Tag Archives: eating disorder

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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Why I Am Not Angry At Tess Munster

28 Jan

For all you folks just tuning in – for what amounts to about 50% of the time I’ve been alive, I struggled with an eating disorder. And by “an eating disorder,” I really mean several of them, because eating disorders are slippery, wily creatures that’ll change shape on you faster than you, the eating disordered person, can change shape yourself. They’re like viruses, in a way. They mutate at an incredibly fast rate, all in an attempt to stay alive and present and growing faster than your body and your medicine is able to kill it off. I’ve seen anorexia. I’ve seen orthorexia. I’ve seen bulimia. I’ve spent more of my adult life in treatment for those things than I’ve spent out of treatment. I’ve been inpatient, outpatient, residential, full time, part time. I’ve had so many fucking talks about nutrition, science-drawn, evidence-based nutrition, and science-drawn, evidence-based weight/height/body type scaling (no, don’t even talk to me about BMI, the Bullshit Mass Index), and really just what it means to be happy and healthy in general. Mind. Body. Spirit. Biochemistry. Whatever.

As someone who’s gone through all this body image and self-love and plain ol’ health crap and is willing to say she has a fair handle on what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” and what’s “really rather more than 50 shades of gray” area, I jump a little, whenever people start talking about weight and dieting and health and parameters. I will adamantly defend what I know to be reasonable views based on science and the individuality and stochasticity that is biology (which I have a degree in, if you’re in need of further credentialing). If necessary, I will readily jump at someone for their incorrect and unhealthy statements, whether they’re  tending towards the “too strict” or “too lax” end of the spectrum.

Tess Munster is a plus size model. At 5’5″ and a size 22, she is one of the largest models even in plus size to have ever been signed. Cool. History-making. Whatever. From what I’ve seen in general chatter scattered across the internet, the Tess Munster critics point at her and say, “Oh, we shouldn’t to celebrate her as a role model, because that’s clearly unhealthy.”

Ha. Aha ha. I’m sorry, but since the fuck when was modeling ever about healthy?

Models don’t get signed because they’re a paragon of health. They get signed because they look good in the clothes that need to be sold. There are tall, thin people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are short, wide people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are other humans who are 5’5″ and size 22, like, people, they exist, and they deserve a model to show off clothes on their body type just as much as people who are super tall and lanky. Modelings sells clothes. Modeling sells looks. Modeling does not sell lifestyle. Pretty sure that one’s Oprah. At core, modeling is about selling visual aesthetic, not health.

Over the course of anorexia recovery, I learned that the body’s default is to hang around the end of having more weight instead of less. Human bodies developed in order to be able to survive a famine. In most cases, it’s super fucking easy to gain weight. Your body won’t really put up much resistance to that. Gaining weight is natural*.

You know what’s not? Starving yourself for years, even decades on end so that you can get one more contract as a high-profile super model. Taking diet supplements, purging on the down low, exercising obsessively, forcing yourself to behave, to live so unnaturally that eventually you maybe don’t even notice your body whispering please stop. Because it doesn’t matter that you’re tired. It doesn’t matter that you nearly fell on the runway today out of sheer exhaustion and a little too robust a spell of dizziness from not having really eaten in the past three days. It doesn’t matter that you feel like shit. You look like heaven, and you’re getting paid like it. You have stripped and shed and shaved and shanked your body of its natural existence.

But ah yes, after that tanning day you have such a nice glow, don’t you.

Yes children, be like these not-overweight ones. The ones that are secretly, invisibly killing themselves to look good. They are good role models. Do not eat too much and let yourself go. See how unhealthy she is? Never mind that she doesn’t fuel her career with a mantra of self-hate. Never mind that at least she’s the happy one.

Because this game was never about happy. It was never about healthy.

It was only ever about what you looked like.

That’s all that modeling cares about.

That’s all that modeling is endorsing.

Stop pretending like it cares about more than it does as one more excuse for our systemic fat-shaming.

Leave these models to their lives and let us throw other role models at our children. Role models whose message, whose job is to teach children how to be, not just how to look.

