December 14, 2011

Who the hell are you???

‘Who the hell are you?’ I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase over the past few years as people get to know me a little better and realize I’m not the person they thought I was. Apparently I don’t exactly fit into any mold. I’m quite painfully aware of that (maybe my past few posts have clued you in), but it still makes me laugh when someone clues into the fact that not everything is as it appears.

We all grow up hearing the phrase, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Great in theory, but much harder in practice. In the very literal sense, I have to say that if the cover of the book bores me I’m sure as hell not going to take it home to read. Admittedly though, I tend to place a judgment of sorts on people as well. Or rather, an assumption? If I see someone in a suit my mind jumps to professional. If I see someone with tattoos and multiple piercings I tend to think liberal. I do it, and I know I’m not the only one. I think it’s pretty much human nature to make at least some preliminary conclusions based on the limited information that we have. It’s what a first impression is all about. And in many situations it’s important to be able to make at least some sort of judgment based on a first impression…think job interview. But a first impression doesn’t do squat to show what’s underneath. Therein lies my problem…

I have a certain ‘look’, which doesn’t always correspond with who I am. For the first, oh, 30 years of my life I took everyone’s assumptions of me and ran with them. By all means, I appear conservative, preppy, conservative…have I mentioned conservative? It’s not til recently that that’s bothered me. That’s not who I am. I can be very professional and I most definitely want to give off that impression in the right time and place, but I have other sides too. At work a while back I made some comment to one of our cashiers about being annoyed by the kids running through our store. She looked at me confused and said something to the effect of, ‘Don’t you like kids?...I always thought you were the mommy type.’ ‘Oh dear God, NO,’ is what came out of my mouth next, and she looked at me in complete shock…or horror…or something. I found her reaction so hilarious that I had to go share it with my boss, who knows me pretty well now, and whom I knew would get a good laugh. Her response was, ‘Well yeah, you look like the fucking relief society president!’ Ouch! God I love her bluntness. We laughed…because it’s true. We work in a predominantly Mormon area. We may very well be the only two non-LDS members in our workplace. We’ve bonded over that! But while she doesn’t really look the part, I do. I feel like I need to add a few visible tattoos, or dye my hair…or something.

I can (and do) laugh about the first (and second and third) impressions people get of me. If it’s not something directly related to work, more often than not they’re wrong. It’s kind of humorous in many respects. But at the same time, it’s hard. It’s hard because I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. Yeah, I look conservative. But I’m not. I actually thought moving to Utah would be easy for me because I ‘look’ like I belong here. I thought I’d finally fit in somewhere. The trouble with that is, because I look the part people assume I have a certain belief system - a belief system that does not at all align with my own. I am a liberal, and yet when out with my very liberal friends I stick out like a sore thumb because I don’t look the part. I want to go out for drinks with friends, but I don’t drink (yeah, I’m still kinda terrified of alcohol calories & of not being in complete control). I’ve gone to bars with friends on multiple occasions, and I’ve gone to plenty of parties, but it’s awkward to be the only one not drinking. I love the drum circles I’ve been to, but I don’t exactly look the part there either. I’m the type A, OCD freak looking longingly at the men and women with dread locks dancing freely in front of me.

For whatever reason, a good portion of my newly acquired friends are gay or lesbian. Maybe I feel like I fit in with them because my life experiences and lack of sexuality doesn't exactly fit the norm either. I feel like I fit in with them better than with most people, but I can’t 100% relate to their experiences either.

It’s so easy for me to retreat into my own little world of calories and spreadsheets when I feel like I don’t belong. It’s so easy for me to want to isolate and disappear altogether rather than dealing with feeling like I’m so far from ever fitting in anywhere. Bits and pieces of me fit into various places, but I feel like as a whole I’m always going to be that person that shocks everyone and leaves them asking the question, ‘who the hell are you?’

So who am I? I’m the girl who has never ever given herself a moment of down time…I was a dancer, a competitive jump roper, a girl scout for twelve years, and a music nerd to the extreme. I have a BS in Interior Design, but have never done interior design. I have a Master’s in Counseling Psychology but have hardly used it. I worked in a physical therapy office, then engineering firms, then had an architectural design business. I’ve rarely ever worked less than 80 hours/week. I started a dietetics degree but can’t seem to find the money to finish it. I come across as shy in social situations but HATE the word shy, and am very much the opposite of shy when it comes to work. I have somehow ended up as the inventory/presentation manager in a pet store. I live alone. I do most things alone. I’ve never had a boyfriend, nor do I want one. I’m okay with that - sometimes. My idea of fun is making spreadsheets and going to the library. I am a perfectionist. And that is an understatement. I’ve lived in California, Texas, and Utah. I’ve spent years of my life in treatment centers and hospitals. I have awesome communication skills at work but have no idea how to act or what to do with myself outside of work. You wouldn’t know by looking at me or my activities, but I.AM.NOT.CONSERVATIVE. I’m pretty hardened, and sarcastic, and when you come to me at work complaining about how your boyfriend kissed you but then hasn’t texted you I’ll act compassionate but will likely be thinking I don’t give a shit – suck it up and do your job (because I cannot relate…at all). I can be funny at times. I’ve had an eating disorder since the age of 9, but I know very well that my thoughts are illogical and ridiculous…and that frustrates the hell out of me. Most of the things I want or don’t want seem to contradict each other. I have walls of steel built around me – very few people get through. I don’t want to need anyone or anything, but I do, and that scares me. I look like Molly Mormon.

