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.


Thumbs Up

Tonight the husband ordered sushi for dinner.  While he was chatting with the restaurant owner before hanging up the phone, I debated with myself whether to request a roll or two of my own.  "No," the eating disorder shrugged in casual victor.  "Apples for dinner."

Later, I was slicing apples with a knife we got as an engagement present from some very generous family friends (translation: high-quality knife).  The knife was smallish and serrated. I was on my very last chop of the last apple slice.  I was chopping a little inattentively.  I was laughing at something my husband said.

I think you see where this is going.

I felt the knife slice into my thumb tip and immediately clamped my right thumb over the left-hand slice.  I jumped up and down in a fair impersonation of Mario or Luigi, and I hopped to the bathroom to stick my hand under cold water.  "I really don't want to look," I said.  I've cut my fingers before, once deeply enough to scare me, but in general my own blood doesn't bother me.  Bodies don't bother me in that way.  When my husband had his pilonidal cyst excised, I stuffed the healing wound with gauze for two weeks with no problem.  Here I'd felt the knife go into my thumb tip more deeply than would do for a Band-Aid, but I know that fingers are bleeders (thanks to my previous deep thumb slice taking place with my mother at hand), so it was the sensation that bothered me more than the idea of the blood.  I didn't want to see my skin hanging apart, so I kept my right hand clamped down on my left, and both under the faucet, and I opened my eyes.

I glanced down at the tap water running over my hand and saw it pooling distinctively pink over our drain.  And despite the fact that I know my own blood doesn't bother me, seeing the blood gushing enough to color swift water really bothered me.  I started crying.  My thumb didn't hurt.  (I mean, it did, but not in an alarming way.)  I simply found myself deeply upset.

The husband came into the bathroom to ask if I wanted to go to the ER, a little perplexed by the fact that I was crying not out of pain, but out of sheer distress.  I told him no, but asked if he could run out for butterfly closure strips when he'd eaten.  He put his sushi in the fridge and went out.

When he left I began to feel nauseous, then woozy.  I kept crying, but more quietly.  I kept my hand under the water, running perfectly clear now.

He came back, opened a bandage for me.  I realized I'd have to let go of my thumb and view the open slice in order to bandage it.  I'd been applying enough pressure that the blood had stopped and didn't immediately well up when I released my thumb.  I looked at the slice, looked into it.

I started having dry heaves.  I started seeing stars.  I was absolutely hyperventilating as I plunked down on my bum and slid forward on the bathmat, slumped against the sink.  I was laughing like a creepy wind-up doll.  I thought, for only the second time in my life, that I was really and truly going to faint.  It took two tries to get a bandage on.  (I wouldn't let the husband do it because he has dirty man hands and I've seen him pick his nose with those fingers.)

Things I Learned:

1a.  I have viscerally accessible existential issues with being separated from pieces of my body.  This seems reasonable, given that you aren't really supposed to lose certain pieces.

1b.  While I have no problem getting up close and personal with pilonidal cyst wounds or the goo that comes out of a ganglion, I do not want to look into my own body if I'm not supposed to be able to see into wherever I'm looking.  I would psychoanalyze the shit out of that aversion if I felt like it.  I don't feel like it.

2.  I would be terrible in zombie combat operations.  Or any combat zone, really.

3.  Just have the damn sushi for dinner.



It's been quite a week, hasn't it?  What with the whole bin Laden thing, and also Kendra finally getting booted off Dancing with the Stars.  (What?)

Really, though, it's been a week.  The husband and I started off the week by taking someone out to dinner Monday night.  It was the first time I'd been out to dinner (as opposed to nachos and cocktails) at a restaurant since my mother-in-law's birthday, if I recall correctly.  It was the first time I'd been out to dinner at a restaurant whose food was actually good since some time before that.  (Since Paris, maybe? I feel as though I'm forgetting something that's going to insult someone.)

Anyway, dinner threw me for a loop.  A weird loop.

A normal loop occurs when I enjoy the food that's not in my highly restrictive diet now.  My taste buds and tummy want more food like that and inform my brain that they'd like more at some point, possibly tomorrow or next week or whenever, thankyouverymuch.  My brain shuts them down without even politely pretending to humor their request.  So I lapse back to the highly restrictive list of safe foods I've been subsisting on for however long, and while I joke about catching a tape worm, it never actually occurs to me that, hey, I could also just keep eating more of that food that I liked.

A weird loop occurs when all that same stuff happens... but then it actually occurs to me that I could also just keep eating more of that food that I liked.

This actually occurred to me Monday night after dinner.  It also occurred to me Tuesday night when I sat down to my not-dinner.  And Wednesday.  And tonight.  The week itself has been abysmal when considering the actual nutritional mechanics at work in my digestive system, but that new thought, or that old-new thought, is really a new something.

om nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom

Another thing I noticed this week is that when I feel sad (as opposed to numbly depressed, as in clinical depression) I don't have any particular feeling or thought about my body.  Usually it doesn't occur to me to notice my body when I feel sad.

This is novel.  (At least lately.)  Eating disorders like to cut off emotions, or dull them, or warp them.  When emotions emerge, often they're scary, and so the eating disorder slips itself into the situational recipe like too much cilantro in your guacamole.  When for a moment there you were only feeling anxious, or only feeling angry, or only feeling cautiously optimistic, you are now feeling anxious and like you're physically expanding, or angry suddenly obsessed with [whatever body part/area], or cautiously optimistic and also strictly planning exactly the foods that will allow you to maintain that optimism.

But I realized this week that these days, when I am sad, I am just sad.  Not about my body, or about my food, but about stuff in my life.  And my body is there, and often it's walking me around Manhattan (because that seems to be when I can access my sadness), and, crucially, it's just my body.  It's just moving.  It's just harboring and supporting my mind, which is just sad.

These are only moments; the eating disorder swoops in again, always, like anything else comes crashing in to change and undo a moment.  But they're there, and they're fascinating to me.  They make me imagine experiencing other emotions like I am experiencing the sadness.  The make me happy to feel sad.