And then when the children want clothes, when the teenagers want clothes, when the adults of every shape and size want clothes – let them see the magazines, the ones with people of their body type, whether that’s 6’5″ and toned to core or 5’5″ and a size 22, because both of these body types exist en masse and really just want to buy a fucking t-shirt that’ll look pretty good on them, because hey, these days, it’s damned dangerous to walk around naked.

————–

*”natural” in the sense of “biological default in the average case”

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.

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

Silence

1 Aug

dwindling fade

Life is a hard thing when you go numb. When soul dies, hopes dissipate into nothing leaving not even a shadow of an imprint.

Silence is a terrible thing. I hate it. I fear it. I fear it, because I fear me. Silence means I’m left alone with myself. And that’s terrifying.

Silence means I only have the chatter of my brain to keep me company. And when that chatter comes in the form of verbal knives and memory punctures, those internal conversations can hurt a lot.

It wasn’t always this way.

I used to be able to sit alone with myself and dream. I’d spend hours thinking about problems I wanted to solve, things like biology research and magnetism projects. I’d turn the information I’d learned earlier over and over in my mind, looking for new angles or remaining questions to tackle a need with. I’d process things for hours, while I was swimming, or walking through a grocery store, or driving, or scribbling in a notebook. It was fun. I was content.

Or I’d think about stories. I’ve written entire novels in my head, always meaning to transfer them to paper later. I’d flesh out scenes and plot, playing them out in my head like a movie while I was showering, or sitting in an airplane, or bored in class. I have had worlds spun into being inside my head. I loved the feeling. That’s who I was.

It’s part of the reason I love art museums. Wandering through galleries, staring at canvas after canvas, the paint on the picture starts speaking stories in my brain. I love art that I look at and immediately think, “there’s a story in that.”

I love doing art too, in and of itself. It’s almost like I’m creating some kind of secret. “Here, let me draw you this picture” – it’s got a fairy tale behind it. Or at least, it does in my head. Who knows the stories it may speak in yours.

The better I’m doing internally, the better I do at art. If I fall into eating disorder patterns, I stop being able to create proper scale in my drawings, especially when it comes to people. The more stable I am in terms of ED, the more accurately I’m able to draw humans. The more there I feel inside, overall, even if it’s a hurting sort of “there,” the more I’m able to do some sort of creation. Even if it’s just sketching out eyes. Simple, closed eyes.

That’s what I did, when depression and suicidality first hit me in the clinical sense my senior year of high school. My school planner is full of eyes, blue pen sketches of what’s really no more than a glorified eyelid, covering almost every page. Eyes, everywhere. Closed.

There’s probably some symbolism in that.

But now… now I can’t even draw eyes. Even short poems, little bursts of anger or hurting or hopelessness, the ones that I used to be able to throw onto a page in a blink, they’ve become harder to write. There’s no voice left in me.

There’s only the silence, with its terrible chattering.

And I hate it.

There’s another spot, another corner of content curation that I decided to take a stab at, here on the internet. I hear there’s a thing called Tumblr. I still don’t entirely understand it. How it works. What the fuck it’s even there for. But I’ve got one – decided to call it “Mad Woman Blinking.” (Oh hey, more eye symbolism!) And I decided that it’s there for my art. More so the visual kind, though I’ve got a fair amount of word spew on there too. You can check it out or not, that’s really not the point. I bring it up because yesterday, I also wrote a post called “Silence” there. It’s a shorter version of what I’ve written here. But it’s differently phrased, and I feel like the language has more art to the wording. It’s the more compact, drip-coffee version of what I could squeeze out of my soul. Looking back, I’m glad that there was some poetry to it.

“Silence usually means I’m not okay. In life, when I fail to stop by a friend’s dorm room, or stop contacting my people in all their little chat boxes. In art, when I just stop doing it.

My art habit fluctuates wildly. I’ll go a couple of months where I do art every day, or at least every week. Then I’ll have a year of not even scribbling on a napkin.

I’m not okay when I’m not doing art.