People who don’t know better assume I came to Utah to find myself a nice Mormon husband to settle down with so I can start popping out kids and have a big happy family. They’re wrong. So very very wrong on so many different levels. But ‘I came here for treatment and then decided to stay’ is kind of an awkward conversation, so unless it’s someone I’m trying to get to know on a more personal level, I tend to go with whatever they want to think. And sometimes I get to throw in a comment or two that really throws them for a loop!

I will leave you with a video that I found on my friend Jen's facebook page & blog earlier today because I am in love with it! I love the music and harmonies, and I love the message

November 20, 2011

Mall Madness...And Mourning What Once Was

I went to the mall today. Let me clarify – I very begrudgingly went to the mall today. It all started out with an iphone. Yes, shudder, about a month ago I got an iphone. If it’s possible to be in love with an inanimate object, I am - though I feel like I need to hide this amazing piece of modern technology because I’m so stinkin broke that I have absolutely no business owning one. Just for the record, my contract on my cell phone was up so it was only $99 when I signed my soul over for another two years. Still, it was $99 more than I should have been spending. I kinda justified it with the reasoning that I work an average of 12 hours a day and I really haven’t bought anything for myself in years outside of the necessities and the occasional latte. I deserve something for working my ass off every day. Yeah, I’m rationalizing. Truth is, I probably shouldn’t have spent the money. And I would have major buyer’s remorse if I wasn’t so in love. So, here I am, a month with this amazing toy, and out of nowhere the battery starts draining in like two hours. For 3 days I charge my phone, go to work, and two hours later it’s dead. Now, my iphone is great, but it doesn’t do me much good without a working battery. I start to get super depressed at the realization that my toy was short lived, and because I didn’t spring for the $100 warranty package I’d have to go back to my old phone for another two years. Suck. My last hope was that the guys at the apple store could help me. Turns out, there’s an apple store at the mall right next to my house. And they were, by the way, able to fix my battery problem for free. But to get to said apple store, I had to brave the mall. I dislike the mall. These days I tend to avoid the mall like the plague.

So, I’m getting ready to go to the mall. I do what any girl would do…put on my running attire. Yes, I wore my running attire to the mall because looking like I’d just gone on a run seemed more acceptable than the frumpy look of having no decent clothes that fit me. That, and being my day off, I had absolutely no desire to spend time on my hair and make-up. Not that I spend time on my hair and make-up every other day when I do go to work (It’s not really my first priority when I roll out of bed at 3am). But...I was feeling particularly lazy today.

Aaaanyways…I find a parking spot and do my best to hold my head up high and not feel inferior as I walk through the doors of Nordstrom. I do a little speed walk to the entrance of the rest of the mall (I am in my running shoes after all) and then it hits me. I see the wide expanse in front of me and I start to panic. So many stores. So many glorious stores that I can no longer afford. My chest starts to tighten as I trudge straight ahead to the apple store. I get there and breathe a sigh of relief. No more clothes…no more reminders of what I used to have…no more tiny mannequins glaring at me and the body I am not the slightest bit comfortable in. Just me, my running shoes, and my iphone. I talk to the guy at the front of the apple store and he puts my name in the computer then tells me my ‘apple genius’ will see me at the ‘genius bar’ in exactly 55 min. 55 minutes? Crap. I decide to suck it up and kill a little time by roaming the mall.

Out I walk into what used to be familiar territory. I almost feel disassociated as I’m walking, trying to stay present while being accosted by all the people at the kiosks lined up one after another in the center of the walkway – ‘try an herbal tea sample…learn Spanish in a week…this skin cream will make you look 15 years younger…try our new weight loss formula and lose 10 pounds in a week’. Obviously the best defense was to stay as close to the perimeter of the walkway as possible, where sales men and women couldn’t attack. I hadn’t walked more than a few yards when I look up to see it…BANANNA REPUBLIC. Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, White House/Black Market…all right there. My three favorite stores. I had a walk-in closet made up entirely of clothing from these three stores - back when I was financially secure, and confident in my career, my future, and where I was going. Back when I was headstrong and hopeful (okay, I’m still headstrong – just not always in a productive way). Back before I lost my business, before I lost everything to an eating disorder that landed me in hospitals and treatment centers for years. I still have a lot of that wardrobe, though very little of it fits, and even if it did, the phrase ‘all dressed up with no place to go’ comes to mind.

I decided to dig the knife a little deeper by wandering through my coveted Banana. The smell…oh that lovely familiar smell. I look around at the lighting. Did you know I used to do the lighting design for Banana Republic stores while I worked at an electrical engineering firm in Austin? Yep…I did. Oh, to wear slacks and heels to work again…to feel like a professional. I find myself gravitating toward this gorgeous sweater. I turn over the price tag…$188. I fight back tears as I’m reminded of how much my life has changed. Not that all of the changes are bad. But it’s different from what it used to be, from what I wanted it to be, from where I thought I’d be at 33…oh so different.

Today I look at the $188 price tag on the sweater and think of all the homeless people that could feed. I think of how much less stressed I’d be if I just had an extra $188 to help pay bills or buy groceries or gas. $188 means a lot more to me now than it ever did before. I’m grateful now for the ability to see things from a different perspective. I know I’m still very well off compared to many people. But I also know what it feels like to be one paycheck away from not being able to pay rent. I do have some luxuries. I have internet and cable (and now my beloved iphone), but I also wrap in blankets in the winter and sweat in the summer to avoid spending extra money on heating and cooling. I do my laundry at the Laundromat. I now shop at the DI for my work pants. Sometimes I get lucky and find someone’s used pair of Banana khaki’s for $6. That’s a good day!

