Tag Archives: better

So Give Us Something Better

14 Jul

The Singer - cropped

Slate journalist Amanda Hess released an article today entitled “Let Them Blog” discussing why “the panic over pro-anorexia websites and social media isn’t healthy.” Her article talks about the function behind the form, and how vilifying a very grey area of self-expression ultimately nets more harm than good. She does an excellent job analyzing the nuance that “pro-ana” has evolved into over the past decade or so, and I highly recommend reading the entire piece for yourself.

Especially since, as someone who struggled with anorexia for about a decade and had to fight pretty fucking hard for her current three years of solid recovery, I agree.

The panic over the proliferation of pro-ana and pro-mia sites isn’t healthy. Mass cultural freak-out over the existence of twelve-year-olds and seventeen-year-olds and twenty-four-year-olds launching a wordpress page or even entire forums to give vent to the mind-chewing of their internal delusional demons is some seriously misdirected fear. Terrified of these internet shrines to life with the disease? How about we shift that feeling to being terrified of the disease itself.

Shutting down these sites won’t shut down the eating disorder, after all. And these testaments to life as a slow death from fucked caloric addition only exist because generally, culturally, their hosts and their visitors in their search for relief have found nothing better.

Once upon a time, I was very, very eating disordered. And once upon a time, I visited these sites, too.

I was not the most religious of visitors, and it was a fairly long road that finally got me peeking at that corner of the internet. I’d known about pro-ana sites for years before I ever visited one. It was a marker, for me, of my decline into the disorder. I’d gone from restricting for reasons my brain had generated all on its own while I really had no clue what I was doing, or that I even was doing any sort of something, to eventually having the label for it all tossed at me – by my mother or a health professional or some after-school special, I don’t really remember – to embracing the label as yes, the proper term for the beast of internal mis-wiring that I was fighting.

Or riding. Depended on the year.

I was already an adult, in college, by the time I first visited a pro-ana site. I was slowly, quietly slipping back from the “surviving” end of the health spectrum towards the “dying at an alarmingly faster rate than usual” side of things. I’d been drowning in the disease long enough that I wasn’t out looking for all those “tips and tricks” of the trade. I’d gotten them down quite well by then, thank you very much. No, my brain was out looking not for self-carving fuel but for the ever-so-slight-sense of thickening that is validation.

A very strange, warped sort of validation, sure.

But the sentiment was at least more self-affirming than eating disorders usually allow for.

I was struggling. And I wanted to embrace that struggle. Confirm it, I guess. I couldn’t go throwing my dysfunction at my friends – worrying other people was not what I was out for – but I wanted something that would strike some resonance in me, instead of just hollowing out further my ever-growing emptiness.

So I wandered my way through the pro-ana selection. Clicked through a few narratives. Poured over stories of other people’s decline into our shared brand of madness. Read about other people’s fasts and weight loss and body-whittling and mind-mangling.

And at the end of it, having glutted myself with proof of the vast existence of the disease, I felt… better.

Did I want to lose weight? Yes. Did I want thinner thighs? Sharpened collar bones? Yes. Did I want to feel the slow cloak of a self-destructing existence tighten even more around my suffocating life? You betcha.

But surprise, surprise – it’s because I’d already felt that way before.

I felt the same way, before and after perusing those pro-ana sites. But afterwards, those feelings, they felt less imminent. Less pressing. Less I-need-to-do-something-about-them-right-now.

Because while I still felt all those terrible, terrible things, I also felt less alone. Less strange. Less crazy. Less like something that had gone horribly, horribly wrong and was now an abomination compared to the rest of humanity.

I had been shown, in thousands and thousands of Google search results, that I was not the only one who felt this way.

“This way” was a complicated thing, too. Eating disorders are very much like abusive partners – you love them, you hate them, they do things for you in one area of your life while cutting you off from so many others. And somewhere along the line of the nauseating emotional flip-flop, you convince yourself that you can’t tell anyone else about it.

There, in those pro-eating disorder corners of the internet, you tell people about it.

