I receive pretty regular messages from people on all platforms of social media that I can be found on (and some that I’ve either forgotten about or swear I signed up for in an Ambien Walrus-stupor), asking me how I can still find humor in everything with losing both parents, how do I cope with the grief, how do I cope with body dysmorphic disorder, have I beaten it? Etc.
I’ve nothing to hide, and I don’t mind answering and sharing. I reach out randomly to others as well if I respect and admire the stuff that they’re saying. Sometimes they answer, sometimes they don’t and I’m convinced they think I’m a psychopath and I want to curl up in a corner and hide from the embarrassment that is Sam (when in reality they probably just didn’t know how to answer, didn’t have the time, perhaps just felt a bit put off by speaking with someone they don’t know personally…virtually anything but what’s running through my head most likely!).
So, first off…when I receive these messages, I feel the need to stress that I’ve not figured anything out! I feel like a fraud, giving out advice, because I don’t know whether I’m coming or going half of the time. I know enough to know that I know NOTHING.
On Having Lost Both Parents
I’m still not healed from this, and I don’t know if there is such a thing as “healing” from it. I walk around feeling quite lost and displaced, and feel like my life has lost its place for me. I often feel this sense of homesickness that I can’t describe; that I want to go home, but I’ve no home to go to anymore. I have no idea what direction I’m supposed to take in my life. I still go to call my mother, at times, and she’s been gone for a year now. I lost my father when I was a teenager, and never really had the chance to know him. I feel that parts of my personality now may have come from him, so that might be a way of knowing him in a sense.
I question everything that I do, every decision I make, and it absolutely sucks to not have anyone to check in with when I really need to talk about something. I have amazing friends that I’m thankful for and do not take for granted, but it’s just not the same. I miss talking about my day. I miss being someone’s daughter.
I haven’t been able to sleep since my mother’s death, and have horribly vivid nightmares when I do sleep. I’ve started randomly flashing back to small snippets of memories in the hospital via smells, items, sounds that I’d forgotten…really bizarre things that have no significance. A few friends have suggested that I may have PTSD. They’re probably right.
Something that no one prepared me for…when people offered to be there for me when I needed them, they didn’t know that they didn’t really mean it. They didn’t know that they were not capable of holding up to that promise. This is not to say that their offer did not come from the heart, but I now understand how completely frightening my reality can be for someone who hasn’t gone through this yet. Seeing my pain and what I’m experiencing is a horrifying reminder that it can happen to them, and they’d start to cry at the thought of losing their loved ones. They hadn’t even lost their loved ones, but I, who HAD lost my parents, ended up comforting THEM, who were able to go home and hug their loved ones and have dinner with them, etc. So I learned to just say “I’m fine,” whenever asked if I need to talk. I could be having THE worst day ever…”Sure, I’m fine.”
On Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Where do I even begin? Sigh….
I don’t know how this even came to be. I just remember always having it. There was always something not right about what I saw in the mirror and in photos. I looked deformed. My body was a strange shape. I was overweight (I wasn’t at that time). My eyes and nose looked like they were not formed correctly. My reflection looked like I was gazing into a fun house mirror. I often self-harmed to try and cut the ugliness out of myself, or to achieve the feeling of having a good cry when I was too numb to actually produce tears.
Then I started gaining weight, and it didn’t make sense. I exercised, dieted, took diet pills, starved myself, made myself throw up after eating. I look back at photos of myself now and see there was absolutely nothing wrong with me! But the weight gain was due to a dysfunctional thyroid (hypothyroidism, which I call hippo-thyroidism because ), which I still deal with. The medication I take for it, which brings my TSH levels down to where they’re supposed to be, ironically contributes to the weight gain, so I don’t take it regularly as I’m supposed to. It’s kind of a cruel joke, actually. If you look at me, you’d never think that I haven’t eaten in two days I still struggle with my weight, and will always look like I could stand to lose 10-15lbs, no matter how I work out or how unforgivably mean I can be to myself when it comes to food/eating/restriction/purging.
