onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “depression”

As every parent knows, “There’s nothing wrong with the one you’ve got.”

I’m in a funny place about my body lately. Not terrible. But not great either.

I have not been weighing myself for many months. And I am grateful for that. For some reason, numbers make me irrational. But I can tell I go up and down. In the way my clothes fit. And how big my butt is.

For whatever reason, a few weeks ago, I was up. And I can tell that I am in the process of going back down. And while I don’t know how much in terms of pounds, it is not a lot. I am not growing or shrinking out of my clothes.

But I am disappointed lately. Because I had hoped that I would have lost more weight by now.

If you don’t know, I quit smoking for my 35th Birthday. And I will turn 37 in less than 2 months. In the first 9 months of quitting, I gained 30 pounds. Not because I was eating to compensate. But simply because that was one of my side effects. I had others too. For the first 6 weeks I had open sores in my mouth and for about 10 months I was depressed. But it was the weight gain that was most devastating to me.

As a former fat girl, I have all sorts of eating and body image disorders. Sometimes they are dormant. And sometimes they are active. Though only in my head…When it comes to eating, starving, binging, purging, laxatives, over-exercising, and all other manner of acting out with food, I have the action part under control with strict rules and boundaries. And I have for over 8 years.

So gaining 30 lbs, especially with my eating under control, was triggering for me. It made me crazy. And unhappy. And it was hard to reconcile myself to it. I felt like I was being punished. And it was especially frustrating because I felt like I was being punished for quitting smoking. You know, no good deed goes unpunished, and so on.

But I felt like I could handle it, because I thought it would be temporary. I thought that after some time went by, I would lose that 30 lbs. Or at least the greater portion of it. And here I am almost 2 years later, and a full year since the excessive weight gain stopped, and I have not lost any weight.

There is something that I have told more than one person recently, and I would do well to remember it myself. When I was actively eating compulsively and eating sugar, my eating habits were surely the reason I weighed 300 lbs. (Duh.) But since I got my eating under control and stopped eating sugar, I have noticed that what I eat has generally had the least to do with my weight. The thinnest I ever was in my life was the time that followed the illness of my Dad’s mom, who was the first love of my life. In the months that led to her death, I must have dropped 15 lbs, and I was already thin. Then, and in the years following that time, it did not matter what I ate. Drenched in butter, deep-fried, bacon, full-fat dairy, huge portions. Every day. Just to maintain a tiny little body. And then I quit smoking. And even cutting portions in half, reducing fat content and limiting how often I ate certain foods, I still gained weight. I gained 30 lbs, eating less than half of what I had been eating before I gave up cigarettes.

I’m saying I don’t want to start worrying about what I eat. That I don’t want to start drinking skim milk and eating nonfat yogurt. I don’t want to start steaming my vegetables. I don’t want to stop eating roasted squash and carrots. In the (possibly vain) hope that I will lose 20 lbs. Because for years now, what I eat has not had nearly as great of an impact on my weight as all of the other things going on in my life. My stress, my sadness, my anxiety, my withdrawal, my unwillingness to let things go.

And I’m also saying I want to stop judging my “willpower” and my looks so harshly.

I know that my eyes are broken. And I can see that sometimes I think I look like women who are significantly bigger than I am. But also, the truth is that I am not particularly thin right now. And I don’t like it. And dammit! I don’t like that I don’t like it.

I really want to be comfortable in my own body. Exactly as it is. And I don’t want to feel like I should eat diet food. And I don’t want to judge myself on what I am eating. And I don’t want to feel like my worth is based on how “good” I can be. And I don’t want how “good” I am to be based on how much I can deprive myself, and how much I can suffer for a smaller body. And I don’t want to buy into the notion that a smallest possible body is always healthier, prettier, better.

Because that is the notion in modern Western culture, right? That any body bigger than tiny is fat. That the best body is the smallest one. That as a woman, that’s the one to strive for. And if you are not striving for the smallest possible body then you are somehow lacking. Lazy, or shameful, or ultimately unwomanly.

There is a kind of person that I want to be. And it involves having peace around what is so. And it involves trusting that I have exactly the body that I am supposed to have. And knowing that this body is beautiful. Because it is well cared for. Well fed. Well hydrated. Well maintained. Well used with out being abused.

