Monday, December 31, 2012

"Derp." - 2012

I believe Craig Ferguson said it best when he screamed repeatedly and without context:
Because seriously 2012, what the fuck?

follow Craig Ferguson on twitter @craigyferg and watch
his stupid show, cuz it's hilarious
The year began with so much promise. I was doing well, my business was getting better and soaring to new heights; the Emperor even took me to Hawaii for two weeks! And then pretty much right around my birthday, everything started going to shit, culminating with me unwillingly upholding the family tradition at screaming at someone else on their birthday

Normally, I'm ringing in the new year with my family, lighting fireballs, inventing new and crazy ways to distribute spell effects, and trying not to kill other members of our party (or be killed so dead that I can't be resurrected; that happened once). This year, actually, during the whole of 2012, our D&D characters decided it was just not a good year for anything, and both of our semi-annual D&D games got canceled. And so this year, I don't know what I'll be doing just yet, except putting on a sexy dress and party hopping. But this D&D game has been an ongoing tradition for some 20 years. Yes, we missed a couple in the early years, but shit man, the game must go on!

Another time I guess.

This just pretty much sums up how 2012 was a year of unlived promises, and bitter disappointments. I can look on the bright side and say, hey, new friends, but I can also be realistic and tell 2012 to go suck and egg. And if 2013 isn't much better, the Universe and I are going to have to have words, cuz this is just bullshit.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Week 8: backsliding and feeling mad

At least one day this week I skipped more than one meal. 

The chapter I'm on in my workbook talks about discovering the emotional roots of my particular eating disorder. I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with my brain, as far as neuro-chemicals go; that is to say, I am reasonably certain that my disorder is entirely behavioral, though I may be genetically predisposed to obsessive behaviors. My workbook asks to consider what was going on in my life when my symptoms first appeared (around age 12), and the thing that stands out most in my mind is the desire to hide.

I spent a lot of time alone in my room with the door closed. When my symptoms popped up throughout the last 15 years, I will inevitably retreat into my room and spend all of my time alone. I also associate thinness with being better able to "fit in"*, and my genetic predisposition toward obsessiveness kicks in and says that I am an all or nothing kind of gal, but because my mother battled anorexia I had to be better than her** and said that I'd give binge/purge a try instead of straight up refusal to eat. I thought it would make me thin. I thought it could make me disappear.

That's just some backstory. It doesn't bother me so much now. I'm pretty sure I no longer want to disappear. When I wanted that, I paradoxically wanted recognition: I wanted to be loved, valued, seen in high esteem -- all things which are the complete opposite of wanting to disappear. And they're still things that I seek, but I think I can go after them in more effective and healthier ways.

I have beef with a few people who have, (intentionally or otherwise), made me feel unimportant or broken. This is probably reasonable, but I wish I could get it out of my head. I wish that I could overcome the lingering feelings of un-importance, (occasionally dis-importance***). I wish I could overcome the dis-importance I give myself, and if I focused on that the sting even of being intentionally hurt that way by others would disappear. 

What I'm learning is that I can unlearn disordered eating, (it being behavioral, rather than symptomatic of something requiring medication), and relearn how to prioritize my own needs without giving myself a complex about selfishness or whatever bullshit I've told myself in the past. But, I'm pretty sure I need therapy to really accomplish that*', because I don't know how to make heads or tails of any of this information. 

Right now I'm okay. I'm not mad (American) for not being able to keep with my plan this week. I feel mad (British) because I have all these thoughts still jumping around in my head about my relative value, about feeling beautiful, about dealing with the words of others*'', about wanting to pirate around with sexy people; about wanting to punch someone very specifically in the balls*'''. I feel mad because it feels like David Bowie hijacked my brain.

But... I think most of the time, I'm not as angry, or sad, or lonely, or mad (British). My heart is on healing and heading forward, not staying trapped in the past, neither remote nor recent.

*An unfortunate pun...
**Distortion: competitiveness; having a different eating disorder doesn't make me better than my mother; having a different eating disorder from her meant that it was harder for people in my family to recognize
***"dis-importance" being intentional
*'Not that I've even called the therapists my doctor recommended
*''Encouraging and discouraging
*'''I can play sadist too

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Versions of Violence

The biblical figure with whom I share a name (although for whom I am not named), is seen as perpetually grieving for her people. Rachel, the wife whom Jacob loved*, had one child then disappeared from the Torah. In The Red Tent, a mishnah of sorts by Anita Diamant, Rachel dies in childbirth and was buried where she died, then forgotten. She is the archetype for the woman who never stands up for herself because she doesn't want to trouble anyone, and doesn't feel she is important enough to have her grievances heard**. 

On a related note, my rabbi's mother recently said "the best crown you can wear is the crown of a good name". I don't know if she was quoting someone, but it does give one something to think about. Especially when one shares a name with a figure who is the archetype for issues one has faced throughout life. 

I have always sought to avoid saying mean things. I have always wanted peace, and my instinct is to say nothing if I have nothing nice to say. There were a few years when I vehemently spoke my mind, but I realized after a while that it didn't exactly serve me to do so, and stopped. In the years since, I have matured and learned how to address certain things in a diplomatic way, but even still, I have a very hard time having my own personal grievances aired and by doing so I allow violence to be perpetuated against me while doing some to myself. 

This post began as a desire to say something honest, yet horrible, to someone I no longer speak with. I decided against it, because it would have amounted to airing dirty laundry, could have created drama (to which I am strongly averse), or been misinterpreted by people to whom I do currently speak. The fact of the matter is, had I proceeded immediately as intended it would have simply been gossip and not have changed a thing. The object of my anger would have remained completely unaffected, and all I would have done is hurt myself further. I've done plenty of that on behalf of said person, and I'm disinclined to continue to do so.

But then I started thinking about how I never said anything to him when we did have contact. The last time we spoke was me starting to say my piece, but he abruptly ended the conversation before I was finished. I wanted to ignore these leftover feelings and not write anything at all, because I'm so drama averse, but also because some part of me wants to think that no one knows that I have negative emotions. I identify so strongly with my positive, upbeat, outgoing persona that I don't want anyone to know that there is damage beneath my skin. But, the undamaged, unthwarted persona is just a projection and isn't real.

Some of the intimacy I've been earning recently has to do with not holding up that projection, and letting people know that I'm just as damaged as everyone else. Even so, I continue to struggle with standing up for myself. I don't want to be too aggressive and defensive, but I don't want to get caught withholding myself from people I would really like to be close with. It's impossible to develop intimacy if you're defending or withholding. 

I know that the versions of violence that I learned and assimilated from a very early age lead directly to the versions of violence set against me as my life has progressed; violence that I further perpetuated by ignoring hurt caused by it for so long that it became impossible for me to express myself. Part of what I'm doing in this adventure (apart from constantly making constitution checks***), is trying to undo this tendency toward violence against my own soul.

Much of the issues that I deal with that trigger me like not being heard, feeling helpless or insignificant, stem from treating myself this way. I don't listen or hear myself much of the time; in fact the symptoms of my eating disorder involve actively denying myself. I treat myself as insignificant and helpless. And then, to compound the effect, I tell myself I'm a drama queen by saying it out loud. I say things like:
"He's not going to want to be around someone who's always complaining about stuff. You need to be more upbeat if you want [so and so] to want to be around you."
"Quit complaining, your problems aren't that bad."
"Yeah, cuz that's the least of your problems."
At which point it devolves into me calling me names, and one part of me ceasing to identify with the whole and creating an entirely new ego problem that, when perpetuated in just the right environment sends me back to restricting, obsessing, and the binge/purge cycle. I even worry a bit for having this so public because what are people going to think of me knowing that I, too, have problems. This is a private matter and should be resolved in private - right, cuz that worked so well the first time around. 

