Friday, August 22, 2014

On Unhealthy Relationships

One could argue that the relationship that I have with food is mildly unhealthy in the way that one could say that Adolph Hitler was well meaning but slightly misled. The same in that a certain subsect of people would agree but in fact both statements are incredibly inaccurate. The fact of the matter is, my relationship with food is incredibly destructive.

Really though, this guy was a douche.

It may sound like an overstatement, but it's the truth and unfortunately it is a painful truth that I live with every day of my life; that I must face in front of my children, my husband, my friends and my family, every new person that I meet. I am morbidly obese. It is not illness that prevents me from managing my weight and my problems are entirely my own - they are my own creation, my own issue, and unfortunately figuring out my problems has been something that I have struggled with for nearly three decades with no success.

It would be easy to claim that I am exaggerating, but anyone who has ever known me knows exactly how unhealthy my relationship is with food. It is destructive, it is hurtful, and ultimately my dependence upon food to lighten my mood and to better destroy painful emotions is what will eventually kill me. That should be a terrifying eye opener but instead it drives me back toward the chocolate and the comfort foods that I and millions of other Americans turn toward daily for comfort and sustenance.

But mostly food.

"But surely you understand what you're doing is bad."

Well, of COURSE I do. I'm not an idiot. A smoker can likely name off a good portion of the health problems associated with imbibing in their addiction and may even deny entirely that they rely on smoking to calm them, entertain them, and to satiate their inner need for peace. (Of course, some smokers are completely aware of their situation.) The recent and tragic death of Robin Williams has brought to light the disparity in America of the treatment of obvious physical ailments versus mental problems - issues like anxiety, depression, BPD, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and every other mental disability under the sun aren't going to just go away if someone changes their frame of mind or thinks positive thoughts. Hell, Robin Williams played fucking Peter Pan of all people in Hook and the life lesson of "thinking happy thoughts will set you free" didn't exactly help him, did it?

Hulk new friend named "Ground". Strange name for new friend.

So, yes, for the majority of us who realize that most of our issues started in our heads, we're well aware of what we're doing and that it is inherently destructive. The problem is that knowledge of where the issue originated or even just knowing that we are not "physically" ill isn't enough for us to suddenly sigh in relief and declare that our problems are solved because they aren't. Not by a long shot.

Think back to when you were in grade school. Wanda told Billy who told Jenna who told Frank who told Amanda that Pat doesn't actually like you like you, just sorta likes you, and OH MY GOD you spent the next TWO WEEKS wondering what the hell you did wrong and was it that Mickey Mouse shirt you wore last month because seriously as much as you love that shirt you will totally give it up forever if it means that Pat will give you the time of day again. You spent every single moment of every day playing out scenarios in your head and preparing for anything and inwardly telling yourself that you just must not be good enough because if Pat won't like you, nobody will ever like you. Ever. At all.

What WERE you thinking, anyway?

Now imagine that being every day of your life, except you're an adult and people expect you to get the hell over things like any other human being. They do not expect you to have such insanely low self confidence that you avoid looking in the mirror, they don't consider that you refuse to look them in the eye because you struggle with social anxiety problems, they don't really want to think about the fact that you are over two HUNDRED pounds overweight not because of the thyroid problem you claim to have but because that girl looked at you funny and also you are behind on your bills so TIME TO EAT! 

Is it healthy?

Of course not.

Do we know that?

Hint: Yes.

But the problem is that as long as people think that mental issues of any kind can be resolved purely through thinking about puppies, we as a nation will continue to shutter those who are truly in need of help into the dark recesses of our society because we just don't want to think that maybe, just maybe, our problems are caused by something we cannot easily predict nor change without serious help and dedication. Or sometimes with therapy and medication.

My problem with food is one of those things that will require a complete mental reboot. 

And since I look like pretty much every other fat person out there, before you pass judgment on someone because of their size.. Consider their state of mental health.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Social Anxiety

I am not a particularly social person. That is to say that while I do have friends and enjoy the company of other people, I am not fond of new interactions unless I am already aware that I have a reasonable amount in common with someone. I don't often like going out in public to places where there will be a large number of strangers, because that further encourages my social anxiety - there are PEOPLE there. I will have to INTERACT with them. What will they think about me? What if my innately weird personality grates on them? What if they do not understand or appreciate my dry, sometimes dark humor?

Please don't make me go out there.

Of course, there are those of us with social anxiety who are lucky enough to be able to manage our symptoms (think full-blown panic attacks at the store when the cashier asks us if we want paper or plastic) through innocuous methods like deep breathing, redirected thinking, and the fact that if we don't go out and do things stuff may never get done. It's a tough road to walk down but all of us manage somehow, whether it's through guided therapy, medication, or being able to somehow weather the daily storm of human interaction all on our own.

