Tag Archives: mental health

Why Taking a Walk in the Woods Won’t Cure Depression

sadmandaI was a weird, weird kid.

I used to sit on the bus and stare at the back of the seat in front of me.  It was dark green and had lines running through it.  I remember the light filtering through the window, passing above my knees in a streak. I was five, and I was newly aware of mindfulness.  “Now is now”, I repeated to myself.  My mind was blown – almost to a dissociative level – time seemed to stand still when I thought that now was truly now, and there would never be another moment like it.

I wasn’t really aware of my uniqueness until I grew older, and realized all of my friends watched shows I never did, and did sports, and were just KIDS.  Most of my teenage years were spent going to stores with my mother and Nana, checking out in my head, living in a fantasy world, perhaps because reality was too hard.  Who knows.  All I knew growing up is that gratitude didn’t help me – it made me feel guilty, because I knew I had privilege and had some nice things but it just didn’t register.

As I got older and went to college and grad school and self-medicated with alcohol and restriction of food, I wasn’t aware that I was wearing a different pair of glasses than everyone else.  I wore dark, shaded sunglasses, while the rest of you wore regular near-sighted glasses.  You could see things as they were, the good and the bad.  But I could only see the bad.  Everything had a dark shade to it.  And the thing is, I thought this was completely normal.  I thought everyone laid in bed for hours on end and cried everyday and had fights with their friends because of it. So when I saw peers moving on and having successful relationships and having confidence I began to be bewildered.  Why couldn’t I get it?  In fact, a friend in grad school once remarked, “Amanda, I will be so happy the day that you say things are just “good”.”

10 years later, with 7 years of sobriety, individual and couples therapy, self-help groups, and medication, things still seem darker than I believe they do for most.  And let it be known I’m not negating “regular” people’s troubles or moods.  Everything everyone feels is valid.  However, I’m a sensitive soul, in all meanings of the word.  If I don’t get the right amount of sleep, my depression is triggered.  If I don’t exercise (which is a natural antidepressant), I run the risk of having a worse day.  This can get tricky when it comes to the eating disorder, because I also can’t get into repetitive, joyless exercise that I only do for my waistline.

When I have normal events in my life happen, I only see the bad.  For example, when my daughter was born, everything seemed tortuous, because I wasn’t sleeping which triggered my depression which also made it impossible to exercise because who can  or should exercise on 2 hours of sleep anyway?  I could see she was beautiful, but couldn’t enjoy it.  When it comes to being married, my dark sunglasses show me only the fights, the unnaturalness of staying with one person the rest of your life.

And when Robin Williams committed suicide?  I got it.  I wouldn’t ever do it, because I have a beautiful daughter to take care of, but I got it.  When life’s stress piles up over those dark sunglasses, it can seem like too much to stay here.

Do you see how it is chronic?  Well-managed but still chronic.  Easily affected by any little change.  And isn’t simply cured by a walk in the woods.

Don’t get me wrong – things are WAY better.  I get to help people with the same problems every day at my job, and I consider myself to be somewhat of an emotions ninja, someone who can, on a good day, utilize my drive to master any shots depression takes at me. And I’m a really good interpreter.  When my daughter asks me questions about emotions, I know what to say.  I know what to say in a current world full of people who call emotional souls “snowflakes”.  Which is sad, because emotions are directly connected to our medical health.  Why do you think married couples die so close together, so often?

Here’s how I try to live my life.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color, super poor, or LGBTQ.  So I don’t try to tell those people what their perspective should be.  Because I’m not them, and I simply don’t know.  But I do know something about mental health, and eating disorders, and alcoholism.  So listen up.  This shit can’t be cured by just a walk in the woods.

 

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.)

fullsizerender-5

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.

 

 

 

Loud

cropped-mybody-e13679720998001.jpg“You gotta be loud, if you want their attention.”

Last night, at my weekly self-help meeting, I gazed back at the well-intentioned man who stood before me, trying to help me start some announcements.  He was right; my quiet-when-in-a-group voice wouldn’t be enough to call over the crowd.  But his statement brought up a thousand hurts.

