Tag Archives: bulimia

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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Thanksgiving with Eating Disorders

27 Nov

‘Round these American parts, it’s Thanksgiving. You know, that holiday where we ignore the actual history and consequences of the original “day” and whittle the whole event down to talking about what we’re thankful for and increasing our dish washing activity by at least an order of magnitude because of all the food we’ve made ourselves cook. Today, some of you are sitting around, munching on whatever it is you’ve got on your table, and basking in the glow of a nice communal meal.

Some of you, on the other hand, are sitting at perhaps this same table, staring at the food on it, terrified.

Because life with an eating disorder is complicated enough without throwing in this weird social expectation-filled eating ritual.

I spent a lot of Thanksgivings this way. I’ve rollercoastered my way from textbook anorexic to anorexic with heavy side serving of orthorexia to who the fuck knows to bulimia to some kind of weird mutant bulimia-anorexia mashup. That’s a lot of years in there, people. A lot of Thanksgivings.

Personally, what I am grateful for on this day is having a second year under my belt where at Thanksgiving I can come to the table considering myself “in recovery.” I’ve had a shit ton of therapy and a shit ton of support and a shit ton of relapsing to finally get me to this point. But that’s not what I want to write about, here. No, I want to write about the harder years. Because of some of you, my dear, dear readers, may be in those years, right now.

Eating disorders are often all about rules. For a long time, I had a mental list of “safe foods” and “bad foods.” I’d pick at the Thanksgiving spread searching desperately for something to fit my safe rules, all the while trying not to be too obvious about it, because who wants your mother, or god forbid Great Aunt Marge suddenly calling you out on your habits and making you feel embarrassed and anxious and trapped. As an anorexic, my goal was to make myself small, in every aspect. That meant small in terms of vocalizing. I did not have the capacity to stand up for myself. At those times, I wish I would’ve had someone to call out Great Aunt Marge. To have stepped up for me. Not in a way that would defend my eating disorder – just in a way that would take the focus off of me. So – hey, if you’ve got an ally in whatever group of people you’re spending tonight with, ask them for help. And if you can’t do that – know that somewhere out there, there is someone who would give you sympathy. Not support for your rules, but understanding that, well, you are following them right now. And regardless, you deserve to feel like a human being, not a specimen for gawking at.

And then there’s the other end of the behavioral spectrum… I can remember multiple holidays of eating “normally,” just like everybody else, perhaps even more than everybody else, because I could avoid notice that way, and then I could just go purge it all later. A removable cloaking device, in a way. But… there was no less shame, no less guilt. And it was all still about power. Except I wasn’t the one with power. Like, here I am, causing my body to do something through unnatural means because some fucking brain parasite is telling me I have to in order for it to let me feel okay? Never mind that the more I do that, the closer my esophagus gets to rupturing, and the more fucked up my electrolytes get, tilting me further and further towards the eventuality of a heart attack. Not that I didn’t know all that while I was purging. I knew it, and did it anyway. And every time, I thought that if only I just hadn’t gone the binge/purge route. If only I’d given myself this chance, today. If only I hadn’t gotten upset because of Relative A, or felt overwhelmed because of Comment B, or decided that if I felt slightly over-full, might as well say fuck it and go the whole nine yards, to make the punishment I would inflict on myself later that much worse.

Eating disorder decisions were not good decisions.

They were only one more signature on one more contract moving my eventual self-execution, whether that was through starvation or heart attack or something else, just a bit closer.

Guys, that’s not being powerful. That’s being puppeteered.

But you’re going to do what you’re going to do. It is not my place or my job to convince you otherwise. I write this merely to say that I understand. I understand how much it sucks. And that I hope today, to stave off just a bit of that suckiness, you can take control of those puppet strings and say brain monster be damned, relatives be damned, I will just fucking do what I need to do to keep myself truly safe, truly healthy today. You don’t have to go forward or anything. You don’t have to put down your foot and say “today I will recover.” That’s not what I’m suggesting. I am suggesting that today, even if you do not do recovery, just… do no harm. Survive. Please.

Yeah, I’m a random stranger on the internet. But you are fighting the thing that I fought. And because of that, I care about reducing the lashes you take from the whip I too faced. Camaraderie, of sorts.

Be cool to see you on the other side of this sickness/recovery battle, too.

