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Archive for May, 2009

A Stroke of Insight

I love this speech. What an amazing experience… 

Eating Healthy vs. Recovering from ED

Before I start rambling, I gotta say I didn’t really intend for this blog to be all about me and ED issues. But that’s apparently what’s most pressing on my mind lately and I can’t be bothered to write about anything else. Hmm.

Well, this morning I was flipping through various books I have on cooking, food, nutrition, etc. The two I ended up focusing on were The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno and Vegan With A Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. 

If I didn’t have an eating disorder, (and if I had more money than I do at the moment) I would go to the store, buy all the essentials for cooking and a bunch of fresh food, and start a “clean” mostly vegan diet immediately. There are things I would adjust from both approaches (I hate eggs, and Tosca wants you to eat a bajillion egg whites), and I don’t eat fish. So I’d substitute those things with tofu, tempeh, hummus, etc. But sometimes I want chicken, so if I wanted chicken I’d let myself have chicken. And I’ve started liking yogurt again, so I’d have yogurt too (not vegan). 

The thing is… even though intellectually I know that eating 5-6 small, fresh, well-rounded meals a day of vegetables, fruits, protein, and complex carbohydrates is the best thing for my body (including the brain, which overlaps with the mind)… I know that because I have an eating disorder I can’t “make” myself do this. It’s not that simple. Because eating disorders are manipulative and “tell me” a lot of insanity that sometimes I’ll believe if I’m stressed, or tired, or upset, or nervous, or ashamed, or what have you. 

So I have to figure out how to step by step overcome the eating disordered thoughts/beliefs, recognizing what foods I’m physically addicted to and the ones that trigger me emotionally (usually they go hand in hand), as well as slowly start to change my habits to reflect this healthier lifestyle… without letting that get out of hand either (i.e. orthorexia: excessive focus on eating healthy foods. In rare cases, this focus may turn into a fixation so extreme that it can lead to severe malnutrition or even death. Which happened last time I was vegan… and that is even more mentally stressful and painful than restriction and bulimia for me.)

Because eating disorders aren’t about food. Which is pretty complicated. As alcohol addiction isn’t about someone really loving their drinks, it’s about how the alcohol physically affects them and the “pay-off” they get from it. Though people with food addictions can’t just stop eating. (But you can stop eating certain things… which works for people who solely suffer from compulsive overeating or binge eating… but doesn’t quite work for me – thus far – because then I just go into restriction mode.) Which… technically… I guess that is what the “Eat Clean Diet” is. It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet, but it is cutting out all simple carbohydrates and sugar. Which I believe is a good idea, for sure. But…. I also believe in moderation and allowing yourself to have something if you want it. Which in the book is referred to as “cheating” which I fucking HATE… because that’s a diet-mentality.

I guess… I want to be healthy, I want to eat things that are good for me, I don’t want to be afraid of eating anything, I don’t want to use food as a weapon against myself, I don’t want to diet, I don’t want to feel restricted in anyway, yet I want to naturally make the healthiest choices. 

In theory that shouldn’t be that hard.

….

But it’s the days when I eat soup and immediately want to go get rid of it and it’s incredibly upsetting that I’m not… The days I think 800 calories is plenty and eating any more than that means I should just binge… The days I think I have to ingest several diet pills in order for a work out to be productive… those are the days that I know the theory is not that simple.

Fail.

Saturdays and I do not get along.

Or maybe my brain and I don’t get along, and Saturdays are usually the day I’m alone with it without any obligations as a buffer.

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Threshold of Revelation

Just experienced the threshold of revelation… (Angels in America, represent!)

Recovery, as in: learning to eat healthfully and in the required amounts to nourish my body, along with feeling no shame, fear, or animosity towards food intake, takes a lot of persistence, presence, and devotion. What I have been unable to put my finger on is why I wouldn’t want to wholeheartedly do this.

It’s been drawn to my attention I don’t actually eat a lot. I thought I was eating a lot, since I’ve been eating way more than I usually do. And actively trying to include more food groups, and combining food groups in one sitting even. Apparently it’s still not enough. This kind of sucks, because that means I have to put forth even more effort. Why am I uncomfortable with that?

