Progression

According to WordPress, I’ve been at this blogging thing for 3 years now.

But the “I” who started this blog hardly even remotely resembles the “I” who sits behind the keyboard now.

DownWithTheNorm was founded by an 18-year-old girl during the spark of her *formal* feminist awakening. That girl was fiery, angry, confused, and determined to fix the world. Misogyny was her only foe, and she was vigilant and determined to take him down, and took every opportunity to bare her teeth in the face of opposition.

But, as with all sparks, hers was extinguished.

Gradually, she let her inquiring mind guide her as she learned more and more about the world; how it probably works, and how it most likely doesn’t. She developed an air of cynicism, and became understandably tired of fighting the good fight. Others grew tired, bored, annoyed, or a combination of the three of her persistent, yet non-refreshing wordy posts on social media that accomplished nothing but a temporary emotional relief for our young author.

She did her best to keep her mind open, while simultaneously drawing her own independent conclusions. Especially in the context of her religion.

She spent a short duration as a walking contradiction; trying to force her newly acquired world views into a mold that simply would not fit. She wanted to be the change from within, but that resulted in her being pushed out.  She lost friends, but she gained an identity that she felt comfortable in. An authentic lifestyle was drawing nearer and nearer, but exponentially more solitary.

This girl was anxious-so much so that she couldn’t bare to even hold still even for a minute. Sleep was just a five-letter word. She had to be the fastest, the best, the smartest, and the skinniest always. And she was failing miserably at all of it.

But, breaking down turns into breaking through, if you let it.

The girl behind the keyboard is an enhanced version of the girl from 3 years ago.

I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into who I am now, whether that be for the better or not. I’m not the girl with the eating disorder anymore. I’m the girl who maybe spends too much time thinking about food and not enough time about breathing, and probably uses her bathroom scale more often than the average joe. And binges on breakfast cereal once in a blue moon. Oh, and HATES going to the gym.

I’m not the Mormon Feminist Anomaly anymore. I’m simply the feminist woman-person who believes that whether or not there is an afterlife is irrelevant. What really matters is that there are plenty of opportunities for me to develop and enhance as many interpersonal relationships as I possibly can during the time that I am allotted here. I believe that this life isn’t a test at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity to develop oneself to the fullest extent possible, and perhaps find an individualistic sense of happiness while we’re at it; whatever that looks like.

And for all of you looking to slap a label on me (because that’s what people do-no judgment), you can call me an Agnostic. Like I said, I’m not looking to shut out any possibilities completely.

I love tattoos, science, coffee, wine, and angry heathen misogyny-laden rap music. And I let myself love these things, because this is MY human experience. And what I choose to drink, put on my body, or listen to, does NOT make me a bad person, contrary to what I was led to believe growing up with religion

I’m not anxious anymore. Through the process of extensive trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a path that suits me. I got a job that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I have a degree of self-sustainability that I never have had before. I feel liberated and powerful and in control. Rather than planning for my future, I’m actively taking steps toward living it, and I’m doing it calmly, mindfully, and relatively maturely.

As far as interpersonal relationships go, I’ve made strides toward getting out of my own way. I’m still a bit more self-isolating than I’d like to be, but baby steps are the name of the game. I can let loose now, and go out with friends once or twice a week. Hell, sometimes even on a school night! Because, as I mentioned beforehand, in the grand scheme of things, people are what matter. Yeah, going to bed early so I can bring my A game to school and work is important, but so is making time for those I care about. It’s all about balance.

I breathe easy, sleep easy, and am patient and engaged in every moment, which is much more than I could have ever said 3 years ago. I know I’m no sage of wisdom, and that I have much more developing, improvement, and revision to do, but I genuinely like the direction I’m heading.

Documenting my experiences over the past 3 years has been truly enriching for me, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining for you! I genuinely appreciate anyone who has ever and will ever take the time to read anything that I write.

Here’s to 3 more years!

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solicitude

Guess who’s back. Shady’s back.

Oh, and me.

It’s funny how I  attempt to maintain a blog during the school semester. Turns out, it simply cannot be done.

Today marks the conclusion of my first (and last) summer semester of college. That’s right-I voluntarily signed up to attend a 7:30 AM lecture twice a week at a school located 45 minutes from my apartment.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention I moved out?

