On Mental Health Awareness Month

One thing I always wonder about is what people think of me once they friend me on Facebook. I meet them in person, and we get along well enough to at least want to stalk each other on the internet, and then they come on Facebook and there I am–not hiding my struggles in the slightest.

That’s another reason I haven’t been posting as much–I’ve been meeting people, and for a time I was worried about how they would react. But it’s almost the end of Mental Health Awareness month, and I haven’t done a goddamn thing, and that’s not okay with me.

You see it all the time–those posts that say “The brain is an organ, and gets sick just like every other organ!” And this is true. The false part is though, that its not just an organ–it’s ourselves, in a squishy mass of gray matter. And this makes it more personal.

I saw a statistic today that I disagree with in a big way–“1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness.”

Everyone is affected by mental illness. Maybe not to the same extent as others, or for the same duration of time, but everyone is affected.

You’re affected when you hear about suicide rates, and wonder how anyone “could be so selfish.” You’re affected when you judge people as selfish, or not, for their actions. You’re affected by mental illness because you’re in contact with other people, and have a brain. You’re affected by mental illness more than other illnesses because of its nature–because it’s not just a gene mutation, or a virus (though they may certainly play a role in risk and cause). Mental illness is a fleeting thought turned pervasive and detrimental. It’s good intentions turned bad, and the belief in falsities.

Mental illness exists because people exist, its potential exists in all of us because we all have thoughts, and we all have beliefs and we all try to do what we think will get us where we want to go. We are all at risk for mental illness, and this terrifies people.

But instead of being terrified of the mentally ill, and trying to distance yourself from the notion of being so, do your best to be aware, and supportive. Don’t judge, but recognize that someone who can’t get out of bed truly feels certain that they can’t get out of bed in the same way that you feel certain that you can’t climb Mount Everest: it may be possible, but it isn’t happening anytime soon. Use the commonalities between people as a source of understanding, rather than a source of fear of comparison.

The thing about Mental Health Awareness is that it (like all the other months of awareness) needs to be more than a month of good intentions. It needs to be an accepted practice.

And to all you who may read this who didn’t know about my mental illness before this, I’ll say this again: while I hope your opinion of me isn’t affected by my openness, or by my mental illness, and my past, if it is remember that before you read about it explicitly I was in your mind no different from you–no less normal.

Mental illness affects us all, and is all around us, and it’s time for the stigma surrounding it to drop.

On life, and my return to it.

So, its been a while.

Its a good thing–kind of–I promise.

The kind of is because after my last post I ended up back in the hospital for a couple of weeks.

The good part is that I am doing fucking amazing.

It’s really weird to say that, honestly. I didn’t think I would be able to–ever.

I don’t think I’m going to go into too much detail about exactly what brought me to the hospital, or exactly what went on there, but I’ll summarize it for you, and perhaps elaborate one day: I learned to take care of myself, and I figured out that I can actually do shit.

I met some amazing people, and faced a lot of my bullshit, and realized something: there is no way to get past mental illness other than going straight through it (yay, I’m full of clichés!). At some point, it really comes down to looking at your life and then asking yourself two questions: what changes you want to see, and are you willing to make those changes? If you aren’t, then at least you know where you stand, and don’t have to waste your time on something that won’t happen–you can move on. If you are, then what the fuck are you doing not doing those things?

I had a lot of things to say about why I wasn’t doing what I had to do:

“It’s hard–you can’t imagine how hard it is, it’s impossible.”

“No one understands but me, I can’t do it.”

“I’m too weak. Other people are stronger, so they don’t get it.”

But here’s the thing: you are literally the only person (I hope) who decides what you physically do. No matter how hard it is to do something, unless it’s physically impossible you are the one who does or does not, who makes that choice.

So I made a different choice.

Not eating? Not an option.

Cutting? Burning? Killing self? Nope. Not anymore.

I’m a pretty stubborn person–and as much as the therapists, and people who essentially have kept me from destroying my life are skeptical, I’m feeling pretty finite about those self imposed limits.

So I’ve been actually doing life for my months of absence, which has resulted in less of a focus on keeping you all informed. And life is pretty great it turns out, even when it fucking sucks.

I’ve been working, and going to school, and going out with friends, and my boyfriend, and when shit comes up I think about my options: I could relapse, and lose everything again, or I could take what I can do and do it, despite how much it sucks.

I’m not doing perfectly–I’ll be the first to tell you that. But I ate part of a fucking calzone, I haven’t self harmed in months, and I want to stay alive. My slip ups aren’t a divine signal that I’m not worthy of life anymore–they’re a sign that I need to try something new.

People are still skeptical–and I don’t blame them. But I’m earning back the right to be trusted with myself, and while a difficult process, I can tell from what I’ve gained that it’s fucking worth it.

And I’m not going to lose everything, again, for a life of misery and self-hate.

Tough Shit: On Recovery

Recovery sucks.

I apologize, but this is my blog and I’ll whine if I want to and this well and truly sucks. I’ve spent more time today in tears than smiling, and more time in treatment than in school. I’m fighting not to puke up what I just ate, and I’m not going to be able to forget the calorie count for days.

But the thing is, its never going to change. There is never going to be a time that is more convenient to exit your life for a while, and its never going to be easy to say, “Fuck you.” to the concepts and ideas that have been your bible for so long. So why can’t I just fucking do it?

My therapist had an answer today: that it’s hard, and I don’t often do hard things unless I really want to do them. Her theory makes sense, the hardest thing I’ve ever done (other than recovery) is having an eating disorder, and in a weird twisted way I did really want that.

