Choke.

My best friend called me out today, and as much as I hate to admit it, she was right. As usual.

I was complaining about my weight gain and how I felt fat and ugly. My BFF was sympathetic then said, “You can’t preach self acceptance and hate yourself.”

I blog so much about body positivity and loving yourself and here I am cringing every time I pass a mirror — that’s mirror avoidance, by the way. Why is it so hard to practice what I preach?

Because there’s a deep-seated belief in me that fat equals ugly and unworthy. I’ve been trained to criticize every inch of my body, to think of fat as disgusting. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to overcome these thoughts, that I’ll always hate myself, and that’s just sad.

Weeks ago I contacted my favorite photographer and booked a photo shoot that was just for me. I wanted to celebrate how free I feel now that I’m so open with my mental disorders. I feel free from others’ opinions, too. Or I did. Now I want to cancel the photo shoot. I tried on outfit after outfit and nothing fit and if it did, it didn’t feel like me. I ended up crying about the ordeal, realizing that I’m not free at all — I’m a slave to my eating disorder and to the idea that being thin means you’re beautiful, loved and successful. I am tethered to dangerous societal norms, even though I talk about bucking them all the time.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to look at myself in disgust. I want to love my body and soul. I want to be free. And in some ways, I am.

It was brave to admit to depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder. I didn’t bat an eye when I talked about my suicidal thoughts and subsequent hospitalizations. I don’t give a fuck what others think because I help people by talking about these issues. Friends, family and even strangers have reached out to me saying I’ve helped in some way, and that fuels me to keep writing. There was nobody to help me navigate depression and anxiety when I was at my worst, and I don’t want anyone feeling the same way. It was a terrible, dark time. And hopefully, I can shine light on other people’s journey because I know what they’re going through. That’s my goal.

But I’m not truly free until I break these tired old chains.

A friend had a shirt on today that said, “I will no longer be shrinking myself to be more digestible.You can choke.” That’s the attitude I want to have. I’d be healthier if I lost some weight, sure, but being overweight doesn’t mean I’m ugly or less than. It doesn’t change anything — I’m amazing for so many reasons and none of those reasons has to do with weight.

My kids are watching. Their ideas of self-worth come from me (and my husband), so I’d better get it together. There’s no way I want either of them to deal with low self-esteem and self-hate. I want them to celebrate who they are outside of their appearance. And if I want them to do that, why can’t I want that for myself? I’m almost 40, and it’s hard to reverse some thoughts, but I can do it. I’ve battled depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember — I’ve come so far. I’m not going to let a few pounds (or 26) take me down. No, I’m stronger than that.

From now on, I’m celebrating who I am despite my appearance. If people don’t like it, they can choke. I refuse to shrink any more than I have.

Freedom

When I started this blog, I was not free. I hid my depression, anxiety and binge eating disorder from the world, mostly because I was embarrassed. I also have a personality disorder, but I didn’t know it when I started writing.

I felt weak because of the depression. That’s not uncommon, mostly because society still buys into the stigma surrounding depression and other mental disorders.

It took going to a mental hospital for me to finally “come clean” about my disorders. Before I left for The Menninger Clinic, I was abusing my anxiety medication, suicidal and it was hard to get out of bed. I was at my lowest.

Then, surrounded by people just like me, I realized that I wasn’t weak — it takes a strong person to fight their own brain in order to stay alive. And that’s what I was doing. My brain was telling me I needed to kill myself and that nobody wanted me around. That I was a burden. But I resisted.

Depression not only made it hard to get out bed but also it was difficult to brush my teeth and shower. I also started isolating, not answering texts from my friends and wanting to spent more time by myself. That’s depression’s game — to isolate you and make you think you’re not worthy. And what helped me while hospitalized was discovering that it wasn’t my fault. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s situational and genetics. Anyone can become depressed — just think about what the pandemic has done: people have lost loved ones, they’ve gotten sick themselves, they’ve lost jobs and people are isolated from family and friends. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to depression right now, for anyone.