Thanksgiving is…

29 Nov

Thanksgiving is sitting in a dining hall full of raucous college students who’ve made too much cranberry sauce and too little stuffing, but it’s okay, because we’re really there just there for the dessert table anyway. We sit there, at tables where there is family but no tensions, where we have cooked and cleaned and tasted and refused, and somehow it’s all more grown up than what our parents and aunts and uncles are doing back at home.

There’s an odd sort of organization, to youth.

Thanksgiving is picking what I eat carefully, not dividing it into “good” and “bad” as I would have done a year ago, visiting my friends on a day off from treatment, but just being… cautious, of proportions and the decisions I am putting on my plate in front of me. Making sure it’s not too much, figuring out what I really want and how much can really all fit in my stomach. I get to the piece of pie I thought I wanted and realize that I do not, and for what seems like the first time, I realize that I do not have to eat it. There is no table of watchful eyes, scrutinizing what I eat because once it would have been a blessed miracle if I’d so much as taken a bite from that single piece of pie. Except for last year, when I would have eaten it, to make it seem like I was normal, but would have thrown it all back to the world in a toilet, saying no, I don’t want it anymore, please take my insecurity.

There will be no such trips to the bathroom tonight.

Thanksgiving is sleeping in late and laughing with the cashier at the grocery store when yells at me with that affectionate sort of belligerence to “go home!” after seeing me walk in for the second time that day. It’s a weird feeling, when you get along better with the grocery store cashier better than you do your own father. Then again, you see them about the same amount, and one of them has never been given the chance to make you feel small and valueless and wrong.

There’s a terrible irony to it, the ways in which you can be given your daily bread.

Thanksgiving is looking back a year, and feeling that one year ago must really exist in some alien land, far and distant and unfamiliar in the past. Thanksgiving is being grateful that one year ago is not now, is over and gone so that it no longer touches you even at the borders.

There may be a fair amount of denial, but the change is real, too.

And it’s nice, not having needed a holiday to realize all that.

Would you have said the same, yesterday?

What Happens When You Have Facebook Friends from Treatment

12 Nov

There’s something about having facebook friends from treatment. It’s an odd sort of dynamic, because I don’t think other people have it, those people that haven’t sat in a room full of twelve other girls and shared their deepest secrets and cried their eyes out in front of all of them, and then moved on and discharged and never talked to a single one of those twelve other girls ever again.

Sure, maybe we’ll do the occasional photo “like” when it randomly shows up in our feed. But if that photo contains any portion of the body of that girl from treatment, that’s when the scrutiny begins.

Are they fatter? Do they look like they’ve lost weight? Can you still see the little pudge of skin between their breasts and their arms? Are their cheek bones showing more than when you last saw them? How about the collar bones? And the color in their face? Are their arms still carrying the appropriate amount of flab, or do they look like they’ve gotten a little bloated from purging again? Were they brave enough to instagram a pic of their meal? Are they still calling attention the fact that oh man, they ordered fries? Or have they gone a little food-crazy on their wall, posting pictures of ever-increasing portion sizes you worry they haven’t even noticed?

Where are they in this love affair with starvation and stuffing?

You haven’t seen or talked to them in six months. But because their new profile picture popped up as you scrolled through the detritus of other people’s lives, you stop and wonder all that, in a matter of mere microseconds.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you hurriedly flick your mouse pad or your down arrow key, because for all that work you did learning to deal with feelings, this picture of someone you cried your eyes out to and then never talked to again – and who, identically, never talked to you – this picture makes you just a little too uncomfortable.

But still, even if you ignore it, there is something to being facebook friends with girls from treatment. Because even if you ignore it, even if you shove that image that flashed across your retina and branded you once again with feelings you thought you could choose to ignore, the question will still be there. It will still nag, day in and day out, at that part of your brain that remembers sitting that room crying your eyes out in front of those twelve other girls.

How are they doing?

Writer’s Digest Book Awards: The Result

17 Oct

Hello, lovely readers, from me and my welcome-overstaying sinus infections germs. It’s a tissue party over here.

But at least I’ve got something to really celebrate! As some of you might remember, waaaaaaay back in March, I sent my memoir, its ink freshly dried after a mere two months of official existence, to compete in the “life stories” arena of the 21st annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Books Award. You know, this post: https://thequillwritings.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/writers-digest-contest/

Well, the results are in! No, I didn’t win. But I did get something pretty damn cool: a FANTASTIC score AND an AWESOME review from the judges!