And these people, they understand. Because they’ve got that abusive partner, too. They understand that you can’t “just leave.” They understand the good and the bad of it. They understand the hook. They understand the fear. They understand how to leave you, this broken thing making horrible decisions, feeling slightly less like someone who’s already dead. Validation. Empathy. And eye contact that doesn’t hold judgment or fear or condescension in it, because to them you are not some strange, sick, alien thing. You are them.

I’ve seen quite a few treatment professionals in my time. Therapists. Psychiatrists. Dietitians. Without them, I’d probably be dead now. I needed them, these people on the outside, in order to break out of the secluded, inwardly-collapsing world of my disorder. I needed them to call me out on my shit. I needed them to help show me what “better” was.

But kind and diligent and sympathetic as most of them were, those with only a clinical understanding of what I was going through could never really reach me when I crawled into the darkest of my brain’s corners. They had never been there, themselves. They didn’t know. Their attempts to pry me out often boiled down to essentially trying to shame me out of my darkened corner. Shame and guilt, as it turns out, are less than the best of incentives to use when fighting a disease of shame and guilt.

And yet I know that even still, I was one of the lucky ones. I had to fight my insurance tooth and nail for it, but I at least got treatment, and at the appropriate level of care for most of the time. I managed to find the centers with staff that actually knew what they were doing. I had enough of a support network around me that I could manage the luxury of garnering a team to help me fight my battle.

Not everyone has that ability. Not everyone has those friends. Or that money. Or the insurance. Or the time. Or the community resources. And even then, treatment – whether it’s due to the center or the staff or the structure of the health care system – fails a lot of people.

And so there is the internet.

The internet will not tell you that you are not recovering fast enough, and so you can no longer be in treatment. The internet will not tell you that you are recovering too quickly, and so you can no longer be in treatment. The internet will not tell you that there is no money, so you cannot enter treatment. The internet will not tell you that there are no treatment providers in your area, and so you cannot get help. The internet will not tell you that it is your mother, or your father, and you should just suck it up and stop disappointing them. The internet will not tell you that your pain makes no sense. The internet will not tell you that your pain is too much for it to hear, so you should just suck it up and pretend like nothing is wrong. The internet will not tell you that it does not understand.

The internet will tell you that it does understand, all too well.

And while yes, pro-ana and pro-mia websites will drive some people further into their disorder, if the websites didn’t exist, those people would still have found fuel for their decline elsewhere. Eating disorders will get what they need. It’s the people underneath them that don’t.

If pro-ana and pro-mia websites, these hosts of people’s shared pain, are so damn popular, it’s because they are better than those people’s current alternatives.

That is what we should be panicking about.

Don’t want so many pro-eating disorder sites? Until there are enough other accessible, effective resources to help people deal with what’s eating them alive, they’re going to stick around.

So give us something better.

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The Lie of ‘Better’

11 Dec

When you have a mental illness like depression, the first and most frequent condolence people will tell you is that “it gets better.” When you tell them that you are sad, sad not just one day, but sad for nearly every day the past month, they tell you it’ll get better. When you tell them that you have been down and clouded and crying for the past half a year, they tell you to just hang in there, thing a or thing b will change, feeling x or feeling y will be spirited away by a sparkling unicorn or the glittering hand of some god or other, that something, magically, will happen and it – you – will get better.

When you begin therapy, they tell you it gets better. When you talk about short term and suicide, they tell you about long term and how it’ll be better. When you begin seeing a psychiatrist and finally trying meds, they tell you it will finally, finally get better.

When years later you’re on your fifth therapist and third psychiatrist and you’ve run the gamut of SSRI and SNRI and second-gen psych meds and third-gen atypicals and still you find yourself crying on your couch every weekend, they will all, again, tell you that it will get better.

When you graduate and have job interviews and jobs acceptances and 401k’s and lovers and partners and spouses and kids and apartments and houses and nursing homes, and you say that you are still itching for that off button, they tell you keep hold of your life-allotted joystick to maneuver yourself through life-allotted hoops because this life-allotted endless game, it will get better.

