Two Voices

I was on Facebook looking at my “On This Day” memories and came across a video I’d posted of me playing guitar and singing 3 or 4 years ago. This was at a time in my life when I was very VERY unhealthy but also skinny.

As I watched the video I noticed things I’d never noticed before. My arms were skinny, probably the best they’ve ever looked, my shoulders were cut and defined, my collarbones stood out like razorblades erupting from my flesh and my cheeks were sunken in harsh squares, a clean right angle from jaw to chin.

There are two voices in my head watching this video.

The first was horrified. Initially she’d admired the arms and shoulders, but the face so startled her that she drew back in the realization that she’d been admiring careful starvation. The video was in what I’d always thought of as my “recovery period” but I was so painfully underweight that, today, I’m thinking I may have overestimated my recovery. Or maybe, I just had a long way to come back.

The first voice wants to know how I had DONE that to myself. She wants to know how I could have missed the lank hair, the pallid face, the painful angles my skeletal structure made protruding against my skin. She remembers all the hours spent at the gym and wonders how I had “worked out” when I so lacked muscle, when I was skin and bone and not much else.

The second voice reminds me that fifteen more pounds and I’d be nearly in that range again and fifteen pounds is easy. A couple weeks of nothing but juice and an occasional handful of almonds and that face in the video could be mine again. My abs look like the after photos in BeachBody ads and yet I have this second voice telling me I could starve my way back to a thigh-gap.

This is the reality of eating disorders. They never go away. Even if you’re eating normally, and you feel in control. Even if you’re happy with the way you look. There is something in you that CRAVES starvation, purging, overexercising. The desire to punish yourself, mold yourself, shrink until you disappear never goes away. You just learn to ignore it.

I learned to get angry at it.

Probably not the most healthy reaction but finally I think I’m at a place where I can yell at that second voice to shut up. I can tell it it’s stupid and I’m fine as is, and that I do still have a couple pounds I’d like to lose, but that like the other 60 I lost, I’m going to do it the right way, so it stays off. So I can maintain. So I can eat cake on my mom’s birthday and sushi on a mini-vacay with Jo and not feel bad.

This is what being in control really feels like. I don’t know how I mistook hurting myself for control, but I did. Over and over again I took a backseat to my disorder.

I won’t do it again.

But this is today. There is always the chance of backsliding. The second voice doesn’t leave. It is patient. It waits for moments of weakness.

This is why we need to be kind to each other.

This is why media giants like Cosmo need to avoid posting unrealistic beauty goals like back and shoulder contouring.

This is why we need to remind our friends and family of the ways they are beautiful.

In hopes that it will help save others from this confusing pull in two directions over something that should be shallow and unimportant.

No one should have to choose between health and image.

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Body Positivity Week

I guess this week is body positivity week. My Facebook has been absolutely bombarded with plus size models and inspirational quotes. The “Try Guys” from Buzz Feed put out a video on photoshopped images. My friends are all reposting BPW media and I see so much positivity being put out there but (because with me there is always a but):

I have an eating disorder.

And because it’s body positivity week, it’s somehow appropriate for all these people to come out of the woodwork and haphazardly post about how they “had” an eating disorder because society, the media, photoshop, etc. but how through some radical self love and a little gumption they managed to “cure” themselves.

It’s killing me.

You don’t cure an eating disorder.

You go into remission.

And you don’t get an eating disorder from watching too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

You develop an eating disorder through a myriad of deep seated personal problems.

Because of this, it’s not as easy as just up and deciding to love yourself.

It’s not ABOUT loving yourself or being “positive.”

Personally, I’ve got so many issues I couldn’t tell you which one it was that started me off. None of my shrinks have pinpointed it either, and that’s not how therapy works anyway.

Big picture? My eating disorder, like my agoraphobia, and a couple other things we’ve never talked about here on the blog, stems from feeling a lack of control over myself, my situation, my life.

If we’re being honest, here, I have a very selfish reason behind this rant, but I think my reasons are making even more clear the problems with this week.

