Tag Archives: feelings

My Daughter Called Someone Fat

It was a beautiful autumn Friday in New England.  My daughter had just completed two successful, confidence-inspiring hours of gymnastics at the Little Gym.  (In a blue shiny leotard we had just purchased, nonetheless!)  We walked back to the car, hand-in-hand; I was proud of this time.  She was a baby who had low muscle tone, and I had put her in gymnastics purposefully.  Now, she was doing flips over the bars.

As I unlocked the car, Fiona started to gaze off into the distance.  Stare, in fact.  I followed her gaze to her classmate and parents, who were walking together.

A slow smirk spread over her face, as her gaze focused on the obese father.

“Mama, he’s fat.” She continued smirking, and an implied sense of power washed over her as she realized she was NOT and he WAS.

Not my daughter.

******

For those of you who don’t know, I was a FAT kid.   I was mocked for it by classmates, I was deemed “disgusting”, I was even sexually assaulted by a classmate in music class “because I was fat.”  (Because I deserved it, because I was fat.)

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There are people who will view this who will argue with me and say that there’s no negative connotation with being fat.  They will tell me that I’m too sensitive and that I put too many expectations on my daughter and I say to them, I AM DONE WITH YOU.

I LIVED it and I continue to live it every time I lose 5 pounds and I am praised for it.  I continue to live it every time I gain weight and I notice people give me less compliments about my appearance.  You are bullshitting yourself if you think there is no negative connotation with being fat.  There is less today, but it still exists.

When Fiona uttered this sentence, I panicked.  Where did she pick this up?  I, for one, don’t use the word fat.  I use the word heavy and overweight, but not fat, because I know what it carries with it. We also refer to foods as being healthy, or having “vitamins to make you run fast”.  Had she picked it up from her friends?  Seen it on an ad?  I was a little stunned, and a little disgusted, even know the intellectual side of me knew she was four years old.  She reminded me of that blonde in my class on the playground who always made fun of my awkward body during Project Adventure.

“Fiona, we do not say that.  That is not nice.  Get in the car.”

I buckled her up, prayed, and said to myself – Do not be hard on her.  Do not project your experience on her and shame her.  Just be honest, factual, and tell her your experience.

“Fiona, I have to tell you a story.”

“What?”

“A long time ago, Mama was overweight when she was a kid.  A lot of people made fun of Mama and called her fat and it made Mama feel really, really bad.  So I know how it feels, and it doesn’t feel good.  That’s why we don’t call people fat.”

I don’t know if was blood memory, or a sudden lightbulb that went off in her head, but Fiona’s face turned ashen.  Her face crumpled, and she GOT IT.  Like, mourned for her mother got it.  Like, cried all the way home got it.  I immediately felt horrid, even know I know I maintained an even tone (isn’t this motherhood thing fucked?)

On the way home, she turned her face into the seat, ashamed.  I tried to reiterate my unconditional love for her. “Baby, Mama doesn’t think any differently of you – Mama would love you even if you punched somebody!  It’s just important we’re kind to people.”  It didn’t seem to help.  She whimpered and finally started to come around after I distracted her with a joke.

*****

Parenthood is brutal.  It’s even more brutal with a trauma history you have to dissect and not project onto your kids whilst maintaining some sort of a lesson for them when they’re unkind.  Childhood is brutal too – imagine not knowing you were being unkind, and then being told you were being unkind in a way that hurt your parent when they were kids?  Imagine being so innocent and then not, knowing your Mama was hurt for the way she looked?  And would that happen to you?

Yesterday, someone on my husband’s facebook feed disagreed with the meme that Donald Trump’s words about sexual assault leading to the actual crime did not matter, and that words are very different from actions.  I sit here enraged, thinking about that, because I know the effect of words.  Words that lead to sexual assault.  “FAT” leading to “less than” leading to “it’s ok to touch her in a sexual way because she’s less than”.

Not my daughter.

 

 

 

“Mama, Will I Take Pills Too When I Grow Up?”

prozacThe complexities of raising a child when you have a mental illness

Every morning, my daughter and I have breakfast together.  It’s imperative to me that she has it every day; studies have touted the multiple benefits of having breakfast.  Plus, she’s honestly Linda Blair from the Exorcist when she doesn’t have it.  That’s an added incentive.

I either have oatmeal or cereal mixed with yogurt; she often has cereal, fruit, and yogurt.  She drinks milk and I drink my coffee, just with cream.  And beside my coffee lay my two magnesium pills (for my migraines) and my tab and a half of Prozac.

