Cured

It happened last week-the most dramatic mental shift I’ve experienced since the day that Anorexia dug its sharp claws in to my then thirteen-year-old body and held me captive for almost a decade.

I’ve been weight-restored for several years now, and my disorder is no longer visible to the public. But my mind was a battleground, my thoughts plagued with calorie counting and clean eating and ketosis and carbohydrates, drowning any rational thoughts as it pertains to food intake.

I ate the same thing, at the same time, in the same quantity every day for years at a time without switching it up. I didn’t know what hunger was, because I was doing everything I could to prevent a binge, and, consequently, a purge and episode of debilitating guilt that would inevitably follow.

I would turn down dates and social outings that would involve food, and at a minimum would conduct extensive research to ensure that I could find something “clean” to eat that would fit into the latest diet plan that I was subjecting myself to. Because there was always a diet plan.

Some days, I’d look at my body and decide that I was too fat to engage with others. I was disgusted by what I saw, and would spend hours in front of the mirror, sniffling as tears dripped down my face and onto my chest as I poked and pulled mercilessly at the cage of flesh I was sentenced to live in.

Anorexia lost, so bulimia took a swung at me, and suddenly I’d find myself bingeing out of control, tearing through entire cereal boxes, eating full packages of Oreo’s and loaves of bread, in complete secrecy. I would then hide the evidence of my binge episode, shut myself up in my room, and cry until I felt able to purge it out through hours of cardio at the gym.

I’d sit in the break room at work, mouth watering, as I watched coworkers partake in catered lunches from the company, candy at halloween, and pie during the week of Thanksgiving. I never gave in once, and stuck dutifully to my low-calorie, sugar-free, low-carb lunch that I’d packed the night before.

But then, one day, I gave in.

Last week, my company catered Zupas for us, as we’d had a record day the day before. I had packed my own lunch the night before, as usual, and intended to eat the contents of my lunch tote and then chew gum for the remainder of my break to avoid any more “temptation.”

But I was exceptionally hungry that day, and I just so happen to really like Zupas. So, I took a deep breath and marched straight up to the table, and grabbed myself a sandwich and a chocolate-dipped cookie.

For the first time in probably a decade, I sat down and slowly enjoyed every bite of that half-sandwich and chocolate-dipped cookie that I allowed myself. I let myself taste it all, and savor every last calorie. And when I was through, I smiled. No feelings of guilt, no compensatory behavior, and honestly, not even a second thought about it. It was an effing cookie, after all.

But that’s the thing about eating disorders, they instill a completely irrational fear of things like cookies and sandwiches, things that a lot of people eat on a daily basis. Instead of feeling guilt-ridden and anxious, I felt at ease, comfortable, even.

Ever since that stupid little experience during my lunch break at work, my entire attitude toward food and my body has done a 180. I eat slowly now, without anxiety or agitation. I enjoy every last bit of it, and stop when I feel comfortably full. I go to the gym almost every day, and I do workouts that make me feel good about myself and confident in my body’s capabilities. I don’t purge, and I don’t poke at my stomach in bathroom mirrors in pubic restaurants anymore. I haven’t weighed myself in months, and people call me “Thicc” and it doesn’t offend me one bit. My “thicc” butt still fits in my size 0 jeans from high school, and has frankly become one of my favorite features about my physical self.

And I’m happy. Of course, I have a laundry list of things I’d change about my body if I had an unlimited budget for liposuction. But I don’t have an unlimited budget for liposuction. I do, however, have a life to live and I think that after ten years of limiting my experience as a human being due to the fear of weight gain, I’ve had a breakthrough.

I think I’m finally free.

M.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

Truant

Among my extensive list of obsessive-compulsive behaviors is that of impeccable punctuality and spotless attendance, whether it be school, the dentist, work, a sushi date, my therapist-the point is, I may be a lot of things, but a no-show is not one of them. This may be due in part to my short-lived exposure to reception work, in which I found extreme irritability in people who were either late for or completely missed their appointments without the courtesy of prior notification.

I am excruciatingly punctual to literally everything, but additionally, I will have woken up at an obscenely early hour that morning to allow time for my thorough daily “get ready to conquer the world” routine. And by obscenely early, I mean like 5:00 AM.