And it’s so lonely. So, so lonely.

My goal starting this blog was to help others not feel so lonely. So ostracized. To fight the weariness that you feel in your bones when struggling with depression. I want those suffering to know that you are worthy and not alone in this fight. There is light at the end of the tunnel, at least I think so. I’m still trying to get there.

What I’ve come to know is this: It’s OK to have depression. It’s OK to admit it and talk about it freely. There’s nothing wrong with having a mental disorder. People who suffer with mental illness are survivors, warriors. I am a warrior.

Every single day I wake up and fight depression and anxiety. I fight body image issues and experience terrible, hateful intrusive thoughts telling me I’m ugly, fat and a loser. Or that I’m going to die. Sometimes, it’s no picnic. But again, I’m a warrior.

I’ve learned that I can run on hate, so I’m learning to love myself. On a good day, I see a beautiful, wild-haired woman who loves her friends and family fiercely. Who has awesome tattoos and is not afraid of speaking her mind about anything. An advocate who desperately wants to help others.

I’ve come a long way, and this blog has helped me navigate my journey, which is just beginning.

What I am now is free — free from the shackles of other people’s opinions and the stigma surrounding mental disorders. I have major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, avoidance personality disorder, binge eating disorder and I have problems abusing prescription medication. I’m still amazing. I’m brave. I’m a fighter.

I’m unapologetically me and so fucking free. Join me.

I Hate My Brain

Ever have a long day and think to yourself you deserve a treat? So you get ice cream and start to feel better? That sounds normal to me. My problem is that I think I deserve a treat multiple times a day. I constantly want to feel good. To feel happy. I compulsively eat to get that high and, enjoy that “treat.” Then I feel sick. After I’ve recovered, I look for another treat, forgetting how sick I felt earlier. It’s a vicious cycle.

I do this a lot but especially when the kids are away at my mother-in-law’s. I tell myself that I need to relax, enjoy the quiet and that I need to feel good. Last night, even after I had a big dinner, I sat there thinking of what I could eat that would make me feel good. And I even tried many things, despite being uncomfortably full already. M&Ms didn’t work. Neither did peanut butter crackers, ice cream or SweeTARTS.

But there is nothing I can eat that will make me truly happy.

Now, I’m trying to give myself a break because I am in need of an ECT treatment, which is scheduled for Friday. Usually the week before treatment I run out of gas, and I try to cope however I can. BUT this doesn’t just happen in the weeks leading up to treatment. This happens all the time, even when I’ve just had an ECT.

So I pose this question, “Why do I feel the need to be happy all the time?” Honestly, that question was asked by my therapist last week. She following up with, “Can’t we sit with other emotions? Nobody is happy every minute of the day.”

And she’s right. We don’t need to be happy every minute. I think my problem is that I HATE being uncomfortable, so I’ll do anything to push those negative emotions aside. Emotions like anxiety, stress, anger or sadness. It’s clearly not working for me to ignore these problems, and even if overeating has helped in the past, it sure as hell is not working now.

This may sound strange, but I think I need to acknowledge and honor whatever feelings I’m having. Maybe I need to grab my journal whenever I’m feeling negative emotion, talk about what’s going on and then release that feeling. I don’t know.

All I know if that I need to stop coping by bingeing. It’s made me gain a bunch of weight and really, aren’t I just eating my emotions?

Sometimes I really hate my brain, which I hold responsible for my debilitating-at-times depression and anxiety. I hate that it doesn’t respond to other treatments. I hate that my mental health is so precarious, and I resent that I have to be so careful as to not disturb it. I hate that happiness seems so fleeting at times. I’m not a big fan of my eating disorder either.

I don’t like to say hate; It forces a dichotomy with the idea that I should love and respect myself. I’m trying really hard to love myself, even almost 30 pounds heavier and a handful of mental disorders. But I feel betrayed by my brain. I know I need to reconcile those ideas. I know there is more benefit in loving all of me. I’ll get there. Despite everything that my brain has thrown at me, I’ve only become stronger. Take that, asshole.