It just so happens that the Monday of Body Positivity week dawned on the Monday I woke up and realized I’m no longer in remission.

I had a stomach ache. The deep, painful kind you get when you’ve actually overdone it and hurt yourself. I vomited three separate times on Sunday. On purpose.

And  I recognized as I walked to the bathroom, knowing what I was about to do to myself, why I was doing it. I felt out of control. Making myself sick has a method to it. There are steps. Steps I won’t list here because reading other people recount their dealings with eating disorders is how I kept mine under wraps the seven years I went without professional treatment. But there ARE steps and going through them makes me feel like things are okay.

I’ve had a rough couple months.

I’ve had very little control at work, in my personal life, at home.

I thought I was managing, but clearly I have not been. I have just been making myself feel better by rigidly controlling what I eat and when that gets messed up, just “adjusting.”

My nails are brittle, the inside of my mouth is full of raw patches and peeling skin from acid exposure, and I woke up so dehydrated Monday morning that I felt hungover.

It’s a problem. I’ve been able to look at myself rationally, now, so I’ve be able to stop, I’m two days clean, and I’ll eventually get back to a good place.

However, this body positivity week, a movement that is supposed to be helpful to people like me is hurting me. I can look at inspirational quotes and put the most negative spin on them or wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t seem to think as positively as “You’re not fat, you HAVE fat”.

I can look at a plus sized model and either feel bad because she’s actually skinnier than me, or panic because she is my size and I DON’T WANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT, or worst of all, even if she’s bigger, I’ll feel like I don’t measure up, or I’ll reverse it and feel like I’ve gotten too bony. My collar bones are too prominent, my leg muscles are too hard and close to the surface.

I can’t win.

Besides that, this week is so superficial. Love your body! Love yourself!

This week somehow equates the self with the body, overturning this Cartesian duality that I count on to feel human.

I do love my body when I’m able to be rational. When I am centered, and not struggling to feel in control, I love my body. I am strong. I am proud of what my body can do and how far it has come. I adore being able to dance and exercise and stretch.

My body suffers at the hands of my mind, though.

I cannot love my mind because it so often betrays me.

It makes me hate my body.

It makes me want to get so small I disappear.

It tells me I have to lure a man in with my body first and that if I am attractive enough he will accept the flaws of my mind. An ass that defies gravity makes my social anxiety more acceptable. A small waist makes it easier to deal with someone who still has tics from being abused. Toned arms and legs makes bursting into tears for no apparent reason endearing instead of disconcerting.

Yeah, I know it’s all crap. Rationally.

It’s not the media making me do this. It’s me. Just me. So to equate my self with my body brings on a whole other level of confusion that serves to push me farther out of the controlled center I NEED to function.

That being said, nothing the media puts out is going to help me. I just have to pick up and sort myself out again.

It’s very isolating, to tell you the truth.

The conclusion I’ve come to, is that Body Positivity week is for people who are already positive about their body or who want everyone else to think they are.

Because those of us who aren’t body positive know better.

I hope to god no one else is having a BPW like mine.

And if you are, I’ve gone nearly 3 days without starving or purging. I will celebrate that. I know you can do the same. We’ll take it one day at a time.

We know we’ll fall into old habits.

But we also know we can pull out again in an endless tiring circle.

 

Just stay strong.

Oh, look, I’ve been Impaled

Is it too much to ask, that I be warned when someone’s planning on sticking something in my vagina??

Sorry, too much, too fast (that’s what he said…. I’ll let myself out… Sorry again) but REALLY. I feel like every time I go to the doctor for something innocuous I somehow wind up in one of those awkward gowns that don’t cover anything, with my feet in the stirrups, and someone prodding my organs around from the inside!

I had an ultrasound scheduled this morning and before you ask, no, not pregnant, but my lady garden may be killing me slowly, or trying to fuse itself to other organs. Given the choice, I’d almost rather be pregnant.