Upon awakening, my little brain goes immediately into hyper drive, and it remains in hyper drive for the duration of my waking hours. I immediately spring out of bed (not once in my almost 21 years of life have I ever hit the snooze button) and prepare coffee, as I couldn’t possibly generate enough energy naturally to remain alert for even a moment. Then, I shower, put on a full face of makeup, curl my hair (which is what keeps my biceps sculpted), and finally put on the outfit, complete with jewelry and accessories, that I’d spent a half an hour the previous night assembling.

Every. Damn. Morning.

I am the first to arrive to my 7:30 AM Research Methods and Design lecture, having consumed the exact same, low-calorie, perfectly balanced breakfast and ANOTHER K-cup of coffee beforehand. At this point, I’ve already been awake for two and a half hours, and require more espresso.

I attend to the rest of my responsibilities throughout the day with the same level of rigor, to the extent that I panic if things don’t go perfectly as planned.

Months and months of maintaining such a rigid lifestyle cause periodic wall-hitting. I hit one of those walls today.

Today is Tuesday, which means that I had an appointment with my therapist after my 7:30 AM lecture, followed by a 3-hour class at my local community college.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs previous, I hit a wall today. After my appointment, my brain flipped a switch from its anxiety-ridden normalcy to a state of zen. I made the impulsive decision to not submit to my rigid, perfect schedule today. I breathed in some of that Serenity Essential Oil stuff that I keep in my backpack as a preventative tool for anxiety attacks, and instead of speeding to make it to my pharmacy tech class on time, I drove home.

That was two hours ago.

Now, I am laying in my bed without pants on, messy hair, and no guilt or anxious, racing heart. I feel pretty damn liberated.

The thing about living with anxiety (and perfectionism)  is that every little mistake, shortcoming, or thing that didn’t go as planned feels damning and the guilt that follows is impossible to escape from.

I get trapped in my own head. I try and fail to keep up with the pace of my eternally racing thoughts. My heart races, my palms sweat, and my breathing turns shallow.

But not today.

Today, I took a personal day from myself.

M.

Englut

I’m in an abnormal psychology class this semester, and let me tell you, Psych majors are a lot like Med students in that we tend to diagnose ourselves with whatever disorder we are currently discussing in class. I am guilty as charged.

Except for when i’m not, and I really do qualify for the diagnosis of discussion.

I make no secret of my eating disorder. Don’t believe me? Check out my About page. I am a recovered Anorexic, according to my BMI. However, in regards to my mental health, my eating disorder is thriving as well as it was when I was in junior high some five or so years ago. Those self-destructive thoughts you have when you’re eating 300 calories a day and running every last one of them off still linger, even after you’ve managed to eat yourself into the “Healthy Weight” category.

I always love the unit on disordered eating in psychology courses. Out of everything I learn in school, ED is one topic that I know like the back of my hand. I can give you symptoms, treatment plans, multi-dimensional risk factors, you name it! But more than that, I can give you a monologue for an ED victim, because, of course, that would simply require me to write down my day-to-day thought processes.

The most fascinating thing i’ve learned about my own disorder is that recovered anorexics can often morph into binge eaters. As an anorexic, I didn’t even consider this as a possibility. My 78-pound self couldn’t fathom ever eating more than 7 carrots in one day!

And yet, here I am. Five years later, still obsessed with food. Still obsessed with my weight. Body image. Calories. Carbohydrates. Refined sugars. GMO’s. I’d be willing to say that a good 65% of my inner monologue includes words from this type of vocabulary set.

I binge. Maybe once a week. I did today, and now i’m sitting here, writing about how I screwed up my no-carb, high protein diet, just like yesterday. Okay, so maybe Aunt Flo can take credit for this binge episode, but regardless, I probably would have done it tonight, period or not.

For someone who suffers from anorexic tendencies, a binge piles on more anxiety to an already overwhelmingly high amount of anxiety over weight gain, and it just keeps snowballing into more and more anxiety.

Y’know how long it’s been since I went to a restaurant without researching its nutritional facts, premeditating my order so that I was assured to get the lowest calorie meal? I do this for dates, birthdays, vacations, and any other reason you can possibly think of to go out to eat. Other nineteen-year-olds roll up to the drive-thru like it ain’t no thang and they order whatever they want AND a frosty! And don’t even think twice about it. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, to eat something I wanted and suffer no remorse whatsoever!

I can’t seem to shake this obsession with food and weight. I’ve tried the counselor thing. I’ve asked the advice of my mom, to which she said, “You’ve just got to have more willpower.” I can’t seem to find a plausible solution here, folks. So I guess i’m asking you guys, what methods have you tried to cope with disordered eating, specifically binging, and how have they been successful?

