Yes, it’s been a year and a half since I’ve written here.
The post A shout-out for new followers… still applies. Chronic/persistent pain is such a terrible beast.
Then there is Binge eating — one of the last of my dirty little secrets. I’m going to meet with an RDN once again. I have to do it with the intent of diabetes education, first and foremost, because health insurance simply demands it be that way. But I got a referral to meet with someone who also has training and expertise in treating eating disorders. To sum up the post, yes, I got diagnosed with binge eating disorder by a previous RDN I was seeing for diabetes education. I went on to look into bariatric weight loss surgery, specifically the sleeve (think of it as stomach stapling 2.0). I went through the process they have all patients do, up until it was time for me to take a psychological evaluation (which is probably the VERY same one I took before having a trial neurostimulator implanted in my spine- see Electric Fences and Spinal Cord Stim and The trial version of the electric fence). I then decided I needed to get a better handle on my binge eating disorder before having the size of my stomach reduced.
This is all aside from losing weight on my own after many years, dropping from 383 pounds down to 286 the last time I stepped on the digital scale at my physician’s clinic. It didn’t happen all at once. I was at 316 for a long while, but this was after following the counting carbohydrates system the aforementioned RDN taught me- the one that gave me my eating disorder diagnosis. Then I did some intermittent fasting, and my newest physician started me on an injectable diabetes drug.. but I digress.
Then there are new developments that I think will give new posts for the A Blogger’s Journey series. I did start blogging at LiveJournal in 2002 to try to unpack all the abuse my mother heaped on me for many, many years. But it was SEVERAL years before I had a name for a lot of the abuse: narcissistic abuse. And it took me a while to realize that narcissists were ALL OVER my family of origin. Not just my mother, but my maternal grandmother, both my aunts, and at least one cousin. Not unique or unusual, no, but I am coming to understand my particular experience of family dysfunction. I had to find new online communities to better process this, because… I was blacklisted from one I’d been with for about 5 years. That was what Return to Path of the Sage was about, although I was very cryptic at the time. I was scared that I’d catch more ire from the host of that community, or any of her active followers. It’s not a story I wish to recount right now. But it’s the same story I’m referring to here:
Yes, I have a huge winter beard here. It’s not quite that long this winter season… but that’s another story.
Anyways, I hope to get back into the swing of posting again. I wish to welcome new readers! And to one in particular (you know who you are)… do you see what I mean when I told you “oh, this is just the tip of the iceberg”? I mean, I still haven’t mentioned the half of it!
But such is blogging.. I have time to unpack more of it. And finding the right balance to heal and grow, without oversharing, is tough. The masses on the Internet can be pretty vicious, and that’s counting a LOT of stories, including the one about my Internet stalker. I’ll do my best to write more. Thanks for your patience!
There’s two things that brought sudden understanding to me, and the first one is probably more of a shock to YOU, dear readers.
A week ago, I spent two days in jail. I did know this was coming, though.
The second thing was more of a shock to ME, although it wasn’t a total surprise. It was more that things sunk in on a deeper level.
Wednesday night, discussing details of a family get-together for my son’s birthday, I realized that my mother really is a narcissist. Again, I don’t think she’s a textbook case of NPD, and her narcissism is definitely of the covert variety, but I can’t describe her controlling antics as borderline narcissism anymore. It IS narcissism, and discussing things with one of my sisters (who lives in town) made it that more concrete for me. In other words, she agrees.
I’m not in the best space for writing– and yes, I reckon I’m piquing your interest. I will write more later. It is upsetting, and it is disappointing. But I knew this… practically forever, and I mean forever on a very esoteric level, especially if any of you have read ..the father becomes the son.
This will be a little cryptic as I’m still struggling to process the immediate implications and the long-term, big picture impact.
I’ve been communicating with an estranged family member for a few years now. Today, I took a gamble, tried to ask questions to figure out more.
My instinct said not to go there, that it was the proverbial can of worms. It definitely was. Self-imposed isolation. Pain. Much like a sister of mine.
