Questions Not to Ask Someone With an Eating Disorder: Did You Gain Weight?

It was a bad week.  A bad, bad, bad, bad week.  All things considered, my eating really wasn't that bad.  At least, it wasn't bad, bad, bad, bad eating.  I actually managed to probably eat more than usual.

Combine the out-of-the-ordinary eating with the bad, bad, bad, bad week, and I'm just proud I got through it without imploding.

So what do you not do after something like this?

You don't ask me, apropos of nothing, probably not even thinking of the change of eating or the tough week, "Did you gain weight?"

You don't ask that of an eating disorder patient, period.

You don't ask that unless you're a doctor, a counselor, or a nutritionist.

You don't ask that in the manner you'd ask an alcoholic, "Did you go to AA?" or the manner you'd ask someone with borderline personality disorder, "Did you sign up for the DBT group cycle that starts next week?"

First of all, I don't know if I gained weight.  I haven't weighed myself in about a week and a half or two weeks now.  The last time I weighed myself, it was the lowest weight I've seen since 2003, and it was officially anorexic.

At this point, I know my struggle well enough to know that if I weigh myself around now, no matter what the number, I'll take it the wrong way.  If my weight's the same, I'm relieved but also ashamed.  If my weight is down, I'm ashamed but also have a little frisson of accomplishment.  If my weight's up, I'm ashamed but also proud but also panicked.

You don't ask an eating disorder patient, in the manner of checking whether an assignment was completed, "Did you gain weight?"

It doesn't work like that.

I gain weight -- and keep it on -- when I start to feel emotionally safe doing so.

I start to feel emotionally safe keeping on weight when food and body and weight stop taking the places of things I'm really trying to say or do or feel or figure out.

Food, etc., stop usurping the places of real experiences and challenges when I feel allowed to figure out what those experiences and challenges are, and conquer them head on or enjoy them for themselves.

I don't gain weight in a week and keep it on and then everything's okay because I gained some weight.  That's not how it works.  Don't ask me that.  Don't ask anyone with an eating disorder that.

Ask how I'm feeling.  Ask what I'm thinking.  Give me time to figure out the answers, and if you're going to ask, listen to me -- really listen to me -- when I give you answers.

That's how it works, no matter who you are to me, no matter who I am to you, if I am someone with an eating disorer.


Holidays, Food, Women, Willpower, Bullshit

There are so many things wrong with this one piece in the HuffPo that I don't even know why I violated my self-imposed no-HuffPo policy.  (They have a strikingly irresponsible track record with ED and body image coverage, IMO.) I'm not actually linking to it up at the top here, because I don't want to give it any more traffic than it's invariably gotten.  I'll link to it at the bottom.  Hopefully that will minimize the number of you actually clicking through.

The gist of the piece is around "decision fatigue" and how it has an impact on willpower.   Specifically, the discussion revolves around the holidays.

The piece is chock full of statements that on their own would be fine and dandy, even really practical advice ("[Mistakes] make you human... Give yourself a break," "Ratchet down the stress by putting things in perspective").  So far, so good.

However, then you have to put those statements into the context of article.

The context is, of course, that "willpower" is harder for women to exercise than for men (because, lady brains), and of course "willpower" is defined mostly in terms of decadent holiday food (and drink) (because, lady existence: defined by lady waistlines).

Because of course it is.

First of all, I find the "eating yummy things and having willpower are diametrically opposed" meme to be bullshit of the smelliest variety.  It's related to the ignorant belief that anorexia has to do with willpower.  Sure it does.  Just like OCD has to do with the willpower to push through and just check that door lock one more time.

But second of all, and more to the point, I 100% grok the experience of "decision fatigue."  I could be a social scientist's perfect specimen in observing the paralysis that sets in just due to the overwhelming stress of oh my word, it's all too much (especially when the paralysis itself just adds more to the much).

I don't deny that many people (particularly people socialized in the female way) DO view their food and drink activity, especially at holiday time, as a function of willpower or lack thereof.  I am aware that it happens, and moreover I am aware that it happens to me.

I just think that it's total bullshit.  (You're reading this, so you might just agree.)  Articles like this, that just go ahead and assume that of course you're going to have trouble not shoveling Christmas cookies down and of course you're going to agonize over each extra pig in a blanket?  Well, articles like this just play right into that total bullshit and perpetuate it.

What if - just run with me here for a second - we, as girls and woman, didn't spend our holiday-time lives from age 4 or so assaulted by the message that holidays can be stressful, and our stress will get taken out on all the holiday food?

What if - keep with me a little longer here - we spent our lives hearing that holidays can be stressful, and our stress will get taken out in different ways, because we are different people?

I know, I know.  That's just silly.  We're all really the same and we're all doomed to eat too much over the holidays, and what's more, beat ourselves up over it, not because we've spent our lives being told, "You're going to beat yourself up for eating too much holiday food!" but because, lady brains.


Here.  Here is the crap article that buys into every assumption of Western femininity and food ever.


TIME "Ideas" Has New Idea: Fat People Are Gross

Oh my quarks, I'm going to murder something. Maybe this writer's hard drive.

This week,'s "ideas" section features "Let's Stop Being Passive About Fighting Obesity" by Shannon "Fat People Are Gross" Brownlee.

"Even among thin people, who wouldn't be affected by the surcharge (and who therefore might even see lower health insurance premiums, although the survey may not have explained that), support for the fat tax fell short of a majority. Why? Smoking is seen as being completely in the individual's control, whereas obesity is viewed as a result of a combination of complex factors."  

It should go without saying that such a view of obesity is CLEARLY hallucinatory, amirite?

Here.  This should tell you about how she feels about overweight people:  "body mass index, the current term for degree of excess weight,"

Yeah, no.  body mass index is not the term for "degree of excess weight."  You aren't minus a BMI if you have no excess weight.  You aren't aiming for a BMI of zero.  That would mean you don't exist.

Talking about how the effects of second-hand smoke finally allowed people to really take up the anti-smoking cause, the writer argues, "Maybe it's time to be at least a little more willing to similarly demonize excess poundage."  

To paraphrase Kate Harding's tweet about this piece, I'mma need Shannon here to show her work on how "excess poundage" isn't already demonized enough.  

Why am I on about this?  Especially after radio silence, except for pictures here and there, for a few months?

You know how this reads to me, as someone with an eating disorder that is sometimes straight BN, sometimes AN-P?  This reads to me:

"Gaining weight is a terrible idea.  Gaining weight should frighten you.  Once you start gaining weight, you don't really have any guarantee you're going to stop.  Even if you don't end up obese, you'll end up chubby, and just like it says in this article, once you gain weight, it's incredibly hard to lose it.  Best not to gain any weight.  Just to be on the safe side."

That's how my eating disordered brain translates this article.

And let me be clear.  I need to gain weight right now.  I am officially at the cusp of an anorexic BMI.  It is nonsensical that I should be afraid of gaining weight.  However, that's what an eating disorder does to thought processes.  I get stressed (or sad, or what have you), I reroute it to food and weight, and my brain latches onto pieces of crap like this pageview-trolling travesty, and just kind of does its own thing from there.

So screw you, Shannon "Fat People Are Gross" Brownlee.  A BMI is not a "degree of excess weight," obesity is not the equivalent of secondhand smoke, and you sound like a hateful troll.


Selves, Straws, Snaps

You know when the stupidest crap morphs into something you just can't deal with?  The kind of crap that any other time you would handle with aplomb, or wouldn't even notice you were handling at all, it would be so effortless?


My pharmacy has moved and they're taking the opportunity to upgrade computer systems, which entails bringing in new staff with knowledge of such.  When I dialed my way through the automated ordering tonight, instead of the final prompt I got, as I have been getting lately, "Please hold for a member of our pharmacy staff."  I've been thinking they're having some issue with the computers and phones when I get this prompt each month.  Lately I'd been taking the Rx in physically.

Ha.  Ha ha ha.