So, on the one hand, I have this darkness struggling toward the light, fighting to get out of my soul, and on the other hand I have this ego that doesn't want to acknowledge the existence of the darkness in me. But what's the worst that can happen? That I expose myself as human, develop actual intimacy between my actual self and the selves of persons whom I care about? That I move forward with my life and stop trying to deny true things in order to please "people"? That I never, ever have to have another experience wherein I deny my right to express my thoughts until it's too late and I have to completely cut someone I care about from my life?

How is all that bad again?

*You know, because you can't love more than one person at a time... /sarc
**It is important to note, however, that others will suffer in silence because you refused to speak out.
***First, if you don't know what that is, I can't help you; second, it's a lot harder to deal with low blood sugar when you're out of the habit of starving yourself for extended periods of time. 

Week 7: I hate pants

Nothing makes me feel more fat than jeans. Either the waist band is up SO HIGH that I can't breath when I sit down, or they're constantly falling off because if I wore them tight enough that they have something to hold onto, I would have fat spilling out all over the place. Jeans just don't fit my body right and so, I don't wear them. At least not very often. I do have one pair that I can wear that makes me my butt look good, but most of the time it's not worth the rest of it.

I'm ranting a little. I guess I'm in a ranty mood.

This week was okay, as far as normalized eating goes. I'm still working toward the eating at regular intervals thing, but most days I've been eating 3 meals and a couple of snacks throughout the day, and most of the time I am not trying to talk myself out of eating. The weight that I gained after starting this experiment has gone away, even though telling you that means that I have to say that yes, even though it's recommended I stop in my workbook, I am continuing to weigh myself several times a week. And while I still always make the disappointed noise every time, I don't think it's affecting my self-worth that much. 

Things are actually picking up in a very good direction. My social life is progressing toward being rather productive and full of wonderful people, old* and new**; my dad is ...well, I don't quite know what to say about my dad, except that he's stable and totally not dying; and I was chosen to receive a gift from a jeweler I follow on FB who did a "tell us why you deserve to be chosen to receive a gift from us" thing, and I told them the abbreviated version of what's been going on in the last several months. 

I feel better and more aligned with my own power and all that, but it's still a daily (even moment to moment) struggle to keep that going. I feel like I can identify less with my disordered eating, and more with meeting the needs of my body, but there's still a part of me that really wants to cling to that source of identity. This is normal and human, but I don't have to cling, and I don't have to react to my desire to cling; if you know what I'm saying.

Anyway, gonna cut it short. I have a wicked headache right now and should probably get some sleep***.

*Okay, not that old... I'm not robbing the grave or anything
**Hi Z!
***By which I mean watch Craig Ferguson

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When it stops hurting there is peace

When a person embarks on a journey like the one I am taking, it is at first very painful and frightening to realize that one is surrounded by people who actually give a fuck (some flying, others more comfortable with ground-travel), because the thing that got you pulled into this self-destroying, -denying, and -displacing spiral was having to do it all on your own without any real support from anyone sane. At first, the support of others feels like grinding your heel in broken glass, but that's not because of the support, it's because your whole outlook is completely completely fucked up. A person who isn't in that place doesn't adopt behaviors to destroy their bodies; a person who isn't in that place doesn't see those behaviors become obsessions.

I think that feeling, the grinding your heel in broken glass feeling, is why a lot of people go to desperate lengths to hide obsessive behaviors; not just eating disorders, but addiction, abuse, and depression*. When you see everyone as an enemy and then all of a sudden all of these people are saying "can I give you a hug?" and telling you you're so strong, and they're so proud of you for trying to be less self-destructive... it's terrifying, and it feels like everyone either has an angle or that they're mocking you. That's apart from the tapes that start playing when you start reaching out for help, those are even worse.
somewhere somehow someone must have kicked you around some... you see you don't have to live like a refugee  
"Refugee" by Melissa Etheridge
I recently added this song to a playlist, and when it was playing a minute ago, I realized that she wasn't just talking about outwardly living like a refugee in a society that sees you as less than: you don't, I don't have to live like a refugee in my body. I think I've been doing that very thing for so long, but now I know I don't have to and it's pretty freeing, and that's when it stops hurting. 

Not hurting as much doesn't make me feel any less crazy, but at least I know that the crazy doesn't have to hurt as much. Not hurting also allows me to feel the love from the people who are around me, and have mobilized to be by my side during this tumultuous episode of my life. Another thing that makes it stop hurting is being held by someone with whom a specific level and kind of trust has been established. 

Actually, that whole thought just sent my thought train off the rails**. But once the pain stops, you really get a sense of how cared-for you are, and it strengthens the healing process. There's peace there, and I think the one thing that I've been fighting for my whole life (not unlike most people) is that sense of peace that comes when it stops hurting. And I think I can report back that throwing yourself into that pain in order to find peace doesn't really work; neither does disassociating from your being and becoming a refugee in your own body. 

The feeling, the peace, isn't dependent on another person either. It's presence. It's beauty. It's being fully awake and fully your Self both in form and spirit***. And at some point, the peace will be permanent.

*Depression is not an obsessive behavioral condition, as far as I know.
**And into thoughts of how marvelous the universe is to have the foresight to send the right people into your life at the right time, whether anyone knows it or not.
***There's been a lot of Eckhart Tolle going on recently.

Edit: "Refugee" quoted above was written by Tom Petty, according to my mother. I was listening to the Melissa Etheridge version and don't know anything about the emotional content of the original version.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

This post is mostly not about sex

Since the relapse of my eating disorder, and during my attempt to actually recover this time, I have been in a weird place where the idea of having sex really grosses me out. I'm sure it's temporary, but as I'm learning to reform my associations and emotions on such basic things as eating food, I'm also discovering that I need to reform my thoughts and tendencies as it relates to dating and sex as well. 

This revelation came about after a chastisement over handling an intimate relationship rather callously, even though I had never meant any harm and didn't even realize that I, or the relationship, was as important to the other person as to warrant said chastisement. I realized, after a conversation with this person, that I take a really fucked up approach to sex, and that this is because of how I feel about my body and the deserve level associated with it. And that that dysfunction is to blame for my recent celibacy. 

I'm fat. I know that, I can't do anything about it, and intellectually I know that beautiful and sexy are not antonyms to fat, and that the people attracted to me are attracted to all of me including my fat. This idea blows my freaking mind right now, because how is that fucking possible?! Of course, there are also people who feel the same way Mable* does about my physical attractiveness: that I am pretty, despite the fat. 

In the past, I've approached sex and relationships from this viewpoint. I've always thought that the people I would get involved with did so despite my fat, that it was my eyes or personality or whatever, and these relationships would never work out for one reason or another (I guessed fat), and it would devastate me. In the recent past I had a partner who, for some reason, always felt it necessary to clarify that he didn't want to be my "boyfriend" right when we were getting intimate. The last time it happened, it really bothered me, (actually it still bothers me right now), but I didn't say anything, because that's the level of respect and love I felt I was due from that thin, attractive person.

My modus operandi in the past has been to be really casual about sexual relationships, until they get serious and then just go off the fucking deep end. Once is fine, twice is fun, but more than that I never have the tools to handle because I don't think I'm worth the investment of a regular affair. And, apart from The Emperor, I've never had a long term relationship, let alone a serious one. Most of my experience in dating has fallen along the lines of the example mentioned in the previous paragraph, and I don't know how to deal with people who are attracted to all of me, including my fat, including my neuroses, rather than in spite of them because I can only accept myself in spite of them.

"But Rachel, you said you were gonna talk about sex." Yeah, I know I said that, but my thoughts on the subject aren't quite as formed as I'd like them to be. The point is, for so long I have been laboring under the idea that in order to be worthy of any kind of actual love and affection, I needed to be thin; that my relationship with The Emperor is a fluke, and that I can't have other relationships that are equally fulfilling because there's something wrong with me.

