The Friday Confessional : Baby Weight


TRIGGER WARNING : This post contains material that may be a potential trigger for some.  It’s contents include talk of eating disorders and self-injury.  If you are sensitive to this material, please use your discretion before reading.

I am by no means a thin woman.  As a matter of fact, according to my BMI, I am actually slightly in the overweight range.  It’s not really unusual for a person who lives in the good ol’ US-of-A.  Obesity is considered an epidemic in this region of the world.

I have bad body image.  This started as a very young child when the other kids would pick on me for being overweight.  At that point, it wasn’t my fault.  I wasn’t responsible for my diet, and my family had terrible eating habits.  In fact, as I started to notice while my parents were watching my child, they encouraged recreational eating for lack of other engaging activities.  As a result, I ended up a fat, miserable kid.

I remember I stopped eating my lunch at one point.  A lunch aid came over and asked what was wrong.  I recall telling her, “I’m on a diet.”  She looked shocked and appalled.  Now that I’m an adult, it’s completely understandable.  I was eight, and I was confessing that I was unhappy because of my weight.  To her credit, she attempted to explain to me that I had a lot of years to grow into the weight, and it was unhealthy to deprive myself of food.

Essentially, she was trying to talk me out of developing an eating disorder.  Unfortunately, talk is too cheap when you’re eight.

Eventually, people close to me stopped mentioning my weight.  And I continued to grow.  By the time I was in the fifth grade, I was obese.  I was eleven, 4’8”, and weighed approximately what a fourteen year-old 5’1” teenager should have weight in a healthy weight range.  My clothes continued to shrink rapidly, and the only excuse my mother could come up with was that I was just “having a growth spurt”.

It wasn’t lost on my peers or teachers, though.  While I had the brains, I didn’t have the body.  And the outside was all that mattered.  Summer break came, and I was about to enter middle school.  It was at that time that I decided that I would shed my “baby weight”, as people were so eager to call it, and become a slender woman.

That was the summer where it all began.

The real secret is something I’ve hinted at throughout the last year, but could never bring myself to actually come out and say.  Even now, I find myself typing and retyping the sentence that will start to change everything.  It will change how people think of me, and how people treat me.  It will have people worry and watch me like a hawk.  And those are all things that I’ve tried to avoid over the years.

I have undiagnosed disordered eating.

As a child, it developed from recreational eating into comfort eating.  I would gorge myself far beyond bursting, to the point of where it felt like the contents of my stomach were backing up into my throat.  The act of eating was comforting and satisfying.  The sensation of fullness seemed to fill this hole inside of me.  It took away the emptiness that I had tried so hard to fill with accomplishment.  Even for a moment, I was full.  I was whole.

That led to another problem.  Childhood obesity.  And the lack of friends I had resulting from my obesity and the intimidation of my perfectionism and accomplishment created an even bigger hole.  What started out as a small snag in the woven fabric of my life started to unravel into a gaping hole, threatening to tear seam to seam.  Comfort eating turned into binge eating and created a cycle that continually fed into itself.

The summer before middle school, I decided to start dieting.  How absurd – an eleven year old on a diet.  I restricted my food intake to half of what I was eating.  I refused to eat between meals.  I started both biking and running once a day for at least an hour.  When my clothes started to become loose, it only served to encourage all of these behaviors.

I was a child on a mission.  I started only eating half of what I was eating, leaving me eating meals off of saucers.  I added running stairs onto my exercise regimen.  I would spend a half an hour each day running the basement stairs, as to not bother my parents.  My clothes became so loose that I became reduced to wearing my 90lb mother’s clothes.

I had done it.  In fact, I had done so well that most of my peers didn’t recognize me anymore.  Many people started referring to me as “the new girl”, as I didn’t have any friends to correct them.  And much to my surprise, those shallow little girls I had come to despise welcomed me to their clicks with open arms.  I was no longer intimidating or disgusting.

Throughout the years, my weight bounced up and down.  I would binge and then go on an exercise craze.  In my mid-teens, I discovered those ephedra pills that could be found at any gas station.  Friends and I would take handfuls of them and stay up, bouncing off of the walls, for 72 hours at a time.  I remember lying in bed just vibrating, desperately mentally exhausted, but completely wired.