Because if I’m doing art, it means I’m stable. I’ve got the time to sit down with pencils or acrylics or whatever. I’ve got soul enough inside me to pin dreams down on papers in their many colors of imagination. I’ve got sense of self enough to still make my fingers etch out a story, whatever their medium.

When I stop drawing, it’s because I’ve gone silent inside. And that means I’m not okay.”

I’d really like to be okay.

How Ke$ha Did Rehab Right

28 Jun

I don’t really do celebrity junk magazines. But I do invest a fair amount of my glancing power in eating disorder recovery-related Facebook feeds. And recently, Ke$ha’s been showing up a lot.

I adore Ke$ha as an artist. Her songs are bold and crazy and unapologetic, just like Ke$ha herself. The singer has always put out a very “be yourself and take no prisoners” vibe – which is why I was rather surprised when it went public earlier this year that she was going to rehab for an eating disorder.

Now, like I said, I don’t really keep up with celebrity gossip. I’m more interested in keeping up on the latest book chatter or marine biology news flashes, thank you very much. But maybe if I did stalk the stars like so many others, I would have known more about Ke$ha’s lapse and anticipated her entering treatment more. Maybe I would have seen the signs. Maybe I would have noticed the gossip columns abuzz with slurs about how the pop queen was looking “scary skinny.”

But honestly, I don’t think I would have. After having come across the first article mentioning Ke$ha’s entry to rehab (and holding that up as a model for others who might still be suffering silently), I did some research. By which I mean Googling.

Hey, I’m only human. We are creatures of curiosity.

But that Googling – well, it didn’t really turn up much. No descriptions of paparazzi’s having glimpsed Ke$ha’s rib cage or clavicle or whatever. No star-spirals-downward slurring. Just more of the same sort of bare posts, saying nothing more than that Ke$ha was going into treatment for an eating disorder. They didn’t even say which one.

And that, I think, is incredibly important.

Since leaving treatment, Ke$ha’s put out a few comments on her pre-rehab self and what motivated her entering treatment, but none of the comments that I’ve come across have talked at all about the physical specifics. Unlike so many other stars – and regular ol’ non-famous ED victims – Ke$ha doesn’t indulge in some sort of victorious litany of what her symptoms were, how skinny she got, how much she purged, or anything like that. All she says is that she wasn’t loving herself properly and wasn’t really confident in herself.

Thank – well, thank the stars. Finally, one of them who talks about what eating disorder are really about. They are not a disease of skinniness. They are not a disease of food. They are a disease of self-hatred. Doesn’t matter what it looks like, that is what goes on, in every single patient, underneath the physical symptoms.

I laud Ke$ha on focusing on what eating disorder recovery is really about: learning to take care of yourself and value doing so. Learning to love fighting for yourself, instead of fighting yourself. Finding contentment in being a whole person, instead of in stripping away your very existence.

Ke$ha could have talked specifics. She could have talked diagnosis, labels, numbers, gritty details that would have gone viral on gossip sites. But instead, she clamps down on the triggers and talks about what’s really important. It’s her recovery she promotes, not her eating disorder.

For the millions of adoring boys and girls hanging on her every word, that is so important. For the casual magazine browser at the grocery store check out, that is so important. For the eating disorder victims who are honestly really damn done having celebrity nonsense about our disorder thrown in our faces, that is so important.

For Ke$ha, who will still be fighting to keep her hold on recovery for a while, that is so important. She clearly invested herself in rehab; it’s good to see she’s doing recovery right, too.

This is not different.

26 Nov

Eating disorders tell a lot of lies. There really is no area of life, whether it’s looks or self-worth or grocery shopping or fitness or school or parenting or relationships or anything else, that an eating disorder will not lie about.

Eating disorders will even lie to you in recovery.

This is because eating disorders are self-obsessed fuckers that will do anything to try to get you to take them back, to pay attention to them again. They will tell you that they’ve changed, tell you about all these new options and choices, trying to make you believe that things won’t be the same as before.

Whatever new lie an eating disorder is trying to hook you with, I promise, it is no different than before.

