So last night at dinner, my silly wedding website
came up. (Remember that? The one I put up when Nate and I decided to get married even though we sort of hate weddings? IT WAS/IS HILARIOUS. EVERYONE* THINKS SO.) But not my father. When it was mentioned last night, he was quick to insist: "I've never seen it. I don't look at ANY of your websites."
Now, this is not a surprise. It's not true, but it's not a surprise. My parents have historically been terrible about (admitting to) reading my writing or supporting my work in any way. Or rather, that's what they want me to believe. When I wrote for newspapers, even those that were readily available in their city for free,
the folks enjoyed the pretence that they couldn't be bothered to have a look. I say pretence because I know for a fact that they DO read my writing. Not always regularly or often, but they do**.
Now, if we were to pretend that I've only been writing for the last year or two, the insistence that they don't read my work would make a little more sense. A specific post I wrote caused a bunch of family upset awhile back, and Pops (in particular) felt caught in the middle of it all. He initially expressed support for the piece in question, saying it was truthful and fair, and encouraging me not to take it down. He even vowed not to attend an upcoming family wedding in order to support me. Sadly, pressure from the other side and general awfulness won out and when the chips were down, he caved and deflected. Ever since, the idea that he doesn't read my writing has been trotted out more often and with renewed force.
But, as I said, he's NEVER wanted to admit to reading my work, so that whole silly family business doesn't explain much.
It's an interesting conceit and I think about it sometimes.
Why do we do this? Why do we pretended we don't care things we do care about? (I say "we" because I know I've done this and I'm guessing you have too.) Why feign boredom and disinterest in something we are actually deeply invested in?
It's a power thing, right? It's about demonstrating that something is beneath you in order to look and feel like a superior person? Search
"I don't care" and a shit load of "inspirational" images that express this idea come up.
But why does it work? Does it work? When we pretend not to care what are we hoping to win?
Like I said, I've participated in this sort of behaviour myself. I've feigned indifference and felt superior doing it. I've slapped my blase attitude across other people's faces. And looking back on those moments, I now find myself groping for the comfort that used to come from feeling that I "won." I can't seem to get there.
I know for a fact that many who pretend not to care about me -- to be indifferent to my work and the things I write and the things I say -- not only care, but care a lot. They care so much they read my site religiously. And I suppose I'm the same way. When I've pretended not to care, I failed to convince. I didn't win because I wasn't fooling anybody. That's ALWAYS the case.
When you feel the need to insist that you're "indifferent" everybody knows you're full of it.
The more I think about it, the more I've come to think that the idea that you'll be happier if you care less is just a big fat lie anyway. Not caring is deeply unsatisfying. It's a failure of feeling, not a mastering. It's empty. We think not caring will prove our superiority, that it will insulate us and protect us from hurt, but feelings don't actually work that way.
In real life, not caring drains experiences of meaning. You may get some numbness out of the deal, some buffering of unpleasantness, but when you're numb, you don't get to enjoy happiness either. And when you're just PRETENDING to be indifferent, the results are even worse. You don't even get numbness. There are really no benefits at all.
The true truth is that I care. I care about everything****. When someone refuses to admit to reading or supporting my writing, it hurts my feelings because I care. When I get a nice comment from one of you people, I feel good about it because I care. I've tried to care less, or to care about certain things and people more than others, but that hasn't really worked for me. I haven't been successful at care management. Historically, I've been pretty hard on myself as a result, but I think it's time to look at it in a different way. Sure, caring means that some things feel like poop on a bun for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it also means that other things feel the opposite.*****
Best of all, if (let's just say) I feel shitty about something and I write about it, I immediately start to feel better. I have agency. Lemons into lemonade and all that.
So anyway, my point is this: I care and I know you do too. And it's okay.
*Everyone who is normal and reasonable, that is.
**For the millionth time, people... please try to understand what an IP address is. I seeeeeeeee yoooooouuuuuu.
***Alicia Florrick is the best.
****Bit of an exaggeration. There are some things I really don't care much about (mostly things I haven't thought much about), but that's not really what I'm talking about here.
*****What is the opposite of "poop on a bun for breakfast, lunch and dinnner?" I don't know, but it must be something good!
P.S. OMG, you guys! If you scrolled down past all those silly unumbered footnotes, you came to this post script! This is your reward! Thank you so much for sticking with me. All I really wanted to add was that, despite everything I said above, it IS important not to care too much about some things. Specifically, stupid things. Specifically, stupid things said by stupid strangers and/or things said on Twitter. (Oh, how I've been there.) Here are some amusing videos from Jimmy Kimmel that may drive this point home. (Thanks to Em McWawa for telling me about this.)
P.P.S. Just kidding.
Sometimes I miss writing.
Not blogging, but real
writing. You know, the kind that someone else publishes and then sends you a cheque for. The kind you can brag about. (I know. Gross. Maybe I don't miss writing, maybe I just miss validation and being able to show off.)
I think this might just be part of my never ending, soul-draining self-esteem problem (as referenced in my last post
), but maybe not. I hated being a journalist, sure, but that was just, you know, overall
. I just hated most
of it, not all of it.
Sometimes I think this is part of the problem. If I hated all of it, maybe I wouldn't feel this occasional confliction. It's like a shitty relationship with a person you once had high hopes for. You know how it is... sure, five years in, the day to day is shitty shitty shitty, and more than half the time, you hate the other person's stupid face and the way s/he breathes and the way s/he eats, but once in awhile you have a laugh together and that makes the hate less because it reminds you of what it was like in the beginning, when you thought the relationship was going to be perfect and you didn't hate anything. So you stay together and keep on swallowing the shitty for, like, a decade.
It's like that.
This is one of the images that came up when I searched "crazy" on SXC. It's by Svilen Milev.