I talked to my father after I decided to lock the door behind me and to get rid of the key, for now. He told me basically what I already knew, but in a little more detail. This is his older brother’s eldest daughter. I told him yes, she’s preparing to shut everyone out, including him.
What did I ask about? Those of you that know me very, very well should be able to put together some of the pieces. It’s another side of the coin to what triggers me. My pain. But more like a mirror image.
I tried to explain myself, but, I still shut the door- probably getting rid of all of my explanations. Intuition says she’s not ready to hear it. Unfortunate, but, I prepared for it, at least logically, if not emotionally.
It stings like hell. But I had another ace in the hole: the mammalian dive reflex, part of the T.I.P.P. strategy. Invoke the reflex with a cold pack between eyes and cheek bones, bending at the waist, holding my breath for 30 seconds- as if I was diving into icy cold water. I’d read about it before- it’s saved children from drowning in in the same. An evolutionary remnant, the reflex shuts down the body, and in a #DBT context, it forces the body to slow down immediately, overriding the fight/flight/fawn/freeze response. Maybe like a soft reboot- not a hard reboot, like I’ve had when the lights go out, but I stay at home in the back of my mind- if I understand Claire Cappetta just right.
It didn’t work immediately; I’m not sure if I did it perfectly right. But I feel calmer. And what felt like a loss at first- feels more like a victory. I’m one step closer.
For me, the Mother Wound is at least two generations deep. Literally, it can be traced through the O negative blood I inherited from my maternal grandmother. Her daughter, my mother- was born in a time when medical science hadn’t yet fully developed an immunization for Rh factor incompatibility.
Her younger brother didn’t live to his second birthday.
But what is the Mother Wound?
Here’s how Rick Belden defined it in his article Men and the Mother Wound:
A Mother Wound may be thought of as injury to the psyche of a child resulting from significant dysfunction or disruption in relationship with the mother. In some cases, it is the result of a mother’s absence or unavailability due to death, illness, adoption, or other circumstances that dramatically separate the child from the mother. But more typically, a Mother Wound is a complex of injuries to the child’s psyche received over many years, often as a result of the mother acting, consciously or not, out of her own woundedness. One of the most severe kinds of psychic wounding occurs when the child’s primary function in the relationship is to be used by the mother to meet her own narcissistic needs.
How it played out for me
It really did start with my maternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather, to a degree. My mother’s family was reasonably well-off, and her parents didn’t exactly approve of my father, who grew up in more humble circumstances. More particularly, my grandmother was withering in her disapproval, and it was something Dad and I would discuss at length in later years. This is much less true today; I think Dad won quite a bit of approval just through many years of diligence- helping them move into assisted living, archiving of family photos and histories, and so on. Still, the disapproval was a lingering cloud for the forty-odd years of my life, and it was present as I lived with my grandparents, alongside my parents for a handful of months, and then alone or with the first of my 3 younger sisters for many, many summers.
I wasn’t really a grandson– I was given the role of the lost son, a surrogate, if you will. Cimmorene saw this for herself when Grandma showed her a picture of me and younger sister #1. “This is J,” she said, rather plainly and matter-of-fact, “…and this is R!”, ending with squeaky, sing-song baby talk. I was given golden boy treatment, and most of the time, I could do no wrong… much to the resentment of my sisters. I was able to mend fences with the younger two, but R hasn’t spoken to me in 15 years. Actually, though, to my greater chagrin, she may be doing it because she doesn’t know what to make of Cimmorene and her slightly more extroverted personality. (Not to mention that Cimmy is not content to keep quiet about family wounds and secrets).
Although I was a golden boy, I was able to break through and see the ugly mother-to-daughter traditions of gossip, busy-body perfectionism and discontent, manipulation, and narcissism. But it really messed with my head. My grandmother constantly intervened in my upbringing, with a healthy dose of backbiting. Sometimes it was that my parents didn’t exercise enough, and therefore she and my grandfather were providing an active lifestyle for me. Or, it was meals at fancy restaurants, since my parents couldn’t afford such. Gifts were never truly free; there was always some sort of condition, whether it be forced gratitude in thank-you letters, certain behaviors, or what have you. But the attitude about food was the worst.
