I’m working toward a degree in social work, and my union is paying for me to get my associate’s. After that I’ll probably transfer to the local university (which I dropped out of 12 years ago because I was not a stable person back then) and get my bachelor’s and master’s from there.
You can do a lot with a Master’s in Social Work. You can do so many fucking things.
Education means choices. I’ve worked for the same employer for over 4 years now, and I’ve been in my current job for just over two years. I was really in love with my job for the first year and a half. I get to help people. Isn’t that cool?
And then I got hurt.
I started seeing a new therapist today. My longtime therapist, who I saw for about 9 years but has since moved on to the more administrative side of things and in fact now runs the practice, recommended her. And we just clicked immediately. I like her a lot. I talked about a lot of things, because, y’know, first session with a new therapist. Instead of feeling exhausted afterward, I felt energized and excited.
And one of the things I told her is that I’m doing really well in school. I know I already said that, but it’s important.
My brain injury really fucked up my life. Most of my symptoms have finally abated, but some are sticking around and might be permanent. I can deal with those, I think. They suck, but I can figure it out.
My work performance has suffered. My overall health has suffered. My personal life was affected. I have terrible memory now. I have trouble focusing. My spelling and typing have gone to shit. I have frequent, sometimes debilitating headaches. I often feel despair, which passes, but it’s not fun.
Through all this, my GPA stayed fucking solid. For the last two terms I’ve gotten all A’s. This term I’m taking statistics, and as someone who hasn’t done any math above arithmetic for about 24 years, stats is a fucking challenge. But I’m acing it. I’m acing everything. I started college again at 39, and it seems I was finally ready to do it right. I’m a good student. I’m wicked smart. I’m doing it. It feels like I’m learning to ride a bike without training wheels. Look at me goooooooooooo.
But when it comes to work, I just feel so trapped. My husband and I have great insurance because of my work. I am getting an associates degree for free because of my work. I have stability because of my work. And it fucking beats a lot of other jobs I’ve had.
It’s just really hard to come back from what I’ve seen. It’s hard to know that if I get sick again, I’m kind of on my own. Leave and benefits won’t give me clear instructions. My short term disability insurance, which I opted into and comes right out of my paycheck, seems fucking useless. They’re still processing my claim and sending me forms saying that they’re still processing my claim. And my team, who I gave so much of myself to not let down, doesn’t really seem to care. I think they’re all sick of me being sick.
As if I’m not.
So I’m in school. And my grades are very good. And I’m going to get my degree, and then get the next degree, and get the NEXT degree, and then… then I will have leverage. I will have choices. I will be able to decide where I want to go next. I won’t have to worry quite as much, I hope. I won’t have to be an Office Assistant anymore, at the bottom of the totem pole, replaceable and negligible and treated like a liability because I had the audacity to get a fucking TBI.
So, according to the title of this post and the song that inspired it, “everybody’s working for the weekend.”
You know what I do on my weekends?
Statistics. And whatever other courses are required for my major. And I like it.
School means choices. I’m not going to fuck it up this time.
I used to be someone who cried a lot. Happy or sad scenes in movies, frustration or sadness in my own life. I used to cry probably more than was healthy. But it was good to cry.
Something changed. It started when I was 20, during a very difficult summer. I dropped acid and slept with my friend’s 33-year-old boyfriend while she was away on a trip. Then I went on a 40-day vacation to Boston, Vermont, and London– and on my second-to-last day in London, I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle. Later that summer, I found out my parents were divorcing. I was a mess. Everything I thought I knew to be stable was suddenly shaky. A lot of the drama was self-created, but a lot of it wasn’t. These are just the highlights.
I had always been an exploder. I became an imploder. Instead of striking out at others I mostly punished myself. I guess I still blew up at people from time to time, and even before this I tended to take things out on myself– and I have the scars to prove it. But one thing that changed was that I stopped really being able to cry, no matter how sad I was.
I took an Eastern Philosophy class at the local community college (My Pretend College, for my hometown readers.) I don’t remember it being a very good class, but it certainly wasn’t the sort of thing that makes one silently sob behind their hands. But one night, when I was 21, that’s what I did. I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. I wasn’t making any noise. I don’t think anyone even really noticed at first. But I just could. not. stop leaking water from my eyes. I wasn’t really sad about anything in particular; I was sad about everything. And at this point it had been about six months since I’d been able to cry, so this one night I just couldn’t stop. I had friends in the class, and someone had to drive me home because the leaking would not stop.