It helps when we find people that either by force or by choice we are able to communicate with - typically parents, siblings, a few close friends, and children. We can talk to those few people, or at least agree to do things with them on a semi-regular basis, without immediately having to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that despite how terrifying being around other people can be, it's at least kind of okay with these people, because they know that we are fucking nuts and they at least aren't completely bothered by it.

We are not good at communicating feelings either.

The hard part is forming those relationships outside of the boundaries of our families. At least when it's a parent or sibling or child or spouse, it's someone we more or less see every day. We become comfortable to some degree through force of habit and through the weird bond of genetics. We may never fully be secure in our surroundings, but when we're with family, we're at least somewhat sure that our particular brand of crazy won't skeeve anybody out so much that they feel the need to leave the room.

But new people? No. Forget that. I am the kind of person who, if asked to call a restaurant to place an order, will give you puppy dog eyes to guilt you into doing it or try to find a way to order online. Please do not make me interact with strangers. I don't want to answer the door when they get here. When I am out in public I will mess with my phone just to avoid making eye contact with someone. I will look at the floor or the shelves. No, guy in the store, I do not want help finding what I'm looking for and I do not have questions - partially because I have been in your shoes and I'm willing to bet that you probably don't actually know where what I'm looking for is, but also because I do not want to have to actually speak to you.

I should probably get this t-shirt so everybody goes into this situation aware of who is the problem here.

The irony is that one of the ways I combat my extreme social anxiety is by playing myself off to be an extrovert. I've been told that I can't possibly suffer from social anxiety if I'm able to channel my emotions and fears into the facade of a person who is happy about being in the limelight and who flourishes in social situations, which I think is just a great way for a person to say, "I see your coping mechanisms, and I raise you the pair of your pants that I preemptively set on fire."

Like any other problem, I've found it's really easy for someone who has never had social anxiety issues to roll their eyes and say that you just need to get over it, or things aren't really as bad as you think, or it's all in your head. Well, yes, thank you, I KNOW it's all in my head because unlike some conditions, social anxiety doesn't exactly show up as a tell-tale rash on my shoulder blades accompanied by a wheezing cough and tiny black pock marks.

I hear ya, Katherine. But if you'd just think positive thoughts that plague would go away!

What it DOES show up as is the near-constant sensation of being on the edge of a panic attack at the mere idea of having to possibly make eye contact with a total stranger. Considering the fact that I think most store employees would assume you're in the midst of some kind of demonic possession if you suddenly curled up on the floor and screamed at people to please not look at you, I'd rather learn to calm that sensation and play it off like it's no big deal - and I should note that taking it to the opposite extreme and being incredibly friendly toward everyone not only lets me appear as though I am a confident, functioning human being, but that I am not spending every last second worrying about what you think about me and how I am supposed to actually TALK to you, much less LOOK at you.

So there you go. That's how I deal with my social anxiety, and now that you know that I have it, please be kind to me if you run into me out in public.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On Days

School started back up today.

I haven't been a stay at home mom to two rambunctious kids in a long while, and have never been to three, so it was a culture shock to me when I started full time after I officially lost my job in June. It's a whole new ball game, to have one baby attached to your chest and two others that you can't get to pay attention to you for two whole seconds. The disparity is extreme and hilarious at times, but there have been more than a few days that were taxing on everybody's emotions. 

I can't just say mine. 

I try to wax poetic every once in a while just to keep myself coherent; unfortunately the lack of sleep and stress of going from a relatively well-off two income family to a one-income family that struggles to pay its bills have left me incoherent at times. I forget even simple words, misspeak frequently, combine words improperly, and online I find my work riddled with confusing typos that I can't always explain. I can stare at an object and stammer in confusion trying to remember what it's called.
This has been my life as of late.

It's more than a little frustrating but I manage well enough when I don't get frustrated - which isn't often. It's really hard to spend your days feeling less like a woman just barely under 30 who has three kids to keep up with and more like an 80 year old fighting off the beginning stages of dementia. I don't take that comparison lightly, either.

So between that, and the fact that most of the days around here have been either too hot to venture outside for long or nice and cool but insanely cloudy and rainy, I think I'm not the only one who has been happy for school starting again.

We just faked spring and summer, really.

