Food Gave Me An Anxiety Attack (or, Sh!t I Thought I’d Outgrow)

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(I’ve had quite a few of these said to me, which is why I’ve kept my struggles a secret for so long…perhaps even I was guilty of accusing myself of a few of these.)

I’m going to start this off by saying that NONE of this is healthy by any means.  Please please PLEASE don’t take it as such! This is my blog, and my place to be honest and open (in the hopes that it helps someone else out there perhaps not feel so alone, if they are experiencing anything similar…which I hope not, but I do receive private messages here and there, so… :/ )

So, I had an anxiety attack over my breakfast this morning (tea, egg whites, a slice of reduced-fat whole wheat toast, and a little portion of beans).  This isn’t anything new to me, but the severity of it was something I hadn’t experienced in quite a long time. I weighed myself and looked into a full-length mirror beforehand, and it all went to hell after that. I ended up tossing everything in the bin except for my cup of tea, and then I felt guilty because there are starving families out there who would have given anything for that meal that I so ungratefully discarded.

Food is the Enemy

I’ve had anxiety wrapped around food for the longest time, since I was a child. ( I was diagnosed as a child with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which (loosely put) is a disorder in which I perceive myself as though I were looking into a funhouse mirror.  I look distorted and deformed to myself, always heavier than I am (even if my clothes are becoming looser on me), and presently I only look at my reflection to apply makeup because I appear unrecognisable to myself. Something changed after my mom passed, and I no longer see ‘me’ when I look at myself.  I don’t know how to explain it…it’s as if there is a stranger in my reflection, or the ghost of my former self…a near echo of who I used to be…but it’s unnerving and terrifying and enraging. )  I was in therapy for a number of years from childhood to my teenage years, but never really made progress.  I also knew that my issues with food were not right, and I was afraid that I would be deemed “bad” for having them. So I never mentioned them. I had severe digestive issues growing up, and I think my anxiety played a part. I always felt better when I was “empty.”

When I entered high school (and had quit therapy), I began purging. I’d feel anxious and would break down into tears after eating (not even binge-eating,  just regular meals), and realised that forcing myself to throw up would ease the anxiety attacks.  When I had the strength, I would restrict for as long as possible and just not eat.  I would go for a day or two with nothing more than a carrot or two, water, maybe a piece of fruit.  But sometimes that gnawing anxiety would kick in, even with just that.  If I couldn’t purge, I would resort to self-harm to ease the anxiety. ( I’ve quite a few nasty scars on my thigh that I really want to cover up with a Day of the Dead tattoo, or something along that theme, but I just haven’t brought myself to do it yet. I don’t want to explain what the lines along my thigh are to the artist. )  I was an active member on a few pro-ED online community boards, which are no longer running (I actually looked them up a short while ago, just to see how the people I used to chat with are getting on…sadly, a couple of them have taken their own lives, I’ve come to learn). A good majority have recovered from their eating disorders. I’m beyond happy for them!

I purged and restricted on-and-off for nearly twenty years, and I absolutely feel the effects of my actions on my health now. Again, this is NOT healthy behaviour…do not do this!

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Every Body

I’m the first person to say to someone that there are no set standards for health or beauty, and there is no one perfect body weight, but I’m the last person to actually listen to myself.

I have hypothyroidism (”hippo-thyroidism” as I call it). This makes losing weight extremely difficult for me, causes me to have a lack of energy (but also not eating properly is not helping matters), slow metabolism, insomnia, poor attention span, etc. I’ve been on medication for over ten years now, but the medication has not regulated my weight. In fact, I swear the pills have slowly and gradually put weight on me.  I stopped taking them abruptly a year ago, and lost nearly 20lbs! (Again, DO NOT DO THIS….not healthy!)  My TSH levels in my most recent blood test were horrendous, and I began to feel as though I were having hot flashes, so I had to go back on the pills, but I don’t take them the way that I’m supposed to. I’m terrified. I’ve already gained a couple of pounds back that I’d lost by going off of them.

I do work out at the gym, but I can only do so much before I start to feel light-headed or before a migraine begins to set in (again, from poor diet…will discuss in next portion).  I tone up from the cardio and weights that I do, but I can never seem to get below a certain weight. I hover. It’s not a horrible weight, but I could be 10-15lbs lighter. I will always hold that over my head as a failure, even if it’s medically beyond my control. Realistically, though, if I were to get myself down to 100lbs, I could see myself still feeling the same way.  I will never feel content.