Now they gave me all my appointment info, the nurse explained I’d need to come with an empty bladder, it wasn’t like we didn’t have some conversation beforehand and this appointment was scheduled 2 weeks in advance. There was time!

I get there for my ultrasound, still nothing is said until I get into the room and then this very nice lady I’ve never met before hands me a robe and tells me my ultrasound will be of the internal variety, so to get naked and hop into the stirrups.

WHAT?

I don’t think this is okay. When I was told ultrasound, I figured goo on the belly, sticky for the next few hours, wear a cotton tea shirt, good to go. I was already anxious about having the test done anyway, since, y’know, I MIGHT HAVE AN ACTUAL MEDICAL PROBLEM. Then they wait until I’m in the room and have no mental prep time before they tell me I’m going to have a piece of machinery shoved up inside me.

I feel that as women, having been told since we were little that no one should see you naked and no one should touch your ‘private parts’ that laying back with your legs wide open and someone probing around inside you with a lubed-up speaker on a stick is uncomfortable at the very least.

Then add in all the sh!t we develop growing up into women, in my case general anxiety over anything outside my door and medical settings in particular as well as a history of moderate sexual trauma, surprise penetration is not welcome!

But where is the line? Who do I complain to? It’s not the doctor’s fault, it’s not really anyone’s fault. Anyone in that office is going to tell me that the ultrasound was standard for the sort of problems I’m having. If my lady garden is the problem, I should expect to have it prodded at from all angles. My anxiety and my mental health are a good half of the reason that such an apparently routine medical procedure has me fighting off tears and a full blown anxiety attack.  Any doctor is going to tell me that my physical health needs supersede mental health.

I don’t know what the big picture is here, but small picture, as far as I’m concerned, I need advanced notice if you expect me to take off my panties.

Come to think of it, that’s probably a good policy for most real-life settings.

Molting

I don’t make New Years Resolutions. I have never managed to keep them.

But every year in like November or February I usually come up with something I want to change and get on it. I usually manage to stick with these little changes.

When I was like 14 I decided I wanted to stop biting my nails. And I did.

Last year in March I decided I was sick of gaining weight after throwing out my back so I decided I was going to get healthy. I started going to the chiropractor, started working out, got my nutrition in line.

I am today 56 lbs lighter than I was. I fit in a pair of jean shorts I bought in high school when I was swimming 3 hours and dancing 2 hours a day. I can do more pushups than my brother. I’d say it was a success.

This year, my goal for myself was set back in early December.

I wanted to reclaim myself. That wasn’t the goal, really. It was far too vague, but it was definitely on my mind.

When I was younger I was wild. I tried out for bands, went dancing alone (or with friends), stayed out all night walking around Hollywood, then drove to the beach on the way home to watch the sun come up. I played drunk kickball with my friends in the park near our sorority house after midnight then hiked to Denny’s for pancake puppies. I stalked musicians on twitter and “bumped into them” outside restaurants.

I wrote short stories and played guitar.

I sang in the shower and danced around my kitchen.

I went to art shows.

I crept around the library like a ghost at night just before it closed and consumed 20 books a week.

I was social. I met new people all the time.

Even at my saddest I was on fire for life. I would use depression and anxiety to create something new.

In December I didn’t know where that girl went, or quite when she went. She was just gone. I wanted to find her, but I’m just SO afraid of everything these days I didn’t know where to start.

I’ve been an Agoraphobe since Junior High, if we’re being honest. Walking the halls was too much for me so during break and lunch I’d stay in the library, tucked up by the window watching everyone else, or reading. When I hit my stride in high school, I never really let it bother me as much. In the 16-20 range I worked through it easier. It just seems that whenever the joie de vivre left me, the phobia crept back in.

I decided that this year, now that I’m healthy and more confident in myself physically, that its a good time to start putting myself out there again. Maybe if I started going out and doing things with other people, I could start reclaiming my joy. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, now, I took up social dancing, and even got my roommates into it. As a result I’ve made new friends who are encouraging me (whether they know it or not) to go out and try more new things. It’s begun to feed into itself.

