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.

I’m Me, After All

This is the 21st century. I at least wanna hyphenate my name.

  This quote comes to you from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It’s one of my favorite books and a delightful movie. In this scene, Edward is talking to Bella about getting married and becoming Mrs. Cullen, to which she responds with the above. But why am I bringing that up, a decade or so after it came out on the big screen? Because that line is relevant to me each and every day of my life.

I got married almost 2 years ago. It’s been great fun, and great stress, but I picked a partner wisely and I am happy with my decision. But the thing is, it’s also very hard being married in a way that I think women almost exclusively know. Identification. And more specifically, what you call yourself.

My initials, according to what my parents named me are MRB. My dad made the joke many many years ago that they’d named me that because I would always know who I belonged to (Mr. B). Now, he was completely joking, but that thought stuck with me. How do I define myself when someone else defined me before I was even born? I would forever associate myself with others. I am the friend of so and so, the daughter, the student, the whatever of someone.

But: Who. Am. I?

  So when I decided to get married, I decided to become Mrs. Someone. But that joke stuck with me. Who I belonged to. And although I love my Ben, he doesn’t own me. I do. And so as I took my documents to the Social Security office, I proudly announced that I would no longer be MRB. I would from that moment on be MRB-B. I told myself and others that I was doing it so that when I published academic papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me and not some other MRB. 

But the thing is, I also did it because I am now the only person in the world with my name. I am me. I have embraced the old me, the me that was a child. I embrace the new me, the one who has an entire other person by my side. But I also accept neither of those things as my definition. Because I’m not the property of someone else, I’m my own property. 

Being a hyphenated woman has some perks and some drawbacks. I can sound exceptionally sophisticated and enunciate the fact that I have four names. I can use either my maiden name or my husband’s as I see fit (apart from official business). I can decide who I am at any given time. But. I also belong nowhere. 

I do not see my hyphenation as an outward sign that I am not happy with my marriage but it came to my attention that I take that fact for granted. I was signing for a package last week and they asked me my last name. I said my maiden name out of YEARS of habit and was immediately scolded for it. “You’re married. Aren’t you happy about that? You should use your married name.” And it hit me that maybe not everyone has such liberal ideas about definitions as me.

  I am incredibly lucky to have found a high school sweetheart and married him and successfully made a name for myself. I never once looked back and said “Yeesh. Maybe I should give myself an out.” I chose to be MRB-B because I wanted to define myself by my standards. I want to call myself whatever I want because I am my own person. But at the end of the day, I wear my wedding ring everywhere, I happily say “I’m married.” When people flirt with me. I bring up my husband (and the fact that I have one) when people on the internet ask me questions. And in fact, here we see that I have mentioned him a LOT in this post alone. So when I say my original B, it isn’t because I don’t actually love my husband. It’s because I said it for over 20 years and it’s still my name. And when I say my new B, it isn’t because I feel like I have to use it, it’s because I’m proud I can. But that’s the beauty of the hyphenation. I get to do what I want. And so, a new me arose.

What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting

  

Thankfulness, Day 29

Today is my last day of break. Tomorow, I start my new job. My husband and I are cranking out homework and well, it’s going to be a good day. I love the temperature today, I love the smell, I even managed to make coffee and breakfast without burning myself on the darn eggs (or frying pan!). So as I write, coffee in reach, I’m pondering what to write that hasn’t already been done.These last few days have been harder for me to find unique topics. I’m incredibly grateful for the things I have, the people I know and the…got it.

Today I am thankful for the people I have known, who in their own way have helped me get to where I am today. My sister was reading The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom, which honestly is one of my favorite books and I really loved the screen adaptation. I’ve been centering around that book all week it seems, just by pure coincidence. It sits in the back of my head, like a little reminder that we are all connected. So today, I want to give a little shoutout, without naming names, to the multiple people in my life who have shaped it. Perhaps some of them will even read this. Who knows.

  First, I will name a name, but only because I’m not entirely sure if I’m correct in attributing this lesson to this person. I THINK it was Woody Hayes who said something about treating all levels of people with respect and how you should always get to know the name of everyone, including those people who are behind the scenes, like janitors. I learned that lesson as a young adolescent and it has opened many doors to insightful relationships.