The makings of an eating disorder…
Supposedly, the traditional role of a grandparent is to spoil their grandchildren. That resulted in very mixed messages for me, most especially for food. At their house, it was like going to a candy store, almost. Cookies, chips, crackers– available anytime, and as much as I wanted. But I never had permission to say I was full. Oh yes, it was the old traditional Clean Plate Club, so I was generally trained to ignore any natural cues to satiety. I’m sure many of you dear readers are familiar with the notion, but, it went beyond that. Later in my childhood, my grandparents got perfectionistic about dieting and nutrition, and so most of the “goodies” vanished. Food was definitely used as a conditional reward, although food as punishment was rare: I never got set to my room without a meal that I can recall. (Cimmorene did, but, that’s her story to tell.)
Under my grandparents’ warped affection ran a deep undercurrent of what they taught my mother, and it wasn’t too long before she started repeating those mantras. Foremost among them was the following: “You’re eating too much!” Much like my grandmother, Mom obsessed over at least 5-10 lbs., and I learned what Slimfast was about, as liquid diets seemed to be her main weight loss solution of choice. Looking back, especially viewing old family photos, I still ask myself rhetorically why I started obsessing about dieting when I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade. At least one thing was clear: my grandmother would say some variation of ‘eat up, you’re a growing boy’, and my mother would say something to the effect of ‘stop eating so much, or you’ll get fat!’ I couldn’t see this at first, but, as I got older, my grandparents’ messages and behaviors started to match my mother’s more closely, and I slowly concluded that Mom had merely repeated what they taught her. Mom specifically said that Grandpa made weight loss a firm condition of permission to get contact lenses, so I came to understand his views on motivation, more especially when I was presented with weight loss as a condition of a certain reward (payment for school, I think it was). Dad put it a little more precisely in that he saw my grandfather as possessing a military mindset (by dint of Grandpa’s experience as a Marine) and viewed “carrot and stick” methods as necessary motivators.
I think I’ve said it before in Binge eating — one of the last of my dirty little secrets that a neighbor/classmate of mine conducted an anonymous survey on eating disorders, in middle school. As I reflected on my answers, I came to wonder if my binge eating episodes were actually a disorder, as she was suggesting. I was glad that it was anonymous. Who would I talk to? There was discussion about anorexia, thanks to Karen Carpenter‘s public struggle with it. There was emerging discussion about bulimia. But there was no discussion that I was aware of about binge eating disorder, and CERTAINLY not any discussion about any eating disorders among men, that I was aware of. As I got into college, there were a few articles that began to discuss men, but, they all seemed to imply that it was something for the effeminate, thin, boyish-looking gay man, obviously in response to what was currently the female ideal.
…but eating disorders can be different for men.
It’s only been recently that I’ve seen discussion about muscle dysmorphia as a feature of body dysmorphia among men. (Thank you, Brian Cuban.) My father dabbled in weight training when I was younger, but after I started studying it in middle school P.E., I got obsessed. I took the weight bench and weight sets into my room. I started aerobics by following along ESPN’s lineup of shows: Basic Fitness with Denise Austin, Basic Training, and Bodies in Motion with Gilad Janklowciz. For a time, I was doing at least 2 hours of exercise a day. Because Gilad filmed in Hawaii and my grandparents had a timeshare in Oahu (I say ‘had’ because they turned it over to my parents), it wasn’t long until they met up with him. I started collecting workout video tapes. More than likely, I’ve still got a few of them there.
No surprise… at least in middle school, my newfound interest in muscle building invited homophobic suspicion.
Learning about the Mother Wound came with learning about sexual orientation..
