ED Update: How I’m Doing

CW: eating disorders (surprise), alcohol abuse

It’s been about a year and a half since I first sought help for my eating disorder. My life in early 2016 was pretty lonely – my rigid diet and fear of food caused me to isolate myself – which is largely why I started talking about it on my blog. Recovery was scary, so it was nice to have an outlet to express all my conflicting and confusing feelings about it.

While I’m weight restored, I wouldn’t say I’ve “recovered” – mostly because I’m not at all happy about it. I want to be, and I know I should be, but I still frequently think about getting “skinny” again. I plan out diets and workout routines that I don’t stick to, because I’ve been on that path before and I know how it turns out. I know that kind of lifestyle is unsustainable, which is why I can’t bring myself to follow through with it. Even so, I think about it a lot.

I’d like to get back into exercising, if I can find a way to have a healthy relationship with it. But when I was recovering, I was supposed to stop completely; I didn’t at first, convinced that I could somehow recover without gaining any weight. I had that mindset for a long time: that my problem was my constant food-related thoughts (read: hunger) and nightly binges (read: feeding myself). Sometimes I still catch myself thinking this way.

I only dropped this mindset because I started gaining weight – and fast. That was during my refeeding phase, which, for those who don’t know, involves eating a loooooooot of food. I’m talking at least 5,000-7,000 calories a day, every day. This was something that my nutritionist and I discussed, which she said was normal and even desirable. I hated it and didn’t want to do it – but once I started, I couldn’t stop for at least a few weeks. It was around this time that I stopped exercising and accepted that I was going to be gaining weight.

I still didn’t like it, though. Especially now that I’m over my pre-ED weight and heavier than I’ve ever been, I find myself checking and picking at parts of my body constantly. Sometimes I hate getting dressed for work because anything that’s not a T-shirt and gym shorts makes me self-conscious.

But recovery was going pretty well for a while. Around the time of my grandmother’s passing in June 2016, things started to go south again. I went off of my medication, which I had started to feel wasn’t helping much, and started drinking a lot. I never particularly enjoyed being drunk, but now that seems to be the only time I’m not acutely aware of how much I weigh.

I’ve embarrassed myself, made stupid mistakes, and even been to the hospital because of alcohol. I thought each mishap would finally be my wake-up call to get it together, but so far it hasn’t. I made a promise recently to stop drinking altogether, and I plan to get to that point – but it’s not the overnight switch I thought it would be.

I’ve found drinking to be a kind of self-medicating, but it worsens the problems I’m trying to treat. I berate myself for no longer being in good health, so I drink – and when I wake up, I’m certainly not any healthier. I mope about not being productive or accomplishing anything, so I drink – and my productivity goes out the window.

And I think I haven’t been trying as hard to find solutions because my depression has become a little stronger than my anxiety. My eating disorder was mostly anxiety-driven, and it was fueled by a need to find my identity and be good at something. If I wasn’t “the bookworm” or “the musician” or “the K-pop girl,” then what was I? My last effort to shove myself in a box was my also my most self-destructive: I had to be The Tiny Girl.

I still haven’t let go of that wish, and I still frequently romanticize my thinness – I just don’t have the energy to maintain it. I think drinking is also a way to absolve me of my laziness and inability to accomplish anything; I’d much rather say “I didn’t do it because of alcohol” than “I didn’t do it because I couldn’t.” My biggest obstacle to achieving my dreams is my (baseless) certainty that I’ll fail.

I also feel this intense pressure to live up to what I believe are other people’s expectations, but it’s not driving me to actually do anything. I think ultimately, I’m just doing a lot of thinking and not a lot of doing.

Which is why I plan on setting a schedule and sticking to it. I want to write every day, even if what I’m writing is shitty and unusable. I want to learn how to dance (never too late, right?). I want to play more music, even if it’s just on my old, cheap keyboard. I want to read more books, play more video games, watch more movies. I want to learn a lot about a lot of things. I want to blog more. I want to do a lot of things that aren’t really possible when you’re drunk all the time.

So…wish me luck.

(If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or alcohol abuse, please reach out to someone – a professional, a loved one, or hell, even me. Don’t think you have to fight these kinds of things alone.)

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I’m doing a lot of K-Pop Blogging.

Yes, I’m using this blog to promote my other blog. If you like me and you like K-pop, go check out Seoulcastic, where I’ve started doing music reviews and will eventually branch out into parody articles and the like.

That’s not to say I will stop blogging here. I’m still writing, I recently got a new job in marketing, and I’ve got other creative endeavors on the horizon – plus, I’ve got a new book review to write!

Thanks to my readers for sticking around during the busy times in my life. You’ll be seeing a lot more of me soon!