Books were evaluated in five different categories along a scale, with 1 meaning “Needs Improvement” and meaning “Outstanding.” A 0 was given if the category wasn’t applicable.

Here are my scores:

Structure and Organization: 4

Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

 Plot (if applicable): 0

Character Development (if applicable): 0

All 4’s for a first-time memoir that I wrote, edited, and published entirely on my own? I’ll take it!

But what I was even more excited about was the review:

The best part of Drop Dead Gorgeous by author Miceala Shocklee is her passion to write her own story about her eating disorder.   She writes about how eating disorders hold a deadly attraction.  There is the attraction of winning, of reaching “ultimate thinness” but there is also the attraction of playing.  There is a seductive temptation in the eating disorder game.

But eating disorders are not beautiful.  They are not pretty.  Eating disorders are not just an attraction, an addiction, a disease.  They are not just a way of life, they are an obsession.  How could I want such a deadly disease so much?  Good question.  You see, it’s not the disease I wanted–it was the promises it made.  The promises of superiority and power, of satisfaction and happiness.”

Perhaps one of the deadiest facets of eating disorders is that because you can always go farther and farther, there is always, always a competition going on.   The author realizes how through therapy her recovery is not done.

A must read for those who are going through an eating disorder and or recovery.

                – Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards

Seriously, the only feedback I got was this amazing review, and a suggestion to possibly add pictures to increase readers’ understanding of the disease. I totally respect the judges’ feedback (have I mentioned yet how SUPERBLY GRATEFUL I am for their review???), but I don’t think I’ll be adding pictures – at least, not the kind they mean. There was a reason I didn’t include pictures in the first place. Too much emphasis has been put on the way that eating disorders look. To be sick, you must be stick thin. But that’s not true. Even technically “overweight” people can starve themselves. Some people can eat next to nothing for a week and lose three pounds. Some people can eat next to nothing for a week and gain two pounds. Sure, a lot of the danger of eating disorders is on the physical toll they take on a body. But the media, whether we’re talking tabloids or medical websites or individual blogs, have done a fair amount of showing what eating disorders can look like on the outside. The whole point of my book was to show what eating disorders look like on the inside. And that’s not easily done with pictures.

I want victims of eating disorders to have a voice out there who says, “yes, I have lived this life too,” but even more than that, I want victims of eating disorders to have something they can hand to their friends and family, the ones who never be privy to that world of eating disorder mind, and say, “this is what it’s like.” In all my years of encounters with other victims, there have been just as many ways as there were victims that eating disorders looked. For the most part, however, there was really only one way that eating disorders feel.

And besides, do you know how daunting it is to have to sit down in front of those who mean the most to you and try to explain yourself? Oh god. What are you even going to say? What if you can’t explain it right? What if they don’t perceive it accurately? What if they keep interrupting you while you’re trying to tell them things? What if as soon as you open your mouth you start to cry?

I hope that maybe, my book will take that burden from some people out there who find resonance in my words and can just hand all those loved ones my book and say, “here, read this. Then we can talk.”

So. Long story short, I think I’ll pass on the pictures.

But seriously, Writer’s Digest judges, I’m tickled pink. More than pink. I’m tickled fuchsia.

 

And by the way, in case you’re interested in checking out this book that I’ve just spent half a tonjillion paragraphs going on about, it’s currently available in both print and kindle form:

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Drop-Dead-Gorgeous-Miceala-Shocklee/dp/1300583037/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382045551&sr=8-1&keywords=miceala+shocklee

Lulu – http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/miceala-shocklee/drop-dead-gorgeous/paperback/product-20635940.html

Drop Dead Gorgeous

15 Jan

DDG cover

It’s official! Drop Dead Gorgeous, Miceala’s memoir, is now published and available for purchase through LuLu.com. “DDG,” as Miceala fondly thinks of it, will be available in print and as an e-book through Amazon and LA-area bookstores soon!

Here’s the book jacket description:

“This is not a pretty book. It is a book that contains all the mess and grunge of a real life. My life – with an eating disorder.

This is a look from the inside. Written while I am still recovering, this book is an attempt to give all those who have never had to live within the war zone of an eating disorder a real look at the battleground.

So welcome, then. Welcome to the inside of my own head. Welcome to my land of thin thoughts and fat fears. Welcome to my attempt to become drop dead gorgeous.

Let’s hope we make it out alive.”

Buy it now on LuLu.com!