  One such relationship was actually with a wonderful, witty janitorial staff member of my high school. She’s a fabulous person, a caring individual and she goes out of her way to make others smile. She treated me to a soda once, and even without that incident, she impacted my life. Even now, when I return to my old haunt, I know she will be there with a hug and a smile.

There are several teachers throughout my compulsory education who also deserve recognition. Mrs. U. for her encouragement to enjoy reading. Mrs. B. for instilling a great respect for responsibility. Mrs. M. for understanding the need to have a creative outlet and expressive behaviorisms. Mr. W. for being an upright citizen and always keeping calm. Mrs. R. for being a blessed angel. Mr. G. for brightening my day with the wonders of the world around us. Ms. M. for proving to me that hardwork makes masterpieces. Mrs. B. for showing me that just because you are different doesn’t mean you can’t be brilliant. Ms. R. for letting me love music for many years. Mrs. H. for giving me the first taste of passion. Mr. B. For introducing me to theatre. Mr. W. for introducing me to my husband and making sure it was really funny that he did so. There are others, but I think this gives you a taste of my early education.

In college, people were thinner spread, because most of the lessons they had to teach had been given to me before. But a few of them really did make a difference. My history of art professor who made history real and art far more than just pictures of artifacts. It is because of him that I have fluorished in my academic career. My first anthropology professor, who said “not all of you will become anthropologists” and made me the exception. She is a continued supply of valuless knowledge. My theory professor, who has made sure that I will never leave college without knowing the truthful answersto my questions. She has been a godsend. I’m not done with college, so this list remains open ended.

My first boss, who made the most hilarious things happen, like answering the phone with her nickname instead of her real name. She was honestly the best first boss I could have ever hoped for. It made working food really wonderful and that is an extremely major thing. My newest boss, who took the time to give me (a total newcomer) a chance to belong. I will forever be grateful to her for that. 

My mother and father, obviously, for teaching me not to be a spoiled brat with entitlement issues. My husband, who teaches me how to be strong every day. My brother for introducing me to great music, my sister for allowing me to take over conversations and tell her all about college, even though she probably wasn’t looking for a rant. My friends who are always there for me, even when I can’t come to the phone or go out.

My readers, who always look at my stuff with open hearts, because I never really see things the way everyone else does. The students I have met, who make me sit wide eyed and wonder what their line of thinking is.

I have had a large grouping of people who have given me lessons, and the ones I have listed are only the ones who have given me positive lessons. There are plenty more who have given me a taste of my own medicine, who shall just be referred to as “others”. I am thankful for them too, though, so never you fear. If there is such a place as heaven*, I think I shall have quite a lot more than just five people meeting me there.

  
*In a later post, I shall reveal my thoughts on the topic, as well as many others. This in no way means to say that I do not believe in an afterlife, or that I view those who do in a negative manner. I in fact, have a great reverence for what comes next and hold no belief systems as lunacy (apart from those which willing inflict pain on others). That post is coming soon, really. Read: I’m not being an ass, I promise.

I’ll See You Tomorrow

It is this day.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.

Before I get into what I have to say, I want to focus on you. You who are downtrodden, broken and hurting. You who have traveled and fought and muddled your way through the vast recesses of your mind only to find darkness, fear and loneliness.

You don’t have to be alone. You aren’t alone. And you don’t have to be afraid. We are here.Brain Hands

As I sat through class today (anthropological theory) we touched on Emile Durkheim. He was one of the first people to really study suicide and the reasons why someone would take that option. The professor looked around and asked “Is it today or tomorrow?” Knowing what she was referring to, I told her it was today, voice hushed and reverent. The words which came out of her mouth next will stick with me for the rest of my life. She said:

“I’m not going to tell you it will get better. That’s bullshit. What I will tell you is that you’re not alone. That’s the truth.”

Bipolar 2

I saw a tumblr blog (I believe) which said something like:

Today my anthro professor said something kind of really beautiful: “You all have a little bit of ‘I want to save the world in you’, that’s why you’re here, in college. I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.” I feel like a few people I know could stand to read this.

bipolar_disorder_by_okbrightstar-d5nkjrr

Now, firstly, as an anthro student, I’m excited we all have professors who just “get it”.

Anyway. The people at TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) have a theme for today, which is conveniently located in my title. I want to tell you where that came from. This was taken from the email I received.