I realized, because most of society – whether or not a person has and eating disorder or disordered eating – does not eat well-balanced meals 3-5 times a day. I realized I always felt closer to the norm in restricting than I did with intuitive eating. (Of course, since I never got skinny, I regarded myself with such contempt, the binge/purge cycle was kept secret and was comforting in the isolation… because in my extreme attempts to fit in/fit the mold, I still failed) So to let go of bulimia is to let go of the secret, the masochistically comforting shame, the security blanket. I can do this… I can find strength and confidence elsewhere and move on from that. But to shift from restrictive thoughts and behaviors feels like the ultimate betrayal of not only the eating disorder, but of my strive for “right-ness”, and of society’s approval. So wouldn’t I WANT to betray society’s approval? Theoretically, yes. In practice, that petrifies me because I know the facts. The facts that such a vast majority of women of all ages would rather lose a limb than be fat. Rather get cancer than be obese. Rather be CALLED STUPID than be CALLED OVERWEIGHT.

So for me to say, fuck ALL OF YOU, I’m going to eat whatever I want whenever I want however I want because I LIKE it… feels like an extreme political statement. Which I apparently am not ready to make. Because god fucking damnit, I want the thin girls to like me. (FAIL!)

Oh, wait I got off track. My main point was everyone (okay obviously not everyone, but a freaking lot of people) restricts… in the name of PERPETUAL DIETING. Just reference oh, my mom. Or Oprah.

So on a personal level it’s distracting, confusing, and exposing to be surrounded by people who, on a normal basis, don’t eat that much. Like at work, if people just eating something small and quick for work, I will feel incredibly weird bringing a shit ton of food to eat. Oh well. I’ll stick with coffee for now.

Oh! (Way to completely degenerate into fragmented thoughts) Read this article: The Perfect Pantomime by Aimee Liu. She pretty much hits the nail on the head. Her book, Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders is really a must-read for anyone in the sphere of eating disorders. Well-informed and well-presented, she pulls a lot of pieces together. I love her gun analogy. An eating disorder is like a gun in the innocent hands of the sufferer: shaped by genetics, loaded by culture, and triggered by emotional pain and existential dread.

Mental.

So* there’s a new show on Fox called Mental. I kept hearing about it on the periphery in blogs, mainly that it sucked. So I wasn’t going to bother even checking to see what it was about, until I read a more positive review of it today. It’s another medical show, along the vein of House M.D., but the new twist is it revolves around a psychiatric unit of a hospital in Los Angeles. In the pilot, Dr. Jack Gallagher arrives as the new director of mental health services. The staff is all pissed that some outsider from Vermont (le gasp!) was brought in to run this high volume hospital. And then some dude with schizophrenia starts seeing everyone as lizard demons and they get naked.

So…. overall, I liked it. Not the most captivating show, but not bad. And yes it is reminiscent of House but I think it can hold it’s own. I think people in the mental health fields were all really defensive and scrutinizing it. To which I say: hi, it’s television. What do you think other medical professionals think of all the other shows? I watched Grey’s Anatomy with my uncle who is an oncologist once, and he just laughed at the idiocy the whole episode. I guess people are all worried “the public” is going to get more wrong ideas about mental illness and stigma is going to get worse…

I have to disagree with that. It’s not like the writers of this show are pulling stereotypical shit out of their ass and throwing it around willy nilly without doing research. (Yeah I just said willy nilly, hot.) As for the psych stuff on the show, I think they did a good job. They depicted schizophrenia well, showing it from the person’s point of view whereas generally we’re just told “they have hallucinations”. To be shown their experience makes it that much more relatable… even if the special effects were pretty lame. I also think people were all worried that because the new guy decided to take the patient completely off his meds the general public would think psychiatrists are condoning schizophrenics be allowed to live without medication if it hinders their natural talent in any way. Obviously, that is NOT what the show was expressing, and the writers made sure that was repeated several times. The point was to wean him off Thorazine and try alternative treatments so he could re-cultivate his artistic talent, and find another cocktail in the mean time that would suppress the illness without compromising his ability to be creative. Being off meds was NOT a permanent solution to a potentially dangerous situation.

I have to say though, I thought the whole “breaking and entering” sub plot was unnecessary. Even in the magical land of suspended disbelief – also known as prime time entertainment – the head of mental health services would not go breaking and entering into the home of a patient’s caretaker just to see what’s in his room. Just no. Things like that WILL compromise the integrity of the show as a whole, when it’s up against a lot of odds. 