I am now the resident of my state’s capital city. I have a “Maddie-sized” basement apartment in a cute, old-fashioned house near downtown. I live all by myself, though I had a beta fish named Brendon Urie for a time, but he died within two weeks. May he rest in peace.

Anyway, turns out moving out is really super duper fun. Nobody gets mad at you for listening to the same Twenty-One Pilots song on loop for three hours. Nobody makes you do the dishes or sweep the floor. Nobody tells you to put pants on. Or to do your laundry. Or to feed yourself.

Nobody except you.

Sometimes my dishes pile up. Sometimes my lightbulb burns out in my bathroom and I shower in the dark for 6 days before doing anything about it. Sometimes a spider emerges from the corner of the room and I spray it with Raid until it ceases to move. Sometimes my fridge is empty so I eat peanut butter for dinner.

C’est la vie.

Initially, moving out had done wonders for my anxiety. I felt like I had much more control over my life. After all, I’m an adult with my own place and everything that happens here within my own place is entirely up to me. Liberating, yet terrifying.

It turns out that you can’t simply abandon your anxious, perfectionistic self. When I moved, she moved with me. As I mentioned before, I was enrolled in summer classes at my university, in addition to beginning a program to become a certified pharmacy technician. As the end of the semester neared, my body decided that we were exhausted, and before I knew it, I was having a panic attack at work.

I was “processing shipment”, a term in the retail world that means taking clothes out of bags, putting sensors on them, and hanging them on hangers. Anyway, as I was doing this, the room gradually began feeling hotter and hotter. I broke out in a sweat, and found it difficult to breathe. I fanned myself, gasped for air, and finally retreated to the break room in the back, doubled over, and hyperventilating.

I sat in a chair, cradling my head in my hands, and tried to force myself to breathe. The air kept getting thinner, and the temperature kept rising, and finally, I ran out of my workplace-tears and mascara streaming down my flushed cheeks-and was on my way to the doctor’s office.

That was rock bottom.

Since then, I’ve taken some serious therapeutic action. As advised by my doctor, I’ve been exercising regularly, getting proper nutrition, and removing stressors from my life. I quit my job (the one that housed my anxiety attack) and moved to a much more flexible, relaxed one. I’m taking the fall semester off at the Uni (a concept that initially gave me much more anxiety than any school semester ever could) and now I basically get to work when I want to and attend Pharmacy Tech school.

Things finally feel manageable. Things feel comfortable. Suspiciously comfortable.

I’ve noticed over the past few days that just when I feel like I’m allowing myself to enjoy life, I am overcome with guilt. My brain buzzes with constant, self-shaming thoughts: “I shouldn’t be this happy, I shouldn’t have this much free time, I shouldn’t sit still or relax.”

And so I don’t.

The best way I can describe chronic anxiety is when your mind races so fast that it forces your body to attempt to keep up with it-an impossible task. From the moment I open my eyes to the time I close them for the night, my entire body is buzzing. That’s the best word for it.

Then you combine that with eating disordered thoughts, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s been seven years since I’ve been weight-restored, and I still can’t eat a soft pretzel (one of my ABSOLUTE favorite foods) without mulling over it for the next three days, not resting nor sleeping until I perceive that I’ve adequately purged the calories from my system by means of vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

I want so badly to let myself be happy, but the truth is, I’m afraid of what that entails.

 

M.

 

 

 

Aficionado

I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote yesterday’s post, and I want to thank everyone who reached out to me. You guys are #1, I genuinely appreciate your willingness to help me re-center, find my strength, and resort back to my default mode, which is complete badassery. Additionally, I didn’t expect the content I share here to be received so positively. So thank you guys.

My Anorexic Mind would claim that what happened yesterday as a “binge episode.” However, my Logical Mind recalls that a binge episode is classified by the consumption of a large amount of food (8,000-10,000 CALORIES) within a short amount of time (less than 2 hours). Since today I’m in a place where I am primarily employing my Logical Mind, I can give a more objective post-hoc analysis of my experience.

