Scheduling a Breakdown

(I submitted this to The Mighty a couple days ago, but I know they’re busy, so I thought I’d share it here. I’ll snag the link if/when it goes live. Until then, you can find my articles here.)

It seems like the minute I have a hundred things to do, my brain decides it’s the perfect time for a breakdown. Even though I have no time for it, it’s not convenient and I really don’t want to think about all the things my depression brain focuses on, I find myself doing all of those things instead of my full calendar. So I’ve put together a list of things that help me put a pin in my symptoms momentarily so I can finish up a few things.

1. Set aside time for yourself.
Trust me, as someone who understands all about
procrastinating, this can seem like both an obvious thing and an impossible
thing to do. But I’m talking about a five minute break here or there. Drink
your cup of coffee, slowly. Smell the steam, watch your creamer swirl in the
cup. Live the experience fully. Go get the mail. Do you hear any crickets? The
sound of ice crunching beneath your feet? This little break reminds you to catch
a little perspective and maybe distract you long enough to work through it.

2. Let yourself be upset.
Telling yourself that you’re not that upset only makes you worse. If you
absolutely can’t be upset-do math. It can be simple, like 1+1, 2+2 and so on.
As it turns out, your brain doesn’t like feeling emotions and doing math at the
same time, so you can usually stall your tears for a moment. But if you have
the ability, just be upset. Again, it can be a little five minute moment in
which you feel like the world is crashing around you and all hope is gone. I
ugly cry, take a tissue and blow my nose then get up and grab some water. I’m
not saying I’m done being upset, but if I let myself be upset in little bits,
then it doesn’t come out in a marathon. It’s your right to be upset. Even if
you don’t think there’s a reason. The way you’re feeling is completely valid.

3. Find something you wanna smile about.
I hate the advice “just turn that frown upside
down”. Sometimes that’s the absolute last thing I want to do-and even then it
just makes me angrier, or cry harder. But what I’m talking about is finding
something that you know you enjoy and experience it. If you think penguin’s
laughing is cute-find a video (I think it’s fantastic). If you know you smile
when you make chicken parmesan, make it. Like bubble baths? Take one. Because
finding something to enjoy usually results in some kind of self-care and let’s
be honest-is that ever a bad thing?

4. Take a deep breath.
This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s important.
Your whole body needs oxygen to function. Your brain is absolutely no
different. Think about how hard your brain is working, trying to manage
everything, fix problems (especially the ones you’re worrying about “for
nothing”). You need air. Plus, if you take a moment and focus on your
breathing, sometimes you’ll find that you already knew the answer to the
problems, you were just so focused on everything all at once that you didn’t
notice.
While you’re breathing, try this little
exercise. Take one breath in and list five things you see. Breathe out. Take
another breath and list four things you hear. Breathe out. Take one more breath
and list three things you smell. Breathe out. One more breath and list two
things you can feel. Breathe out. Take another breath and list one thing you
can taste. Breathe out. Take another breath and carry on about your day.

5. Get a validation outfit.
This is one of my favorite things, and it
happened completely on accident. I got a sweatshirt a couple sizes too big and
washed it and decided that I would only wear it when I felt like a terrible
person. I told myself that while I was wearing it, I wasn’t allowed to degrade
myself. The shirt itself has a graphic about always loving yourself, so I
thought I’d wear it when I needed a reminder that I’m not a monster, and that I
matter. It hangs in my closet until I feel depressed, or feel worthless and
then I put it on and read the words. And when the thoughts popped into my head
like “I’m an idiot.” Or “I’m unlovable.” I look at the words on my shirt and
force myself to take ten seconds to say something nice about myself. “I am
fierce. I am valid. I am irreplaceable.” The nice thing about validation
outfits? They can be anything: a business suit, a pair of shoes, earrings, a
bracelet, a pair of socks. The important thing is to remember to love yourself.
Soon enough, it’ll be your favorite piece of clothing.