Turns out I've been wrong this whole time. I don't think realizing that is going to make my emotionally-imposed celibacy abate any faster, but if I'm smart, I'll work this realization into the rest of them and begin forming better relationships that don't leave my partners feeling like the missed something or that I don't care about them.

*I named my eating disorder, remember?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Recovery Week 6

This week wasn't really that interesting. The only day when I missed meals was today, but that was okay because when I went in to get my throat swabbed for strep, it activated my gag reflex. Fortunately, there was nothing for me to vomit onto my doctor*, so I didn't. 

Most of the week I listened to audio books rather than the radio, but today I listened to Randi Rhodes, and I had an urge to purge when she was talking to a listener who was, I guess, her inspiration while losing weight. I don't know if you know much about my favorite radio host, but she's not that big. She would disagree, naturally, but she really isn't. The pervasive idea that thin is the ideal, that one's value is even remotely related to the number on the scale; that prettiness, as defined by a culture who wants everyone to be so skinny you can see ribs, is the only important thing... is very upsetting.

Then there was an interesting juxtaposition of commercials: diet pills and weight loss programs, followed by "you can end hunger"... lose weight! Feed the children! SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!! It's no wonder there are people like me in this society, who are obsessed with food, our culture is obsessed with food. It's insanity. 

Another thought of note, is the idea of taking care of the inner body. This is an idea broached by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now, and prompted the thought in me "I spend so much time in my head, that I hardly ever spend time in my feet". Awareness of and oneness with the inner body brings us into the now, and this is why exercise is important. Yoga came about as a moving meditation, a means of spending time in one's feet, so to speak. I haven't been exercising much since beginning my recovery because in our culture, exercise is about losing weight. Very few people (that I know anyway), exercise for the fun of it.

I do enjoy swimming. And yoga, of course, and I think in the next few weeks I'll be moving more so that I can be in my body more. I think this will help immeasurably in my recovery. For now... I've got some healing to do since I've apparently come down with something.

*Not that Doctor.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What are we on, week 5? Review

I guess I know why I've been doing these on Friday or Saturday, cuz it's really hard for me to think about  and remember what happened last week...

I did backslide a little bit on Wednesday and Friday, but I'm realizing more and more that my symptoms pop up when I encounter stressful family situations, and not necessarily when I was feeling fat or whatever... although, I dunno, I feel like I'm starting to come to terms with it, I just haven't quit thinking the thought about needing to lose weight... and that my eating disorder symptoms are what will make that possible, even though continuing to have this thought demonstrates that I am C-R-A-Z-Y. 

Another thought that came into my head this week was the idea that eating = fuel for the things I want to do with my life. Okay, typing it out like that makes it seem like the most obvious thing ever, but as established in the previous paragraph: C-R-A-Z-Y. It was a big revelation to me. I was working on Monday and lunch time rolled around, and as usual I fought myself (just cuz I have the appointment with myself doesn't mean I keep it or am always on time), but then I said "wait, I need to eat so I can have fuel to keep working today!" So, I did. I can't say necessarily that the thought will stick, but it's a step in the right direction. 

I will say that I ate a morning, afternoon, and evening meal almost every day this week, which is definitely progress. Even though I was super stressed out this week (for family reasons as well as at least one stupid reason), I managed to keep the tapes down, and try to have a good time. It's getting to the point where the frequency with which I argue with myself about whether it's okay to not eat is going down. Rather, rationalization is still happening, but it's not winning as often as before. 

The other big thought I had this week was that if I treated my dog the way I treat myself, I would be arrested and charged with animal cruelty. Because of the way I have treated my body, certain things have happened in it, because my body doesn't trust me anymore. I need to rebuild the trust between my self and my body so that they can work together and not have to fight each other all of the time. So, just like I developed the habit of wearing makeup daily, even though it's sort of inconvenient and I have to plan extra time in my day in order to accomplish the whole makeup thing; I will develop the habit of eating regularly and training my body to be able to expect food at certain times of day. To a certain extent it has started happening, and I've been getting hungry sounds! (I don't know if you know this or not, but this is a total win.)

Finally, there was a section in my devotional this week on how it's kind of against Jewish law not to enjoy yourself. 
The Talmud teaches "In the future world, a [person] will have to give an accounting for everything good things [hir] eyes saw, but of which [ze] did not eat" (Palestinian Talmud, Kiddushin 4:12). 
Emphasis, and gender-neutral-pronouning mine. So, apparently, g-d doesn't like it when you torture yourself for the visual enjoyment of someone else. Instead, one should say "hey that looks yummy" and have some, unless it's already been forbidden by g-d through kosher/halal law, or allergies.

Anyway, more on this idea later in the week. Right now, I need to go have dinner!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The breaking point

I realized today that I have already reached, and passed, my breaking point. 

I hit a breaking point when I realized that my eating disorder was becoming a problem again. 

I hit a breaking point when I heard that my dad had cancer. 

I hit a breaking point when I realized that I had so much more work to do on myself before I could grow into an effective leader. 

I hit a breaking point when I realized that my self had already been fractured at least 3 times in the last several months. But the thing about it is, that breaking wasn't a bad thing. When I realized that my eating disorder was again becoming a problem, the center of my world, I went to a bookstore and got a few (now 5) books on how to deal with and overcome it.

When I found out that my dad had cancer, I decided that I was going to be there for him every step of the way; that that is what's best for me, for him, and for my sibs, and other family members. 

When I realized that I had so much more work to do before being able to grow into the leader that I want to be, I decided that I must stick with my growth and leadership plans above so that I can get to where I need to be to get to where I want to be. 

I guess it's not about how much a person can handle before they break, but how the react to hitting the breaking point. Some people look to self-destruct, I decided that I was done self-destructing and it was time to do something different. That's why I've been sharing all of this with you. At some point, I hope it makes an impression that allows you to have the same revelations and make the right choices when you hit your breaking point.

So, I don't really know what broke, exactly. Maybe it was ego. Maybe it was attachment to the way things were before. I do know that it was a good thing that whatever broke broke, cuz now I can fix what's actually wrong.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Post-it Note Therapy

A friend of mine keeps a pack of Post-It notes in her purse so that she can leave positive little notes for people at random intervals. (This goes very well with the friend of mine from college who would collect notes she found on the street...) Anyway, my friend does this to remind people of things they probably already know, but forget throughout the day. It's the same idea of all those positive little messages on Facebook...
Yeah, those.
But in real life. 

Anyway, the other night I was expressing my frustration with how much people whine at me (the general population has been warned, and a few people have been all-but cut off), and I suggested that The Emperor (who is chief offender only because we live together) make list of things that he's grateful for when he's in a really good mood, then place that list somewhere he will see it when he's in a bad mood. That way, he can be reminded of all the good things going on in his life, and the things that go wrong, as the inevitably do, he won't lose his shit quite so badly.

Of course, I'm an evolved person, so when I make a suggestion for someone else, it isn't long until I say "hey that's a really good idea, I bet it would work for me too!" and think of ways I can implement it in my own life. Then I thought of my friend and her Post-It notes. I do have a few signs posted in the house affirming me, or reminding me of things, but I don't have a list of gratitudes. This would have been a great project for over Thanksgiving weekend, but I didn't lose my mind and start crying until Sunday night, so oh well; but one of these days maybe we'll sit right down and make a few lists to place in our grumpy places. 

I, then, would need to put some in the kitchen reminding me why it's a good idea to eat at regular intervals. I have a number of reasons, and the list grows by the day as I keep up with this recovery thing, but it would be good to have it handy so I can remind myself when my blood sugar starts crashing and I go into that place where the idea of eating makes me want to throw a puppy off a cliff*. My recovery book recommends affirmations, and suggested the phrase "food is my medicine", with the idea that if a doctor prescribed you an antibiotic 3x per day, you'd take it because you wanted to get better and not have whatever infection requires 3 antibiotics a freaking day (like TB or something). It's the same idea... of course, when my doctor did tell me to eat more and regularly, I lost my mind, but that was a couple of years ago, and now I seem to be on a quest to find it again.