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What I’m Reading: Undermajordomo Minor

For the longest time, Patrick DeWitt’s Undermajordomo Minor has been on my radar;  I had seen it on several lists of the best books of 2015, and I’d also heard of DeWitt’s more well-known book The Sisters Brothers. But since I haven’t been reading much as of late, it took me this long to buy and read this book – and I’m very glad I did.

Undermajordomo Minor follows the story of Lucien “Lucy” Minor, a simultaneously glum and self-important young man, who leaves his small hometown to find a place where he feels a greater sense of belonging. He ends up working at the estate of the Baron Von Aux as an assistant to the majordomo (“undermajordomo,” he calls it, although he is promptly told that no such title exists). During his time there, he makes friends and sparks a romance in the nearby village, learns the dark history of the Baron, and finds himself in a series of increasingly dire predicaments. Ultimately, it’s a story spurred on by love – not just his own love, but the love of those around him – and the pleasures and problems that come with it.

This book is the perfect balance of dark humor and melancholy – the perfect tone for the story of an aimless young man like Lucy. I love him as a protagonist primarily because he wants to impress others, establish himself, and simply be somebody, but he doesn’t know how. As the story progresses, though, he learns that in order to be someone, he has to do something. Instead of floating through life and letting life happen to him, he learns to steer the course of his own life. The cast of characters behind him, even the minor ones, are diverse and entertaining as well.

The dialogue is another strong point of the book. Certain characters speak to each other in a manner so straightforward and plain that it seems almost surreal, and this style turns every conversation into something funny. Others have lines that are profound and revealing, bringing the story back down to earth and adding emotional depth to the story. Some of the best parts of the book lie not in actions, but in conversations.

At the end of the day, Undermajordomo Minor is a dark comedy told from the perspective of a brooding boy who has gotten in way over his head. His story starts out blandly, spirals into insanity, and ends beautifully. I enjoyed every moment of this book and would recommend it to anyone with a healthy sense of humor.

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This Month in K-Pop: Boys, Butts, Boom

Because I have an insatiable love for my Korean idol groups, I’ve decided that it’s about time I started blogging about them. For the month of August, I want to talk about three new groups in particular:

BLACKPINK

YG finally debuted their newest girl group, and I’m very excited and also very nervous. Following the departure of 2ne1’s Minzy, it feels a lot like the agency is turning its attention to its next edgy girl group. Because of the easy parallels to draw between the two groups, it’s especially important that BLACKPINK make their sound and image unique.

With that said, I’m very excited. Their two singles, “Boombayah” and “Whistle,” complement each other in style and are both  catchy as heck. And so far, they’ve done a good job of standing out as individuals – Lisa especially has a powerful stage presence, and Jennie has been on YG fans’ radar for a while now.

At this point, I do think their rappers are stronger than their singers. But if they continue to develop their sound and musical ability, then they could really be unstoppable. They’re already off to a good start.

I-REN

I managed to miss any teasers that 4-member girl group I-REN put out before their debut, so I didn’t know what to expect when I started watching “butt.” In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious: “butt” is an unimaginative and unenthusiastic jab at the ever-popular sexy concept.

The debut seems to make an attempt at something more gritty and visceral than the typical polished girl group. Instead, the atmosphere is thick with discomfort.

That discomfort comes in no small part from the girls themselves (watch the “I wanna be sexy” lyric and try not to cringe),but the seedy lighting and unflattering outfits do their part, as well.

More importantly, though, is the fact that the members haven’t had an opportunity to come into their  own.This concept has been been done before, and better (see 9MUSES or Stellar), and the members of I-REN have brought nothing new to it.

Lackluster music, obtrusive camera work, and an unimaginative title all point back to the fact that this is not an experience about idols – it’s pretty much just about butts. But at least you know what you’re getting.

NCT Dream

I’m still a little confused about NCT and the related subgroups, but this adorable debut by the group’s baby-unit might convince me to pay a little more attention to them. “Chewing Gum” is obnoxiously colorful, sickeningly saccharine, and unapologetically fun.

The members of NCT Dream have a great presence, both in the MV and on stage (and they performed on hoverboards). “Chewing Gum” reminded me of some of SHINee’s sunnier concepts with a hint of endearingly tacky 90s aesthetic. This song, and its accompanying video, would have probably been average if not for the energy the boys brought to it. It’s genuine and tangible and infectious, and it’s everything that I love about bubbly Korean pop.

My only concern is in regards to their long-term appeal. Even during their teaser period, SM Entertainment seemed to be pushing them as “that really young group.” Their debut was largely dependent on that youth, so I just hope they plan to make a transformation once they, you know, hit puberty.