I want what I once had. And I feel guilty for that. Is it wrong to want to have extra money for material things? I don’t just want material things. I want to have money to donate to charities and time and energy to volunteer more. But I want my Banana back. I want to have fancy dinners to go to, and concerts, and wine tasting events to wear my nice clothes to. I want to feel like a professional. I want to not feel like I’ve been defeated when I walk into a mall. I want to have money to finish my dietetics degree…to move back to Austin. I work soooo so so so hard, and I’m proud of that. Once I get over the fact that I’m working in a retail setting I’m even kinda proud of what I do – I’m in charge of a hell of a lot of stuff. But…I want more. I don’t care to be super rich. But oh what I’d give to be comfortable again. Is that wrong? Is that gluttonous? Sometimes I think I need to mourn what I once had and move on. After all, in many ways I AM a completely different person…a person that I’m still trying to figure out. But I don’t know that I’m ready to move on entirely. Somehow that feels a little like admitting defeat.

November 10, 2011

Who wouldn't love a face like this...

‘Picture yourself as a little girl…How would you treat that little girl?...Would you starve her?…Hurt her?’ How many times have I heard therapists ask me that question? Too many. Far far too many.

I know how that scenario is supposed to play out. ‘I would never starve that little girl - She didn’t do anything wrong – she deserves better.’ And then the therapist says something sickeningly sweet about how I am that little girl and I don’t deserve the pain I put myself through…I need to start treating myself like I would treat ‘Little Amber’. Time after time I’ve sat and smiled through that little exercise and pretended like it was some sort of enlightening experience. Time after time I’ve bull shitted my way through that conversation because the real answer makes me sound somewhat pathological. What kind of person doesn’t want to nurture a sweet little child? Me. I’m that person.

The last time a therapist asked me the dreaded question, I was sick enough of the whole charade to answer with some sort of honesty. ‘I hate that girl. That girl is evil. I want to starve her and torture her and make her disappear.’ Insert look of horror from therapist here. ‘Little Amber? Picture 4 or 5 year old little Amber. You’d hurt that innocent little girl?’ Yes. Yes I would. First of all, I hate, hate HATE the phrase ‘Little Amber’. I want to obliterate ‘Little Amber’. The term itself makes my skin crawl. Second, that ‘little girl’ wasn’t so innocent. Third, I have so much disgust for that girl that I don’t want to acknowledge she even existed.

I don’t like kids in general. Not as in, ‘I’m not really the mommy type’ (which, as a side note, I most definitely am not). No, I look at most children and see something small, dirty and needy – oh so needy. I look at children and berate myself for ever having been one, as if there were any other alternatives. The thought of anyone bathing me, taking care of me, touching me, or talking to me with those damn cooing noises sends feelings of absolute revulsion though my body. I wish more than anything that I could erase that vulnerable, chubby, disgusting, naked child - and anything to do with her.

So, anyone need a babysitter?!

I do actually have a couple friends with kids whom I’ve grown fairly fond of. Mostly because I can see the joy they bring those friends. I’m not completely cold hearted (and for the record, would never ever hurt a child). But I’m also fairly certain this isn’t a ‘normal’ response. I hope for the sake of all the kids out there that this isn’t a normal response!

Therapists over the course of time have asked me, ‘What happened to that child?…Who hurt that little child?’ Once I get over the initial internal cringing at the reference to me being 'that child', I get frustrated. I get frustrated at the calm, soothing tone. I get frustrated because I don’t want to be coddled or treated like I’m weak or sensitive - I just want somebody to understand…I want somebody to ‘get it’. I’ve built up walls around that despicable child and then dug a mote just to be safe. I don’t want anyone knowing that part of me ever existed. I don’t want to have needed anyone or anything. But apparently that’s not serving me so well in my current life.

I want to know that someday maybe I’ll be able to lower my walls just enough to let someone in…that I won’t be forever trapped alone in a place that no one can get to. I want to know (and believe) that I’m allowed to need, and even more so, to want things like food, or water, or sleep - and to know that wanting those things doesn’t make me a horrible or weak person. I want to know (and believe) that it’s okay to want to feel cared for by others. I want to know that someday I might be okay with being just a little bit vulnerable.

November 04, 2011

Identity Crisis

Identity…Who Am I? Does anyone ever really know the answer to that question? I’ve spent so many painful years working on recovery and still I find myself dragging my heels – holding on with all my might to the very thing that has taken everything from me. Why? I’ve matured…I have better insight now…I want more. So why the hell do I hold on? Identity. I have no idea who I am without my eating disorder.

I’ve always felt different. That’s how my eating disorder started in the first place. I was nine. I was at a camp states away from home. I sat in the University cafeteria with my teammates who were laughing and talking about boys, and things I just couldn’t relate to. I didn’t fit in…I never had. I came up with my own little game to keep myself occupied - How long can I go without eating? It was mine and mine alone. I had a secret that made me feel special. I didn’t need anyone else.