Life is hectic and hard sometimes. But the important
thing to remember is that you can do it-even when you’re convinced you can’t.

Reflections on a Theme

This post came across my Facebook feed this morning:


Naturally there were streams of support, streams of criticisms but one happened to catch my eye. Someone told Jared that he should not “stoop” and that she was “extremely disappointed” in his behavior, because he was calling out a human being publically. Here’s what he said (and yes, although probably unnecessarily, I did blot out her name):


I immediately gravitated towards the following phrases:

1. “Not welcome and “less than””

2. “Not entitled to share my concerns or unhappiness because I’m a “celebrity””

3. “That’s akin to the people who told me that I should be “happy” because I am “successful” and that I shouldn’t have “depression” or “anxiety” because “famous people” are so “lucky”. And I very much don’t appreciate being victim shamed, even though I’m “famous” and should just “deal with it and keep quiet about it”. At the end of the day, I am a human being that breathes oxygen.”

4. “I’m truly sorry that the existence of my hurt disappointed you, and I wish you peace and happiness.”
Okay, so I know I basically just typed out the entire thing, but the 4 quotes I pulled are important. Why? Becuase they are classic depression quotes. I numbered them so I can analyze them more strategically. And at the end, I will wrap up with some thoughts about my analysis.

1. Doubting self-worth, being sensitive to the actions and negativity of others. It’s a pretty common theme in depression to doubt everything about yourself, to feel that other people just “hate you” because of who you are. And it’s easier to pick up on feeling that way when you’re depressed.

2. Believing that you are required to be a certain person, act a certain way because of arbitrary factors in your life. This one hits pretty hard too, especially among individuals fighting their symptoms. It doesn’t matter if those arbitrary factors are “career”, “education”, “gender roles”, “age”, “geography”, “economy”, “culture” or other-you feel as though you cannot be yourself and have a hard time dealing with that.

3. Feeling like you must defend your feelings to others, based on the fact that you are human too. This one hits home. Because whenever I don’t feel acknowledged or validated in my concerns and emotions, I immediately volley between this one and number 4. It’s a quick jump to feel like you have to justify the way you’re feeling because you feel alienated by the people who should understand-on the basis that they’re people too. You extend them that courtesy, and expect them to extend it back.

4. Apologizing for feeling the way you do, because it causes discomfort to someone else-something you never intended. At some point we’ve all done it. Apologized for going on a rant (and feeling like you’ve taken up the entire conversation), apologized for crying after a hard day, bad news, or other event. Apologized for feeling like an inconvenience simply because you existed. You didn’t want to put your baggage on someone else, it just kind of happened and you’re sorry. (Even if there isn’t a reason to be sorry.)

Conclusion: While not all of these things indicate depression and in fact, are very typical to things like defending your actions, interacting with rude, belittling people and a host of other things, as someone who has spent more time in a depression than not, I think I stand by my analysis that the wording chosen is representative of a spike in depression.

Although I am incredibly disheartened that experiences like this happen (and we all know they do happen), I pulled this story because it is such a great discussion piece about mental health and the stigmas still faced. I can just as easily reanalyze those quotes in the following way:

1. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses aren’t welcome members in society.

2. Stigma: Those with careers in public spotlight should not suffer from mental illnesses.

3. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses shouldn’t express the pain they are in. (AKA: The “It’s All In Your Head” Stigma).

4. Stigma: People with mental illnesses are burdens to society.

And suddenly, it’s the same story remade to explain a broader issue. Think with me, if you will, how many things you could replace “mental illness” with. We’ve become a people who are afraid to stand up for ourselves. Afraid of what might happen if we demand basic human rights. Afraid of what might become of us when we call out an injustice. It has become a cultural trend to victim blame. I read over those statements and looked at the way my brain interpreted them. I jumped to depression because it is a condition I know and understand very well. But I also know sexual assault very well. And if I plop a little interpretation into this conversation it looks a little bit like this:

1. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are not welcome members in society with equal rights.