So those are the three groups (all new debuts) that I wanted to discuss for my first purely K-pop post. With time, I’m hoping to provide a little more information about the groups I write about so people unfamiliar with this music can learn a thing or two. In the meantime, check out the groups above and let me know what you think!

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Well, Here Goes Nothing

I’m dipping my toes into the world of freelance writing. That’s partly why I’ve been less than stellar about updating lately, but I’m really going to make an effort to make a post at least once a week.

But anyway, I’m on the hunt for freelance gigs, and I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

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When My Eating Disorder Feels Like a Bad Horror Movie

I’m sitting on my couch and watching a girl on the run. She’s being followed by something – a predator that doesn’t jump out at her from the dark, but instead walks slowly, which is somehow creepier. But I already know what’s going to happen. I know what she needs to do to save herself, and yet an impenetrable screen separates me from her world. All I can do is watch her fall right into the trap, like I’ve seen so many times before.

I want to just turn it off, but I can’t. I am that girl, and my killer’s weapon is starvation.

There’s a distinct separation taking place in my head when I’m caught up in disordered eating habits. It feels like a part of me – the broken, hurting part of me – splits off, taking control in the only way it knows how. And the rational side of me watches, a spectator, unable to change a thing.

Every new diet, every compulsion to exercise is another snare in the trap, a twist in the maze, a lock on the door that keeps me inside. When I’m restricting, I’m doing exactly what my killer wants me to do. But no matter how hard I pound on the screen, I can’t get myself to stop.

The horror-movie moments caused by my eating disorder are much less frequent than they used to be. Two years ago, my life was a nonstop reel of undereating, overexercising, and punishing my body for what it was. These days I might go for days at a time without so much as a guilty thought. But every now and then, I jump back into the same tired, overused scene. I resume my role as the victim of my own poisonous thoughts. And my frustration and dread compounds.

When I’m in those moments, I know how to prevent them. I just don’t know how to tell myself to do it. At least, not yet. The only way to win is to rewrite the story.

Recovery is a new script that I’m still trying to memorize. It’s a script that contains acceptance, forgiveness, and self-love. For me, that’s like reading in a completely different language – but with practice, I’ll be able to recite it by heart. So the next time the villain comes creeping down the hallway, I’ll be ready.

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A Daily To-Do List for When I’m Fighting Depression

Everything hurts.

It’s the only way I’ve been able to articulate the debilitating effect that depression has had on my life. When I try to ask myself why I can’t function like a “normal” human being – why I can’t clean my apartment, focus at work, or even take a shower – the answer is always the same. Whatever I try to do, not matter how simple it may be, it just hurts.

I know how frustrating it is to feel like the world is spinning too quickly, like you’ll never be able to catch up. I know that the pressure of daily responsibilities and social obligations can make it feel like you can’t breathe, let alone face the day. I know that it hurts.

When I’m in pain, even self-care becomes an effort. But it’s during those painful times that it becomes most crucial. For those days when everything hurts, I try and remember to do these things:

Drink water. Depression makes it far too easy for me to fall out of touch with  what my body needs. A glass of water is not the pinnacle of self-care or the magic cure for mental illness – but it’s a start.

Rest your mind. One thing that my depressed brain hates more than anything is inactivity; when my body is at rest, my mind goes haywire with stress and criticisms, reminding me of all the things I could and should be doing. Over time, I’ve gotten better at letting go of self-imposed obligations. Mental illness, like any other illness, requires rest.

Do something you enjoy. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, I try to set some time aside every day for an activity that brings me happiness. Sometimes, I’ll sing to my favorite song. Other times, I might play the piano, play with my dog, or read a book.

Run – or dance, or swim, or climb a tree. It only takes a couple minutes of physical activity to begin feeling the benefits it has on your mind and body. At the same time, Zumba class is usually the last place I want to be when I’ve hit a low point. I’ve learned that the best exercise is the kind I actually like doing.

Shower and brush your teeth. It sounds so simple, and yet it’s so easy to neglect. When everything is a chore, even taking a shower can seem too laborious – but I always, always feel better after I do.

Eat a vegetable. I don’t worry about having kale smoothies for breakfast and quinoa salads for dinner. Sometimes the easiest meal to manage comes out of the freezer or from the drive-thru. Sometimes I don’t want to eat anything at all. But I try to at least grab a cucumber. Or some celery. One vegetable is better than none.

Forgive yourself. Days often go by where I cannot do the things I want to do – or even the things I need to do. Mental illness tells me to judge and berate yourself, but the only way I’ve been able to move forward is to love myself – even on my worst days.

I’m not always successful, but I do my best to incorporate these things into my life not because you have to, but because I deserve to. If you are struggling with mental illness, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same. And keep fighting – every new day is a sign that you are winning.

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