I was diagnosed with BDD in my very early teens, but gave up on psychology after three therapists didn’t make a dent. I toy with the idea of trying again, but I’m skeptical. Plus, my copayments per session are not cheap. And I’m not down with psyche meds for myself, personally. I saw them destroy my mother’s body and I just feel they’re not worth it (again, for myself…I’ve seen them change lives for others, and I think that’s amazing!)
Here’s where it gets weird, though. I spent my entire life up to last year battling the grotesque monster I saw in my reflection, trying to get a handle on myself and my anxiety over eating and gaining weight. I actually was doing really well. I was going to the gym regularly, eating pretty healthy, not drinking, doing well with not eating junk food, and I could actually stand looking at myself in the mirror and having my photo taken. I lost my mother, and with her unexpected death I felt like I’d unexpectedly died as well. Nothing was recognizable anymore. I couldn’t process thoughts or emotions and just binged on booze for a month. I couldn’t eat food. I felt like I had lost all fight for my life. The only thing that was familiar was the monster in the mirror. Suddenly, it wasn’t the enemy anymore. I sort of felt like I just let it become me, like the two became one, and let it live for me until I was ready to slip back into my life once more…and I’ve been living that way since (which I realise is by no means healthy).
As of right now, I cannot look in the mirror. The reflection frightens me. I don’t recognise her. I hate her sometimes because I feel like she is a lie. And this isn’t even focusing on the flaws! I REFUSE to be in photos. I see myself as 50+lbs heavier than I actually am. I have anxiety attacks when it comes to eating and go up to three days without food sometimes. I’ll eat when I feel shooting pains in my gut (but then I’ll have ‘fuck it!’ days and enjoy two healthy meals, which is huge for me). I make a point of not looking into full-length mirrors. They’re not worth the anxiety attacks.
The best part? Next to no one knows that I suffer from this. I only bring it up if someone repeatedly offers me food and it becomes obvious that I keep declining. I’d rather be someone with food baggage than a dick to someone I care about!
On Dealing with This Clusterfuckerry
1. I do make a point of trying to laugh at myself/my circumstances as often as I can manage. If I can find the humour in my circumstances and myself, I feel like I’m taking the power back. That perhaps it’s not so big and bad and horrific, after all (bullsh!t…yes it is, but this little mind game that I play with myself works from time to time). Also, I make jokes at myself before anyone else gets the chance to. I’m taking that opportunity away from others, and showing that they have nothing on me/no power over me (a self-deprecating defense mechanism, of sorts). As Carrie Fisher said, “If my life wasn’t funny, then it would just be true. And that is unacceptable!”
2. Friends (the people, not the TV show…although the TV show is pretty cool, too!) With the exception of making them cry and having to comfort them when I talk about coping with being lost and not having parents, I have some pretty bomb-@ss people in my life. They’ve kept me rooted in reality, let me be an annoying emo wreck when I need to and love me anyway, indulged me in beautifully soulful conversations (sometimes at ungodly hours, without murdering me…thanks guys! :), and reciprocate my snark in impressive fashion. I was dreading my birthday this week, but they went above and beyond to make sure I smiled and even nailed it with gifts that I said I didn’t want (a Sad Ghost Club ‘Still Sad’ hat (excellent website with cute stuff, by the way!), cologne and perfume for each of my moods/sides, and enough drinking chocolate for the year). If I didn’t have them checking in on me regularly, I might not be here typing this right now. Seriously, they help me more than they’ll ever know!
3. I think it’s natural to compare ourselves to others, but I’m making an active effort to do this less. I’ll never be a ‘typical’ woman (see Gender post, if you haven’t reached “STFU, Sam!” level yet), I’ll never be the tall skinny-minnie type that I wish I could be. And I think I’d be bored, quite honestly, if I were. Deep down, I think(?) I like myself.
I also make an active effort to compliment at least three random strangers daily. People can be skeptical or sleazy, unfortunately (New York, what a town!), but for the most part the compliments are received well. If I can make someone feel good about themselves, even for just a moment, I feel happy. They feel happy. We all win.
So there it is…way too much info about me, how I deal with this nonsense, etc. Whenever I get a “how do you deal…” message, I’ll direct people to this post!