I dunno, maybe this post is a little more boring than the ones where I flail, but at least you know I'm not all drama**. 

*And now you know why I'm not allowed near cliffs.
**I swear to dog I'm not all drama. Just lately. Also why I'm not allowed near cliffs.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Week 4 of recovery: Thanksgiving and other tragedies

After last week's cry for help, I got a really good response, and I'm really thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life. I may have said this already, but it means a lot for so many people to be reaching out in support.

To that end, this week was a lot better than expected, and about 30 times better than last week. I almost didn't fast/restrict at all, I even ate breakfast several days this past week, (it was pie...), and mostly stuck to my lunch dates with myself, with the exception of Wednesday. 

Wednesday was different because I was up at 6:30 (eating pie at sunrise is kinda nice...) because I was going to a thing I'm going to choose to be cryptic about for the moment. I ate lunch at 11:30, then, and the circumstances of the day ended up with me having dinner after 7. However, we went to my favorite restaurant, and I had some A-M-A-Z-I-N-G food. It was so good, so made by someone's Mexican grandma, and I had just enough liquor in me that my attention to my meal completely blocked out the usual tapes, and I was totally satisfied with my normal-person-with-normal-eating-habits portion. I felt zero need to continue to eat until my stomach hurt, I didn't feel like I had lost control and compulsively cleared my plate (I even left some food on my plate); I didn't feel hungry or unsatisfied in any way, and I felt no guilt. 

I realize that this is all probably kind of confusing for the people reading this who don't have eating disorders. "You're supposed to feel like that when you eat food made by someone's Mexican grandma," you're saying. I know, I hear you, and I get it, I just have pretty much never felt that way (or at least the times that I have felt that way are few and far between). Usually when I have any kind of gourmet meal, I feel somehow unsatisfied because I've not given myself permission to enjoy myself enough, or I feel guilty because I somehow enjoyed myself too much. I'll go "oh wow, this is so good" over lots of things, but rarely will I have a completely peaceful and satisfying eating experience with myself (this is often why I don't usually eat around people I don't know, and really dislike eating alone in public). 

Whisk! Whisk! Whisk! Whisk! Whisk the 
turkey gravyyyyy! 
I rolled a 17 on my Make Gravy check, but
but only a 12 on my Make Turkey check.
Anyway, that bit of peace, (which was helped along by overwhelm and exhaustion in other areas of my life - cryptic again, sorry), rolled over into Thanksgiving so while I did restrict/fast early in the day, I gave myself permission to enjoy as much Thanksgiving food as I wanted. I even made gravy (without makeup on! - I even kinda like this picture). And, for the first time, I was able to help my mother-in-sin with some of the cooking - I don't often get an opportunity to spend quality woman-stuff time with my MIS, and it was nice to kind of kvetch with her about stuff.

I feel like I'm starting to be able to mimic how a normal, non-dieting person eats. I'm trying not to weigh myself or care about it, and while I'm kind of consumed by other thoughts, I'm still a little obsessed over food and weight and all that non-sense. It's a process, and I'm getting better.

Some of the reading I've been doing still makes me feel pretty broken, but I guess it's better than not reading it at all. It's so weird to be reading clinical stories of other people with eating disorders and think "wow, go her". No, that's not weird. It's horrible. She was really sick, I want to tell myself, not heroic. This is some serious shit. The women whose cases have been more severe than mine lost their minds to this, they didn't have better control of themselves or whatever. If anything, my body just really wanted me to continue surviving, so when I tried to force weight off by starving myself, purging, or over-exercising, it refused because my body knew better than my compulsions did. Good for me and my body. Maybe it didn't help the compulsions go away, (or maybe a lack of success did help my symptoms disappear for several years), and it definitely didn't make me less depressed, but at least I never got as sick as some of the people I've been reading about. 

One more note, while I'm thinking about this book:
Daughters who cling to the belief that they are "tragic victims" who can only control their living through food deny themselves the joys and pains of growth and the opportunity to develop competence, self-reliance, and independence. In blaming their mothers, they absolve themselves from personal responsibility and remain locked in the past, paralyzed in the present, and fearful of the future. They do not see their mothers as victims too and fail to understand and appreciate the pain and conflict that molded them.
Emphasis mine.

Monday, November 19, 2012

How You Can Help: Do you know what you say?

I want to first thank all of the people who reached out to me on Saturday to comfort and support me, and just generally be awesome. I really do appreciate the support I've received as I'm writing my way through this journey. It's a weird place to be, and there's no update for Google Maps that's going to give me a map for this thing.

A lot of people have asked me what they can do to help, or to let them know if I need anything. And earlier tonight, I decided to share with a number of my professional associates who are also my friends (emphasis because I'm not just randomly sharing this with people), which was kind of terrifying. Telling people in person, eyes fixed on my shaking hands, is a lot harder than writing about it into the internet where 6 (okay, 16) people will read it, and they're all people who know me well enough to want to know that this is going on... anyway.

So, since I've been sharing all of this, I thought it might be a good idea to start to try to answer this question of "how can I help?". The thing that comes to mind immediately is: don't talk about weight. My weight. Your weight. Some celebrity's weight. The weight loss of a woman we both know who has recently had a baby. This time when you lost a bunch of weight then put it all back on. Don't talk about that stuff.

It should go without saying that you should never offer a person with an eating disorder advice on weight loss (it doesn't); but just as importantly talking to me (or with me in a conversation among many people) about how you need to/will/want to/whatever lose weight is a really fucking bad idea. When we talk about ourselves, we say how we really feel about things. And you may not consciously think that I need to lose weight or am disgusting and awful because of something that may be as important to my value as my shoe size; but when you're talking about yourself that way, that's what I hear.

Now, it's not your fault. But the thing that I'm learning about people with eating disorders is that we are dangerously obsessed with comparing ourselves to other people as much as we're obsessed with food and our damaged body perceptions. And when you, who are much more successful than me, much thinner than me (in my eyes), so much more this and so much more that; talks about how you need to lose weight, I start to wonder "well what does she think of me then?"

I don't know what's going on in your head, and I'm not going to pretend to because I gave up omnipotence when I moved in with The Emperor, and I don't know if your desire to diet and lose weight is driven by the same obsession that has made me sick. I don't know if your weight loss is good for you or not*. And I don't consciously think that you think bad things about me because I'm not trying to lose weight, and am actually trying to be okay with where I am in my body and have a healthier image of it as it is. However, when you say something off-handed about weight or dieting, my brain goes into over-drive and I obsess about your one little comment, and start playing the tapes that tell me how worthless I am because my weight starts with a 2 on some days.

More importantly, if I ask you to stop, please remember why. My anxiety level is already so high right now because I'm fighting the status quo for my entire body that has been reinforced by just about everyone I know for my entire life. I don't know what goes on in your head when you talk about dieting and how you want to lose weight, but I know what goes on in my head when you do it, and it hurts me.

Finally, I want the people I love to stop talking shit about themselves. Seriously. If you wouldn't say it about me or to me, then don't fucking say it about or to yourself. I know better than a lot of people, as someone whose negative perceptions of herself has caused so much damage I can't eat like a normal person; that when you talk shit about yourself it does a lot of damage, and that damage is really hard to repair. If you're not trapped in an eating disorder cycle, you're already a step ahead of me in trying to heal that damage**, but for the sake of your innate beauty and divinity STOP TALKING SHIT ABOUT YOURSELF. If you can't stop completely, then stop when you're around me. I literally cannot handle it. It may or may not be true, but I view you as having a better handle on things than I do, so when someone I love and respect starts acting in ways that reinforce in me that appearance is important to beauty/value it tells me that it's okay to act like that. When someone tells me, however unconsciously, that it's okay to act like that, they might as well be telling me that I shouldn't bother with recovery and just go full bore into my eating disorder. You may not think you're saying that, but you are.