And I want to be the kind of person who has some perspective about bodies. Specifically my own body, but also in general. Human bodies in the world. To have a realistic and sane outlook on them. To see that they aren’t all created to grow into doe-eyed, pouty, ectomorphs, if only their owners would behave properly. To understand that they all grow into different shapes and sizes. And at different rates. And that I got as good of one as anybody else. And you did too.

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Don’t make me double dog dare you, 2014

I know that I am outspoken about not loving the holiday season, but there is something I do love about this time of year. I love the New Year. And I don’t just mean the parties. (Though there are aspects of New Year’s parties that contribute to it being one of my favorite holidays. Getting dressed up and dancing, traditional staples for New Year’s festivities, are two of my favorite things ever in the whole world ever.)

But what I really love is the opportunity to look back. To remember and reflect. And I love the opportunity to look forward. To anticipate and plan.

And I love when we choose to do this. That we do it around winter solstice. (Historically, the New Year has been celebrated either around the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, or around winter solstice, the first day of winter.) There is something beautiful to me about having the year end just after the darkest days are done. To make a new beginning just as the days begin to get longer again. We begin as it’s getting better. Waxing.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how different this time of reflection is for me since I got my eating under control. I was trying to remember which were the great years for me before 2006. And I thought about the fact that I don’t remember looking back on any year before then with fondness.

Not because they were all bad, I realize. But because I was a whiney, whiney complainer. Because I was always unhappy. Because I hated myself. And I hated life. And I was sure that God was out to get me. When I look back at my life, the things that I accomplished and the opportunities I was given, I can see that some of those years were pretty great. Exciting things happened for me. But I didn’t have any gratitude for them.

And then I started to think about the past 8 years and how wonderful they have been. But then I realized that they were not necessarily wonderful. They were certainly not all light, easy and fun. I realized that I had occasionally had some crazy, or terrible or painful things happen to me. But that my attitude about any particular year was never that it was all bad.

In 2007, I lost my Grandfather. He was the first grandparent I lost. I was also evicted from my apartment. I couch surfed for months before I got back on my feet. I had some incredibly generous and amazing friends come through for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It was scary and difficult and stressful. But I also loved that year. I got a whole new appreciation for my own capabilities. And I went through that whole period keeping boundaries around my eating. I never said screw it. I honored my commitment even though I’m sure nobody would have “blamed me” if I had numbed my fear and anxiety with food. It was also the year I came out of my sugar-withdrawal fog. For the previous year and a half, I had been walking around in a daze. I had been high on sugar so consistently and for so long that being sober made me feel high. I was scared, but I was so grateful to feel empowered and in control. And loved.

2010 was particularly hard. I lost my grandmother and my aunt that year, two women who were incredibly important to me. I spent a lot of time crying. And I was not sorry to move on to 2011. But I didn’t write the whole year off as awful. I wasn’t miserable. I was sad. That’s all. Just sad. And not only sad. When I look back on it, I can remember that 2010 was a year when I gained a whole new level of confidence in my beauty and my worth. It was a year I went on a whole bunch of dates. And I went on those dates looking for a man who would deserve me, not for one who would “take me” or “put up with me.” I still had a lot of things to work through on that front. I wouldn’t even start this blog until January of 2012. But I liked myself in 2010. And I loved life. And I didn’t take the hard stuff personally. I had gratitude for all of the good stuff. That the women I lost had loved me and I loved them. That I was growing as a woman. That I had hope.

And in 2012 I fell into a depression after quitting smoking. Because it made me stop producing important brain chemicals. And because it affected my metabolism and I gained a bunch of weight. Which is hard on a woman with eating and body image disorders. But it was not a bad year. I also started writing this blog that year. And I took some risks in terms of love and relationships. And I took some new actions in terms of work and money. And depressed or not, I had quit smoking. I did a lot of growing that year. I changed a lot. For the better. And I was grateful for it.

That is one of the many things that getting my eating under control has afforded me. Gratitude. For life. It has taught me to be grateful for the gifts and the miracles. And to remember that the bummers and the upsets are not God pushing me down. They are not personal. They are life. Not just mine, either. Everybody’s life. And that they are also opportunities to be better if I want to use them.

So when I look back on this past year, and I see that it has been gift after gift, it brings tears to my eyes. I came out of that depression from quitting smoking this year. I found a love beyond my wildest dreams this year. I jumped with both feet into a new life and a new lifestyle of travel and excitement. Even though I was nervous and anxious. And I found that I love it. And just yesterday, I started a new job.