I realize that I make a very abrupt change of topic here, but I came to know about the Mother Wound from a seemingly unlikely source and path– through religious support groups that focused on reparative therapy and sexual reorientation. It wasn’t a very clean and straightforward path– moving first from Elizabeth Moberly’s concept of defensive detachment to Robert Bly’s discussions of the path of manhood by way of Joseph Campbell’s writing of the Hero’s Journey. It involved Alan Medinger’s “Growth Into Manhood”, and many other concepts of addressing orientation by way of healing and redeveloping healthy masculinity. Please understand, dear readers, that I no longer subscribe to reorientation ideology. Therein lies a very big, messy can of worms that I dare not reopen or revisit; I’ve already been raked over the coals, so to speak, by hurt and angry individuals. I already understand the ideological notion of hetereosexual privilege; I, as a bisexually oriented man, am in a committed relationship with a bisexually oriented woman. Those orientations remain as they are; and I admit that making choices of sexual conduct to align with religious conviction are a little more viable to us.
..in religious contexts that were not open discussions
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I sadly admit there isn’t much concrete, extensive discussion. I point to The Family: A Proclamation to the World as our main document speaking to things of orientation, gender roles, and so forth. (Discussing that document alone would fill many more posts, so I will forebear.) There is not much discussion of abuse, especially sexual. At times, general leadership will speak out to condemn such abuse, but otherwise, much like the rest of contemporary Christianity, the focus on sexuality is largely centered on men and porn addiction, and maintaining a standard of sexual conduct. I would be so bold as to say our church is a bit more progressive on such issues, but discussion is not very open or well-discussed at this time, and there is not very much deviation from the larger discussion amongst Christians. There is discussion of “unrighteous dominion” from time to time, or rather, condemnation of oppressive patriarchial leadership, but there is NO discussion of maternal abuse, or any acknowledgment that women can initiate or be complicit in abuse. The myth abounds that “women are more spiritual”, which also irritates my first-wave feminist baby sister (living in Utah these days, no less!), who feels that it puts shame and pressure on women who perceive that they don’t meet the ideal. It’s a very pervasive myth, which has been repeated at general leadership levels as well as local.
The path is a lonely one
This again, will be an awkward ending, but I’m feeling the weight of the emotional pain, and I really do wish to publish this post before Mother’s Day is over. It feels like a lonely road– I’m grateful for individual voices of support– but the discussion at large is mostly a very polarized one. Rick Belden and I have discussed many frustrations that dialogues are plagued with dichotomies, especially feminism and Men’s Rights Activism (MRA)/Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW). There is a lot of confrontation and a lot of political power struggle. That said, this is my space. Dear readers, I warn you. I’m not up for contentious debate or argument. I find that very draining. I’m not saying don’t disagree, but, if you would walk, talk with me, I would rather build on common ground, than fight on differences. I will be moderating replies accordingly… if I get them. That’s the other thing… I get a lot more “Likes” than thoughtful replies here, but I will accept it all. Thank you, at least, for reading it all; I would be very grateful to see a sign that you have.
See also Dave DuBay’s response to Rick Belden’s article: Mother Wound: Am I a Traitor?
Please also see
I enthusiastically participated in The Lines Project last December, as my daughter and I deal with self-harm issues. It was hard enough drawing some of the lines- but as I had come to an understanding of my cPTSD, and some of the very real dissociative episodes I had sometimes when the stress got to be too much, I figured I could count the orange and teal stripes.
Several others I thought were pretty self-explanatory, although purple was something that was also self-realized relatively recently- I mean in the past decade or so. (I’ve written a little on my issues of sexual orientation, but not at great length. I’ve been burnt by polarized discussion.) By contrast, bullying, suicide, and such were very much a fixture of my childhood.
The yellow one was hardest to draw. Much of the resources I read on eating disorders were mostly about anorexia and bulimia, and they seemed to suggest they were women’s issues– and only recently, did they start addressing men, but again, much of what I read was limited, as in the cases of men were effeminate gay males. (How did I come to that conclusion? The resources didn’t really talk about body image from what I thought was a masculine man’s perspective, especially as there was little talk about exercise, i.e. “Fitspo” ideals.)
I learned about binge eating in middle school, incidentally (late 1980’s) with a classmate and neighbor conducting an anonymous survey about eating disorders, but all the literature I read on it was virtually dead silent about it.