We are not a house who hides things.  We burp loud and have loud emotions and make big mistakes and both the parents and kid say sorry in our house.  We also don’t hide the fact that Mommy takes two different kinds of pills in the morning: one for her muscle health, and one for her brain health.

The learning process started slowly.  My daughter first noticed the black and white pills on the table, and exclaimed as any three-year old would, “Me have!”  I then proceeded to educate her that she cannot just pick up any pill and take it; that these were for adults, and if kids had to take them, adults would inform them what and when.

She then asked, “What dat do?”

“One helps Mama to have less headaches.  The other helps Mama’s brain to work well.”

This was followed by a few days, where on the playground, or after nap time, my daughter would trot up to me and ask, “Where is my brain?”  And I’d point to her head, and she’d remember, and trot off.

I was fully confident in the way I was handling things until a few days ago, when bleary-eyed, I turned to my daughter at breakfast, and she asked quizzically,

“When I’m an adult, I will take pills?”

I wanted to choke on my cereal.

In the sentence she uttered, I felt the judgment of a million anti-medication people yelling at me, thinking I’ve set my kid up for a life of drug addiction.  I felt the despair of a mother who, having her own mental health struggles, was worried she was raising a child who had to be on medication to be happy.  I felt the uncertainty of my daughter, who knew that these “pills” held some importance, and, was it something desirable?  Something to be scared of?

I knew this wasn’t true; that one day, she’d have the cognitive ability to wrap her mind around the fact that I’d made a healthy decision for myself, but for now, it stung.

Even in today’s somewhat-enlightened society, being a mother on medication is not something you yell from the rooftops.  There are the types who believe that everything can be solved through the chiropractor and through organic, gluten-free food, but that is simply not true.  And those types feel free to pass judgment on those who actually have experience with mental illness.  There are cases, cases like me in which the person feels suicidal unless they are on the correct dosage of medication.

More power to the people who can solve their depressive episodes with a change in exercise routine.  I cannot.  More power to the people who can take away their anxiety by practicing mindfulness skills.  I cannot.  People like me are wired differently, perhaps by biological makeup, or perhaps by early trauma.  There is nothing worse about us.  We haven’t tried less or made less of an effort.

I mean, perhaps I wouldn’t experience depression or anxiety if I didn’t work full-time as a therapist and mother, and didn’t owe thousands of dollars in student loans.  My life simply doesn’t afford me time to spend at a Zen Buddhist retreat for weeks on end.

So what do I want my daughter to know?  When she’s grown and ready to handle this information?

I want her to know her Mama spent years trying to self-medicate her depression and anxiety through alcohol and numbing eating behaviors, and that during that period, her cholesterol went up and her blood pressure reached dangerously low levels.  I want her to know she tried exercise as a form of endorphin release, but that it ended up becoming obsessive.  I want her to know that once Mama took those prescribed-by-a-doctor pills, she was able to stop screaming and she was able to be a good Mama.  I want her to know that her Mama finally realized her therapist was right about it being ok to rely on something to feel like she wanted to live on this planet.  I want her to know her Mama chose life, and not being a martyr, and not suffering.  And I want her to know it’s ok to rely on something, if need be, too.  That it wouldn’t be something she did wrong; it would be an act of bravery to admit she needed help.

Most importantly, I want her to know:

Just because Mama takes pills, doesn’t mean you’re going to.

And that’s what I told her uncertain, quizzical face that morning.

“No, your brain works great.  You might not ever need pills honey.  Mama’s brain just works a little different.”

And at that, she grinned and burped loudly.

 

I Just Don’t Think It’s That Simple

Today it was painful to be alive.  Every fiber of my being was uncomfortable; I couldn’t stand the weight of my body today.  It hung on me.  I felt it in my jeans and felt every bite in my stomach.  If you think I’m being dramatic, I’m not; this is how I experience things sometimes, as someone in recovery from an eating disorder.   Ask someone else you know who’s in recovery from one.

I have days like this.  Bad days.  Days when I envision myself swinging into a binge cycle again.  Days when I envision swinging into a restrictive cycle as a result of the aforementioned binge cycle.  And I went into recovery ten (!!) years ago.  Sad and destructive?  Hardly.  Realistic, I think.  Given the other comorbid diagnoses I’ve dealt with.