The thing is, I was never a real
journalist. I was a hack entertainment reporter at best, with no proper training, no commitment to telling an original story, and no education in the
field. And like I said, I hated most of it – the work, the people (I REALLY HATED THE PEOPLE*), many of the product(s) I helped to produce, all of it. It was terrible. Nonetheless, I felt I had a reasonable talent. My writing was okay (probably not stellar, let's be honest) and my crazy anxiety meant I never missed a deadline. Never. Not once
. And at least at the time, the pay was reasonable. (It's not anymore.) But big whoop right? The day-to-day was shitty shitty shitty and that's what should have mattered most. Problem is, everyone I met seemed to think my fancy-pants journalism career was impressive, and because I'm a weirdo with no self-esteem, I let that
matter most and I stayed and stayed. (This is why the section of this blog that talks about work stuff is called The Golden Handcuffs, in case you were ever wondering.)
So blah blah blah. I might miss writing. MAYBE. I'm not sure. I did my taxes recently and that highlighted how little money I make and I kind of panicked and started thinking "I've gotta pitch some stories!" which is what I always think when I'm worried about money, since pitching stories used to be what paid my rent.
I stay up all night chain-reading work by drug addled bloggers who seem to be media darlings (like Cat Marnell
- I'm OBSESSED with her) and I start thinking "I can be like that! I can be a media darling! I like drugs! I'd get so skinny!" because at 4 am, my brain doesn't work right and pretending be something or pretending to understand something is how I operated as a journalist, so it's sort of second nature. Sometimes, I go so far as to send off an ill-formed, beggy pitch to an editor, and then, when I re-read the email in the morning, I realize how lame I sound and I basically want to shrivel up and die in shame.
This is Cat Marnell. I don't want to love her, but I sort of can't help it. Stole this photo from Vice.
I'd hard for me to focus on one thing. Everything sounds interesting to me in the short term. I meet EMTs, engineers, nurses, retail sales clerks, house-cleaners, jewellery designers, and they tell me about their work and right away I think "Maybe I should do that! That sounds interesting! I bet I could make some money doing that!" Then I waste days on the internet, pretending I actually might. Then I remember that I'm crazy and that maybe a life as an EMT won't really be like it looked on ER; and besides, I don't like other people; and besides, I'd have to go back to school; and besides, I am supposed to be focusing on the business I just started which is actually fun and sustaining; and besides, I'm so tired and it's four AM and why can't I sleep?
And then it's four days later and I haven't done anything worth bragging about and I feel inadequate and we're right back to the beginning.
*I didn't hate all the people, and some of the publications were cool. If you're reading this, I probably liked you. Chill the fuck out.
** Hey, notice the date on this post? Yeah. Not the real date. I like publishing personal posts on Mondays and even though I didn't write this on a Monday, I dated it Monday, because I don't like aberration. THIS IS HOW CRAZY I AM. The title "Hi, crazy!" refers to me, talking to myself, in the mirror.
I slept late today. I sleep late most every day lately. That's what these past few weeks have been about.
I'm not exhausted. I'm not even particularly tired. I wake naturally around 8 am every day and it's already completely light out and instead of thinking, "Hooray! I'm awake! It's time to meet the day!" I think "No. No no no no no no no no no no no" in the manner of that internet cat. Remember that cat?
I screw my eyes shut and press down into my pillows and I try to force myself to go back to sleep because sleep is such a nice place. I like it there. The days, by contrast, are daunting.
I don't want to call this depression because in the grand scheme of things, it's not that bad. I do get up eventually, and I go about my day and I try to get things done (never as many things as I hope to, but that's another story). Things are fine. I'm just a bit bummed. Worried, you might say.
I'm working on my shop as much as I can. You know my shop? Will & Bequeath
, my little vintage retail business? Yeah, that. But I'm worried about it.
The things people tell you about starting your own business are true. It's a shit load of work. There's always more you could be doing, more you should be doing, and if, like me, you have no employees and have to do everything yourself, and if, like me, you tend to set overly-high standards, every day is like a mountain you keep failing to successfully climb.
Even though my shop is small, a huge amont goes in to the listing of each item for sale. For each individual item, I have to do the following:
6) Photo Edit
7) Describe in Charming Copy
8) List for Sale Online Using My SUPER Powered Web Design Skills (Not)
9) Promote on Social Media
and if the item sells...
12) ShipPlus, you know, there's all the other crap that goes along with the day to day running of the business - maintaining the website, doing the accounting/paperwork, answering emails, trying to come up with and run promotions, being nice to all the people who have questions, regardless of if the questions are silly, etc. (etc. etc. etc.). Sometimes the load feels a bit ridiculous.All that said, I love the shop. The shop makes me happy. It's still very small-time and I've made an effort not to invest too much money into it, because I want it to grow slowly and be sustainable and reasonable and considering all that, it's basically a success. It's making money. Just a little and I'm not paying myself for my time or anything, but I'm in the black.
That's right, kids, I basically have a successful venture on my hands! HOORAY, right!?
You'd think so. But in my family, there are no hoorays. Nathan is wonderfully supportive, of course. He helps me haul things home, he models menswear, he takes packages to the post office when I'm feeling grouchy or tired. And always, ALWAYS, he congratulates me when the shop does well. He's excited about every sale. Complimentary about every find. He always wants to celebrate. He's forever telling me how great I am. He's sweet that way. The sweetest, basically.
My biological family, on the other hand, specifically my parents, is essentially completely shitty to me, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In regards to the store, they've had exactly one thing to say: "It's not a real job. Why don't you get a real job?"
That's it. No kind words about how the photos look. No congratulations on unexpected sales. No kudos about anything whatsoever. Certainly none of the help or support a normal family might provide in a situation like this. Just criticism. Constant, insulting criticism.
But who cares if my parents are less than supportive right? Who cares what they think? I try not to, I promise. They've always been like this, they're never going to stop being like this. Abuse in the form of a lifetime of agressions and micro-aggressions is a fun family fact ranging back generations and I'm not stupid so I know this is the way it is, the way it was and the way it always will be. Yet, for some reason, some combination of socialization and biology, I do care. I can't seem to stop caring, try as I might. And as a result, every single time they needle me about how worthless or unsuccessful or lazy I am (or, historically, about my looks, natch), I feel like absolute shit.
When my company closed and I was laid off last year and my father declared "Good! Now maybe you'll get a real job" I felt like shit. When my mother calls to ask what I do all day (which she does, practically every week) I feel like shit. I don't want to feel like shit, I just can't seem to help it. It sucks. It's shitty.