I could have found plenty to be grateful for this year. Even without love and adventure. Because I am so grateful to be in a body I love, free from my obsession with food, with my integrity intact. But 2013 has been the best year I can ever remember having. Ever. In my whole life. And while I don’t expect that every year will necessarily be so filled with so many extraordinary life altering joyous events, or so devoid of losses and pains and hardships, I can’t imagine that I’ve hit my peak yet. I fully expect for life to continue to get better.

How could life get better than this? I don’t know. But 2014, feel free to consider this a dare.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Last week, I learned about the existence of something that I found deeply upsetting. (This is gross hyperbole, by the way.) And I had to decide if I wanted to write about it here. Because I didn’t want to give it publicity. Or help steer people toward it.

But I realized pretty quickly that I needed to write about it. Because it exists. And my responsibility is to tell my truth. Not to shield others from reality.

This thing I’m referring to is something called Pro-Ana. As in pro-anorexia. As in “all for starving yourself as a means to be as thin as possible in order to be beautiful.” There are people who refer to anorexia as Ana, and often personify the disease. Like I’m hanging out with my friend Ana. She’s the only one who understands me.

Obviously, this creates a visceral reaction in me. When I looked into it, I immediately became an unsettling mix of angry, nauseous, and down-right terrified. And that kind of knee-jerk response makes me want to spout off. It makes me want to say cruel, sick things. It makes me want to lash out at these people, and verbally attack them where they are weakest. Because I know where they are weakest. It is where I, too, am weakest, and most afraid.

But I’m not going to do that today. Today, I am going to talk about disease. I am going to talk about the ways eating disorders affected my spirit and my mind. The way they ruined my life. Until I found out how to deal with them. I figured out how to control my eating disorders. Not “myself”, or my weight, or my eating. I did eventually get control of all of those things. But first I had to get control of the disease. The spiritual, mental and emotional sickness.

I’m not going to spout about health and beauty. Because to focus (attack) on health and beauty is to imply that I would like to deny people their own standards and opinions, their own choices, and their own rights to live as they want to live.

And the terrified girl inside me does want that. Wants to say that pro-ana should not be allowed. Wants to vilify the people who are creating blogs and websites promoting eating disorders, giving tips and tricks for how to be better at starving and/or purging, and glorifying extreme weight-loss with pictures and stories.

But I don’t get on my high horse when it comes to smoking, or drinking alcohol, or drug use. I have respect for healthy people’s life choices, and sympathy for people living in addiction.

But eating disorders revolve around obsession. They eliminate even the opportunity for satisfaction. And they lead to deeper and deeper self-involvement that leads, not to self-love, but to self-loathing.

I have been morbidly obese. But I have also been a bulimic, an exercise-bulimic, and a laxative abuser, among other things. I have less experience with anorexia, but I have some. I have gone through short periods of starvation. And I have gone through periods where I restricted to the point of shutting down my body. Eating only egg whites and raw vegetables. Not eating any fat. So that I stopped getting my period. And ended up so bloated that people started asking me if I were pregnant.

I went to a gynecologist when my period didn’t come for 3 or 4 months. She asked me how and what I was eating. I was secretive and dishonest. I wanted my period to come back. I wanted her to fix me. Even though I knew that the problem was the way I was and wasn’t eating.

She could never understand. I had been so fat. I could never go back there again. I needed to lose more weight. I just needed her to make me start menstruating again. It was none of her business what I was or wasn’t eating.

She put me on birth control pills. That made me get my period again. But it didn’t stop the bloating. And it didn’t stop me from feeling out of control, and crazy. It didn’t bring me the peace I wanted. I wanted my period to come back because I wanted to be assured that I was ok. But I was not ok.

So then I went on a 6 day green juice fast. I had nothing to eat for 6 days. I drank 3 green vegetable juices a day from a juice bar. That made me feel fantastic! It made me feel powerful, and in control and like master of my weight and body. It made me lose all of the water that I had been carrying in my belly. I think I lost over 15 lbs in those 6 days. And that triumph was followed by the darkest period of my life so far.

It led to uncontrollable bingeing. It led to the most damaging bulimic acts I would ever commit. It lead to the deepest self-hatred I have ever experienced. It lead to self-enforced isolation. It lead me to distrust everyone. I was delusional and crazy. I was miserable.

And I felt trapped. I couldn’t see any way out. I felt doomed. Either to perpetuate this horror of bingeing and purging and exercising and starving and striving. Or just plain giving up and gaining back the 150 lbs I had lost. And living in shame for the rest of my life.

