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!

My Body, Myself

I love the bird tattoo just below my shoulder on my chest.

The tattoo I have on my left arm, a bird on a typewriter, makes me feel so sexy. And strong.

I love the Phoenix on my back that reminds me that I will always rise.

The Hebrew on my side tells the story of Ruth, the first convert, and reminds me why I’m Jewish.

I love the color of my eyes, green with a bit of brown circling my pupils. Green eyes are rare, and I enjoy being rare.

I love my curly, wild hair, because it never looks the same from one day to another.

I love my boobs, which I had surgically reduced and that’s OK. I acknowledge and appreciate that they fed and nourished both my babies.

I love my legs, which are shapely and sexy.

Sadly, I don’t love all of me. I look at my stomach in the mirror and frown. It’s swollen and puffy from weight gain and eating poorly since the pandemic started. I tell myself that I’ve carried two babies and try to appreciate my womb as much as I appreciate other parts of my body.

I ignore the guilty feeling that’s spurred when my thighs uncomfortably touch when I walk.

I also try to ignore my chins when I take a selfie and the fact that I probably “need” Botox.

I avoid jeans and opt for leggings or sweats. I pick sweatshirts and baggy shirts to hide my insecurities, but I’m pretty sure my uncertain gait gives me away.

I try to give myself some grace. Be kind and do my best but I’ve been in autopilot for months, attempting to fill whatever void I feel at the moment. It never works. It’s always there and unless I do some real, hard work it will continue to be there.

My progress is not linear; some days are better than others. But I want to love all of me.

I think I’m pretty amazing (most of the time). I fight depression, anxiety, an eating disorder and a personality disorder every single day. I’ve suffered a mental break, having to go to a psychiatric hospital for six weeks. I do ECT treatments, shock therapy, every six to eight weeks just so I can feel OK and get by. And I do it all for my family. And me, of course. I am a fighter, a survivor and advocate.

My heart, my strong yet tender heart, swells with pride when I think about it all. And how I’m setting an example to my kids by taking care of my mental health and making myself a priority. They’ll see my perseverance and resilience. They’ll also see my flaws and I’m OK with that. They need to see them, see me.

I want them to see how much I love and appreciate my body and self and I’ll continue to work on that. Even though I’m almost 40. It’s never too late to try. To love yourself.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Emotional Pain

Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years are over. And we’ve moved into our house. There are no big events looming, nothing I need to focus on at the moment. I’ve been so busy packing up the house and getting ready for the holidays, I haven’t had time to think about much else.

Now that I’m not in overdrive (as much as a girl with no serotonin can be in), my brain idles and I feel it — old, familiar pain. It’s like a TV show on repeat, constantly playing in the background, grating my nerves and triggering bad habits. I can’t turn it off, I don’t even know how.

Emotional pain is more painful than anything I’ve ever felt, and in my case, I don’t even know how it got there. I don’t know if that even matters.

For all I know, it’s been lodged deep inside me for decades, manifesting as anxiety, depression, irritability and loneliness. Just to name a few.

I’ve tried a number of ways to distract myself — piercings, tattoos, binge eating, dieting, writing and compulsive shopping. Just a name a few. You would think that I would turn to other methods, as those have clearly not worked. But I don’t.

It’s like my brain shouts, “This is painful! I must feel something else!” Then remembers that one time two years ago that eating a package of candy tasted so good and made me feel better. Then I proceed to binge on that candy, hoping to recreate that happy feeling but I don’t ever find it.

And I will keep eating it until I am literally sick. It’s no different with pills. If I take a pill and feel sedated or loopy, I’ll continue taking the pill. I’ll abuse that medication, taking more to chase that initial feeling to the point where I’m dangerously close to taking too much.

That’s the thing about compulsions — you just can’t stop. My therapist constantly tells me I’d be a fantastic drug addict. And she’s not wrong.

I wonder if I squandered my time at The Menninger Clinic. Shouldn’t I have learned to curtail these bad habits and compulsions? I am much better than I was, so I’m not sure. I bought three books on dealing with emotional pain today. Will they work? Can I afford not to read them?

At my last therapy appointment, my therapist read me her notes from our very first session eight years ago. In it she quoted me saying, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. And have it so good. Why am I so sad?”

Today I asked myself the same question, and it makes me feel worse that I’m no closer to the answer than I was almost a decade earlier.

I’m grateful for what I am. I appreciate both the big and small in my life. I thank God everyday. It’s almost like I’m embarrassed for feeling depression and anxiety because I have so much. But being grateful won’t prevent me from being depressed and anxious. Not much does.