“Be a strong woman!” I was told by the aggressive female professor at the University of Hartford after I met with her, uncharacteristically struggling in an English class.

“Don’t worry; Alan will get rid of your shyness,” said the girl I huddled offstage with as we worked crew for The Battleship Potemkin freshman year at Hartt.

“Oh, I admire someone like you, who is shy and still tries,” said the asinine former supervisor at an outpatient counseling clinic, as he signed off on my clinical hours.

The message I received over, and over, and over again:

You are not enough.

You are not enough.

You are not enough.

Until I received the message that I was too much.

******

First of all, the hilarious thing is, I’m not typically quiet.  My mother, my husband, my former voice teacher, anyone in my inner circle could tell you – I’m opinionated, emotional and snarky.  I’m quiet in two scenarios: when I’m in a group, and when I don’t trust you.  And here’s how it all began, and how the eating disorder commenced: I was taunted daily by classmates for my weight, for simply being.  I learned early on that the more quiet you were, the less space you took up, the less people noticed and the less likely they were to sexually harass tease you for wearing pants that weren’t so in style.  So it became a protective thing.

So to me, it was never a shy thing.  It was more like, I’ve got my eyes on you.  I see right through you.  I can tell you’re not trustworthy so I’m shutting down.  

So I’d say nothing, I’d tuck my hands under my legs as I sat, and I lost weight.

Until I got tired of restricting myself and started to binge.  My body ached for food, for things I craved, to be satisfied for once.  And I would go overboard.  This bled into alcohol in my twenties.  When alcohol was put in the mix, there were no holds barred.  I could be as carefree, loud and crazy as I wanted because I didn’t have to worry about you judging me as too something.  And oh, was I loud.  Was I obnoxious.  Especially the night I tried to punch the bartender for giving me a glass of water.  Or the night I stole my best friend’s date.  Because fuck you.

I’d wake up, dehydrated and unsure of what happened the night before.  I’d receive angry, incredulous phone calls from friends.  And I was confused, partially because I couldn’t remember the night, and also –

Isn’t this what you wanted?  For me to be loud? To not give a fuck and be your version of strong?

******

And on that note.  I find it incredibly alarming the average person thinks that a loud person is strong.  Trump is a great example of the idiocy that comes from this theory.  God forbid we have people who think before they speak.  God forbid we have listeners who observe.

And – the punchline to the joke?  Now, there are people who judge me for putting this stuff out there.  I suppose I’m too loud, too much, too emotional for them.

To all of those who thought or think me meek, I would say this:

Sure, I guess I’m not strong in that I’m not physically loud.  If that’s your definition, I guess it makes sense.  I mean, I only went on to get my Master’s Degree and become a licensed mental health counselor after working on my own alcoholism, eating disorder, and depression, in addition to surviving some pretty intense sexual and emotional bullying in Littleton, and growing up in an alcoholic household where the police frequented and I ran screaming from the house because I was afraid of who was going to be hit.  I only went on to tackle my own trauma history and successfully emotionally parent a child of my own despite going against habit.  I only screamed in the face of a 6’4″ man in a Somerville gas station, because goddamnit, he stole my spot.

But you know, I’ll be louder next time.  For you.

“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.

 

Five Reasons Why BMI Report Cards Need To Stop.

BMISo, I’m a little late to the game.  Apparently, for a few years now, some schools have been including a BMI (Body Mass Index) score on children’s report cards.  In 2011, The Huffington Post reports that BMI scores are “the latest weapon in the fight against the growing obesity epidemic in children”.  I’m sure you can already guess my reaction to this, but before I get into the more objective reasons, I’ll include a little personal history.

You all know I was an overweight kid.  An overweight kid who carried a lot of shame about both her body and imperfections.  Those imperfections included my less-than-stellar grades in math.  Report cards, a necessary evil, filled me with anxiety and dread every quarter.  Why?  I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t a perfect student; I occasionally turned in homework late and periodically made careless mistakes on tests.  I held a deep level of shame due to these peccadilloes – I feared I was a bad person because of it.  I feared my parents’ reaction to it and hated myself around report card time.  “I should be doing better”, I would mutter to myself.