Turns out, my pharmacy has been filling my birth control under someone else's insurance since MARCH (when I got this year's birth control Rx).  I am only finding out about this now because of a particularly detail-oriented new staff member.  Prior to this whoever's been filling my Rx hasn't been checking my date of birth or my insurance any time I've picked up the Rx.  Once someone (who's not a regular at that pharmacy location) did ask to verify my address, and it wasn't mine.  Of course, nothing came of that ("Oh, you must have two profiles, we'll fix that"), and of course that happened mid-week, when this whole identity/freaking insurance fraud problem could've been solved easily.

My GP has my chart as Firstname Maidenname-Marriedname.  She sends my Rx's in as Firstname Maidenname, because that's just always how she's done it.  My GYN has my chart as Firstname Marriedname now, and as of this year that's how she sends my Rx in.  This is a new thing as of 2009, despite my having been married since 2007.  2011, however, was the first time she e-prescribed for me.  So you can see where the confusion comes in.  Shorter:  "Humans.  I get it.  But this is why we check our work."

I've known there was another version of me wandering around Manhattan (she has my Firstname Marriedname) since early 2010 when I went to an orthopedist for the first time.  The person checking me in/verifying my patient identity looked at me and asked in a surprised tone if my date of birth was in '68.

This other me must live in my neighborhood, because apparently she also goes to my GYN - it looks as though this year's birth control Rx was sent into the pharmacy from my GYN's with her date of birth.  Either that, or the pharmacy got in the Rx with my DOB and didn't notice, instead going to the first Firstname Marriedname they saw in their system, and going from there.  I'm not sure which, but I should be finding out tomorrow after they've had time to go and look at the physical Rx they got in March.  Anyway.  That's beside the point, and whether it was my doctor's mistake or the pharmacy's mistake is irrelevant to tonight's Ridiculous Breakdown That Any Other Time Would Not Have Even Been A Thing.

Here is the Thing.

There's this woman I share a name with, an orthopedist with, and apparently a gynecologist with.  She takes the same birth control as I do, but has a different insurance company, a different date of birth, a different life.  (And a different birth control copay.  I noticed mine had gone up; I just thought my insurance company were being dicks about it.)

I'm having a thematically tough time with who I am lately.  I don't particularly want to be this version of me very much, this past while.  This role, this function, this name - they just get on my very last nerve recently, and they are heavy.  They sit there on that nerve, and they press.  It's an exquisite irony to learn that if I'd just told my GYN to go ahead and keep using my old identity, that old name (which my insurance still has no issues processing), I'd be having no issues this weekend.

This year, you guys.  This year.  This year's been tough.  It's been no 2009 (the year of YHGTBFKM), but it's held its own.  I've been noticing just how tough lately as I've segued back into fall clothes, clothes I specifically remember wearing at specific places during specific moments in Paris last September, and the same clothes are slipping off, are sagging, are baggy, where last year they were maybe a bit loose.  It's not that I've lost so dramatically much weight, but more that I've deflated.  This year has been deflating.

So it is an especially back-breaking straw, this whole "ha ha, I'm your identity, and I shall screw you now!  if you'd just used your other identity, you'd not be screwed!" prescription thing.  There's just too much ugly poetry there.



Terrible and Wonderful

I already wrote my September 11th experience here.  Rather than rehash everything, the link is here if you feel like reading about it.

That post is from five years ago, and while it still rings true, what I remember more than anything now is the care people took with each other.  

I also remember making sandwiches for rescue workers at one of NYU's dining halls.  My roommate and I worked at a table across from a little boy and his mother, assembling ham, tomato, and mayo on white bread.  I remember us giggling at the gobs of mayo the kid slapped on his sandwiches.  "Is he trying to give the rescue workers heart attacks?" we asked each other.  I remember it was a relief to giggle, and it was a relief to see the unintentional humor of this little kid very clearly in a one-sided competition with us to make the most sandwiches.

I mostly remember the generosity, the unspoken assumption that it was okay to lean on a stranger, if you let them lean back on you.  And it wasn't like that only on the 11th and the 12th.  It was like that for months.  It was terrible and wonderful.


September Blue

This was the color of the sky on September 11, 2001.  Everyone talks about the blue of the sky that day.  (I was looking through some pictures, and found this, from last September in Paris.)

The roll of film in my camera (imagine that!) that day was black and white, so I don't have any pictures of the sky, but this was the color.  Truly, it felt like a mockery, how visible the columns of smoke were from downtown.


I left the apartment on the morning of September 1, 2011 and headed to the subway.  It wasn't until I walked a few blocks that I glanced up at the sky.  It was exactly this blue.  Oh, perfect, I thought.  That's just great.  My throat got tight and my eyes teared up.  It's gonna be an interesting couple of weeks.  I said just that to my therapist, later in the day.

Honestly, I've always felt like a bit of a fraud, having feelings about it.  I was two miles north of the World Trade Center that day.  I didn't know anyone who died.  I didn't know anyone who was physically hurt.  I didn't have to evacuate my dorm, even.  I have friends who saw people jumping.  I have friends who ran from balls of pulverized concrete and asbestos, up Chambers Street.

My therapist (who was my group therapist 2004-2006) remembered that "it really affected" me.  I assume that's because my eating disorder really kicked into high gear afterward, after it had been lazing its way toward clinical significance during the summer of 2001.  But I told her again this past week how silly I felt, tearing up at Lexington Avenue almost ten years later, just because the sky was a certain color blue.  I obviously didn't tear up last year in Paris when I took the picture above, or if I did, it was because I was flying home that afternoon.

Wednesday night  I stayed up 'til 3:00 reading this week's New York Magazine - their 9/11 Encyclopedia.  There's an entry about the blue in there.

I don't know how to describe the feelings I have around September 11th.  It was terrifying.  It was desperate.  It was life-affirming.  September 12th was simultaneously one of the most numb and most purposeful days I've lived.  September 13th was a Rube Goldberg trap of bad decisions.  September 14th school officially went back to normal, but life didn't.  We didn't.  It was a new normal, I guess.

It's strange to feel that ten years minus ten days later, one is still in that new normal.


Food Business

I have a friend whose rare medical condition requires that at least 60% of her diet be carbohydrates. Reasonably speaking, her carbohydrates also need to contain fat, otherwise she'll be hungry again in a wink. Such is the nature of carbs. As such, in the office you'll see her eating things like a bag of chips instead of a protein bar, a doughnut instead of a scrambled egg, things like that. You definitely won't see her eating turkey in a lettuce wrap every day at lunch, because that would quite literally harm her.

One of her bosses has the odious habit of commenting on her lunches and snacks. A direct quote: "Is that good for you? Is that what you should be eating? She's eating another doughnut!"

Every day he does this. She does not have an eating disorder, but he doesn't know that. She has trouble getting enough calories to keep weight on, actually, but he doesn't know that.

What he does know, as her employer, is that she has special health considerations, and that she watches them assiduously, as she must. He knows, if he's been able to keep it in his head this long, that she had to have her spleen removed within the last two years and was hospitalized this time last year, both because of her condition.

So if he stops to think about it, he knows very well that, yes, she is doing what is good for her. If he were to apply any brain power to the idea, he does know, somewhere in there, that yes, that's what she should be eating.

But he doesn't think, he doesn't hold information about her as a specific human being in his head. He just sees a woman eating a doughnut, or some chips, or a rare Cadbury Egg in the spring, and he has to comment. Because in his head, somehow, her body is his property.

I've said that before and it sounds a little hyperbolic to some, but I ask you, what else can it possibly come down to? What else would give someone the idea that they have some say in something as integral to your self as what you put into that self to nourish it, quite literally?

I'll tell you what. My friends have seen me completely freak out and have a rolling panic attack because a waitress made a totally normal suggestion about my order. And she was a waitress. You know, who specifically has to deal with other people's food. That was a year ago. Tonight I had to white-knuckle my way through almost two rolls of sushi. Small rolls. That's all. I am trying not to obsess about it or dwell on it at all, but at the moment, all I can think is how glad I am that I was eating it in my room, with the cat at the computer. Because if anyone - my husband, a friend, a family member, anyone had said word one about my food? I would have been done right that second, whether I was just one piece in or one roll. That's just where I am tonight.

