about expressing anything “negative,” and equates emotions with weakness. If I were stronger, I wouldn’t feel the things I do. If I were smarter, I wouldn’t be in this situation. If I were kinder, people wouldn’t hurt me and they’d like me more. If I wasn’t a Bitch, I’d be happier.

So I became something I wasn’t. I created a perfect exterior, and inside I died a little every day. I denied my physical and emotional needs, and denying my needs gave me a high like no other. I told myself that I would be stronger this way, that by not giving into my emotions I was better than those weaklings who cried and railed and shouted. I lied to myself that by expecting perfection of myself, I could never disappoint others. I thought that this was my personal asset, when in reality it was my worst liability.

Today I listened to the Bitch, and I survived. I decided to have a snack because I was hungry rather than deny myself basic nutrition. I chose to spend time with my family rather than tune out in my room. And for a moment, a very brief moment, I thought I heard her voice get just a little quieter. I hope.

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