2. Stigma: Those who choose to dress in anyway close to “revealing” should not expect to be exempt from sexual assault.

3. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t expect justice. (*Casts side-eye to Stanford and U.Colorado judges*)

4. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are burdens to society.

What Jared did when he wrote this response was open the dialogue to the ways in which we (as a culture) judge others on arbitrary categories. “Celebrity”, “Mental Illness”, “Victim” all have become code words for a language we barely even know we’re speaking. Suddenly, we attribute roles to these words which themselves had no connotations before, and now have changed to “Perfect”, “Defective”, “Liar” respectively. The way we use the key to our culture, the very foundation of how we describe ourselves and the world around us is changing slightly every day. And it is because of this key that the formation of our very thoughts are coming into question.

Thought to consider for the day:

We are all human beings. We breathe the same air, our hearts pump the same way. Look at the way you judge others, the way you look them over and determine your interpretation of them. Do you see a person struggling to get by in life? Do you see their battles, struggles, victories and failures? Or do you see the person you want to see, covered in the veils of biases?

I end my thoughts today with a fitting quote from the movie Ten Inch Hero (which is one of my favorites).

Look So Tired

(The title is a song by Landon Pigg-I think it’s phenomenal, just not the one I’m focusing on today. It deals with the same kinda thing though.) There’s a song (a kinda old song) called Comes and Goes in Waves by Greg Laswell. I’ve been working through life and this song brought with it some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple months and years.

This one’s for the lonely, the one’s that seek and find
Only to be let down time after time
This one’s for the torn down, the experts at the fall
Come on friends, get up now, you’re not alone at all.

The song starts out with these words and I am immediately drawn in. I’ve been in such a funk lately. It speaks to me of destiny, of the path I am on, they way that I feel lost and hopeless in the face of recent tragedies. The way I feel overwhelmed by how much need there is in the world.

And this part was for her (3x)
Does she remember?
It comes and goes in waves

This is the way depression and anxiety are to me. It comes. It goes. And I struggle to remember that it isn’t always dark skies and sadness.

This one’s for the faithless, the ones that are surprised
They’re only where they are now regardless of their fight
This one’s for believing if only for it’s sake
Come on friends get up now love is to be made

This is the part of the song I connect with on a personal level. I feel like I fight so hard, just to keep myself afloat and it’s all I can do to remind myself that it will be okay-even if I don’t believe it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at where I am and can’t seem to rationalize it against how hard I’ve struggled just to get there.

It comes and goes in waves, I
Am only led to wonder why
It comes in goes in waves, I
Am only led to wonder why
Why I, why I try

I hear these words and nod my head. I want to help the world, but I feel so minuscule in my attempts. I feel like a single grain of sand in an entire shore of beach.

This is for the ones who stand
For the ones who think they can
For the ones who need a hand
For the ones who try again

This is the remembrance of my goals. I wake each day to rediscover how much I have to give to the world. How much capacity I have within me to make it a better place than I found it.

worthyI’ve been hard at work on a project I will unveil to you this week, along with the premise of why I’ve been working on it so fervently. But for now, I want to look at the way I’ve experienced my own work.

I know I will succeed. I know that because I simply have no other option. Even so, the big huge shadow of insecurity grips me tightly. I stood in front of the mirror last night and had a heart to heart with myself. I know I’ve shared this quote before, but this is essentially what I said to myself and it’s pretty damned important.

Screenshot (511)

I’m alive. I’m fighting. And I will always keep fighting. I take things personally, I emote-with exceptional capability. I’m human. But in the end, the world is always going to say that I am not enough. That I am not right, not perfect, not this or that. It shouldn’t affect me at all. But it does. And that’s alright. What bothers me is that at some point I was taught that I should say those things to myself as well. I mean, holy crap what even is that?