My friend isn't there. But her boss doesn't know that. Her office doesn't know that. What they think they know, for some reason, is that her food is their business.

Her food is not your business. My food is not your business. Your food is your business. Mind your own business.


Bad Days, I Has Them

After being proactive last week, particularly in the latter half, my mood and coping skills have simply crashed since about Saturday.  Today I'm working from home because I cannot bring myself to put on something other than a t-shirt and yoga pants.

I'm trying to come up with a suitable analogy to communicate how I feel about existing in my body on days like these, but nothing's presenting itself that isn't wildly hyperbolic or horribly insensitive.

Honestly, this is the only response to myself that I can drum up:

dunno source. all over teh interwebs.

Here, maybe this will help anyone in a similar position today:



Thin Hatred in a Fat-Fearing World

Pinterest is my new distraction, though I'm not doing too much there yet.  One of the few (two?) people I follow is, of course, The Bloggess.  Here's one of her pins:

Jenny capped that with, "Unless you get hit by a car. This poster was written by someone who's never eaten a cookie. I don't like this poster. This poster needs to be burned. I'm pinning it just to remind myself to burn it later."  And much happiness ensued in my head.

Until I got to this comment under Jenny's pin:

"Skinny bitch needs to slow down and eat a cookie."

Lovely.  I just...  Can you imagine someone writing, "Fat bitch needs to speed up and put down the cookie?"  Yes, you can imagine that, because people write stuff like that all the time.  And innumerable readers of such comments recognize the words for what they are:  mean.

I've gotten into mini blog battles before about this kind of casual negation and deriding of thin women before (whether they are thin naturally, thin by physiological illness, or thin by mental disorder).  And I recognize that it's a different quality of disdain in our world, to be making cruel or cutting comments at someone whose body type doesn't fit into some arbitrary ideal, than to call a skinny woman a bitch.

But just like the "real women have curves" thing (I wasn't aware that I ceased to exist two sizes ago?), just because there is thin privilege in the world doesn't mean that arbitrary and thoughtless thin hatred is okay, any more than any arbitrary, thoughtless hatred is okay.  The only people I really feel comfortable with hating are...  I'm having a hard time here.  I mean, Osama bin Laden is dead, so...


I don't know quite what it's about, the impulse to erase or hate thin bodies in such a palpably different way that we (as a culture) feel the impulse to erase or hate fat bodies.  But I certainly do absorb it in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" osmotic process.


Body Perception in Eating Disorders: From Stuff to Stuffing

Well.  It seems like I've developed a new area of body fixation.  I won't identify it here so as not to trigger anyone.  I'd rather work out, in general terms, the process of disordered preoccupation with a particular part of the body, as that process pertains to an eating disorder.

Simply put, there is no physical way that this part of my body can have undergone the change I perceive it to have undergone.  It is always possible I have gained real, physical, non-water-based weight, but even if that is the case, the human body (at least, many of them) doesn't put on weight all in one place.

And yet, that is the experience my mind is telling me I'm having with my body right now.  Interestingly enough, if I look at this part in the mirror, I can see the physical reality that it really isn't all that different, if at all.  But if I look down at it, all of a sudden it seems huge compared to what it was just two weeks ago, or even last week.  I am hyper aware of this part of me, and if I'm not careful, that heightened attention spreads to the adjacent parts, and my mind, my eyes, they start to wonder.  "What are you up to, body?"  e_e

It strikes me as not odd at all that this process occurs at the same exact time that I am finally not having panic attacks or rampant anxiety for the first time in weeks.  A transfer occurred sometime in the very recent past.  Instead of being convinced I'm about to die, my eyes are telling me a part of my body is expanding, expanding, taking over...

It strikes me as yet again not odd at all that this process occurs around an archetypal body area for my time of life.  From a remove I can appreciate that psychological inner workings that picked out THIS body part at THIS time.  It's definitely been OTHER parts at OTHER times, and in retrospect, each of them makes sense for their time.

Of course, I can only self-remove and analyze for so long.  Then I'm back in my body.  With the metaphorical stuff, that my mind turns into literal stuffing, of which I would so very much like to be unburdened.

Ugh.  No dice.


Affluence, Culture, Food, French

French Are Getting Fat, Threatening American Fad Diet Industry
at Jezebel

I'll admit: I giggled when I read Jezebel's headline there.  And I'll admit, I rolled my eyes when I went to the original story at npr and saw a picture of what is possibly the least French street in Paris.

But can we talk about what really goes on in the mouths parisiennes?  Espresso and cigarettes, that's what.  Not exclusively, of course, but the whole "French diet" thing is really grossly distorted.  Croissants, for example, are not actually all that calorie-dense - especially not if that's all you're eating for breakfast, until lunch.  Yes, Paris (and France) has plenty of cheese, bread, wine, etc.  But if you think your average French fashionista is actually going around eating three hearty meals a day composed of Camembert, jambon, and pate de campagne, you're simply kidding yourself.  I do adore Jezebel's tongue-in-cheek takedown of that assumption.  Sometimes they really get it right.  

But that's not really what I'd like to get into about this story.

Here's an interesting snippet from the npr article:  

At one public day care center in Paris, 2-and-a-half-year-olds sit around a table for a hot lunch. The tiny diners wear napkins at their necks and are taught the proper use of cutlery. A recent menu featured grilled leg of lamb and cauliflower au gratin, all freshly prepared in the day care's own kitchen.

I can almost guarantee you that that public day care center is probably not located in the 19th or 20th arrondissements, and it's certainly not located in one of the immigrant-populated banlieues, whence came all that rioting news in 2005.

France, as will come as a surprise to no one reading this blog, has a troubled history with immigrants.  (Speaking of which: I have, for the record, rethought my opinion on the full veil ban.  I suppose I'll have to change my position to Against now.  But really only because of the racism that underlies the law.  I have no issue with the longstanding ban against headscarves in schools... because any religion-proclaiming wear in school has been long banned.  At least that way it's equal opportunity.)

Anyway, as will again come as a surprise to no one reading this blog, I am zero percent shocked to read that the uptick in obesity rates has been mostly seen in low-income communities in France.  The French way of life that the world associates with, well, the French way of life, is a very affluent one.  Food prices are rising in France, just as they are around the globe.  Of course food price hikes and food deserts and sending food away from the farms is going to affect less well-off French people first.  It's unsettling when that's treated as a revelation.  After all, it's not as though Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Vietnam or other countries whose emigrants are heavily France-bound are all crippled under obesity crises.  Hardly.

This is an interesting story to see, this newest in a string of laments for the French Way Of Life, in the same week as the riots erupted in London, Liverpool and Birmingham, just a short easyJet hop away.


Day of Fail

I'm having one of those days where I can't eat anything successfully.  Well, the bananas went okay this morning, and the Balance bar a few hours after that.  Otherwise?  Not so much.

I don't know what it is lately, other than that whole the-world-is-trying-to-squish-me-like-a-grape thing, but I seem to have just no resilience the past several weeks.   I wish I could say that this round of stress finally went on my scorecard, and not my eating disorder's, but I can't say that.  I would be happy to say that last week was two-steps-forward-one-step-back, but it would be more accurately labeled as one-step-forward-two-steps-back-one-step-forward-flop-in-a-forwardly-direction.

I would like very much to have had a good day today, but that's no longer a possibility.  Here's aiming at tomorrow.

Meanwhile, since we were talking about art yesterday, here's a picture of (part of) one of the Water Lilies paintings at L'Orangerie (Paris).

When I win all the lotteries ever, I am going to buy this place and live there.


Interlude: Art

I've needed a break.  I took one from blogging.  I don't think it's quite over yet, but soon.  Sadly, it's harder to take a break from Real Life.

Anyway, here's a picture from the Guggenheim this weekend, a some random opinions on art.