It’s something I’ve had to be wary of, myself, throughout recovery. I know that my eating disorder will try to come up with new images to try to get me to strive after. My ED will tell me that where I am, right now, is not good enough, that there is still something I need to do, even in recovery, to be better. Because the thing with ED’s is, as Amber of “Go Kaleo” puts perfectly, enough is never enough.

Let me be more explicit about what precisely I mean by ED’s “different” lies:

1. You don’t need to focus on losing weight, just being toner!

Aah, the “toner” lie. This is the one that ED tries to hook me with most often. “We won’t focus on cutting down calories or losing weight,” ED bubbles optimistically, “we’ll just work out more so that you’ll have more defined muscles instead!” ED goes on and on about how I won’t look lazy, with all that muscle definition. How I’ll get rid of some of that treatment pudge that comes from being forced to gain weight while not working out. (You know, so the weight can turn into fat cushioning your internal organs LIKE YOUR HEART and allow for better myelination IN YOUR FUCKING BRAIN instead of just becoming muscle that’ll further metabolize you to death.)

Uh hunh. We’ll just make my arms look toner. And then my legs, and then my butt, and my abs, and to do that we’ll just cut out a little bit of dinner here, skim off of breakfast there, just to give a little edge to the muscle cutting. And then we won’t worry about how we’re tired all the time and attached to abductor machines by the hip and have maybe dropped a few pounds since this all started…

Yeah. I see where that’s going.

2. You don’t need to overexercise, just be more regimented about your fitness plan!

“Ooh, let’s download this gym tracker app!” my ED suggests. “Then we can keep track of how much weight your lifting, and how far you’re running, and how long your aerobics circuits are going!”

Yup. And then perfectionist me will see it all before me, and decide it could be better. And so I’ll lift more weights, run farther, work out longer.

And longer and longer and longer and longer.

And I’ll have to keep track of every fucking little detail, every day, looking up ways to get better…

Mhmm. I know that neuroticism. Sure, it’s just getting transferred from calories to weight reps, from low-cal recipes to track laps, but it’s still the same. It’s still an external valuation of my self-worth.

And you know, I’m pretty sure I’m worth just a bit more than how many push ups I can do.

3. You need to eat more healthily.

Uh, wasn’t this the same crap that got me into all of this to begin with? Good foods/bad foods? Eating celery instead of pretzels, a banana instead of fried rice? Sure, maybe I had a cheese quesadilla from late-night coffee house every night this week. I’ve still eaten spinach and strawberries and some more spinach too (dear college board plan, can we change up what vegetables are both offered and edible? thanks much.)

You know what? Next week, I might have a cheese quesadilla every night too. And I’m gonna be just fine.

4. You need to shape up your body some so that you’ll be more desirable.

Anybody else getting bored with? Sounding the same yet to y’all too? I almost fell into this trap over this summer. My boyfriend was away in Japan, and my ED attempted to fill my head with visions of thinner, firmer arms and six pack-esque abs. “Ah, how you’ll turn him on,” ED whispered in my ear.

Lemme tell you about how in the end I didn’t buy into that plan. Yeah, since Japan boy’s gotten back, haven’t had any problem turning him on.

Mmmm, no problem whatsoever. 😉

5. You need to prove you’re still driven.

“Remember when you got up at 7 am every day to go to the gym? Even when you’d gone to bed only three hours before? Man, you were tough. What happened to that will power? What happened to that drive?”

Um, I think I diverted it to doing things that actually make me happy. Remember that whole thing about moderation and taking care of myself and learning that “indulgence” is not in fact a four-letter word? Remember that whole thing about life not being a contest, and “proving that I’m better” than everyone else, proving that I am “extraordinary” not actually making me any stronger or safer or happier?

Oh, apparently you forgot. Well then it’s a good thing I reminded you.

 

Fellow recoverers, eating disorders are liars. No matter how good a plan whatever new proposal they’re trying to throw at you may seem, I promise, look at it closely enough, and you will find the exact same things your eating disorder beat you down with before.

Because when it comes to being “good” for an eating disorder, there is no difference.