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.

 

 

 

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. 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

Concedable Classroom Concessions

I was having a moderately decent day, for a Tuesday. I had gotten my 8.25 hours of sleep, had strategically planned out an outfit that was both dapper but not too overdone for a middle-class student, and had had a balanced breakfast that included just enough caffeine to jolt my drowsy brain into alert-mode. All of the components that make for a successful day, right? 

And my day was successful. I hadn’t had a single reverie of me having a sudden violent outburst toward one of my fellow students. 

That is, until my last class came around. 

Structure of English. My most-dreaded class of the day. Noon to 1:15. Lunch time. 

It’s not that I don’t find learning about the definition and purpose of pronouns and prepositional phrases absolutely riveting, it’s that learning about the definition and purpose of pronouns and prepositional phrases cannot and will not ever be absolutely riveting to anyone, ever. Especially at midday, when my tummy has the rumblies. 

No matter the severity of my stomach’s grumbling, I would never, EVER, under any circumstances, consume any sort of crunchy, edible morsel during class, much less in the ear of the poor student occupying the seat in front of me. 

This crime was committed against me today, ladies and gentlemen. I am a victim of explicitly loud and disgusting chewing noises from the ignorant swine with a constant need to scarf down raw fruits and vegetables and sit in the seat right behind me so that I cannot escape her “crrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnncccccccccccccchhhhhhhhh.” 

She started with a bag of carrots. And this was before class had begun. At the first chomp, I had already considered moving seats, and had my eye on one as distant from this girl and her repugnant eating habits as I could possibly get, without sacrificing my ability to hear the professor’s lecture. 

As usual, my reaction was too slow, and I was trapped in the dungeon of eaters who have no regard for other peoples’ disgust for their lack of being able to chew quietly. (Or just wait to scarf down their lunch after class, dammit.) 

The lecture had started, but by then, I was already gripping my head with my fingers as if I had a sudden, severe migraine. In reality, though, I was just trying to release the fury in my hands before I released it in the form of a fist across this chick’s face.

Her carrots were gone, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I breathed too soon, though, because seconds later, I heard the rustling of Ziploc sandwich bags as she pulled yet another bag from her backpack. This one was full of apples.

At this point, my ability to focus on the parts of speech had gone out the window, across the prairie, and halfway to the ocean.

My hands couldn’t squeeze my head any tighter, so I began harshly gripping at my own hair, a ritual of sanity maintenance.

This class could not end soon enough.

I whipped my neck around and gave this girl my best stink-eye, but to no avail. She continued munching, crunching, and chomping on her apple slices, as if she were immune to the sting of my icy gaze.

She must have cut up seventeen apples this morning before class, because it took her the majority of our hour-and-fifteen-minute lecture to consume them all.

Finally, once I was positive that I could not endure another millisecond of her disgusting chewing habits, I heard the rustling of her empty Ziploc bag as she presumably stuffed it back into her backpack and zipped up the pouch.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Nobody was going to have to get her mandible shattered today.

But then, to my great terror, my ears detected the sharp “POP!” of a wad of Bubbalicious gum.

I now like to take a moment to formally apologize to anyone I’ve ever eaten raw or crunchy food around. That was repugnant behavior, and from now on, I will be enjoying these types of foods from the closet in my bedroom with my radio at its maxed-out volume so that nobody can hear me chew. 

And just in case you were wondering, I didn’t punch the girl in the jaw. That would probably result in an “assault charge” which would go on my “permanent record,” making me an “utter disappointment” and “disgracing my family name.” 

M. 

 

Twist

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, as well as retail shopping lately, and it has come to my attention whilst immersing myself in deep thought and browsing through stores at my local mall, that besides amusement parks, malls are essentially the only places in this blessed country in which citizens can purchase themselves a soft pretzel. 

Now, I mean to be frank, but let’s get it together, America. Starbucks and McDonald’s really know what they’re doing-placing one of themselves on every corner. The accessibility for overpriced coffee and fast “food” is borderline ridiculous. All I want is one gosh darn Pretzel Maker within a 10 mile radius of my house, preferably with a drive-thru. 

I have a solution for this instance of injustice. I would like to propose that we replace 1/8th of the McDonald’s establishments with Pretzel Makers. 

I know it’s a matter of opinion, but I would much rather scarf down a carb-loaded, fun-shaped, cinnamon-and-sugar dusted mass of twisted bread than a grease ball of stuff that kind of resembles hamburger anyway. You could go as far as to say that I am passionate about pretzels. A pretzel fanatic. 

You better believe I am going to write a strongly worded, persuasive, and argumentative letter to Mr. CEO of Pretzel Establishments outlining how come we need a sharp increase in pretzel establishments. (Thank you, English 2010, for teaching me something that directly applies to the real world.)

 

Now come on guys, I know I’m not the only one fed up with this public issue. Join the cause. Petition for the Pretzel. Let’s bring about a concessional revolution.

‘Murica.  

M.