And there are times that I think God made me this way because He thought I could handle it. I can, and I will. I remember this quote: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” I don’t mean to sound haughty, but maybe He knew I would use my voice and (hopefully) help others through my writing. That’s why I can’t stop blogging so much about mental health; there are so many who feel alone and haven’t found their voice yet. I certainly don’t mind lending mine in the meantime.

I guess my brain is just as much a blessing as a curse.

I’ve Gained 26 Pounds

Last Friday I had an ECT treatment. I hadn’t been there in four weeks, so they asked to weight me (to calculate how much anesthesia I get). Usually, I avoid the scale. The number shouldn’t matter to me, but it does. Big time. I looked down after I stepped on the scale, and I was shocked. I’ve gained 26 pounds since the pandemic — 26 POUNDS! I’m almost 200 pounds, which I swore to myself I’d never be again. I mean, who has weight loss surgery and doesn’t lose the weight? Me, apparently.

I have all the reasons in the world to lose weight and be healthy, mainly my kids. I want them to see me be healthy so that they can be healthy. I want to lose the weight because I want to live a long time. It would benefit my mental health greatly if I maintained a healthy lifestyle. But I don’t.

Even after my ECT, while feeling happy and more stable, I had the intense urge to overeat and binge. And I did. The ECT is supposed to reset my brain. Last week, I was so depressed and even had suicidal ideation, so I needed the ECT. But the ECT can only take me so far. I’m responsible for making health decisions for myself. And I need to hold myself accountable. At some point, I have to make the effort to be healthy without expecting something or someone else to help me.

I don’t know what drives me to overeat or binge. It sort of makes sense when there’s conflict in my life, and I feel the need to be comforted by food. But right now, there’s no conflict in my life. There’s no logical reason for me to shove food in my face. It bothers me so much that I don’t know why I binge, and I’m not sure it would even help if I did know. It’s just frustrating. And I know it’s a hard time because of the pandemic, but we’re not getting back to any kind of “normal” I know any time soon. So, it has to be now. I have to make changes now. But honestly, I don’t know if I will. I don’t know what it will take.

I bought a treadmill that will be delivered this week. I bought a food journal to help me track my water and meals. I have a brand new pair of running shoes to use for exercise. Conditions are favorable for change. My brain, my stubborn brain, is the only thing holding me back. Even now, as I’m typing this, I want to eat, to be comforted. To lose myself in the taste and texture of something delicious. I fear my urge to escape the real world will be permanent, as it manifests in other ways, too like abusing my anxiety meds. And again, I don’t know why or what I’m trying to escape. I have a great life — better than most — and I’m so grateful for everyone in my life and everything I have. So, I really can’t tell you why I want to escape.

At one time, I thought it was emotional pain that was holding back — trauma from my past. But I feel like I’ve dealt with that. I’ve talked to my therapist about it extensively. I wrote a blog about it that I will never share. I got if off my chest, but still the pain resides. At least, I think so. Why else would I be trying to fill this unrelenting void?

I so want to be able to wake up in the morning and not immediately think about what I’m going to eat. To plan my next meal, as I’m licking off my current meal’s crumbs from my lips. I live meal to meal, snack to snack, and I hate it.

I hope this week I can make changes to my daily life and incorporate healthy habits. I pray for strength and guidance. I pray for what feels like a miracle.

Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It may not seem like a big deal, but there are 30 million Americans who suffer with an eating disorder. There are so many people suffering right now, who are suffering more because of the pandemic. Only 1/3 of people receive help for their eating disorder. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with nearly one person dying every hour as a direct result of their eating disorder.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone. It’s a challenging time for us, but it’ll be OK.

We will be OK.

Buried Secrets

I’ve lived with what I thought was a shameful secret for two decades. I buried it deep inside me, so deep I never thought I’d never have to deal with it again. But it turns out shameful secrets will come to surface no matter what.

