Tag Archives: recovery

Better

11 Sep

**TW: Please note that the post below is written as part of World Suicide Prevention Day and discusses anxiety, depression, suicide.**

If you are experiencing distress, please consider calling one of the following helplines:

  • US: +1 1-800-273-8255
  • UK: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90

Hey readers. It’s been a while.

Since my last post, I’ve roadtripped from California to New York. I’ve climbed cinder cones, and made the sort of friends who are really family, who are cousins, who are with. I’ve walked the entire length of Central Park. I’ve had coffee and an amazing chat with the author who is the reason I got into writing in the first place. I’ve seen the reading room of the Library of Congress. I’ve stood barefoot in the wet grass of the yard behind the house I grew up in and watched fireflies and bats swing through the muggy July air. I’ve sat in the living room of the same house and had a take-out Chinese food with my mother and grandmother.

I packed up the space that had become home in Los Angeles, put it into boxes, put it into donation slots, put it into thrift shop stock and put the few dollars I was given back into my wallet to take with me, spending-cash funds to carry an ocean away.

I said goodbye. I hugged. I cried. I kissed.

I moved.

And now I am in Scotland, typing away at this blog post from a room overlooking a garden that Mary Lennox would have loved, with hills built of ancient myths and wild green rising in the distance. I’ve all but finished my first term of veterinary school. A week of revision, a week of exams to go.

Readers, this is it. This is what I’ve fought for.

This, just shy of three years ago, is what I decided was what I wanted to stick around for. Because once I got here, so much of the malformation of my life that had come from forgetting myself for so damn long would start to remedy. I’d had the years already of figuring that out. I knew who I wanted to be. I knew what I wanted to do with myself. And I knew that here, vet school, this was the tool I needed for it.

So I would get myself here.

And that would not be the end of things. That would not be happily ever after. That would not be the close of all my trials and tribulations. That would not finish my fight.

But it would change it.

End of volume one, start of volume two.

Today is world suicide prevention day, hence why I’ve temporarily crawled out of my study paper-plastered woodwork to write something. Because today, the idea behind it, is important.

Because today, there will be so many stories popping up across the internet of people who have fought and stayed and found some kind of lasting better, telling you that see, isn’t this worth it? Didn’t it get better? Isn’t it great, this victory?

But depression is a bastard creature, and I know that that is not always how it works.

Readers, I have fought. I figured out what I wanted, and I decided that I was going to stick around and goddamn get it. I’ve had marvelous adventures along the way. I’ve also had days that were utter shit. Days where my brain told me I am worthless, and I for all intents and purposes believed it. Days where I did nothing but cry. Days where I just did nothing, because that’s all of me there was for the time. In with the days of open road and laughing with friends and making grand, glorious plans were also days where I drowned in a sea of misfiring neurons, sad or numb or anxious and trembling like a leaf in a hurricane. Some days, the storm roared in my ears. Some days, I roared back. Some days, I was quiet.

But every day, I stayed. Every day, no matter how it felt, I kept moving forward. Because when depression sat me down and asked harder than it had in a while okay, kid, what’s it going to be, I mulled over my choices and decided that even if every moment of getting here hurt, I was going to keep fighting to get where I am now. I decided that I was not going to back down. I was not going to give up.

The goal was not necessarily to be happy. The goal was to be me, even in the face of a mental illness that would try its damned hardest to tear every bit of that concept apart.

I knew that if I could get into veterinary school, that would give me enough of an anchor, enough of a leverage point to make it the rest of the way. There is strategy to battle, after all.

I also knew that even though being here, in veterinary school, in Scotland, was effectively “winning,” the war isn’t actually over yet.

That’s not how depression works. At least, not for everyone. Not for me.

There are still sad hours and days. There are still moments of the world crashing like an earthquake in my ears. There are still times when an entire lifetime comes whispering like a dark cave in the back of my mind. But I’ve done my training. I know how to take the hits. I know how to compensate, how to work around, how to hold up the wounded bits while they seal up. I know how to last till the next time my brain agrees to a ceasefire.

But in the end, this is a war that I did not sign up to fight. This was forced conscription. And I know there are others, too. Others who will not last the time between ceasefires, on their own battlefields. Because they did not know how. Or because they did, but not want to.

They are the most difficult to talk about.

Because I will not say that they lost. Because I have been there for fights that lasted, and lasted, and lasted, that were fought with tooth and nail and every last inch of soul that could be mustered, but which, despite it all, did not improve. I have been there for the fights that have gone on, but have not gotten better.