I’ve talked about the “once you’ve recovered, you’ve recovered!” camp for a long time.  The people who claimed they had a “lightbulb” moment and never turned back, never put their body down again, never consulted with ED once more.  OK, being a bit (a bit) more humble now, I’ll bite (no pun intended): I bet there are a select few who’ve had this experience.  Perhaps the same amount who’ve married someone they’ve never fought with, or who had a mind-numbing spiritual experience and never craved a drink again.  But for most of us bozos on the bus, I just don’t think it’s that simple.

(Speaking of that, I really wanted to drink today.  But I didn’t.  Whoop de frickin da.)

For most of us, we wake up and don’t have time to meditate for twenty perfect minutes, and no, we weren’t going to wake up twenty minutes earlier, because we were up tossing and turning/up with our kids and needed that extra 20.  For most of us, we’re shot out of a cannon when our kid peels our eyelids open with their fingers/when our cat meows in our face.  We then head downstairs to find cat puke right in front of the bathroom doorway, and in between reaching for the bathroom cleaner, silently bemoan the fact that we still owe 25,000 in student loans and will never be able to afford a house – now, now we are judging ourselves for not being mindful and worrying senselessly, and our daughter is yelling for the TV to be turned on, that ever-destructive-causer-of-doom TV, and we’re reminding her to use her manners.  And that’s only the first 5 minutes.

That is how most of us go through our day.  Well, you’ll have to excuse me.  That’s how I go through it; I can’t speak for all of you.

That’s why, when I hear people speak of “never turning back” on recovery and being “free of ED”, I am skeptical.  Did never turning back account for those six weeks post-birth when you couldn’t exercise because your body was healing and your mind when nuts because of it?  No, it didn’t.  And did being “free of ED” chide you relentlessly when you decided to restrict your eating when your father died because it was the only way you could cope?  Yes, it did, because wasn’t I supposed to do this recovery thing perfectly?  And here I was, nine years in, having a small relapse?

Being perfect at recovery doesn’t work for me because being perfect was the essence of my life-killing eating disorder.

It’s important that I can screw up at this thing, and know that it’s still ok.  That it doesn’t mean this time I lose my job because I’m too weak; that it just means I go to more meetings and therapy.  I think, unfortunately, this is a chronic disease, and that’s not marketable in the field of recovery.  It’s not marketable to say, “You’re going to deal with a little of this for the rest of your life.”  But that’s how addiction is.  You have to keep an eye on it.  It’s always in wait.

And keeping an eye on myself everyday?  Is that a tedious thing?  No, it’s actually a beautiful, heartbreaking and staggering undertaking that has only served to better me as a person.  I’ve heard people in self-help meetings claim they are grateful for their addiction, and I jive with that.  The things I’ve discovered about myself due to this journey.  And, I think it’s really healthy and humble when one can name all the parts of themselves.  The addict, the fighter, the daughter, the singer, the crier, the writer.  To dismiss one part of yourself, even a dark part, would be doing a disservice to yourself.

Don’t get me wrong; I hope to God I wake up tomorrow and magically have the hypomanic get-up-and-go that I usually have; I hope I go for a run and get those wonderful ol’ endorphins rushing.  I wish I could have someone else’s brain.  But I don’t.  I have an eating disorder and I can’t drink and I have depression.  The grace in all of this, the marker that tells me that I’m growing, is that I now know this too shall pass.  I didn’t always know that.  And that’s a gift that didn’t magically appear to me one day.  It came to me after years of hard work on myself that really wasn’t all that simple.

Another Piece of Birthday Cake

Thirty-three.

YIKES!  I turned thirty-three!

And I was thrown a surprise (well, not-so-surprise-since-I-snooped-through-his-phone) party by my boyfriend.  What a lucky gal am I!

And, respecting my introvert limits, my bf invited a small, intimate group of people, including my parents and brother.  It was perfect, but can I tell you?  I still have trouble tolerating attention on ME.  Being a long-time caretaker, I have no trouble lavishing attention and care on others.  However, when it comes to me, it seems too indulgent and undeserving.  Inaccurate, isn’t it?  But it also reminds me of my old anorexic voice.  “Take up less space!”  “You don’t need anything!”  Which, of course, is so unhealthy.  So I gritted my teeth and accepted the best of the best of friends’ praise and presents.