My relationship with my first love, my high school sweetheart, started going south around the time that I was seventeen.  And the binging started once again.  I hated myself for it, and I watched myself grow out of my clothes once again.  I knew he had to have found me repulsive, and I knew he was eyeing other women.  But, it only served to make it worse.

I will never forget this.  I had my eighteenth birthday at my boyfriend’s place.  I was surrounded by many of my friends, and we ordered several pizzas that I paid for.  I watched all of the girls daintily eat one or two slices of pizza, when I realized that I had gorged myself on four.  I looked at their slender bodies with envy.  What a disgusting pig I am!  I thought.  No wonder I’m so fat!

I went to the bathroom and locked the door.  I leaned over and stared into the bowl.  I was about to do something that we all had accused and ridiculed thin cheerleaders for.  It was this, or being doomed to a life of obesity and loneliness.  I extended my index finger and pressed down on the back of my tongue.

The vomit came pouring out like a fountain into the bowl.  The taste was awful, like orange juice mixed with something foul.  But, the sensation was incredible.  I could feel the load lightening, and my stomach shrinking.  I did it again, this time making myself gag harder, almost to the point where I made an audible noise.  It felt like all of the awful feelings were just pouring out from inside of me.  It was almost like cutting, but without any noticeable tell-tale scars.

I purged until there was nothing left but stomach acid.  I sat against the door, breathing heavily and relishing in the hollow feeling in my belly.  There was something so beautiful about feeling that emptiness.  It ached, along with my raw throat, and the bitter aftertaste of vomit in my mouth.

This doesn’t happen regularly.  It only happens when I have a severely awful body image.  My clothes start to get tight, and automatically, my stomach starts to churn, as if it knows what’s about to come.  If I’ve eaten just before a fight with someone, I find myself getting queasy and running for a bathroom.  If I am rejected, I automatically assume it’s because I’m not attractive.  I find myself hell bent on getting back a body I once had.

But even worse is when I do it as a form of self-injury and control.  I binge, feeling the sensation of my belly swelling with all of the emotion I can’t experience.  The contents rise into my throat, without a place left to go.  I excuse myself and wrap myself in an awful embrace with that cold, unforgiving porcelain.  For a moment, just a brief shining moment, I stare into the bowl, trying to talk myself out of it.  There’s no other way.  I lean in, and the deed is done.

And each time, the whooshing of the flush brings shame to my already teary eyes.  I stare at the bloodshot eyes, ringed with raccoon eyes.  My face is red and looks exhausted.  All I can do is take to cleaning up the mess I created.

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The Friday Confessional : Always a Passenger

The Friday Confessional is probably well known by now as a very soul baring exercise in writing.  Today, I’d like to talk to about something rather embarrassing for me.

A major milestone in most people lives happens at the tender age of sixteen.  There’s the sweet sixteen, usually accompanied by the awesome responsibility that comes with a person’s first driver’s permit.  And the teenager blossoms into an adult as they take on that adult responsibility and freedom of driving.

I am nearly 30, and I never learned how to drive.

Originally, it wasn’t because of my lack of enthusiasm.  The prospect of the freedom that was associated with driving was intoxicating.  It was all I could ever want, being able to drive.  I could take myself places and not have to rely on anyone else.  It would open up new worlds to me, and allow me to do so many things I had always dreamed of.  I could pick my boyfriend up and see him more than twice a week.  We could go park somewhere and maybe make out for awhile.

My mother doesn’t drive, and my father refused to use his precious vehicle to teach me.  I was crushed.  They claimed they didn’t think I was responsible enough to take on driving.  But, as with everything else, it was an excuse not to allow me to have any kind of breathing room.  They could continue to circle me like vultures for my remaining two years in that house, ever judging and scrutinizing me while I remained under their thumb.

I was stuck for any options to circumvent this decision.  There is a law in Pennsylvania that prohibits teens from teaching other teens how to drive.  Most of my friends were under 18, and those who weren’t didn’t have their own cars at their disposal.  It seemed that I would have to wait indefinitely to gain all of that freedom that I craved so deeply.

Time passed, and most of my friends still remained as pedestrians.  It used to be easy in a city like Pittsburgh to get by without a car.  Most of the places anyone would want to go were accessible via bus.  And taking the bus was infinitely cheaper than owning and maintaining a car.  College came and went without a driver’s license.

