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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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.

 

Empty

There’s nothing like a solitary summer night drive to really get your feelings to surface.

But big girls don’t cry, and so I will write.

I spent the last hour coasting up the hillside in my car to the sobering melody of “Me” by the 1975, and thinking too deeply about how I got here. I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

For starters, I genuinely like the personality I’ve developed. I like that I’m witty and weird. I like that I can talk about almost anything for hours and that I have posters of chemical formulas and DNA helices on my bedroom wall. I like that the people at work know me as a sassy-pants know-it-all who is a little neurotic about cats. I like being the cool girl that lets everything roll off her shoulder. I like the things I say, and the way I think.

I don’t like my body-it doesn’t feel like mine. I don’t like how my body is satisfying to men who have touched it, or thought about doing so, while I can’t even bear to look at it in the mirror sometimes. Or worse-that I can’t stop looking at it sometimes, and allow my thoughts to tear me apart, limb from limb, as I fight back tears of frustration and inadequacy.

I don’t like that I try so hard to be attractive. Even now, nearing the middle of the night, I sit here in a “waist trainer” that closely resembles the rib-crushing corsets that the ladies of the middle ages laced themselves into every day, in a desperate attempt to shrink myself smaller and smaller. I don’t like my freckles, or the fact that I can’t tan.

I don’t like how painfully aware I am of myself in space. I don’t like constantly trying to read others’ minds as they encounter me. I don’t like over-thinking every human interaction I have and anxiously hoping that I haven’t done anything wrong.

I don’t like living my life as though everyone is going to hurt me. I don’t like snapping at anyone who makes a pass at me-I’m practically biting their heads off all the time. I hate that I use previous unresolved trauma as an excuse for not allowing anyone within a five mile radius of me. I really don’t like feeling alone all the time, watching everyone else be, y’know, not alone.

I don’t like being considered an “attractive girl,” because that implies that my physical attributes are the primary cause that allures people in my direction. The “attractive girl” doesn’t seem to get what I want more than anything, which is the security of someone somewhere who understands me in all my flaws and contradictions, has seen me at my ugliest, and wants me to stay.

I don’t like holding myself to standards of perfectionism, and inevitably falling short of it every time-doomed to perpetual disappointment.

I don’t like that I’m still up writing this stupid post that will likely be deleted in the morning.

I don’t like thinking that things will always be this way.

M.

Temerarious

 

I spent the last weekend bedridden with a horrible flu.

The flu can be detrimental to one’s health in a number of ways- there’s the physical component of the illness, of course, in which the immune system is insufficient for fighting off pathogens, but there’s a physiological component that, in my experience, is far more harmful than any fever, bout of chills, or stuffy nose.

When you’re as sick as I was last weekend, you have no other option but to slow down-your body insists. But your brain is not forcibly stagnated to the extent that your limbs might be. What I’m saying in way more words than are necessary is that I had far too much time for thinking over the past couple of days for my own good.

In a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and focus my racing, unorganized thoughts, I began (and finished) the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I suggest that you set apart the next 13 hours and binge the entire series. If you don’t have the time for that, I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

The story centers around Hannah, a high schooler who takes her own life, but not before explaining her reasons for doing so via 13 audio tape recordings. The topic of each tape is one of her classmates who has contributed to her ultimate decision to commit suicide. Among those reasons are betrayal, rape, objectification, and harassment. Ironically, all things that I have experienced, as well.

This powerful series was profound and resonated deeply with me, and unfortunately, has forced me to face some things that I’ve never truly allowed myself to process. Ever since my body was invaded, it’s felt as though it no longer belongs to me. And sometimes I feel that all I am is a body, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been handled with care-by men since him, or by me. The most practical remedy is to enclose oneself in a pod of isolation-just big enough for one. Because the illusion of control is much more satisfying there.

I’ve been played with, used, ridiculed, and objectified. I am left weak, afraid, and tired.

I’d like to think that I’d never engage in self-harm, but this sudden flooding of relived past experiences has forced me to feel things that I’ve suppressed for far too long, and I’m paying for it now. How does one who’s deceived herself into strength cope with the fact that she’s been wounded the whole time?

I think that the biggest take-away message I got from viewing Thirteen Reasons was that we are reckless. Humans are reckless people with little to no awareness on how significant our actions can be in the grand scheme of things. Our actions have the power to significantly alter another’s perception of self, and the consequences of a poor self-perception can, as in Hannah’s case, be fatal.