And I worry about what this negativity has done and continues to do to me.
“Emotional abuse is like brainwashing. It systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in his or her perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under guise of “guidance” or teaching, the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient loses all sense of self and all remnants of personal value. The primary effects of emotional abuse are depression, lack of motivation, confusion, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, low self-esteem, feelings of failure or worthlessness, feelings of hopelessness, self-blame, and self-destructiveness.” - Beverly Engle
That's bad, right? SERIOUSLY bad? And I can feel it happening. Or maybe it's already happened, I don't know. I don't think I've lost all sense of self or anything. Not yet. My self-esteem is definitely in the pooper, though. It's just that nobody's flushed yet. (That was, like, the best toilet reference I've ever written.)
On some occasions, I'm effectively able to shake all this crap off, but not always. Sometimes, the familial negativity seeps in. That's what happened most recently. That's why I've been spending the last few weeks sleeping and not updating the store in any meaningful way. My father repeated, several times over the course of an evening, that I didn't have a job. Nothing new there. Nothing I hadn't heard before. Yet it infected me. His mean little needling crawled inside and settled in and started whispering at me and ever since I've been thinking stuff like this:
Maybe I'm stupid to do this. The store will probably fail. I'm basically worthless, so everything I do is likely to be worthless too. I should probably get some sort of 'real' job. They're probably right about that. It would be safer. If I was smart and not so full of myself, that's what I would do. And if I hate the job, so what? Hating jobs is part of life. I should be grateful to have a job at all considering who I am. I'm completely full of garbage. I'm a garbage person.
I'm not exaggerating. This is exactly how I think when I've been effectively infected. I've been trying to turn it off. (Lots of sleep helps with that, actually.) And I think, I think, it might finally be fading and I might be able to get back to work. I've done a few blog posts and have managed to photograph a bunch of new stuff for the store which will be posted in the coming days. So that's good, right? I'm coming out of it. I wish it hadn't happened at all, but hey. Things happen.
Look - I even wrote about it! That's a healing thing, right? RIGHT. Riiiiiiight.
Anyway, that's what's going on in garbage town.
Love you guys. Sorry for overusing references to poop in this post. Crap and shit are just such descriptive words!
I know, you guys, I KNOW. No blogs. No blogs are being posted and no blogs are being written. No speaks blogs, no chic blogs, no reviews blogs, even! No blogs no blogs no blogs. Who knows when this drought will cease? Who knows from whence it came? Not I, my friends. Not I. Hold in your hearts the hope that this drought will pass. Be ever faithful. And in the meantime...
Sometimes, when you go out for All You Can Eat (AYCE) Sushi with your friends, you find yourself at a place that includes beverages on its AYCE menu. (Score!) And if you're lucky, said beverages include the lurid orange concoction known as Cplus. (Double score!)
Now, some might say that slipping one of these cans of delicious nectar into your purse for later is "stealing." Or, to be specific, "stealing like a crazy old lady" but you know what?
I. DON'T. CARE.
* This is not a real blog post.
** I really did pocket a can of Cplus at AYCE sushi on the weekend. Don't judge.
Howdy do, interwebbers.
It's been a bunch of weeks since I blogged last, mostly because I wanted to give that ED/SAD writeup piece plenty of time in the top spot. It's been shared hundreds of times and the feedback has been lovely and amazing and super duper gratifying. In fact, while I received many many many emails about it (not to mention comments, tweets, FB messages, etc.) I only had to deal with two instances of slightly unpleasant feedback. Note here that I'm not saying negative feedback. Even the two instances of unpleasant feedback were relatively positive. I just wasn't crazy about the interactions. I'll explain.
In one case, the person didn't want to talk about the post at all, didn't want to share her own experiences or feelings in response, only wanted to talk about how "proud" she was of me for writing it. It was sort of... well, condescending, frankly. She gave the impression of being just so above it all. Lame. Especially since this person is totally caught up in her own disordered eating issues and completely unaware of them. But whatever. (Besides that, I just hate it when people who haven't helped me or contributed to my success in any way have the nerve to say they're "proud" of me. Yuck. Pride when you've done nothing to contribute is a bit a of a joke, in my opinion.) I smiled and nodded as is my wont.
The other slightly unpleasant interaction involved someone who brought up the post, but then awkwardly trailed off saying she didn't know what to say about it. Seemed like she felt like I should be embarrassed about sharing too much. Probably because SHE felt embarrassed while reading it. Again, it's worth noting that this reaction ALSO came from a person who is body-obsessed and very invested in her own youth and thinness, so maybe that's part of it. She didn't have anything bad to say, but she made it clear the whole thing made her uncomfortable. She gave the impression that she thought her reaction was the "normal" one. I didn't explain to her that out of hundreds of responses, hers was the only awkward one. Again, I smiled and nodded. What else can you do, right? Poor thing.
To the rest of you, the ones who wrote and shared and basically just behaved like the rad, kind, wonderful people you are: thank you. And to the folks who said nothing because you had nothing nice to say: thank you too.
Life of late has been fairly domestic. I've been doing stuff like baking bread, believe it or not. (Used Mark Bittman's famous no-knead method. Came out kinda yeasty, but not bad.) Here's a photo of the dough, resting:
I've also been trying to season a vintage cast iron pan I found at a junk sale. I can't figure out anything about the brand, but I think the piece is pre 1940s because of the smooth finish. (House filled with smoke. So many black drips. Am going to have to start from scratch. Very depressing.) Here are a couple of photos of the pan before I began my failed refurbishing process:
Finally, I've been trying to get my house clean in a deep sort of way. You know, in a "I moved the fridge and washed under it" sort of way. When cleaning in this fashion, you come across some interesting items. Like REALLY old potatoes. At least, this is the sort of thing I come across. My ancient potatoes looked like this:
Cool, right? Alien-esque.
Anyway. It's not much, but that's what's going on here. (Domestic adventures and little else.) Talk soon. x
Well, here we are in February of 2013 and I have yet to write anything new for the year. Actually, that’s not really true. I’ve written lots of new things, just nothing for the blog. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, or haven’t been thinking about it. I have. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but hesitating, for various reasons.