Once out of college, I had already developed an alcohol problem.  Driving became less important.  My job was within walking distance, and everything else wasn’t quite as important anymore.  Most of my friends had their own license, and the responsibility of driving seemed to great for a person who was perpetually drunk.  It didn’t matter to me anyway.  I was broke, and there was no way I could possibly afford a vehicle of my own to drive.

More time passed.  I got married, had a kid, and jobs came and went as I settled into family life.  The need for a license started weighing on me, as I was begging for more favors from people with vehicles.  I lived poorly and saved every last penny to buy my very first car.  And eventually, I got it.  I paid outright to avoid financing.  It was a black 2000 Volkswagen Jetta.  It was beautiful and one of those 0 to 60 in ten second cars.  It would have been perfect for street racing, as it was the sport edition.  Of course, that wasn’t the plan.  The plan was to get my license in the spring.

A whole year passed without any attempt on my part to get my license.  The idea started filling me with dread.  How could I possibly drive while so incredibly medicated?  I had just started treatment that year, and I was foggy most of the time.  I couldn’t focus on a task for more than a few minutes at a time.  Driving seemed to be an impossible task that had become far out of my reach.

Then, it happened.  The car that I had paid in full was totalled in an accident with Xan.  I was devastated.  It was my very first car, and we had hardly seen more than a year with it.  I was supposed to learn how to drive with that car.  It was compact and would have been perfect for my needs as a driver.  But, no more.  The car was completely gone.

For awhile, we borrowed my MIL’s car.  I refused to begin learning on that car.  It didn’t matter, because fall was coming.  I was beyond hesitant to start to learn how to drive in inclimate weather.  The car didn’t feel entirely safe, and I was too nervous about the possibility of getting into an accident with it.  It would have been different if it was the Jetta.

That car died too.  It died up on a rack during an inspection, just a few months after we borrowed it.  It turns out that the undercarriage was completely rusted out.  The car was in such bad shape that we didn’t even get charged for the failed inspection.  Instead, the mechanic told Xan to get the car out of there, and get rid of it as fast as he could.

We were at the lot that day.  The problem with the car was that it wasn’t even ours.  There was no possible way we could trade in the car, even with the express permission of the owner.  Instead, we had to eat the entire cost of a down payment. It seemed that there wouldn’t be yet another Christmas in the Stark household.

We drove off of the lot in another dream car, a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser.  My driver’s education teacher in high school owned a different years when they were brand new.  I had always admired that car.  It cost the same as the other, lesser cars in the lot.  I’m not a fan of Chevy’s and that’s all they wanted to give us.  But, I didn’t really want to buy another car.  I wanted the Jetta back.  But that was impossible.  It was wrecked beyond repair, with a bent frame and the entire driver’s side crushed in.

Almost another year has passed, and I still haven’t learned how to drive.  This time, it wasn’t for lack of a car.  It wasn’t a person standing in my way.  In fact, Xan has been more than supportive in this endeavor.  It is me standing in my own way.

I still don’t have my permit.  And every time I think about the possibility of getting it, I cringe.  I’m on so many medications, and most of the time, I’m falling asleep in the car anymore.  I’m so nervous that I can’t concentrate.  Even just imagining driving fills me with anxiety.

I’m Lulu, I’m in my late 20’s, and I can’t drive.

Liquid Courage and Tablet Saviors : 30 Days of Truth

Day 20 : Your views on drugs and alcohol.

“Drugs are bad, m’kay?”

Or are they?

There is this long, Nancy Reagan-induced diatribe about the dangers and evil of illegal drugsSay no to drugs.  This is your brain on drugs.  The war on drugs.  Above the influence.  Don’t drink and drive.  Prom promise.  Those of us that are Reagan babies and older, through the boomers, are well aware of the presence and negative consequences of drugs and alcohol.   And despite the heavy dialogue, many people have personally experienced their own battle with substance abuse and dependence.

Alcohol had torn my life apart at the seams.  As with any addiction, it starts off as a recreational activity.  It’s a part of popular culture, especially in the younger age groups.  In my youth, drinking was cool.  Truthfully, it was a fun escape from the drudgery of daily life.  That was at seventeen.  Within a year, I started to find solace at the bottom of a bottle.  Coincidentally, that was the same year Smile Empty Soul sang:

I do it for the drugs.

