Fix You

There’s a gaping hole of hatred and bigotry in the world. Not too many people are safe these days. Muslim places of worship are attacked just the same as Christian places of worship. Booming cities in Europe and America are attacked just the same as cities in the Middle East. SAGA (sexuality and gender acceptance) individuals are gunned down just the same as people of color. Death, injustice, hatred, persecution. It fills the news, it divides, it destroys.

There are people who spew anger so fiercely that it is as a volcano, the devastation follows wherever they go. They speak of things they do not understand, promoting actions which will do nothing more than hurt people, damage humanity and suffocate the truth values of being human. They rile the masses, using catch phrases and soundbites to make their claims validated, evoking the misplaced anger many feel but do not know where to direct.

The thing about evil is that it will continue to spread if good people stand idly by. It isn’t the failed attempts which bring death-it is the lack of trying altogether.

There are people who sit in their pews, their prayer rooms, their offices and homes uttering phrases like “my heart goes out to you” and “I’ll pray for you” and “a moment of silence”. But when that is all that happens, nothing changes. Evil does not need riots and violence-it needs apathy. Prayers and thoughts and well-wishes cannot be the only thing that happens. It will change nothing. It doesn’t matter who hears you or how powerful they are. If you stand by with your thoughts, you are giving the terrible injustices of the world your permission to carry on.

I invite you all to take a chance. Go out and do something. You don’t have to conquer the world. You don’t even need to fix every problem. But each small action is a stance against what is wrong. And that is the real meaning of life.

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Going Dark

I am a hurricane with skin.

I’m falling apart perfectly.

I’m an earthquake between gritted teeth.

I am a massacre with open arms.

I am a plague entombed in jokes and apologies.

I am cosmic radiation in a hoodie.

I am turbulence lulling you to sleep with a song.

I am a sniper with baked goods.

I am fire swirled in a coffee cup.

I am a breakdown that’s gone too far.

I’m a subtle reminder that time doesn’t change.

I’m the weight of the world, on your shoulders.

I am devastating loss with no answers.

I am the teardrops in the rain.

I am depression.

I am rage.

I am loss.

I am conflicted.

I am broken.

I am doubt.

I am a tsunami wrapped up in cells and fat.

I am the pieces on the floor.

I am one of many.

I am the past that keeps you from sleep.

I am the present that feels more like a curse.

I am the future that was taken away.

I am the blackest skies and the deadliest waters concealed in two eye balls and a smile.

I am grief.

I am frustration.

I am hopelessness.

I am darkness.

I am the end.

Accomplishment, Action, Attack

Today. Goodness gracious today. You have some days when you really feel like you’re doing your best and then life craps out on you. That was my day today. And because I am in a sharing mood, would you like to hear a story?

Today started by me waking up, asking my husband if he was going in today. He said no. That means: I drive myself to and from school. If you’ve followed me since the “Here be Dragons” post, you’ll know that driving is a big stressor for me. But I knew I could do it. So I took the dog out and went to work. I made it!

Half way through my shift, I get a text from my husband telling me that he actually had to go in today, and that he had to be on campus before 5 to turn in a form. So I email my professor and tell him that I will not be in class today. He calls down to the office where I work and we have the following conversation:

Professor: Hi Michelle, is there any possible way you could walk with me to class today? I’m having some problems with my kidney stones and I want to make sure someone is there to keep me from falling.

Me: Yea, of course! I’ll be down a few minutes before class starts.

And so I arrive with ten minutes to spare and hear him. The man is obviously in pain. He has his cane, and I’m on the other side of him. We make it about half way down the hall and he goes down. Now, I’m not proud to admit this, but I was really no help. I made sure he didn’t hit his head, but that was about the extent of my capabilities. I called for one of my bosses, who came out and with him came another professor. I was instructed to cancel class and keep things to a minimum. I did my best there. (I knew he would be in capable hands-I would not have been able to pick him up anyway, and my boss knew how to contact his wife.) So I ensure that that happens and I prepare myself to drive home.

timeforaction

I drive, and guess what? I make it! Without incident. And it was my first time ever driving home too:) I switch my husband seats when I get there though (because I hadn’t eaten and he brought me a snack) and we head back to campus. I recount my tale and we arrive. He bolts off to his building, having switched places again and I commence driving around in circles to wait for him. It takes about 6 go rounds, but he returns and we switch one final time, preparing to head home.

On our way to the line of cars, we chat about dinner, and how I don’t want to eat out because we have leftovers. Once we are in the line, it’s very much just stopped traffic. Then out of nowhere BAM! We’ve been rear ended. I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not. My husband gets out of the car and looks at the damage. As it would turn out, the guy who hit us (who is LAUGHING at us, btw) has more damage than we do, so we leave to come home. No, we’re not going to report it, because that would just raise our rates and that’s just no good. (i made sure he was okay, and I made sure I was okay, and that’s the important part!) I’m thinking we’re both gonna take it easy for the next few days regardless. So we get to the gas station that we frequent by our apartment and try to fill the tire with air only to find out (after the fact) that the pump is only letting air out of the tires, not putting air in. So we give up, grab some food and head home.

fender-bender

(This is NOT our accident, it’s just the best representation of what happened. They suffered a pretty obnoxious front end issue and we managed to not really have any damage, except a slight crack to the bumper.)