Recovery, as it turns out, is not a meritocracy.

I made the decision that even if all I ever got was living with depression, at least I was still living. And that was going to be enough.

For some people, that is not enough.

 

And today, on world suicide prevention day, those are the people I am writing for. Because I can offer you nothing better than my anger that the world cannot yet guarantee that a decision to live is synonymous with life actually feeling worth it. Because it is not fair, that fighting the thing that hurts us does not always result in us hurting any less. Because I want to be able to tell you that staying means it will get better, but all I can tell you with certainty is that when it comes to sticking around and all this shit getting better, the word is could.

It is such a small word.

It can be powerful, though.

Dumb luck. Blind possibility. Stupid forces, but sometimes, so many times, they are what better is made out of.

Stochasticity is a shit deity. But it can also be a surprisingly useful one.

I want to be able to give you a definite answer. I want to be able to tell you, for sure, that yes, this will all change. That yes, if you stay, it will be worth it. That yes, you will stop hurting this way. That yes, it will get better.

It will get different. You might like the different. You might not.

But at the very least, there’s potential.

Which, even outside of depression, is all we humans really ever get. Even those not fighting this war aren’t guaranteed that they’re going to like the way things turn out at the end, or at any point in the meantime.

Potential. That is what there is. That is what we are. That is what, no matter what, will not change.

Potential means that sometimes the pendulum of probability pushes me so I am slumped against a closed bedroom door, crying angrily over a mind of spilt serotonin. Potential also means that sometimes I am sitting here, at my desk, looking out at the hills of Scotland, a place that a year ago I didn’t know I’d be. There’s a coffee shop down the road with good roasts and decent people. There’s a park behind my flat with dogs that run up and say hello. There are ducks and a flower-fenced pond beneath my window. There’s depression nestled between my neurons, but dreams live in the synapses, too.

Sometimes, I am happy. Sometimes can last a while, these days.

There is pain. There is potential. There’s tomorrow.

It’s enough.


Comment section closed.

 

The Dust of When You Are Collapsing

24 Oct

Depression is a game that you can’t win because the rules aren’t ones that you get to make. Depression is a game full of false starts and trap doors and smoke screens you thought maybe, for once, were windows. Depression is a game that’s for lasting, not for winning.

Depression is good at gaining allies. Time, and wounds that refuse to scab over. Disappointments and anxiety and the eyes of strangers that glance at you the wrong way. Subverted friendships and cancelled plans and one too many sore mornings this week. People who make you want to crawl into a room with no doors. Places that make you wish for the smoke screens.

Depression fights with stabs and bruises and you are allowed your words for weapons. Thought, if you can tame it, and if not that then the ability to blink through one more round of twenty-four hours. Depression will allow you your dull knives and pointless arrows. These tools you once thought you had to fight with, rendered inefficacious because depression takes the shine off of everything. There’s no more sun. You’re just left sweating.

Sometimes there are people who make you want to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes there are those intangible things called dreams that whisper through the fog and make you reach a little bit for a sky that’s got stars in it again. Sometimes there is art, and a swell somewhere deep within you that for once has nothing to do with hurricanes. Sometimes there are stories, and you can hear yourself whispering again. Sometimes there is silence and no crushing dark of the deep asphyxiating ocean on your chest along with it. Sometimes you can breathe enough to remember what movement felt like.

Cling to it all.

There is no secret passageway out of this collapsing building. There is only the possibility that maybe, in the rubble, there’s a hole.

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.

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

Loneliness Hits

30 Sep

Loneliness is a rough sort of rolled-up burning-down summary of life to take a hit of. It’s the kind of hit that leaves you not just coughing so badly you wind up in tears, but somehow proves a bruise-leaver too, on more than just your throat. Loneliness hits that way.

Loneliness is the worst of drags that I cannot seem to ever figure out how to choke down and tolerate. I guess my ears get a little weird, when I’ve sucked down loneliness. I go deaf for a bit, so I can’t even hear the noises of the ones around me. All I can hear is the inside of my brain, and that’s only filled with the noises of people who aren’t any longer here.

It’s a bad trip, loneliness.

The psychiatrists and psychologists, they say it will pass. That we’ll find me an antidote, and I will stop choking on the very air around me as this unending ember of a stick of loneliness dangles from my fingers, unable to be removed. This next set of pills, they say. This next glass of water. This next deep breath.

I’ve taken many a deep breath in my life; loneliness is an insidious pollution, and the smog count grows ever higher. That’s the rub – you breathe in to breathe out what you breathed in, but if there’s no change in air quality, your red blood cells only learn all the more to consent to carry what your heady environment has stuck upon life’s circulation.

