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. 

 

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Eupepsia

It has acutely come to my attention that there is a subdivision of psychology devoted entirely to food and peoples’ relationship with it. They (the governing body of all things psychological, I suppose) have creatively named it “Food Psychology.”

I’ve been desperately searching for tried and true tricks to intervene before I subject myself to a situation like the episode I had last week, and the psychodynamic side of me feels that searching for the origins of my peculiar relationship with food would be helpful in selecting an effective treatment, because, frankly, I’m done being the kind of weirdo whose biggest concern is what she is going to eat today and lives in constant fear of losing control of the abundance of food around her. It’s time to be a different kind of weirdo.

In the beginning, I was a chubby kid. I loved KFC and pasta with parmesan cheese, sue me. It just so happened to deposit itself right on my abdomen. I was a hopelessly picky eater, and refused to eat all things produce and lean protein. Though my parents never said anything, I could sense their concern-even from a young age. I was NOT a happy camper. Ever. Still to this day, you can see the sadness in my eyes in the sparse stack of photographs from my youth. I didn’t like me, and lived in a constant state of self-consciousness, always trying to make myself disappear, though not through starvation means quite yet, which would account for the sparse stack of photographs from my youth.

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In the interest of time, let’s jump forward to adolescence; everyone’s favorite life stage. Moderate body dysmorphia is relatively common among young teenage girls, but what I experienced fell far outside of the bell curve. I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t self-conscious, but my early teenage years were certainly the most severe in this regard. It was at this time in my life that I had finally gained the motivation to transform myself into the only thing that I thought could make me happy-skinny.

As soon as I turned 13, I signed myself up for a calorie counter account, and began logging every bite. Anorexia had reduced my calorie intake to a mere 250 calories per day, and my diet consisted mostly of baby carrots and a fourth of a cup of Multigrain Cheerios.I weighed myself seven, eight, nine times per day. The rapid weight loss was energizing-I was above hunger, above the need for food. I was strong and I was beautiful. And people were noticing. I was 5’2, and 72 pounds.

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My eyes had sunken in, my hair had thinned, I had constant goosebumps, and every vertebrae on my back was both visible and palpable. I remember making my own mom cry one day when she accidentally walked in on me changing my shirt.

The folks dragged me to therapy, but my therapist left a bad taste in all of our mouths, so I was only forced to attend the initial session. While all of this was going on, my parents had begun seeing a personal trainer and nutrition coach, so food and exercise dominated a lot of household conversation, which reinforced my preoccupation with “healthy” eating.

I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I’d bake sweets for my family on almost a nightly basis, the aroma of the baked goods forcing me to salivate, but I was strong. I never gave in. I ate the exact same food every single day, at the exact same time, and in the exact same quantity.

Sleep was hard to come by, initially due to the audible pleading of my stomach for sustenance, but later due to hunger pains that only increased in severity as the night wore on.

I wish I knew what exactly made me “snap out of it,” but eventually (and thankfully), my body took over my prefrontal cortex, and forced me to slowly restore my weight to a sustainable range. Strangely, I don’t remember much of the weight restoration process, but I can imagine that it was excruciatingly devastating to watch myself gain the weight that I had worked so hard to starve off.

My level of self-consciousness has remained fairly constant throughout my development into adulthood. Today, I am right smack in the middle of the “healthy weight range” according to the BMI chart. But my relationship with food is nowhere near healthy.

Last semester, I took a 20 credit hour course load. (Full-time is 12.) However, I couldn’t bring myself to focus on anything school-related until I had a Maddie-approved meal plan prepared for the day. I’d spend upwards of an hour per night just packing food for the next day, because my anxiety would be far too severe for me to cope with if I didn’t.

Every time I visit the ladies room, I will spend 2-3 minutes examining myself, pinching various areas of my body in disgust, regardless of who might see. I have to forcibly pull myself away from the mirror before I burst into tears. I visit the scale multiple times per day, and threaten myself with starvation if I don’t like the number I see.

Sometimes, when my anxiety is unleashed, I hide in the pantry and scarf down entire boxes of cereal. After which, I go to the gym and attempt to purge it all with hours of cardiovascular exercise.