Tears are threatening because I just can’t stand the thought of being stuck with my defective, asshole brain for the rest of my life. I don’t want to binge or abuse medication. I just want to feel good because I feel good, not because I’m chasing a high.

I’m hopeful that I’ll find the answers, eventually. That’s one thing my brain can’t take from me — my hope.

Edit: Please note that this blog was written at an earlier date, while I was feeling blue. Even though I’m feeling better, I think it’s important to document all the moods and feelings that go along with major depression and anxiety — because there are a lot.

New Year, Same Me, Old (Bad) Habits Dead

The new year is approaching, and in the past I’ve always attempted to make new year’s resolutions, usually related to weight loss. And while that’s all fine and good for some, I will not be making any resolutions, weight-related or otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to bidding this year adieu (because of COVID-19), but this year was transforming for me. I no longer feel the need to place restrictions or punish myself because I don’t look certain way. It’s good to have goals and I will always strive to improve and challenge myself, but I just can’t continue my obsession with my weight.

This year was so shitty in so many ways, and I’m surprised I haven’t suffered a mental break, to be honest. Instead I have risen to the occasion and been strong mentally, because damn, I had to. The added stress and uncertainty pushed me to my limits, and I started writing more as a release. I’ve had this blog for two years, and I’ve always tried to be candid, but the pandemic made me show my ass, about everything.

And I have loved every minute, even when I’ve been embarrassed or shamed. Writing about my eating disorder, depression, anxiety and a hospital stay has liberated me.

I’m free now.

I’ve pushed past the shame and have started to love myself. And I’ve also discovered that I’m kind of a bad ass. I’m proud of myself, which includes my mental disorders. I’ve even written articles for the local paper admitting my depression and my stay at a psychiatric hospital. The whole city knows, and that’s OK with me.

I’m free from the bondage of other people’s opinions I’m starting to free myself from obsessing about my weight and my appearance. It’s so damn hard, but I’m trying.

The goals I will make for myself in the coming days will focused on self-care. To be healthy, physically and mentally, you must practice self-care and make yourself a priority. Like everyone says, you can’t fill from an empty cup. And it’s not selfish to put yourself first. It’s actually really hard work to do so, but it’s rewarding — not just for you but those around you.

I wear a bracelet at all times that says, “GRIT,” as a reminder to do the necessary hard work, that I have what it takes and not to give up.

2020 was a terrible year for so many, but I’m so grateful that this different self of mine emerged and helped liberate me from all the bullshit.

I’ve called myself a black sheep all my life because of my differences among family, and even friends, but the black wool suits me now instead of reminds me that I’m an outcast.

Edit: I don’t mean this post to sound like a brag about how much I’ve achieved this year. Surviving this pandemic (no matter what coping mechanisms you used) is achievement alone.

Happy New Year. I wish y’all well

Stay in the light.

The Camera Adds 10 Pounds

This weekend I’ve eagerly awaited the arrival of our annual family photos. This year we opted to do them inside our new home, so I’ve been dying to see how they turn out.

I’ve also been dreading the new photos. It’s no secret that I’ve gained almost 20 pounds since the onset of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to see, especially in our family photos.

I know it’s been hard on everyone, and a lot of people have gained weight. I know that I should love myself no matter what. I hear others say that I’m beautiful no matter what, but my anxiety and eating disorders speak louder. They always have.

Because we just moved in, a couple of our bathrooms don’t have mirrors hung yet. At first it was annoying but now I’m relieved I don’t have to look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter how much positive self talk I spew — I just don’t like what I see. My weight is tied to my confidence, and sadly, my self worth. Right now, it feels like I’m worth nothing.

The family photos will just confirm what I’ve already been telling myself: I’m ugly, fat and unworthy.

Except, here’s the thing — my daughter is watching. And listening. If I admit these truths aloud, she will for sure hear them. And my voice will become her inner voice. My actions will becomes hers as well, and I’ll be damned if she cultivates this ugly self-hate that’s just rotting my worth and self-esteem.

I’ve talked about this before, many times. I have to change the way I talk to myself, treat myself. I’m raising kids, but really my goal— and what all our goals should be — is to raise healthy adults. I don’t know much about that, but I have my missteps to guide me.

The first thing I’m going to do is post the family photos — no matter what they look like. I’ll frame a couple in my house, not just because I’m trying to set a good example, but because damn, that’s what I look like now. This is what my family looks like after nine months of a deadly pandemic. We have survived, and even if I survived in a way that led to tighter clothes and an expanding waistline, I’ve survived. And that’s all that matters.