I binged for years, shoving food in my mouth trying to keep it down. I swallowed pill after pill trying to escape from the reality where that secret lived. I got tattoos and piercings, hoping that that pain would distract me from the pain inside me. The needles are nothing compared to emotional pain.

Alas, none of it worked.

It wasn’t long before I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety. I kept my mouth shut about that, too until I could no longer hold it in because I was abusing my anxiety meds and it was too hard to get out of bed, despite my growing list of responsibilities. I ended up at a psychiatric facility, which confirmed that I had major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, binge eating disorder and avoidant personality disorder. It cost tens of thousands of dollars for me to stay there six week and get back on the straight and narrow. Or close enough, anyway.

And one day, after a binge session and tons of guilt, I started to think: maybe I’m bingeing because I’m punishing myself. Punishing myself for what happened to me. Punishing myself for never truly confronting my demons. Punishing myself for being a kid and not knowing any better. And that’s silly. Because I was just a kid. I didn’t know better. If the same had happened to one of my kids, I would never let them partake in the blame game, because it simply wouldn’t be true.

Maybe I should forgive myself for whatever role I thought I played. I should forgive myself. I forgive myself. I forgive myself. I forgive myself. It was not my fault. No matter what my brain tells me, it wasn’t my fault.

However, it is my fault if I don’t change my behavior and keep hurting myself to forget or escape. I am needed here, with my family, and hurting myself only hurts them. That’s my fault. It’s my fault if I don’t forgive myself. If I don’t do the work to forgive. I’ve spent two decades ignoring this bullshit, so I know it won’t happen overnight, but I can take the steps to forgive myself now. Starting today.

Starting now.

My life is so good. There’s no reason to escape it, through any means I might’ve relied on in the past. I need to be here now. I need to show myself love, because my kids are watching, and God do I want them to love the shit out of themselves. My way — my past ways — are no longer the way to go.

The thing about secrets is that they feed on shame. I was feeding it with my bingeing and abusing meds, but I don’t need to feed it anymore. I’m done feeling shame over it. At least I’m trying to be. I’m not giving this thing any more life than I have. It’s dying now. It will soon be dead.

If you have a buried secret, please forgive yourself. Love yourself. Do the work and work it out. Forgive yourself and live the life you are meant to live.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

Y’all. Last week was ROUGH, likely due to me confronting some past trauma and not just shoving it in a drawer somewhere in my messy, complicated brain. Again, personal growth is so annoying.

While I do feel better having faced my demons, I can tell it’s still bothering me a bit because of my binge eating and thought patterns. Either that or I’m just so used to used to “crisis mode” that I don’t know how to get out. And that’s OK for a little while but it’s no way to live everyday life.

This week I’m going to try and get back to my intuitive eating skills, because I think they’re so helpful and make me feel better about myself. Last week, I just chucked everything I’ve learned out the window and purposely overeat and/or binged.

I’m also going to do some thinking on where I want this blog to go and what I want people to get out of it, so I can take it to the next level.

All in all, I’m ready to get out of crisis mode and be mindful in everything I do. I know I can do it. It’s never too late to learn how to live your life in a healthy way. And even though it feels like I start all over every week and don’t make strides, I know I’m a million times better than last year. And the year before that. Progress is hard to see sometimes.

I hope y’all have a great week. Stay in the light, my friends.

I Don’t Care About “Bumming” You Out

Recently, I was told I posted too much about depression — that I was “bumming” people out. This comment not only infuriated me, but it hurt my feelings. How often do people like me — the chronically ill, depressed and others suffering with a mental disorder — deal with some inane comment like that. A comment that’s meant to shame and only discourage people’s truths.

I’m sorry, not sorry that I’m “bumming” people out. People need to know what it’s like to have a mental disorder. I’m done being told to “chin up,” “get some fresh air,” and “exercise” to cure my depression. That’s not helpful.