Honestly, about as "modern" as my modern art tastes get is 1930 or so.  After that, art is kinda lost on me, depending on the artist.  Example: Bonnard, yes, Dali, no.  (Unless you're talking deviantART, in which case, I'm down.)  Now, that's a huge generalization.    Let's just say that I can do reasonably well at MoMA, where reside various works by Redon, Boccioni, Van Gogh, Chagall, Severini, even some later Monet.  And The Guggenheim has a smattering of Cézanne, even a Manet out right now.

But I really just. can't. appreciate. four boulders and a black piece of rubber, with one of the boulders daringly off the rubber of its corner, while the other three boulders obligingly comply with authority and weight down the rubber corners.  I could stare at rock formations in nature until my eyes dried up and fell out of their sockets, but.... no.  I do not need to pay $18 to see boulders on black rubber.  Sorry.  I am just Not A Modern Art Person.  (Point of fact: I did not pay, my mom did.)

Several months ago (a year ago? more?) I saw a play brought over by the Donmar Warehouse, starring Alfred Molina.  It was about Mark Rothko in his later years, and while it gave me some appreciation for Rothko's more famous stuff (as opposed to his earlier stuff, which I actually do enjoy), I mostly still look at a Rothko and see.... red.

And isn't that the neat thing about art?  I can totally understand that there are people out there who probably go on major Rothko pilgrimages, whereas it is my life goal to somehow set up a tent on the grounds of Giverny (Quidditch World Cup style, of course).  It's a totally accepted reality that different art will speak to different people at different times in their lives, and for the most part (except with snobs and Jerry Falwell), that's okay with everyone.

Wow, I would really like to keep thinking about art rather than all the other crap I have to think about.


The Society Pages post on "Hail to the V"

I was waiting for this one.  Short and sweet.  The last paragraph pretty much sums it up:

Vertical smile? Are they serious with this? And as Finette says, “They’ve managed to combine ‘less than fresh down there’ vagina-shaming [omg, what subtle hints has your vagina been trying to get your attention with?!] with ethnic stereotypes! Awesome!”


On the Reaction to Reading Into Ads

So, apparently a lot of people are interested in the Summer's Eve ad.  A LOT of people are Googling it, I can tell you that much.  The reactions I've seen cover many and varied responses, most often that the ad is gross, inappropriate, hilarious, clever, or spot-on.

Whatever it is, it's an effective ad.  You can bet that more people are thinking about Summer's Eve than have done in some time.

The reactions to my own initial thoughts on the ad cover a similar spectrum, from almost point by point agreement, to telling me I'm overanalyzing something that's just supposed to be funny, or making too much of something that's basically true anyway.

Here's the thing: I don't think I am overanalyzing the campaign.  I just think I'm analyzing it.

I tend to believe that just because something is funny, doesn't mean that's all it is.  The campaign is "women are their vaginas" disguised as body positivism.  It's cute, it's clever, it's pretty, it's tongue-in-cheek, but it's still "women are their vaginas."  Summer's Eve is an entire brand built around the supposition that vaginas aren't acceptable in their natural, unscented, un-douched state.  It follows that their ad campaigns will always spring - no matter how clever - from a foundation of "not right," or at least, "not good enough."  To turn it around and try to make the products into a female empowerment brand is either dewy-eyed naivete, or cynicism.  Given that we're talking about advertising, I'd hazard a guess at the latter.

I am, naturally, keenly interested in messages that reduce women to their bodies, or parts thereof.  If the idea of woman's body as sole signifier and resource isn't a semiotic seed for cultural germination of eating disorders, then I don't know what is.

But more particularly, in this case, I'm interested in what it means that Cleopatra's most precious resource was her vagina, not her unparalleled skill at negotiations and intimidation campaigns.  I'm interested in an ad campaign that wants to claim the power and non-taboo of the word "vagina," but uses the euphemism "V" throughout.  I'm interested in how a product based around telling women that the most important piece of them is their vagina, and that this most important piece is unloved if it isn't bathed in chemicals, decides to cast itself as empowering.

And most particularly, I'm interested in the reaction to my reaction.  I'm interested in people's assertion that humor is all that's there, and that we should stop in our reading of the ad once we've had a laugh at it.  I'm interested in the insistence that looking beyond the ad's presumably self-aware humor is unnecessary, and an overreaction.  If you go into observation afraid of overanalyzing or overreacting, then eventually you're going to end up taking everything at its face value.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but once you assume everything is only what it first appears to be, how many chances will you lose to learn?


Harry Potter and the Summer's Eve Ad? What?

I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 today.  ~contented sigh~

What follows is not thoughts on the movie (~contented sigh~), but a tl;dr post about an ad that ran with my theater's reel.  (Well, "reel.")

It was a Summer's Eve commercial, from which I gather they have a new ad campaign going.  The tagline of the campaign is "Hail to the V."  I can find videos online that involve talking hands (positioned vertically, because they are representing vaginas), but I can't find the ad they screened in our theater.  If I find it later, I'll update with it here.  For now, here's what I remember:

First we see a woman holding an infant up to the moonlight, in a suggestion of a prehistoric kind of setting.  The next scene is a Cleopatra-like figure walking out on a dais above her adoring subjects.  She thrusts her arms above her head in a victorious V and they all cheer.  Third, we see a Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon type fight (in a bamboo forest and everything) between two men battling, presumably over the young woman watching them amidst the bamboo.  Finally, it shows a joust with two knights riding toward each other, and a queen or noblewoman watching them with evident excitement and possibly lust.  All throughout, the narration is along the lines of, "It is the foundation [or something like that] of society; [stuff I don't remember]; through time men have fought for it [at the bamboo shots], even died for it [on the joust hit]" etc.  

Then at the end of the joust scene, it cuts to a woman in a grocery store ladies' bizness aisle, and the narrator cries something like, "So show it some love, ladies!"  

"It" is of course the vagina, and the grocery store woman is holding a Summer's Eve "feminine wash" product.  

When I'd seen the martial arts scene with two men clearly fighting over a woman, I started thinking, "What is it, love?"  And then the jousting I thought, "Yeah, I guess, love."  

But no, they're not talking about love, or even love as metaphor for sex.  They are literally talking about literal vagina.  (Though presumably Summer's Eve non-douche products have more to do with the vulva and labia?)

On the face of it, the campaign is about empowering women about their bodies through knowledge and confidence.  And I can entertain the idea that the creative team really was working from such a place.  Because - again, on the face of it - we're talking about the awesome and unique power of the vagina, about how special and awesome the vagina is, and isn't the vagina just awesome you guyz?  

We see an infant lifted up to the moonlight, the moon being your prototypical female celestial body, aside from Venus.  (Discounting the part where the uterus has really more to do with the production of an infant than a vagina does, particularly if the birth isn't vaginal?)  We see a female Pharaoh (looks older than Cleopatra, but I'm not assuming the design team knows the difference between Cleopatra and Hatshepsut), and who doesn't associate the female Pharaohs with ultimate lady power?  We see obviously skilled and powerful men just aching to beat each other out for the chance at love from a woman who clearly holds power over their fates.

The scene of the two martial arts fighters battling in the bamboo forest with the young woman watching them from behind the stalks edges into more problematic territory:  Are they going to kill each other?  Is she just letting that happen?  Does she have any agency in who "wins" her when the fight is over, or is this like a mountain goat situation where brawn means all, regardless of her desires?  Ditto on the jousting scene, though in the idiom of courtly love it's hardly assumed that this noblewoman (queen?) will actually sleep with her sponsored knight.  If anything, the jousting scene, because of that reality about how the ideal of courtly love worked, doesn't really belong in the ad. (NOT that it was free from sex or adultery or fornication or what have you, but by and large, it was not assumed that the lady whose favor a knight vied for would sleep with said knight.) 