And, if weight isn't a number that is determinant in my value, then why does it have to be determinant in your value?

*I do know that 95% of people who intentionally lose weight gain it all back and more. I also understand some of the science behind why that happens. And it's not because people who intentionally lose weight lack self-control or whatever bullshit the Diet Industrial Complex is pushing this week. 
**Healing the damage done by talking shit about yourself, it should go without saying (but doesn't) is not going to happen if you continue to denigrate yourself by saying how badly you need to lose weight. You can't actually change the inside by changing the outside. You won't like yourself better thinner, you'll just want to be thinner still. That's how it works. That's how these eating disorders start. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Week 3 of recovery - Strengthening doesn't look how you want it to

This week was actually worse than last week.

Between trying to normalize my eating, avoid being a complete recluse, and recent developments in the health of a family member, I feel like I might actually break at some point here pretty soon. I feel really fragile, like that really pretty candy glass that's made out of sugar water or whatever... but then I wondered what it would take for me to break; and then what that would mean.

At this point, I don't have the option of finding out. Too many people are counting on me to come through this, and it's not how I would have chosen to build my leadership, but (as I've been saying to people this week), sometimes it takes a brick. The only trouble is that I feel like I have no support. I'm building the Tower of Babel by myself after the part in the story where g-d has knocked it down... and not only are the pieces coming apart, but no one is helping me, or even calling out when a piece is about to crush me. 

And sure, there are tons of people who will leave comments or send me messages "hey, you can talk to me", "let me know if I can do anything to help", and I don't want it to sound like I don't appreciate those messages of support or affirmation, but they really don't stop the feeling that I'm completely alone not only in this battle, but at least one other. I feel like I'm the only person invested in a particular outcome, because the people who I would look to, who I want to be in my corner, on my team, cheering for me; are too busy and lack the perspective necessary to realize that I'm in real trouble here and I need them. 

So, I feel like I'm made of glass, and that the next thing that goes wrong is going to break me. The entire operation feels futile, and part of me just wants to give up and live a life of mediocrity until I die alone and sad, but at least it would be over at that point*.

Anyway, this week was bad. 

I tried to eat regular meals (I even ate in a restaurant with a new friend on Monday, and it wasn't too bad, but my tummy hurt for hours afterward) for most of the week, but I lost control on Thursday and Friday, missing my lunch date with myself. I ended up eating one meal each day on Thursday and Friday, but I did have a midnight snack on Friday that was fairly reasonable (although, a little bingey because I ate half a box of stale crackers because they were there and I felt I needed to finish them). 

Today has been better, overall, but only through will-power. And I know why the last couple of days have been bad (I'm not going to publicize it in a public forum, but if we're friends on Facebook, you'll find out sooner or later), and I will find some way of dealing with that so that it doesn't prevent me from getting better - since this particular situation is not likely to be resolved in the near future... unless it is, but then there's so much more to deal with after that... sorry, cryptic...

I keep going back to a passage I read a few weeks ago that talked about architects and arches in buildings. It said that when the architect wants an arch to bear more weight (and be stronger), the architect just designs the arch to carry more weight. Bearing more weight makes the individual parts of the whole smush** together more, and when they're wedged together they bear more than they would otherwise. So while, there's a part of me that feels like the entirety of the last 3 weeks, 2 months, or 15 years have been gigantic (and cosmically hilarious) acts of futility, another part of me feels like there's some design going on here. I'm under pressure so that I can handle more pressure.

Or something. 

I don't know. Either that or the next thing that falls is going to take off my head.

*I just want to emphasize that I am not suicidal. Nihilistic, yes. Depressed, for fucking sure. But I'm doing everything I can to avoid self-destructing. I want life to be better, not over.
**Technical term

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I'm afraid of...

Most of the time when we pick up a coping mechanism it's to deal with fear... or at least that's how it seems. We push people away because we're afraid of getting hurt by them (and by "we", I guess I mean "I"); even children cover their eyes to avoid being seen (I read some research or saw a TED talk about this recently and I thought it was interesting). And so, there's an idea in my head that a lot of this eating disorder stuff has to do with fear. 

I'm not afraid of spiders or snakes; darkness or ghosts or going to Hell*. I'm pretty much not afraid of anything that could actually hurt me**. I am afraid of gaining weight, though. I am afraid of all of the research linking "obesity" with "increased mortality" and "metabolic diseases". I'm afraid that I'll get or already have some kind of cancerous legions in my insides because my Celiac went untreated for so long. I'm afraid of ending up in the hospital, not being able to pay my bills and losing everyone and everything that I love because of an illness I couldn't control. 

I'm afraid that all the horrible things said about me in my youth are true. Things like how I'm lazy, how I'll never amount to anything, and no one will ever love me. I'm afraid of backbiting, and being called out for being fat. I'm afraid that the people I love will reject me for my shape and size, even though it's not like my habits or style of dress hides my body at all***. I'm afraid that my fatness - not my health, my fatness - will prevent me from being able to do my job, advance in my career and ever make anything of myself. 

Every time I feel the digestive grumblings caused by food going through me and having its nutrients absorbed to give energy to my body, I'm afraid. My workbook calls it the "washout period", where soon after you start trying to normalize your eating, you experience a lot of intestinal distress because your body got so used to the infrequent use of these vital organs, so it produces a lot of gas and discomfort. It hurts a lot, and has made the last few days a little extra awful.

I'm afraid that I'm wrong about everything, and that the tapes are right. That the people who recorded those tapes are right. That my value really is tied to the number on the scale. That "fat acceptance" is just a thing that lazy stupid fat people parade about to make themselves feel better, and that if I try to accept myself the way I am, I'll just get fatter and stop caring about my appearance, stop being loved, stop getting laid, and not be able to have the life that I want.

I'm also afraid that my eating disorder will keep me from having the life that I want. The people I love don't want to be around someone who obsesses over food, dieting; who can't keep up because she doesn't eat enough, or who secretly eats all of the ice cream at once, then feels like the worst person in the world and throws it all up. No one I know who cares about me at all wants to see me spiral into a place where I'll intentionally eat so much gluten that I make myself sick (and actually, the amount isn't that much); they wouldn't want to be around a person who would do that to herself.

So, I'm stuck between being afraid of never being loved because of my size and shape, and being afraid of being abandoned because the thing I chose to deal with that first fear will make me so sick I'd be impossible to be around, let alone be capable of returning any emotional investment. Which leaves me with one option: recovery... but that just brings up more fears. Fear of gaining weight, of never coming out of it, of not being able to hold on and actually going crazy not just feeling crazy; fear that I'm not ready to take charge, fear that seeking help through therapy would just send me back on a spiral downward because I have almost never met a doctor who didn't tell me that I was too fat and needed to lose weight****; and I've certainly never met a therapist whose competencies included working with eating disorders. I'm afraid to do it all on my own, and I'm afraid to ask for help. 

Sometimes - no, often - I'm afraid to eat. Right now, I'm kind of afraid to go to sleep. 

But, I decided before I started talking about this that I needed to face those fears. Because the thing that is worse than me going through it, being stuck in the place between two fears that is so scary it creates a third, entirely different set of terrors; the thing worse than that is knowing that there are people who are or will be in that place and in need of my help. I have the mind to make this make sense, not just for me, but for others as well, and I'm tired of knowing that other people feel this way too and they don't have a way out because they were never "sick enough" for anyone to notice that their lives were falling apart.

So, I expand the rituals and include a date with myself everyday to eat one meal. Some days, that will be the only thing I eat in any structured sort of way; other days, I'll have that meal and two others, maybe even a snack or two and it'll be okay because I gave myself permission. And I expand the social rituals to include a few new people or events, hope that I don't get too terrified when someone touches me. And I expand the rituals around my vulnerabilities, hoping to make them meaningful expressions rather than self-flagellating appeals for attention. 