Soo… I totally was going to blog about two completely different things tonight, actually.

A) Dichotomous Language in the Era of the Millennial Generation: How we all Experience EPIC FAILS and Everything is MAJESTIC AND GLORIOUS! 

Though, I know I could potentially write approximately 15 pages on that… so I might have to, and then par it down to a blog post.

and

B) Sexuality and Gender are social constructs, but I still believe people are “born gay” and “born straight” and “born bisexual” as they are “born male” and “born female” and “born intersex” etc. Though of course, with gender they might be in the wrong biological body… oy see I probably could write 15 pages on this topic too. It’s just that earlier today a good friend of mine who I deeply respect, who is currently working towards her Ph.D. in sociology, a sex worker, and in a committed relationship with another woman, commented on my facebook saying she doesn’t believe people are “born gay” that sexuality is a social construct. And my mind was sufficiently blown… to which everyone I work with can attest because I was sitting in the office going, “what? what? what?….. wait, what? what???” hahaha.

If I can manage to wake up early tomorrow, I might crank something out then. If not, maybe over the weekend.

*Looking over this post as a whole, I realize I start sentences with “So” way too often. That is so improper! I need a review on the correct way to begin sentences. Damn.

Animals and Therapy

I started writing a post about this topic last week, and it ended up being a giant recap of the past six years of my life. You all really don’t need to know all that, so I’m going to start again. Heh.

I strongly believe that people are positively affected when in the presence of animals. Of course every case is different, but the base line is: Humans innately know that we actually co-exist on this planet with other sentient beings, and we actually like being around them. 

There is a huge variety of options out there of types of therapy. One of which is Animal-Assisted Therapy. Now, because I’m lazy and stealing internet that keeps cutting out, I’m not going to link to any articles or whatnot. Google is your friend. But basically, Animal-Assisted Therapy could be kids with handicaps swimming with dolphins, and it could mean there’s a dog in the office while you talk to someone about your day. In this case I’m not really intereted in the logistics or semantics. I’m interested in the concept of what it means for a person to be in the presence of a non-human animal. And since I’m all kinds of unprofessional, subjective, biased, and opinionated… this is completely coming from the point of view of someone who has always felt a kinship with animals. Apparently there are people who exist that aren’t so much fans of the non-humans… and I just don’t get that… (BUT I still think they benefit from AAT, just differently, to which I wouldn’t know so I won’t even go there)

In a group of people I am tense, anxious, awkward, and probably dissociating just enough to appear “normal but reserved”. 

In a group of people plus an animals/animals I am more alert, focused (usually on the animal/s), less awkward, though still probably stand-off-ish. 

Me with just an animal or a group of animals I am confident, assertive, calm, balanced. Even if the animal is having issues or pissed off or nasty or what have you. It’s okay, it’s not about me, it’s just happening and I will respond appropriately. 

Generally, I express myself much better through the written word than spoken word. Words sit in my mouth and sometimes they just refuse to leave… they’re happier being drained through my fingers (or telepathically, but that’s not very useful for the purpose of anyone understanding me). But I’ve come to notice that if I’m distractedly petting a dog, my brain is preoccupied just enough the filter shuts off and I can speak freely. Beneficial, for sure, unfortunately I don’t know anyone with a dog at the moment. (Oh, yes I do but toy breeds don’t count. Or… obnoxiously high strung pet store toy breeds don’t count, I should say.) Even if I’m not needing to make conversation, just being with dogs makes me feel better. I “get” dogs, dogs “get” me. 

I have a cat by the way. Claudia says hi. But for some reason I don’t get the same affect with cats. I certainly appreciate them, and enjoy their company but at least for me… they’re not therapeutic tools in the same regard. Do I feel better in general though, playing with friendly cats? Totally. Which is why I think animals are good for people regardless, in all settings to some degree. 

So dogs are good for me. But are they “therapists”? No. Maybe one in a million (Lassie!), but in general dogs make great friends and therapeutic tools, but not therapists. Why would I even say that? Because I do think horses have the capacity to be “therapists”. Not all horses, and not for all people, but there is a definite intuitive connection that horses are capable of… where they are facilitating interactions and are capable of drawing out in a person the issues they need to face within themselves. 

Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy was coined in the ’90s, and one of the first people to truly utilize this concept was Linda Kohanov. She runs Epona Farm and wrote the book The Taos of Equus, and it really took off from there. I think what she does is fantastic, but the fact she now charges eleventy billion dollars for everything because she’s “the original brand” kind of sucks. Anyway.

The official definition of EFP is experiential psychotherapy that includes equine(s).  It may include, but is not limited to, a number of mutually respectful equine activities such as handling, grooming, lunging, riding, driving, and vaulting. EFP is facilitated by a licensed/credentialed mental health professional working with an appropriately credentialed equine professional. 

That’s the lame definition that limits the true interaction that can be had with horses. (umm… bare with my New Age-y musings, k thanks) I like this definition:

Equine Facilitated Life Coaching or Psychotherapy is an emerging field and exciting new modality. The relationship between horse and person can support the individual, couple, family or groups’ emotional growth, learning and healing. It involves a collaborative effort between a facilitator, a client and a horse.

Participants learn about themselves and their relationship to others by being in relationship to the horses, participating in activities with the horses and then by processing their thoughts, feelings, behaviors and patterns.

It is an embodied, experiential and less verbal modality often useful for clients less responsive to traditional personal development approaches or therapies and you may even have fun in the process. 

That’s actually from Jackie Lowe Stevenson’s website. I had one private session with her years ago, and went to a few workshops at her place. Her herd is so well balanced, back then she had Jetset (who passed in 2005), Rojo, Thunderheart, and Spirit. Spirit was the newest and by far the youngest member of the herd. Now she has a few additions which is nice to hear. I learned something from each of her horses, because her horses were experienced in helping people. They also were living… they were being… most horses don’t get that luxury. Most horses are pets, performers, or packers… and they usually spend most of their days in solitary stalls.

Each of Jackie’s horses taught me, or rather they reminded me, of these essential things:

  • breathing is important
  • it’s good to be assertive
  • it’s essential to have fun and play
  • and it’s okay to sit back and observe. 

There are several ways to explain this. I read each horses body language and how they interacted with each other and with humans. Sure, of course. But there is a deeper level of understanding and acceptance. A connection with I felt and intuitively translated, rather than simply an objective observation of behaviors. 

As for horses I have worked with and been the caretaker of in the past, lessons have certainly been learned through them. Something that is unique about horses is that they will always, always mirror whatever you’re feeling not expressing. If you’re acting confident but inside you’re really anxious, the horse is going to act out. If it’s the horses nature to be anxious they will, but if it’s the horses nature to be an asshole… he’ll mirror your anxiety with more aggressive behaviors… but it’s still coming from you, not him. This is why I think working with horses can be so beneficial for people with eating disorders. They make you pay attention to yourself. It’s imperative, or the relationship will go nowhere, fast. (Which is an ultimately dangerous situation, because horses average out at 1,000 pounds. Trust me, I’ve been dragged, thrown, and run over because I wasn’t present. Not so fun!)

To take this back around, even just being in the presence of horses whether meant as a therapeutic transaction or not, is beneficial. Because like I said, you have to BE PRESENT, or else you’ll get fucked over. I just read this blog and love it. This woman works with people and horses, healing both. I love that, that used to be my career goal. (Honestly, I have no idea how I got to where I am, it’s not “me” whatsoever… but that’s another story) She basically says that to be able to heal/help/work with people or animals you yourself have to be balanced and not take in any outside anxious energy. Which got me thinking about how with animals, I’m not an anxious person… I’ve only come to notice how incredibly anxious I am lately… and I think a lot has to do do with not being hands on with animals anymore. I mean, from college until I moved here I was in some way working hands on with animals, either horses or dogs. Now I sit in an office all day working on the internet dealing with interpersonal relationships and business things I don’t really care about (in a broad sense, I care about it in the immediate sense!) and I think that shift has made me all the more unbalanced and unlike myself. 

And I’m not saying I was never anxious or angry or unbalanced when I worked with the animals, because I totally was. But they helped me notice it, and manage it, and let it go. I miss that, and the next time I’m working with animals again, I will not take it for granted.

