I Chose,Therefore I Am

(I started this a couple days ago, so the timing is off, but all still as true as when it was actually happening in situ.)

I’d mentioned that my absence recently was due to the wedding (my brother!) but I haven’t really gotten a chance to develop all the things which occurred from then til now, so I think today is an excellent day to do so. Plus, I’m trying positive thinking instead of letting myself get bounced around by “crap”.

The mother of the bride is has the same name as I do, and because I was officiating/helping and she was organizing/planning, Michele/Michelle was on everyone’s lips. Within a day, I was quite sure I’d get whiplash from turning my head to look at someone who wanted “the other one” instead of me-so I told everyone to call me, Misha and let her take our name. And they did. I mean, it was all part of my grand scheme to take over the world. I’m kidding. My neck just couldn’t take the constant movement and I wasn’t sure I wanted that much demand on me anyway. I picked Misha because it’s just the first half of my first name. It’s simple, I’d respond to it, and I really thought it would help. Turns out, it absolutely did.

Misha Collins’ real name is Dmitri. His mother thought Misha was a nickname for it and called him that. The name stuck. Without going on a complete rant about how fantastic he is, I just thought I’d talk about the pertinent bits. Misha is quoted as saying:

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Anyway, the point is, the man exudes confidence. And in a time when my whole life feels like quick sand, I need that.

The first time I felt confident in myself was as a freshman in high school. I was in a play called Wagon Wheels A’Rollin and I played Clementine-fiery law enforcer. I dyed my hair copper, brought my own spin to her and I felt proud of my work. Then I acted in Little Women, as the nurse maid. I did my best Irish accent and afterwards, someone came up to me and asked me where I was from, and if I could “say something”. I asked (in my normal voice) what they wanted me to say and it was then that they asked if I was an exchange student and then complimented me on my abilities. Despite my frustrating shyness, acting is a blast for me. I love the adrenaline of it all.

But anyway, back to the story.

So I spent all weekend at my parent’s house, being myself (which I’d missed) and being called Misha. (My parents just went along with it-I’m a grown ass woman, but they know I’m just being me the only way I know how). And when I came home after it, I tried to get back in the swing of things, and on Friday I got word that I wasn’t selected to finish my IMADTTO project. All day Saturday, I waited for an email I knew wasn’t coming. The one that said “We made a mistake and want you to present your project!” And on Sunday, when I could face it no longer, I needed a change. I needed to take charge of my life and be in control of something.

I picked gender norms. Of course I picked gender norms.

So I got a foot of my hair taken off. I wore my makeup too dark and felt that for the first time, I didn’t have to care what other people thought-because I’d already “stuck it to them”. I’ve always heard that it’s womanly and feminine to have long hair on your head, shaved legs and underarms, waxed eyebrows. Those are the norms prescribed to a “western woman”. On top of that, a woman should be thin, tan and have perfect makeup-the kind that says “I woke up like this” and wear heels and skirts and hose.

That isn’t who I am.

I’d been so worried about getting a pixie cut because it would make “my face look fatter”. I spend so much time covering up parts of me I don’t like-my face, my flab, my stomach, my everything. And that is complete and irrevocable bullshit. Why should I apologize for being who I am? I am the one who grew this body (with a 9 month boost from my mom) and I’m the one who knows it best. I don’t have to look like a tent just because I don’t want people to notice my rolls.

So that’s why I’m doing some positive thinking. Because I have two options ahead of me: lose weight or love myself. And as my sweatshirt reminds me Love Yourself First. I think that’s great-because weight loss in and of itself isn’t going to make me happier. I’m still going to be the same person, I just won’t be as held down by gravity. So I got that pixie cut.

And the moment the hair stylist looked at the Pinterest picture I feebly held up, she didn’t agree. “Oh sweetie, that’s so much hair! Are you sure?” And I looked her reflection dead in the eyes and said “Yep. Cut it off.” She made the comment several more times and some of the other patrons chimed in before she was done. But I knew that my haircut was symbolic. I needed to cut ties with the things that held me back.

Now I’m not saying there will never be a relapse into the self-conscious dregs of my personality. Becuase even this morning on the bus, I found myself growing mopey and self-conscious about how much space my sweatshirt was taking up. And so I began the mantra: I am fierce. I am brilliant. I am more than my failures. I am more than numbers. I am more than grades and tests and school. I am more than my biggest hopes and goals. And soon enough, I began to smile. I caught the gaze of a girl with lilac colored lipstick and we shared a mutual smile. I even found out where she got the color (Ulta). Maybe I’ll go grab an ice blue. Who knows.

But what I do know is that by taking charge of the small details in my life, I regained something that I seem to always misplace: confidence. I don’t know if it’s because I mimicked a much beloved inspiration or if it’s because I decided that society wasn’t going to dictate my actions and behaviors and looks to me anymore. All I know is that I looked for a chance to believe in myself and now I’m taking it.

**Update**

So I think I started this on Wednesday. I’m fairly pleased with how well it’s going. I wore a lovely cowl neck dress shirt yesterday to go to the law fair at my school and introduce myself to several admissions people. I even put aside my concerns about large groups of people and let myself feel at home-because these people are the key to the rest of my future. I got questions answered and I felt the residual feeling of progress once more. I love it!

Today, I’m in a hoodie once more. Not because I’m ashamed-but because it’s so cold and rainy out. But I look super cute and I know that I’m still awesome. I got epic news yesterday, I’m mid-way to figuring out my entire life and I feel like things are starting to look up.

Sometimes the symbolic things are the ones that make the difference. Taking on another person’s best qualities for a time can lead them to become your own. Admitting that you’re in need of a change and then making it happen can lead to great things. I miss having long hair (sort of) but each day I wake up to curly, bed head sticking up everywhere just reminds me that I’m the one making things happen. And I know that I can do this.

I’ve got my magick back. And to quote a very excellent piece of philosophy:

Nobody, in all of Oz-no wizard that there is or was-is ever going to bring me down!

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.