Now, I'll give you that the ad was supposed to be lighthearted and humorous, and I'll give you that I laughed.  But I wasn't laughing at the content of the ad, at least not in the way I was meant to.  I was laughing a) at the ridiculousness of having a Summer's Eve commercial with a HARRY POTTER MOVIE, and b) at the thinly veiled sexism that defined the whole ad, and just how balls to the wall it was.  (To use a wholly inappropriate expression.) A sexism that works both ways, by the way.  Is this ad saying that men are totally powerless over the allure of the birth canal and adjacent outer bits?  That's not terribly flattering to men.

I think we can skirt over the surface issue of, "We all know that Summer's Eve is actually more likely to irritate the external female genitalia than to make it healthier, yes?"  And at this point we can definitely gloss over the problem of, "We all know that in the vast majority of cases douching is actually unhealthy, right?"  

Let's just skip that and take it as a given that the existence of Summer's Eve as a long-standing brand is basically thanks to the scariness of the female genitalia and the ickiness of the vagina in the minds of popular culture.  (You guys!  It has mucus membranes!  Eeeww!)

So let's posit that to "show [the vagina and vulva] some love" is all this ad campaign wants to do.  Fine.

The entire construction of this particular ad is founded on the presumption that all the power, all the influence over society, over culture, over child-rearing, and hell, over finding love that women have ever had was always and forever based solely on their literal vaginas.

The most important thing a woman ever gives an infant is pushing it out of her vagina.  The reason empires followed and enemies fell to female Pharaohs was that they had vaginas, which were, presumably, available if the right price was paid.  The only reason two men would have to compete for the attentions of a woman is the sexy sex her vagina can bestow.  (Particularly if she's a queen or landholder - there's definitely no other reason to want to get on her good side then, no treaties to be had or laws to be hammered out or anything.)  The website has articles about breaking the verbal taboo of "vagina."  Cool.  So use the word in your commercials and print ads, then.  According to the print ads of this campaign, Cleopatra's vagina (well, her "V") was "her most precious resource."  Really?  REALLY??  The only way to make sense of that assertion is by dropping acid.

Ladies, all you are, in the end, is a vagina.  Hillary Clinton is just a vagina.  Elizabeth I was just a vagina.  Sally Ride is just a vagina.  Aung San Suu Kyi is just a vagina.  We are all just stinky, unloved vaginas that can maybe smell like delicate blossoms and be adored if we buy Summer's Eve!

Do I think that's actually what the ad's creative team was thinking when they sat down and storyboarded it?  No, absolutely not.  I think they imagined they were being funny and memorable.  I'll definitely give them memorable.  I'm even willing to bet that advances in science mean that today's Summer's Eve products are for the most part innocuous if you're not sensitive-skinned.

But the reduction of women to their vaginas, to objects - that's the reduction the ad's creative team worked from.  I find it entirely easy to believe that not a single person in the brainstorming session sat up and went, "Hey, you guys realize we're reducing every accomplishment women have ever achieved and every contribution they've made to society to men's uncontrollable greed for vaginal sex, right?"

I hate that I went into my final first experience of a Harry Potter movie distracted by this stupid ad.  I'm glad I was the only one I heard laugh in my theater.  If no one else was as disbelieving as I was, at least no one else thought it was very funny.  

Edit: Thanks to anon for finding a link:


Don't Have a Title, Do Have a Headache

My normal doctor is out of town, so as with my tetanus shot after slicing my thumb this spring, I saw one of her residents today.  Residents tickle me a bit in their thoroughness.  They're still trying things out, particularly patient interaction, when you're in a GP setting.

I happened to be there today for a thing that needed thoroughness.  I've been having such incredible anxiety that not only has it escalated my incidence of purging, it's actually got me dizzy and headachy and blue-lipped and faint.

Of course, when you have an eating disorder, those can be symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance or a cardiac abnormality just as much as they can be the gaudy trappings of panic attacks.  Best to have a blood draw, check the ol' electrolytes, said I.

"We need to do an EKG," said the resident. We did the EKG.  It looked normal.  (Although when I had my blood pressure taken prior to the actual visit, it was 133/70, like, jeeeeeez, chill out a little.)  (But more on that in a moment.)

After the EKG, the resident ran the results by the attending who was there, and who actually came in to introduce herself to me.  "We're concerned," she said.  She handed me info on, of all places, Renfrew.  I explained my history with Renfrew, but thanked them for the thought.

From there I went to get blood drawn, the EKG having relieved a portion of my blood pressure-raising anxiety.

I couldn't stop obsessing about my weight, though, and that's the other thing I want to talk about.  Back to the blood pressure reading.

When I arrived at the office they did the entry vitals - weight, pulse, blood pressure.  I stepped on the scale backwards, and so we didn't have a repeat of what happened last time, I said, very clearly, "I don't want to know my weight."

When I stepped off the scale, I sat in the BP/pulse chair and the nurse wrapped the cuff around my arm.  "What?  You think you're too fat?" the nurse said.

I didn't really know what to make of her tone of voice.  It could have been scorn, it could have been light ribbing, it could have been just plain "you're an idiot" or a more innocuous "you're weird."

I just plain told her (because now the other patient who'd been getting vitals was out of the room), "Well, I see Dr. A to monitor an eating disorder, so it's better that I just not know."

She gave me a very neutral (maaaaybe insightful?) "oh."

I'm not sure why they don't make notations on the charts.  Or, maybe they do.  My normal doctor has told me she's written on the chart that I'm not to be weighed.  Either way, this same office keeps missing steps with me, and I'm aware that it's not the most horrible thing in the world to say, but it really is irritating.

Then I saw my weight on a chart that the resident had sitting on the corner of her desk, anyway.  Fail.

You'd think I'd be glad the EKG was probably normal, after that appointment.  You'd think I'd be content that the panic attack I was in the midst of during the first half hour of the appointment has cleared out.

But, no.  I'm just thinking about that number, trying to rationalize it, trying to excuse it, trying to think of a way to get out of it.

It's giving me a headache.


Health Insurance and Eating Disorder Treatment Coverage: My Reality

I'd like to talk about eating disorder treatment, mental health benefits in health insurance, and what it's like on the ground for me right now.

I know this post is kinda tl;dr but do me a favor and at least skim it; at least share the link.

The Eating Disorder Situation

The number of eating disorders looks to be climbing, so for every twenty- or thirty-something who used to be a teen with disordered eating behaviors and who now boasts a longstanding eating disorder, at least pieces of the below post are true.

As eating disorder number keep climbing, and as money and budgets keep becoming more pitched issues, becoming tighter, the specific experiences I talk about below are going to become even more widespread than they are now.  This is important for me to work out on pixelated "paper" for myself, but it's also important to put out there because it's hardly just true for me.  It's true for untold numbers of people, and those numbers are growing.

My Situation

I've been doing pretty poorly over the last month.  It's not that my weight is at alarming levels, though it's down.  It's that something in my head has gone ragged.  The hard truth is that I could use a higher level of treatment right now, but that it isn't in the cards because of money.  My health insurance plan doesn't cover anything but the most rudimentary coverage, and that not specified for eating disorders in any way.   They pay for my psychiatric medication, which is truly a non-essential part of eating disorder treatment, and that's it.  That's my reality right now.  I need more, and I can't get more, and without more, I don't know what to do.

Before I started seeing my current therapist, I called New York's Renfrew Center location to schedule an intake and have them look into my insurance benefits relevant to their services.  My insurance plan covers something like 30 psychiatry (not social worker, not psychologist, not counselor, not group therapy -- psychiatry) visits per year, and that's it as far as my mental health coverage goes.

What Works

Anyone who knows anything about eating disorders (or personality disorders, or a whole host of other mental health issues) knows that while psychiatry might get the ball rolling, drugs don't put the eating disordered brain back to order.

Eating disorders (or personality disorders, or a whole host of other mental health issues) are not bipolar disorder, for instance, or schizophrenia.  Bipolar/schizophrenia can and do benefit from talk/behavioral therapy, but primarily require psychopharmacological treatment.  Eating disorders seem to be the reverse of that.