I do it just to feel alive.

I do it for the love that I get from the bottom of a bottle.

Bottom of a Bottle – Smile Empty Soul

By the time I was in college, I was seeking out opportunities and excuses to drink.  A set of rules existed which meant to separate alcoholics, the loathsome bunch that we perceived people like our own parents to be, and recreational drinkers.

  1. Never drink before 5PM.
  2. Never drink alone.
  3. Never drink without occasion.
  4. Don’t drink before or during work or school.

As I gained my own freedom with my own apartment, the rules started to change.  In private, I could do what I liked.  I could deny everything and anything when I failed to be under the limelight of public scrutiny.  I began to use alcohol as more than a crutch; I started to abuse it completely as a coping mechanism.  That’s when alcohol and I started our sordid love affair.

The environment in my private life began to change.  I have spoken about it many times in various posts like Decent into Hell where I described my addiction as:

The last days of that relationship are blurry; my memories are obscured by the drugs and alcohol intoxicating my mind.  The days blended together in a ritualistic, self-medicated loop, work.drink.sleep.work.drink.sleep.sleep.drink.sleep… suspended in agonizing slow motion.  The silence was deafening in the deep, dark hours of night, still, cold, indifferent.

I had become a functional alcoholic.  I never drank before 5PM.  There was always an occasion, even if it was a day ending in “Y”.  And I certainly was not without company to share in my intoxicated merriment.  But there is a solid difference.  Every waking moment I did not spend at work was with a glass or a bottle in my fist.  I had gone far beyond the point of mixers, and mostly beyond the need for glasses.  It was me, a bottle of Bacardi 151 sans the filter, and a bottle of Gatorade to chase.

I wrote in Love the Way You Lie:

At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root.  I violated my own rules of drinking.  It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!  I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend.  Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover.  If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.

Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.

It has always been my vice, and holds the looming, unending threat to assume control and ruin my life. In another 30 Days of Truth piece entitled, Control, or Lack Thereof, I went into a full exploration of recent recreational alcohol use and the negative impact it created in my life.

Flip that coin.

Drugs have revolutionized my life.

People neglect to realize that they are consuming legal drugs daily.  It becomes painfully obvious when you sigh over exorbitant copays at the pharmacy counter, like many people with mental health disorders often do.  But, instead of calling them “drugs”, we call them “medications”.  Did you know that Wellbutrin technically has the same chemical composition of a methamphetamine?  And that benzodiazepines work on the same receptors in the brain as alcohol?

So here I am, with my uppers to wake me in the morning, and my downers to put me to bed at night.  It would be illegal and detestable if I were using meth and boozing away.  Instead, it’s under the supervision of a doctor, as a controlled substance, in a convenient little pill.  Don’t get the wrong idea.  I am only likening the effects.  The supervision of the doctor is safer, and the medications are regulated by the FDA.  And as a result, I have most of my functioning back.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Open Mind Policy : 30 Days of Truth

Day 2: Something you love about yourself.

Following up on the subject of self-love, I embody some admirable qualities.

The Open Mind Policy
“I’ll try anything once.”

Truthfully, that was once my motto.  Except, I found myself in too great of a number of undesirable situations that I would have preferred to not experience.  We live – we learn.

This is the basis of my Open Mind Policy.  It is truth when it is generalized that all humans have certain biases.  That is part of the human condition, and not exactly shameful.  It functioned as a survival mechanism in primal humans.  Hence, we are fearful of unfamiliarity.  Unfortunately, this fear typically turns to hate, and that is one emotion I tend to keep at bay.

Throughout my last year at my job, I have noticed different attitudes in the African American community.  Much of their community is now highly diverse.  These divisions are no longer even regarded as anything.  They’ve helped me understand a world and a culture beyond my own.  And they’ve really opened my mind.

Through my eyes, people are people. Divisions of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, political orientation, socioeconomic status, mental and physical health, age, and lifestyle do not matter to me. Those differences have no bearing on how I view a person.

A person is who they are, not how they are labelled.  Humans have a particular penchant for categorizing everything within their world.  While this organization is important for cognitive function and development, it does not function as segregation of people.  It is not meant to emphasize differences among peoples, their behaviors, and their cultures.