Can you imagine the amount of shame I would have had if BMI’s were added back in the 90’s?  Can you imagine the ridicule I would have gotten from fellow students?  Can you imagine the reaction from “trusted adults”?

“Well, your BMI is 4 points too high, and therefore, you need to lose weight, Amanda…”

So.  Here are my reasons for banning BMI report cards.

  1. Let doctors and nutritionist do their jobs, and let teachers do theirs.  Is it important that we model a healthy lifestyle for children in our schools?  Absolutely.  Teaching them to obsess about a number is not modelling a healthy lifestyle.  Especially when schools continue to pack their vending machines with candy bars and less-than-healthy foods.  Hello, mixed messages?  More importantly, who are the people who are trained to deal with an individual’s weight, activity and nutrition level?  Their PCP.  Their PCP can do a much more thorough job of determining whether or not a child is healthy or unhealthy.  Better than an index number.  And better than an untrained teacher or administrative personnel who is transmitting this information to a child.  (I’m not knocking teachers, I just think it’s clear kids’ personal doctors are probably better equipped to assess that stuff.)
  2. BMI’s can trigger, but not cause, an eating disorder.  I’m a firm believer that a multitude of factors need to be in place to cause an eating disorder.  But, an environmental trigger like a BMI report card can trigger a child who is already predisposed to having one.  Kids at school are already influenced by bullies at school telling them they need to weigh less, wear better clothes, or don more makeup.  But if adults told them this?  We may forget adults in our lives wielded an unusual amount of power, power that has the ability to influence us for decades and haunt us.  Some kids may not care two ways to Sunday if a trusted adult in their life tells them they’re fat.  But a vulnerable child?  A child who comes from a traumatic home or has low self-esteem to boot?  They’ll take that as truth, and they’ll run with it.  People vulnerable to eating disorders tend to be people-pleasers, and if someone tells them to lose weight, they’ll do it.  I personally know someone who has been triggered by BMI report cards.  This is no joke.
  3. BMI’s are not the most accurate predictor of fat mass.  In general, can it tell you if you need to lose weight?  Probably, I’m not a doctor.  But there are other scales – two are Body Fat Mass and Percentage of Body Fat.  It’s completely possible to have an obese BMI and a normal or overweight score for BFM or PBF.  I’ve also known people who weight train, lose inches from their waist, and watch their BMI scores rise.  Go Kaleo talks a LOT about this (she’s a WARRIOR, check out her blog/fb page).  And, here you can see how she’s clinically overweight by current indexes.  Ridiculousness.
  4. BMI scores are not going to change a perpetually unhealthy household.  I’m guessing that national health advocates are hoping that BMI scores will “wake up” parents who don’t keep a good eye on their child’s nutrition.  As in, maybe they’ll change their family food habits if they see their kid weighs too much.  Mmmmkay.  I believe this might work for a total of two weeks.  Why the cynicism, you ask?  Well, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the majority of households who constantly feed their kids donuts, soda and McDonalds may not have access to food that is healthier and therefore, higher-priced.  So, there’s financial blocks, and there’s mental blocks too.  I’m going to go a step farther – which may get me in trouble here – and posit that these same families may not be in the best place mentally or spiritually.  And the solution to this is not a number on a report card.  It’s a change in family communication patterns or beliefs.  You don’t work from the outside in and put a band-aid on it; you treat the actual wound.  Bottom line, NUMBERS NEVER HELP PEOPLE TO LOSE WEIGHT OR CHANGE LIFESTYLE BELIEFS.
  5. Isn’t the medical profession’s oath “Do No Harm”?  I can’t take credit for this one.  A couple of weeks ago, on Good Morning America, one of their medical correspondents “weighed in” on this subject.  GMA had interviewed several teenage girls who had communicated that the BMI scores ultimately made them feel bad about themselves.  The reporting medical correspondent insightfully noted the medical profession’s possible betrayal of its oath.  If GMA’s small-scale interview translates to the rest of the teenage population, then harm is being done.

