Sunday, January 24, 2010

Morals, Values, and God...?

I saw the movie To Save a Life today. I didn't realize that it would have such a religious undercurrent to it - being "saved" and stuff. I didn't necessarily judge the movie based on that, but it did give me some interesting thoughts about society. Actually, I was having thoughts that were somewhat related to this before the movie.

Why does it seem like, in this day and age, it's so rare to see someone who has strong morals and values that they hold true to, unless they are religious?

I am by no means a religious person, although I have becoming more spiritual and even maybe developing a desire to become more religious recently. I do, however, think that I am and always have been a very moral and ethical person, with strong values. Of course, many of my friends from Catholic school disagree with a lot of my values and would say that this post is stupid but I don't care.

What I'm getting at, though, is how people treat people. Why did it take a church youth group to bring a feeling of welcomeness at a high school, even after the suicide of an outcast? Why does the protagonist of To Save a Life find God before being able to treat people with respect?

Why can't we find it within ourselves to treat others with love and respect? I don't care if you're old or young, stupid or brilliant, gorgeous or ugly, black or white, I will treat you with love and respect. I'm completely human and have many flaws, and DO judge people internally, but I refuse to let my judgments - which I am trying to change but haven't totally been able to - impact the way I treat people. You might call that fake, but I call it ME. I won't pretend to think you're the most amazing person in the world if I just don't like you, but I will give you the time of day. I will be there if you need to talk. I will donate money if I have it and an organization is legit. I will donate time to a cause I believe in.

I'm not doing this for God. I'm not sure who God is, or what, or where. All I know is, I'm doing it for me.

(of course, my belief is leaning towards the fact that God is inside everyone, so perhaps it is God. Perhaps God is what drives good things, but maybe God is just a synonym for the charge of positive energy and love. I don't know if I believe in God as a person-ish thing, but if God is energy and love and respect coming from one and channeled to another, then I guess you could say that I am sure that I believe)

** Funny thing is, this post was kind of taking a very non-religious standpoint... "Why do we need to use religion as a reason to be nice to people? Why can't we just treat people well without doing it because we want to go to Heaven, we fear God and don't want to get on his bad side, etc? Why can't we all just realize that as humans we are all inherently equally deserving of everything?" and yet, I kind of surprised myself at the end.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Size Ate

This past Friday, I had the amazing opportunity to see Margaux Laskey's one-woman show, Size Ate. I almost didn't go. I didn't think I had anyone to see it with, then Marissa mentioned free tickets, and I decided that for free, I would go alone. Then I ended up roping Ana in to see it with me (it was not very hard to do).

I laughed, I cried, I wished I had a pen and paper to write down meaningful things she said, and I thought. A lot. Thinking is what I did most of all.

I think that different parts of the show struck a chord with different people. One thing that got almost everyone, whether they had eating disorders or not, was "the walking scene" where Margaux is walking up and down the blocks of NYC to burn off her nearly-nonexistent caloric intake. Personally, I could remember being there. I even got one of those nostalgic twinges in my stomach, wishing to go back, if only for a day, an hour, a minute. But that wasn't the kicker for me.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the quote exactly (I am going to try to ask Margaux for it and will update you)...but it was something to the effect of, "Mothers die...children grow up...something else that I related to less went here and it was emphasized that LIFE GOES ON."
Well, if you know me personally, you know that my mother did not die. But if you know me really deeply, you know that that is one of my greatest fears and perhaps played some sort of part in the development of my eating disorder.
If you know me on the inside, or if you have a really good perception of people, you might also know that growing up is one of my biggest fears and that I have used my ED to avoid that as well, in addition to lots of childlike coping mechanisms that are healthier, like watching kids' movies, playing with toys, etc.
And if you have seen me struggle and see me now, you know that the biggest thing I am trying to teach myself is that life goes on. People die, life goes on. Children grow up, life goes on. We gain weight, life goes on. We eat two pieces of cake, life goes on. We lose an important piece of correspondence at work, life goes on. We run out of gas on the highway, life goes on. We fall in love, we fall out of love, we win, we lose, we achieve, we fall short, but no matter what, life goes on.

Another thing that kept running through my head was, "Size Ate." Because the truth is, I AM a size eight now (usually. sometimes a ten, sometimes a six...hell sometimes I'm a 12 and occasionally I buy an varies!) and thoughts go through my mind..."is she saying that this is the perfect size? her perfect size? it's not the perfect size for me! I'm too big." I'm too big at a size eight? I was a size sixteen once. I remember going from 16 being too tight to finally fitting to 14 (when I said to my mom, "And soon I'll be a 12, then a 10, then an 8, then---" she stopped me and said, "we don't want you getting too thin! Just healthy!") to 12 to 10 and when I fit in the size 8, when I hit that single digit, of COURSE it wasn't good enough. I still feel huge! Some days I feel pretty but I am bigger than a lot of my friends (many of whom are in recovery from anorexia, though, so I'm not really comparing myself to the right people), bigger than the models, bigger than Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica who I watch on Friends, bigger than my therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist - all of whom I admire, bigger bigger bigger. (Notice that I'm not listing on here all the people who I'm smaller than. The average size in America is 14 so I'm smaller than more than half of the American women...but does this appease me AT ALL? No. I only want to be smaller than the people who I'm bigger than, of course. I only want to wear a size smaller than what I already wear. If I become a consistent size six, I'll want to be a four. That's what's so appealing about being a 00...nothing comes before it. Well, not in "grownup clothes" at least.)