My fear of not being loved is out-matched only by the fear of not completing my mission and leaving the world a better place for my having been in it. What scares me most is not being abandoned for my condition, but being unable to change it and thus unable to challenge the status quo that created it. 

*Boom, Jewish, already taken care of.
**However, I am fairly risk-averse.
***And usually by the time I am in love with someone, they've already seen me naked at least once.
****The doctor responsible for the "Independent Medical Evaluation" I was ordered to get after a car accident a couple of years ago even wrote in the goddamn evaluation that I was too fat and needed to exercise more and lose some weight to alleviate whiplash. Fuck that guy in a ear. Seriously. Dickbag. I'm still mad about it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Recovery week 2

This week I felt like a crazy person. 

I rollercoastered all over the place, from feeling like I was totally fine to wanting to tear my skin off because I hated myself so much. I went from "I can handle this" and giving myself permission, to justifying not eating, and feeling like I had to either go straight to McDonald's and eat until I got sick, or never ever ever eat ever again. (Instead of either option, I took a very angry nap, then very angrily ate dinner. I didn't think you could eat angrily, but my body was very mad at me.)

I kept up my reading, and highlighted things that could be helpful; did all the exercises in both books, and even read from my devotional (for lack of a better term). I bought a pair of jeans that fit, and told myself that I could have them because I was rededicating myself to healthful, normal eating. I disregarded, then regarded, then disregarded, etc the notion of intentional weight loss. I even walked on our elliptical machine for about 20 minutes on Friday and decided that I would like to go swimming* on Monday; that I wanted to do these things because my body feels like crap and moving around will get it back to feeling better. After my moderate exercise, I even felt the emotional buzz of the neurotransmitters produced by the increased blood-flow to my brain. I told myself that exercise makes your brain work better, and that that was the goal, not being thin because, let's face it: I, Rachel Setzer, will never be thin. 

Meanwhile, a slew of men-folk have been so kind as to say (paraphrasing) "ERMAGERD YOU'RE PRETTY", which I can't deny makes me feel pretty awesome. And yeah, I know that there are guys who find me attractive, but it's nice to know that someone thinks I'm stupifyingly pretty. And (and and and), this is the first time in my life that this has happened. Kind of ironic, don'cha think?** 

My insides are starting to normalize-ish, after being sick for so long; although I still can't seem to handle flesh, dammit. And for the first time in a long time, I both wanted, and ate, a piece of fruit. I think my rational mind has decided it's okay to have some asparagus this week too. I've had salad this week (which I was avoiding because of the, let's say, discomfort, that had previously resulted from too much ruffage).

I worked this week. It wasn't a banner week, by any means, but I did work. I've kept my promise to myself to have 1-2 appointments a week, and while not all of my appointments have been profitable, getting back into the swing of things is a lot better than focusing on what I'm not doing. 

I celebrated the election returns with friends and fellow liberals, and even went to a birthday party where we made an epic blanket fort for my friend who was turning 31. I reconnected with people I hadn't seen in months, and made social plans for this coming week. And saw Skyfall with The Emperor. 

The week was okay. I had some wins, and I thought about things that weren't related to food or eating or hating myself for eating/not eating. I still haven't called either of the therapists that my doctor recommended, but I will do that eventually. I do want to get better. I do want to develop normal eating habits (and know the difference between hungry and nauseated... or nauseated and full), and I want to move on with my life. What's more, I realize it's going to take more than two weeks and a few exercises from a book about eating disorders to get to the point where I do have normal eating habits and the ability to live my life rather than spend it obsessing on food, eating, not eating, and hating myself for any of it.

Where I'm at sucks pretty hard, but I've been reaching out for loved ones and they've been reaching back, so I'm pretty sure I'll be okay.

*Year-round pool, bitcheeeeeeeez
**Aside: but then I see all these things on Facebook "seduce my mind and you can have my body blah blah blah", and I think, no, you know what? I want to be objectified sometimes. By guys whom I also find objectifilicious. And that is the difference in the ERMAGERDs of late.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Spoke too soon...

Today was a bad day. 

I didn't really sleep last night, and I can't tell you why, other than I was too fucking cold, so I couldn't get to sleep until after 3 (I didn't think to heat up my warm-thing until around 2). Then I woke up early cuz my tummy was rumbling, but I stayed in bed and tried to get a little extra sleep instead of having breakfast (this is common).

Then, I had to get ready in a bit of a hurry because I had a lunch meeting in Bellevue. As I was leaving, the Emperor said "you look tired". I almost lost my mind. In fact, when I got into the car and started driving to my meeting, I may or may not have had a clip of Glenn Beck saying "I THINK I'M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND TODAY" playing in the back of my head. 

At my meeting, I decided that I was only going to have half my lunch and take the rest for my proper lunch date at 2pm (the one time every day where I make myself eat something), and I was not feeling like my usual bubbly self, so it was kind of difficult to talk to someone new, let alone eat near them. It was a little embarrassing.

When I got home, I pretty much gave up on the rest of the day, cuz I felt like sleep-deprived, cold-symptom-having, fat, horrible, stupid, stressed out shit. Upon trying to illicit some sympathy from the Emperor, we had a fight instead. Yaaaaay. He admitted being wrong, and I laid down in an attempt to nap or something, but instead ended up in this really bad mental place where I wanted to drive to McDonald's in my PJs, order and eat half the menu - or eat until I puked anyway. (At this point in my life, with the celiac and all, there's no way fast food doesn't make me sick.) I also wanted to go to Whole Foods and buy a bunch of comparatively safe junk food and eat until I puked. 

Instead I took a very angry nap, but continued to hate myself for thinking these things.

When I woke up I was desperately hungry. I had nachos with black olives and half an avocado. A normal-seeming amount of food, but it made me kinda blerg anyway. Later I had a small baked potato with butter and sour cream, then laid down again because through all of this, I'm still exhausted as shit. A little while later, the Emperor came in to bitch about some work thing that I don't understand, and I imagined myself running past him to throw up.

Later still I received a a gchat from someone who makes me feel broken, and continued hating myself.

Then, finally, (or I guess not, since I'm still up), the Emperor wanted to listen to the podcast from last week's Bill Maher. The arguing of right-and-left-wing hacks, the sound of people screaming over each other, trying to force-prove themselves right, made me leave the room, grab my blanket and frog and curl up on the bathroom floor, telling myself that if I really did need to purge, it was okay. It's not a moral failing if you purge, I told myself, this is going to take time. I didn't purge, instead I painted the nails whose polish I had anxiously scraped off throughout the day. I'm surprised I had the skill for it, though, because the yelling in the other room was making me shake.

At this point, I'm wound so tight, I'm starting to wish I had a propeller. I'm even refusing the affectionate cuddles of my dog (which is unusual and kind of heartbreaking, when I think about it objectively). I just want to hop in my TARDIS and run away... or become someone else...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feeling better doesn't mean I am better

I'm engaged in a process right now that is going to require a lot of me, and I have to remind myself not to let it go because the tapes have become quieter. Since I've been keeping my food journal, reading my books and writing to you to keep you updated, I've been more mindful of my value and the volume of Mable has been turned down. 

But she's not gone yet. This whole process is meant to give Mable a retirement. I want to get to the point where I don't need her, and where I can simply take care of my fuzzy-self (Emmie) without needing supervision or tapes of this subconscious creature that doesn't really know what's best, but has always been there for me. Mable isn't bad. She's not trying to destroy me, she's trying to protect me and when I'm not in an environment or situation where I need protecting, she'll take a backseat, but she's still there keeping a watchful, witchful eye. 

