NEDAW Friday

Your assignment for this weekend:

Go running by the river, climb a tree, stretch, traipse around the park, try on expensive clothes in good lighting, get a makeover, get a massage, get a henna tattoo, get a real tattoo, don't walk - strut, perfect your handstand, go dancing, get laid, hug everyone, crawl around with your kids, in other words...

Have FUN with your body.

Eating disorder recovery is a lifestyle choice. Need to learn how to make the choice? NEDA can help.


NEDAW Thursday

I recently experienced a period of profound stress. To some extent the stress continues, but it has alleviated at least 60%. This wasn't "fun" stress, like the stress of planning my wedding or the stress of moving, or starting a new job. This was no-shit, adrenaline-driving, panic attack-inducing stress. This past two months has probably been, now that I think about it, the most stressful time in my adult life, and certainly the most stressful time since I recovered from anorexia or [mostly] bulimia.

We keep a scale under the bed because it keep me in touch with reality. At the height of this fraught few weeks I'd lost a little over five pounds. By now I've gained back about three, so we're at net minus two. (I should really know if that's an actual accounting term, since I do our books and all.) Hardly a big deal either way, two to five pounds, and no big or small deal at all, medically speaking.

But it was truly intoxicating. I felt all the textbook things that weight loss triggers in eating disorder patients (and even just in some dieters). I imagined that everyone could tell I'd lost weight, and I imagined I had more energy and was more productive. I felt as though I was accomplishing something and bringing the world back under my control, and I envisioned keeping on losing weight, and keeping on cutting out meals and food, and I imagined that I could "get it right" this time and find the perfect balance of weight loss and optimal mind-body aesthetic.

Then I snapped back to reality. I had a bagel with eggs and cheese and realized I couldn't go back to anorexia not because I didn't have the ersatz willpower, but because I didn't have the desire. I realized I couldn't get back into a restrict/purge cycle not because I couldn't do it to my esophagus, but because I couldn't do it to my common sense and my desire to experience a full life.

I think I'll stay away from the scale for a week or so. I usually weigh myself weekly, since the daily number can fluctuate in a healthy person anywhere from - guess what - two to five pounds. It's the more general numbers, like weekly, or at least every three days, that chart the real trend, if there is one. So I'll step back, I'll make sure my head is on straight, and, more importantly, I'll do stuff like eat three balanced meals a day, remembering that Odwalla bars do not count in that category, and we'll see how it goes from there.

Eating disorder recovery is a lifestyle choice. Need to learn how to make the choice? NEDA can help.


NEDAW Wednesday

I am so, so super schnitty at meditation. A former acquaintance once told me, "There's no such thing as being bad at meditation!" but she was wrong, wrong, wrong. I suck at it. If the fate of the world ever rested on my being able to clear my mind and meditate, or even to just acknowledge the thoughts during meditation then to let them pass by and keep on meditating, we'd all be screwed seven ways from Sunday, because I SUCK AT IT. I'm not even good at yoga. Technically, you're supposed to cultivate the same mindful mindlessness in yoga as you do in meditation, and if you're focusing on your body and how many calories you're burning and how your muscle definition is coming along and how weak or strong you are, well then, technically, ur doin it rong. And forget going to the gym for me. It is the Trigger Of All Triggers that will lead to a restrict/binge/purge cycle like no other thing. (For now, at least. Maybe one day not.)

The only way I get any kind of exercise which is both physically and mentally salutary is by walking around Manhattan. Whenever we leave here, I will be royally screwed. (Unless we're leaving to move to another walking city, which is just plain unlikely.)

Walking is how I got "exercise" for my semester in Paris, too. Of course then, I would waaaalk and walk and walk, focusing more on the calories I was burning than on the beauty and grandeur around me. And when I got a twinge of hunger? I would pop into a cafe and grab a Diet Coke or an espresso. While this is a great way to whittle yourself down to 90 lbs. and lose bone mass to boot, it's not the most effective way of enjoying one of the culinary capitals of the fricking world. WTF, anorexia?! You're such a douche! Why, of all places and times, did you have to shack up with me in PARIS? The land of croissants beurres and croques monsieurs and foie gras and the gelati on l'Île Saint-Louis, and really the only place one can acquire an acceptable Camembert? Anorexia, you're a real assh0le. I'm so glad I kicked you to the curb while I still live in Manhattan, the home of pizza and falafel and chana saag and bento boxes and Magnolia Bakery and the Union Square Green Market.

Eating disorder recovery is a lifestyle choice. Need to learn how to make the choice? NEDA can help.