I had to take time out of my day, right before I went to bed just to reassure myself that I was enough. That I was worthy of love, of respect, of everything I’ve worked towards. I had to look myself in the eyes and remind myself that I am enough of a person to live an unapologetic life. I am worthy of acceptance, of happiness, even when I cannot see that for myself. I am a human being and I am enough to make a difference. I am enough.

ImproveSelfEsteem_thumb

Those words shouldn’t need to be spoken in a whisper through tears. They should be standard issue. Instead, it’s an uphill battle against society. Your worth is determined by numbers on a scale, numbers in your bank account, numbers of followers and likes and retweets. Your worth is determined by people who don’t even know you, your struggle, your thoughts and heart. You are judged before you even leave the womb and you have to fight to claim your worth beyond selfies and eating disorders and lies.

I first felt that pressure when I was in fifth grade and hadn’t started shaving my legs yet. I was 10 and I got made fun of. Then I remember being told that I’d be worth dating if I were 20 pounds lighter. Then I made the joke that you could see my ribs, so I knew I was on the right path. I was 13. Then I couldn’t understand why I hated myself and my arms will forever remain an invisible zebra. I was 14. I thought I would be better off dead. I was 15. I turned to energy drinks as a way to fight off the nightmares and in the process I damaged my kidneys (to the point of shutting down). I was 18.

I’m twenty three. I’ve been fighting with myself for over a decade. HALF OF MY LIFE I have hated the person staring at me from the mirror. I can’t say that it’s been a perfect year, but I think it’s important to look at the path I took to get here. I’m fighting my hardest. And each day comes and goes in waves. I’m just swimming about, keeping my head above water. And I think there’s something beautiful about that.

I-Am-Enough.jpgAnyway, You’re probably wondering what it is that I’m even saying today. The Campbell’s soup (condensed) version? I didn’t want to write a post about my problems but I saw a video of an interview with Jared Padalecki who said the words “I didn’t want to talk about my sadness because I thought it would make everyone else worse. Instead, I found solidarity.” ( I paraphrased.)

So if you’re struggling today, I’m in that ocean with you. And we’ll make it out alive, we just have to keep fighting.

therapist_owl_poster.jpg

Time May Change Me

I feel like I need to step away from the facts, the stats, the in-your-face business for a minute (just a minute) and speak about my own life. I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, I just want to document some things before I get back to being a loud-and-proud feminism activist.

I’ve been working on a project, which has the potential to be the biggest, most life changing project I may ever get the chance to be a part of-and as soon as I get the proposal submitted, I’ll tell you all about it. I’m sure you can guess-it’s got lots of caffeine inspiration and some very epic ideas for change and a brighter future.

I like to think of myself as an introvert inside an extrovert’s body. I really like to hang out with a limited amount of people-but my goals and aspirations require me to be very upfront and outspoken to large masses of people. It’s a lot of stress for one person. That stress translates to weight issues. I mean, I’m not really upset by it anymore-because I only get one body and the more I understand myself and my destiny, the less I hate who I am (funny how that works)-but this whole anxious person hits a wall when it comes to that very topic.

I want to workout. I want to swim everyday, I want to work on my core muscles and maybe even do a little boxing or something that’s useful as self-defense. But. I don’t want anyone to see me do it, or to help me. I’m only just learning how to love myself but that doesn’t mean my self-esteem has been built up yet. I don’t have workout clothes, can’t afford to go out and get any, and even if I did, I have no idea how to use the equipment. All of that, combined with me having a real issue with going new places, being surrounded by people I don’t know and not liking to appear stupid means that the gym is not place for Michelle. And the swimming pool? There are beautiful people with golden tans who make me look-and feel-like a big albino elephant. I’m not saying that for sympathy. I know that no one can make me feel inferior without my consent.
And running? I think not. If there is one thing I absolutely hate in this world it is running. So I’ve started using twelve pack cases of soda as dumbbells. My arms are sore, but at least I can say I can “lift” 10 pounds per arm.