I’ve heard it said that people with eating disorders stop maturing socially at the age their eating disorder begins. I don’t know how much truth there is to that statement, but for me it seems about right. I’ve matured in many other ways, but socially I still feel like that awkward little girl who never fit in. I don’t know where I belong. I socialize quite well on a surface level. In business or work settings I’m confident and outgoing, but amidst groups of people my own age I feel like a misfit. My life experiences are quite different than most people my age. I’ve grown to accept and respect that about myself and in many ways am okay with it, but when I’m around others who have had ‘normal’ or ‘traditional’ experiences I feel lost and alone. I’m 33 now, and I still don’t know where I fit in.

For years…and years…and years I’ve held onto my eating disorder like a life preserver because it’s one of the very few things that makes me feel whole. It’s like a consolation prize. I have it to cling to when I feel out of place everywhere else. So much of me wants to get rid of it, except that I don’t know who I am without it. I’m a hard worker. I know that. But that’s not enough for me. I can (and often do) work 18 hours a day, but at the end of the day I go home, alone, and don’t know who I am or what I stand for. The eating disorder…the counting of calories…the exercise…the spreadsheets…the obsession gets me through the nights. How do you just let go of who you are?

In my all or nothing thinking I keep trying to find that one perfect mold that I fit into. But that one perfect mold just doesn’t exist. When I moved to Utah I came really close to joining the LDS church. My beliefs never aligned with the church…at all…but I kept thinking that I could change who I was to fit in with a group of people. They made me feel like I belonged. I think part of me was attracted to the church because it was one of the few places where I felt like I wasn’t a misfit for not wanting to have sex. Except that as it turns out, most people I met in the church couldn’t wait to get married so they COULD have sex. Lots of sex, and lots of babies. Epic fail on my part! Ironically, it was my Mormon therapist who talked me out of joining the church – about a week before my baptism date. I didn’t see it at the time, but he was right. I was joining for the wrong reasons. I’m not the slightest bit conservative…and I don’t want to be. It’s not who I am.

My latest obsession has been veganism. I’ve basically been a vegetarian since I left for college at the age of 17, minus a year when I ate turkey lunch meat on occasion, and of course my stays at CFC where I lost the battle to my dietitian after she upped the ante to 3x the calories in Boost. I could only hold my ground for so long! But recently I’ve made the transition to veganism. It really isn’t that big of a switch for me as I never really ate eggs and prefer soy milk anyway. But I get caught up in the details and the labels. I find myself stressing about the disclaimer on my box of granola bars…‘May contain trace amounts of milk’. It’s not made with milk, but manufactured on a machine with OTHER PRODUCTS that do contain milk. Is that okay? Is that ‘legal’? I have a few pairs of leather shoes that I’ve owned for a while now. Do I have to throw them away…because I kinda need them for work & don’t have money to replace them right now. I pretty much only buy ‘not tested on animal’ products, but I’ve tried natural fabric softeners and can’t find one I like so I went back to ‘Snuggle’. What if it’s not animal friendly? What then? Am I not a ‘real’ vegan? WHY THE HELL DO I CARE??? It’s a label. It’s a fucking label.

Why do I care if the fabric softener I buy pushes me over that vegan/non-vegan line? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Except…to me it does matter. It matters because I’m grasping at straws trying to find something…anything to cling onto. I’m trying desperately to find something outside of an eating disorder to identify with…something that’s mine…that’s me…that I can say, ‘this is who I am – this is what I stand for.’ I’m looking in all the wrong places. Logically I know that. I’ll never find myself in any one thing. But that young girl inside of me is still trying so hard to fit in somewhere…anywhere.

Last week in my ‘taboo topic’ post I wrote about being unsure of my sexual identity (or lack thereof). I threw out the word ‘asexual’ lightheartedly, without giving a lot of thought to it. But then I received a few comments directing me to articles & websites addressing asexuality. What I found shocked me – there are other people out there with the same feelings as me. I found this in one of the articles I read…

‘In a world where sex and relationships are everywhere, life for someone who has no instinct for those things can be very isolating, lonely and distressing…Many asexuals feel “broken” because they do not experience the same wants and desires as “everybody else”. Many asexuals are haunted by feelings of shame and face harassment from peers because they don’t fit in. Many asexuals lead unhappy lives by trying to be “normal”.'

Wow. Is that why I’ve felt different from everyone my whole life? Is that what started this whole mess that became a self-fulfilling prophecy? The not fitting in, so isolating myself with my eating disorder, which really made me not fit in, and on and on and on. But the question still remains, outside of all these things, who am I?

October 17, 2011

The Taboo Topic

I don’t know how to begin this post, so I’ll just start off by saying – many of my friends are in same-sex relationships. I’m all for gay marriage and support equality. My take has always been that it’s not my personal preference, but who am I to say what’s right for anyone else. If two people are in love why does it matter what sex they are? I’ve always believed that. I still believe that. But recently I find myself questioning one small little itty bitty part about that statement…It’s not my personal preference. No, I’m not coming out of the closet or anything. But I wonder sometimes, what is my personal preference?

I’m 33 and have never had a significant relationship with anyone. I’ve gone on a few (literally somewhere around three or four) dates in my lifetime. I’m not afraid of guys in general, but I am absolutely terrified of dating or having anything remotely close to any sort of sexual relationship. It freaks me out in a way that makes me want to crawl out of my body. As much as I wish that were different, I really can’t imagine it changing. I’m not attracted to women, but I’m also not attracted to men. I’d pretty much consider myself asexual…if that’s possible for a human being.