In recent years, I have noticed that racial tolerance has become the norm. Tolerance is not acceptance, and is by no means synonymous. Acceptance is when those divisions dissolve into an unrecognizable remnants of past prejudices.  I have learned that by working in a community of people unlike any I have ever been exposed to.  I see children and adults alike regarding people as just another person, another friend.  Despite color, culture, heritage, quirkiness, and what-have-you, we act as if we are in a family system.

I am proud to say that I have rid myself of religious biases. I am personally weary of claiming my own religious affiliation, though very interested in the religions of the world. However foreign, and however devout, I am accepting of others who may not share the same sentiments on spirituality.  I realize that everyone has their own interpretation.  At this point, I refuse to make a statement at this point in time concerning my own spiritual beliefs. There is no better way to lose friends and alienate people.  So, I mostly avoid the subject anyhow.

The same goes politics. In past years, I groaned when a person started in on the opposing side of a subject I felt passionately about.  This created a serious schism in interpersonal relations.  Many friends were lost in the heat of debate.

I’ve learned that it’s not worth it.  I may disagree with where another person stands, but I refuse to judge their character by it. Different lifestyles and socioeconomic standings create different opinions.  I promote unity and balance, without digging my heels in too much.  I’ve never walked a mile in many people’s shoes.  I cannot know their journey and where they are coming from.

As for my own journey, I am not one to set my own choices up as the standard in which everyone strives. My own lifestyle choice is likely not fitting for everyone else. There is no such thing as “one size fits all”.  People are more content when they don’t feel societal pressure to live a certain way.

Therefore, I am not exclusively friends with the population that is married with children.  Marriage and children are not a lifestyle choice for everyone.  As a matter of fact, I applaud those that resist the societal pressure, when they know that is not what they want for themselves.  Many recognize that they have a preference for living solo.  Some have a different sexual orientation, and that’s fine with me.  I’m not homosexual (I can’t say I didn’t try in college).  But attraction and love are beyond anyone’s control.  It’s not up to me to decide.  It’s up to the individual.

Individuals have different biology, right down to the molecular level.  We are unique, atom by atom.  We look uniquely, function uniquely, think uniquely, and behave uniquely.  I have a special place in my heart for those that suffer debilitating physical and mental debilitating disease and disorder.  I find a certain kinship within the group of people with unique mental health concerns.

This is a preference, and I’m now careful to not reverse a discrimination against those who do not carry a diagnosis, or norms, Non-Dx, as I may refer to them.  I sometimes use norm(s) as a derogatory term to refer to people who are especially ignorant to the topic of mental health.  Although I am still outraged, I have come to understand that these people are victims.  They are victims of widespread ignorance and fear.  I cannot wage war when my ultimate goal is to bring education to the general population.

I am also guilty of occasional gender discrimination or man-bashing, as it’s typical referred to in the female community.  In all honesty, I do not mean it.  I am not a feminist man-hater pushing the female agenda.  In fact, quite the opposite.  However, I am aware that it perpetuates a stereotype that others could buy into.

The point is, one bad apple does not ruin the whole bunch.  The gender war has been present since the beginning of time.  Only now, in the 20th and 21st centuries are we progressing toward equality for both genders.  That does not mean that stereotypes and biases are erased from existence, much like that in race.

Everyone has heard about the “crazy bitch” or the “pigheaded jerk”.  Women are moody largely in part of a constant cycle of ever changing body chemistry.  Men think sexually because testosterone is essentially the hormone responsible for sexual impulses.  (It’s also responsible for aggression).  That’s fact.  Again, because of the extreme individuality that humans have through by nature and nurture, this can be more or less prevalent.  Accept the fact that it’s possible.  Learn to live together.

And most of all, socioeconomic status. I share in the plight of the working poor. Although I am an avid Occupy supporter, it’s less about the 1% and more about the abuse of power through corruption. That is about justice.

I’m not saying I don’t judge at all. I am human after all. We all judge. However, I will only judge a person when they have proven to commit heinous acts.

I greatly detest people with hate and malice in their heart.  With those two emotions, people have waged unnecessary wars (what war is necessary?), committed vile acts such as genocide, and perpetuated more hate and malice through organizations such as the KKK.  If these people would stop for one moment, think of The Golden Rule, and open their minds to the possibilities, the world would be a much better place.