Is obesity healthy?  No way.  But neither are eating disorders.  Our nation has missed the mark and swung the opposite way with food obsession.  We uselessly obsess about gluten and sugar and numbers.  And I’ve harassed you all before about the dangers of obsessing about food and numbers.  Obsession about numbers = obesssion about outside appearance = not solving your food issues.  But working from the inside out works every time. Building your child’s self-esteem through encouragement of esteemable tasks?  Works.  And modelling a balanced diet and positive self-esteem will protect your children from any imbalance.  But an index number?  No way.

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?

Top Three Reasons Why I’m Finally Bikini-Ready.

bikiniready

I remember a time, long ago, when the internet was just a household fledgling and Sarah McLachlan played nonstop on my Walkman.

It was 1996, and I was so unhealthy and sick when it came to my body image.  Now keep in mind, I was also the thinnest I’d ever been.  Weighing twenty pounds less than I should have, my body cried out for nutrients.  But because I’d been told by many a person that I was “Super-skinny”, I decided it was finally OK for me to wear a bikini.  So I bought one and wore it on vacation to Panama City to visit my half-brother, who was stationed there at the time.

And I hated it.  I felt  like I was crawling out of my skin the entire time we went to the ocean or a water park.  I was paranoid people were staring at my body fat and shuddering in disgust.  When I developed the pictures from the trip, I despised looking at my stomach in them.  It seemed to pour over the bikini bottom and just looked, well, gross.

(And the fact was, it was just ill-fitting, and I was so weak I had no muscle tone.)

Fast forward eighteen years.  (Excuse me while I go have an age-related heart attack.)  I’m twenty pounds heavier, have had a child, and have some rumply skin right above my belly button since giving birth to my daughter.  I also have some rumply skin underneath my arms, just a little bit, that’s popped into existence over the past couple of years.  I have stretch marks, but I’ve had those since I was a kid.

Before this recent Fourth of July weekend, I briefly contemplated buying a bikini.  I hadn’t worn one since that trip to Panama City, and thought maybe I was finally in the right head place to do so.  “No”, I grimaced to myself.  “My abs don’t look like those people’s I see on the beach.  I’m too white.  I’m suppposed to be tan.  People would laugh.”

Then, I realized, I was listening to my old eating disordered voice, and f%$& that s*$%.

I’d been listening to it all along.  Who the hell CARED if my stomach looked fish-white?  I’m supposed to look like that, I’m Scottish, Irish, English, German and French!  Who the hell cared if my bikini bottom was too big and someone saw my ass for a second as my daughter climbed onto me?  It was at a freaking family BBQ.  I realized I’d been missing out on being me, crazy, “who gives a shit”, outspoken Amanda all these years because I was listening to an old tape inside my head.

So I picked out a polka-dotted bikini, and I wore it on the Fourth.  And here’s the reasons why I think I was ready:

  1. I stopped giving a shit about what others thought of me.    Was this easy?  Hell no.  It probably took about eighteen years!  But – the second you realize the things people say about you negatively are directly related to the way they feel about themselves, you are set free.  Seriously.  So that friend who always makes comments about what you’re wearing and how you look in it?  Probably hates herself.  And her body hate doesn’t have to influence the way you feel about yours.
  2. I gave love to the places on my body that needed it.  Some of you may remember the “Tummy Love Project” that I started on here.  I never finished it on the blog, but I finished it in real life.  One of the reasons I never wore a bikini was the amount of hate I had for my stomach.    So, I meditated about it, I gazed at it lovingly in the mirror, and I strengthened it (I find in my recovery that muscle strengthening exercise does not trigger me, but instead makes me feel empowered.)  You may be laughing at the gazing at it part, but it worked.  Why?  For years, I’d been pretending it wasn’t there, silently excluding it from existence.  For the first time, I acknowledged it and respected it.  And that started the hate loss.
  3. I respected my body for what it’s gone through.  The funny thing is, before I’d given birth, I loved my body way less than I do now.  Part of it is – I didn’t know what I was working with before.  I didn’t know that I had this amazing body, capable of producing and giving life to this world.  Again, you may claim corny, but I say it’s astounding that women can do this, and be up and walking the next day.  It’s a miracle!  So, I respected my body – and flaunted its magical prowess when I wore a bikini.  I gave birth, goddamnit.