I’ve started work on two novels. One is inspired by real life-about my struggle with self harm and you know, life. One is a more dime store romance novel that’s basically just me trying to tap into some unused creative voices. I’ve written nearly 10K words in the first and a thousand in the second (which I only started today). I’m developing the power of words and I think that’s a great thing. More than most things, I wish to be a writer. I just want to be able to do what I love-and that is helping people and writing.

I’ve really been getting into spirituality and meditation. I mean, I was before, but I’m trying to incorporate it into each and every day. It’s a little hard when Ben and our housemates are home, but I try. In fact, that’s how I’ve managed to get my proposal for the project done.

I’ve narrowed down my list of law schools to 13-which I will be applying to in THREE MONTHS. My life just keeps plugging away and I can hardly contain my excitement. I mean-in three months I ask colleges to look at my applications and take a chance on a girl from the midwest with a heart full of passion and a brain full of song lyrics and sarcasm. And then in just about six months, I’ll find out which ones believed in me!

I suppose that’s about all for now. ❤

Walk Away

There are days which comes at me a little more harshly than others. I feel like although this could probably be glanced over, maybe it’s still important to get it out in the open. Who knows, maybe someone else will have a similar story.

In three days, I will have been married to my husband for two years. In those two years, we have grown as a couple in ways that I didn’t think we could. We now can anticipate each other: he moves, I move. We know each other’s schedules-not just for day to day life, but days that are hard, moods, all of it. It’s really nice sometimes, sometimes it’s really annoying. (Sometimes I just want to be mad by myself, you know?) But anyway, it isn’t that that bothers me. I love being able to say I am married. And watching people look with their disapproving little heads at us. So many people thought we’d made a mistake getting married young, but we’re stronger now than we were, and we’ve now seen each other at our worst. He and I believe that you should work on a marriage every day, and that having each other is a gift to treasure, not a safety net for convenience.

Around this time, a lot of my Facebook friends have also gotten married. I smile at each and every one of them, hoping they have a good life, a life full of love and happiness. I was invited to several of their weddings, but somehow never managed to make it any.I have a very real issue with new places, new people and large quantities of them. That makes me exceptionally frustrated when I receive an invitation and in a mania state say “yes, I will be attending” and then find the day of the affair that I’m mid depression, full of social anxiety and unable to get dressed in “street clothes” let alone make my way to a glorious event. I’m not making excuses, I’m just highlighting an issue I wish wasn’t an issue.

But there’s something else, which creeps into my heart and creates an emotional disease. When I got married, Ben was in a suit, I was in a cream colored dress from Victoria’s Secret.

crochet (It was this one, as a matter of fact. No, this isn’t me.)

Ben and I were married in a classroom at our college, by one of Ben’s Political Science professors. It was an intimate ceremony, my parents, his dad, his best friend and his best friend’s parents, my siblings and maybe a straggler or two from the university.

I’ll tell the full story on our actual anniversary, because that’s a really epic story, but here’s the part that makes me sad. The professor brought his guitar and played us a song-our first song as a married couple. It was Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. I actually liked that song before, and knew the lyrics ahead of time.

“So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while”

We came back from our weekend away and waited for pictures. We hadn’t hired a photographer, we just asked everyone there to take some. My mother took a video recording (so she and my father are exempt from this).

Every picture was blurred.

I know it sounds trivial. I know. And I’ve gone back and forth for these last two years about how silly I sound. But I have no pictures from my wedding. They all are shaky, blurred images of my backside, of the professor, of the group of people who were there. I have the blurry images, and trust me, they were blurrier as I cried about it.

So I look at Facebook, and all of my friends who got married and the weddings I couldn’t attend. I look at their pictures, the photos they will have forever. And I can’t help but get a little gloomy. I hope they all have the best lives they possibly could. But I also wish that I too had photos to share.