Strange Relationship

My current relationship with food is a complicated one.  There is still that anxiety of having lost control of myself at times (even if I’ve only eaten a salad, after two days of not eating or two days of consuming no more than 600-700 calories).  I try to not use calorie counting apps because I tend to use them for negative reasons…instead of aiming to eat at least 1000 calories per day, I’d feel like a failure if I went over 800.  The app warning me that this behaviour is unhealthy and that I might have an eating disorder became a fucked up form of comfort.

But then I have some days where I pay my intake no mind and just enjoy myself.  A slice of pizza with no guilt, or some pasta, or a nice bowl of veggies with brown rice.

Then I have my moments like this morning, where I have a panic attack before I’ve even eaten and just looking at a plate of food brings on a gag reflex.  (I didn’t eat dinner last night, had a small plate of salad for lunch, and indulged in a Pot Noodle for breakfast…the Pot Noodle warranted my not needing to eat dinner).

Which brings me to the pic that I started this entry with…if anyone were to just look at me, they would never guess that this is going on! I (to me) am overweight, and could definitely stand to lose 20-30lbs. I’d go 50lbs, but I’d be dead. I range from a size 8-12 in pants (UK & USA sizes…USA sizes are tricky, depending on where you shop). When I stand next to a dear friend of mine, whom I view as stunningly beautiful, I swear that we are the same body size and shape.  She is 54lbs heavier than I am (she weighed herself with me to prove a point to me).  She looks at me as though I am utterly insane and tries to understand, but I’m ecstatic that she doesn’t.

This is Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

**A note on the USA Mental Healthcare System**

I have acknowledged that I should attempt therapy for this again, since the anxiety attacks and distorted/unrecognisable reflection seem to have amplified 20x since my mother’s death.

After calling around to seven centers…five are not accepting new patients, and the other two have wait lists of up to 3-5 months for the intake and enrollment process. Not to mention the cost…my copayments, not including medication, if they wanted to start me on any, would be upwards of $300 per month.

As I’ve said, this country treats mental healthcare as if it were a luxury item. And that is disgusting.

So here is my online confessional.  I might be damned to my own personal hell, but perhaps my words will help someone else? You are not alone, there is nothing fucked up or wrong or ugly about you. Please get help, if it is available to you!

Don’t end up like me.  Don’t cry over a plate of egg whites & beans because you gained a pound.

Living Well in the Dark Times of the Doom Cheeto

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Lately whenever there’s breaking political news, this meme comes to mind.

I won’t make this a political rant. There’s enough of that out there right now. We all know what’s wrong with the Doom Cheeto and all that he and his appointed staff (who collectively look like every perp & pedo ever featured on Law & Order, let’s be honest) stand for.

I knew I would be affected by the orange shitstorm.  I just didn’t know how much or how quickly.  In less than two weeks, I’ve become absolutely disgusted and ashamed to call myself an American. I’ve seen friends and colleagues become fearful for themselves and their loved ones because of a fanatical religious ban that has no root in logic or reason. I’ve seen good people become terrified over deportation (themselves, their parents, their spouses), even though they’ve been taking the right steps on the path to citizenship so far. I’m seeing my rights to my own body & reproductive health being put up for debate by old sleazy privileged white men (who, without a doubt in my mind, have probably impregnated women and demanded that they have abortions at some point). I’m seeing my sexual orientation called into question on my ability to raise a family (good thing electroshock therapy can cure the half-gay outta me….wheeeeee! 

I’m participating in rallies and protests, but it feels like they are all for nothing.  I’m emotionally, psychologically, and physically drained, and my immune system took a deep plunge during the last month. I managed to catch just about every bug out there…the flu for two weeks, a stomach virus that I’m recovering from at the moment, My mental health took a hit…I’ve had more nightmares than usual, insomnia, and my BDD symptoms have essentially locked me in the boot of the car & been steering the wheel (anxiety attacks over having photos taken, seeing myself in photos, anxiety over having to eat, restriction, involuntarily becoming physically ill after eating).

It might feel selfish at first, but now more than ever it is extremely important to check in with yourself and take extra care if you are feeling unwell.  How? Ive no fucking idea!  But this is what I’ve been doing, and it seems to be helping me a bit. If it helps you as well or gives you some ideas, then have at them!

Allow yourself to feel your feelings.