I want to thank Jennifer Stewart for capturing out family in our new loving home. I want to thank my body for supporting me during this time. I want to say that I do love myself and I’ll try harder to love it no matter my size. They say the camera adds 10 pounds, but maybe it’s time I stopped buying into that.

That I stop buying into diet culture and equating being then to being happy. I need to be happy now, instead of waiting until I’m a certain weight. Fuck that.

I’m going to be happy now, because both my daughter and son are watching. And that’s OK that they’re watching — it’s OK that they see me struggle, and even when I’m sad, but they’ll also see the fight in me, the determination and my grit. I’m all for them seeing me as human, because I am — just a perfectly imperfect human. That’s all we can be.

Edit: Our family photos were not available at the time of publication. I will add them in once I receive them.

Why Me?

Yesterday was a hard day. I was sad, overwhelmed and irritable. Everything seemed so unbelievably hard, from getting the kids to school, doing chores around the new house, putting the kids to bed and even breathing, it seemed. We moved into our new house last week, and I’m so grateful, but still it’s hard. And it’s hard for others to understand when I have so much going for me — and I do

I kept thinking, “Is it always going to be so hard?” In terms of my depression, I’m on medications that work, I’m doing therapy and I’m still doing ECTs. I don’t understand why I still have days where I’m so sad and feel so worthless. I’m fatigued to the point where it feels like my bones are tired. I guess everybody has bad days, but when I experience a bad day often have intrusive thoughts, some thoughts telling me I should die. I try to fight them off — I don’t want to die, but I fear that one day I might given into those thoughts. Too many bad days could be dangerous for me.

I’m not trying to harp on my diagnoses, but I’m struggling with Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder. It’s a lot to deal with to say the least. When I feel blue, like I am know, it’s overwhelming to think about. How on Earth do I have so many things wrong with me? Because of all my inflictions, any changes to my routine — or life in general — can cause me to fall into a depressive episode, wherein I’m typically rendered useless. I have to live within rigid constraints so my stupid brain doesn’t go haywire. And adhering to such unforgiving boundaries, even ones that benefit me, is difficult and overwhelming.

It’s a lot of damn work to keep me alive and kicking, and while I am appreciative of being alive and kicking, it doesn’t mean I don’t get discouraged every once in a while. Sometimes I feel like I’m not allowed to have a bad day — that at the mention of being sad or anything related, people jump to the conclusion that I need more meds or ECTs. I understand to an extent — my loved ones don’t want me to be suicidal and in inpatient care again.

Normally, I tend to think that depression is supposed to happen to people like me. I guess what I mean is that I can take it. I can get through it, and I have a platform where I can (hopefully) help others with their mental disorders.

But it’s still very hard not to think, “Why me? Why the fuck me??”

I’ll get over this mood. I’ll get more sleep, practice self care, re-evaluate what’s not working, and I’ll be back in the sunshine. But it’s perfectly normal to have a bad day and wallow a bit. My feelings, even anger and frustration, are valid.

And so are yours.

Stay in the light, friends.

My Husband Fights My Depression, Too

Sometimes it feels like I eat, sleep and breathe my mental disorders. My depression is all consuming — how do I feel today? How about now? Am I anxious? Will I have a panic attack today? Will I have suicidal thoughts?

In order to maintain my mental health, I have to adhere to a strict routine, and any interruption — big or small — to that routine can cause me to fall into a depressive episode. It’s like I’m walking on a tight rope, and it’s a lot to deal with, to say the least.

I don’t mean to complain, only to emphasize that it’s a lot just to keep me feeling OK and functioning at the most basic of levels. As hard as it is for me, it’s has to be even harder for David.

I imagine him each day gauging what mood I’m in, how fragile I am at the moment and whether he has to come home early to help me with the kids, because I’m overwhelmed. It happens every week. Some of you will say it’s his job as my husband, that he’s not fighting mental illness, but he is.

He is right alongside me every day, battling depression, anxiety and my binge eating disorder. He takes me to doctors appointments, to get ECTs in San Antonio every four to six weeks and he’s there advocating for me and picking up the slack. And there’s a lot of it.

Even in the midst of being suicidal, abusing my meds and self harming, his love has never wavered. I don’t mean to make him out to be perfect, but he has been there for me and the kids through the worst of my depression.

He is living this disease just as much as I am.

