I Am That Girl Now

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oh, the things I do

I love pumpkin seeds. Love them DEARLY. Halloween is important to me for one reason: pumpkins = roasted, salty pumpkin seeds. Yum.

I discovered that they had them at Trader Joe's and, in my joy, bought two big bags. Between me and my Hub, one of these bags has been nearly demolished since Tuesday. To add to the fun, I also got us cinnamony dried-apple rings, most of which are also gone. Hell, that was dinner one night.

I am here to inform everyone that THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA. Do not try this at home. There is only so much fiber that the human body can take. Ladies and gentlemen, I do this stuff so you don't have to, so take it from me: too many pumpkin seeds are not a good idea.

I had dreams all night of total weirdness, which I'll get to in a moment, but the general theme was OW!, and when I woke up I discovered that my intestines were all tied in knots and full of painful gas and other nasty things. OW OW OW. No yoga for me this morning; I was walking around hunched over like my great-grandma used to. Things seem to have settled down, but I keep hitting the bathroom occasionally and ah, the belching continues, too. Oh, what a ladylike lady am I.

Dreams last night: Fascinating stuff. In one, I looked down at my legs and discovered to my horror that they were covered in GIANT bruises. I informed my Hub about this (in my dream) and he told me to go take some damn ibuprofin. At which point I rolled out of bed and started staggering toward the bathroom to take some pills, as ordered, only to realize once I had the bedroom door open that a) it was three in the damn morning and b) my legs didn't actually hurt. Also c) that it had just been a dream and I seriously needed to get back to sleep.

I ended up back in dreamland, shifting from a part where I was examining a tree that was falling apart inside to a CostCo-type warehouse store, where a girl who I didn't know (but who was presumably a friend of our dream-selves) was enraptured because she could get a box of Pop-Tarts that was the approximate size and shape of a door, and then there was this thing where I picked up a bag of mini Snickers bars and went to the bathroom, opened it and ate two of them, then realized that I couldn't very well buy this candy with my friends around, particularly with it being open, but I had to pay for it because that is what you DO, otherwise it's shoplifting, and I panicked because clearly the store cameras must have seen me taking the bag into the bathroom, and I would so be totally busted for shoplifting if I just left it here and it was all open, ARGH. I developed a cunning plan in which I would go out to meet my friends and then circle back to pick up "just one more thing" and meet them in the parking lot with my shopping bags. Only to find that one of my friends was right outside the bathroom, hopping up and down in the gottagogottago dance, and she barged right in as I opened the door and was presumably face to face with my open bag of candy, at which point I developed the new cunning plan which was to deny all knowledge of this, and just get the hell out of there.

Strange, because I haven't eaten candy all week. I'd still been snagging a few pieces from communal "I have so much Halloween candy left at my house I can't keep it there please take it" bowls last week, and then it just sort of petered out and... nothing. My Hub, bless his darling heart, got it into his head to bake me a birthday cake, but panicked because he had never done a cake before and didn't want to flub a first attempt for a BIRTHDAY cake, so he made these chocolate truffle brownies that are the richest things ever invented. Know what? They're still there. I've eaten maybe one thumb-sized piece every day.

We have potato crisps (made with some kind of magical Japanese process, claims Trader Joe's, so they're less fat-tacular), low-fat TJ's cheetos, and a bag of pita chips. They've been on top of the fridge since Tuesday. I haven't touched them. And I could, really; I've given myself full permission to eat whatever I really want. Now, though, I just can't be arsed. It's like the blodge of oatmeal left in my bowl yesterday. I used to DREAM of forgetting to finish a bowl of food, of not feeling compelled to scrape the bowl (hell, I used to LICK the bowl occasionally), of not desperately wanting to finish the whole bag of chips or the pint of ice cream.

I can't even begin to describe what a huge relief this is. It's like... food is dropping down the priority list. My doctor, when I sobbed all over her back in September and came away with a Zoloft prescription and a therapist referral, had asked me about how my eating had been, and I confessed to a history of binge eating. She said something along the lines of, "Well, there's another reason for the medication; Zoloft is good about treating obsessive-compulsion things like that." Before, I was kind of going huh? about that comment, but it's finally making sense.