But what they don’t understand, where the syntax error lies, is that while sure, support and friends and love and loving and comfort and direction, they can make it all externally better, making it better… that’s not making it okay.

I don’t want it all to be better.

I want it to be okay.

Depression Is

1 Oct

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Today, October 1st, is the start of Depression Awareness Month. Well, for those of the social media sphere who’ve had no contact with depression, it is. The rest of us, the ones with depression, and the ones next to those who do, we’re already pretty damn aware.

You see, depression, when it’s there, is a hard thing not to be aware of. The harder part, really, is not misconstruing what’s being seen. Because depression, you see, has a whole lot of flavors. And no, none of them are pumpkin spice.

I’ve been fighting depression since… well, it’s hard to pinpoint it, really. Because I came from an environment where people weren’t aware of mental health, let alone depression. I didn’t know anything could be wrong, let alone that it was. I just thought that my constant misgiving, the vague and perpetual sensation that something was wrong for years on end, my bent to remember the less-than-stellar in my life than the few moments of real sparkle – well, I just thought that was normal. I was aware of my sensations; I just wasn’t aware of their diagnosis.

Until my senior year of high school, that is. After years of walking the line between “kinda sad but functional” and “ragingly falling into a dark hole inside,” I finally teetered over the edge. Call it hormones. Call it stress. Call it whatever.

I’m calling it depression.

You see, while I was aware of my accelerating and nauseating hurtle into clinical depression, the others around me didn’t see all those sensations inside, or didn’t want to see them even when I tried to throw them in their face. I used isolation. I used words. I used self-harm and the knife I hid under my bed. I used suicide. The increasingly screaming kettle of pressuring self-hate inside me was something too loud for me not to be aware of, as day after day I just felt wrong, and, left to my own devices to deal with it, eventually came to the conclusion that must have been the thing that was wrong. Guilt guilt guilt guilt. Never mind those other circumstances – a broken home, an ailing sister, a fracturing best friend, flat-out broken brain chemistry – no no, clearly it was all my fault. I just wasn’t trying hard enough. If I were just better, trying harder, I would have been able to fix it all. And then I would have been okay. So clearly, I was the problem. Hey, if I were the problem, then the solution seemed pretty damn apparent, right? In this equation, if X is wrong and unfixable, just remove X…

I wasn’t aware that wasn’t actually the equation.

Let’s fast-forward about six years. So you know, about nowish. I’ve still got depression. But I’m older, wiser, yada yada.

Yeah, it doesn’t suck any less.

If anything, dealing with depression, even though it’s not the blinding, numbing, mind-haze of my high school years, has become harder. Why?

Well, I am more aware.

Let’s fast-track through the past six years. I found words for what I was experiencing. Slowly learned that it’s not my fault. Went to therapy, through treatment, started meds. I’ve seen psychiatrists, psychologists, MFW’s, LCSW’s, PsyD’s, MD’s, RD’s, and fuck knows however many lettered people. After four years of concentrated obliteration, I’ve finally essentially quashed my comorbidity, the ugly Eating Disorder.

But.

There is always a “but,” isn’t there?

I’m not sure I consider myself “better.”

I have learned a great deal, yes. Become more aware of what’s going on with me. I’ve learned how to recognize patterns, spot symptoms, reroute maladaptive coping mechanisms, derail negative thought patterns, notice when my current round of meds are starting to fail again.

Yes, in the mindwork of my depression, self-awareness has helped a shit ton. At least I know what’s going on now.

Yeah, knowing what’s going on doesn’t mean I feel any better.

It’s like… so, imagine if you were shot in the leg with a bullet. Painful, right? You’re bleeding all over the place, leg is throbbing, bullet’s probably still lodged somewhere around your tibia and fibula. If only you could pull the bullet out and adequately wrap up the wound, over time, it would heal, and you would feel better.