I literally don’t know how today could have been anymore adrenaline packed, but all I can say is that I am glad that today marks the first evening of spring break, because I really have had quite about enough. I will email my professor and see how he’s doing soon. Maybe we all need more chocolate today.

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I guess the deal with today is that sometimes you are the lucky one and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes the money comes, and sometimes the money goes. When you do everything right, something still might go wrong. And it’s okay. Life will throw curve balls at you when you least expect it-because you least expect it. But at the end of the day, you can either tame your dragons or be eaten by them. Because life isn’t going to just take it easy on you because you’re “disadvantaged”, it’s going to force you to rise above. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

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.

What an Effing Nightmare

I’m fat is the stupidest sentence on the whole damn planet. I am not a blob of blubber, just as I am not strep throat or bipolar. I have those things (except for strep-I have had but do not currently). Anywho, I have spent over a decade telling myself this stupid sentence. If you notice, I have no pictures of myself on this blog, I have maybe 3 selfies on Instagram and overall, I really don’t do photographs. But why? Because I’m still trying to figure out how to define myself according to rules which are not that sentence.

  (This picture drives me crazy. At least we’re active, dammit.)

 I have fat. Mostly a lot of it. It’s kind of a big deal. And I hate it. I’ve been weaning myself off of soda (Dr. Pepper is my weakness), and I added a small but intense workout to my daily routine. It’s planks, wall sits and low cardio. And I have chosen to be open and honest about it. Not because I want you all to laugh at me, but because I have a message that others need to hear.

  (These aren’t me, but I think they’re a pretty solid representation of the parts that I keep hidden.)

 I decided I’d had enough of being fluffy. I want to look healthy, not like I do now. I feel embarrassed, and it’s a great source of sadness. I made myself this way, but I also didn’t. I was put on the birth control that allows for 3 periods a year because mine were really painful. And while I was on that birth control, I gained 80 pounds. That’s 4 times more than I gained from mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. I stress ate and that didn’t help at all. But after that, I continued to be large and in charge. Only I wasn’t in charge. I was out of control.

  But what is it that I ate? Salads mostly. And coffee, soda, pizza, spaghetti. My calorie intake was between 1300 and 1600 per day, over half of that was drinks. I ordered low fat coffee from Starbucks if I chose to get anything other than tea. Even now, I eat maybe twice a day, I drink coffee like it’s going out of stock and I drink water, between 2 and 3 bottles a day (unless it’s a hard day and then only 1-which is bad, I know). My calorie intake recently has been between 1400 and 1650, with most of it being creamer and dinner. My breakfast is usually peanut butter toast. Is it super healthy? No. But I should not be obese.

Did that word startle you? It did me too. But it isn’t a death sentence unless you make it so. Which is where we find me this past week. I decided I was far too stressed and I was going to try to get into a regular workout routine. And so far, I’m doing great. But it’s because I know the shitty parts have to end sometime.

  (This is a plank. It’s also called pain.)

 It started out just feeling tired. I felt like my body was at the point of sheer exhaustion. Then came the nausea, the light headedness and the muscle pain. The latter I had expected but the first two I hadn’t. This came on slow and then got worse the more days that passed. Fast forward to today (Okay fine. Today is day 3, but I’m trying darn it!) and I feel like I can only keep water down. Food turns my stomach, I feel really icky on the inside and my muscles are aware that I mean business. And it was in that line of thought that I recalled watching several seasons of The Biggest Loser a few years back. A lot of the people were really sick while they were beginning their workout routines. I remember watching an episode where the woman had to keep stopping to puke because her body was detoxing.

  I brought this up to my husband and he reminded me that I hate eating fast food and that I always get salads and I should be fine. But the thoughts persisted. He asked if I wanted him to work out with me and I said:

No. It’s embarrassing.

He then asked why it was embarrassing that I was making myself into a better me. I shook my head and got down to business. 

  But really. Why is it that I felt like it was embarrassing that I struggle? I’m doing something. I’m trying, which is more than I can say for the old me. It’s really hard. I feel sick, my tummy hurts (because I’ve been doing abs) and I feel all around like a big ball of crap. But I’m already more dedicated than I was in the past, because I’m pushing through the pain and working out anyway. And yes, I still feel a little embarrassed that I can only hold a wall sit for a minute and a half before it feels like someone is sawing off my thighs or that I can only hold a plank for 30 seconds before my flabby arms buckle from stress. But you know what? I’m doing something about it. And maybe today I will go for 2 minutes straight, or learn how to use an elliptical. And the fact that I’m still trying is worth more than the pain.

  

Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I want people to take away from this, more than anything is that it’s hard. Change always is. And we can sit around waiting for life to correct the travesties it has enacted upon us or we can get up and kick it in the face. I really hate working out. I hate running, I hate lifting, I hate all of it. But I’m not doing all this because I really want to look at the number on the scale and smile. I am, we are so much more than a number. I want to look myself in the eyes in the mirror and be attracted to myself. I want to learn how to take myself out on dates, and have the confidence to walk into the mall and get my hair done or my nails (am I even that person?!) without feeling like everyone is staring at me because my stomach is round. I want you to take away that this sucks worse than anything I’ve ever purposefully done to myself, but I turn my music up that much louder and scream over how much it hurts. Because if I want to be around to see all my reams come true, or to survive the zombie apocalypse, I’m going to need to practice my roar.

  

(I would like to thank Google for always having the pictures I need to make my point.)

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.