Weight gain is by far my greatest fear, and I structure my entire life around avoiding it. I have isolated myself in order to ensure that I don’t slip up. I am prisoner to my obsession with food.

I am ready for a life without this, but unfortunately, I won’t let me let it go.

M.

 

Recidivism

Having completed 92% of my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology has significantly and falsely inflated my confidence in my ability to control my own mental health. However, it has come to my recent attention that memorizing theories makes me no better at remedying my own cognitive malfunctioning than any other average Joesphina.

I don’t want to say that I’m relapsing, because to say so would indicate that I had, at some point, completely recovered, which would be a false claim.

Diagnosing mental disorders is complex, due to the complex nature of the human mind. In physiological pathology, there is typically physical evidence of that particular disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with a renal cell carcinoma, the doc has detected cancerous tumors on your kidneys. However, mental disorders manifest themselves behaviorally, and behavior is dynamic, idiosyncratic, and highly unpredictable.

I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was fourteen years old. (You can read more about it here) and it has displayed itself behaviorally via various mechanisms over the years. We initially thought that my Anorexia was a co-diagnosis with depression. However, after years of self-reflection, I’m convinced that I’m not depressed at all, really. I am anxious.

Today was Mother’s Day, and the first thought on my mind was “Today is going to be a disaster.” Why did I start a perfectly beautiful Sunday off with such a damning thought? Because I knew that today was going to be a “bad eating” day. And boy, was I right.

I eat according to a premeditated, perfected, measured, perfectly balanced and repetitive menu. Every. Damn. Day. And if it get thrown off, everything goes to Hell. There is simply no in between.

With Mother’s Day being a special occasion, my family hit our favorite authentic Italian pizzeria for dinner. As soon as we were seated at our table, the anxiety set in, and my brain started racing. My eyes danced up and down the menu in vain, because I already knew that I was going to be ordering the salad (After all, I’d already eaten a roll with breakfast, and I NEVER eat bread) but the aroma of fresh-baked crust was making my mouth water.

That’s when I knew I’d already surrendered my control. The waiter took our orders, everyone ordering a pie but myself, and my thoughts began to race. What if I’m still hungry after I eat my salad? Will I be able to decline offers to eat somebody’s crust or eat more than my share of the appetizer? What if I can’t stop? My breathing rate sharply increased.

Our plates arrived, and I eagerly eyed everyone’s plates but my own. I scarfed down my salad as quickly as I could; my brain demanding that we take in as much as we can, because we could go into self-induced starvation mode at any moment.

Mere minutes had passed since receiving our food, and I had already cleared my plate. My attention immediately shifted to what everyone else had on theirs, and I began snatching crusts, half-eaten slices, and toppings off of others’ platters, and shoving them down my throat, breathing minimally.

I had completely ceased control, and something automatic and instinctual had taken over my executive functioning. “More, more, more!” my brain screamed, as if we were preparing for a famine, and I continued to consume other peoples’ calories.

My family were all critically commenting on my vulture-like behavior, and giving me strange looks, but honestly, I was hardly listening. I continued to eat off of everyone else’s plates until they were completely clean.

And then the guilt came pouring down. I wiped my face with a napkin and excused myself to the restroom so I could lift up my shirt, poke and pinch at my stomach, and tear myself apart until my sister was knocking on the bathroom door, yelling at me to hurry up so we could leave.

Situations such as these are a frequent catalyst for anxiety and a complete surrender of self-control for me. I had convinced myself previously that I was capable of managing my impulses and anxiety attacks, but this is simply not the case. In fact, I probably won’t sleep tonight, because I’ll be replaying this episode in my head until morning, at which time I will be exerting myself at an extensive cardio session at my local gym.

So it appears that I require another round of cognitive therapy so I can get a grip on this persistent problem of mine, because frankly, my disordered eating habits are annoying and exhausting, and I have so many more important things to invest my energy in, like becoming a badass master of academia.

I hate to admit it, but I require assistance. People get over these kinds of things, right?

M.

 

 

 

Ontogeny

Please excuse my extended absence from the blogging world as my time, energy, and soul have been completely consumed by collegiate education and self-discovery over the course of the past quarter-year.

I am a Psychology major, and even though I have no intention of working in this field, I feel that my studies have facilitated a complete shift in the framework of my worldview of humankind, in addition to the pace and style in which I conduct my day-to-day life.