Here's what I've cobbled together as my personal theory (your milage may vary) from my personal experience and what I got from the studies on that NOVA program and on research about emotionally abused children:

According to my mother, I've always been pretty much all-or-nothing, a bit on the anxious side, a voracious eater-- since birth, pretty much. I think I may have always had a bit of a seratonin imbalance. Add in an anxious, perfectionistic father (this is so very genetic) and I ended up insecure and feeling powerless. To regain a feeling of control, tiny!me started lying and procrastinating and hiding things. Dad got very pissed about all these things-- the Original Sins in his book are lying and laziness-- and so I came under attack more. Part of what I focused on for comfort is food: candy, really, since at that age going down the block to buy candy with my own money was just becoming an option. That was pretty much the only store within a mile, and so my one form of personal freedom and power was to walk down to the store and buy my own candy and eat it on my own terms, because it was mine (and because my dad didn't know about it). Halloween candy, too-- it started with my giddiness over eating as much of it as fast as I wanted because it was MINE, and started branching out to sneaking the leftover candy that my parents had been passing out. Dad found wrappers in my room and totally blew his cool-- at the time, it was a combination of the NO EATING IN YOUR ROOM rule and his frustration with my mother-- and so I had it confirmed that this was something to hide-- and, more, in a way I wasn't conscious of at the time, that if I hid it well enough, it was something I could do that would really get him, really piss him off, only he wouldn't know, so it was my own evil little secret. Har har har.

Enter my teens, and the beginning of the official dieting battle between me and my dad. Dad was of the opinion that I was pudgy and an embarrasment and needed to lose weight, pronto. (For the record? No. Perfectly within legal limits.) He ranted and raved and began scrutinizing my food intake-- and really, Dad has screwy notions of what a diet is to begin with, he's all perfectionistic and so he really takes it into monastic territory. Whenever I was being punished for something, I had to exercise in order to get any other privledges. The thing with my mom sobbing on the scale with Dad yelling at her occurred. Really, if you were looking for a way to set up a pre-teen girl for an eating disorder, this would be picture-perfect.

In retrospect, he could have gone a completely different way. I was interested in all sorts of physical things at the time. I loved swimming, but once Dad started harping about how I looked in a swimsuit that became a bit problematic. I loved riding my bike. I wanted to learn how to dance and do gymnastics and, unfortunately, when I took classes nobody helped me out with the fact that I had zero flexibility and I got all depressed about being a failure in those classes and quit. I loved baton twirling and dancing around the living room and bouncing on trampolines. He could have encouraged me to do any of these other things, got me involved in something I already loved to do, and leave the fucking weight thing out of it. What did he choose for me to do for exercise? Jogging. Jesus Christ, what was WRONG with the man?

He could have found out how to make tasty low-fat meals, but instead I started associating Mom's diet food with horrible-tasting bland crap and the fatty foods and junk food with tasty goodness. And of course, he's the one who drowned popcorn with melted butter, and loves junk food himself. He was the one who was giving the example of eating just one thing until it was finished, and that was dinner. He totally blew his chance to do these things and instead put the blame squarely on me and my mom: lazy, no willpower, doing it all WRONG, not trustworthy, horrible people. Seriously, what the fuck? I look at it now and just want to go back in time and shake him until his teeth rattle.

Oh, and then I was in high school and started getting crushes on boys and was convinced that I was horrible because nobody wanted me. So if I wanted a boy, I clearly needed to fix myself first, because hey, It's All My Fault. I would diet and exercise like mad, then completely fall down after a week or two, then start up again a month later, the next time I'd been crushed by rejection and wanted to fix it so that I would be worthy of attention.

Here's where the probably-misunderstood science comes in: seritonin imbalances are made worse by cutting calories down too much. Every time I went with the yo-yo dieting-- and throughout my teens, I did it about four times a year-- I was probably screwing myself up worse. Setting myself up for... ta-da! College!

I could eat ANYTHING I WANTED in college. There was a little convenience store right across from my dorm, with chips! And-- a revelation to me-- premium ice cream in little pint containers! And movies! Shy little me took every time that my roommate wasn't home and had a little pity-party with chips and ice cream and movies, and this numbed all the insecurity and fear and guilt and shame and homesickness. Comfort, my ass, I wanted those feelings GONE and a binge would do it.