I have kicked around the idea of homeschooling the kids for a couple of years now and I keep telling myself I'm going to officially do it, hunker down, find some course materials and fill out the paperwork and make it happen. The downside is that I know I struggle too much with basic things like involved mathematics and the concepts of syntax in English to be a useful and helpful teacher for my children. I realize that public school has its flaws, but I have no doubt that despite being forced to push agendas aimed toward successful test scores, most of the public school teachers are far more able than I to teach my children. I can encourage a love for learning and for them to further explore their interests, but I will be the LAST person on earth effectively teaching them long division.

Never mind, I don't even potato.

I also loved being involved in the extracurriculars at school - and given that I was already an outsider when I was in the musicals and plays and band simply because I was inherently weird, I can't imagine how my children would be treated. It's sad but true: kids can be cruel. I'm actually not worried about them not being very social, but I am incredibly concerned about them being mocked or feeling as if they weren't accepted. In adulthood it's much easier to look back and scoff at the concept of whether or not a few high school kids were willing to open their arms to an outsider, but when you are that outsider, it's much harder to not take personally. 

So for now my kids remain in public school, where they seem fairly content. A is in kindergarten and has the same teacher that G did, and G is in second grade. I was worried that since they're at the same school but in different classes that as soon as they were separated A would go into a panic, despite having his "girlfriend" (and undeniably closest friend) in his class with him. Instead, the report home I got when I picked them up was relatively positive: G had a great day, knew a couple of kids from first grade, generally enjoyed himself and likes his teacher. A got sent to the back of the carpet at carpet time because he had no intention of sitting still for ten seconds to be given instructions, and got in trouble a couple of other times for refusing to listen or follow directions. Which is pretty typical for him.

I'm okay with it because for him, that's really not too bad.

Maybe this year will be okay after all.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On Taking Offense

I posted this on my personal Facebook wall earlier and it seemed to get a fairly positive reception. I'm going to repost it here, in its entirety - and to be honest I feel no real need to adjust, revise, or add anything. That's kind of a nice feeling! :D

Let me be clear.

If I post something about liking breastfeeding, or basically anything about breastfeeding being good etc, it is not because I want to shame anybody. I do not want to make you feel bad if you could not breastfeed, if you chose not to breastfeed, if you did for a day or a week or a month or six months and then either had to stop or chose to stop. I am not saying you are somehow inconsiderate of your child's needs, that you are less of a parent than a mom who breastfeeds, or that you did not do what was best or right for your family or child at that moment.

I encourage everyone to at least try. I do believe that breastmilk is better than formula for a lot of reasons and scientific evidence supports that claim through bountiful studies. I do think that if you are unable or choose not to breastfeed that attempting to use donor milk is the next best option but I completely understand that for some that is either not an option or not something they are comfortable with. Trust me, I understand.

I post about breastfeeding because I am proud of it. Because twice before I tried, and was either told by a doctor or by my mind that I needed to stop. I have dealt with the medical reason, with a doctor telling me I needed to stop breastfeeding my four day old or he would never recover from jaundice, was not encouraged to pump or continue attempting to breastfeed in the mean time (except by a very few select people). We were in fact told for four days to leave him in an incubator and not take him out unless he truly needed to be removed - FOUR DAYS of leaving my not yet a week old baby alone, not touching him, watching him cry and scream and still being told we could touch but not hold if we really wanted him to recover. I have dealt with clogged ducts, mastitis, stress, under supply that didn't seem to come up no matter what I tried, the inability to pump even a bit. I have dealt with being on medications where some said it was okay to continue breastfeeding and others said it wasn't. I have dealt with trying to continue during hospital stays and determining safety and whether or not a lip tie was worth revision. I have dealt with bad latch, with insufficient weight gain, with having a chest too big and bruised nipples.

I realize that despite all that I have not experienced HALF of the problems that some moms do, problems either they overcome or not (and struggling with them at all, despite the outcome, makes them far stronger than I). I am lucky for that and I know it, so I try not to complain.

I was formula fed. That doesn't bother me. My awesome mama did everything she could for me and I love her so much for that. Gabe and Alex were formula fed, one from about a week old and the other from around four or six weeks old. I have been there, mixing bottles and worrying about having enough formula and putting up with the stink and stains and preparation and lugging it around. I UNDERSTAND. I have been there and done it and got the t-shirt twice over.

So when I post about breastfeeding, it isn't to belittle you. It isn't to make you angry or diminish the severity of your struggles or personal experiences. It's because three times now I have seriously wanted to breastfeed, have struggled to, have hoped and prayed and begged for it to work, and now, on my last chance, I can say my child has been exclusively breastfed for seven and a half months and will not stop until he is ready. I am proud because I have WANTED this and this was my last chance to have it happen, and it DID.

So, please, don't take offense if you see something about it. Scroll on. But please, please never take offense.

Thanks for letting me rant.