I’m sorry if you read this article expecting some miraculous not-yet-discovered secret about weight loss that made me look bikini-ready.  I was only bikini-ready because I finally loved my body and respected it, not because I had finally achieved some weight loss goal.  My head had to be in check to wear one.  Interestingly enough, I was less bikini ready when I was thinner.

So here I sit, in my bikini, writing this out in the sun on our front lawn while my little one naps.  My legs are pale white, some fat hangs over my bikini-bottom (PS, we all have it when we hunch over)…

and I’ve never been happier with my body.

Dear Media: Stop Trying to Kill My Sisters.

Dear Media,

I woke up this morning to a picture my friend had posted (mockingly) of a “Get Beach Ready!” article in some beauty magazine.  In it, the first tip suggested,

“BAN STRETCH MARKS.”

stretch marks

and I say –

Go fuck yourself.  That’s right.  You heard me.

Stretch marks have nothing to do with beauty; in fact, I think they have a lot to do with skin elasticity.  So stop trying to attach moral value to stretch marks.

Or anything else body-related for that matter.

Media, did you know eating disorders are the deadliest mental health illness?  Bypassing alcoholism?


death

Well yes, they are.  And you are contributing to many a woman’s death, on a daily basis, all for your love of money.

Stop trying to kill my sisters.  Or my daughter, for that matter.

What if you, instead, chose to publish an un-airbrushed, average looking lady on your cover?  Might that young pre-teen you’re selling to have not chosen to go on a 500-calorie a day diet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Even if you’re not the direct cause, you’re part of the equation.

And when the women who don’t kill themselves via starvation give up on attaining that perfect ideal, they swing the other way.  They start binging, because they just as well might give up and “get fat because there’s no hope for me anyway.”  You may have heard of an epidemic called “obesity.”  You play a part in that.

binge

They buy into your bullshit because you’ve inundated them with false truths since the moment they were born.  Society’s values do a number on them too – “sweet, cute, Daddy’s little girl.”  Pushed down by the patriarchy as soon as they can breathe air.

Oh, and stop trying to kill our mothers.

The other day, I heard a husband joke about giving his wife 6 months post-partum to appear as if she never had a baby.  Behind the joking that made me want to stick a needle in my eye – there is truth.  A million of your articles have been dedicated to women pretending as if they never took part in assisting the human race in surviving.  Makes sense.

babyweight2

 

Keeping women insecure earns a lot of money for you.  How do you sleep at night?  How do you live with yourself?

Either way, it’s got to stop.  You make my new-mother friend feel like she should weigh less, you make my daughter the subject of weight stereotypes, and you make me feel like my genetic spider veins are little spindles of evil on my pasty-white, untanned-and-therefore-unappealing skin.

STOP.

(Another Piece of Cake realizes there are healthy ad campaigns out there, and applauds them!  Another Piece of Cake also realizes men are hit hard by the media too, but Another Piece of Cake only writes about women because she’s, well…a woman.)

Blissful Body Fridays: The “Perfect” Female Body

babbleI am LOVING this Friday’s Blissful Body Friday link.  This was sent to me by Jen R, a very hip, astute young lady I went to college with.  In this article, Serge Bielanko writes about the ever-changing female perfect-body-ideal.  I blogged about this in a past entrybut Serge Bielanko attached all these awesome pictures to illustrate the crazy, ephemeral change of what is supposed to be attractive.

Do you know why I included this as a Blissful Body Friday entry?  Because this article illustrates how beauty is so damn arbitrary.   Hate your broad back?  Wait until 2085, then it’ll be attractive to society.  Want to get surgery for your cellulite?  In 3546 it will be the tattoos of today.  For heaven’s sake, unibrows could be in style one day.