But here’s the thing that confuses me – I hear female friends talk about their husbands or boyfriends and I feel nothing, if not annoyed or confused as to why I'm supposed to want that. But then I hear other female friends talk about their girlfriends or wives and I feel this pit…this emptiness in my stomach. I find myself wanting what they have. My store manager, whom I absolutely love, is in a same-sex marriage. She’ll occasionally throw out a comment about her significant-other and I find myself feeling a bit jealous. Not jealous of her – but jealous that I've never had that kind of relationship with anyone.

I'm not saying I’m gay – I don’t want anything to do with a sexual relationship with anyone…man or woman. So why am I having these thoughts? I’ve spent so many years so guarded – trying everything to numb myself so I wouldn’t want or need anyone or anything. But I’m realizing now that I may be just a tad bit lonely. It’s not that I don’t have some great friends. But I think part of me (the part I don’t like to acknowledge) longs for something more. I don’t know what that is or what it looks like, as I’ve never had it, but I’m finding myself feeling kind of empty without it.

Really, I just want a person. In the old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy Meredith used to talk about Christina being her ‘person’. I want that. And I wonder, when somebody finds ‘their person’ how can anyone fault them for what gender that person is?

August 30, 2011

Stuck. In. A. Rut

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted. How’s that for stating the obvious?! It’s not for lack of wanting to; more so for lack of words, or rather, lack of words that combine together to make any sort of sense. You see, I start out with a topic, but the more I write the more I start to contradict myself and/or drift away on random tangents, and the more confused I become about said topic, and then I pretty much run out of steam and the evening culminates in Amber throwing her hands up in the air and saying screw it!

I think my biggest problem lately is that I’m stuck...stagnant...doing the same things over and over (and yes, often expecting different results). I work (a lot), go to the gym (a lot), eat, sleep, repeat. That’s it. I don’t see friends anymore. I don’t do much of anything anymore because by the time I finish working too much and going to the gym too much there’s not enough energy left in me to do anything. That and, well, after a 12+ hour day in a retail setting the last thing I want to do is talk to anyone.

I feel like I’m working and working (and working), and getting nowhere financially. As I approach another birthday I have this sense of hopelessness – that I’m getting too old now and will never see my dreams amount to anything – that I threw away all that I’d worked so hard for and will be doomed to retail management forever. Not that there’s anything wrong with retail management – I have the utmost respect for many of the people I’ve worked with and for. But for the most part, I HATE RETAIL!!! As a whole, I’m just not finding any fulfillment in what I’m doing and the longer I sit in that spot the farther away I feel from my dreams, and the more my motivation plummets. I used to be full of fire. I thought I could do anything. But that fire has been squashed (can you squash fire?) over and over again in the past few years and I’m really having a hard time getting it going again.

So where do I go from here? I’m teetering on that edge - getting by, but just barely...doing enough to keep myself out of treatment, but nowhere near enough to consider myself ‘in recovery’. It’s so easy to throw in the towel when it feels like there’s nothing left to lose. I think that’s been the hardest part of this whole ordeal for me. When I went into treatment several years ago I thought I’d put everything on hold for a month or two and then go back to life as I knew it minus the eating disorder. Wrong. I didn’t know going into it that I’d emerge out of treatment 9 months later physically healthy, but without a job or a home or any sense of who I was or where I was going. And thus began an additional 2 ½ years of feeling like a loser, obsessively controlling food & exercise to make up for it, landing myself back in treatment, and repeat. It’s grown old. This is NOT how I imagined my life. So, I guess it’s time to do something different.

I’m catching up on old So You Think You Can Dance episodes. Tonight Nigel referred to two of the girls left in the competition as warriors. They’re strong. They’re passionate. I used to be strong and passionate. And I want that back. I want to go for my dreams like I used to. I want to finish what I started. I want to complete my dietetics degree. I want to move back to Austin. I WANT TO LIVE AND SURVIVE AND THRIVE!!! And I will. to summon the energy to make it all happen.

June 27, 2011

If You Lived Here You'd be Home

So much to write little time. I have real posts (as in, actual thought out posts with words!) that I'm working on, but until I get a chance to proof and make sense out of them, I will leave you with this. This is where I live (plus or minus a few miles in each direction). I honestly cannot get over the beauty that surrounds me, and all the recreation right in my backyard. THIS is why I moved to Utah. Well, that and oh...Center for Change. But wanting to redefine myself and experience the recreation was a huge part in my decision. However, I've lived here for close to three years now and have yet to actually take advantage of it. I'm determined to make this year different and really take it all in. I want to hike everything I can hike...explore everything I can explore. So here's what I've come across so far this summer (Disclaimer - These were taken with my phone, so not exactly the best quality)...

Salt Lake City Library - This is my new FAVORITE place, and where I expect to be spending a lot of time! Coffee shops on the bottom...four floors of books that I can check out for FREE...a rooftop garden overlooking the architecture...seating by a wall of windows. I am seriously in love. I've found my new happy place :)

Park City Silly Sunday

Bridal Veil Falls

Jordan River Parkway

Hike to the 'Living Room' with the hiking group I joined. That's me in the black on the left (Can I just tell you all how much of a debate it was to actually post a picture with myself in it!)

Sugarhouse Park

The patio between Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble...a couple of my favorite places!

June 14, 2011


June 01, 2011

True Life: I have a Tattoo

I have a tattoo. This comes as a surprise to most who know me. It’s hidden. Nobody would know it exists unless it comes up in conversation. People tend to think of me as being fairly conservative (which is funny because I’m actually quite liberal) so occasionally I like to throw it out there for pure shock value. The reactions are priceless, and never fail to entertain me. You??? What??? Where???