Over time, and because of an abusive relationship that made me cry a whole fucking lot, I eventually regained the use of my tear ducts. But because my ex was so awful, I stopped fighting back because I’d learned it didn’t do a whole lot of good. The times I did strike out, it was mostly physical. He got in my face one day, mocking me when I said “you won’t let me have any friends.” He said it back sneeringly, “you won’t let me have any friiieeends.” And I scratched his face so hard that he bled. Another time I whipped him in the face with my leather jacket when he had me cornered and was screaming at me. But I did not tend to yell. And when I hit him, he tended to stop. The day I made him bleed, he told his shocked coworkers “you didn’t hear what I said to her.” You’d think that would have made him reexamine his treatment of me, but it didn’t.
When my brother did the bad thing when I was 30, I didn’t yell back at him. I collapsed into a heap of tears, because I’d learned that’s what we do with abusers. We make ourselves at pathetic and small as possible so that maybe they’ll stop.
Anyway. I can yell now. I have regained that ability. But I usually have my temper under control, and I tend to write letters when I’m really pissed off. So I can yell, if I have to. I just can’t cry.
As I’ve said in previous posts, this year has been really damned hard for me. Health issues, family issues, work issues, oh my.
I can’t remember the last time I had a good cry. And holy hell, I need one.
I still feel like things are mostly good, or will be mostly good soon. My marriage is astonishingly stable. My cats are astonishingly cute. I’m pretty good at my job. The head injury is finally loosening its grip on my brain. I had oral surgery and was in pain for longer than seemed reasonable, but that’s getting better too. I have a little more energy now. I feel less defeated.
I don’t know why my tear factory laid off all its workers. I don’t know how I can be profoundly sad and not shed a single tear. I well up sometimes, but my cheeks stay dry.
I feel emotionally constipated. This is not my usual state. Maybe it’s because of the vast number of pills I have to take to be a functional adult. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up. I don’t know.
I don’t have a good ending for this. It’s just on my mind today.
Song in title is from a musical called Brownstone, but I’m familiar with it from Bette Midler’s cover.
In March, I got a concussion. The story behind it is pretty incredible.
I had some Major Dental Drama in 2019 when I decided to get dental implants done in Mexico. They were not done well, and what I went through was traumatizing and horrible and I would recommend that you don’t get dental implants in Mexico, because in my case (even seeing a well-reviewed doc) it made my oral cavity situation so so so so so so much worse. Unremitting pain for weeks. Don’t do it. So I’m already pretty fucked-up by/about dentists and oral surgeons.
But I need to get all this shitty shit repaired. So I’ve been seeing specialists in my area to get this whole thing managed and get some pretty new teefs put in my head. An important step was taking the old implants out. And that’s why I went to the oral surgeon in March– after much preparation and many visits with this surgeon and other specialists, I was finally ready to have that hardware yanked out of my jaw.
Let me back up a bit here: in 2004, I had my wisdom teeth out. I was 23, which is pretty late, but it was time. And the oral surgeon gave me Versed, which is a drug they use to knock you the fuck out. I did not react well to it. I apparently got combative, my heartrate got above 200bpm, and they almost had to call 911. But they got the teeth out, yay, hooray. That was a long time ago, but I have mentioned to anyone else who wants to render me unconscious that Versed is not a good idea.
I mentioned my paradoxical reaction to Versed to my (erstwhile) oral surgeon during our first visit, and he said “oh, we use Propofol.” So I was assured.
Well, readers, he fucking used Versed.
My last memory is of him placing the IV (on the second try, and I have great veins) and then YANKING my left arm before I passed out. No announcement that they were injecting me. Just POKE YANK BLACKNESS. I woke up about an hour later. Crying. Hysterical. Terrified. I asked one of the women in the room “Did something happen?” and she was like oh of course not you’re fine it’s totally normal to wake from anesthesia terrified and unable to stop crying for 20 minutes. They wanted to get my friend/driver Jay, to come in, but I told them not to. I was embarrassed and confused and altogether very, very upset.
Eventually they walked me out to Jay’s car and he drove me home. I had gauze stuffed in my face-hole so I couldn’t tell him what had happened, but I was obviously a mess.
Jay gets me home. My husband puts me to bed. I couldn’t really walk on my own. I spent the day sleeping it off.