I will never be a size 0 or anything close to it. It is possible that if I had my genes and a different childhood where we didn't eat sweets, where we were active and never watched tv, where I didn't drink soda, where I never was overweight as a child, I might have eventually healthily grown into a size 0. I have a small bone structure, for real, I do.

But I grew up with parents who were so proud of me for eating three helpings one day that I started to eat three helpings of dinner every night ,even if I really didn't want to. I drank soda and ate Oreos to the point that I couldn't sleep at night because I liked the bubbles in the soda and I liked the mushiness of the Oreos (FYI: seltzer has bubbles too, and broccoli can be cooked to the texture of mushy Oreos, so if my parents were really concerned, they could have made some changes). It was exciting to be only 11 and able to order from the "grownup menu" but if you were going to order from the grownup menu, you had to plan to eat it all! I wasn't a compulsive eater by any means, but I was not a healthy eater and I wasn't very well informed at all. I knew that diets consisted of Diet Coke, salads, and SlimFast and I knew that kids weren't supposed to go on them. Sometimes I was uncomfortable with my size and I wished to get smaller but it never happened.

In 7th grade, The Best Little Girl in the World happened. I would like to thank my 7th grade English teacher, who could never get my name right and always got me in trouble, for assigning the book that made me realize an eating disorder was possible. Would I have found restricting and purging to be ways to cope at some other point in my life without having ever had this book or having Mr. Feig as a teacher? It's quite likely, especially due to the torment I began to steadily receive in middle school due to being overweight. I skipped a meal for the first time in 7th grade. I used to eat lunch in Health class, because that's what the kids who took band had to do. So, I stopped being Healthy and ditched the lunch. No one ever said anything. Nothing negative, anyway. On the outside, I started getting comments about my weight loss and I loved it.

My sixth grade graduation dress was a size 14 (I was not even 5 feet tall). My eighth grade graduation dress was a 13 (which they say translates into a 14 but I'd say it's more like a smallish 12...since Juniors and Women's sizes are so different). When I buy a dress now, I buy a 6 or an 8.

Sometimes, I say that I am lucky in that I have never had to gain weight as part of recovery from my eating disorder, in the true "weight gain" sense at least. However, part of my recovery has been gaining five pounds and accepting it. Sometimes realizing it's muscle. Sometimes realizing that I'll lose it after my period. And sometimes realizing that bodies change, mine included.

It was funny, really, when I hit my own personal "size ate." I had been a size ten for about a year and some months of a stable recovery. I had gotten really into fitness for a while, and was weight training and dabbling in kickboxing, in addition to doing lots of yoga. When I weighed myself, I was shocked to see that I had gained five pounds, and when I searched for dresses for my cousin's wedding, I was pretty sure that I'd need to buy a size 12, not a size 10. It turned out that I actually needed a size 8, because the numbers may have gone up, but the body had built muscle and changed shape.

Just two days before seeing Margaux perform "Size Ate," I had a little realization myself. I, like most other people in recovery from eating disorders, "feel fat" a lot, and become convinced that I am gaining weight when I am eating something enjoyable, relaxing, not exercising for a long period of time, etc. I had a doctor's appointment with my ED specialist for the first time in a few months, and I knew she was going to weigh me, and I don't always like her response. I said to my therapist, "I am going to need to weigh myself!" She suggested to me, "You're seeing Laura (nutritionist) that day, why don't you have her weigh you first, instead of doing it at home, since you haven't in so long?" I had never weighed myself at my nutritionist's office. We agreed that it would be best to focus on the fact that my weight is not important right now. So, I saw Laura's scale for the first time - the same exact scale as my former nutritionist had. The last time I had seen this nutritionist, S, had been back in 2008, nearly two years ago. I stepped on Laura's scale and was the exact same weight as I had been on S's scale two years earlier. To the tenth of a pound.

And I have eaten brownies, cupcakes, cookies, pizza, lasagna, chicken nuggets, french fries, sweet potato fries, peanut butter fudge ice cream sundaes, pasta, potato latkes, full-fat salad dressing, and so forth. I have survived two thanksgivings, two christmases, a handful of Jewish holidays, birthdays, work parties, reunions, etc. I have exercised regularly, and I have gone months without exercising.

And the truth is, for the majority of the past two years, I have listened to my body and done what it wanted, and my weight didn't budge.

Would I have liked it to have gone down? Yes, yes I would have. Was I WORKING at it going down? No.

I may be able to pull out pages and pages of evidence saying that I am NOT at a healthy weight and need to lose 10, 20, 30, 50 pounds in order to be healthy. However, I just wrote pages of evidence right here saying that I am just fine.

Weight doesn't matter. Food doesn't matter. Size doesn't matter.