Realistically speaking, I probably consumed 300-500 extra calories, or two servings of really grainy cereal, my favorite thing to binge on. We eating-disordered people, we tend to memorize nutrition facts. I could accurately report to you the nutritional content of virtually any food with a label; I spend an obscene amount of time researching foods before they even enter my mouth. Annoying, right?

Anyway, it seems that I had what physicians are calling a “Subjective Binge Episode.” dun dun DUN.

Basically, a subjective binge episode varies from an objective one in the amount of food consumed (objective binge episodes involving the consumption 5-15,000 calories, which exceeds daily recommended intake for both males and females). However, both types have the commonality of feelings of lack of control during the binge, which I completely identify with.

My weight has significantly increased since yesterday (I’ve weighed myself thrice), so that’s something I’ve got to cope with today, in addition to beginning research for a literature review on the pharmacological treatments of eating disorders.

Let’s get to the point of today’s post: Pro-Anorexic content.

I spent a couple of hours browsing through the world of blogging last night, eagerly searching for the most effective way to compensate for the extra calories I had had (I hate that had had makes sense in the English language-another topic for another time), and I was appalled by the myriad #thinspo, self-starvation content that I found.

It was addicting. I couldn’t stop reading pro-Ana blogs, looking at “thinspo” images of thigh gaps, rib cages, and hollow cheeks. These images were often accompanied by slogans such as “Skinny girls don’t eat” or “Starve, bitch, Starve.”

Before I knew it, I was researching diet pills. I was contemplating self-induced vomiting. I was eagerly perusing blog after blog of anorexics sharing their foolproof tricks to keep themselves from eating. I told myself that I could do that, too. I could live off black coffee and water. I could run six miles tomorrow. I could do it, I WOULD do it, and I certainly would not allow myself to binge ever again. I was right back where I started seven years ago, when I opened the door for Anorexia, took her coat, and invited her to stay a while.

I am PLEADING with those who propagate pro-Anorexia content, please cease. Get help. See a therapist. The content you post is triggering the delicate-willed like myself, and undoing all of the progress I have made toward living a normal life without disordered eating and body dysmorphia. More importantly, you are hurting yourself. Not only are you catalyzing eating disordered behavior in others with this content, you are empowering yourself to continue down a road that leads to one sole destination; self-destruction. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of ANY psychiatric disease, and damn it, being thin at the cost of your life is. not. worth. it.

Then again, I was a pro-anorexia girl once.

I am making myself crazy with all of this. I am so distressed and so anguished that eating disorders are so damn prevalent and that I keep relapsing, falling prisoner to this disease that causes so much cognitive dissonance, anxiety, and significant decrease in self-worth. I would give anything to be cured, if such a thing is even possible.

On the other side of the coin, I am so distressed and so anguished by any sign of weight gain, no matter how small. I am so anxious about food, and I feel as though I am unable to direct my thoughts to where I want them. I am not the sole pilot of my brain. I need to feel in control.

It’s as if there’s a throw down between my Anorexic Mind and my Logical Mind, but my Anorexic Mind has a mean left-jab, and my Logical Mind lacks the ability to defend itself from invasion.

Who will win?

Oh, and to the asshole who told me last year that eating disorders aren’t ‘real disorders,’ please reevaluate your claim, or at least back it up empirically.  

M. 

 

Eupepsia

It has acutely come to my attention that there is a subdivision of psychology devoted entirely to food and peoples’ relationship with it. They (the governing body of all things psychological, I suppose) have creatively named it “Food Psychology.”

I’ve been desperately searching for tried and true tricks to intervene before I subject myself to a situation like the episode I had last week, and the psychodynamic side of me feels that searching for the origins of my peculiar relationship with food would be helpful in selecting an effective treatment, because, frankly, I’m done being the kind of weirdo whose biggest concern is what she is going to eat today and lives in constant fear of losing control of the abundance of food around her. It’s time to be a different kind of weirdo.

In the beginning, I was a chubby kid. I loved KFC and pasta with parmesan cheese, sue me. It just so happened to deposit itself right on my abdomen. I was a hopelessly picky eater, and refused to eat all things produce and lean protein. Though my parents never said anything, I could sense their concern-even from a young age. I was NOT a happy camper. Ever. Still to this day, you can see the sadness in my eyes in the sparse stack of photographs from my youth. I didn’t like me, and lived in a constant state of self-consciousness, always trying to make myself disappear, though not through starvation means quite yet, which would account for the sparse stack of photographs from my youth.