The thing is, this blog has evolved a lot. When I first started out blogging, in 2005, I was writing mostly about pithy work stuff. I was so self-conscious. Every post was a name-droppy mess. One week I wrote about interviewing Feist at the Vancouver Folk Festival. Another time, I talked about working a junket for the movie Crash and interviewing Paul Haggis (at the Four Seasons… I believe I made sure to include that oh-so-scintillating fact). This is embarrassing for a lot of reasons. First off, being a name-dropper is inherently gross. (If you’re someone who does it, stop immediately.) Besides that, it just seems … sad. I was sad.
Anyway, after I left that line of work and went back to school to do my MA in Toronto, the blog started to evolve into something more confessional. And okay, that was fine. I like memoir and confessional writing. Always have, despite the fact that the writing scene (literary and less-so) turns a collective nose up at this sort of thing. But my posts were often vague. I can see, looking back, how my posts were a bit like long Facebook status updates where I shared enough to let people know something was going on, but not so much that they would actually know what that something was. I was (and often am) too self-conscious to tell the complete truth about anything. (Again, more on that later.) But on occasion I’d write a post that was truer than others and the response would mushroom. When I wrote that post about high school
for example, about how I felt bullied by the girls in my social group … holy crap. People responded. A lot. In fact, though that post went up a full two years ago, I still get comments on it. (I recently had to close the comments section because I didn’t feel like moderating anymore.) In the same vein, I wrote a post about my grandmother’s death about a year ago that, as many regular readers know, caused quite a stir. I took that one down to appease family members who thought it was unfair (and evidently, that I was a horrible, disgusting person for writing it, if you’re to believe the bilious comments they left), but despite that, as with the high school piece, I still get positive feedback. People get in touch to say they loved the piece, and that they wish I’d left it up. Others write to tell me about their own complicated family relationships and the way the older people in their lives have inspired a mix of love and frustration.
(Sidenote: My own family doesn’t appear to have forgiven me, despite the fact that I took that post down. This has been hard to come to terms with. I try to comfort myself with the idea that I told the truth. My mother-in-law gave me a book for Christmas that addresses this very issue. In her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal
? Jeanette Winterson writes "Unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself." Maybe this is true. I know many members of my own family would interject here that they are
and that I should just shut up
or some such thing. So anyway. I guess I’ll shut up about that.)
Anyway, back to the mainline. Truth-telling, especially about difficult subjects, seems to be what people respond to, at least in my case. Never was this more apparent than in the response to the post I wrote near the end of 2010 called The weight
. In that piece, I talked pretty frankly about my body obsession and weight cycling and again, people responded. HUGELY. The post was picked up by several other sites, including at least one from overseas written entirely in a Scandanavian language I don’t know. (So I have no idea what anybody said about it, but they sure seemed to say a lot.) In the States, the blog was found by an organization (HealthyPlace
) that focuses on mental health issues and I was invited to speak on one of their podcasts about eating disorders. The comments flooded in, both on the post itself and privately, via email. People wrote to tell me about their own feelings on similar issues. Many people wrote to tell me about their eating disorders. Some just wrote to say hi and to say that the piece made them feel less isolated. (That was nice.)
And ultimately, thanks to the comments and the feedback, I came to see that The weight
was probably the most important thing I’d ever written to date, not because of the feedback itself, but because the feedback gave me perspective. And here’s the big thing that came out of that: I finally faced the fact that I myself have an eating disorder.
Yep. I have an Eating Disorder (ED). And there’s more!
I’ve HAD this disorder for about 20 years. And I didn’t even know it.
Now, to be fair, I knew the way I ate and exercised was (sometimes) questionable, but at the same time, my “disordered behaviours” (this is the way we talk in recovery) all felt relatively normal. I was just dieting. I didn’t have Anorexia because hey, I ate (most of the time). And I didn’t have Bulimia because I didn’t really purge (most of the time). As for those periods of crazy exercise, well, that was just being healthy
. No pain no gain, right? Sigh.
Basically, like a lot of people, I thought Anorexia and Bulimia were all there was. (I bet many of you think that right now, in fact. Nobody tells us about the dangers of sub-clinical disordered eating in general, not to mention Orthorexia, or Anorexia Athletica, or what I have: Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
. It’s a real thing – a clinically recognized eating disorder with defined diagnostic criteria. EDNOS is, I believe, the most commonly diagnosed ED out there. And before 2012, I’d never even heard of it. Just one more thing to write in the “society is totally fucked up” column.
Anyway. The good news is, I’m getting better. Without going into too much detail about that part of things, I can say that I’m officially “in recovery” and have been for a while. It’s going okay. But EDs, from what I’ve leaned, can be a lot like substance abuse issues in that relapse is always a possibility, and of course, I have shitty days where I hate myself and I am really REALLY tempted to do the things I used to do to “fix” my body, but for the most part, I resist. I’m trucking along. I’m lucky. I’m a “middle class” person who often passes as “white” living in a big city with a lot of resources designed for and made available specifically for people like me. A lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am. (People can and do die from EDs like mine. Or they lead really sad lives chained to their disorders forever.) I’m getting better.
I’m also fat. Have you noticed? People do. Just last week, I had the pleasure of a longish conversation with a stranger who wanted to know when I was “due.” (I said March, by the way, because it just felt so much easier that saying, “Actually, I’m just fat.” *) I get comments about my “still” pretty face. I am faced with friends who are obsessed with their own bodies who look at me and clearly think (sometimes even say) “What HAPPENED?” They’re obviously terrified that whatever it is might happen to them. Others are fond of chastising me for identifying my body as fat at all. “Oh, Jen, you’re not fat!” they exclaim, with so much speed it’s obvious that fat is the worst thing they think a person could be. (I do this too. I can't help it. We all do. We're all trying to be nice.) The thing is, I'm trying to get comfortable with the notion of fat as fine and to let go of the constantly repeated idea that fat = disgusting, lazy, greedy, ugly, etc. etc. etc. ** but people think that way, even though many don't realize it. It makes a lot of folks uncomfortable when you challenge that. It’s all pretty ridiculous. Fat really scares people. (And the truth is, while I’m fat, I’m not even especially fat. I can’t even imagine the absolute horror show of abuse and shame heaped on people who are fatter than I am. It’s truly terrifying and extremely unjust, but that’s another topic and this blog is already long enough as it is. ***) All I’m really trying to say is that since taking real steps to recover, all this body-talk has made social interactions hard. Or rather, harder than they used to be.