It wasn’t until the next day that I was laying in bed with my husband and he noticed significant bruising on my left arm. Lemme show ya:
Those are obvious finger-marks on my arm. I was black and blue for a couple of weeks. I also discovered muscle strains in both of my forearms, which weren’t visible but were very, uh, feel-able. As the days went on, I found a lump on my head. I felt like I had whiplash, my neck and shoulders were all messed up (still are!) And a few days after the surgery, I figured out that I most likely had a concussion. So I went to see my primary doctor, who is amazing, and she said “yup, that seems like a concussion.” And then a week or so later I realized that I was obviously suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome, because the dizziness, confusion, lack of concentration and other AMAZING! FUN! SYMPTOMS! were not going away. This was also confirmed by my doctor. This isn’t my first concussion, nor is it my first Post Concussion Bullshit rodeo. It’s bullshit, in case you were wondering.
Sooooo I filled out FMLA paperwork, which was approved. I got referred for a CT scan, which thankfully is clear. And I was referred to brain injury rehab, which I’m being evaluated for on June 1st.
During the course of all this unneeded bullshit, I emailed my surgeon’s office. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know if they’d given me Versed. After a lot of hemming and hawing and “why don’t you just call?” and “I’ll have to get back to you on that” I got a 2000+ word screed from the surgeon, in the middle of which he sheepishly admitted he’d given me Versed. He had reasons, of course. It’s a very safe drug! Complications aren’t unheard of! Other drugs can also cause bad reactions! And to counteract the Versed, they pumped me full of Ketamine, which made it worse. Then they finally, finally gave me FUCKING PROPOFOL which is what I had told them I tolerated well, had experience with, was comfortable with– a drug that, without prompting, the surgeon had told me was the standard drug they used for such procedures. And they had to give me such massive amounts of Propofol to counteract the Versed and the Ketamine that I stopped breathing several times.
I was livid. I remain livid. Obviously, he’s fucking fired– which I decided after I went to a follow-up visit and he fucking POKED my healing mouth-wounds with a POKEY THING and it HURT and I swear the man is a fucking sadist. This wasn’t the first or even second time he was way too rough with me, but it was definitely the last time.
It’s over two months later, and the symptoms of the concussion are still affecting my work. It’s affecting my home life. I can’t reliably concentrate, keep track of time, retain information, or not fuck up everything all the time because of this. I have to go to rehab because of this. It has put a strain on my professional and personal relationships. It is the opposite of good. I can drive most days, because that only requires 10-20 minutes of concentration at a stretch. I can usually do that. I can make simple recipes, but I’m likely to skip steps or mess up if I try to do anything that isn’t super familiar. I can’t make decisions or figure out what the right course of action is. It has made me dependent on my husband in ways I don’t want to be. It has made me dependent on my coworkers in ways that cause me to feel shame.
The words that keep coming to mind are awful and devastating.
But Kate, you’re writing! It seems like you can still write! Yeah, I can do that. It’s one of the things I can do. Which is good, because I’m in college right now in addition to working 40 hours a week. My essays aren’t brilliant, but they’re adequate, and my grades haven’t really suffered.
But I’m exhausted all the time. And if I push myself too hard, all I can do is sleep. And “too hard” means “the way I expect to be able to perform, and how my job expects me to perform.” So it’s been problematic. They’ve been pretty great about it, but it sucks.
Ever since I started my Fitness Quest last year, I’d been feeling a lot better. I’ve had chronic pain my whole life, depression and other mental health issues for as long as I can remember. Walking around my neighborhood helped with that. Along with the pills I take every day to keep me on a relatively even keel, walking made me more emotionally healthy, gave me energy, and helped me lose over 40 lbs.
But now I don’t have enough energy to walk.
I’m used to being sick, is my point. Except, for almost a year, I wasn’t really sick. I wasn’t depressed most of the time. I wasn’t in a lot of pain. And this health crisis has put me back in the position of being feeble, of needing help, of being a fucking invalid.
I hates it, my precioussesssss.
Keep on Keepin’ On
But here’s the reason I titled this post the way I did:
I take my pills every night. I’m on Lexapro for the crazy and Yaz (birth control) for the really crazy, because I suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder so severe that, when unmedicated, I’m suicidally depressed for over half the days out of every month. Everyone hates me, is out to get me, isn’t doing their share, and I might as well just die because nothing is ever going to get better.
I’ve been on Lexapro for a few years and Yaz for about as long. And they’ve been miraculous.
You know what else is miraculous? I’ve been employed steadily for almost 5 years, first through a temp agency, and then I got hired permanently (because of a temp placement!) by the county in which I reside. I went from being on food stamps to working for a place that administers them!