As I listen to that song each anniversary, I can’t help but be reminded of the lines I quoted here. I am left with the memories in my head. And my brain isn’t the most reliable of things, let’s be honest.

jealous

I told Ben that I was upset because when I am old and don’t remember who I am anymore, I will have nothing to show for our wedding day. That’s certainly half of it. But it’s more than that. I also feel incredibly jealous that although I know and he knows that we got married, I have nothing to share with my friends. I can’t show them how happy we looked, our very first moments as a married couple, nothing. And they can all show me.

So I made it my mission to take as many pictures as I could from then on out. I’m working to save up more money for my anniversary tattoo, and I’m going to make sure that although I have no pictures of my first moments as Mrs., I will have enough proof to show that it wasn’t short lived.

(And for those of you interested in the video, there isn’t any audio, and it’s only the back of our heads.)

 

Just Breathe

If you had to sum up what I am most passionate about in terms of what I blog about most often, that list might look something like:

Women’s Rights

Self-Care

College Life with Bipolar Disorder

Poetry

And if you added in coffee, I would not mark that as wrong. But I want to come at those things from a different angle today. I’m gonna do a humdinger post, where literally all the things come together and we hopefully have a work of art. Might work, might not.

I have a couple months before my lease is up, and my husband and I are looking for a place to move that we can afford with just the two of us (we currently live with roommates). We have one car, and while that doesn’t seem to be bad right now, it means that we don’t have a bunch of space for moving everything all over hell’s half acre. We’re probably going to move again when we graduate, and that’s okay. It also means that there is one fatal flaw to this process.

  

(This isn’t my personal stack of books, but it’s basically the same thing.)

While I may not be a hoarder, I happen to attach emotional value to lots of things-namely books. Every time I approach moving, I discover that somehow I have accumulated a large quantity of knick-knacks. What happens then is something I like to call Purge-aggedon. I go through all of my clothes, my books, movies, general stuff and everything I own and start throwing away or donating whatever I have that I don’t need. It’s akin to shedding off a layer of skin, or getting several feet of hair cut away. It may cause me exceptional amounts of stress, but once it is gone, I feel loads better.

The thing is, like so many people, I create barriers around myself to protect myself from life. I used food as medicine for the longest time, creating a layer of fat to protect my feelings. It was like I had a protective coat which wasn’t me, but would take on all of the negative things from other people. Some walls are not physical, but completely mental and mostly subconscious. I broke through one on accident this semester and it was a disaster. Some walls are very much physical and yet mean so little. I keep clothes which do not fit either in hopes that one day they will or because I feel “rich”because I have multiple things. And while that is all fine and well, sometimes it’s more important to be completely okay with myself as myself rather than the illusion I make of myself. I really hope that makes sense.

  

Anyway, I sat down this morning and actually drank my coffee while watching the sunrise. I took a pause in life, looking at the bigger picture. I didn’t weigh myself down with worries and stress, I just was. And it was wonderful. I know that not everything can be solved by stopping what you’re doing, but one of the most helpful things I learned from a counselor was that if you spend too much time in the past, you’re depressed. If you spend too much time in the future, you’re anxious. If you spend just enough time in the present, you will live life to the fullest.

I’m not an expert in the way life works-or even the way I work. I have good days, bad days, days with both and days with neither. But I know that I left my hair down today, watched the sunrise, drank my coffee slowly and just breathed. I have no idea what the rest of my life holds. But for today, all I need to know is today. And that’s something very doable.

So, it’s clear where two or three of my list comes to play, but what about poetry and women’s rights you ask? I’m glad you brought that up.

Part of what I’ve been doing at work today is working on some ideas about how to help children with body safety (as a stand alone project). And if you can’t see the poetry in a cup of coffee and a sunrise, then I will add in some very lovely words to close.

My eyes, once the vision saw

Melted into the watercolor sky

Without so much as a hello

Without needing to say goodbye.