Of the select few who know about this little piece of ink, fewer have seen it, and even less have a clue as to what it means, outside of my standard answer, ‘It’s a symbol that has a significant meaning to me.’ Despite the occasional joy I get out of shocking people, my tattoo is for me, and personal to me, and that’s all that really matters.

The thing is, I was never one of those people who wanted a tattoo. I have nothing against them. I can appreciate them. It’s just nothing that ever crossed my mind as something I had any desire to do. I couldn’t imagine finding anything that I’d want to brand myself with forever. Lady bugs or flowers or birds or whatnot are fun and all, but are of absolutely no meaning to me, so why would I want to permanently engrave myself with it? That was always my personal take on the subject at hand.

But then…I saw it. I’m embarrassed as to where I got the idea, but the moment I saw it I knew. I want a tattoo. And I want THAT tattoo. Are you ready for it? I first saw this particular ink job on the controversial documentary THIN. Yes, I got the NEDA symbol tattooed on my hip. I say that slightly shamefully, while never for even a second regretting my decision. I can count on one hand the amount of people within the ‘eating disorder community’ who know of my little art piece. Mostly, because I expect judgment. I expect people to think I got it as a ‘status symbol’ or as a way to remain sick. I did not. Let me offer another viewpoint…

For me it's a way of moving on. Some people get tattoos of names, faces, dates or whatnot of loved ones who have passed on…a way to memorialize them…to move on but never forget them. My tattoo, in a sense, is a memorial to my eating disorder. Why, most would ask, would you want to memorialize something so destructive? Why would you want a reminder that you will carry with you forever? Because it’s where I’ve been. Good or bad, it’s shaped me, molded me, made me who I am today.

I’ve had my eating disorder since I was nine. I’m 32 now. Twenty-three years is a darn big chunk of my life. Most people I know (friends who haven’t experienced an eating disorder, family etc.) want me to recover, brush it under the rug, pretend it never happened, and move on. They assume that’s what I should want as well. Am I proud of my eating disorder? No. But I’m not willing to pretend it never happened. I’m not willing to dismiss it…to essentially erase over two-thirds of my life span. I DO NOT WANT TO BE ERASED! I WILL NOT BE ERASED! I wasn’t exactly in recovery when I got the tattoo, and I’m still not quite there, and yet I look at it every day and appreciate it. It’s a reminder that I CAN move on. And it’s easier for me to start a new chapter knowing that I never have to completely forget or ignore where I’ve been and the strength that’s come from it.

Why that symbol? Well, because I like it…simple as that. It probably could have been any number of symbols that jumped out at me, but for some reason that’s the one that did. Not only does it have meaning that doesn’t scream eating disorder (unless of course you’ve had one or are familiar with NEDA), but I’ve always found that particular symbol to be aesthetically pleasing…despite the fact that the tattoo artist told me it kinda looked like a vagina heart. Why you would say that to someone as you’re permanently placing it on their body is beyond me, but whatever! I’ve had my tattoo for three years. It’s part of me, and I don’t regret it. End of story.

May 22, 2011

Life as I Know it

I sometimes wonder where I’d be in life if any number of circumstances had been different. Not just the eating disorder, though that does seem to be the biggest variable in the equation. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t moved in third grade from southern to northern California…if my dad had worked in a different job…if my parents had been divorced. I would have grown up in a totally different atmosphere…with different schools, different friends, different everything. Would I still be the same person? Maybe I would have continued to be abused, dropped out of school, become pregnant at 16. Maybe I would have had wonderful opportunities and received scholarships to Harvard to become a doctor. Maybe I would have been a drug addict. Maybe I would have become the first woman president. Would I be married? Would I have kids? Where would I be living? Would I be happy? Would I even like the same things? Who knows. I don’t need to know, really. Life is what it is, and I have to say that despite all the hard times, I don’t know that I’d change it. It’s just crazy to think of how a person’s entire life can be shifted by one single event. The butterfly effect…can the flutter of a butterfly’s wings really cause a typhoon halfway around the world? Apparently I think too much!

Ten years ago I never ever EVER would have guessed that I’d be living in Utah and working at PetSmart. Ten years ago I had recently finished my undergrad in interior design and was working at an engineering firm in Austin doing lighting design for Banana Republic…in a different atmosphere and state than I would have imagined even a few years prior to that. Fast forward a year and I’d transition to doing electrical design for high voltage substations, going to job sites with the engineers in my hard hat and boots, applying to the electrical engineering department at UT Austin. A far cry from picking out wallpaper and curtains, as I’d imagined I’d be doing when I first started college.

Five years ago I was back in California, thanks to an eating disorder interfering with my career and ability to take care of myself…not that I’m bitter! Whatever. Point being, I unexpectedly ended up back in California. And in that unexpected move, I somehow started an architectural design business, almost by accident. How does that happen? Well, I know how it happened, but who would have guessed? Five years ago I was using that business to put me through grad school where I was graduating with my Masters in Counseling Psychology, starting my degree in dietetics at CSU Sacramento, after which I planned to move to Malibu to attend Pepperdine and work on my PhD. I had it all mapped out. I had a goal…I had a plan…I had a mission. I knew exactly where my life was going, how I was going to get there, where I would be living, and precisely what my future looked like.

