• Diaries,  existential screaming,  mental health

    Self-Care is an Active Effort

    Eating Disorder Diary

    Please note: This is really an excerpt from my diary, ergo the bad numbering, change in POV, and TMI detail. Trigger warnings for all things eating disorders: weighing myself, exercise, loaded language, disordered diet habits, substance use.

    February 2020

    SO YOU WEIGHED YOURSELF AND WERE HORRIFIED BY THE RESULTS.

    About a month ago, you weighed yourself at the gym. You were wearing shoes, holding your phone, and clad in leggings/shirt. The scale said you were 164 lbs. It’s not far from where you were before eating disorder treatment, so that’s not too bad.

    Today, you weighed yourself at the gym. You were wearing shoes, holding your phone, and clad in leggings/shirt. The scale said you’re at least 172 lbs. You’ve gained eight pounds in a month, which your brain wants to round to ten pounds, and a ten pound gain in a month-ish is one of the most horrifying nightmare scenarios you can imagine.

    Here’s why you’re not going to panic and hurt yourself over this.

    1. You don’t want to. Putting MyFitnessPal back on your phone instilled you with a sense of grim dread; that’s a cycle you’ve been on, and it works for many, but not for you. It doesn’t really change your behavior. Not anymore. Did it ever? What as the cost when it did? It was your hobby, your obsession, and one that made you feel shitty. It’s a fraught place filled with despair, for you, and you’re not far enough from that time to use MFP healthily. So you don’t want to. And you won’t.
    2. You’re still attractive. Others are still recognizing you as attractive; they dive out of the way when you reach a door, they are charmed when you compliment their hair, they give you the sexual credit seemingly due to you.
    3. But even if you weren’t still attractive, that’s subjective, situational, and usually temporary. It’s okay to stop being attractive. Or not be attractive every day.
    4. If you don’t find yourself attractive, that’s a different problem. Your weight is not a metric that tells you how well you’re allowed to dress, care for yourself, and do your hair. To feel attractive, you should go home and shower, you should trim your hair, you should find a cute outfit that fits and wear it. But you should also just love yourself. And if you’re not feeling attractive, that doesn’t mean that you have to hurt yourself over it. Attractive isn’t something you have to be in order to have value, be loved, and love yourself.
    5. You’re not going to suddenly balloon to 200+ lbs. Gaining that weight quickly has a lot of reasons. You just quit smoking, and stimulants increase your metabolic rate; being on nicotine gave you the terrible feeling of being one giant jitter, always anxious, sleeping poorly. You have been eating more, but you haven’t been having to think about it nearly as hard, either. The time you used to spend fretting over food hurting you are now spent enjoying the food you eat. And you won’t enjoy relentless binging.
    6. You’re a weight lifter. Though people overestimate how much “denser” muscle is than fat, you do have muscle, and that’s a good thing. You have to feed your muscles to grow and keep them. You can see how much stronger you are when you’re in the gym; 95lbs squat feels comfortable, like nothing, and isn’t that wonderful? It used to be effort. You can do more than that too. Quite a bit more. You’re so strong. A lot of that is because your muscles have everything they need to work, and then some, and that’s okay.
    7. You’re eating in a culturally normal way. Look at your family. Look at how they eat. Look at how they’re shaped. You can do this, because you’re actually eating with them now. You’re spending time together. You need to get closer to them and their eating habits, not further away; this isn’t just an important part of socializing, but a way that you can help your family heal their relationship with food too. They’ve never eaten as much salad since you started doing it. You’ve never sat down to talk and laugh with them this much, this regularly.

    That said, it doesn’t hurt to check in with yourself and make sure you’re not overeating. You don’t feel good when you overeat, either. And you won’t feel good with too much extra weight—though the line from “extra weight” to “too much extra weight” is difficult to locate.