SSRI's and SNRI's have shown some promise in helping reduce symptoms in bulimia or purgative type anorexia (as have some anticonvulsants with popular off-label use as mood stabilizers, e.g. Topamax, Lamictal).  Studies show that even after recovery, bulimics' levels of serotonin don't recover to average levels, so SSRI's in particular are thought to help there.  (Whether the levels were low before the onset of the eating disorder has so far been harder to track.)

I'm on an SSRI (Lexapro), and my insurance covers 50% of its monthly cost (after an annual Rx deductible).  My anxiety is usually at tolerable levels, except for when I end up sobbing in the shower or hyperventilating on the bedroom floor.  The depressive moods that are tied to my anxiety respond a lot better to the Lexapro than does the anxiety itself, but the anxiety difference on vs. off the SSRI is enough to keep me taking it.  And anyone who wants to comment or email to me that I'm playing into Big Pharma's hands and poisoning my body and I could really just do hours of yoga a day and cut out caffeine and drink kambucha or whatever? You can go right ahead and kiss my ass.  This is a tool that I know to be helpful to me, so I will use it.

However, as I say above, drugs are a tiny part of an eating disorder treatment plan (and certainly not universal to ED treatment plans).  That necessarily means that psychiatry is not the be-all end-all in an eating disorder treatment plan.

But psychiatry (fewer than three visits per month) is what my insurance plan covers.  (And we are not getting into my deductible and my co-insurance.  Oh no we are not.)   And psychiatry alone is not what works.  What works in eating disorders is early, relentless, continuing treatment.  At least that's what the data now shows.

Apologies for drawing dramatic and not entirely accurate parallels, but you could compare eating disorder treatment to diabetes treatment.  Catch it early, monitor it closely, and you stand a chance of reversing its course.  Throw the minimum scraps of resources at it, and really you might as well not be doing anything.  So my family friend has the resources and time to monitor her pre-diabetic condition until it becomes Type II diabetes.  Once she reaches her diabetes diagnosis, she has the resources to purchase and maintain a CGM.

This small study actually suggests that CBT can improve the 5-HT system functions in bulimia patients, and that even though there aren't neurochemical effects apparent in anorexic patients (restricting type or purging type), the psychological aspects of the diseases show marked improvement over this 20-week in-patient course.

But eating disorders are notoriously frustrating, because we still don't really know what to do about them.  Or how to define them.  Or how to prevent them.  Or much of anything, other than that they're multiplying (or at least their identification is).  We make stabs in the dark, hoping to hit a major artery.  It seems that in some cases (depending on the study it's as low at 25% or as high as 65%), repeated stabbing of the disorder -- in other words, just keeping at it, and with bigger knives if necessary -- will eventually bleed it out, and keep it bled.

What's Realistic

I'm paying for my therapist out of pocket, but paying a weekly LCSW fee and paying for intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) or partial hospitalization treatment are two different things entirely.  When I went into the partial hospitalization program (PHP) at the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders, my insurance also didn't cover that treatment.  But it was 2003 and economic times were a bit different, weren't they?  My parents paid out of pocket for my treatment that summer, and while I imagine it wasn't terribly fun for them to do, it didn't impact our day to day lives, financially.

I have a lot of guilt over that treatment, and over the fact that, here I am again, at my lowest weight since 2003, still eating disordered, despite all the money my parents shelled out, all the time they spent in family therapy with me learning about eating disorders and how to communicate with me, how to care in a way that gives me what I need.  And yet, I still can't get it right.  Here I am again.

Only this time, PHP or IOP aren't options.  The reality is that they are too expensive.  In 2003, in a booming economy, with my parents' financial standing behind me, the expense wasn't right there and then an issue.  Since the economy went to hell in 2007/2008, I worry about what that treatment stint may have cost them that they could be using right now to be more comfortable.  Don't get me wrong -- they have their house, they have their cars, they have their Whole Foods groceries and their California wines and their beach vacations and the other trappings of middle-aged middle-class life.

But I can't help wondering, what was the point?  What was the point of their spending all that money in 2003 only to have me end up back in a place, in 2011, where I need to be in a similar treatment environment, but no longer have access to one?

The guilt-based part of my brain tells me to give up, that I don't deserve treatment, that if I really wanted to get better, I'd just do it.

Then the reality-based part of my brain kicks in and I think again of my diabetes example.  Eating disorders are illnesses -- mental illnesses.  Diabetes is a physical illness, and while diabetes care is certainly anything but unstratified or judgement-free, no one's going to tell a diabetic to whip their damn pancreas in shape.  They might get all judgey-McJudgersons about every step that diabetic takes or every non-protein-based morsel they put in their mouth, but no one is going to seriously argue that a diabetic can will their pancreas into working again, and insurance coverage is not going to reflect such a thing.  Testing strips and insulin and even, depending on the plan, CGM's and accoutrements, are covered.

So I'm not sure why I should assume I ought to be capable of just whipping my brain or my psyche into shape.  I need treatment, I need an accessible system, I need affordable options.  In the absence of better knowledge on what really works for eating disorders, I need -- and hell, I deserve -- access to the things that we know do work, at least for some people, at least some of the time.

I don't have that access.  I don't have the $30,000 for a month of in-patient treatment.  (Usual minimum stay is 8 weeks.)  I don't have the $2,500 for a week of PHP.  (Usual minimum treatment is 4-12 weeks.)  Right now, I don't even really have the wiggle room to add a weekly nutritionist visit to my weekly therapy.  (Some insurance plans cover nutritionist visits; mine does not.)

You know what I have access to?  Lexapro.  My insurance plan is happy to pay for my Lexapro.  (And don't get me wrong in the least -- I'm glad it is.)  No thanks to BlueCross BlueSheild, I also have access to psychotherapy.  That's mostly thanks to my own good fortune, and indirectly to my parents, who paid for my treatment at NYC's Renfrew location in 2004-2006, where I met this therapist, whose hourly rates are somewhere south of the Manhattan average.

My reality is that Lexapro is not going to fix me.  The CBT workbook and the DBT workbook and the meditation guides and the various orders from Gurze Books that I pay for piecemeal are good tools, but they are not going to fix me.

The hard truth is that I don't know what will fix me.  I don't know if anything will.  But if diabetics and heart patients and Crohn's patients get access to basic treatment options that the establishment accepts as basically effective treatment?  Then I want access to that equivalent for my illness, too.  And I don't see why I shouldn't get it.

Again, not every diabetic patient has coverage for the newest cutting-edge CGM system, and not every Crohn's patient is covered for treatment/research at the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic (which specializes in diseases of the digestive system).  But for the most part, insurance plans, once they see a diagnosis of Crohn's or diabetes, will at least grudgingly cover the basics.  (When they don't kick you off the plan for a pre-existing condition, that is, but at least we're moving away from that.)

But in mental health?  In eating disorders? Not so much.  We're on our own.  We can get our Lexapro or our Abilify or our Lithium or what have you, but if it's not drug-based, then mental health patients?  We're on our own.

What Now

I earned the nickname Cynical Nymph and have kept it for a reason.  When it comes down to it, despite a persistent rash of optimism, always lurking in my mind is the certainty that things like this mental health/health insurance problem exist because of the worst sides of people.

I specialize in complaining and in assuming the worst of people after I've tried to argue myself into believing the best.  In this case is that translates to: the insurance companies don't want to pay for me now, so they'd rather pay later, when I have heart problems and dental problems and esophageal problems, etc., and that the pharmaceutical companies don't want me offered better treatment because then I would stop taking their drugs.

What I know right now is that "everyone" seems to admit that we don't really know what to do about eating disorders, but we know the direction we need to go in.  It's accepted knowledge right now that we need to treat with the treatments we have, research the environmental and biological causes and risk factors, and above all not be complacent in treatment.

But it's accepted reality right now that finances force complacency, and that insurance companies are not interested in providing what's accepted as bare minimum levels of eating disorder treatment.  (SSRI's and bimonthly psychiatry appointments do. not. count.)