Supportive or not, fat-positive or not, kind or not, other people are “triggers” for me. (There’s that recovery language again.) And this might mean that in the last year, I’ve started seeing less of you. Or maybe I deleted you from Facebook or something. This brings us to the second big mental health revelation in this post:
In addition to my super fun ED, I also have pretty pronounced Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Hooray!
As with my ED, I’ve had it for a long time, but my diagnosis is pretty recent. I spent most of my 20s fighting this because when combined with my naturally introverted nature I was seen as “anti-social” and “no fun.” I was embarrassed by my desire to be alone or to spend time with friends one-on-one instead of at parties, so I worked hard to hide that. (Note here that being introverted is not the same as being shy. And neither of those things is the same as Social Anxiety Disorder. There’s lots of literature if you want to read up to better understand the differences.) Anyway, like I said, I worked hard to hide both my natural introversion (which is really no big deal, not an illness or even a problem, and which I’ve learned to accept) and my anxiety (which IS a big deal and can be debilitating ) and I got really good at it. People comment all the time on how gregarious I seem, how good I am at talking to strangers, how confident I am (especially on 5+ drinks). What can I say? When I seem gregarious, I’m really wishing I was dead! Ha ha! Fooled you!
I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience (because everyone’s mental health issues are different, even when they’re ostensibly the same), but in my case, my ED and my SAD are related, and from what I hear, this is often the case. In recovery support groups we talk a lot about how, for some people, the ED is a reaction to stress – a sort of maladaptive coping mechanism that, at least at one time, helped to relive anxiety and dial down the autonomic nervous system response. (Science talk! Woot woot!) This is probably why you’ll hear people who know nothing about Anorexia, for example, talk about how “it’s a control thing.” I assume they heard something along those lines from a high school gym teacher or a teen magazine. It’s not really that simple, but I digress. Certainly, in my case, my ED appears to be a symptom of my anxiety and I’m working on both things concurrently. And I tell you this to explain my rather strong feelings about what is and isn’t okay for me in social situations anymore, which is, I suppose the driving force behind this entire post.
I'm just out. I am out of patience for most of what constitutes “normal” conversation, particularly between women, but really just in general. Your “juice fast,” your New Year’s resolution to “get in shape,” your “jiggle wiggle,” your “cleanse,” your “awesome workouts,” your “Paleo-Atkins-MediFast-WeightWatchers-BiggestLoser-Homeopathic-GlutenFree-Whateverthefuck” – I can’t talk to you about any of that anymore. I can’t hear about it. I can’t take you moralizing about how “bad” you’re being for having that brownie, or how “good” you are for eating that salad. Personally, I can’t because I’m sick and I’m trying to get better and those kinds of conversations contribute to making me worse. Politically, I can’t because I’m just over it. I’m over women being expected to conversationally bond over shared self-hatred. I’m over hearing people congratulate each other for weight loss, even when the weight loss is a result of an illness, like a severe flu, Cancer or an ED. (When I was at my sickest and most engaged with my ED, people were ALWAYS congratulating me, telling me how good I looked, etc. “Good for you,” they’d say. Sometimes, I’d even tell people about my “diets” – I’d confess about how few calories I ate, or how I used to squirt dish soap on food I didn’t want to be tempted to eat (a little trick I learned from a weight-loss guide I ordered from the back of Seventeen magazine when I was 14. I remember the same trick shown on Sex and the City, by the way). People would just keep congratulating. The sentiment was this: Hmm… 500 calories a day? That sounds weird, but stick with it! It’s working! You may be killing yourself, but you look “good” and that’s all that matters!)
So I’m over it. I’m over the whole insane, sexist, scientifically unsound dialogue about health, weight and appearance.
Almost everything you believe about health and weight is probably wrong. Sorry. I know it might annoy you to hear that, but it’s true. It’s a hard fact for people to swallow in general, because most of us have been hearing lies about body appearance our whole lives and we’ve internalized those lies as “common sense.” (For example, “everyone knows” it’s healthier to be thin. Except it’s not. Scientifically speaking. But try to tell people this and then raise your shield because half the people listening are going to want to kill you. We’ve also been told the lie that being “healthy” is somehow the gold standard for personhood. Except, think about that. Do you really believe that someone is a better person who deserves better treatment because he or she is “healthy?” Isn’t that just a bit ableist? Does it really make a lot of sense?) It’s messed up, folks. That’s all there is to it. I’m not going to go into all the evidence and reasoning and science because there’s already a solid community of activists out there doing that and I’d just be paraphrasing them anyway (see footnotes for more on that), but I do want to point out how messed up it is, and how hurtful. And just FYI, hurtful things are stressful things. (And stress really IS unhealthy, physiologically and psychologically. I’m a perfect example of that whole problem at work.)
There are so many ways in which we all (or okay, maybe not all, but many of us) contribute to a completely fucked up culture of disordered eating and distorted body image and we’ve gotta quit it. Even things that seem on the surface to be “normal” and “nice” are really damaging. Even all that “Ooh, you look so great, I hate you” cutesy nonsense is a problem. All that talk talk talk about your gym schedule, etc. is a problem. **** And it’s a problem I’ve been part of. So don’t get me wrong – I’m not accusing you of anything terrible. I’m guilty too. But as I get better I understand more clearly than ever before that this whole conversation – the one that is about the way people look instead of about anything meaningful or important – needs to end. Period. We’re all trained to be judgmental about our bodies and the bodies of other people. I’m not saying that’s going to magically cease if we stop talking about it, but not talking about it is a nice first step. Keep that shit in your head and talk about anything else. There are so many other things that are more worthwhile.