But at about the same time I was participating in The Lines Project, someone I greatly respect had something interesting to say:
We talked about it more, in public tweets and private DMs. We’ve actually had a lot of discussions on Twitter about men’s issues– especially as I said I was aware of the men’s movement of the 1990s (Robert Bly uses a lot of Jungian archetypes, which dovetails with many subjects I blog about here). I would dare say we’ve been virtual brothers-in-arms, discussing male vulnerability, sensitivity in men, and honest plans to address such when social norms and politics du jour seem to discourage a lot of it, or twist it in directions we feel are disingenuous.
Of course, I have yet to meet Rick face to face. It’s also another matter to discuss a painful topic (such as binge eating) with someone in person, someone with some authority, and also someone who is a woman.
I don’t mean to sound glibly sexist– it’s not like that. It’s that some of the people that were so instrumental in my abuse– some of the matriarchs of my family– gave me a lot of really unhealthy attitudes about food. Food was part of the abuse. And so I explained such in measured amounts to my nutritionist.
I was in for a follow-up appointment. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a nutritionist; this was my third. With the first nutritionist I had, I lost almost 100 lbs. walking 3 hrs every day, dumbbell weight training 1 hr weekdays, and following a fairly strict diet. My physician was worried about my obesity and possibly an onset of diabetes. Pre-diabetes did come this third time around. I lost around 30 lbs. this time following a counting carbohydrates diet, and lowered my A1C from almost 7.0% to 5.1%. But no more weight was coming off.
So she started asking me a number of questions to figure out why. It wasn’t the carbs- my blood sugars and A1C seemed to suggest otherwise. So she started asking about portions and such. The more she asked, the more I felt an emotion of panic and fear. That sort of “oh shit, I’m about to get into so much trouble here.”
Don’t get me wrong. She’d seen me in distress before, and at that time, I didn’t have a therapist. She referred me to a contact with the Mental Health ombudsman, because I was loathe to get back into therapy, after 30 years of mostly failure, and dealing with so many arrogant and cowardly jerks for therapists. That wasn’t an easy start, either- my first counseling placement didn’t work out. My current arrangement came after contacting RAINN and the local SARC referred me to a therapist who is the Director of Counseling at the MH agency I’m at.
I’m not sure what more to say. She spared me giving her all the details, although in the past, I was prone to spilling them all. I felt very uncomfortable sharing as much as I did.
To be honest, I’m quite terrified. I live in a community that treats domestic violence and eating disorders as primarily women’s issues. There is slightly more visibility on orientation and gender issues, but… I’ll be honest, it’s not much. I bristle at folks calling my hometown area backward, but, in a certain way, it very much is.
As soon as we could get our wits about us, we rushed off to the ER, to Boy a medical examination. He’d just had a seizure- not a grand mal, but still a seizure. It wasn’t like the tonic spasms my father and I have from time to time, of course. We’d find later, after he slept and slept, that he had no memory of the episode.
As Cimmy always does, she asked me to religiously administer to him, to give him a Priesthood blessing. As I meditated and focused on clearing my mind, to let spiritual inspiration flow freely, a glimpse of a memory flashed through my brain.
My son was part of this, too. He had agreed to take on a part of the burdens of my mortality, which I in turn had taken a part from my father.
JOR-EL: You did this of your own free will, in spite of all I could say to dissuade you…
Cimmorene desperately had wanted to share the load, but I could not acquiesce. But my son would not be denied. He understood the pattern. And our Eternal Father- I feel that he smiled, as if to acknowledge something great had been accomplished.
JOR-EL: ..the circle is now complete..
I could see both sides, now.
JOR-EL: Now, you have returned to me, for one last chance to redeem yourself– this, too, finally, I have anticipated, my son.
JOR-EL: The Kryptonian prophecy will be at last fulfilled.
[recalling Jor-El’s blessing] JOR-EL: You will make my strength your own– see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine.
JOR-EL: The son becomes the father – the father becomes the son.
My therapist introduced me to the concept of the Johari window yesterday. I had Boy with me, because I needed Cimmy to do some grocery shopping. When she returned, and joined my session, my therapist introduced me to this concept, to help Cimmy and I understand how we perceive each other.
Will you do me a favor, please? Please help me understand this concept by adding words you feel describe me, right here.