Even tears can’t flush it out.

Maybe one day a little white circle will clear all this away.

Maybe one day a fire will burn hot enough to immolate this slow-killing haze.

Maybe one day I will have exchanged all my oxygen for this grey composition, and then I will no longer notice any discrepancy in hue, and I will not remember what it was like before, and I will no longer fight to hold off this desperate coloration, because at least now, in this grey prison, I have something with which to be one.

Or maybe these are all just ramblings, too long a drag off the loneliness stick. I’m starting not to remember much. Oh look, bruises…

Hard Conversations

2 Jul

I have had so many hard conversations in my life. Conversations where I confessed, conversations where I demanded, conversations where I chided and begged and pleaded and cajoled and cried.

I have had so many hard conversations.

There was the conversation where I was told I could die. There was the conversation where I told the exact same thing. To my mother. To my friends. To my lovers. To strangers. Again, and again.

There was the conversation where I told him I loved him. No matter as to whom “he” was. That quivering, shaking moment right before the slight intake of breath, then the desperately frightening murmur. “I love you.”

The silences in that conversation have always been the best and the most painful.

I have had so many hard conversations.

There was the conversation about her miscarriage, and hers, and hers. The conversation about his mistake. The conversation of confusion, of denial, of the world cracking about me and my soul bleeding out into the fractures.

I keep trying to have that conversation again.

I so desperately want it to go differently.

I have so many, many hard conversations.

There are the conversations I have not had yet. The conversation about the weariness I’ve newly heard in his voice. The conversation about that affair, and my lifelong anger with its inexplicable forgiveness. The conversation where I say that I am afraid, and put up one more wall. The conversation I will have more with myself, than with anyone else.

There are the conversations I have daily, the interminable cajoling of my tear ducts not to cry, of my heart not to break, of my legs to keep moving forward and of my hands not to rend me in the thousand ways they could have me end.

I chatter ceaselessly inside my brain, so much daily convincing must I do.

It’s not an easy conversation to have, after a while.

I get tired of having these hard conversations.

There have so many of them in my life.

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.

Trying To Manage Your Depression: Caution, May Cause Side Effects

23 Mar

Guys, depression is hard. Really really really hard. Obviously. That’s why it’s called depression. But you know what? I’ve been through five years of therapy, gone through intensive treatment three times, come to understand the underlying mindsets I needed to challenge, modified my thinking patterns, built up a support network, tried to prioritize what makes me happy, worked with psychiatrist after psychiatrist to find a medication regimen that works well for me and stuck to each of them in turn, held myself together long enough to graduate from college and actively work every day to keep myself from falling apart…

And depression is still really, really fucking hard.

I’m not even talking about the symptoms of depression, either. In terms of mood, I’m doing *relatively* well. I’m not entirely crippled by sadness. I don’t hate myself. I can understand ways in which the shittiness I do still occasionally feel might eventually get better… That’s all cool. But… just trying to be a normal, healthy, functioning person. That’s really fucking hard.

My impression is that being a normal, healthy, functioning person is already really fucking hard even when you don’t have an underlying mental illness trying to drag you back into a mental hell. But then, when you do have an underlying mental illness, all the extra things you have to do just make it that much harder. For example, I was on an antidepressant called Effexor for a little over a year. Before that, my list o’ pills that I’ve taken and since developed tolerance to (it’s like when an addict develops tolerance to a substance and needs more and more of it to feel the same effects, except now we’re talking actual legit healthy-making-medication that has a dosage you can’t exceed) has included Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, and Abilify. Celexa was beautiful but wore off over the course of a year and a half to the point that it was basically like I wasn’t even on an antidepressant, Zoloft helped decrease my anxiety but obviously wasn’t working all that well, since I kinda attempted suicide on it, a short-term psychiatrist started me on Prozac improperly and I hated it and its somnolence side effect with a fiery passion (I hear it works well for some people, though), and Abilify I was taking as a sort of anti-anxiety med and antidepressant “booster” and had to stop cold when it started costing $700 a month because of insurance roll over. Yeah. The restless leg syndrome I had for months afterwards as a withdrawal symptom was lovely.

Ahem. So. Now that brings us to Effexor. Mind you, these are all drugs I’ve been taking to try to just be a normal fucking person with normal fucking problems instead of a depressed person with suicidal problems. I’m not searching for Nirvana here.