“Above all else, we choose to stay. We choose to fight the darkness and the sadness, to fight the questions and the lies and the myth of all that’s missing. We choose to stay, because we are stories still going. Because there is still some time for things to turn around, time for surprises and for change. We stay because no one else can play our part. Life is worth living. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

Bipolar 3

I know you are all carrying about your day and you’ve got a hundred thousand things on your mind. But remember this: At some point, your actions could have been the one thing making someone hold on when they felt like there was nothing left for them.

I was a freshman the first time I wanted to die. I was a little overweight, I felt the pressures of the expectations others had for me a little too greatly and I had excessive expectations for myself. But the thing is, no one told me that it was okay to be afraid and to let go of the things which were holding me back. No one told me that at the end of the day, it didn’t matter what society told me was needed from me. All I needed to hear was that I wasn’t alone: that I was loved and that there was hope. But then again, I’m not even sure I would have listened. Sometimes depression sucks that way.

Starry NIght

I carved the words “hope” and “love” on the insides of my forearms with razor blades. I had cut slices into my thighs. I had taken pills. The kind that when you take too many, bad things happen (like death). I took a LOT. I expected that in the end, someone would be glad that they didn’t have to clean up my blood, that they wouldn’t have to do much to make me look like I was sleeping. Inside, I was a scared little girl who had been pushed too far, had cried too much.

And then I threw up. I threw everything up and I kept on heaving. I tried and I tried to empty my stomach, empty my heart of feelings, empty myself until there was nothing left to hurt. And what I was left with was the quiet void of someone who felt a little too much and couldn’t go any further.

Into therapy I went, and if you look at the me who types here today, you can see that there are still some moments when the little empty shell pops out, waiting for a moment of your time. You can see the hurt and the pain which emptied me out all those years ago. But you can also see the me that faces my fears every single day. That pushes my boundaries and tries even when that little shell comes out. The little girl looks up at me with hope and love, kissing the scar tissue that remains on my skin.

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The thing is, no one gave me a reason to live, so I thought that that was a reason to die. But then I found out the most honest, sincere truth I’ve ever learned:

When I found no one to give me a reason, I gave myself the chance. I had to learn how to give myself love, how to open up a beacon of hope for myself.

IMG_1943

And here I sit, in my pajamas after a long day of class, drinking sweet tea and eating some zucchini thinking back on that dark time in my life, reflecting on the words of the two anthropology professors.

It isn’t that life stays bad forever. You just have to learn to see the good even when no one turns on the light.

So, my dear world, I would like to thank you all for existing. And I want you to know that I look forward to seeing each and every one of you tomorrow.

Third Quarter 2013 123

I’ll Follow You Into The Dark

Public perception and stigma. (Yep. I’m taking a break from the mental health blogging to bring you an insight on something else I’m big on.)

I’m writing today to bring attention to the saddest bits of information which have become public.

Why is it that children who have two parents are treated differently than those with one? Or with non-biological parents?

Why is it that children who have parents of different “races” are treated differently than those with similar?

Why is it that children with two gendered parents are treated differently than those with two parents of the same gender?

Why is it that children who do not look like others are treated differently than those who look like everyone else?

Why is it that children who practice one religion are treated differently than those who practice a different one?

Why is it that children who dress one way are treated differently than those who dress differently?

Why is it that children are taught to conform to gender roles instead of embracing whatever roles they wish?

Why is it that children with non-hetero preferences are treated differently than those who are heterosexual?

Why is it that children with mental illnesses are treated differently than those with physical illnesses?

Why is it that children are pressured to conform to standards set much too high for their own good?

Why is it that we, as adults, do not foster beliefs that individuality and imperfection are the qualities which matter not only in life, but as a way to keep ourselves alive. Being different is not a curse, nor is it a negative thing. Being different is what makes us special, what gives us a chance to be who we were meant to be.

And the thing is, it isn’t just children that we treat differently. It’s ourselves too. We shame others, we shame ourselves. We need to realize that the only one who hurts when we give into these stigmas isn’t “one” it’s “every” one.

So instead of watching people commit suicide because they are bullied, instead of judging those we deem differently than ourselves, instead of forcing everyone to be replicas of us-celebrate the diversity and the uniqueness of all those around you. Celebrate the you that you wanted to be, not the you that you felt pressured into.