My heart, once the sun rose 

Fluttered once then stood still

The life which beat within me paused

Then soared out from it’s window sill.

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

I don’t know about you, but I look through Pinterest and there are days when I get so revved up about what I see that I have to stop looking at it for a few hours, or I’ll keep going back to it and get all worked up. Especially when I look at the feminism stuff or mental illness pins. And I am very much for both of those sections. But you know as well as I do that any old fool can post things without having an inkling of knowledge to back up those words. And it is that ignorance that gets to me. So, let’s jump in the time machine and I will tell you all about why.

I’m a proud Pinterst fanatic. I have over 20 thousand pins. It’s taken LARGE amounts of my time to get that far, but I consider it an invaluable resource to my life. For those of you (are there any?) who don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s kind of like a networking site for ideas. You “Pin” ideas to a “board” and save recipes, DIY projects and so many things. But it can also be used for keeping ideas together. I belong to both camps. Today, I’m going to focus on how social media (specifically Pinterest) perpetuates incorrect information about mental illnesses and disorders: namely EDs (Eating Disorders).

I doubt there are in here, but I know how this works, so just in case.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Some symptoms, stories and elements may cause flare ups of conditions. The author does not condone or suggest any actions which may cause bodily harm.

I know that if you go into Pinterest and type in “Eating Disorders” into the search bar, you will most likely get a different result list than I will. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how: screen shots! I will caption them with WHAT I want you to pay attention to and then WHY it’s important to today’s blog. This is going to be a personal one today, and I hope that means it helps more than I rant.

  
First off, I like this. I mean, I’m not really sure why I couldn’t immediately connect to Pinterest, but I’m ultimately glad I didn’t. And it goes to show, that the moment I try to prove my point, something inevitably happens that changes my mind. Sort of. So thank you, Pinterest for being on the ball. I appreciate that.

  
 
I want you to look at the top left “hand” picture AND the one right beside it. Those two pictures I am calling into question because although you cannot sum ANY disorder up into a single picture, these only scratch the surface. ALL of these pictures do. The focus is on being skinny. But this screen shot shows my point as well. Looks can be deceiving. And the truth is, you really may not ever know who you are until you break away all of the pieces you thought you were made of.

  
 
This time, focus on the gentleman , and the woman at opposite corners. The great thing is that it highlights men having EDs too; a topic we need to focus on more! The problem with the gentleman’s picture is the same as above: it focuses on the skinny issue. And granted you could argue that that is the “basis” of eating disorders, but I would argue it is merely a facet of some of them. The problem I have with the second one actually requires more than a caption so I’ll bump down a paragraph.

Yes you do. You absolutely do decide one day that that is the course of action you are going to take. It may be subtle, like backing off, extreme dieting or eating less and less. It may be abrupt and one day you just stop eating solids, or anything at all. But you DO decide it. And it basically happens in a day. You just can’t take the pressure or the shame or the guilt and you decide you’re going to do something about it.

I was 14 when I first started dabbling with EDs. Almost a decade later, I’m not sure I’m any better.

The first thing I tried was Bulimia. I can make myself purge on demand and I enjoyed the taste of food so I thought: At least I can still taste the things I love. But the thing is, I HATE puking. I really do. And no matter how much I convinced myself that it would help, I dreaded each meal for the sole reason that I would have to throw it up. I maybe lasted in this phase a grand total of 2 weeks. Any extraneous symptoms were not entirely present. (Or had been present BEFORE onset.)

  

So I moved to Anorexia. By the “height” of my time in this disorder, I was only eating an apple a day and that is why I became a caffeine addict. I fought so hard to stay awake every day. And since I have many years worth of experience in this disorder, let me tell you some things.

  

First. While the motivation to be skinny is a big draw into this disorder, it isn’t the thing that keeps you there. You become trapped, like you cannot stop. You feel like it’s your life now and that is all there will ever be. And did I mind that my collar bone stuck out, that my ribs were exceptionally visible? I lived for those signs that I was making progress. But those are the “sexy” side effects. I’m here to tell you about the not-so-sexy ones.