Yeah, bullet’s still in your leg and your bleeding out, sweetheart. This mental analysis, even knowing how physiologically your leg needs to heal, that all doesn’t actually make you feel any better when you’ve still just been FUCKING SHOT IN THE LEG.

My depression, now, is kind of like I’m walking around having just been shot in the leg all the time. Yeah, I know what happened to cause me to be in pain. I know what’s going on. I know that hey, maybe one week my psychiatrist and I will finally find a way to pull that goddamn bullet out of my leg and the writhing muscles and nerves and blood vessels will finally stop having to make due with a shitty, bloody situation and heal up once and for all and start working properly again.

Yeah, all that “maybe” kind of hope doesn’t mean I’m not walking around with a fucking bite of a limp.

“But you’re working on figuring out how to get the bullet out!” People will say, as if this is supposed to mean it’s not still painful while it’s in there.

“Aw, come on, you were shot like five weeks ago, can’t you just let it go now?” NO, THE BULLET’S STILL FUCKING THERE AND I’M BLEEDING OUT AND IT’S FUCKING PAINFUL, THANK YOU.

And then, should I manage to find a position to stand where the weight’s not on my leg, and it doesn’t hurt so much, and someone makes a funny joke and I manage to pull up a half-sort of smile – “Oh look! A smile! That bullet in your leg can’t hurt that badly then, can it?”

Excuse me, clinic doctor that I visit a couple weeks ago for a sinus infection, while I punch you in the face.

So, I walk around, bullet-in-leg, never knowing if it’ll ever come out, leaving the situation to fester and fall into feeling hopelessness. I wonder if maybe, instead of walking around in life with this limp that I can remember what it was like to run and skip and dance without, instead of always being reminded that if I’m not cautious my heel will slip and my leg will jolt with pain, which it wouldn’t have had I still had that life unencumbered with a bullet in my calf – well, I start wonder if maybe, it would be better if I just cut the leg off. If I can’t pull the bullet out and let the leg heal, then I just need to get rid of the leg altogether.

Problem is, the issue’s not in my leg. It’s in my brain.

Suicidality is no longer an impassioned, pained sort of self-destructive urge. The thought becomes not “I am a problem” but just “I am not working out.” It’s a weary sort of defeat. The wish is not to be dead, but to no longer live in pain. Death, this time, is just a side-effect.

That is the kind of awareness depression has for me.

I am still here, writing this blog, obviously. I have friends that pull me back, friends whose selfish wish to keep me here for themselves is something I am grateful I can keep my life tethered to. They, thankfully, are aware of what it’s like for me to carry that bullet in my leg, and they help carry me, so that the bullet doesn’t finally make its way to my brain.

They see me, and I am grateful for it.

What do you need to be aware of, around you? In you?

As despondent as I may get about my own prospects, I wish hope eternal for everyone else with those goddamn depression bullets. It’s not fair, guys. It’s just not. And I’m sorry about that. I hope that one day, we have better, more effective options than chasing after “maybe’s” or translocating where that bullet is.

It’s a fight, guys. I know we’re all way too painfully aware of that. But hey, if we’re still here and trying, at least we’ve given the world something to notice, too.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

5 Ways to Be a Good Coworker on Monday

10 Feb

1. Arrive early (miraculously) and brew your coworkers a fresh, strong pot of coffee.

2. Nod oh-so-humbly when your supervisor delightedly discovers said coffee and asks if you made it.

3. Drink a cup of the properly strong coffee. Minimize human interaction until your inner caffeinated switch has toggled on.

4. Drink another cup of coffee, just to be sure. After all, you made enough for twice the number of people in your office.

5. Smile agreeably and clutch cup of coffee as your supervisor asks you to handle all of the shit. Smile more agreeably and relax grasp of coffee cup when your supervisor tells you that all of the shit is not urgent and to finish your coffee first.

(Bonus step 6: Even though you’re only halfway through your coffee, do all of the shit. Your supervisor’s way too nice and you suspect she might actually be a fairy godmother in disguise. Definitely worth impressing.)

grumpy cat coffee