When you’re depressed and anxious, you can’t “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” In my case, when I’m going through a depressive episode, all I feel is pain. I get bone tired that no amount of sleep can alleviate. In my head, all I hear are criticisms of myself, how I’m a loser and unworthy. That nobody loves me. That I should kill myself. And the guilt — it’s overpowering. I feel guilty that I’m a depressed mom and that I have limitations that other moms don’t have. I feel guilty because I can’t control how I feel. I feel flawed, defective because growing up I came to understand that depression was something you could wish away with fresh air and sunshine. That strong people didn’t get depressed.

So, that makes me weak, right? That’s the stigma of depression talking.

I know better now. There’s nothing weak about me, or anyone who suffers with a mental disorder.

As I write this — and I’m not even experiencing a depressive episode — I’m purposely overeating, doing anything that will make the pain I feel go away. Overall, I’m doing great right now, but the thing about depression is that it lurks, always waiting for an opportunity to blanket my brain in doubt, fear and pain. And it’s so lonely. Not everyone understands and there are so many misconceptions about depression. My brain, my own brain, tells me to isolate from friends and family, making me even lonelier and in despair.

Luckily, I was able to go to a very good psychiatric hospital where specialists properly diagnosed me, prescribed the right medication and started me on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I’m so sick that doctors have to pass electric currents through my brain to trigger a seizure, resetting my brain. I have to do treatments every six to eight weeks, along with weekly therapy, just to feel almost normal.

My diagnoses are as follows:
Persistant depressive disorder (dysthymia)
Major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, severe
Generalized anxiety disorder
Binge eating disorder
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Opioid use disorder, moderate
Sedative, hypnotic or anxiolytic use disorder, moderate

I’m one of the lucky ones because I can afford a high-dollar hospital and therapy. There are people who can’t. There are people who are suffering in silence, all because some people feel uncomfortable and “get bummed out” talking about mental illness. It’s bullshit. No one — and I do mean no one — should ever suffer in silence. There’s nothing embarrassing about struggling with depression. It’s not a weakness. It’s the same as having any other disease or disorder. So many people put on a happy face in order to hide their illness, and that too is bullshit. And that can be so dangerous if that person has suicidal ideation. People literally die because they don’t feel free to share how they’re feeling. The CDC reports that more than 48,000 people die each year by suicide. That number is surely to rise because of the pandemic.

It has to stop. I’m done being embarrassed by the fact that my brain is wired differently. I’m tired of feeling weak, when in reality I fight for my life every day. I’m strong as hell. I’m scrappy and I have grit. I’m proud of who I’ve become. And I will certainly NOT stop talking about depression or other mental disorders. I don’t give a fuck who I’m bumming out, because I’m also giving a voice to those who can’t quite find theirs yet.

I’m free from the embarrassment and guilt. I’m done with caring what other people think — the weight of their opinions is far too heavy. I will continue to lend my voice because I want others to be free too.

Please let us be free.

The Personality Disorder I Didn’t Know I Had

In 2019 I went to a psychiatric hospital (The Menninger Clinic) after battling suicidal thoughts, abusing my anxiety meds and hitting a low I didn’t know was possible. For six weeks, I was away from my family, which is almost as painful as fighting depression and anxiety.

While I was there, I was assigned a psychiatrist, social worker, therapist and a psychologist. I underwent many psychiatric tests and was taken off all my psychiatric medications. It was rough.

I knew I had major depressive disorder, because I’ve struggled with depression for almost two decades. I knew I had anxiety, because of the crippling panic attacks and intrusive thoughts – thoughts telling me I should kill myself or that my family was going to die.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder. I had never even heard of it. Avoidant Personality Disorder, which affects about 1 percent of the general population, is described as having feelings of extreme social inhibition, inadequacy and sensitivity to negative criticism or rejection. It’s more than being shy or awkward in social situations (which I am). It makes it hard for those suffering with the disorder to interact with others and maintain relationships. It’s also common for “us” to avoid work or school, mostly because of extreme low self-esteem.