One thing that my eating disorders did was allow me to convince myself that a certain weight would bring peace and happiness.

Of course, I might reach that goal. I did. A few times. And I would be happy. Maybe even satisfied. For a moment. But then I would either want more, or I would be tortured trying to maintain what I had accomplished. I’m saying it was never enough. I was never good enough. I was looking for perfection. And I was positive that if I were only good, better, worthy, I would attain it.

That is what my eating disorders did to me.

I can’t go on anymore today. It’s too big a topic for me to be able to handle in one post. Even having had this week to think about it. I’m feeling how scrunched up my face is at this moment. This has been painful for me. But important. I’m glad I got to write it. And I will probably write about it again in the future. But for this week, put a fork in me. I’m done.

Knock knock. Who’s there? Dopamine and metabolism. Thank God!

I have had an exciting couple of weeks! I got my dopamine back! To tell you the truth, it didn’t occur to me that it went anywhere. But now that it’s back, it’s obvious. And my metabolism started back up again!

It’s funny. I knew that quitting smoking was affecting me. And it was clear from the weight gain that it was affecting me physically. But it didn’t exactly register that it was affecting me chemically.

I knew that I was not quite right. That I was having a hard time. I think I thought about it as a “spiritual” problem. Or a “mental” problem. I knew that I had to readjust the way I dealt with things. I knew I had to learn new coping mechanisms. And I definitely learned a lot about my feelings. And how to deal with them. And (one baby step at a time) how to honor my own life without regard to how I would be judged by others. And how to make decisions that honor my heart even if they seem unreasonable, or foolish. Or scary. But I didn’t understand that my brain had stopped producing happiness chemicals. That just like my body was going to have to heal, my brain was going to have to heal. I think I thought about it as mind over matter.

In practical terms, I suppose it is just mind over matter. At least in terms of waiting out the withdrawal. It’s the actions I take and don’t take in the end that make up my life. My self-respect. My character.

I don’t smoke. I don’t eat compulsively. I don’t eat sugar. I don’t take laxatives. I don’t make myself throw up. I don’t take any drastic actions. I don’t act out. I just live with the fact that it sucks until it stops sucking. It doesn’t matter how I feel. It doesn’t matter how much weight I gain. It doesn’t matter what thoughts I have. The promises I made to myself matter. Commitment matters. Everything else is vapor and ego.

What I have learned is that these commitments end up culminating as my self-respect. They are my self-esteem. They are my dignity. And I don’t need a substance to get high. I don’t need to eat sugars, grains or starches to numb out. Or create enough crazy to escape reality. I could skip a meal. And lie about it. And I would be just as high and sick and screwed up as if I ate a chocolate cake.

But I was keeping my commitments these past seven months, and still having dark thoughts. I was unhappy. And I couldn’t seem to “bright side and gratitude” myself out of it. On a good day, the best I could do was change the channel in my head and not obsess about how much I hated my body. Or what a loser I felt like. Or how I was certain that I’m unlovable and destined for loneliness. And on a bad day, all I could do was cry. And manage to not hurt or numb myself. All I could do was keep my promises to myself and live in pain.

And now that I can feel the relief, I can see how scary that time was. How it’s kind of a miracle that I came out on the other side with my integrity. I wrote in this blog that I was unhappy, but that I was not depressed. But I was wrong. I was absolutely depressed. But it was exactly that integrity that kept me from despair. My brain was incapable of producing happy without cigarettes. My dopamine levels dropped severely. But it was nothing like the horror of 28 years of sugar addiction and self hatred.

What is interesting to me is that I knew that it would pass, because I know that’s how life works. All things pass in time. But I didn’t expect it to pass all at once. I didn’t expect it to turn on a dime. I didn’t realize that my brain would just start producing dopamine again. I didn’t even know that my dopamine levels had dropped until this week when I realized I was happy again and googled “quit smoking depression”.

And as if it couldn’t get any better, my clothes are getting looser. I bought a very sexy dress when I gained the bulk of my weight. It was sexy because it was tight. Now it’s not tight. And it’s not so sexy anymore. Now it’s just a cute dress. And I can’t tell you how happy I am about that! Plus for the first time in many months, I have been hungry between my meals. (Is that you metabolism? I’m so glad you’re here! Why don’t you stay a while…)

So hooray for going through hell and coming out on the other side! And thanks to you for being there while I got through it. I’m hoping that I am now back to my grateful, joyful self. And that I’ll get to stay here for a while.