I began to pass out. Sometimes at home, sometimes at school, always without knowing it. It was kind of like narcolepsy-it just happened. And on top of the literal black outs, I began to loose whole chunks of time. There are, even still, very large portions of my memory that are not clear because I didn’t feed my brain enough to make them last. On top of that, I have little hairs all around, which were not there before. You wouldn’t know it, because I take care of it, but even now, they remain. And the hair on my head falls out in great clumps, just as it did before. I missed menstrual cycles-sometimes for 6 months or more. Not because I was pregnant, but because my body couldn’t succeed in normal functions. My fingernails would constantly chip and break, but the worst thing was how weak I felt. I felt slow, my head felt too big, it was like being stuck in extreme gravity for months on end.

And the thing is, no one even noticed. I wore baggy clothes, bundled up, and tried to hide from everyone. This photo was taken of my in my junior year, I believe. I was trying to catch up on some caffeine, clearly. (I said I was a caffeine addict. And I remember this. It was during prom planning, when I had to try hardest to fit in.) The shirt I was in was a medium. 

  

I was 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall at that point, as I am still,  and “look healthy”. But what you can’t see are the constant struggles with food, the endless exercises,  the constant state of pain. All you can see is laughter. A facade.  The me that I outwardly projected. Which is exactly what my primary care physician saw when I went in with the complaint of forgetting chunks of time and passing out. She told me that it was all menstruation related and that I needed to “focus harder”. She could have inadvertently killed me with those words, but luckily I saw a psychiatrist soon after.

And now?

That’s what everyone wants, right?  The triumphant “I survived. And now I’m better. ” story. But I don’t think that’s the story I have for you.  Not today.

I currently fall into the “obese” category of the BMI chart. And does that bother me? A lot. I stay so far away from the starvation diet that I jumped right into the other band wagon. 

  
Puts an interesting spin on things, doesn’t it? Like a big fat slap in the face. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was doing to myself. And the thing is: I’m not so different than I was before. I spend a day eating whatever I want followed by a day of not really eating, or by a week of heavy dieting. And the people who know me know that I diet a LOT. We’re talking everything shy of weight loss pills. And the cycle repeats. And I’m almost afraid to call it what it is, because I still can’t decide if it’s a lack of willpower, self control or if it’s just lazy, “emotional” eating. With Bulimia and Anorexia, I could relate to 90% of the psychiatrist’s symptom list, but only about 80% of the list I supplied. (More with AN than B.) But I can check off every single symptom up there for BED) and if that’s not saying something, I’ll tell you what is.

I’ve had some variety of ED for HALF MY LIFE (almost-we’re short by 2 years). My hair, even though it is thick (as we discussed a couple posts ago) falls out in large clumps. My nails break often (but I try to compensate with the vitamins I take). My body still has little hairs from being anorexic, I feel sluggish and exhausted a LOT, and I cannot say that I enjoy these decisions. By being anorexic, I ruined my body. I broke who I was as a person and watched the pieces slip away. But with B.E.D., I’ve hidden any growth behind a wall of food, shame and pain trying to avoid crushing my soul into oblivion (all while sabotaging it instead). 

So all in all, what I have to say can be boiled down into two parts. First, the Pinterest issue. Not all EDs are about being skinny. I didn’t even touch on orthorexia. Not all EDs are publicized, but ALL of them need to be taken seriously.

And second, I make a public promise to myself, that I will never stop fighting for people who need it, even if they do not look like anything is wrong. Because for years the only thing people were concerned about was the physical harm I was inflicting on myself, and noone even saw the neglect and torture behind it.

So although this isn’t an update for you all, I’ve been working on this post for over three weeks, and I want everyone to know that I am getting help I don’t know the future, but I have to take back control.