The steady income, the feeling of usefulness, and just the stability of it all has also had a miraculous effect on my mental health. My longest period of unemployment in those 5 years is two weeks in between temp gigs. AND my union has a free college program, and through that I’m working on getting my AAS in Social Work. Then I’ll transfer to Portland State, which has an excellent Social Work program, to do my Bachelors and Masters degrees. This is already in the works! Do you know how much shit you can do with an MSW? A lot! A lot of shit!
It took until I was 35 to be able to show up to an office and not quit within a year or mess up so badly that I got fired. It took until I was about 37 to find the combination of drugs that keeps me relatively sane and healthy. And now I’m 40 and I have good hair, a husband I genuinely love and like, wonderful/diabolical cats, and a steady job. I don’t have trouble making rent. I have retirement benefits and good health insurance. I’m the breadwinner in my relationship. I don’t have to worry that I’m going to have to choose between food and gas. I have a car that hasn’t exploded yet. It’s all good, and a lot of it is better than good. A lot of things are great.
And I’m grateful. So incredibly grateful.
My mental illness was so bad for so long that my brain spent most of my life, from the age of 10 or 11, intermittently trying to kill me. I had calmer, better times, but they were short. And it always came back to the depression and the borderline and all the havoc they caused in my relationships and the inability to keep a job and the kinda-sorta being homeless and the calls to my Mom that scared the shit out of her because her daughter just wanted to die and couldn’t think of a good reason to keep going.
I kept going. But it took until I was 29 to learn what it felt like to not wake up and immediately feel overwhelmed with dread, and that little peaceful little meadow in the dark forest was a place I only stayed in for about nine months. Other than that, my life was pretty fucking awful from the time I was 11 until I was in my late thirties. It took a couple stays in the loony bin, going through (and this is not an exaggeration) at least 20 therapists, trying more medications than I can count, and fucking up a whole lot for me to get here. I wrecked friendships, relationships, people, myself. Oh, and a few cars.
Looking back on all that, it’s hard to tell anyone else that they should go through what I went through because eventually! you might!?! be happy!!! but goddamnit, I’m so glad I didn’t die. Because things right now, other than the head injury and the stupidity that it entails, are awesome.
Did I mention that I have good hair?
I long suspected that if you could just remove all the nasty mental illness shit, I’d be a pretty happy person. And it’s true! Isn’t that a trip?
This might not be the message of hope that Hallmark wants to sell you, but let me repeat it. I am so glad I didn’t die.
I might have to start wearing a helmet, though. Concussions are a bitch.
I turned 35 two days ago. I was pretty freaked-out by that number, but I’m feeling okay about it now. I still feel about 16, deep down. I’m trying to treat this birthday like a New Year, in that I’m making resolutions and trying to just… make my life better. You know?
It’s been months and months of sitting on my ass, feeling decrepit and sorry for myself, and I’m sick of it. I’m not back to 100% and there are things I can’t reasonably do, but there are a lot of things I can do and should at least try.
So I’m visiting doctors to try to get better, and taking my pills to try to stay sane, and I still feel like crap and kind of like dying, but there’s hope here as well, and that’s keeping me going.
When I turned 30, I freaked the hell out. I’m glad I’m not doing that now. Getting older is so weird. I don’t feel different, except in the ways that I do. Older, wiser maybe, a lot more exhausted. Today I’m swinging between panic and excitement.
So this post is just checking in, I guess. Hello, Internet. I’m still here.
“Don’t borrow trouble” is something my mom says to me when I’m worrying about something I have no control over. It means that it’s silly to stress out about things before you know what you’re up against. I think it’s a pretty good idea, but it doesn’t always work.
At the beginning of summer this year, I started having weird symptoms. Some of them could be dismissed as symptoms of known or suspected illnesses, but all of them together seemed like something I should pay attention to.
Strange visual disturbances (flashes of light)
Minor aphasia (words coming out jumbled or incorrect)
Minor ataxia (lack of coordination, especially in my right hand)
Inattention/lack of focus
Short-term memory loss
This was in addition to the joint pain, headaches, stomach issues, and other assorted FUN! things I always have going on. The above symptoms were either new or worsened.
The extra-alarming thing about all these symptoms is that I’d experienced them back in early 2012. At the time I blamed them on the car accident I’d had in November of 2011, and my neurologist diagnosed me with Post-Concussion Syndrome.
PCS doesn’t reappear 3.5 years later. I have had no recent head trauma. So it’s gotta be something else, and it’s not a coincidence.