NEDAW Tuesday

I had the most fabulous brunch on Sunday. There's an awesome neighborhood-type place around the corner from the shop where I got my wedding dress. ('inoteca, if you're in this neck of the woods.) I got out of the house, got out of the neighborhood (a real feat) and had some seriously good food: bruschette topped with the freshest ricotta, pesto, and olive tapenade you can imagine (that's three different bruschette, not all on one), and the house brunch specialty, which is basically two egg yolks in scooped-out artisan bread topped with fontina, dried roe, and white truffle oil. Also: blood orange mimosas. Also also: Nutella panini.

It wasn't a ridiculous amount of food, all in all. It wasn't even a large amount of food, but a large variety. But you can't do a meal like that in the midst of an eating disorder. You can't relax at brunch, or at most any meal. You certainly can't relax about something like white truffle oil or ricotta or fontina, much less Nutella, unless you are that rare anorexic or bulimic who can truly compartmentalize. Unfortunately, non-compartmentalization is part of the disease and its progression. You start out able to compartmentalize to a certain extent, in certain situations, and by the peak your entire life is structured around your anorexia, your bulimia, your exercise bulimia, your binge eating, etc. That's not to say you can't eat any of these foods; but even if you don't purge them afterward you can't simply enjoy them, unless you get momentarily lucky.

Even several years out from my anorexia and several months out from clinically fitting the bill of "bulimia nervosa," I had to take quite a few moments to remind myself to enjoy. So what if this meal mostly consisted of bread? It was one meal, and it was a really, really good one. So what if prosecco added calories to the blood orange juice? Sunday brunch only comes once a week - more realistically, once every few months. In these moments of discomfort I paused in my head, and I breathed, and I resumed my enjoyment. And it was great.

Eating disorder recovery is a lifestyle choice. Need to learn how to make the choice? NEDA can help.


NEDAW Monday

It is a delicious irony that NYC Fashion Week ended last week, and that this week marks 2009's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Head over to the NY Times or New York Magazine or WWD, or any of the countless other websites that would have coverage, and be prepared to be bombarded by shocking images of women who are wasting away.

You know it's getting bad when the celebrity show (Heart Truth Red Dress) features the "meatier" models.

Here's the thing about eating disorders: they're neurologically-based and they're biological devils, but their continuation is, to some extent, a lifestyle "choice." You can dedicate yourself to recovery mentally, but if you don't change your lifestyle as part of that dedication, you're going to keep eschewing any single food over 100 calories, or you're going to keep isolating to hang out with food rather than friends, or you're going to keep waking up at 5 a.m. to run 10 miles instead of sleeping in until seven on a Sunday. Last year when I blogged about the neurobiology of eating disorders, I got a few comments reminding me that, yes, there are biochemical factors, but recovery is a choice.

So this week let's celebrate the choices of cupcakes (but not too many), of exercise (but not too much), of bodies being themselves, and of giving a big middle finger to the hawkers of shame, scorn and digust.

Eating disorder recovery is a lifestyle choice. Need to learn how to make the choice? NEDA can help.


The Definition of Marriage

California's Assembly Judiciary Committee and its Senate Judiciary Committee are holding hearings today to consider drafting a resolution suggesting that state's Supreme Court overturn Prop 8. A hue and cry went out across the "traditional marriage blogosphere" last week (Freedom to Marry week) and this weekend with the goal of packing as many bodies and voices as possible in front of the state capital in Sacramento.

The tug-of-war between the two sides in this emotional debate hinges on clashing studies (each side is quick to discredit the other's; you have to look at the studies themselves to decide which have scientific weight), anecdotal evidence, and very often an acquired or intrinsic sense of which side is "right." It is hard to change minds, in either direction. It is not impossible.

One basic slogan of the Yes-on-8 voters and supporters centers around "not redefining marriage." I'd like to ask: which definition is being protected? "Marriage" has more than one definition. It has about 10, actually. For each definition that specifically includes "man and woman" there is a definition describing something more universal and, you could say, natural. (Go look up the definitions for that one if you don't like my choice of adjective. I assure you - it fits.) You can see some of those "marriage" definitions here.

The meaning of a word, any word, changes over time. (Hey, look at the word "gay.") "Freedom" has taken on many nuances and shadings in the short history of this country alone. The word "slavery" continues to adapt itself with dark panache. Even when words' definitions remain static, they take on new meaning constantly. "Voting" took on drastically new connotations between 1850 and 1880, and again between 1910 and 1920. "War" has acquired a new emotional and cognitive timbre over the past six years, as it did in the 1940's and the 1970's. It is not in the nature of words or of language to remain the same because it is not in the nature of the human world to stay in one place or in one state of being for very long.