It isn’t always easy, of course, to hold to all these new ideals as I start to get better and try to stay that way. And I make it harder for myself. Just recently, I appeared on a new show on MTV (hey, remember when I used to be on TV all the time?). Someone I used to know from my days on The After Show
invited me to be on this new series called Losing It
. It’s simple, really. You sit on a stool and tell the story of how you lost your virginity. Now why, WHY would a person like me agree to do this? Hello, I have an ANXIETY disorder. I am introverted. Doing a show that would be super exposing, both physically (me as a close-up talking head and torso) and emotionally (sex stories are pretty loaded for most people)? It sounded like a TERRIBLE idea
. And still, I agreed. I agreed because on some level, I believe that my anxiety disorder and my body image issues, etc., all of those things pale in comparison to the importance of telling the truth about things. I knew I would feel self-conscious and embarrassed and awkward telling my story and I knew waiting for it to air would generate a lot of unnecessary anxiety, but on a more rational level, I also know that I don’t really have anything to be embarrassed about. Not about my story, not about the way I look, not about how smart or articulate I am. There’s NOTHING wrong me with. So I did the show. And then I waited for it to air. Sweating
And then it did air and it was fine. I was fine. I came across as sort of funny, and charming enough. There’s nothing wrong with what I said or how I said it. And while my memory of what I was talking about is pretty dim, I still think I fairly represented the spirit of how I felt as a 17 year old, which was, I suppose the point. It was fine. Except… I looked so fat. Hideously fat, I thought, especially compared to the photo they showed of me at 17. And despite all my lofty goals and my political feelings about fat being fine, I freaked out a little. It didn’t help that I followed the online feedback about the show via Twitter. Most of it was complimentary. People love Losing It. The MTV audience (teens, mostly, I’m guessing) think it’s hilarious and that’s great. Almost ALL the comments online are positive. But I saw one (JUST ONE) comment about how some of the storytellers (like me) had obviously let themselves go. Look how unhealthy [read: fat] you’ve let yourselves get since high school, said some little Twitter twit. And because I’m crazy, that’s the comment that stuck. I felt ashamed and like I wanted to argue, “Um, actually, I’m fat because I’m overcoming an eating disorder, so SUCK ON THAT, you heartless bitch!” Seriously. This is the impulse I had to stifle, because really, whatever my issues, I don’t want to be overly-defensive. I don’t want to be that guy. That guy is a fun-sponge. *****
My point is that it’s hard. It’s hard to maintain my recovery in the world, the world being what it is. It’s hard enough for me to attend social events because of my anxiety to begin with, but pile on the fact that 99% of events include some form of weight, appearance, faux-health, diet and/or exercising conversation and it’s even harder. It makes me want to stay home 24/7. And stop reading books, watching TV and looking out the window too, because this body-lunacy, it’s everywhere. But of course, total isolation probably isn’t a good solution. Truth might be. Or it might help a bit, which is, I guess, why I’m writing this.
Sadly, telling the truth about any sort of mental health issue means living with stigma, which is definitely difficult. That’s the idea I struggled with when deciding whether or not to post this epic truth-spew. Sharing any of this opens the door to a huge amount of judgment and advice from the often-well-meaning, but totally-ignorant public. (And as a result, comments will probably be on moderation, FYI.) And I’m sure some of my more pleasant acquaintances are rubbing their hands with glee at my revelations. (Nice folks, those.) But still, I did it. I’m anxious, but I’m trying not to be ashamed.
Shame is the worst, guys. It’s awful and toxic and it contributed to me being sick for a really long time. I was ashamed of so much about myself, especially my repeated “failure” to “fix” my body. (A lot of people think body “fixing” is possible, by the way. It’s just diet and exercise, they shout. Calories in, calories out. ****** Bleh. It's not. Not for everyone. Not all of the time. And besides that, please please please BE QUIET and MIND YOUR BEESWAX.)
Shame made me a liar, too. ******* Before I was married, I lived with a past boyfriend for years and he had no idea that I was sick at all, let alone how sick I was. (To be fair, we had issues. I probably could have died in that apartment and it would have taken days for him to find me. We weren’t exactly caring toward one another.) But also, he didn’t know because I didn’t tell him. I was ashamed, so I lied. I even managed to lie to myself. That’s the power of shame for you.
I’m told, however, that truthfulness detoxifies shame in real, tangible ways. That’s something I’ve heard in recovery. Telling the truth is one of the things that works when you’re trying to get better. I guess that’s one of the reasons support groups are popular. Telling the truth reduces shame.
So here we are. ********
This week (February 3rd to 9th) is Eating Disorder Awareness Week here in Canada, by the way. So this is all pretty timely, wouldn’t you say? (I’m patting myself on the back right now, in fact.)
Hey, remember all those asterisks? Brace yourself. Here come the footnotes.
* There’s a whole movement to reclaim the word “fat” going on, though you might not have heard about it. So before you start up with the “oh, you’re not fat” comments, that I’m sure you mean to be kind, consider this sort of thing. I’m okay with the way I look. Or at least, I’m trying to be. Saying, “Oh, you’re not fat! Don’t be hard on yourself!” isn’t as helpful as you think it is. It would be more helpful to get your head around the idea that there’s nothing wrong with being fat in the first place. Don’t be afraid of fat OR of the word fat, if you can possibly help it. I know it's hard. It's hard for me too. We're trying to undo a lifetime worth of teaching here, people.
** You might think you aren't participating in this idea that fat people are gross, stupid, lazy, smelly, greedy, etc., but the next time you see a fat character on television or in the movies, pay attention. Is that character smart? Kind? Friendly? Or is that character drawn as evil, dumb, mean, etc.? This kind of repeated stereotyping is rarely challenged, but it's bigoted, plain and simple.
*** Want to learn about fat-activism, size-acceptance, fighting bigotry and/or HAES (Health at Every Size)? I suggest blogs/websites like The Fat Nutritionist and Dances With Fat. Or just get Googling. You have internet access, I know you do.