So, I usually hate posting food, but I wanted to document the awesome spread that we had:

We had some raw veggies and veggie dip courtesy of a Pickety Place veggie dip mix:

 

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…And some delicious pumpernickel bread and dill dip which is a family recipe of my bf’s.  Yes, I eat bread.  It’s ok to eat bread:

 

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Plus, some amazing salsa-and-cheese Mexican dip:

 

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And let me go back to the amazing friends I have.  My best friend, Cory Norbutus, is the creator of Heart Healthy Tips.  I love her website and lifestyle because it encourages a balance of indulgence and activity.  She is a personal trainer who believes in both indulging in Chinese food AND doing a ton of burpees in the middle of a 3 mile walk.  We met at UMass in 2000 freshman year, and the rest is history.  I’d like to think our lifestyles complement each other.  Here is the two of us on my birthday:

 

corynme

 

 

I think, per usual, the challenge for me that day lay in a. sitting with being full, and b.  not taking care of others and enjoying my day!  Why is it so hard for some of us to accept love and praise?  For me, the whole role of perfectionism in anorexia lies underneath this issue.  For example – if I’m imperfect and make mistakes, then I don’t deserve love at all.  Which is so.  innaccurate.  In fact, I believe it’s a cognitive distortion called all-or-nothing thinking.  As I spoke about in a previous entry, we are all human and mess up from time to time.  It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve love.

We deserve it just because we exist.

I will leave you with this beautiful bouquet of flowers I was given – perfect red roses and gladiolas, my favorite flower (and incidentally, August’s flower).

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Do you have trouble accepting love and praise?  What about it is hard for you to embrace?

 

PS:  The only shot I got of my birthday cake was messy, so that’s why you don’t see some cake up on this entry.

Feeling The Burn.

I burned my thumb badly yesterday.

I had been cooking dinner for Fiona, and my mind was preoccupied with some current stress that’s been going on.  Fish sticks were on the menu, so I had preheated the oven, and was getting ready to pop them in.  There was another baking pan in the oven I hadn’t seen, so I put an oven mitt on one hand, and proceeded to absentmindedly grab the 425 degree pan with my bare thumb and forefinger that was not covered.

It hurt like f&$*.

And I felt like an idiot.  If I didn’t have stuff going on, then I wouldn’t have been distracted by my thoughts, and I wouldn’t have burned myself.  And if I didn’t burn myself, my entire attention would be on Fiona, and not on submerging my hand in a cup of cool water whilst dowsing it with aloe.

And it hurt for awhile.  It bubbled and swelled up.  It was most likely a small second degree burn, and the severe pain lasted for a couple of hours, more than the medical website said first degree burns should last.

I kept my hand in water for a really long time, because I simply couldn’t tolerate the pain and take care of a 19 month old at the same time.  I would take my hand out periodically and gage how severe the pain was.  When I first took it out, it STUNG.  It hurt.  So I pushed it back in the water.

But as the hours passed, I noticed something.  When I initially took my hand out of the water, if I could just sit with that painful burn, that passing glaring sting, then the pain would slowly decrease.  It got used to being in the air.  And by the time night fell, the pain was almost nonexistent.

And if you’re thinking this is a big goddamn metaphor for how my addictive side can deal with pain, then by George, you’re right.

******

I hate that sometimes I slip back into avoidant behavior.  But I do.  When you deal with any kind of addiction, avoidant or numbing behaviors can creep back up on you in the sneakiest of ways.  Yesterday, once I got over the embarassment of burning myself accidentally, I was able to see how it paralleled my (rapidly decreasing) ways of handling feelings.  The pattern, as detailed above, is as follows:

 

1.  There is a problem/incident

2.  I immediately judge myself for having the problem/incident happen, and the subsequent feelings that come up,

and

3.  I push the feelings away and numb them in some sort, whether it be by getting attention, skipping a meal, binging, or whatever.

 

The good news is, these days, I seem to find my way back to feeling feelings again.  With a small u-turn at avoidance crossing.

I do this with the help of several friends and spiritual guides; I cannot do this on my own.

Glennon from Momastery talks about the role of reducing shame in conquering addiction.  Getting rid of that shame is such a big player.

Your feelings are your feelings, bottom line.  They are amazing signposts of where you should journey next and what your truth is, but in certain communities and families, we’ve been taught to push them away.  They’re non-existent, in some cultures.  Which is a shame, because when we avoid our feelings we are avoiding one of the most human experiences in the world.  And at the end of the day, they’re just…feelings.  A body’s reaction to the circumstances around us.

A very wise woman has told me frequently, “Pain is a great motivator.”

She’s right.

I think it’s kind of funny that after a couple of weeks of not blogging and taking time to process some things, literal pain is what motivated me to write again.

And I hope that my emotional pain can guide me exactly where I need to go.

 

How about you?  Have you experienced shame when it comes to feelings?  How has it played a role in your eating disorder or experience in life?