If you can’t think of anything, that’s cool too. I still find writing therapeutic.

M.

Misapprehension

Last week, I decided it was time for me to move out. So I did. (Well, sort of.) I decided to pack up my Camry with my seasonal belongings and make the 12 minute drive to Oma’s* house and become her brand-new, live-in best friend. Now, i’ve only been here a week, but this week has been the bomb-diggity. (Excuse my informal language.)

Living with her has been awesome because I have this sense of independence that I don’t get at my parents’ house, but also there is always somebody here to help me with my laundry or make Crepes even on a Thursday morning. And also, my favorite aunt lives right next door now, and enjoys taking me to Applebee’s for half-priced appetizers after 9 PM. It’s like the half-step between paternal dependence and complete independence. And that works for me.

However, regardless of the happiness this move has brought me, not all affected by this move walked away without their toes being stepped on. I think I hurt my parents in doing this, and that tears me apart. My dad, and probably one of my closest friends lately, was a little wounded by my choosing to live elsewhere. He told my mom that he felt like he was not a good father for not providing me with an environment that I can flourish in.

My mom is also not exactly happy by this choice of mine. She feels as though I am pushing her away. Geographically, this holds true, but you know what they say- “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” (Or something like that.)

I have an overwhelming burden of guilt for making my parents feel this way. I am more than frustrated that a decision that can make me so happy (or at least, less unhappy) could be seen as a ding to my folks’ parenting skills. My intentions have been entirely misunderstood.

Even though I can’t seem to clear up my reasons for leaving the nest to mom and dad, I am going to clarify them here.

Reason #1: No Curfew. 

My Oma works late a lot, and our schedules make it so that we are rarely home at the same time. Since she is so busy working and also being the best Oma in the history of forever, she rarely asks me interrogating questions. Which means I am free to go out and do teenager stuff with the abundance of friends I don’t have at 2 AM. It’s the principle of the thing.

Reason #2: New Environment=removal of temptation to be a girl with an eating disorder.

As silly as it sounds, living in a new house with a different kitchen has helped me start to mend my skewed relationship with food. I haven’t binged yet, and even my thoughts toward myself have improved. I am starting to lose the rigidity of my routines and rituals. This, on its own, is reason enough for me to not live in my house, as it saves me a significant amount of time, grief, and self-loathing.

Reason #3: No more Condescending, Contentious Little Sister

Woah, that was a rather bold and hurtful statement for a Monday morning, eh? Before you start grabbing your virtual pitchforks and picket signs that say “M deserves the ‘Worst Big Sister In The World’ award,” allow me to explain.

My relationship with my darling ‘little’ sister (quotes have been inserted around ‘little’ because my 16-year-old sis has probably 6 inches and 20 pounds on my short, non-athletic frame) is very unstable. We go through brief phases of alliance followed by extended periods of complete and utter hatred and/or avoidance. When we fight, homegirl gets pretty damn condescending and rude, radiating too many negative vibes for my already too negative self to cope with.

I haven’t spoken to her in a month. Not a word, nor an acknowledgement. And she doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest. In fact, I’m not even sure she noticed I even moved out, and that stings. Granted, she’s a self-absorbed Junior whose entire world revolves around herself and her friends, but I just thought that I had a little higher ranking of priority in her life. But you know, it is what it is, and if moving out removes the possibility of yet another heated, estrogen-slathered quarrel, then so be it.

Reason #4: Java

I’m allowed to have a coffee maker here.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Still not making anybody happy with my life choices. Still trying to please everybody. Probably about to move back home to relieve myself of this overwhelming feeling of guilt for hurting the parents. Still on the quest to find the path to lifelong happiness. Still no where close.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to breakfast over crepes with my Oma and gossip about our wacko family.

*Oma: German for Grandma. No, I will not refer to her as my grandma, for she is not. She is my Oma.

Pretension

I’ve been doing some over-thinking again.

Y’know, i’d be willing to bet that one of the main contributing factors to the modern woman’s demolished self-esteem is the paradox that self-adoration is wholly frowned upon.

When we give compliments, we practically expect the receiver of said adulation to refute our kind words.

When you say, “oh my goodness, Sally, that dress looks stunning on you!”, which response from Sally is most acceptable?

a) “Ew, oh my goodness you think? I think it looks like a sausage casing!”

b) “Oh please, you look better, though!”

c) “Really? I was just considering going on a diet.”

d) “Why, thank you! I quite like it, as well.”