Human interaction is a complex phenomenon, and everyone experiences his or her own truth. If you claim that I hurt you, I don’t get to decide that I didn’t. So it’s best to err on the side of safety, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re Ghandi or Mother Teresa, you will inevitably hurt those you interact with, intentionally or not. But we don’t walk around with a gauge pinned to our shirts, notifying those around us how close we are to our breaking points.

It’d be extremely difficult, and frankly boring (not to mention unrealistic) to treat everyone as if they are fragile as fine China, all of the time for the rest of our lives. That’s where I think that a little self-awareness could go a long way. And believe me, my hands are definitely not clean here.

Watching the way Hannah was treated by her classmates in Thirteen Reasons was piercingly painful for me to watch. I could feel her solitude through my computer screen, and it transported me back to my own lonely years as a high school student. (Which was much more difficult in some ways than my desolate college years now.) Each episode’s conclusion catalyzed another stream of tears from my eyes, and I found myself in bouts of severe regret for the way my life has been going so far.

People can cause a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. The only problem is, once you’ve experienced enough harm, you find that it’d be foolish to put yourself out there in pursuit of some good, because that would leave you vulnerable to even more harm.

So, you withdraw further.

And what’s so noble about being fine all the time, anyway? Why does being able to be okay with people treating you like shit make you strong? Resilient, maybe. But I’d argue that strength is found by allowing yourself to feel real pain-to hurt to the extent that it hurts, and to heal in your own time, and your own way.

That’s what I feel like my experience from this weekend is forcing me to do-to allow myself to not be fine anymore. Because the last thing I am is okay. I am weak, wounded and alone. And if I don’t accept that now and deal with it, the next time I get hurt might pull me completely under water, and I’ll drown.

I fully admit that I’ve done more than my fair share of harm to other people. My hands are far from clean. But I’ve gained a heightened awareness of my deeds and their potential for harm or help to my fellow man.

But why are we so reckless with each others’ lives? Should it not be more of a priority to minimize the pain we inflict? Or are we simply just not aware?

M.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Didactic

Two evenings ago, I terminated my relationship with a boy I spent the better part of 2016 with.

I see you, behind your computer screen, rolling your eyes in annoyance, expecting a lengthy rant of a post authored by a dramatic and heartbroken twenty-something. Well calm down, Nancy. (As my ex would say). I’m not THAT predictable.

I had my reasons for cutting ties, but just a week before I did this, I was thoroughly convinced that he was “the one.”

It took four days of separation from him for me to finally admit that our relationship was far from healthy. Don’t get me wrong, our good times were good. And I miss when things were good, a lot. But at what cost? Because our bad times, well, they were BAD.

During these four days that I had minimal involvement in our courtship, I came to realize that I was losing myself by trying to make things work with him. He has a very dominant personality, and I am vulnerable, and admittedly a little naive, despite my fiery ambition and feminist mindset. If I continued to be with him, eventually that flame would be extinguished, and I would be stuck. The things that it took to make him happy hurt me, and up until that point, I thought that for some reason, I owed it to him.

He liked to play mind games with me, and get me really riled up “just to see how I’d react.” He’d check out hot chicks in the supermarket parking lot for 2+ minutes, while I exasperatedly waited for him to get in my car. He’d tell me that I was naive and assumed that he always knew better.

These were painful things to experience from someone who had countlessly claimed that he loved me.

The breakup was painful, and despite how hard things were when I was with him, adjusting to being alone again has been nothing short of difficult. But I have purged myself of material representations of our relationship, and am ready for a fresh start.

“Everything happens for a reason” was one of his most frequently employed mantras. Though I was never completely convinced that this is the case, I do believe that breaking things off with him inevitably needed to happen. It took this entire experience for me to re-focus on what I want for myself and my life, and I now feel empowered to dive head-first into exactly the life that I want for myself, with or without a significant other.

I’m one of the lucky ones with a kick-ass support system that has been there for me unconditionally, and has done everything they can to ensure my wellbeing, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I’ve learned from him that I am strong and powerful and in control of myself. I am the only one who knows what’s best for me. And the only people who belong in my life are the ones who make me feel empowered. And that, my friends, is something that I require.

So that’s where I’m at.

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.