2467_70149495733_3760_n

In the interest of time, let’s jump forward to adolescence; everyone’s favorite life stage. Moderate body dysmorphia is relatively common among young teenage girls, but what I experienced fell far outside of the bell curve. I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t self-conscious, but my early teenage years were certainly the most severe in this regard. It was at this time in my life that I had finally gained the motivation to transform myself into the only thing that I thought could make me happy-skinny.

As soon as I turned 13, I signed myself up for a calorie counter account, and began logging every bite. Anorexia had reduced my calorie intake to a mere 250 calories per day, and my diet consisted mostly of baby carrots and a fourth of a cup of Multigrain Cheerios.I weighed myself seven, eight, nine times per day. The rapid weight loss was energizing-I was above hunger, above the need for food. I was strong and I was beautiful. And people were noticing. I was 5’2, and 72 pounds.

39855_1096660698049_7761415_n

My eyes had sunken in, my hair had thinned, I had constant goosebumps, and every vertebrae on my back was both visible and palpable. I remember making my own mom cry one day when she accidentally walked in on me changing my shirt.

The folks dragged me to therapy, but my therapist left a bad taste in all of our mouths, so I was only forced to attend the initial session. While all of this was going on, my parents had begun seeing a personal trainer and nutrition coach, so food and exercise dominated a lot of household conversation, which reinforced my preoccupation with “healthy” eating.

I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I’d bake sweets for my family on almost a nightly basis, the aroma of the baked goods forcing me to salivate, but I was strong. I never gave in. I ate the exact same food every single day, at the exact same time, and in the exact same quantity.

Sleep was hard to come by, initially due to the audible pleading of my stomach for sustenance, but later due to hunger pains that only increased in severity as the night wore on.

I wish I knew what exactly made me “snap out of it,” but eventually (and thankfully), my body took over my prefrontal cortex, and forced me to slowly restore my weight to a sustainable range. Strangely, I don’t remember much of the weight restoration process, but I can imagine that it was excruciatingly devastating to watch myself gain the weight that I had worked so hard to starve off.

My level of self-consciousness has remained fairly constant throughout my development into adulthood. Today, I am right smack in the middle of the “healthy weight range” according to the BMI chart. But my relationship with food is nowhere near healthy.

Last semester, I took a 20 credit hour course load. (Full-time is 12.) However, I couldn’t bring myself to focus on anything school-related until I had a Maddie-approved meal plan prepared for the day. I’d spend upwards of an hour per night just packing food for the next day, because my anxiety would be far too severe for me to cope with if I didn’t.

Every time I visit the ladies room, I will spend 2-3 minutes examining myself, pinching various areas of my body in disgust, regardless of who might see. I have to forcibly pull myself away from the mirror before I burst into tears. I visit the scale multiple times per day, and threaten myself with starvation if I don’t like the number I see.

Sometimes, when my anxiety is unleashed, I hide in the pantry and scarf down entire boxes of cereal. After which, I go to the gym and attempt to purge it all with hours of cardiovascular exercise.

Weight gain is by far my greatest fear, and I structure my entire life around avoiding it. I have isolated myself in order to ensure that I don’t slip up. I am prisoner to my obsession with food.

I am ready for a life without this, but unfortunately, I won’t let me let it go.

M.

 

Recidivism

Having completed 92% of my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology has significantly and falsely inflated my confidence in my ability to control my own mental health. However, it has come to my recent attention that memorizing theories makes me no better at remedying my own cognitive malfunctioning than any other average Joesphina.

I don’t want to say that I’m relapsing, because to say so would indicate that I had, at some point, completely recovered, which would be a false claim.

Diagnosing mental disorders is complex, due to the complex nature of the human mind. In physiological pathology, there is typically physical evidence of that particular disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with a renal cell carcinoma, the doc has detected cancerous tumors on your kidneys. However, mental disorders manifest themselves behaviorally, and behavior is dynamic, idiosyncratic, and highly unpredictable.

