Let Food Be Thy Medicine…

and medicine be thy food.

Clearly, Hippocrates wasn’t addressing binge eaters when he said this.

Fun fact: When you eat with a migraine, you no longer feel the pain. Food is a powerful tool, eh? I don’t suffer from migraines, thankfully. However, although I will deny it until the end, I’m often in “pain.” I don’t physically feel pain, but my baseline is a little low. I have my manic days, weeks, months. Otherwise, I’m just a tad below middle ground at all times. Food was always my medicine. Every negative emotion, small or large tells me, “Eat.” My therapist uses the words “eating” and “medicating” interchangeably. I’ve come to accept what I first believed to be confusion, at least regarding me.

I spent my childhood and early adolescence mainly “medicating” with food. In addition to overall poor nutrition, I ended up overweight. By the sixth grade, I was in a restrict/binge cycle. No food for a week would lead me to eat twice as much the next week. During early high school, I was back to medicating. This time, I became obese. After high school, I experienced a mild period of restriction in addition to exercise bulimia. I was creating a deficit by running up to ten miles per day while eating far too little calories for my activity. At a normal weight for the first time in years, I backed off the exercise a bit. My nutrition was better now, but old habits die hard. Enter a couple years of intense bulimia. There was no premeditation, I just threw up roughly 50% of my meals. I maintained my weight, but I was exhausted by all the vomiting, naturally. Enter anorexia. It only took a few months to become the sickest I have ever been, and now I’m here. I’m still all of these people if I’m being honest. Try as I might, I can’t escape. The past couple of months brought on a new diagnosis though. I’m fairly certain that now I have lived every diagnose-able eating disorder to its full extent. I’m not saying I’ve been defeated, but I could really use a break.

Enter night-eating syndrome. This little known problem is currently the bane of my existence. I wrote about it before, hoping it would be a phase. I was open about it in hopes that it would create accountability. I have faced it each and every day ready to finally defeat it. Alas, it never fails. Between 56 and 62 minutes after falling asleep, I wake up and I eat. I cannot fall back asleep if I do not eat. I’m not binge-eating by definition most of the time, but I can never anticipate it when it happens. I sometimes have a pear and a slice of toast. Easy peasy, guilt-free, and back to bed. Other times though, I’ll spiral into 3,000 calories, waking up five times in the middle of the night.

I have tried everything. I hide the food. I plan the meals. I have taken every supplement and sleep-aid known to man besides prescriptions. Evidently, the diagnosis is brought on by stress and/or history of a restrictive eating disorder. You don’t just starve without facing the consequences, especially when you have anxiety. At this point, I am planning to work with my therapist to find a combination of a sleep-aid and SSRI that will hopefully allow me to live in peace, finally.

The interrupted sleep and rapid weight gain has caused me more setbacks than I can possibly explain. Nothing makes the desire to restrict or purge stronger than a lack of control over what I eat. I have made so much progress in no longer fearing food, eating with other people, and in my attitude toward moderation. There are no rules anymore. I eat bread now. This is coming from the girl who has been brought to tears by an apple on numerous occasions. Then I wake up everyday with a pit of guilt in my stomach. I can’t even look in the mirror most mornings.

Thinking back to my worst days, I know I never want to live under restriction again. I can’t. I wanted to be dead, and the desire to live and breathe is something I am entirely unwilling to sacrifice. But I get caught up.

A few weeks ago when I went to Chicago, I used it as an excuse. Being outside of my typical home environment essentially means I can’t give into the night-eating syndrome. For me, this meant I wouldn’t give into eating at all. A mere day in starvation mode had me high from the hunger. It’s truly sick. I was exhausted at 4 p.m., and I couldn’t bear 60 degree weather without shaking. It doesn’t take much to spiral down the rabbit hole. It’s not pleasant by any means, but nothing makes me feel better.

I sat across from a table in a cafe with the one person who knows every single thing about me (Hi, Jenni). She gradually worked into a conversation in which she expressed her concern, and she cried for me. Excuse me while I’m a huge cheeseball, but there is no one on this planet who I will ever love more – nobody could ever possibly be more important to me. Our lives are always paralleling one another’s, and we share an incredible bond. I told her that I wanted to destroy myself and everything around me, and I meant it. I know better, but I was being honest because I could be. The only thing that could possibly put my irrational thinking process into perspective was knowing that the person I care the most about was feeling my pain to its core in that moment. She is one of two people who saw my suffering at its very worst, from beginning to end, and she is the one who stuck with me.