Nietzsche believed that "[t]hat for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking." That's a bit, er, bleak, but I agree in this: in that words are only symbols of realities our hearts and minds are straining to grasp, so how can we expect those symbols to remain stagnant? We are evolving and growing, as individuals and as a species, all the time, and part of the growth occurs in language.

Let us evolve. Let marriage grow.



I forgot Theatre Thursday. How could I do that to myself? I blame Tammy Tantra. She was at it again yesterday evening [and last night], when I would have been getting in a last minute post. She was at it SO LOUDLY that I could hear guys on a neighboring balcony laughing and going, "oh, man!"

How 'bout Flower Friday?

Happy V-Day, betches.



I was on a locked psychiatric ward this evening visiting a family member.

While I was visiting, a new patient arrived with her husband. She was gaunt and grey and in her fifties, and she was clearly, painfully, achingly a longtime sufferer of anorexia nervosa. I immediately wondered what she was doing at this particular hospital, on this particular ward, since there are quite a lot (relatively speaking) of good inpatient eating disorder hospitals and wings in the New York area, or at least within two hours or so. I figured, "I'm not a psychiatrist; I don't know what's going on. She may have another underlying psychiatric issue that they have to treat here first." As I kept watching her in the corner of my eye or with the back of my attention, I just felt more and more pity for her.

I thought about the food that was being served for dinner and realized if she were presented it outside the bounds of a meal process group, she would, to put it nicely, lose her shit (and that she'd probably still lose it within the MP group, but that it wouldn't be as humiliating). For this dinner, the admitting psychiatrist had apparently ordered an Ensure for her, and some juice. All she wanted was her chocolate. (She said it like that: "my chocolate.") The mental health worker assigned to keep track of dinner brushed her off with a vague promise of seeing if the person who could bring up some chocolate had gone home yet. Understandable in a general psychiatric facility, but not the way an eating disorder unit would handle the request. (Not that they'd immediately procure chocolate, but a therapist or doctor would be at the meal itself to work through the strange request, instead of a nurse who gives off every impression of being in over her head.)

I thought about the fact that there isn't a nutritionist or registered dietitian on staff on this ward. Perhaps there's one for the hospital at large, but the meals are clearly not prepared with eating disordered patients or weight gain in mind, and not even really geared toward optimal nutrition for refeeding. (Two words: frozen. vegetables.)

I thought about how alone this woman is going to feel. None of the (few) other patients are in this ward for eating disorders.

I don't know why the doctor "sold her a bill of goods," as she put it, to get her into this particular institution and ward. I don't know why he didn't send her to Cornell, upstate, which has an excellent (if infamously strict) eating disorder unit. I don't know why he didn't send her to Renfew in Pennsylvania which practically invented eating disorder inpatient treatment. I don't know why he told her there would be a nutritionist on staff at every meal (according to her, anyway).

But I kept my mouth shut. I wanted to tell her about Cornell and Renfrew, but it wasn't my business, and she was so agitated that she'd probably have lashed out at me for eavesdropping. (Understandably. I was definitely being nosy.) I wanted to find the doctor and find out what the hell he was thinking. I wanted to ask if he knew from personal experience or prolonged ground-level observation what it might be like to be the only e.d. patient in an institution. I wanted to ask about his understanding of older e.d. patients and how they often feel an even more compounded kind of shame than do many of the younger women who make up the diseases' majority of victims). I wanted to ask if he understood where the lines are drawn between bulimic guilt and anorexic guilt and the guilty pride of the severely underweight. I wanted to ask what exactly his specialty was and if there was, in fact, anyone on staff on this ward who truly specialized in eating disorders, since most of the patients I'd met shared the same diagnosis, and it wasn't anorexia. I wanted to ask if my cynicism was spot-on in guessing that he wanted to get her admitted so he'd have another patient pouring money into this nearly-empty wing of the hospital (5 patients for 26 beds).

Clearly, I didn't ask any of these questions. I kept my mouth shut and I kept my hands to myself, even though I really, desperately wanted to wrap her bony frame in a bear hug.


Theatre Thursday

Welcome back to Theatre Thursday. Today we're tying one on for all the crazy Russians in our lives, bless. We're looking at Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov.

The studio through which I honed my now-unused craft was heavy on two playwrights: Shakespeare (swoon) and Chekhov (eyeroll). You know my feelings on Shakespeare, and now you know my feelings on Chekhov. Look, I get it: Chekhov was a genius who trafficked in subtext and the subconscious like no one before him. Yay. But, for the most part? I find his plays mind-numbingly long winded (pot, meet kettle). Perhaps I feel this way because all productions I've seen have either been ham-handed or very, very underfunded. (And I'm sorry - it's tough to get into a naturalistic Russian play if the production couldn't afford to rent a good samovar, especially if the samovar is an important element, as it is in Three Sisters.)