At the same time, I was still pretty active. I had no car, so I walked all the way across town to get to the public library, and walked all the way back. (Books: a shy girl's blessed refuge.) I tried out for musicals, and got into the chorus, and spent a lot of time practicing dances at rehearsals. The problem with that, though, was that then I was with all these very talented people-- the cream of the crop from all these other schools-- and since I'd been a big fish in a tiny pond back home, I became seriously insecure about all that.

Oh, and I got measured for costumes. Oh, the horror. I'd never had full-body measurements done for me because I'd never had a costume made for me before; it'd always been stuff out of the back of the costume shop that I'd try on to see if it'd fit me. Never had all those measurements announced OUT LOUD and WRITTEN DOWN. Oy. Trauma.

I was still perfectly okay, body-wise. A little on the chubby side, but nothing serious. And I still kept yo-yoing, only now on the non-diet portion of the program I had access to a hell of a lot of food that I would go through in bigger quantities per sitting, and the non-dieting portions lasted longer and longer.

And then I got depressed. Mammothly, suicidally depressed, for something like the last two years of college. The pressure to measure up, achieve, invent my future life... I really wasn't built to take it. I had a high grade-point average and I was getting good parts in shows and solos in choir and I got tagged to sing with the whole orchestra... but oh, my God, the pressure, the fear of failure, the panic and the way I'd convinced myself that nobody could ever love me and that my friends were only putting up with me because I was entertaining.

Lotta food. A bag of Doritos in one sitting was definitely not abnormal. I just wanted it all to go away; I wrote stories about people who committed suicide, I considered it, and honestly the only thing that (ironically) kept me from doing it was that I knew it was seriously wrong... and also that I was scared of knives, and things around my neck, and driving too fast, and pretty much everything that might possibly injure me. Oh, I was a mess. The summer after I graduated I would rent two or three movies a night, with booze (oh, had I ever discovered alcohol; again, I'm really lucky I didn't end up an alcoholic but apparently I lack that gene) and pizza (hooray, delivery!) and chips and soda and ice cream. I was alone constantly that summer. It was shit.

I moved home for a year after that, and with no job at first (and only a part-time job after that) I went on the wagon. Calorie-counting, fat-gram-counting, and exercising like a crazy woman. In three months I lost twenty pounds and looked pretty good. My dad approved of this like mad, never mind that I was being very obsessive about it and not getting enough food and overexerting myself. I was getting skinny, and so he approved! Voila, it was magic! Huzzah!

And then... as I planned to move to Chicago, I got more and more nervous and things started going nuts. Booze and chips and movies up in my room, holed up by myself, sneaking it all up there, sneaking the evidence into the trash later. And then I'd cry and freak out and wonder why the hell I'd done it, and swear to myself I wouldn't do it again, and up my workouts to make up for it... and then do it again a few days later. Started planning for those nights. Living for them. Eating all sorts of shit when my parents were out of the house.

Moved to Chicago, no longer had access to a treadmill and it was too scary to jog outside (ah, my old shit neighborhood), but since I barely had money to buy food, it all worked out to keep me level for a while... until I got a real job. Joined a gym for the first time, and discovered that a) I had to change in front of EVERYONE, b) I had no idea what I was doing half the time, and c) it gets real dark up here, real fast, in the winter, and honestly I just wanted to go home after work. After a few months of wobbly attendance, I stopped going to the gym at all. And, since I could afford it, I bought food. Then I bought food I couldn't afford, just slapping it on the credit card. I discovered that Chicago is full of really fabulous different kinds of food that I'd never encountered before... and oy, so much choice = more stuff to pig out on. I ended up back on movies, Doritos, soda, and ice cream, though. Old habits = comfort.

Which brings me to the point where I met my boy, and moved in with him, and got even fatter because he could cook, and then got skinny, and you guys know the rest.