I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was fourteen years old. (You can read more about it here) and it has displayed itself behaviorally via various mechanisms over the years. We initially thought that my Anorexia was a co-diagnosis with depression. However, after years of self-reflection, I’m convinced that I’m not depressed at all, really. I am anxious.

Today was Mother’s Day, and the first thought on my mind was “Today is going to be a disaster.” Why did I start a perfectly beautiful Sunday off with such a damning thought? Because I knew that today was going to be a “bad eating” day. And boy, was I right.

I eat according to a premeditated, perfected, measured, perfectly balanced and repetitive menu. Every. Damn. Day. And if it get thrown off, everything goes to Hell. There is simply no in between.

With Mother’s Day being a special occasion, my family hit our favorite authentic Italian pizzeria for dinner. As soon as we were seated at our table, the anxiety set in, and my brain started racing. My eyes danced up and down the menu in vain, because I already knew that I was going to be ordering the salad (After all, I’d already eaten a roll with breakfast, and I NEVER eat bread) but the aroma of fresh-baked crust was making my mouth water.

That’s when I knew I’d already surrendered my control. The waiter took our orders, everyone ordering a pie but myself, and my thoughts began to race. What if I’m still hungry after I eat my salad? Will I be able to decline offers to eat somebody’s crust or eat more than my share of the appetizer? What if I can’t stop? My breathing rate sharply increased.

Our plates arrived, and I eagerly eyed everyone’s plates but my own. I scarfed down my salad as quickly as I could; my brain demanding that we take in as much as we can, because we could go into self-induced starvation mode at any moment.

Mere minutes had passed since receiving our food, and I had already cleared my plate. My attention immediately shifted to what everyone else had on theirs, and I began snatching crusts, half-eaten slices, and toppings off of others’ platters, and shoving them down my throat, breathing minimally.

I had completely ceased control, and something automatic and instinctual had taken over my executive functioning. “More, more, more!” my brain screamed, as if we were preparing for a famine, and I continued to consume other peoples’ calories.

My family were all critically commenting on my vulture-like behavior, and giving me strange looks, but honestly, I was hardly listening. I continued to eat off of everyone else’s plates until they were completely clean.

And then the guilt came pouring down. I wiped my face with a napkin and excused myself to the restroom so I could lift up my shirt, poke and pinch at my stomach, and tear myself apart until my sister was knocking on the bathroom door, yelling at me to hurry up so we could leave.

Situations such as these are a frequent catalyst for anxiety and a complete surrender of self-control for me. I had convinced myself previously that I was capable of managing my impulses and anxiety attacks, but this is simply not the case. In fact, I probably won’t sleep tonight, because I’ll be replaying this episode in my head until morning, at which time I will be exerting myself at an extensive cardio session at my local gym.

So it appears that I require another round of cognitive therapy so I can get a grip on this persistent problem of mine, because frankly, my disordered eating habits are annoying and exhausting, and I have so many more important things to invest my energy in, like becoming a badass master of academia.

I hate to admit it, but I require assistance. People get over these kinds of things, right?

M.

 

 

 

Purposive

Now that everybody’s done sharing their tentative New Year’s Resolutions with their online social circles, I think i’ll finally reveal my plans to make myself a less-shitty person than I was in 2015.

 

Though I love the person I’m developing into since my faith crisis, nose-dive into feminism, and increasingly curious mind, I find myself becoming exponentially more cynical, which is something I hate about myself.

I find myself often looking for reasons to be pissed off, which makes it really, REALLY hard to be the happy, energetic ball of sunshine I once aspired to become, but will never be, due to my chronically sarcastic and brazen personality. Indeed, since I’ve been exposed to a whole new world of liberalism, I seem to have the tendency to search for things that people do that strike me as problematic, and will consequently set me off.

There are specific groups of people that are extremely hard for me to get along with (i.e. meninists, anybody who still subscribes to traditional gender roles).  I totally feel justified in avoiding individuals who fall under this category completely, but I also feel that I am much too hard on people.

For example, my dating life is a literal train wreck. Most of my interactions with men are terminated by me giving them a lengthy, wordy lecture about how sexist it is to not be interested in a girl who can’t cook, or won’t send a racy snap-chat after the first date.

