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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Pieces

I find it notably paradoxical that oftentimes, I feel most lonely when I’m surrounded by people.

Interestingly, I don’t tend to feel this stomach-sinking emotion when I am all alone.

I think that I’m a fringe person. I dwell just on the outside; within arm’s distance of others, but never closer.

At work, I float around from clique to clique, managing shallow small talk and building bridges just strong enough to give me someone to eat lunch with in the break room.

Within my family, I am amidst most of the inside jokes. But oftentimes, I sabotage our kinship banter with annoyance or moodiness or an inability to just let myself enjoy experiences.

When it comes to anything relating to the male sex, sure, I’ve got a list of dudes that would likely be more than willing to spend an evening with me. They grace me with their attention and overdrawn compliments on the Snapchat or when I post a new selfie featuring my legs.

And I keep them around. Y’know, just in case loneliness sets in.

And for just an initial moment, I gain a minuscule taste of satisfaction.

Every now and then, I feel ballsy and decide to reach out. Give somebody a chance, if you will. But they say that there is no loneliness like the type you feel in another’s company. And they are right.

I’ve caught myself time and time again making the horrific mistake of trying to open up to someone and truly be understood. My cries for help are dismissed, and people come and take what they came for, and then they are back on their merry way.

Cynical? Perhaps.

That being said, I think I’m just intended to be a fringe person. And that entails drawing further and further inward, playing it all safe.

I’ve accepted this reality since the day the pieces of me shattered into too small of fragments that they simply don’t fit together anymore.

And so I carry on, broken and wounded from yesterday’s mistakes.

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.

 

 

Fortitude

This year was hard for more reasons than the ones mainstream media chose to shine its spotlight on, but you already know that. Anyway, it’s over now and 2017 couldn’t possibly be any worse, which brings me an air of optimism for the upcoming 365 days.

I love the end of the year, because it gives me the opportunity to look back on my previous resolutions (if I remember them) and measure just how badly I failed. AND THEN I get to set new ones for the next year. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

In all seriousness, though, I love the concept of a clean slate. I love setting new goals. It makes me feel motivated and revved up to do some serious, lasting self-renovation.

I couldn’t even tell you what my resolutions were last year, so I obviously didn’t accomplish them, but this is a CLEAN SLATE, remember? If I had to guess, though, I’d say it was your typical “I want to lose 15 pounds” or quit sugar or something fitness related.

I weigh the same weight as I have since I graduated high school, and I most certainly did not quit sugar because sugar is awesome and I like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Cadbury Mini Eggs. A lot.

New year’s resolution #1: Stick to my new year’s resolutions.

All joking aside, 2017 is going to be my year. Because I am in control of me. I’m choosing to focus my energy on lasting changes that will result in me becoming a more balanced, healthy, strong, independent individual.

I esteem myself as an extremely ambitious individual who just so happens to have an anxiety problem. Anxiety victims can tell you just how severely it can hinder your progress in any and every facet of your life. If I am to realize my academic an professional goals, I need to minimize and eliminate as many obstacles as necessary.

So, I have resolved first and foremost to adjust my lifestyle to one that is as anti-anxiety producing as possible. I have already gotten a jump start on this goal by adopting my trusted feline friend. leo

Meet Leo, which is short for Leonardo. He was named after our favorite cinema star and recent Oscar winner, Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s a tuxedo cat, so I often call him Mr. Sir. He has successfully prevented numerous panic attacks, binge/purge episodes, and been a phenomenal dance partner to Katy Perry jams around our quaint, cozy apartment. He is my light and my life, and I love him very much.

So already, I’ve made significant changes that have made my anxiety more manageable. However, my final semester of my undergraduate program is upon us, so I’m expecting a bumpy ride for these next 4 months, but I assure you it’s nothing Leo and I can’t handle together.

In addition to improving myself as an individual, I’d really like to take this year and focus on making a difference in the lives of those around me.

This year, I’ve resolved to do one simple thing per day to build up a fellow woman. Because frankly, being a woman is, in my experience, no walk in the park, and I’m sick and tired of the way in which society has turned us against each other. I’m done being a pawn in the game of female competition.

Women are not my competition, and treating them as such does nothing but hinder our progress toward gender equality. I am officially pledging myself to the pro-woman team. Instead of glaring jealously at a girl’s outfit in passing, I’m going to compliment her shoes, her blouse, or her hair. If she needs a night to vent about her day at work, her relationship with her family/spouse/significant other, I’ll head on over with my good friends Ben and Jerry and one hell of a pep talk. I’m here to help.

Obviously I’ll gladly help people of all genders in any capacity that I can, but I really want to focus on helping my fellow women this year, because I have had many hard experiences in my life and I really could have used some encouragement, a listening ear, or a confidence boost. So this is me returning the favor to those who have assisted me in these ways.

May we all learn to see each other as allies, not enemies.

Happy  New Year’s, loves. I hope that together, we can help each other build ourselves back up from last year, and live happier, healthier, and stronger this year and for the rest to come.

 

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.

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.

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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.