It was hard hearing this new diagnosis. For one, I already felt saddled by depression and anxiety. I wasn’t fond of the idea that I had this disorder, another albatross around my neck. And yet, I couldn’t deny it. Reading about the disorder was like reading from my memoir; I knew the symptoms and behavior well. I’ve always been social awkward. I avoided school like the plague, and later when I worked, I avoided that, too. I haven’t worked outside the home since 2013.

There was no denying the diagnosis. And, even though I’d probably been dealing with it since adolescence, I felt more broken because my many flaws were well documented and it was “official.”

But that’s bullshit. I was broken but not because of the diagnosis. I was broken because I had kept my struggles to myself and hadn’t reached out until it was almost too late. I was stifled by the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental disorders. The stigma and keeping my struggles to myself almost killed me.

Having depression, anxiety, a personality disorder and binge eating disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s what I have – not who I am.

Now, I blog about my troubles and speak freely to others about anything and everything mental health related. I’m no longer afraid of being judged. The weight of others’ opinions is far too heavy to bear.

Now, I’m free.

Reject the stigma. Be proud of the fighter that you are. Seek help if you need it. By doing so, we help eradicate the judgement and stigma. Be free with me.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, go to the nearest emergency room or call a trusted friend. You are not alone.

Radical Acceptance

I had an epiphany today. I was watching an episode of Bones where they were talking about young girls being in beauty pageants. Please note that I am not judging that — I mention it because it got me thinking about all the things girls and women go through to appear beautiful. In that episode, young girls were dyeing their hair, wearing corsets to define their waistlines and watching their weight. It depressed me, honestly. It brought back memories of being called fat when I was in the 5th grade — 5th grade, people! I should have brushed the comments off, but there were already seeds of fatphobia planted in my little head — from society, friends, family, etc. That seed grew and now is a full-blown eating disorder (Binge Eating Disorder).

I’m only 12 here, but this is when I really started to worry about my size.

My worth has been tied to my weight. The way I feel and care for myself is tied to my weight. When I’ve gained some extra pounds, I punish myself…hate myself.

I eat my feelings, which leads to more weight gain. Which fuels more self-destructive behaviors. It’s a vicious cycle. To help break it, I signed up to do one-on-one coaching on intuitive eating with my beautiful and sweet cousin, who’s a registered dietician. On our last call, she told me to get rid of the ideas of “bad foods” or “being bad” or “cheating” on a diet. There are no forbidden foods. There’s fueling your body and doing everything in moderation.

I have a lot more to learn and I’m eager to do it.

But here’s my epiphany — what if I just accept who I am? What if I give myself some grace — some compassion? What if when I gain weight, I just buy bigger clothes and focus on my health and not my caloric intake?

What if I practice radical acceptance? I learned about radical acceptance in therapy. It’s a skill or tool that can help people face painful emotions and experiences by accepting them fully WITHOUT JUDGEMENT.

This may not sound much different than a blog I previously posted about loving myself and body positivity. But the thing is, I’m still struggling and writing helps me come to terms with my feelings. And this is a topic that can’t be fully explored with one blog. Or three. Maybe 10. And that’s OK, too.

My point is that maybe I don’t think I need to focus on losing weight or looking a certain way, so much as I need to reprogram my brain. And those of you who follow me should know — my brain is a stubborn asshole. It’ll take time. So much time.

But I’m done with fatphobia, fat-shaming and all that judgement that goes along with it. I’ve had gastric sleeve surgery and a tummy tuck. Guess what? I’m still not skinny and I don’t think I’ll ever be. Why has that plagued me so much?

Why are people so afraid of being fat?

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m coming off a very happy weekend. My parents drove down on Thursday to visit and it was so good to see them. I usually see them a lot more often but the pandemic has halted our travel. The kids were so excited and my parents were very happy with the new house.

It was also a good week. One of my blogs was published on The Mighty website! I have submitted two other blogs that they’ve decided to publish, so maybe it can be a regular thing. And because of that, my friend who’s a TV news producer said she’d like to do a story on my blog getting published and how important body positivity is to children, especially girls.

That’s really all for now. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. Stay in the light!