The thing though, even though she means well, is that she does destroy me. If I'm not careful about what I put into my head, if I'm not careful about my habits and my needs, she'll come back again. Feeling better, (which I do right now, after a week of giving myself permission both to eat and to not eat), does not mean that I am better. Just because my symptoms go away because I'm paying very close attention to them, does not mean that I am magically fixed. That was the problem the first time I dealt with this. I decided only to treat the symptoms, but I never had the tools to treat the underlying cause and prove to myself that I don't need Mable.

My circumstances are not what they were when I developed disordered eating. I almost never feel so anxious that the only way to alleviate it is to throw up (almost never). I almost never get lectures about what, when, how, or how much to eat or not eat. I am not surrounded by vapid teenagers (or adults) parroting their parents' views on what a person's body should look like. I am also not an awkward, ugly teenager. But I have been in touch with those feelings very recently, and it still stings. 

Actually, it doesn't sting. It hurts. It aches. It aches a lot. All that love from my childhood lost, and it burns from the core of me, destroying all of my good memories because sometimes it feels like Mable is the only thing I gained from my childhood. Now, I know that my various parents did the best that they could with the tools that they had. I know this because I developed a parent/care-taker in my eating disorder, who is still trying to do her best to make sure that I am taken care of and that my need to be loved is met.

That's all this is about, really. I needed love. I was taught that you couldn't be loved unless you did things a certain way. I was denied love until and unless I did things that way, and it taught me to have a disordered relationship with food, and that the only control I could have was through Mable. If my parents knew better, they would have done better. But they didn't, and that's not necessarily their fault now. Maybe they can be blamed for not knowing better then, but in order to do that, I'd have to get into my TARDIS* and go give them lectures.

That I feel loved now may eliminate the need for Mable to keep me "in line" and lovable, but it doesn't make her go away. My thoughts and tendencies aren't repaired because I've spent a week affirming myself, being affirmed by loved ones, and giving myself permission to feel my feels, rather than suppress them in an attempt to control my appetite. Feeling better doesn't mean that I am better.

But, you know what, I'll take it. It's a start.

*Time And Relative Dimension In Space; also, you can't travel around in your personal timeline, it causes problems, even if you are a Timelord

Monday, November 5, 2012

Naming and breaking

Last night I decided to give my eating disorder a name: Mable. So when I feel the need to restrict or whatever I can shift the shame from myself and onto the disorder who is to blame. Mable prevents me from being able to take care of my "fuzzy self", whom I've previously named Emmie. 

In talking about all of this, I've received a lot of support. My friends are praising me for my "strength", and they're proud of me for being open about it and sharing my struggles. On the one hand, I'm grateful for this perception and the support of people I love, but on the other hand it makes me sad. I'm not sharing my struggles because I'm strong, if I was strong this wouldn't be a problem. Either it wouldn't be a problem because I wouldn't have it, or it wouldn't be a problem because it wasn't interfering with my life. And yeah, I know, that's not necessarily what strength is about, but Mable thinks that I'm weak and that that's why I need her.

Eating disorders (along with a multitude other self-destructing behaviors) are defense mechanisms. The needs I fill with disordered eating are fairly normal needs: control, mostly, but also wanting to feel special, seeking power, seeking relief from stress and anxiety. Something happened in my life that made me turn to this defense mechanism for help meeting these needs. And, it's not good or bad, it just is. Everyone turns to something else when they're in need, and most people have at least one self-destructive habit that meets a need for them; it's not good or bad, it just is.

So, for me, and a number of other people like me, this is where Mable steps in. She's obsessed with portion control, my weight, how my clothes look, how my profile looks in the mirror, the texture of my skin, whether I'm eating vegetables or sugar... and on their own, these concerns aren't damaging, but put them all together and then obsess over them and you have a destructive habit that plays on insecurities and, in my case, makes me want to vomit pretty much all of the time. (But wanting to doesn't mean that I do it.)

And I go back and forth. It's a difficult journey with a lot of potholes, and I'm grateful for the encouragement I receive because it helps me to get up out of those potholes. But in a few weeks, when the novelty of a friend struggling with her eating disorder fades, I fear that I'll be seen not as strong, but as an attention-whore. (I think that may be the case in some minds already.) Dealing with something that has taken up such a huge part of my life is going to be on-going for a long time, and the front of my mind for several weeks, and I know how people are about things like this. At first it's all "hey, I'm here for you", then after a while you get sick of it and want to say "fuck, aren't you over that yet?". 

Or maybe that's just me. 

I know that, whatever else happens, I'm going to break more before I can put the pieces back together. This thing is so much a part of me that I pretty much have to be crushed into dust to separate Mable from me. I'm going to keep talking about it so that I can stay on track and not fall into my own "fuck aren't you over that yet?" trap, but I fear it'll wear on people. I know that this is why I need therapy, but I hope that those who have expressed their support will also be able to avoid that trap. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Soul Poverty (and week one of eating disorder recovery)

So, after my last post, I had a moderate amount of support from my friends, but I suspect a lot of people simply missed it because the last week has been pretty hectic for a lot of people I know - what with the holiday and everything. If you want to read my post on having an eating disorder, it'll get you caught up on some of what I'm going to talk about in this post.

This week, I started reading some books, and my doctor gave me a couple of numbers for therapists who specialize in eating disorders. One book has me keeping a daily journal of what I eat, when, why, and my emotions and compulsions surrounding food. I've noticed a pattern already: I skip at least one meal a day (usually breakfast); I feel the need to rationalize and justify everything I eat; I eat much less when I'm out and about all day; I have to focus really hard to enjoy my meal and avoid bingeing; and I almost always have tapes playing in my head yelling at me for one thing or another, and it's a real challenge to avoid judging myself for eating a meal or skipping it. 

At times, I feel more-or-less okay. At other times, I feel completely broken and hopeless. It's not completely dark in the place where I am, but it's grey enough to be overwhelming and everything looks and feels the same. (Of course, if we stick with our common wisdom, it's not what it looks or feels like that's important, but what it is like. However, at this point I'm so lost, I don't know what is from what feels. More on that in another post.) This brings me to the idea of soul poverty. 

Soul poverty is similar to a concept a lot of people know as "scarcity mindset" (google), but instead of being focused on there not being enough of anything ever, you've resigned to that fact and are stuck in this cycle of looking for ways to make your not-enough stretch. You pursue relationships, professions, hobbies, and so on that aren't right for you but they give you a feeling that you can push beyond your not-enough, and one day be enough. The problem with that, though, is that you can never turn your not-enough into enough through outside things. I will never become enough by pursuing a relationship that simultaneously makes me feel amazing and broken (I don't think the person whom I've pursued realizes that that's going on, but I'm grateful to him for his wisdom in that regard - bygones); I will never become enough by pursuing a Mary Kay career (and the thing about that, is that you already have to be enough and know it before you can get anywhere in any kind of business, let alone one that is all about leadership, consistency, and being able to "expend a significant amount of physical and emotional energy"). 

You can't become enough by looking outside yourself. Food doesn't fix it. Exercise doesn't fix it. Sex doesn't fix it. Shopping doesn't fix it. Church doesn't fix it. Books don't fix it. Soul poverty, that feeling of never being enough doesn't go away because you work hard, play hard, love hard, or give up entirely. The problem with this concept is that it's ingrained in you so deeply that no matter how hard you work or play or love or not, it gets worse. Because it's inside you. I would like to say that I know how to overcome it, but if I did I think I would have already. 

I haven't gotten that far yet, though. The comfort of the emotional ghetto (apologies) is hard to overcome. And not because I'm actually thriving in this inner-world that feels like a movie about growing up poor, it's comfortable because it's all I've ever known. I become overwhelmed when the Emperor does something that is good because he knows it's good and will help me; expecting no reprisals. I'm overwhelmed by the help offered by people I barely know. And I would like nothing more than to abandon this entire thing and pretend that I'm totally healthy again, but if I did I would be stuck here, in this place where I will never be enough, no matter what outside thing I try to be to make myself enough. 