The point being, I got to the point this last year or so where I would eat anything on a binge. Didn't matter what it was as long as it was available. I would get panicky and get this freaky feeling in my chest, and I just wanted it to go away, I just wanted it to stop, and the food soothed that feeling. Other times, it was just this thought of going out and buying a whole bag of chips or a whole bag of mini candy bars, and the thought kept happening and kept happening and kept happening until I gave in and went to buy the fucking food because I just wanted relief from that thought.

In retrospect: That is so very much obsessive-compulsive behavior. I never thought of it that way, although I did feel powerless and depressed over the fact that I couldn't stop it, but... damn, it really was OC. And it's stopped. I'm really moving back to a normal place in my head where food is concerned. I didn't think that was possible. I could just cry. This is awesome. I haven't felt this way in years. I was spending so much energy and concentration fighting myself, and to not have to do that all day is... fuck, it's amazing. Unprecidented. Astonishing.

I guess most of it is that I'd just accepted that this was a part of me, and taken it, in a way, as proof that I was bad and couldn't be trusted, not even by myself. I was horrified by the things I was doing behind my Hub's back, but couldn't stop. Seriously, I can't even begin to say what a huge relief it is to realize that this thing I've been fighting so long and so hard might just be a fucking chemical imbalance, that Zoloft seems to have taken care of it (oh please, oh please, oh please don't let it stop working), and it wasn't me. IT WASN'T ME. Oh, my God, it's not my fault, I'm not bad, I'm not horrible, this can actually be fixed, I might actually get back to normal, I can actually use some of this mental energy on SOMETHING ELSE besides thinking constantly about food and either how to control it or how to get it. It wasn't me.

I'm seriously going to have to tell my therapist and my doctor about this, because now I'm terrified of ever going off Zoloft and having this start up again. Honestly, I'm having no bad side effects-- the Zoloft site says side effects may include dry mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness, and the only one I have is the dry mouth. I sleep fine (weirdly vivid dreams, but that's about it), I had nausea on a regular basis for the first few weeks but it's stopped now, no weight gain (not on their site, but I'd heard rumors)-- hell, since the eating normalized, the weight has started drifting back down to normal (sloooooowly, but I have no complaints; I'd be willing to stay where I am forever if that meant I wouldn't have this O/C THING in my head). And, as my favorite anti-side effect, I've been significantly more into sex than I have in quite some time, because I'm not stressing over it or depressed. Oh, it's lovely.

I was really going to do a post on baby steps and comfort and work out my thoughts there, but it turned into something else very quickly. Hell with it: I like it. There you go, this is my post for the day. Voila!


  • Meg, I'm so happy for you. Learning that you can't control other people -- that the only person you can control is yourself -- is, in my opinion, HTBH (How To Be Happy) 101. It takes a long time to learn that, or at least it took me a long time, but it's well worth it.

    I'm rooting for you, babe!

    By Blogger Jenny, at 2:22 PM  

  • OMG Meg. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing.

    By Anonymous Shayananna, at 6:26 PM  

  • Your insights recently have been tremendously helpful for me. Thanks soooo much for sharing.

    A couple things abou tthe medication, from experience. Watch for weird stuff around your period. I was on Paxil, but friends have had things happen on other anti-depressants during the week before their period. Not a certainty, just a caution. My hands shook badly, but a friend had a suicidal day every other month. Also, I didn't get sexual side-effects or the weird shaky hand thing until about six months in so just be mindful. It isn't a huge problem, just takes a little longer for things to get going in my experience. It wasn't a lack of desire, just a slowing of response.

    I don't need the medication any more, but my dad, for example, cannot go off it. It's different for everyone and it's a possibility you may need to change brands at some point. My dad did. But at least you are beginning to recognize some of the behavior you don't want and now know isn't really you so you'll know what to look for.

    You're doing really great.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:50 PM  

  • Also, don't do the pumpkin seed thing with peanuts either!!! My intestines were choked up for days. It was quite astonishing. Who knew?

    By the way, have you read She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb? If not, I totally recommend it. You've probably already read it!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:04 AM  

  • I was on zoloft for well over a year and it never stopped working (but when I tried to go back on it years later, too many side effects).

    Though later, Buspar/Celexa combo worked great for my OCD.

    Hang in there.

    By Blogger Angel, at 2:35 PM  

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