I feel like I’m constantly having to defend my feminist views; nothing flips my bitch-switch faster than when a gentleman i’m dating says anything that could be seen as sexist, even if you have to flip it upside down and squint with your left eye.

So i’m going to work on that. Perhaps instead of ripping his head off every time a suitor says something I don’t agree with, I can calmly present my point of view on the matter, and then change the subject as I squeeze the hell out of the stress ball I just bought.

This resolution’s due date might extend into 2063, but it’s all about progress, people.

Additionally, I am going to get out of my own way when it comes to relationships with other people. This is a very poorly-defined goal, but I have very specific quirks that I use in order to build sky-scraping walls around myself, thus protecting my isolation.

First of all, I have got to make peace with my relationship to food and to my body. I’m talking about my obsession/preoccupation about eating in a manner that will cause me dramatic weight loss, and dutiful, religious, nauseating exercise. When one is as engrossed in the aforementioned activities as I have become, there is little time or energy left to spend on stuff that matters significantly more, and after 6 years of eating-disordered behavior and body dysmorphia, I’m tired, damn it. And ready to invest myself in building some meaningful relationships and kicking ass even harder in school.

This problem is never going to resolve itself, so I’ll have to look back into going to therapy.

I always complain about how pathetic it is that I’ve attended my current university for two years, and haven’t made a single friend, but if I’m being honest with myself, I have never once initiated any kind of effort to make friend at college. So this year is going to be different. I am going to focus on becoming more inviting, friendly, and talkative. I am going to take some risks, start some conversations, hell, even ask out a hot guy from my Stats class (after checking his finger for a ring, obviously. We have lots of super young, married folk where I’m from.)

In addition to all of these resolutions, if I have time to spare, perhaps I’ll attempt to kick my caffeine addiction.

Just kidding, I’m taking 19 credit hours. There is no way in hell I’m decreasing my latte consumption.

So there you have it. An outline of how I am going to go from a shitty person in 2015 to a noticeably less-shitty person by the end of 2016.

Happy New Year!

M.

 

 

 

 

Consummation

I have two days left of teenagerhood. Two days, people. And then I am twenty. And I am no longer considered an adolescent. But I am also not eligible to drink alcohol or rent a car. But that’s neither here nor there. What i’m trying to say here, is time passes quickly. Not to be sappy or cliche, but where did all this time go?

According to some website I found using Bing, (I should really change my default search engine to Google. Who the freak uses Bing?) the average life expectancy for a female living in the United States is 81.3 years old. By that statistic, my life is a fourth over. WHAT.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what i’ve accomplished over the first quarter of my life. To my dismay, I couldn’t come up with much. Of course, there’s the basic accomplishments that everyone of my age, SES status, etc. achieve, y’know, things like losing all your baby teeth, learning how to drive, learning how to change a tire (pending), moving out (I lasted 4 months), graduating high school (Honor Roll. Nailed it.), and starting college, I guess.

Then, there’s the few person-specific things that people accomplish due to situational factors. For me, some of those would include dancing for BYU’s youth ballroom team, getting published in my college’s literary journal, visiting Europe, beating Anorexia, and maintaining honor-roll worthy grades throughout my college career thus far.

In retrospect, I was an exceptional kid from an academic and civil compliance standpoint. But so what?

I love my social media accounts so much. SO MUCH. But the problem is, other people love theirs so much, too, and because they love their social media accounts, they share all of the fun, fantastic adventures their youthful selves are experiencing. So-and-so from high school went on a 6-month humanitarian trip. What’s-her-bucket got into some ivy league school on the East Coast. And that dude is married with a kid.

And me? I’m in the same place i’ve always been. Living with the family (which I love, don’t get me wrong. Not paying for food is bliss. And my family is basically the best ever), going to school, and working. One can’t help but feel stagnant, in comparison to my less-stationary peers. I’m not throwing a pity party here, I’m just stressing (as anxiety-laden folks like myself do), that I might be missing my chance here to go and do and see and experience. Sometimes, I feel like i’m in my own way.

The advice i’ve been given for this problem i’ve created myself is to stay the course, and things will work out. So I guess that’s what i’m doing.

Is this a quarter-life crisis?

M.