I realize though, that this never-enough is what has been holding me back. It controls everything that I do and made me susceptible to having an eating disorder in the first place. I don't know if it would help to examine where that came from, but I do know that those are outside things and aren't going to make it enough. I don't think that my not-enough is the same as being broken, but it certainly makes me feel that way sometimes; however, I also don't imagine that if I changed it and was enough I would never feel broken again. Still, I have to change it, because I don't want to be impoverished in my soul. I want joy and fulfillment out of my life, not struggle and heartache. 

More importantly though, I want to be able to teach others how to be enough. This week I've realized that the struggle that I'm having is something that a lot of other people go through, and I want to help them out of it, but in order to do so I have to get to the other side. You can't give something you don't got, as the saying goes; also, the mess is the message.

You gotta get in to get out?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Don't ask if you don't want to know: I have an eating disorder

I don't really recall right now how much I've written about this subject, so feel free to ignore any of this. Or, you know, maybe you shouldn't, because chances are pretty good that if your reading this you care about me.

I have an eating disorder. You wouldn't know it from looking at me, or spending any time with me, but I do. The only real way anyone really knows about it is if they get inside my head at all - here's a big reason why it's so hard for me to let people in. I fall mostly in line with the clinical definition of bulimia, but there are some dalliances from that. I don't purge (anymore - I used to), but I do often fast for long periods of time, which lead to bingeing, which leads back to fasting because eating makes me feel like a disgusting slob. More than 50% of the time, I feel like I'm not in control when I eat, even if it's just a little bit. I suffer from anxiety and depression because of this, and it affects my self-worth by damaging my pride without ever affecting the number on the scale like it's supposed to - which makes me feel like a failure and then I fast and purge harder. 

This has been an issue since I was 12. I would intentionally skip meals because I was the girl in the health class who, when she heard about people intentionally starving themselves (or bingeing and purging) to lose weight, thought it was a suggestion. But the true root of this goes back farther to an abuse that lasted, I don't know how long, that took away my control over how I related to food. (The details don't really matter, so I won't go into it.) As I grew up, this loss of control was solidified in my mind, and the only way that I could control my food was to fast before a meal, or purge after it; I would still lose control when felt hungry, and snacking felt like weakness, and even though I would only eat a small amount it was a personal failure for me.

I continued to grow up in multiple environments that taught me to feel shame about my body and my relationship to food continued to be hostile. When I was in college, it was even more hostile because I had to be on food stamps, and this increased my shame, but certainly gave me an "out" as it were for skipping meals. What was even more of an out was alcohol. Even before I was old enough to drink, I would intentionally drink so much that I would vomit. The drinking was fun, but I knew what I was drinking had tons of calories, so I would make sure to make myself sick so that I wouldn't metabolize all of the fun I was having. There were even a few times when I made myself sick off of other substances combined with what I called at the time "over indulgence" but was really a binge. 

Around junior year of college, this all started tapering off and I became a little more okay with my body, (either that or I was still experiencing symptoms, but I decided to ignore them), and a little more okay with food, but the thoughts of needing to lose weight, watch what I ate, and control every aspect of my diet never truly went away. I relapsed a few times, purging for what I hope was the last time in the fall of 2010 after a fight with The Emperor. The continuing thread throughout all of this, though, has been skipping meals in order to feel like I'm in control, even though I don't feel that way.

When someone tells me they're on a diet, I feel inadequate because I can't diet. I fail at the exercise part of it because I lose interest, don't have money, or feel too weak to keep it up on a regular basis. Then I fail on the eating part of it because I'm apparently an all-or-nothing kind of gal in that respect. I sometimes feel resentment toward people who work to lose weight, because I can't figure out a way to control my weight, and I am obsessed with actually trying to do that. Or maybe I'm obsessed with failing at it, I don't know. 

What really gets me though, is food restrictions placed on me by others. If someone criticizes my food choices, I lose my shit. The digestive issues I've been having lately have been especially troublesome as doctors orders are to eliminate specific foods, and EAT ON A REGULAR BASIS. Even several small meals is okay, but the problem that no one seems to understand is that when someone tries to tell me that I should or shouldn't eat something I go nuts because they're taking my power from me. 

It all boils down to power and control, and it always has, because when I was a small child who had just developed sovereignty over her eating it was wrested from me by idiots who continued to abuse their station of authority over me until they no longer held such authority - but by then it was too late. Those tapes had already been recorded ("you're too fat", "eat it or else", "suck in your gut", "you should lose some weight", "all you have to do is restrict your calories", etc) and the damage was done. Up to this point, I haven't intentionally dealt with it, because I thought I could ignore it when it came up and just move through the cycles that various points in the year held. 

But then came the Celiac. Then came the need to be fastidious about one item of food. And it built back up. For a while, I felt comfortable in the control I took in eliminating gluten from my diet, but it still built. And then I had a gluten exposure that made my insides explode apart and got sick for two months. It's especially easy to fall back on old habits of fasting for control when I don't feel well; easier when the emotional turmoil of the battle between me and food is played out inside my body. There's so much guilt and shame going on in my body that I really can't handle it and I don't know anyone who can help.

My doctor is looking into a couple of options for me for therapy. The Emperor and I are talking about constructing a juice fast which will give me something to have power over (other than denial of food) while giving my insides something to repair whatever damage was done when I first got sick. I'm taking some steps on my own toward recovery, but goddamnit I wish that people would quit looking at me weird when I try to tell them what's going on.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Things fall apart

On Monday we got the results from my first round of blood tests. No infections; so assume that the "elevated temperature" is something else entirely, and focus on the gut issue. We also decided to do a full blood panel, and I'm going back to the vampire on Thursday. A possible culprit is the thyroid. But at least it's not lupus*. 

That was a relief, but there was a lot of talk about me and eating. Questions like "are you avoiding food because of the pain?" and "when did you eat last?" and then statements like "I don't care what you're eating at this point, as long as we can get you to eat"; then utter bewilderment when I stated that I never wake up hungry (cuz we're doing fasting blood levels). Years and years of dieting and disordered eating have caused my "hey I'm hungry" signals to turn into "omg I'm gonna hurl" signals, or just disappear all together. Turns out, that's not normal.

Then there's the anxiety that crops up because someone's giving me grief about eating. My whole life someone has been harassing me about eating too much, or again, or going back for more food, or disappearing off to the bathroom after meals, my food choices... all of the control was taken away from me in this abusive situation, and then if that wasn't enough, I had to be subject to dieting because I couldn't barf myself thin. I hid it pretty well, but then again, I don't think anyone was actually paying attention and how could I have an eating disorder? I was fat and it was always an issue. 

So, I skipped meals, and then I'd binge and get so fucked up that I'd barf. There were times when I would intentionally drink too much because I knew that I would vomit. And the fat thing was still always an issue - hell, it's an issue right now. And I knew about the health risks from bulimia and anorexia, but it was never a factor because it was more important to everyone that I wasn't fat. As it turns out, I was more unhealthy as a fat person trying to force herself to become thin than if I had just been allowed to be fat and be okay with it. 

Now I miss meals because I don't want to deal with it. Eating is a hassle. Since the gall bladder thing started, not only am I not able to eat gluten, but meat and eggs are out, AND I can't even drink (which, I suppose given my history, isn't exactly a bad thing). It's causing me a lot of anxiety. I've now had two, significantly more mild, panic attacks since the first one on Thursday last week. And while eating doesn't hurt as much as it did, I'm still really not interested in eating (unless it's something I really really enjoy like tacos or cookies), because of the emotional toll it takes. 

"You have to eat to survive," my doctor said. Well, that's nice, but you can't overcome 20-something years of programming that says that I don't have the right to eat because I am fat. Then you tell me I have to eat regularly? Actual meals? All of this conflicts with my programming, and that makes me anxious. And things start to fall apart..

*It's never lupus**.
**Except for when it is.