After a night out dancing, I would feels so good. Confident. Happy. I could take on the world if I had to. The sucky bits of work sucked less. I slept well. I jumped into my workouts with more gusto. Everything was better the days following a Blues dance. I called it my dance high.

That high has been lasting longer and longer each time I go out.

I looked at myself the other day and realized it might not be a dance high. I may just be happy again.

I’m dancing again, that goes without saying, but it’s not just blues. I listen to music again. I EXPLORE music again like I haven’t in years. I was always the girl who knew the underground, indie, new comer, up-and-comer bands and artists you HAD to listen to. I had a lyric for every moment. The perfect song for anyone. I’m getting there again.

Instead of listening to Netflix or YouTube while I cook or clean, it’s music. And I find myself dancing. All arms one moment. Jazz hands! Disco arms! Other times I’m swaying like a leaf, drifting on a summer breeze.

I’ve picked up my guitar again. An acquaintance from the Blues scene wants to form a band and I want to try out.

I started singing in the shower again some time before Dee moved in with us.

I’m a huge fan of adult coloring books.

I read before bed instead of watching Netflix and I’m back to finishing off 2+ books a week.

I’ve started writing again obviously. It’s not just this blog, either.

I dusted off some bits of fiction I workshopped in college and then abandoned somewhere in the mix. They’re lovely. I don’t know why I let them go.

..

What I’m trying to say in all this is that my life has color again. Hope.

I don’t set resolutions in definite terms because it doesn’t work that way.

If I had set a resolution to pick up all my old hobbies, it would have flopped. I would have stared at my short stories and lost faith that I could ever be creative again. I would have picked up my guitar and not had anything I cared to play. I would have played the old songs I knew and got irritated that I couldn’t play them like I used to.

Instead, I started doing something different. Something I knew I could do. Something I had support for. Something that would make me happy and get me out of the house and start me on a new trajectory.

Everything else fell back into place.

Its not the activities that matter, it’s how you feel.

Right now, I feel good. Not all the time. But in general, and most of the time, I feel great. Feeling great feeds into itself just like feeling awful does, so if I continue on. If I set attainable goals for myself I can keep moving forward and putting myself on the right path.

And I plan on doing just that.

Have you ever…

Have  you ever dreamed you were performing a strip tease to weird warped versions of stuff you listen to in real life for someone with no face, just a body and eyes? But not in a horror kind of way, just in a not-recognizable as one person or another kind of way?

But you still have a sneaking suspicion who they are?

And you wake up and are like “damn, I’m hot” abut then realize you’re wearing a 3XL batman tee shirt you stole from your brother and your morning breath may be the reason the cat is under the bed instead of in it?

And then you wonder what you must have looked like dreaming that dream.

And then that sneaking suspicion from your dream comes back and you think you know those eyes and you’re all I’M DREAMING OF HIM??? WHYYYYYYYY???? 

And you replay the whole thing anyway because you WERE actually kind of hot?

No?

 

Cool, great, me neither.

MBTI: the new dating profile!

I have this friend. He’s a new friend. He’s a guy friend.

If we get really specific he’s a friend of a friend I’ve danced with a few times.

He messages me every day trying to get to know me and his game is obvious, even for your favorite Queen of Insecurities here. He flat asked me out once but I legitimately was out of town that day (unlike this other time, with this German kid, sorry, story for another day).

Sadly, I have no interest at all. I would like to keep him neatly packed into the friend zone, but he messages me every day without fail and apparently everything he hears just makes him more persistent. He follows me on every form of social media and whenever I post something new, I get a message.

“Hi Tais. I noticed your post on IG where you posted a Bastille lyric under a photo of your cat. What kinds of music do you listen to?” (He hasn’t actually sent me this exact message, yet, but I have definitely posted my cat on Instagram with a loosely related Bastille lyric for the caption. I AM that girl).

I answer him, and try to be brief as possible to help him get the hint, but I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

I don’t want to ignore him, that’s rude and also just REALLY obvious. And rude.