    1. Are you mindfully eating? I’m trying, but I think I’m privileging the enjoyment of the food over the feelings in my stomach. And that’s because…
    2. My stomach has been hurting a lot. Which totally fucks with my hunger signals. It’s gotten better these past couple of days and I’m optimistic it’ll stay that way, allowing me to have more contact with my hunger again.
    3. Can you eat slower? You’ve done well portioning your foods lately, I think. You’ve been eating half sandwiches so you can have more bulk in the form of salads and whatnot. The varied diet is great. If you eat slower, you might find that you’ll eat less…or not.
    4. Are you finishing food when you don’t need to? You almost ate an extra mini naan because there was just one left. You’ve got this weird thing about finishing. It’s okay to put things away for later, put it back in the bag (if it’s something that’s appropriate for), or just throw it out. Also your dogs love it when you don’t finish food.
    5. I’m having cannabis. A lot on the weekends, probably still too much in the evenings. I think I need to evaluate my relationship with cannabis. I haven’t been in a hurry to drop it because I also dropped nicotine recently, and I’m still craving that to an extent.
      1. I think it’s okay if I’m still doing this one thing FOR NOW. Maybe. I don’t have to be all or nothing. That’s also a mindset I have to continue working on.
    6. I’m not moving as much. When was the last time I walked the dogs? I’ve reached peak winter sludge mode.
      1.  I think that’s okay too. I mean, I think it’s inevitable, and temporary. The weather will improve. I’ll want to move again.
    7. Can you eat out less? You know from your History that food from outside is more calorically dense.
    8. Can you eat with more variety? You’re really enjoying bread a LOT right now. And that’s okay! But maybe you could limit your bread…like one bread a day. Bagel OR sandwich OR pita OR dinner roll.
      1. Maybe instead of going “ONE BREAD A DAY,” you should just make sure you’re getting one non-bread grain a day to start: rice or oats (not in cookies, lol) being the easiest. Frankly you don’t have a lot of “grains” in your diet that are super normal so it will probably be effort enough to address that. If you don’t have oats for breakfast, have rice with dinner. That’s easy, right?

    The bottom line is that you’re not helpless, nor are you doing anything Wrong. You’re doing your best to heal. Right now, that healing—which is not just physical, but social and emotional—has the side-effect of weight gain. But as long as you stay on top of yourself and continue to fight for mindfulness, go slowly, and eat with others when possible, you can make sure you don’t gain excessively.

    What is excessively? I will feel I’ve gained too much if I can’t do the physical things I enjoy (and that’s definitely not a problem right now!) and if I’m seeing ill health effects, like more blood sugar problems. For now, Y O U A R E O K A Y, do not panic spiral, do not hurt yourself, do not use MFP. Be patient. You’re beautiful and powerful and also your hips are cool.

    March 2020

    Well, things have changed a lot, haven’t they? You’re on nicotine again. You’re probably still gaining weight, but you’re not weighing yourself. And priorities now are…different.

    Welcome to the corona virus, self. You don’t have it yet, although you’ve convinced yourself several times daily that you do. And maybe you do! But either symptoms are mild or you haven’t developed the bad ones yet. If you’re going to develop terrible symptoms, you’ll need your energy to cope with those when they come. So don’t waste time coping with pain that hasn’t arrived.

    Looking forward into the future, guessing outcomes, and spending all this time fretting is only aggravating your eating disorder. Just because the world is offering perspective on what it means to suffer doesn’t mean that you’re Suddenly Not Mentally Ill. It means you have to be more on top of it, not less.

    But it also means you’ve got to be kinder to yourself. You’re getting forked by reality a lot. Seldom do a handful of hours pass without the wall of dread striking again, reminding you of what’s happened and what’s (probably) to come.

    So let’s talk about what you’re doing really well right now, and what we could do to improve things.