(known to self and others)
complex, introverted, knowledgeable, reflective, self-conscious
(known only to others)
able, adaptable, bold, brave, caring, dignified, extroverted, friendly, helpful, intelligent, kind, loving, observant, proud, responsive, silly, trustworthy
(known only to self)
(known to nobody)
accepting, calm, cheerful, clever, confident, dependable, energetic, giving, happy, idealistic, independent, ingenious, logical, mature, modest, nervous, organised, patient, powerful, quiet, relaxed, religious, searching, self-assertive, sensible, sentimental, shy, spontaneous, sympathetic, tense, warm, witty
60% of people think that jaklumen is brave
60% of people think that jaklumen is caring
able (20%) accepting (0%) adaptable (20%) bold (20%) brave (60%) calm (0%) caring (60%) cheerful (0%) clever (0%) complex (20%) confident (0%) dependable (0%) dignified (20%) energetic (0%) extroverted (20%) friendly (20%) giving (0%) happy (0%) helpful (20%) idealistic (0%) independent (0%) ingenious (0%) intelligent (40%) introverted (40%) kind (20%) knowledgeable (20%) logical (0%) loving (20%) mature (0%) modest (0%) nervous (0%) observant (20%) organised (0%) patient (0%) powerful (0%) proud (20%) quiet (0%) reflective (20%) relaxed (0%) religious (0%) responsive (20%) searching (0%) self-assertive (0%) self-conscious (20%) sensible (0%) sentimental (0%) shy (0%) silly (20%) spontaneous (0%) sympathetic (0%) tense (0%) trustworthy (40%) warm (0%) wise (0%) witty (0%)
(Again, to add to my Johari window, click on the following: http://kevan.org/johari?name=jaklumen)
I am so, so tired… life just keeps getting harder, not easier
From REBLOG: …the father becomes the son. (more thoughts) August 14, 2015:
About a week ago, Cimmorene remembered where she was during my father’s near-death experience, and the weight of the sacrifice that I made to encourage my father to resume his life, so mine could begin.
Anyone who thinks the term “soulmate” is the stuff of cheesy Hollywood romantic fairytales and is nothing but fluff and shiny optimism, I must tell you, dear readers– in my experience, it’s a lie.
It’s true that Cimmorene and I remember a life together before mortality. We remember bonds that have been forged and reforged many times. But for all the light, wonderment, and immense awe, there is sorrow, darkness, and pain. There is anticipation of regret even before the blood, sweat, and tears began.
As usual, she remembered something I did not. She said that for that small moment, it was like I wasn’t there anymore. After much reflection, I remembered that I didn’t want to leave her side, but I had to. I had to. Much planning, work, and preparations were at risk.
It was a shock when I saw him. He was wandering around aimlessly, obviously not in his body. He was NOT supposed to be here.
“What are you doing here? You need to go back, and be my father, just as we planned!”
“I’m tired. I hurt. I don’t want to go back to a broken body.”
“But you need to go back! We agreed!”
If he died, I would have to start all over again. Everything we had planned on would have to be redone. My life would have a completely different foundation.
It was obvious that I was not going to persuade him by plans of the future. I would have to appeal to his here and now.
“What about your family now? Won’t they miss you?”
I didn’t know the ties of mortality yet. But even his present family ties didn’t seem to be enough. I needed something more.
“I… I will carry a part of that pain for you.”
“You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes… yes, I do.”
Cimmorene said we took time to ratify it with Father. I was reminded that it was a heavy sacrifice; that I might regret this decision. I said I was sure. I was told that my choice was right.
And so my father chose to live. We helped him back into his body and said our goodbyes for the moment being. Some time after he departed from us, then, Cimmy said, then, I wept.
I have only begun to realize the full weight of the pain, the suffering. But I know that chose this. I did it… because I had to. No matter how much I have been tempted to regret this, I know that I had to. But now, the empathy is visceral. So many days we compare notes on pain. It’s not exactly the same, of course, but much we need not explain to each other. We live it. Many days, he still wants to die, but I remind him he’s still needed. The time is not yet. It will come, most likely the moment I must begin to prepare for something more.