I am a new person.

Okay, perhaps not a NEW person. I am still definitely myself, idiosyncrasies and all. But something clicked within me and created a (hopefully) permanent change in my outlook on life, and how I want to live it.

Perhaps the most impactful thing I learned all semester was a concept coined by Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist. He calls it “existential living.”

Existential living can be summarized by living in the “here and now.” This requires being fully present, both mentally and physically, in every moment and every environment you are placed in, which, as you can imagine, can prove exceptionally difficult to do when you have six upper-division level courses constantly competing for your attention, among other things like, I dunno, men? Facebook? Grey’s Anatomy? Philosophical podcasts?

I am guilty as charged for my preoccupation with the future, which I feel has robbed me of having meaningful experiences in the present. My former self never made time for actual experiences, other people, or simply stopping to smell the roses every now and then. Fortunately, a series of interrelated events and individuals have yanked me back from the future, and I am much more open to experience, flexible, and, dare I say it, relaxed.

I’ve learned a thing or two ever since this lightbulb went off in my little head. Let’s list them off, for organizational purposes.

  1. You don’t have to protect yourself from everyone. My previous self was so concerned about my own endeavors that I put relationships with other people on the back-burner. I had such tunnel vision that I had convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone else until I’d maxed out to my fullest potential. In retrospect, I admit that I was making excuses for my self-induced isolation as a defense mechanism. However, my newfound understanding of the human psyche has convinced me that people aren’t meant to go through any part of life alone. Attempting to do so can make you crazy, but, then again, so can people. It’s all about balance.
  2. More often than not, there is no definite answer. This concept terrifies me to this day, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with it. The reason why I do not intend to work in the field of Psychology is due to the fact that there are so few, if any, definite answers as to why people behave the way they do, and, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like that one bit. I’ve decided to focus my energy on the biological sciences, which are arguably significantly more concrete than theories attempting to account for human behavior. Take Freud, for example. The guy was a total nut case, and any theory I can draft up pertaining to psychological phenomena is just as valid as his were.
  3.  I can’t be good at everything. I suffer from chronic perfectionism. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Poor M, what a curse, to HAVE to be perfect at everything. Cry me a river.” Where’s your empathy, folks? Claiming perfectionism is not intended to draw attention to my accomplishments. It’s a symptom of anxiety, and it has claimed more years of my life than I would like to admit. Anyway, the reason I include this in my “Life Lessons Learned Spring 2016 Greatest Hits” is because, for the first time in my life, I faced the possibility of failing a class. As it turns out, I am no statistician, and I don’t play one on TV. In all honesty, I exhausted my mental resources in the fight for a satisfactory grade in my Statistics course, and no matter how hard I tried, I was incapable of earning an A in this class. My previous self would have been devastated, my self-esteem shattered. I got a B. My current self thanks the heavens that I passed the class, and has severed the tie between my grades and my own perception of self-worth and competence.
  4. There is no rush. I plowed through my undergraduate degree. This December, I’ll be receiving my diploma at the ripe age of 21, just three years after graduating high school. While I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, a part of me wishes that I’d allowed myself to enjoy the journey a little bit more, and perhaps I could have achieved a higher level of authenticity and security in what I want to become. Besides, I have the rest of my life to go to graduate school, and then work until I can retire in the next 50 years or so and live happily ever after with an obscene amount of dogs at my side.
  5. Breathe. This one was probably the most beneficial to my physiological health. I am a frequent panic-attack victim, however, despite this semester being my heaviest course load, I experienced minimal panic-attacks, and my heart thanks me, due to my newfound ability to control my own stress levels. Rather than allow myself to activate full freak-out mode, I am now able to withdraw from the stressful stimulus, recompose myself, align my Chakras, and return to the task at hand as a much more composed and serene individual.

I’m sure that I’ve learned numerous other lessons over the past four months, but for some reason, we as a species are comfortable with the number 5. Besides, I’m sure that you all are tired of hearing my enlightened self express how enlightened I am.

Anyway, I exited this semester more sane than I entered it, which is refreshing, because I only have a week to recuperate before I dive into the summer semester.

I don’t know who I am without academia.

Onward, ever onward.

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.