Do you know what I mean?  None of it fricking matters.

Give this website some hits!

Enjoy, and have a blissful Friday!

The Real Issue At Hand

I’ve been struggling lately.

(UGH, that sucks to say…)

Not like, using full-out behaviors struggling, but having eating disordered thoughts popping back in my head.  And when they do, my wise mind quizzically says, “huh?” and pushes them away, at least for the time being.  That’s the cool thing about working so hard on my recovery – having old thoughts doesn’t  mean they become old behaviors.

Eating disorders are just a distraction from the real issues at hand.  For me, they’re a way of “numbing out” or dissociating from current emotions because they’re simply too hard.  And if you have strong emotions, like me – it’s deceptively helpful, because who wants to live with sky-high and below-ground emotions 24/7?

In an attempt to not slip back into old thoughts, I’m going to tackle one of the issues at hand.

Yesterday, Father’s Day put me in a really bad mood.  And I felt really fucking guilty about it, because I have another Dad to celebrate now – my daughter’s father.  But I couldn’t get out of it and here’s what I’m guessing was the cause:

My Dad’s health.

My Dad is 83.  He was born three months before the Great Depression.  Up until two years or so ago, my father was unstoppable.  He lived 5 lives before he even met my mother, flying airplanes in the Air Force, schmoozing with celebrities as an actor, teaching classes and co-opening his own theatre.

And then old age struck.

But it wasn’t just physical health – in fact, the emotional health fell away first.  He stopped working, started getting depressed, and then his physical health began to fail.  He needed to use a cane.  He needed to use a walker.  And then he needed to use a wheelchair.

Not to mention the fact that the stuttering which he struggled with as a kid mysteriously came back about 8 months or so ago.  So basically, he can’t talk.

Or hear well, or see well.  He has hearing aids in both ears and has macular degeneration.

My mother takes care of him, and also takes care of my daughter two days a week.  One of those days, she brings my father with her, and he lights up at anything my lady does, but it’s a production just getting him in the house.

So, you’re thinking, I must be torn apart.  And I am, on one level.  But let me give you a little history.

My father is from a totally different generation.  The kind that thinks mental illness doesn’t exist, or maybe that it’s a choice.  So he’s had trouble understanding or even acknowledging what I’ve been through at times, and denies any depression on his part.  I jokingly remind him that I’m licensed to diagnose him, but he dismisses it.

And let’s just say he wasn’t given the best upbringing emotionally.  So, he and I were never particularly emotionally close.  Maybe it was because I clung to my mother in the early years and he took it personally.  Or maybe it was because we were too alike and clashed during my teenage years (We are so alike.  Stubborn as anything, intelligent, independent, ambitious, curious.).  Either way, the “Daddy’s girl” thing always eluded me.  I’m not putting him or I or our relationship down – it just wasn’t us.

So, now that his health isn’t great and it’s obvious that he probably doesn’t have 30 years left to spare, I’m left thinking I should feel something different, or do more.  I’m sad – it’s fucking inhumane to watch your parent decompensate like that.  And I feel bad on a daily basis that I can’t do more because I have my own family.  I feel bad for my mother.  But I also have about two minutes to spare on a daily basis, and when I do, I try to take care of myself.

It always comes back to that issue – that I’m not doing enough.

My partner likes to remind me that I have, however.  He likes to remind me that I’ve made my amends to my father for past transgressions, and I’ve set up VA services for them, and  made calls to the Council on Aging to look for any services they could utilize.

I don’t know.

It just sucks, and this is the work I have to do, writing about it and talking about it, instead of  distracting myself with useless thoughts and behaviors.  And I usually don’t do it out of fear of insulting some family member, but I’m sick of living my life for others, and I think everyone would agree with what I’ve written anyway.

Have you ever had to deal with the loss of a parent in one way or another?  How did you healthily cope with it?  Did you ever catch yourself numbing out?