I’m sorry, I’m too busy to go out of my way to not give you the satisfaction

I have been unhappy lately. For a long time actually. Months now. On and off since I quit smoking in June. Pretty consistently since August. Generally blue. Occasionally in a lot of emotional pain. Occasionally just raw and irritable. And invariably thinking. Thinking and worrying and puzzling and solving and predicting and planning and scrapping and reformulating and worrying some more.

 

I am purging a lot of old pain. It’s hard to squeeze out of my chest and throat area. It burns. Letting it go is interesting. I’m not used to it. It’s the kind of thing I’ve been holding in since I was 4. For the most part, it comes in a huge wave and dissipates. It sneaks up on me and it suddenly occurs to me that I’m going to cry. And then it occurs to me that I am holding it in. Holding it back. And I don’t want to do that anymore. Hold it in. Deny that I’m an emotional, cry-baby, wussy-girl. I am. I am not cool. I am not too hip to care. I care. So I cry. And my face gets all red and blotchy for a minute. Maybe two. And my eyes get glassy and wet. And then it’s done, passed. And maybe a person or two on the street or subway noticed. Maybe.

 

I have been humiliated a few times recently too. I was the butt of the joke for an entire bus full of people during the snowstorm this week. With my train not running and taking an unfamiliar route home, I waited for an hour in the snow for the wrong bus. In retrospect, a few of the buses that would have taken me home passed by. When I realized I was on the wrong bus, and asked the driver to let me off, everyone began to laugh. Tell other passengers who hadn’t heard. The hardest was the little old lady in the front cackling about how stupid I was not to have asked. I was shocked by how delighted people were by my difficulty. How they thoroughly enjoyed my pain.

 

But there is something that I have given up. Not letting them see me cry. Not giving people the satisfaction of seeing that they got to me. I don’t care if they see. I don’t care if they enjoy it. I don’t care if they get off on my hurt heart. If I need to cry I will cry. I’ll do it with dignity too. Because I do not cry because I am weak. I do not cry because I am pathetic. I cry because nobody gets to tell me how to deal with my feelings. Nobody gets to tell me not to be so sensitive. And if someone enjoys my tears, that’s none of my business. But I can pity them for that. More than I pity myself for feeling the pain.

 

I do not enjoy other people’s pain. I feel it too easily. It seems too real. I actually have to work every day at not taking on other people’s pain. I have to remind myself that just because there is suffering in the world does not mean I cannot have peace and joy and love. That just because the world does not have peace does not mean that I cannot have peace. I have to remind myself that peace begins with me. Inside.

 

I love my empathy. I am honored to be a compassionate woman with a big sensitive heart. I don’t love everything that comes with it, but I don’t see it as a weakness. And I don’t need to hide it because some people are jerks.

 

Because I used to have a surefire way of not being affected by the sadism of jerks. I smoked it. Or ate it. Or somehow got high enough that it couldn’t scrape at me. But here I am, right on the ground. Well within reach to be scraped and scratched. Too available to get by unscathed. Though, really, getting by unscathed because I was too effed up to be available wasn’t exactly the cat’s pajamas either. Or I wouldn’t have gone through all the pain I have to get here. Present. Available. Hurtable.

 

The other thing that has me unhappy is trying to acclimate to a new level of confidence and self-love. I have a new understanding of what I deserve. What I am worth. And here I am in a life built by a woman who liked herself less.

 

It’s even funny to think about how I am in so much pain because I went from being a woman who liked herself a lot, to a woman who likes herself even more. I was already so impressed by my honesty, integrity, honor. Was already overjoyed to wake up every day with such dignity and self-respect. Had already done so much incredible work on myself. And yet the gap between this new understanding of myself and my life, and the (still pretty fantastic) life I was living six months ago makes for heartache. And sadness.

 

So I’m unhappy. But let me tell you what I am not. Depressed. And that’s important to note. Because when I was eating compulsively and addictively eating sugar, I was depressed. Always. The level of self-hatred I lived with was staggering. I hated myself so consistently for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped when I quit sugar. I felt crazy on sugar. I was crazy. I had no hope. I lived in the depths of despair.

 

But today I am not in despair. I know that this will pass. It’s just a difficult stretch. A very long, difficult stretch of unhappiness. And yes, I wish it would hurry along. Because I miss being fun and funny and easy to be around. But everything in its own time.

 

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