Intuition, that's what matters. Feeling good (or trying to). Breaking free.


Pizza was a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE fear food for me for so long. So huge and so much fear, in fact, that I was convinced that I didn't like it. Even the smell really did make me nauseous (although anxiety makes one nauseous too...) and I could not stand it. It started with the calories. Then the way it tasted when I would throw it up. And finally, just the anxiety itself made it so disgusting to me. I couldn't even think about eating it.

I'm not really sure how I brought pizza back into my life. I had veggie pizza three times during my residential and partial treatment at CEDC (although it was not served by the program any of the times - it was always out on pass). I had never eaten pizza with veggies before, actually. Maybe one veggie. But usually, I'd just get plain pizza - if any pizza at all, as far back as I can remember (aside from my extra cheese days as a child). Veggies made pizza seem a little more well-balanced though, and I was able to apply my nutrition education to it and feel okay about it.

After coming back to New York (where pizza is very different than it is in Boston!) I still refused to eat pizza, but a few weeks into my stepdown program at Renfrew, and my FIRST night in IOP (the day after my birthday, which was scary enough, going out for dinner and having dessert), we had pizza. There were 2 plain pies and one veggie pie. Classic NY pizza. We had to have a slice and a half, AND salad WITH DRESSING. And only one of our slices could be veggie. So I had a veggie slice and half a plain slice, and some salad. Lots of girls said that they were so used to bingeing on pizza, or eating more pizza than that. Others, like me, struggled with the pizza, having it be the first real pizza they've had in ages (since college graduation, for me). One girl (LOVE YOU <3) wasn't able to eat the pizza at all. But I got through it. I wasn't proud - I felt disgusting. But it was done, and it tasted pretty good.

My family eats pizza a lot. I came up with a solution. Our local pizza place has a basil slice - a crispy crust with a very tasty sauce with lots of garlic and basil, and no cheese. I'd get that a lot, loaded with veggies. Healthy, yes. Tasty, yes. Pizza, not really.

I've had tastes of pizza, was pressured into slices of pizza, and so forth, on various occasions. I won't lie. I've definitely had pizza before my defining pizza moment. But those slices of pizza in the past weren't independent choices. They were pressured. They were almost forced.

Then one day, in Grand Central Station after my psychiatrist appointment, I felt a craving for pizza. And, I went to the counter and got myself a slice. Just a plain slice, to go, to eat on the train. I did it. It was delicious.

This was a couple of months ago and I have eaten pizza a handful of times since then. I've been to trendy pizzerias and classic famous pizzerias bragging about the best pizza in the county. I've eaten NYC pizza, New Jersey pizza, suburban NY pizza, and homemade pizza. Saucy, cheesy, crispy, doughy, garlicky, basil-y, different everywhere.

And right now, I am about to go out for pizza with my family. And I'm excited for pizza. My therapist loves pizza and eats it at least once a week - never just one slice. My nutritionist loves pizza and eats it often too, as much as she wants, because she knows her body is not going to lie to her. They have both given me recommendations of good pizza places near my classes. I've resigned myself to the fact that I will be eating a lot of pizza this semester. And I will be enjoying it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Too much?

You know, my personal feeling is that I feel good when I help other people. Occasionally I encounter frustrations but most of the time I feel good knowing that they are getting what they need, and feel glad that I was able to play a part in it.

All my life, people have said to me, "worry about yourself," "don't make unnecessary work for yourself," "stop doing so much for other people," "you come first," "you don't have to..."

And sure, there may have been times when I helped other people when I was the one who needed help (a great example would be my first round in residential), but I've since learned to balance it. Asking for help and giving help.

After discussing reaching out to various people to find resources for a friend in need, I said to Andrea, "I do too much for other people..." and she said "I don't think so! Unless YOU think it's too much..." It really set off a lightbulb for me.

Because who is to tell me if what I'm doing is too much? Random people who don't know me very well at all tend to be the ones who say it. I'd rather listen to and help a friend then go out drinking and dancing. I'd rather use my internet time searching for therapists for a good friend instead of playing Farmville and Cafe World. Id rather lend a hand when I have a hand to lend, than just respond with sadfaced IMs and "oh, that sucks." I prefer, "How can I help you get through this?" or "Would you like it if I _____" or just plain old, "I'm always here to listen."

I did get burnt out listening to a couple of people in the past, but they weren't my good friends, and they were extremely demanding. At first it was nice to help but eventually it was too much. But I called myself out on it, before it hurt me much, if at all. And now, even knowing that sometimes I might get sucked in a little too far, I'm happy to help.

When I'm employed as a professional, there will be boundaries and I won't be able to dive into someone's life as fully as I can right now. Helping is something I like to do and as long as it makes me feel good and isn't hurting anyone (and is generally helping someone else out in the process..even if it's a failed attempt because they at least know that someone cares), then I say go for it. It's not taking over my life -in fact, it makes my life better in the long run because it will get my friend back on her feet. Hmm, maybe it's even a little selfish ;)

I know self-care and balance are important, and I think that right now, I've got them covered. I think I've developed a lot of self-awareness and know when to back down.