    1. You’re not weighing yourself. That’s cool. Continue NOT DOING THAT. Attaching a number to the way your body is growing out of your clothes will help literally nothing.
    2. You got some new clothes that fit. You feel pretty fucking sexy in these clothes.
    3. You still have way too many clothes that don’t fit. Get rid of them. The stuffed sausage feeling is horrible, you don’t look attractive, there is no point in subjecting yourself to this.
      1. You should get new clothes! It’s harder to fit stuff online, but you can do it. You can’t let your fashion slide during the apocalypse any more than you can during pregnancy (a personal apocalypse) because you know from experience that you will feel like garbage. It’s okay to spend some of the money you’re not putting toward outside-the-house entertainment toward feeling good in your body.
    1. You’re not much of a weight lifter right now. Your metabolism has slowed, muscle will relax, fat will be generated from all that comfort food you’re eating. AND THAT IS OKAY. You’re not inactive. You’re still taking care to use lighter weights at home, and move your body, and that’s what you need to be healthy. You don’t need more rigorous exercise to be healthy – particularly not at a time like this. Focus on doing what you need to feel good and let the rest go. Conditioning is currently the least of your worries.
    2. Let’s talk about the nicotine. So you’re doing that again, even though it made you feel anxious, hurt your throat, and was generally so unpleasant by the end. You’re already beating yourself up about it, a lot, so you may as well not beat yourself up more. Look at the bright side: you’re staying under 1 pod/day of Juul, usually closer to 1/2 pod. (Remember how you used to clear 2 pods/day? 1/3rd of that is what we call progress.) Yesterday, you noticed your throat hurting a bit, and stopped vaping. You’re not vaping to excess and causing bad symptoms. This much nicotine still isn’t good for you, but you’ve shown moderation, and you’ll take care of yourself as best you can.
    3. You’re eating a lot of take-out and junk food. But welcome to the apocalypse, wherein all your childhood food insecurity comes roaring back as trauma. Remember how you were just hospitalized for an eating disorder earlier this year too? Jeez, you’re getting all the food-related trauma triggers for 2020. That sucks. This doesn’t have to be rationalized away. But sincerely, you’re eating take-out to keep your pantry fuller longer, support local restaurants (the Chinese food place is grateful for your business!), and keep the family happy. Keeping the whole family happy with comfort food right now is a big deal. And YOU are part of that family, so if eating a couple Oreos a day and a snack of chips is making you feel happy, THAT IS OKAY.
    4. But you’re also eating a ton of salads! When you panic-shopped, you panic-shopped for…salad and bananas. If you’re gonna be eating a crapton of junk food, stuffing the extra space in your body with salad could be a lot worse. Let’s be real.
    5. ALSO, you’re definitely having a lot of cannabis right now. You pushed yourself into the tolerance black zone where you can pop 30mg of THC and still function without a pleasant buzz. Nice job, self. Moderation is harder here. Being home all day, nowhere to drive, husband always available, and enormous crush of existential fear… No wonder. At some point you’ve gotta accept being not-stoned in this apocalypse as reality. I don’t think you’re ready for it. I wish I had guidance for myself in this area.
    6. Your stomach has been hurting less than when you wrote the last post. And that’s awesome. You’re taking care of yourself! (Fewer carbonated waters will help, sweetie.)
    7. You’re drinking alcohol again. But so far, in moderation. One drink in a day, two or three times a week, and only with your husband. This is probably still a bad idea for your stomach, if not for your emotional cope. You know what problems to watch for. You can’t get more alcohol without help right now. Stick a pin in this one – you might need to address it if it changes, but it’s not an immediate worry.

    So here we are now, working our way through the quiet suspenseful part where apocalypse begins, doing our best to care for ourself with a lot of uncertainty.

    What matters right now? Literally, staying healthy to avoid the medical system, and keep my family as happy as possible. You’re doing that, mostly. Limiting alcohol and continuing to move will help. Everything else is kind of a mess. But so is the world.

    Practice mindfulness. You haven’t been doing that, and you’re paying the price. More mindfulness – staying in this moment rather than predicting the future – should help you handle your emotions that have your behaviors haywire. Give yourself more spoons so you can handle things better. Live in the moment.

    And give yourself a fucking hug because this timeline sucks.

  • Diaries,  slice of life

    Seven Ways to be Stoned

    One.

    You’re in New York City for the first time. Your friend’s walk-up is cluttered and cozy, as homey as it should be, and it smells like weed. She smokes a lot. She eats even more. You haven’t done much before, but she offers a bowl to you, so you clumsily navigate lighter and pipe.

    Truthfully, you’re scared to have a lighter that close to your face. But you’re in your twenties, your friend is in her thirties, she’s like your big sister. You want to look like you know what you’re doing. So you light it–flick–and your nose gets warm while you touch the flame to a corner of the herb. You inhale as it smolders. You get a little smoke. You think.

    You go out on her balcony, which is small and made of wood so wobbly you’re not sure it can hold your weight, much less a charcoal barbecue. Neither of you know how to use a charcoal barbecue. You laugh a lot trying to get it to light in the wind. You keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case.

    You feel the warmth after another hit on the pipe. The vegetables you grilled with your best friend taste better. You laugh a little louder.

     

    Two.

    It’s cold outside, but you don’t want to smoke inside. You put on a balaclava. You wrap yourself in a bathrobe. You put on slipper socks. You huddle under a blanket on your balcony and light your bong, hands cupped around the pipe to shelter it from the wind. It still won’t light and your fingers are getting stiff. Grab the plasma lighter. It’s not as good, somehow, but it will make your herb burn even when the wind is blasting.

    You take a couple deep hits that make you cough plumes into the chilly night, and the smoke is sucked away to disperse against the crystalline starlight. The harsh hits are bad for your lungs. You go inside, take a shot of Pepto to soothe your throat, puff on the inhaler to open your lungs. You settle into bed with a cold nose, cold fingers, and a dizziness that makes the room sway in the wind with you comfortable in its womb.