This sounds stupid, I know.  But I’m the Chief in Command when it comes to burying everything deep down and fighting back tears! How am I? I’m fine. Even though I’m doing my best to put on this fake smile and hope that you don’t hear the screaming going on inside my own head…I’m fine!

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It’s okay to feel your feelings. Cry it out. If you need to talk, open up to someone you trust.  They might actually be thankful that you initiated the conversation! I’ve had that very response, when I was afraid that I’d be inconveniencing them with my feelings/mere existence…they felt the same way. Or, try writing in a journal if you’re  not feeling people. Writing in a journal after waking from some pretty horrific nightmares has done me a world of good in trying to figure out the workings of my fucked up mind!

Find the humour.

Whatever it is…a situation, yourself, try to find what’s funny there.  This has actually been helpful in making me feel like I still have some control, perhaps via a displaced sense of having taken some of the power back that was taken from me from the thing (if that makes sense)? Like when I can’t seem to remember anyone’s name (even though you’ve told me five or so times), or recall the conversation we literally just had (that I actively participated in)! Another late notice from the electric company? I probably got distracted by something shiny while I was logging onto the website to pay it last month…whoops! Or like taking back the fear I feel every time the Doom Cheeto announces that he appointed so-and-so to whatever…

Okay, I don’t want a picture of the Doom Cheeto Brigade on my blog, but trust me…they really do all look like every bad guy ever featured on Law & Order!

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Physical Health

This is a given, but also only if you’re up for it. I like going to the gym, but don’t always feel the energy for it.  If you’re not a gym fan, try going for walks or biking or indoor rock climbing (or outdoor, if you don’t live in a concrete jungle like I do!)

The worst thing you can do when you’re feeling down is sleep all day and hide away from humanity (which I’ve been guilty of on numerous occasions, so no judgments here).

Looking at sh!te on the interwebz.

Okay, so you’ve ignored said previous step and ventured off to Club Bed, featuring DJ Pillow and MC Duvet.  I respect it! While you’re regrouping, try easing your mind with enjoyable music (save the death metal for working out, maybe), or look at some uplifting/funny stuff on the web.  Avoid the news for now! I’ve needed to take days off from reading anything news-related, which is really hard and requires much effort lately.  It’s not ignorance, it’s not being selfish.  You’re taking a personal breather.


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(Sad Ghost Club art 🙂

Cut toxicity from your life.

This one sucked, but I had to just cut out the people who were making the loudest noise when I asked for silence.  All were very toxic, very pushy and forceful in their disagreement with my opinions on political matters (after all, who am I to believe we’re all entitled to basic human rights in a place known as “The Land of the Free”?), very racist, and very not what I stand for or wish to associate myself with.  The suckage happened after the fact, after the unfriendings and requests that they no longer contact me. That I could not foster positive relationships with people who held that sort of hatred in their hearts (this is not the same as having different political views, mind you…politics does not = hatred!)

I have not regretted losing one of the toxic connections that I’ve cut, and have had improved peace of mind.

Create Community

Seek out others who are experiencing the same struggles as you are.  The internet can be a wonderful resource for this! Plenty of meet up groups out there.  If you cannot find community (and this is NOT easy, and where I’m at in the present moment), then seek to create it. Look into organising meet up groups and dates.  Again, the internet is an amazing resource for this! And remember…the chances of others feeling the same way that you do are greater than you walking around being the only one feeling that way (even though you might hope that you are the only one, because it really does suck, and you don’t wish this on anyone else).

Mental healthcare is, unfortunately, treated like a bit of a luxury item here in the US.  “It’s okay to not be okay…so long as you can afford to not be okay.” Insurance copayments and deductibles can be ridiculous. Meet up groups can be a godsend when therapy is not an option!

Random Kindness

I make a point of giving three random strangers a compliment on a daily basis. I’ve been doing this for the past 15+ years, in an attempt to combat my BDD. By helping others feel good about themselves, by pointing things out that they perhaps do not perceive as attractive about themselves (or maybe they do, and good on them if so!). They feel good. I feel good. WIN!

If I can help someone to not feel as grotesque and forgettable as I feel daily, either via a compliment or a laugh, then I’ve done my part.

(Hat = birthday gift from friends who put up with my emo nonsense & love me anyway! Get your own from TheSadGhostClub dot com )

I hope this babbling comes in useful to someone out there in internet land!