I’m still having that FUN! assortment of symptoms, but with some new, exciting ones too!
Worsening lack of coordination in both hands
I’m spacey pretty much all the time
Petichiae (clusters of burst blood vessels under the skin)
Those who know me might think I’m something of a hypochondriac, but this isn’t true. I just happen to often be hyperaware of any weird things going on in my body because I have so much annoying shit wrong with me already. I might unnecessarily jump to conclusions, but I don’t diagnose myself off WebMD. I talk to real doctors, I research things, and I don’t “borrow trouble.”
…but I’ve had my suspicions on this one. And it’s because of The West Wing. Yes, the TV show that ran from 1999-2007. It’s a really great show, you should watch it.
Martin Sheen plays an idealized president. It’s unrealistic and wonderful. Anyway, fairly early into the show (maybe the beginning of season two?) we find out that President Bartlet has a chronic, incurable disease. It causes a bunch of crises and good TV drama. Yay.
It planted an idea in my head.
But I try not to borrow trouble.
I’m trying to get disability. I went and got evaluated by a doctor last week as part of that (long, arduous) process, and when I told him my symptoms, he asked…
“Have you ever been screened for multiple sclerosis?”
But that’s what I’ve been thinking too.
I have an appointment with a neurologist in two weeks. I am not panicking, or not much. I am trying not to borrow trouble. But I’ve done a LOT of reading, and… damn. It sure sounds like MS. There are plenty of other things it could be. But none of them fit quite like MS does.
It could also be a brain tumor! I wouldn’t prefer a brain tumor.
It could not, however, be “nothing,” as someone recently suggested. This is not “nothing.” Trust me. Something is wrong, and I have a feeling it’s going to change my life in ways I can’t yet predict.
I don’t know what’s wrong yet. I am trying not to panic. But every night I find myself researching MS, learning how it’s diagnosed and treated, wondering how it’ll affect my life, whether it’ll be mostly annoying or totally devastating. It manifests differently for everyone, it seems. Some are inconvenienced. Some are crippled.
I haven’t been getting a lot of sleep.
They’ll do blood tests, and probably an MRI, and probably a spinal tap. Those are to rule things out more than anything else, because there’s no definitive test for MS in a living patient. They can find indicators, but they can’t prove it. It’s just an educated guess. Which will probably involve a spinal tap. I am not looking forward to the spinal tap.
I’m not really looking for advice right now. Since I don’t know what I’m up against, I don’t know how to fight it yet. But I think I’m going to buy a day planner to keep track of my health, mood, level of activity, food intake, and other related things.
I also don’t really want to be told to keep my chin up. This is scary and I’m being as brave as I know how to be.
About eight months ago, I started hanging out with T. T is awesome. In mid-July I went over to his place after a party and sort of never left. It is a good thing and we’re happy and I’m sure I’ll tell you all more about him soon.
I am not dead, in case you were wondering.
I had this idea in my head of writing some big thought-piece about feelings and blame and letting things go, but I am hung over and in pain (I threw out my back!) so I think I’ll just not do that right now.
A couple times in the last week-or-so, a person has said said “I’ve been reading your blog, and it sounds like you’re doing a lot better.”
The last six months of my life have all been after. After that point in September when I realized that it seemed like a perfectly rational thing to just kill myself. So I called my mother, and I got some help, and… nothing really changed. Things got worse, for awhile. Am I better than I was when things were worse? Certainly I feel better, most of the time, than I did at the end of December when I walked into the emergency room and told them I was thinking of killing myself, and could use some immediate assistance. I feel better than I did in early January, going back to that same hospital every day to sit in a room of strangers and try to just make it until 3:30 when I could go home and sleep or cry or whatever far away from hostile eyes.
But I haven’t really come around to the point where it doesn’t seem like a perfectly rational idea to kill myself if things don’t get drastically better soon. I said at the beginning of the year that if 2014 is as terrible as 2013 was, I don’t see the point in continuing.
It feels like a waste of resources. I am exhausted all the time. I am sick all the time, actually physically ill. The other night I vomited out the door of my cab between fares and still kept trying to work for another two hours. I know that sometimes we have to soldier on through bad days, but I have had so many bad days and so few very good ones that, in my darker moments, there just doesn’t seem to be any point. Other people have to take care of me because I can’t take care of myself. I’m awful to be around sometimes. I want it to stop.