But why don’t I really want to recover all of the time? It would make sense: I’ve got a family and friends who love me, I’m enrolled at a great college with great grades, I’ve got a multitude of bizarre and unexpected hobbies that I love… it should be a no brainer. One way a group leader at my program today said that you can combat an obsession with food, and body and fat is by growing the other areas of your life so that they crowd it out. I’ve done that, so what’s happening?

What’s happening is that my life’s reached maximum capacity, and now I have to shrink the eating disorder or shrink real life.

Like I said, this should be a no brainer. I’ve done the pro’s and con’s lists–they’re all clear. Eating disorder es no bueno. La vie est belle.

But what you have to understand if you want to understand where I’m coming from, or really I would think where any person with an eating disorder is coming from, is that recovery literally means doing what you don’t want to do, 24/7, 365, until you want to do it. As a friend of mine put it, it feels like the treatment team is brainwashing you when in reality they’re just trying to clean the fucking wreck your eating disorder’s left in your brain.

But here’s the thing: there really isn’t any living with an eating disorder. Winning at an eating disorder means dying of starvation, and the only option other than death is “admitting defeat” to your eating disorder, and recovering.

Conceptually I know this stuff down pat. I can spew it to no end, and predict the therapists’ arguments before they say them. But despite knowing that eventually you will have to recover, if you want to live at all, I still find myself putting it off…why?

Because I’m addicted to it, because it’s been there when no one else has, because it tells me in glittering lights that if I just do it right this time that it will make me skinny and perfect and happy.

All of these reasons are valid, and the truth is that I have no idea if any one of them, or even a combination of them is correct. I have no answers for why I continue to believe deep down that my true happiness is hidden inside an eating disorder.

The only thing that I do know is that sometimes you have to go with logic instead of intuition, and that logically I know that if I want more than to be a patient I have to do this shit, and that I might as well do it and get it over with now so that I can get on with my life. No matter the sense of loss, and no matter the loss of identity. Identities are immaterial things, made and changed at will: life is not.

Thanks for reading.

To Vegan or Vegetarian? On the film Vegucated

So I have a bit of a dilemma.

I’ve been being a vegetarian/occasional pescetarian for a little bit now. I used to be very strictly vegetarian, but that was when I was strict about all food in general. Lately, I’ve been eating some fish when its the only protein around, or if its at a good restaurant, but tonight I decided to watch the film that solidified my vegetarianism: Vegucated.

Essentially, a woman takes three people who eat meat, eggs, dairy, everything, off the streets of NYC (through craigslist) and asks if they would be willing to go vegan, and be on film for six weeks–along with some medical tests to see if blood pressure, bloodwork etc. changed.

Then the documentary starts educating them about the horrors of the meat industry. And I do mean horrors. For example–free range means three square feet per chicken, cows are neutered using rubber bands (to slowly cut off blood supply and kill the organ), medical procedures done without anesthesia or antibiotics, pigs are sometimes boiled alive and chicks often don’t even survive the sorting process–and they never even get to see their mothers. I don’t know about you guys, but this cut my meat eating cold. I can’t stand choosing which animals I care about living. I rescue some of the most hated animals around the world–rats–and personally know how cuddly, intelligent, and emotional they can be, so how could I do anything to condone the murder of other sweet, innocent, intelligent animals.

The documentary also goes into how eating meat actually gives one a huge carbon footprint, along with harming the environment in other ways. One of the more gross ones includes the waste of all of the animals in the farms (yes–these are FARMS not just slaughterhouses) because yes it has to go somewhere. Its stored in the open, then when the storage is full sprayed all over crops as fertilizer I assume (bet you won’t skip washing your veggies before you eat them now, will you?) and runs off into water sources, polluting them and changing the ecosystem drastically. Also those fish I’ve been okay with eating on occasion? Their netting kills tons of other ocean life and wrecks different parts of the ocean floor. Bye-bye salmon.

And before you ask–all of this is legal under a law that states that farm animals are exempted from the animal cruelty act when it comes to COMMON procedures. So because everyone does it, everyone can do it!

I took all this into consideration last time and figured, okay, so I’ll stop eating meat. But the thing is, what I’ve been doing is doing just as much damage, its just making it less personal for me. Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated, then separated from their calves so that they can be forced to produce 340% (from the film) of the milk that they would naturally. The calves are either raised to slaughter, raised to be milk cows or sold as veal. Chickens are living on metal grates in packed containers and live no life other than for their eggs. Sheep grown to produce wool are sometimes fed hormones which make them grow folds of skin where more wool can grow (and where insects can lay their eggs!).

I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Hardest to say goodbye to will be my leather filofax which I love, so that’ll likely be the last to go, but I’m going to start making changes. I’m not going to change everything at once, because I want to be able to stick to this one day. I’m going to scramble tofu in the morning instead of eggs, make smoothies with soy milk instead of regular milk and try to start drinking the stuff. And I’m going to buy a pair of fake Uggs that are vegan, and man-made material slippers, instead of the new sheepskin products I was going to get. I’m also going to talk to plenty o’people at IOP (the intensive outpatient program I go to) and my nutritionist about doing this healthfully, because the last thing I need is for people to think I’m doing this just because its a way to cut out food.

We evolved into omnivores because there wasn’t food available–we needed to be able to eat all that we could eat. Now, the food’s available, but we’re still omnivores. The cruelty of animal based products is unnecessary, and as I try to cut out the cruelty I inflict on myself, I want to cut down on my contribution to other acts of cruelty.

Its a good thing I like tofu.