Three Sisters is, as you guessed, about three sisters: Olga, Masha and Irina. Their parents are dead (their father died a year before the first scene), they're living in the country, they're all filled with annoying [to me] ennui, and everybody wants to move back to Moscoooowwwww *whine*. Moscow, Moscow, Moscow is all any of the sisters talks about (feels like it, anyway), because Moscow represents dreams, ideals, culture, perfection, etc. and so forth. The three sisters have one brother (Andrei) who managed to marry a real hellion (Natalya/Natasha) who systematically deconstructs the sisters' home life, destroying their insular life of dreaming of Moscow, Moscoooww, Moscooooowww.

Act Three is, to me, the heart of the play. There's a fire in town and everyone is rushing around to help. Natasha has taken over the house the siblings share and Olga, Masha and Irina experience the collective catharsis of Our Life Sucks, Huh? It's an interesting scene, since Masha (who's been cheating on her husband) is the only one of the three to seemingly realize that if she wants to be happy? She's got to make that happen. Here's Irina's big monologue in the midst of the madness:

IRINA. (Sobbing.) Where? Where has it all gone? Where is it? Oh my God, my God! I have forgotten everything, forgotten everything… Everything is confused in my head… I can't remember what is the word for window in Italian, or for ceiling… I am forgetting everything, I forget more every day, and life flies past and never returns, never, and we will never go to Moscow… I see now that we will never go… (Controlling herself.) Oh, I'm so unhappy… I can't work, I won't work. That's enough! That's enough! I worked in the Telegraph Office, now I am employed by the Town Council, and I hate and despise everything that they give me to do… I'm already twenty four, I have been working already for ages, my brain is drying up, I'm growing ugly and old, and nothing I do, nothing at all gives me any joy, and time goes flying by and all the time it seems as if you are abandoning real life, life that is beautiful, you are going farther and farther away from it, over some sort of precipice. I am in total despair, and how I am alive, why I have not killed myself before now I do not understand…

Olga shortly convinces Irina to become engaged to a man she doesn't love. Masha, hearing all of this, proceeds with this:

MASHA. I would like to confess, my dearest sisters. My heart is breaking. I will confess to you, and then to nobody else, never, never… I will tell you this minute. (Quietly.) this is my secret, but you all know it already… I can't keep quiet any longer…
I love him, I love him… I love that man… You have only just seen him… But why dissemble. In one word only, I love Vershinin…
OLGA. (Goes behind her screen.) Don't say any more. In any case I am not listening.
MASHA. There is nothing to be done. (Takes her head in her hands.) At first he seemed to me to be so odd, and then I pitied him… and then I fell in love with him… I fell in love with his voice, with what he said, with his two unhappy daughters…
OLGA. (Behind the screen.) I am not listening, whatever you say. Whatever nonsense you talk, I have no intention of listening.
MASHA. You're just mad, Olga. I'm in love, that means, it's my fate. It is my destiny to love him… And he loves me… This is all terrible. Isn't it? Or is it wonderful? (Grasps Irina's hand and pulls her towards herself.) My darling Irina… How will we go on living our lives? What will become of us?… When you read a novel, any novel, then it seems that everything is so old hat and everything is easily understood, but when you fall in love yourself then it becomes obvious to you that nobody knows anything and each person must make their own decisions… My dearest sisters, my own dearest ones… I have made my confession, now I will be silent… I will now be silent, like the madman in Gogol's story… silence, silence…

You see how on one level (okay, several levels) it's achingly awesome, Chekhov, and how on another level it's "OMFG, get over it!"? That's my take on Chekhov, in a nutshell. And DON'T get me started on Uncle Vanya or The Cherry Orchard. I'll stick to Three Sisters and The Seagull, thanks.

I think I hear NYU creeping up on me to take my diploma back...


Hyperbole and Appropriation

I haven't gotten too political on here since November, and aside from the election I usually try to stay clear of "politics" unless it's directly related to feminism, women, mental health or theatre. (I can't really think of ever having to discuss that last one in a political frame. I suppose if Karen Finley ever managed to make news again I'd be talking about it here.)

That being said, the following isn't, to me, a political issue. At least, it ought not to be. To borrow a thought from WaltzInExile, I'm not trying to change minds here, but if you are so inclined, please visit the grounded, forceful new blog Christians For Equality.