I was in the Mediterranean for a few days this month. I had not been since March 2012 and had not spent any summer time since 2010. Memory is a strange thing. I was somehow catapulted back in time. It was 2010 and before. I was nervous. I got constipated. I went through memories and incidents and episodes of my childhood and adolescence. I was in the decaying decadence of Naples and the moody rocky blue of the isle of Ponza. Italian was being spoken around me but it might as well have been Greek. The people looked pretty much the same. The mentality was uncanny.
The food was out of this world. That was a great phenomenon. That was something I was glad my brain could decipher. In Cyprus food never tasted good, not because I was always getting badly cooked food or because the cuisine there is bad. I have never heard a bad word about Cypriot cuisine and their halloumi, potatoes, olive oil etc. is exported all over the world. It was me. I could hardly taste it. I was constipated from as far back as I can remember until I was about 23, when I got medicated for Crohn’s disease. I soon left Cyprus after that and have been healthy in that department since.
Food was always a problem. My mother hated cooking and would make things that were generally sludgy or burned. She would buy us take-aways on a regular basis. When my father cooked it was fish fingers and baked beans. We baked sometimes and that was fun. The portions were monitored by my father and the sweets were highly rationed. It was all about what went in and what came out. The consistency of my faeces, as well as size and shape, preoccupied my father for years. I usually produced the wrong size and shape. Of course. For years I was not allowed to wipe my own arse, even though I was beyond potty training age and well into primary school. I would produce too little. I was constipated and of course gassy on a regular basis. If I had wind he would be furious and call me disgusting, sending me out of the room. Even to this day if I do a fart I get nervous hysterical child-like laughter. I am still scared of my own farts.
Many people find this aspect of my father more disgusting than the paedophilic side. I think it is connected. It comprises control over my body generally and it gives access to an intimate part of my body. He also brushed my teeth until I was 10 years old and was neurotic about fillings. The fact that I don’t have any was something he was convinced was attributed to him. He owned me. He wanted everything. My insides and outsides. He wanted to control the way I looked, smelled, sounded. I had to be perfect. Of course now I know perfection does not exist. I always used to think that I needed to do more. More exercise, more studying, more discipline. My academic achievements got close. My body disappointed him and let him down, mainly when it became an adult woman, and of course when it farted.
So I struggled emotionally on the trip due to the drama going on in my psyche. This of course put a great deal of unnecessary strain on my boyfriend and a tremendous amount of guilt on myself. I know guilt is not helpful. I tried to work through it. It was difficult though. My brain had the capacity to know that I was in a very fortunate and special situation. I was on a lovely holiday with my supportive partner and his generous, relaxed, intelligent parents who I appreciate a great deal, in the sunny Mediterranean, seeing beautiful and interesting places I had not seen before. I was so frustrated that I was spiralling. I was so angry with myself. Of course this didn’t help. I started feeling more and more outside myself. I dissociated. I hated myself. I felt desperate. I kept on going in and out of bad moods. On the penultimate day I shared my angst with my partners’ mother. I expressed my feelings of injustice surrounding my history and how compromised I felt in my life at the moment. She was so supportive. It was so healing. It was amazing to be heard and supported within a family set-up. It functioned as an antidote somehow. When I cried a bit she stroked my arm and reassured me. My mother would tell me to stop crying or leave the room, wash my face, and then she would talk to me, or ignore cries altogether. I now realise that it is safe to share, discuss and express worries. It needs to be done in an adult way. It should be contained and handled with care. A certain element of trust is needed but it is possible.
It was a good trip. It was necessary. I am grateful for it. I am even more grateful for what I came home to. Home.