     

    Three.

    You’ve gotten good at baking with cannabis. People like your cookies–some of them say you can’t taste the weed on it, which isn’t true, because your husband cringes to nibble. But many people like the skunky taste. You like the skunky taste.

    You’re careful with the cookies. You can’t have children getting into them, so you entomb them in a bag, carefully label it with contents and date, and stash it in the very back of the deep freezer. Since you’ve filled it with almond slivers, oats, and raisins, your kids won’t eat them even if they find them. But you want to be sure. You want to be responsible.

    You’re so responsible that you don’t try the dough or the cookies. The butter must be infused, and the cookies baked, cooled, and stored, before your kids come home from school. You don’t want to be stoned when they get here.

    Once they’re safe, you clean the skillet where you made cannabis ghee and prepare an omelet. It doesn’t taste like weed. Only when you’re sprawled on the couch in awe of the music melting through your muscles do you realize you didn’t clean the pan enough, and now you’re very, very stoned despite your naive efforts. On the bright side, while your cookies do taste like weed, your omelet did not.

     

    Four.

    It’s a cold, windy night on the Pacific coast. It’s so dark that the beach and the ocean are indistinguishable from each other. You’re in love with the woman at your side, sneaking onto the boardwalk amid the dunes. You haven’t told her about this big warm secret coiled in your belly. Your bodies hold warmth between them while you shelter the pipe. It’s the second pipe you bought on this vacation. The first one wasn’t properly drilled with holes, and it weighs down your pocket. It’s pressing against her thigh. She smells like coconut oil and she’s beaming at you when flickering lighter shines gold on her face.

    You both inhale. You take all the smoke inside of you and breathe with each other, seated on the sandy steps. The ocean roars slower than your breath. There’s a dark shape on the shore. You can’t be sure if it’s a signpost or a man coming to bust you for getting stoned on the beach in the middle of the night. It’s scary. But being scared is funny.

    Her skin is so soft, so smooth. You don’t know it yet but six months later, you won’t be talking. This moment that makes you giddy with the joy and desire will be only a memory. The shape on the beach is a signpost. Nobody cares you’re smoking in the dunes. You’ll still have the pipe without a hole drilled properly, and sometimes you’ll hold it in your hand and remember how her braids felt against your lips.

     

    Five.

    This morning, your cat died. She was in your arms, swaddled in a towel, while a gentle veterinarian injected the medicine to stop her heart. You carried your kitty to the car so she could be cremated. You set her in the back seat on the towel. That pile of fluff is all that remains of a life you loved and cherished and tended your entire adult life. When the car drives away, she’s gone.

    There are cannabis cookies in the freezer, carefully labeled and stored out of reach. Each one has about fifteen milligrams of THC, you estimate based on how they make you feel. You eat two, three, four. You keep eating them until you feel nothing but dizzy warmth. Until your eyes are too dry to cry. It’s not healthy, you’re not coping, but maybe you don’t have to cope right now.

    A couple of days later, your baby is brought back in an urn. You hold her. She weighs nothing. She no longer purrs and rolls over to get belly rubs. She doesn’t put a paw on your arm while you’re using the computer mouse. You make a shrine to her because she’s so big inside you, some of that feeling has to be set down somewhere else.

    Two more cookies, three more, four. The months pass and you’re always stoned. But by the end of it, you can hold her urn and cry. You stop taking so much weed. The emotions come back and you live in a life without your cat. Somehow you handle it. You have to. Grief doesn’t feel better when you’re stoned, not the way that love and music do.

     

    Six.

    It’s an afternoon on the weekend. Your kids want to play LEGO. You popped a chocolate earlier, so you’re mellow, and life’s stresses have faded away. The house needs to be cleaned. The yard’s a mess. You haven’t showered. But now you’re on the couch, cozy and floating, so it’s easy to give yourself permission to fuck off and play LEGO.

    Your son gives you the broken minifig without arms. He plays the one with long hair. You climb walls and jump off with silly cries and your children laugh and laugh and laugh. It feels good and simple, the way childhood felt. Anything can happen. The couch can become canyons. The pillows are trampolines. When your kids bounce, you bounce too, and their kisses feel like going to heaven. If only they could always be this happy. If only you could always let yourself be this happy.

     

    Seven.

    It’s raining. It doesn’t do that much around there. You grab the papers, the grinder, the funnel, a lighter. You settle under a blanket on the couch in your gazebo. Rain dribbles off the edges while you pack a joint.