Nobody ever talks about how spouses/significant others struggle with this — the other side of depression. Often, they play the role of caregiver, and even if it’s necessary, it’s not sexy. Nothing about depression is. Spouses should be recognized for their sacrifices and struggle, too.

The truth is David must be weary. I know I am. But everything he does is to support me and literally keep me alive and functioning. How tiring that must be, because I live in a dark place. My brain is not my friend, often telling me I should die. It’s so dark sometimes I feel blind, lost in despair and destined to suffer.

But then there’s David, with enough light for the both of us.

My Eating Disorder in a Pandemic

I’m struggling.

Recently, I blogged about gaining 15 pounds (thanks, COVID) and how discouraged I was. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I ruminate about each pound every day. It makes me feel ugly and unworthy. I try to make healthier choices, but I get dismayed any time I veer off my healthy course.

And then another part of me takes over, and I’m empowered. I tell myself that I’m beautiful no matter what. That I need to learn to love myself despite what the scale says.

I’m battling low self-esteem and an eating disorder (Binge Eating Disorder). A year ago I had the gastric sleeve surgery, hoping it would physically limit the amount of food I could eat, but I didn’t resolve my issues with my eating disorder, and I pushed the limits of my smaller stomach, eating so much that it was hard to breathe, not to mention painful.

Now, I can’t stop bingeing. I feel like I always need a treat, something to escape into, but I can’t figure out why I feel the need to escape so frequently. Maybe from stress of the pandemic? And my “treats” often turn into a punishment because I eat so much, too much for my stomach to hold. Too much shame to derive any pleasure in the binge. So, maybe it’s all punishment — for what, I don’t know.

It definitely doesn’t feel good, aside from the initial pleasure of the food hitting my palate, but it never lasts. It’s temporary, but the shame and pain from doing it is often permanent.

And then, in between binges, I stare into the mirror and try to love and appreciate my body, which has birthed two amazing kids. I breastfed them, sustained them with this body. I live here, in this 180-pound body that holds all my essence and what makes me me. I reject the idea that I’m ugly, fat and less than. I’m a child of God and wonderfully made. I’m just as beautiful outside as I am inside, and my light shines regardless of my weight. My worth is not tied to my weight.

But I get lost navigating the conflicting messages these two polar-opposite sides of me are sending. And for some reason, it’s easier to believe the negative ones: I’m ugly, I’m a fat ass, people are judging me, nobody loves me because I’m fat, etc. But I do feel like the other side of me’s voice is growing louder. It’s not a distant whispering anymore — she’s getting stronger, and I pray that she continues to do so, because I’m weary from fighting this division inside me. I wonder why everything has to be so hard. Isn’t having Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder enough? Why are there so many things wrong with me? Maybe I don’t need to pull at that thread, but I’d really like not to collect any more diagnoses.

I want to find a balance where I can eat healthy, occasionally indulge and truly appreciate my body. I don’t want to tiptoe around the house anymore, thinking my footsteps are too heavy sounding.

I want normalcy. I don’t mean to complain and whine — I know that I’m the only one in charge of what food goes in my mouth. But it’s still so hard, and not just for me — about 30 million people have an eating disorder in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report. That roughly 20 million women and 10 million men. That’s a huge number, and eating disorders, like mental disorders, are often unreported so you can expect those numbers to be a little higher.

A lot of those people also suffer from a mental disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that 33 to 50 percent of people with anorexia also have a mood disorder. I don’t have numbers of what percentage of people with Binge Eating Disorder have a mood disorder, but I’m confident I’m not the only one.

Another alarming statistic is that 26 percent of people with an eating disorder attempt suicide. It’s beyond hard to have an eating disorder — you can’t give up food like an alcoholic can give up alcohol (Do not get me wrong. Battling any addiction is very difficult. I do not mean to imply otherwise). You have to fight your brain while learning new methods on how to nourish your body in a healthy way (such as intuitive eating or mindfully eating). It’s hard as hell for me to break old habits when it comes to food, but I know I need to do it if I want to be around for my family and friends later in life. Having an eating disorder is so hard on the body and mind. With everything else I’m battling, my body could use a respite.

I know a lot of us are in the same boat when it comes to weight gain during the pandemic. I don’t have any pointers because I’m still learning, but I do want to say be patient with your body. Give yourself some grace. Try to love the body you’re in, because you’re not getting another one. Weight can come off, and maybe it’s OK if it doesn’t.

You are not your eating disorder.

I hope y’all stay well and in the light.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to your doctor or visit the National Eating Disorders Association website. They also have a crisis text line — just text NEDA to 741741.