Five years and 6 hospitals & treatment centers later, I live in Utah and I work at PetSmart. My biggest obstacle right now is my pride. I’m embarrassed to admit that I work in a retail setting. When people ask me how I wound up in Utah I lie (‘I was in treatment here and lost everything so figured I might as well stay’ generally isn’t the most socially acceptable response when first meeting someone!). In that respect I’m ashamed of who I am…or rather, who I’m not. But you know what? Once I get past those things…I’m pretty okay with where I am, and dare I say, even happy? Things are HARD. Really REALLY hard. I never imagined that at 32 I’d be struggling so much financially, that this once successful, ambitious girl would be buying work pants at the DI. And yet, I like my job. I started PetSmart right after treatment as a part-time job, then moved to full-time, then management, and about a month ago got a promotion and jumped up three notches in the management hierarchy. I’m a presentation manager now. I’m in charge of the product, displays, organization, and presentation of the whole freak’n store! I'm in charge! How cool is that?! It’s FAR more involved and FAR more stress and hours than I imagined a retail job could possibly entail, and all for FAR less money than anyone should have to work that hard for. But I thrive on the stress, and in the grand scheme of things, I really do like it.

There is still more that I want out of life. I hate hate HATE that financially things aren’t working so well. I absolutely need a second job. I’ve been trying to find some contract work as a designer to supplement my income, which has been unsuccessful so far. I did, however, find the PERFECT job on craigslist tonight as a contractual designer, with the ability to work from home, and my qualifications are EXACTLY what they’re looking for. So…keep your fingers and toes crossed! But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll keep trying, and I’ll keep marketing. I like where I am, but I want more. I want to not stress about how I’m going to pay my bills. I want to be able to finish my dietetics degree. I see myself moving back to Austin someday. But for now, I’m thankful to have a job I (mostly) enjoy. I’m thankful that as crappy as things have been lately, and as much as my life has diverted from plan, that I’m still alive and fighting. I’m thankful for the strength I’ve been given to get through it all. I’m thankful for moments of being content…moments of knowing that while some situations aren’t ideal, I can still enjoy the present. And in many ways I’m thankful that I was forced to go down a different road…to open my eyes, and to accept myself in a way I had never imagined. That’s not to say I don’t have my fair share of ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘why can’t I catch a break’ moments. But all in all, I’m thankful for all that I’ve experienced and I do believe in the end I’ll be a better person because of it.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan it…sometimes it turns out better.

May 18, 2011

Fighting Back

On my way to work today I heard a Subway commercial that just infuriates me. It’s the second time I’ve heard it. I can’t quote it exactly, as I was driving and couldn’t write it down word for word, but it’s something to the effect of…

If you’ve been eating burgers and fries all winter, don’t put on your old shorts and strut around like it’s okay, because it’s not. Do your part to keep your town beautiful…(insert something about how wonderful Subway is for you here).’

Do my part to keep my town beautiful? By not getting fat? (And yes, that’s exactly what they were referring to). I generally have a pretty good sense of humor, but not when it comes to topics like this. The media did not by any means cause my eating disorder. But I have to say, they certainly don’t make recovery any easier. Between the plethora of distasteful Subway commercials, the Gold’s Gym ads on the side of the bus telling me I’m too fat, I’ve eaten too much, and need to be at the gym, and the obscene amounts of billboards I pass on the 30 mile drive to work (liposuction, laser hair removal, breast enhancement, teeth whitening, blemish removal, and vein repair to name a few), I don’t know how girls these days have a chance. After three rounds at Center for Change I’ve had enough body image classes with Nicole Hawkins to make me want to fight back. And yet, I sometimes feel defeated.

I know advertising companies spend a lot of money to make us feel bad about ourselves. If we feel good about ourselves just as we are, why would we need their product? From that standpoint I get it. It’s their job. But it makes me sad. It makes me sad that these advertisements encourage girls and boys, women and men of all ages to feel inferior…not good enough. It makes me sad that there are so many people out there like me…like all the amazing, wonderful girls I’ve met in treatment, who are bombarded with these ads daily while trying so hard to believe that we are in fact okay.

I’m thankful for the recording artists I’ve heard more recently speaking out in their lyrics about self acceptance…

Lady Gaga, with ‘Born This Way’
Selena Gomez, with ‘Who Says’
And my favorite...Pink’s ‘Fuck’n Perfect’

I love love LOVE Pink’s music video, but won’t post it here as parts of it could be triggering. I will however post a clip from ‘The Voice’, another one of those reality singing shows that I’ve been sucked into! I love the harmonies, but moreso I love the passion. This is the passion that inspires me; that makes me believe I’m not the only out there fighting in this world; that gives me the strength to keep standing up when I feel like I've been beaten down.

May 15, 2011

Middle Ground?

As it turns out, starting a blog the week before you start working 14 hour days doesn’t exactly provide for much time to update said blog! But this is about finding the grey, right? Yes, this is my new write when I feel like it and don’t write when I don’t feel like it blog. An intuitive writing of sorts! Glad we’ve established that. So, I actually wrote this about a week and a half ago, but am just now getting a moment to edit and post it…

As I write this I’m sitting inside Barnes & Noble, leaning against a big picture window, sun beaming through and warming me as I sip my iced skinny vanilla latte. The mountaintops, still white with spring snow, rise above the surrounding buildings and blooming trees. I am in awe of the beauty surrounding me. This is one of those days when I remember why I thought moving to Utah would be a good idea.