Realistically, if Sally were to answer d), we would assume that Sally is a conceited, stuck-up snob.

Why is it so unacceptable to like parts of ourselves? Why is it such a crime to verbally agree with someone who has paid us a compliment?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am a hypocrite. Whenever I am paid a compliment, especially on my appearance, I automatically completely disagree, both mentally and verbally. It’s what i’m supposed to do, right?

Except for when I don’t. Believe it or not, I get an occasional comment of recognition from others in regards to my sense of humor. And you know what my response is every time someone tells me that they think i’m funny? A sincere “Thank you,” and an acknowledgement that I agree with their opinion that I am a notably comical young lady.That’s one thing i’ve decided I like about myself, and I appreciate anyone who concurs. Does this make me conceited? Snobby? Self-centered? If so, I want to be the most conceited, snobby, self-centered brat there is.

What i’m trying to get at here, is that it is absolutely more than okay to like yourself, granted that it’s virtually impossible to like yourself in its entirety, due to our toxic media and societal pressures to be discontent and self-hating.

It is possible to be humble while liking your own traits. No need to go parading yourself around, but I don’t believe that giving yourself a couple of put-ups will do your psyche any harm. It’ll be a refreshing change from that radiating stream of negativity that goes through a lot of our heads on a constant basis.

I think that if liking ourselves weren’t such a taboo, we’d be able to avoid all sorts of problems like eating disorders, guilt, jealousy, what ever else ails you.

The way I see it, i’m the only me I’m ever gonna get, so i’d better learn to start liking it, or it’s gonna be one long, self-loathing themed life.

Easier said than done.

But, like most things, it’s a work in progress.

Down with the societal encouragement of hating ourselves.

M.

Conflicting Conscience

Let me tell you a little story about a not-so-little girl. Legend has it she got not-so-little due to her picky palate and refusal to eat anything but starchy vegetables and Easy Mac. As the years passed, her excess intake of carbohydrates stuck to her in the least-flattering way that fat could stick to a person. You could see nothing but disgust and self-loathing in her eyes-merely a nine-year-old child! You would never catch this girl with more than a half-hearted grin in any photograph.

And the fat jokes, they came. As early as the fourth grade. They stung, oh they stung. But not nearly as badly as her own thoughts in her head. But she fought to suppress them, that is, until she was involuntarily thrust into the firey, unforgiving, pubescent realms of junior high school.  By that time, the voices had won. 

Just like that, from the end of seventh grade to the beginning of the eighth, the girl had dropped from her hearty, 110 pound chubbiness to a gaunt, skeleton-like 72 pounds. She thought that in doing this, she would satisfy the voices in her head, but they had only grown stronger with time. She was ugly, she was worthless, she was disgusting. And she believed it, too. 

Since then, she has crawled out of the hole she’d dug herself into, but her thoughts remain the same. Subconsciously, she still sees the portly fourth grader she’d shed a number of years ago. With every bite of cookie or cake or french fry comes an overwhelming and exhausting feeling of guilt, which results in her self-consciously pinching at herself in the mirror for the next half-hour. 

You guessed it, that girl is me. Living with a distorted body image is a living hell, I assure you. You take every fat joke, every weight-loss “secret” to heart, and you never feel good enough. It sucks. 

But Maddie, you’re a feminist! 

Feminists don’t believe in vanity or in giving in to societal pressures! 

Shut up you guys, i’m only human. 

And yes, I do believe that women are worth way more than their dress size or number on the scale and that “what matters is how you feel on the inside” and all that gushy, feel-good crap. On a conscious level, I really do agree to all of that. And I can counsel other girls till i’m blue in the face on how their size doesn’t matter and that they don’t have to be “beautiful” to be of worth, but I can’t apply a lick of my own words and “beliefs” to my own life. There, I said it. 

It’s a freaking drag. 

So here I am, conflicted as ever. Having the strongest belief in feminism and not owing beauty to anyone, when I am consciously indebted to myself with my vain bodily short-comings. 

Naturally, the blame falls both on the shoulders of the fat, carb-inhaling youngster I used to be, and also our disgusting, skinny-worshiping patriarchal society. 

A sincere thank-you to the both of y’all. 

I’m not sure what the point was for this post, but in the words of Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, “Writing brings me solace.”

M.