**** It’s totally cool if you love the gym. More power to you, gym-rat! Love boot-camp? That’s cool too. Talking about these interests and pleasures to like minded individuals who’ve agreed to participate in such conversations is fine. Constantly sharing (and thereby upsetting and even inadvertently shaming) other people for living differently, in real life, on social media, etc. is way. less. fine. Your experience is yours. Hooray! Applying your experience to anyone else, foisting it on anyone else? It's not nice. (I know you didn't mean to hurt anyone, but hey, now you know.)
***** A fun-sponge is someone who sucks all the fun out of social interactions. Do you have a fun-sponge in your social circle? Most of us do.
****** Hey, that rhymed!
******* Eating Disorders are incredibly easy to hide. Lots of mental health issues are. I can promise you, most of the time you CANNOT tell who is sick based on the way they look. Now that I'm in recovery, I know people with eating disorders who run the gamut: women, men, transgendered people, fat people, thin people, racially diverse people, sexually diverse people, socioeconomically diverse people, etc. You have no idea. It surprised me a lot when I started treatment, but it’s a fact. You can't tell. Don't want to hurt people by accident? Don't talk about bodies. Easy peasy!
******** FYI, I’m probably not going to be blogging about this sort of thing often. I don’t think this is going to become some sort of mental health/eating disorder blog. It’s probably just going to keep being what is was: rambling, sporadic and emo. And occasionally, true. Or as true as I can make it on any given day. Make of that whatever you will.
P.S. WEE UPDATE 05/02/2013: HealthyPlace, the org that had me speak on its podcast/radio show after I wrote my initial weight post invited me to participate in its Stand Up for Mental Health campaign. So, sure! Here are the buttons:
So, as some of you may already know, I have become carless. I have a car no more. The car is gone. It was never really my car to begin with. It was little more than a loaner, really, but it was a costly loaner. It required too many repairs, too much gas, too much stress. It was necessary and really helpful for work a couple of years ago, but now that I'm largely working from home, it started to seem possible to do without. And if we can all agree to understand the notion of "cost" as something more than financial, let's just say the darn thing cost too much and leave it at that. It's gone.
So I am without wheels. Unless you count my classic bundle buggy, which is my new go-to for transporting groceries, packages for the shop and other sundries. I am OBSESSED with my buggy. Using my buggy makes me look like a little old lady (especially when I'm rocking a babushka - it's happened), but it makes me feel like a city-dwelling super-person. (Granted, my powers are lame and minimal, but nonetheless.) As I roll along, pushing my buggy topped to the brim, I find myself thinking a string of self congratulatory and positive thoughts like "Look at ME and my BUGGY! Look how much stuff I've got in here! I'm getting much done! I'm, like, the most effective, practical, environmentally-friendly, getting-stuff-done sort of person ever. Basically. I mean, look at all this stuff. And look at ME, pushing it along like it's nothing. I'm the best. Me plus car = totally average. Me plus buggy? Amazeballs! I love MY SUPER AWESOME BUGGY. My buggy is my new best friend. Me and my buggy. Together forever. Buggy buggy buggy."
You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. (Okay, maybe I am a little, but I'm mostly serious.) Pushing my buggy makes me feel great. Strangely confident. I have no idea why.
And then there's taking the TTC (that's what we call Toronto's public transit system, for you out of town readers). I have historically HATED the TTC. Mean bus drivers, motion sickness and a touch of agoraphobia means public transit and me aren't a great mix. Or so I thought. I've remembered something in these last few weeks without a car. I don't fundamentally hate the TTC. I hate it during rush hour. As long as it's not a peak time, the TTC is fine. Riding the city's subways, buses and streetcars reminds me of being a kid, in a good way. I often felt chained as a child, and long before I knew how to drive and certainly before I had my own vehicle, public transit lengthened that chain. It gave me a tiny little bit of freedom that I was desperate for at a time when I felt trapped. It was a way to go where I wanted to go. Far away, if that was my desire. And who could stop me?
I had forgotten how satisfying it was to be able to get miles away from home, where nobody knew me and nobody seemed to notice me, for just a few bucks. I had forgotten how much I loved the anonymity. Sure, it may have seemed odd to the drivers -- to see a kid travelling alone all the way across the city -- but not one driver ever bugged me about it. This is a big place after all. People mind their own business. (A good thing and a bad thing, I know, but for my purposes, a wonderful thing. A relief and a joy.)
There is so much I've forgotten. When you combine that thought with the idea that there's also so much I don't know, understanding the world seems like an overwhelming feat, but these little re-realizations are comforting nonetheless. The city is a living, breathing thing. It's dirty and frustrating and frightening, yes. And it's teeming and strangely beautiful. I'd forgotten. I was outside of all that, shielded by the comforting bubble of my own car, my little protected space. Mine mine mine. But now I'm back in the mix, where nothing specific is mine and I can have a little bit of everything all the same. I'm part of the masses crawling over the surface of this place that we have to share, and it feels good. Crisscrossing the city on foot, seeing it from the window of a streetcar, climbing down into the subway ... I feel like I'm right inside the belly of the world, close to its beating heart.
Over the past several years, I've been in the process of letting things go. Giving things up. Some of the things I lost in the early days of this went of their own accord, leaving me terrified and worried about how I would get them back. I felt like I'd dropped several rungs on the ladder of success. That feeling passed. It passed slowly, but it passed. And eventually, I started giving things up by choice -- the "career" I thought I wanted, complete with the salary I imagined was necessary -- for example. And every time I made the choice to have "less" I felt better. But still, I've had trouble learning the lesson at the heart of this. Just weeks ago, I was struggling with the idea of giving up the car. What if I'd become to used to it? What it not having it felt too hard? It offered so much convenience. What would I do without it?
I worried and worried and worried, but ultimately, I let it go and now, all those frightened feelings have evaporated. Because, as has happened every time I've lost or given up this sort of thing in the past, EVERY SINGLE TIME, I've gotten more or better back in trade.
Having less, for me, provides a fundamental feeling of relief. It makes me do things I wouldn't otherwise do. It's how I ended up back in Toronto in the first place. It's how I found Nate. It's what made me finally open the store I'd been thinking about for a decade. And now, it's what's getting me out of the house and back in touch with the world. (I think this is called "connectedness.")
This is something worth remembering. For next time.
*Photos from today's post were snapped from the left windows of the northbound Bathurst streetcar.