I came home exhausted from a long, overnight Greyhound trip. The first thing I did? I stepped on the scale. I had lost ten pounds. I looked in the mirror utterly delighted. Physically, I felt worse than I had in months. I mean, the bus ride was pretty rough, but I looked gaunt once again. My skin was blue-ish and I could see all of my bones. My face was sunken. I was away for three days. That’s all it took to reverse the progress of eight months of recovery. Three days.

It’s an absolutely terrifying realization to have. I still have days like those days I spent in Chicago, and I’m faced with the reality that everything around me will fall apart if I continue down that path. So, I choke down the food. And I cry about it. Nobody is making me, which makes me feel even worse. But I would rather suffer through that than what I’ve already been through. And to end yet another sad blog post, I will say that things are getting better, and I will not give up on making them better. Probably by drinking coffee.

 

coffee

 

 

 

Before our suffering’s suffering, hadn’t we suffered enough?

I suppose it’s about time I post something here again. To be quite honest, I haven’t posted mainly because I don’t feel quite healthy enough to write anything positive. I’ve considered writing the truth down, but I’m not sure I can do so without it being really grim. Overall, I couldn’t find a comfortable topic to write about. Things have been really up and down to say the least. I mean, I’ve been in a pretty steady manic state for the most part, but it is broken up by days – literal days – of crying every so often. I’m starting to believe that it’s not as functional as I’ve been making it out to be, but I am getting by. Anyways, I’m writing because I want to focus on the upward momentum. No matter the turmoil, it is becoming easier to remember it’s been much worse, and I am capable of happiness.

It’s been a strange couple of weeks. To recap briefly: I called off work sad and ran away to Chicago for a few days with my best friend.

ougjennicaI started online dating which has been much more fun and much less creepy than I imagined. I became a Lyft driver which is now my third job, and it’s fucking awesome. I’ve gone to a few fantastic shows… Atmosphere, Neko Case, Tegan and Sara, Swans, and got tickets for TUNE-YARDS! Oh, and I dyed my hair blonde because I was having an “appearance crisis,” and I already chopped it all off. I’m aiming for a nice white to fulfill my dreams of being Annie Clark.

blonde

Anyhoo, now for the part of the blog post that has some sort of purpose…

As a joke, I’ve been referring to work as “group therapy.” The more and more I say it, though, the more truthful it becomes. I work at a library in the basement. We shelve books all day, and there’s a lot of downtime. On the weekends, I work with the same crew. The bond that we’ve created is something that can’t be replaced. At some point, the dynamic shifted. Since then, the relationships between us have become something profound in my opinion. This is only the most obvious instance – all relationships, old and new are flourishing for me at the moment.

At some point after deciding to become a human again, I also decided to stop holding back. I put it all out there on this blog, so I wanted to be able to translate that candidness to my real life. I really don’t know how conscious the effort was. I was already a fairly open person in the first place as far as I can recall, but my new approach has created a much more evident impact. Since then, my relationships have become much deeper. The sense of understanding that I’ve cultivated in myself and others, in the groups of people I interact with, and on a personal level is a truly beautiful thing.

For one, by being open, I’m talking about mental illness. Often, I use humor as a way to approach “how I really feel,” but it still communicates those feelings. Initially, someone might not take me so seriously. But it’s an ice breaker – that joke might still work to get someone to relate to you. It breaks down the stigma. It still works to create empathy, which is the basis of these relationships.

I’m the kind of person who could talk about themselves for hours. In that sense, I sometimes feel overbearing, and I end up apologizing. By revealing myself, though, and sharing the most disturbing parts of me, I’ve found that the recipients of my weird thoughts will start to do the same. It feels like a revelation – why aren’t we all going around like open books trying to get others to spill their guts? It almost seems obvious.

When you let yourself be vulnerable and allow others to let their guard down, you are ultimately given this incredible opportunity to heal. Something that you’ve wanted to say for days or weeks or years will surface, and the chance to rid you of that thought is presented. It’s so simple, but it’s overlooked too often. It’s very unfair that humans inherently feel the need to hide things that really matter to them.

When we listen to others, I believe that our first goal should be not to pass judgment. The second goal would be to stop thinking about what you will say next – just listen, you will figure it out when it’s your turn. And when it is your turn, treat it like an apology – what can you say then to make it better? Not the situation, but the conversation itself. What words or experience will turn that person’s courageous effort to be vulnerable into a valuable interaction and create momentum to move forward?