Grotesque

One day, I will greet my reflection with a gleaming grin of approval.

One day, I’ll be the girl with the energetic glow, whose happiness infests everyone who crosses my path.

One day, I won’t be so consumed with my own self-hatred that I will finally propel myself forward and become all that I am meant to be.

But that day is certainly not today.

Today, I will poke, punch, and grab at my body in the full-length mirror at the corner of my room.

Today, I will regret putting too much creamer in my coffee.

Today, I will force myself to study less-than-flattering photos of myself and feel the piercing pain of every imperfection.

Today, I will graciously accept compliments from strangers and friends alike, and question their genuineness, as well as my own perception.

Today, I will swear to change.

And tomorrow, I’ll swear it again.

 

M.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.