I also don’t think continuing to answer his questions is doing us any good either.

So because I’m a fail, this will probably continue on for a while yet, but the point of all this is not how hard I fail in the old romance department.

The point is, the other day one of his questions was, out of nowhere: Tais, what’s your MBTI personality type?

In the words of Dave Barry I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

I copy and pasted it from Facebook (minus my name) to make sure it was identical, punctuation and all!

Is that a weird question for anyone else?

I studied Psychology for a while so to me, it seems hyper-clinical and invasive and just a weird thing to ask of someone you weren’t actively head-shrinking.

For those of you unaware: the MBTI stands for “Myers Briggs Type Indicator” and its a questionnaire that categorizes your personality into one of 16 types based on how you use your perception and judgement. You can read more on it here and take a free version of the MBTI here. Its fun.

Sorta.

If no one is demanding that you share your type with them.

The two times I’ve taken the MBTI, I never shared my results with anyone other than my best friend and that was because she knew me so well she could guess or probably answered everything on my behalf with the same results.

Sharing a personality indicator to someone who is mostly a stranger? Horrifying. Not doable.

Where is the line of appropriate when it comes to trying to date someone?

I used to get snippy when people asked my race at bars.

It’s apparently an acceptable pick up line. “What are you?”

I’d get confused, they’d explain “well clearly you’re mixed but what are you?”

I’m sorry mofo, last time I checked I’m a human being and don’t really see any reason to give you a freaking lecture on my genealogy. Especially since you’re too drunk to appreciate it.

So my usual takeaway from that line is “Does my face look THAT weird?” Which I’ve yet to ask anyone. But I may some day. Would THAT be inappropriate?

I’ve had guys tell me I have a dimple in my cheek and it’s a good place for a dimple. Which isn’t offensive or intrusive, but is still pretty weird.

The list of weird approaches to hitting on girls goes on and on and I just do not understand the process behind most of them.

Maybe I just don’t understand men.

I mean CLEARLY I don’t understand men, but basic social convention was something I thought I had a handle on.

Psychological profiling as courtship, though?

Not the way to go in my book.

Einstein’s Theory of Psychosexual Stages.

I work at a tutoring company as I’ve mentioned previously.

I interview incoming tutors and sometimes they say some pretty profound things.

Today was not one of those times.

Today for some content screening I asked an applicant what school of thought was founded by Sigmund Freud and she responded with “School of thought? Freud? That was like the e=mc^2, right?”

For a moment I thought she’d misunderstood the question, or that she was kidding. She had to be. She was studying psychology and statistics AT MY ALMA MATER FOR CHISSAKES! I’d taken some of her required coursework for elective credit!

Then I realized I hadn’t said anything in far too long and didn’t know how to ask if she’d misheard without letting on she was truly, horrifically, incorrect and she was waiting for my response and probably NOT kidding so in classic form I panicked, said “Great!” a wee bit too enthusiastically and made up a new, simpler, question.

She didn’t screen well for anything else. Which is fine, there’s no shame in needing some review but why WHY would you apply to TEACH OTHER PEOPLE a subject you don’t understand yourself?

And what is GODS NAME has happened to the psychology curriculum at my old school since I left?

As a bonus I will share my coworkers’ response to the e=mc fiasco:

“Is that Freud guy the same person that theorized gravity when an apple fell on his head?”

“No, Freud’s the one with the key and the kite.”

“Wait, didn’t he chop down a cherry tree? Same fellow who couldn’t tell a lie?”

“NO! That was the guy with the wooden teeth who got shot in the theater!”

And because I am a freaking professional, at no point did I allow myself to scream “PENIS ENVY!!!” over this conversation.

This was then followed by my snarky friends on Facebook suggesting that Joan of Arc was married to Noah, Einstein created the lightbulb, Napoleon tried/failed to conquer the USSR and Ben Franklin wrote the Constitution.

I have a face to face interview with a History tutor later.

Either I’m screwed or they are.