    Life’s been hard, and you’re tempted demolish that joint in one go. Suck it down until there’s nothing but a roach too annoying to smoke.

    But you take it slow. A couple good hits and you stub it out. Then you lay back on the couch, close your eyes, and listen to the rain, knowing that there’s nothing to do today. The rain is like music. It feels good when you hear it. Sometimes the wind blows drops against your cheek. Your husband is with the children, your dogs are warm on your legs, and there’s nothing but you and a few puffs of smoke on a wet gray day.

  • Diaries,  slice of life

    The Gauntlet of Beauty

     I am 31.5 years old, and with the onset of the thirties comes relentless reminders that I’m aging. I’ve accepted my crow’s feet because they look sexy, and the general firmness lacking from my skin is unavoidable, so I don’t stress it.

    Unfortunately, with the onset of the thirties also comes a certain surrender to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as vaping nicotine. I started doing it this year. I don’t recommend it. (Prior to this, my only nicotine exposure was occasional social hookah, as you do in your glowing twenties.)

    Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it basically dries you up like a big walking corpse. Perhaps you can get away with being shriveled by poison in your youth (I wouldn’t know, I waited until a responsible age to start destroying myself) but in your thirties, it makes fine lines rather promptly. In the last ~6 months since I started vaping nicotine, my mouth has developed pucker lines. They are small but noticeable to me.

    Sooooo I am quitting nicotine because suffering vanity is much more obvious than whatever hellstorm I’m making in my throat/lungs. I need another coping mechanism that won’t make me look like Aunt Bertha who lives at your neighborhood bar. But still, I have these lines, the beginning of them, and now I can’t see anything else in the mirror.

    Being that I am a clever, dogged, calculated Aunt Bertha, I immediately researched What The Fuck To Do About This, assuming the answer is Botox. It turns out that Botox is ONE answer, but there are cheaper, less botulismy methods to remedy this as well. 

    I got an inexpensive high frequency device and a micro derma roller. The science on whether or not these actually DO what they claim is still out, as far as I can tell, because a cursory Googling yielded only clickbait and no scientific papers. My assumption is that they’re utter hogwash, but maybe if I believe hard enough, the placebo effect will plump my skin.

    The high frequency device looks like a phallus where you insert a delicate glass wand and then poke yourself in the face. Did you ever play with those plasma balls, where you touch the glass and it lights up? It’s like that but for your face. You can turn the frequency high enough (what frequency is it talking about anyway?) that it feels like constant static electricity. Apparently this does something. Like it microwaves under your skin to terrify your body into making more collagen. Yes you put this on your face.

    The other thing is the micro derma roller, which is like a handheld iron maiden, also for your face. It’s a ball covered in spikes and you rub it on your face. It feels the way you would expect it feels to rub spikes on your face. Then you follow up with a soothing acid treatment, which can now penetrate deeper because you cut holes. Into your face.

    I’ve now done both of these rituals once, and I suppose I plan to do them again, and at least once or twice a week for a few months. Whether or not they work, I’m optimistic that 31.5 years old is young enough that I’ll produce more collagen and fill out these lines to a small degree with time anyway, as long as I stop filling my lungs with nicotine clouds. The effect of the devices may be strictly placebo but time is not.

    Some resentful cave-feminist within me is nonstop irate with this, running some high frequency wand over my lips and then jabbing myself in the face with needles. It doesn’t escape my notice that they both hurt. You can feasibly jab yourself with the needles hard enough to bleed, which may or may not be a desired effect. (Kardashians bleed from micro derma rolling but Kardashians also marry people like Kanye so I live a less extreme life.)

    There’s something to be said about beauty rituals raging against the inexorable march of time and the consequences of our bad decisions being so painful. On one hand, it feels like the beauty industry is laughing at the stupid things people will pay to do to themselves. On the other hand, it feels like an illusory gauntlet through which many of us pass on our way to accepting middle age; it hurts, so it must be doing something, it must be changing me.

    Sometimes I look at getting plastic surgery done. Or even just Botox. I look at the websites, I look at the prices, I read about healing difficulties. I could probably do it. Then I remember that learning to love myself has zero cost and zero recovery time, and we’re all aging at the same speed anyway. So I won’t do that, probably. But I will spend forty dollars for the privilege of scraping my face with tiny needles and then dripping hyaluronic into my cavernous pores, bleeding my fear of aging in fine red lines down either side of my mouth.