I don't really have anything to blog about. Sorry about that. But you know what I keep seeing? That Dior commercial from last year with Charlize Theron in it. Do you know the one? It's strangely compelling. I was chatting with someone about it recently and they mentioned that it kind of makes them want to buy the perfume, which makes it a successful ad, of course. But, said this friend, it's not because of Charlize, but because of the song that's playing.
She liked the song, and it made her want to buy a perfume. (Advertising is totally freaking crazy, right?) And she's not the first person to tell me this. People love that song (Heavy Cross by The Gossip). Here's the commercial:
Anyway. You know what I think EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE THIS COMMERCIAL? I think, "Why did Dior go to the trouble of buying the rights to an awesome Beth Ditto/The Gossip song and then spend a billion gazillion trillion more dollars making a commercial to go along with it in order to make people buy perfume, when The Gossip had already made a gold-heavy video that could have worked just as well? And people probably would have bought the perfume regardless. WHY?"
The answer is this: because Charlize is thin. And her body (at least in this video) resembles the stupid bottle the perfume comes in. And they wanted to reference Marilyn Monroe. That's what "they" (the silly group of people who came up with this ad) thought would get people to buy the perfume. And that makes sense, I suppose. Advertising is what it is. (It's CRAZY - see above.)
Nonetheless, Dior has spent a bazzillon jillion pillion dollars and they probably didn't need to spend. And now they're spending additional crazillions buying ad space to keep airing the commercial, more than a year after it debuted. And since I think most branding/advertising is basically evil, this makes me kind of happy. Or at least, if I spin it this way in my mind, it makes me a little happier.
Spend your money, Dior. Spend it all. If you really want to make me happy, go bankrupt.*
Anyway. I love Beth Ditto. That's all I really wanted to say.
Wow. That post was totally random, eh? And SO not timely. Oh well.
* I'm not really being serious. I know Dior and the likes of Dior are just going to spending gazillions on stupid shit and it won't matter because they have gazillions to spend and spending said gazillions in such a way just means they're going to make additional gazillions, because a lot of people are stupid/thoughtless and advertising works. But a girl can dream, right?
Hey guys. I know I've been craptastic about blogging lately. That's always the way, isn't it? Long breaks then apologies. Clearly, I've set too heavy a schedule for myself. I can't keep up.
I have ideas, usually late at night, and I have the best intentions about them, but if I don't write them down immediately, the moment I think of them, somehow, the urge tends to fade. That's what happened last weekend.
With Halloween just days away, I thought I would maybe write something about fear. When I was a little girl, I was so sensitive to "scary" stuff and horror films in particular, reading the backs of the VHS boxes in the video store left me practically shaking. A few minutes of actually watching one might give me nightmares for years.
(In fact, after seeing Nightmare on Elm Street when I was about 7 -- in a situation engineered by parents who clearly should have won some sort of WORST IDEA EVER award -- I did
have nightmares for years. They didn't stop until I was in high school. Bleh. I feel like I've blogged about this before. Have I? Anyway.)
Even in my late 20s, I was highly sensitive to anything spooky. I mean, look at this blog post from 2007
. I was awake in the middle of the night even then, kept up by nightmares brought on by the likes of TV shows like Medium
and Ghost Whisperer
. Ridiculous, I know. But that's how it was. (Ghost Whisperer
was a TERRIBLE show, by the way. I'm kind of ashamed to have watched it at all. Medium
But something's shifted. Not only have I stopped avoiding scary stuff, I seem to seek it out. I'm literally OBSESSED with the TV show The Walking Dead
(which is, I know, not that scary for real horror fans, but I find it riveting). And one show isn't enough. Late at night, I find myself channel surfing, looking for anything to do with murders. I have watched every procedural drama out there, in the hopes of finding a storyline that is scary enough
. (Mostly, they're not.) I have this strange urge to see murders before bed. Isn't that weird?
I even order scary movies On Demand when I'm home alone. (Nothing really gory, however. Nothing like Saw
or anything. I don't find that kind of thing good or bad, but I just don't care so much about it.) I'm hunting for serial killer stuff. Rapes and murders. Anything with ghosts or a frightening chase.
So what happened? Why did I go from scaredy cat to oddly desensitized murder-consumer? It's like the brain I have now is completely different from the brain I was born with. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing. Most "scary" stuff in popular culture isn't very good, so I end up watching a lot of crap. That's a downside, I guess. But no more nightmares ... that's definitely a plus. It's just odd that a person's tastes can change so completely, isn't it? And for no apparent reason...
Anyway. In other vaguely-fear-related news, last week was Halloween. We had a party on the Saturday before. Nate was Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and I was a failed mime. Here, look:
It was a fun party, I think. I dunno. I've lost my ability to judge how good a party is. That's something else that's changed. People danced a bit. That's good, right?
Waldo and Wenda, workin' it.
French Kiss. Get it?
(Blurry images are fun. I don't care what anyone says.)
Again, I say to you: ANYWAY.
On Halloween night, the rain kept most of the kids away and we just had a handful of trick-or-treaters make it to the door. Nathan carved the pumpkin. It looked like this:
No, really. That's how it looked. It took him AN HOUR to do this. No kidding.
I had hoped to spend the evening walking around the neighbourhood, looking at the decorated houses and checking out the kids, but the rain kept me at home. Instead, I spent the night hunting for scary stuff on television, as per usual. (I settled on American Horror Story
, which I no longer think is horrible and actually sort of like, but which mostly leaves me feeling uncomfortable and annoyingly confused, rather than scared. Then I rented that John Cusack movie The Raven
, where he plays Edgar Allen Poe. It was so awful/stupid/boring, I had to turn it off before the 30 minute mark. Oh well.)
Anyway anyway anyway. I don't know why I'm hunting for fear since I don't remember enjoying it all that much when it was giving me nightmares and keeping me awake all night. Maybe I miss it because the things that keep me awake now are so much scarier... not to mention real.
I miss the feeling of manufactured fear. It's so much better than the real thing.
Oddly, this is a post about the whole fear thing, but it's nothing like the one I planned to write when I initially thought of it. Weird, eh?