Now, unbeknownst to me when I started it, apparently Effexor has *super duper fun* withdrawal effects! And the shortest half life of like any antidepressant ever! Which means if you go 5 hours without taking it – heavens forbid an entire day – you’re fucked. We’re talking light-headedness, nausea, dizziness, disorientation, ALL THE DEPRESSION, brain shocks (it’s like your brain is being electrocuted and the whole world jolts) and oh yeah, SEIZURES. Seriously, it’s actually the worst. Like, ask the internet. Ask a fucking psychiatrist. Effexor withdrawal is universally recognized in the mental health world as one of the worst things to ever go through.

Good thing there were manufacturer recalls! And so now the medication is forever on backorder! Which means that even when I bring my prescription from the psych in a week ahead of time, it’s still not refilled by the time I’ve run out. Every. fucking. month.

Yeah. The first week I had to go without Effexor because of a refill issue and was subsequently bedridden with nausea and unable to even walk has been firmly and terrifyingly imprinted in my mind. And so when I’d take precautions and order a refill early (but not too early, because otherwise insurance would be like, uh, we just filled this, no, you can’t have more; that’s always fun timing to figure out) and I’d still be faced with a day or so of having to go without it, I eventually got a backup stock because I was sick of having a breakdown in front of the Target pharmacy every month. Like, normal people don’t have to go through hell like this! Yeah, sure, sometimes they have to go through hell, but it’s normal hell. It’s not the hell of having tried to goddamn take care of yourself and keep up on your meds, only to have other factors force you into bedridden brain malfunction.

Over time, my body did its thing and built up tolerance to Effexor, too, and once I realized I was spending the end of every day crying in a heap on my dorm room floor, I decided that hey, maaaaybe I should talk to my psychiatrist about finding another med that’d work better. Plus then, I could switch to something else and not worry about Effexor withdrawal hell every month.

Cue Cymbalta. Cymbalta’s an SNRI, just like Effexor, so it works on the same neural receptors and everything, which means that as long as you get the cross titration right, you don’t go through the Effexor withdrawal effects while you’re switching. And Cymbalta supposedly doesn’t have those withdrawal effects, so, that was a plus.

Yippee! Freedom! Now I can be a normal healthy person! Right?

Wrong.

So, I’m still in the process of switching from Effexor to Cymbalta. I went down in stages from 225 mgs of Effexor (yup, that’s a big fun dose, isn’t it?) to 75 mgs, and then stepped up through 30 mgs to 60 mgs of Cymbalta.

Aaaand still started going through Effexor withdrawal.

Cue 90 mgs of Cymbalta. Actually, cue 60 mg prescription + 30 mg prescription, because they don’t fucking make a 90 mg capsule of the generic, which means I have to pay twice as much for one month’s worth of pills. Wooo. So now I have to double my expenses every month just to keep myself healthy. Fun.

Except I’m not even fucking healthy. I’m trying to be, but I’m not. Turns out, insomnia is a side effect of Cymbalta. I’m already prone to insomnia, which means that Cymbalta hits me hard in that area. I haven’t slept for the past three days. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I got approximately six hours of nightmare-filled, panic-sweat-inducing “sleep” over the past 72 hours. So. Not exactly healthy. Here I am, trying to just get myself to a normal level of sanity, but then that ends up fucking with my sleep. I’M JUST TRYING TO BE HEALTHY. But it’s like whatever I do to help in one area ends up hurting in another area. And it’s really frustrating. Like, I just want to be able to sleep like a normal person and wake up not feeling like absolute shit and get through my day without feeling like I’m being bludgeoned every second. Is that a reasonable request? I think that’s a reasonable request…

Sigh. So here I am, typing the blog post at 7 am my time because I’ve been up all night, tossing and turning (which subsequently also leads to crampy muscles and unhappy joints) – but hey, I fixed my apartment’s wifi… And I’m stuck on this combo of 75 mgs of Effexor and 90 mgs of Cymbalta (which is higher than a normal dose already, apparently…) for at least another week, because I’m going out of the country and would at least like to be relatively stable during that, even it means I can’t really sleep… and then I’ve moved, so I’ve got to find a new psychiatrist, and schedule and appointment with them, and then finish going off of goddamn Effexor, which’ll probably mean going even higher on my Cymbalta dosage and heavens knows what that’s going to do to me and my unsleeping… and then I’ll probably have to “stabilize” on Cymbalta and then switch to yet another med in the never ending chase after my sanity…

Guys, I just wanted to be healthy. To manage my depression. I didn’t think trying to be normal was supposed to be this hard. There are so many damn side effects.