That's the reality and it's been sued and argued and researched and evaded and ignored.  The reality is $60,000.  The reality is $10,000.  The reality is that I know I am expensive, okay??  I know it.  But I also know that I deserve treatment.  I'm a human being.  I deserve it.


NY State Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill

This is a huge moment.  This is a huge night.

I am so proud to be a New Yorker today.

We shouldn't need a legislature to affirm rights that are intrinsic to our adult humanity.  In a perfect world, we'd just have those rights.  But it's not a perfect world, and we do need legislatures, or voters, or what have you.  In this case, we have a legislative body, and they have done the right thing.  That's all there is to it.

I was watching the live feed from the senate floor.  I watched as they voted to approve a carefully-worded amendment protecting religious institutions and their non-profit affiliates and individuals working for them from civil or other legal actions.  The viewer numbers at that point were about 36,000 - up from around 4,000 when the link to the live feed was passed around Twitter about two hours before.

Then I watched the numbers climb to about 39,000 as Senator Diaz, one of the Democrats voting no, bloviated about Archbishop Timothy Dolan's opinion about gay marriage (something Dolan's been sure gets into the press the last few weeks), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' take on gay marriage (guess), despite the fact that Diaz himself is not Catholic (in fact, he's a minister in a protestant church).  And as the president of the state senate moved to cut him off, and to not allow him to interrupt fellow senators, Senator Diaz rebuked the senate's president for curtailing his rights.  For curtailing his rights to speak about the bill.  Yes, you read that right.  Senator Diaz complained about an abbreviation of his right to speak against this bill, after he'd gone over his own two-minute limit, when certainly not every senator who voted yea or nay was getting mic time tonight.

Senator Diaz wanted his rights.

Well, Senator Duane, who spoke after Senator Diaz, gets his rights now.  Senator Duane, who also went over the two-minute limit, was also curtailed by the senate's president.  But, see, Senator Duane gets a different right.  Well, technically, the same right.  The same right as Senator Diaz, who has been married and divorced only on his own adult say.  Senator Duane, New York state's first openly gay and openly HIV-positive member, can now marry his partner Louis (or possibly Lewis? I only heard it, didn't read it) if they choose.  Or not.  You know, as they choose.  Since it's their choice.  And since it's their right.  And since this state acknowledges that right now.

The viewer numbers on the official senate page were around 49,000 as the New York State Senate roll call officially passed this bill in that chamber.  All that remains is for Gov. Cuomo, who championed this version of the bill, to sign it.

I <3 NY


Primal Scream vs. Fetal Position: Which Do You Choose?

I mean, really.  Which do you choose?  Which is your favorite freak-out option?

Let's assume no one's going to hear you scream, no one's going to walk in on you huddled in the corner quietly decompensating all tucked into yourself.  Which one is your go-to ideal to communicate to yourself the heartwarming truth, that, uuuggghghhghhhgh?

Just curious.


Too Tired to Title Without Four-Letter Words

I may or may not have just had a minor breakdown over the inability of my iPhone's screen protector to lie properly underneath the phone's case.  I'm not admitting to anything outright.

It's been that kind of week month.

I weighed myself this morning to get a handle on the reality of things after I found myself telling my therapist last week that I felt deflated, flat, fragile.  My eating hasn't been off for that long, I reasoned to her, so it's not like I've actually lost weight, so it's interesting that I'm feeling this way.

Well, no, apparently my eating has been off for long enough to have lost weight.  Not anything epic, but enough to go, "Uh.  Huh."  Again, looking at the anatomical physics at work here, it ought not to be surprising.  My body has its own set of calorie in vs. calorie out math, and the math changed for a little while, so... yeah.  Change doesn't happen in a vacuum, I suppose.  Obviously.

So anyway.  This feeling, and this weight.  There's a lot of, "on the one hand... then on the other hand," as you might have guessed.

On the one hand, bully for me for actually having perceived that my weight was down.

On the other hand, sadface that I didn't actually lend any credence to my own perceptions.  "No, no," said I, "it's all in my head."

On the one hand, once I had proof I've lost weight, I realized, "Crap.  That's not the idea here."

On the other hand, a wee devilish part of me felt the familiar thrill.

On the one hand, I thought, "It's good that I can recognize that thrill's not rational, not healthy, and really not wanted.  Progress?"

On the other hand, I thought, "My word, is that thrill ever going to go away?"

On the one hand, I thought I could give myself a pep talk because I've been trying to assert my needs and take care of myself where my interpersonal relationships are concerned, so that's something.

On the other hand, my efforts at self-preservation have been almost entirely rebuffed by the people they've been aimed at, and I'm about ready to steal something from the Met's arms and armor wing and commit very memorable murder.

And on the one hand, it's fairly normal to lose some weight when you've been working 'til 10:00 on weeknights and 8:00 on the weekends, often too focused or anxious or both to even have meals on the radar.

But on the other, final hand, it's not as if a simple forgetfulness or focus is what's really going on here.  No, that's definitely not all.

Anyway, the cat has presented himself to me and has settled his butt squarely in my left hand, so that occupies one of the hands, at least.

And now, a statue with no hands:

If I were a Greek statue, I'd be a lot less conflicted, because my hands would probably have been lost by this point.
(I am posting this picture because if I don't look at something from the Met right at this second, I shall scream.)
(Next time, pictures with the sword I plan to use in my memorable murder.)



It's supposed to reach 97° F (36° C) today.


Ubiquitous Dissonance

Today I (along with probably everyone in the technorati database) received an invitation to a new technorati venture.  I get outreach emails every week or so.  Some just go straight to the trash folder because I'm not interested in blogging about the newest craze in baby slings (e.g.).  Some I'm excited about (ex.: I have a copy of Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives sitting on my nightstand that has been sitting there since two weeks before the book came out because I haven't had a hot second to read it).

And then there are the ones about diets, dieting, weight loss tips, new diet pills, metabolism boosters, etc.  Fantastic.  Today's email was geared toward foodies and food bloggers and included, in a brief list of acceptable topics, diet recommendations.  So not only am I most manifestly not a food blogger, I'm on an email list soliciting diet recommendations.

Well.  I certainly have those.  But I don't think you want the kind that I can give you.

So here I am, having a shit-storm of a day in a shit-storm of seven days now, and this email arrives in my inbox to remind me, "Hey, hi, you're not okay."  Well, thanks, random email.  I'm glad you reminded me.  Thanks, emailer, for not taking a moment to actually see if I'm a food blogger before you added my email to your list.  Do I expect marketers to read every blogger they email?  Of course not.  But, come on.

I was going to take a page out of The Bloggess's book and write back an over the top, farcical response to the marketer and post the results here.  But you know what?  I'm just too tired.  My food has been completely fakakta since I got back from Atlanta, and everywhere I turn I feel like I'm getting hit in the face with you-still-have-and-eating-disorder flavored pie.  (Inappropriate metaphor is inappropriate.)

This email is one of those little things that start as individual wisps of nothing, but that together form an amorphous blob of suck.  Much like the fur my cat is still shedding, what are you doing to me, Meezie?  Swiffer is really expensive and I simply can't clean any more.

But really, emails like this are overwhelming.  The idea that a solicitation for foodies/food bloggers would include suggestions to write about dieting/weight loss?  The idea that that is such a non-issue, that it apparently doesn't register as total cognitive dissonance to the people planning this campaign?  I'm sorry, but I look at that and stack it up next to the rest of my world and my mind goes, "Ha ha ha!  Good luck recovering and relearning how to intuitively eat with THAT sort of shit all over the place!  Lulz!"

Yep.  Lulz.  It's everywhere.


Disordered Reaction to a Return to Order

I was in Atlanta and now I'm not.

I feel like my head is going to explode, and not from a headache.  Or maybe I feel like my heart is going to explode, and not from a heart attack.  Or maybe I feel like my body is going to explode, and not from eating differently than I normally do.

It's not that I was suddenly eating incredibly intuitively, though I did better than I do in my home environment.  It's not that I was totally unaware of focusing on my body during incongruous moments, though I wasn't obsessive about it.  (Part of that, though, is generally because I'm happy with my shape/size right now... which is problematic because this shape/size is not what my body maintains when I'm treating it how I ought.  But that's another issue for another post.)