I sit here mostly content, but slightly conflicted. I’m in a coffee shop inside a bookstore, listening to Michael Buble playing from the speakers above. This is my happy place. Big, corporate Barnes & Noble and Starbucks. And yet a few days ago I spent some time at a locally owned coffee house, served by baristas with dreads and tattoos, listening to live music, and taking note of the drum circle in the park on Sundays. ‘BUY LOCAL’ I thought that was my element. How can I like both? How can I want both?

This isn’t a new phenomenon…that I want two different, opposing things. I want to be all organic, hippie, Zen, peace and love, and yet I’d love to get back to a career where I can wear business attire and heels. I want to be feminine, but at work I throw around 50lb bags of dog food with my stockers and would rather be seen as the manager who’s tough, works hard, and holds her own. I love hiking, walking, and being outdoors, but I’m a city girl at heart and dream of living in a high-rise with a concierge. I’m all for self-expression and being able to show emotion and yet more often than not I’m hardened, jaded and too frequently find myself thinking, ‘suck it up and get over it.’ I want to promote positive body image…love your body, love yourself – but I look in the mirror and want to tear away at the excess flesh. I want to be a runner, but don’t necessarily enjoy running. I want to live the simple life, wearing jeans and flip flops, and I also want my perfectly arranged closet filled with Banana Republic and Ann Taylor.

Is there a middle ground? Is there EVER a middle ground? I think that’s been my biggest holdup in this finding my identity dilemma. I’ve never had any single identity outside of an eating disorder to cling to. I’ve always hated those ‘who are you?...what do you like?...what do you want to do?...who do you want to be?’ questionnaires. They stress me out. I can never come up with the single, perfect answer. I don’t know. I can’t pinpoint who I am. I’m not all business…I’m not all sporty…I'm not all hippie...I’m not all chic…I’m not all musician…I’m not ALL anything. Where does that leave me? I’m a mutt…a hybrid of sorts. And where does a hybrid fit in? I don’t fit in. And I’m finally realizing that’s okay. I AM OKAY. Maybe I’ll never fit into the perfect mold of anything. Maybe I’ll never be married…never have kids…never fit the conventional, traditional, ‘norm’. And maybe that’s okay. I am me. Organized, obsessed, quirky, fun, confused, determined, self-critical, independent, hard-working, me. And I am the only person who needs to be okay with that. And I’m getting there.

May 05, 2011

New Beginnings

Watching Gray’s Anatomy last week, Meredith’s monologue really impacted me. So much so that it inspired me to reframe my journey, and to get back to blogging again.

‘After a trauma your body is at its most vulnerable.
Response time is critical so you’re suddenly surrounded by people; doctors, nurses, specialists, technicians.
Surgery is a team sport; everyone pushing for the finish line, putting you back together again.
But surgery is a trauma in and of itself.
And once it’s over the real healing begins.
We call it recovery.

Recovery is NOT a team sport.
It’s a solitary distance run.
It’s long, and it’s exhausting, and it’s lonely as hell.

The length of your recovery is determined by the extent of your injuries.
And it’s not always successful.
No matter how hard we work at it, some wounds might never fully heal.
You might have to adjust to a whole new way of living.
Things may have changed too radically to ever go back to what they were.
You might not even recognize yourself.
It’s like you haven’t recovered anything at all.
You’re a whole new person…
With a whole new life.’

This absolutely puts the whole recovery process into context for me. I’m thirty-two. My eating disorder began when I was nine. In that time I’ve been in and out of treatment centers and hospitals, have been surrounded by professionals, and have also endured one hell of a marathon on my own. So where does that leave me? I’m finding myself in a place of peace. In a place where I feel confident that I’m finally headed down the right path. I’m not sure what exactly to attribute this shift of paradigm to…perhaps to some amazing treatment teams, perhaps to the wonders of medication, perhaps it’s simply a part of getting older and maturing…more than likely, all of the above. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it. Would I consider myself recovered? Not by a long shot. Food, calories, exercise and weight still plague me 24/7. I look in the mirror…in the window…in the reflection of a shiny car, and I cringe as the thirty-five pounds I’ve had to gain in the name of health stare back at me. No, life is not all butterflies and rainbows. But I know without a doubt that I’m on the right path. And I feel a peace about the process that I’ve never felt before.

Let me repeat the end of that Gray’s quote…

…No matter how hard we work at it, some wounds might never fully heal.
You might have to adjust to a whole new way of living.
Things may have changed too radically to ever go back to what they were.
You might not even recognize yourself.
It’s like you haven’t recovered anything at all.
You’re a whole new person…
With a whole new life.’

This is what hits home. THIS is what I wish I would have heard 10 years ago. ‘Recovery’, in the literal sense of the word, is not what I should have been searching for all this time. I cannot recover the girl I was at the age of nine. I cannot recover the girl everyone thought I was in high school. I cannot recover the girl I tried to be in college. Too much has changed. I’ve learned too much. I will never be that person again, nor do I want to be. I’m a whole new person. I’m a stronger person. I’m a more passionate person. And I’m better for the fight. I don’t have to recover the life that I always thought I should have. I’m creating a new life. A life that is mine. A life that I’ve worked hard for. A life that combines all of my experiences. Circumstances may not always work out in the way that I desire, but I have the opportunity to discover and make of my life what I want. This blog is my journey to figuring out what lies beneath the surface.