Chameleon

When it comes to eating with people, I’m a chameleon. I’m trying to remember if I always have been, or if it’s directly related to continuous attempts at ED-recovery. Yeah, it is. As a kid I was a picky eater, and didn’t give a shit if I was pissing people off because I didn’t want to eat what they were eating, or I didn’t want to try something exotic, or I wanted something that wasn’t being served.

Now, when I’m with people and we are supposed to eat, I’ll pretty much eat anything. I’ve developed the sense that it’s safe for me to eat anything as long as the other person is okay with it, and appears to have a healthy relationship with food. Though, this also applies if the person doesn’t have a healthy relationship with food. If the other person wants to skip a meal, I’ll skip a meal. Which is where this co-dependency falls short.

I ate actual sushi the other week. As in raw fish… sitting on rice, not even in a roll. WTF?! I have never eaten fish in my life, it grosses me out completely. But I think I’ve gotten tired of being a pain in the ass, so I use it as an excuse to be daring. And it was fine. It wasn’t gross, it actually didn’t taste like anything. (I think I had salmon, tuna, and white tuna)

I know this is unbalanced though. It’s good to try new things and be spontaneous, but I also need to figure out what I actually like and dislike, what I actually choose to eat and not eat. I was vegan for a while, and a total asshat about it, too. But I was vegan for animal rights reasons (and it just so happened to correlate with restriction). Now, if people eat meat, I’ll eat meat. I’ve confused myself, I don’t know how I can go from one extreme to another like that. I think I became so overwhelmed, I didn’t know how to relate to food in a normal way, I just said “omg fuck it” and be completely co-dependent on the other person’s choices.

This poses a problem though, when I’m left to my own devices to feed myself. Sometimes I’ll just forget until I’m suddenly ravenously hungry… but if I don’t think it’s an “appropriate” time to eat, I’ll wait another five hours or whatever until it is an appropriate time. Or some days, I’ll want to eat but just can’t make a decision. I’ll walk around, I’ll actually go in stores and restaurants, but I can’t bring myself to purchase anything because there isn’t anything I feel I can possibly ingest. (Also, it’s better to not eat than to eat and throw it up.) Not really sure how to fix that issue.

I’m also trying to learn that it’s okay to be autonomous with my food. I’m allowed to eat if I’m hungry, even if no one else around me is eating. I’ll go on little experiments. Like I got a 7-grain bagel and a coffee coolata from Dunkin’ Donuts a few weeks ago and ate/drank them on the train on the way to work. I was anxious as hell the entire time because A) a coffee coolata is like… a bucket of sugar. I was sure everyone was judging me for that. B) a bagel is better than a donut, but a banana would have been “better”. C) there was a couple sitting directly next to me and having strangers that close to me when I’m eating is just painful. Oh, and D) is that totally disgusting to eat on the subway? I’m not generally a germophobe but… food and subway = kind of gross.

That was a shitty blog. I definitely have more interesting things to talk about, such as :

  1. Derek Sivers is awesome. http://www.sivers.org/blog
  2. Canadian prostitutes get training for when International press comes to town for the Olympics. aka, sex workers not being exploited by the media. WIN.
  3. Amanda Palmer is awesome. Specifically this quote: “I wanted to turn the table over and say, ‘I am a light motherfucker!'”
  4. twitter addiction and how in love with it I am for PR purposes
  5. my secret love affair with “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey
  6. the book I’m currently reading: In The Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology & The Survival of the Indian Nations by Jerry Mander. Here’s a teaser…

Modern technology advanced in such tiny increments for so long that we never realized how much our world was being altered, or the ultimate direction of the process. But now the speed of change is accelerating logarithmically. It is apparent that developing a language and set of standards by which to assess technological impact, and to block it where necessary, is a critical survival skill of our times.

Holler.

So anyway…. the internet is down for some unknown shitty ass reason at my apartment so I’m trying to do shit at the office before I go home and have to spend half the weekend OFF LINE. OMGWTF. That’s basically severing my lifeline, I’m not happy about this. I might actually have to call people on the phone. What the hell?! At least I have Monday off, that’s fancy. I plan on blissing out in the woods and being Pochahontas. I also have three motherfucking essays to write because I’m an idiot and procrastinate on everything important. The end.