So it's not that I did so incredibly well and acted so astonishingly non-disordered, but for whatever reason, I spent the long weekend and now the long travel day back experiencing them mostly as weekend and travel day, not as food disorder and body disorder.  Mostly.  Relatively speaking.

And now I'm home, and I kind of want to curl up in a ball and retreat from the entire world, taking only the cat and my Kindle, because asking anything else from me at the moment kind of feels like asking a diabetic to win a pie-eating contest*.

I don't know.  Here.  Here's a picture of some decomposing tree blossoms at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.  My mother thought I was very weird for taking picture after picture of this.  I mostly thought it was a striking image, what with the dappled light and the various stages of decay and all.

Fine.  Here is a less morbid picture of a live thing.

* Yes, I know.  Inappropriate.  That's why I chose it.


Thumbs Up, Redux

Okay, let's try this again.

The husband went out on a walk earlier and came back with sushi.  When he came back I was actually just about to eat some apples, which we all know is such a good decision.

He got some edamame out of the bag; the restauranteur had forced it on him since he knows I like it.    I had a few pods of it, then I started eyeing his sushi.  Then he not so subtly tried to get me to share his sushi.  I had one piece.  Then I asked if we had some soy sauce.

Now I'm attempting my own roll, the kind that was waiting in the fridge, the kind the husband knows I like.

I think I can do this.

Okay, I almost did it.

I'm not sure what it is about the situation, but I just can't bring myself to finish the roll.  There's something vaguely And Then The World Will End about the idea of finishing a whole roll on my own.  (Good timing, I suppose.  Anyone going to a Rapture party?)

But anyway, I got some protein,  I got some omega-3's, and I got some variety for my taste buds.

And I'm pretty sure my thumb is grateful.


Srsly? HopStop Counts Your Calories Now

I'm meeting up with the illustrious Sheil today.  We are going to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met.  Sheil is staying in Brooklyn, so I popped over to HopStop to see about how long it will take her to make it up to the Upper East Side.

Did you know that HopStop features "approximate calories burned on your trip" now?

Did you know that I want to mail a sample of my cat's poop to the people at HopStop who came up with that idea?

I mean, really.  Are you kidding me?  Are you kidding me.

You know, pedometers are all well and good.  Walking and being healthy is all well and good.  Getting out and about is all well and good.

But as someone with an eating disorder, I do not feel the need to know how many calories I burn every morning commuting between my apartment and my office.  I could now find that info out just so much more easily.  And now, I'm going to sit here and war with myself about not going back over to HopStop to find out.

Honestly, the panic over obesity and inactivity...  Every time I think there's no new way it could sneak into my life to surprise me and upset me?  Every time I think that, it seems to pop up with a brand new way.

Does anyone really need to know that they'd burn approximately 28 calories traveling from Williamsburg to Yorkville?  No.  There is no possible instance in which that knowledge would concretely benefit anyone.  28 calories is literally nothing.  There is no purpose to knowing that you might be burning 28 calories.  I don't care who you are, what your weight is, what your activity level is.

Actually, I take that back: unless you are so anorexic or underweight that you literally have to fight for every calorie taken in and expended.  In that case, you might need to know that X would burn 28 calories.  But this information isn't aimed at anorexics or those severely underweight.  I doubt the idea of counting calories so you don't lose them never occurred to the bright person who said, "Hey! Let's add calorie counts to the commutes!"

Ugh.  Feck you, HopStop.  Feck you.


Win Lose or Bra

I really need to break down and buy some smaller bras.  I am of two minds about this.  

First mind:  Your bras are too big.  Buy some smaller ones.  

Second mind: If you buy smaller bras, you have to stay at that size thereafter, or you will lose*.  

Wait!  I am of three minds!  Third Mind: If you buy smaller bras, that means you are losing**.

I am usually a solid C cup.  However, I have in my drawer, from various years of various weights and various incorrect bra sizings, 34D (at my highest -- which was still a healthy, just FTR -- weight), 32D, 34C (what I wore for a while when I should've been in a 32D), 32C, 34B (what I wore for a while when I should've been wearing a 32C).  I think I have come to accept that right now, I need a 32B.  Somehow that feels like a defeat.

* Lose?  Lose at what?  I don't know, life?  I don't know.
** Look, I don't know, losing to disordered thinking and living?  So, also losing at life?  I really can't win here, can I?


The Cultural Hierarchy of Eating Disorders

Let's talk about ED-NOS.

ED-NOS, that is, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, possibly to be renamed "Feeding and Eating Conditions Not Elsewhere Classified" in the DSM-V.

"[T]he problems of individuals with feeding or eating problems not meeting criteria for currently recognized disorders can be more appropriately described and categorized."  This aim of refining and specifying eating disorder variants is not dissimilar (as this page notes) to the changes proposed for the Mood Disorders (and it seems to me, to some extent, the Personality Disorders).  The point is that "these Conditions may be associated with levels of distress and/or impairment similar to those associated with the recognized Feeding and Eating Disorders, and may require intensive clinical intervention."

Recognition of eating disorders that you can't see with your eyeballs is one of the traditional problems that those in the field have been trying to correct over the last 15 or so years.  Originally, anorexia got all the attention and therefore all the study.  It was decades before bulimia nervosa was even its own diagnosis.  Then, classic anorexia and classic bulimia got all the attention and therefore all the study.   With a major emphasis still on anorexia, though.

(Here's an interesting example.  It's great - it is effing fantastic - to see coverage of eating disorders in men.  And the struggles that men with eating disorders undergo within our acute gender binary are just... I can't even imagine the layer of crap that piles on top o' the other crap.  But this could have been an article about men with eating disorders: not just anorexia, but anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, purging disorder, and more.)

I have Thoughts about that.  One of my Thoughts is that this seems sensible, since anorexia is the deadliest psychiatric disorder.  But another of my Thoughts is that anorexia is relatively so rare.  Comparable to anorexia, a huge portion of the ED population is bulimic, but bulimia isn't as pretty or as alluring, both from a study POV and from a cultural POV.  And comparable to bulimia, a huge portion of the ED population is ED-NOS, but only now is there really beginning to be serious study into ED-NOS, and then the only cultural currency ED-NOS receives is through attention to Binge Eating Disorder, currently categorized under ED-NOS.

So my Thoughts are that we seem to be witnessing a gradual slide from attention to the peak: unattainable, alluring eating disorders -- the low weight restrictive ones that is; the saints live up there.  That attention started trickling its way down the research and the cultural slopes, down to the valley where reside the ugly eating disorders, the disorders that for decades and decades weren't even acknowledged as eating disorders at all.  (This isn't to say that anorexia isn't ugly.  Anorexia nervosa is horrifying.  However, it is approached with a reverence and an envy with which bulimia, binge eating disorder, and other eating disorders are not, at a cultural level.)

It's great that there is finally recognition that just because you're not at 85% or lower of your minimum acceptable body weight, or just because you don't binge and purge a minimum of once a week for at least three months, doesn't mean you don't have an eating disorder.  But there is still such vast misunderstanding of anything that isn't visible Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa at a cultural level.  And truly, there is still a hierarchy within the professional realm, at least as far as studies and diagnostics are concerned.

At a macro level, you can look over things and see the progress, and that sure does feel encouraging.  But at a micro level it is still very, very disheartening that physicians who are trained to observe and evaluate data don't recognize eating disorders in patients whose weight is not at a certain shocking level, or who aren't obviously or admittedly bulimic, mostly because the information and the cultural acknowledgement of what is disordered just isn't there yet.

At the macro level, there is a nebulous knowledge that eating disorders are more than anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and that perhaps binge eating disorder is A Real Thing, rather than Lazy People.  But at the micro level, the cultural hierarchy of eating disorders keeps so many individuals trapped in disordered eating and disordered living, unaware that they could ask for, and often even find help, if only they knew they deserved it.