What changed in September was that, for the first time, my suicidal thoughts weren’t out of sheer desperation. I certainly felt desperate and frantic, but there was this cool, calculated core of the thought underneath when it just made sense to give up. Not to make the pain stop, but to stop wasting time and energy trying to make this life work.
When my brother’s wife decided to shut me out last March, after we’d been best friends for almost three years, something broke in me. The way things disintegrated with my roommate D only reinforced my feelings of being unlovable and broken. I can’t hold a job. I have no energy. All my optimism comes in short-lived spurts, and that’s when I usually post to this blog. That’s the face I show. I try to insulate the people I care about from the worst of what I’m feeling.
I will whine and bitch about a stubbed toe, but I’ll bleed to death alone in the dark without making a peep, to be melodramatic about it. I hide my pain behind smaller pain. People assume that if I were really hurt, I’d say something, because when has Kate ever held back from expressing herself?
All the damned time. That’s when.
I am not in active crisis right now, at this moment. But things aren’t looking great. I have a new car and an awesome kid in my life. It’s spring, and we’re in the midst of a stretch of absolutely gorgeous days.
But it isn’t enough. None of it is enough. I feel like I’m decaying, corroding, stagnating.
I had a panic attack on the way to the grocery store today, and Jeremy had to bring me home. I am terrified of driving and constantly feel like I’m going to get into an accident, which is backed up by the fact that I got a ticket last week for making a dangerous left turn into oncoming traffic, and I was almost hit by a car. But I scream at Jeremy whenever he makes a “mistake” when he drives and constantly criticize him. So I’m terrified of being a passenger, too.
On Saturday, Jeremy and I drove out into Mt. Hood National Forest and put 190 miles on the Civic in one afternoon. It was a great day. I only screamed at him a few times for not observing proper following distance or for making lane-changes that I thought were “indecisive.” When we weren’t around other cars, I was fine. I was in two serious car accidents in less than two years, remember. And lately, more than makes sense, I’m in constant fear of getting into another which, consequently, makes me a worse driver. I hate being in cars, much of the time, and I am a cab driver.
And if someone treated me the way I treat my boyfriend, I would have left them a long time ago. I dragged him into my therapy session the other day (since he drove me there) and my shrink said that it’s not my job to tell him how to react to my outbursts. This may be true, but I still find myself horrified by them. I don’t want to be that sort of person. And I don’t know how to stop, except by stopping to be any sort of living person at all.
I need to have a good summer. I will spend it in nature as much as possible. I will try to sing more, in all seasons, because it makes me happy. And keep holding on, as hard and as long as I can.
When I was in high school, I weighed (at various times) between 98 and 115 lbs. When I got up to 115, I felt fat. When I was under 110, I felt good about myself.
When I got my driver’s license in early 1998, I wasn’t yet 17. The weight listed was the same as on my permit (back when it was true): 105 lbs. I chuckled to myself because I knew for a fact I’d never get back to that weight again. It was a funny fiction, and something I didn’t bother to change. I had that same info on my ID (including the nearly-identical replacement) until I was 29.
This is what I looked like when I was 17, at about 110, much of which was muscle, because I was in the “best” shape of my life.
I showed that picture to a friend last year, and he said “you look like you were dying.” I responded “I was.”
So much of my self-esteem was bound up in being a pretty girl, in being thin and lanky with perky tits and still able to eat whatever I wanted. When the above picture was taken, I was barely eating, and swimming several times a week. I’d just gotten out of my first serious relationship, and I learned for the first time what people mean when they say that anorexia is primarily a disease of control. Weight is something one can control when the rest of the world is chaos. And I was out of control and, yes, I look like I was dying because I was trying to gradually kill myself.
I gained weight and got somewhat healthy. I was still thin, about 120 lbs., but I wanted to lose weight. Not much. Ten pounds maybe. But I had the tiniest hint of a belly. I thought that if i could start working out again and eat better, I’d be as close to perfect as someone with tiny tits and a shitty jawline could ever be. Of course, I’d never be gorgeous but I could pass for pretty. With some work. Here’s a picture of me and my brother, dancing to “Old Time Rock And Roll” at his wedding in August 2001:
Two days after this photo was taken, I found out that my parents were getting divorced. That summer had been, frankly, horrifying and terrible (my parents’ divorce was just the latest disaster,) and I lost a shit-ton of weight again by that winter, when this photo was taken.
But I got “healthy” again. I gained weight. I was eating badly, and kinda chubby for my weight because I was so out of shape, but I was a size 6.
Around the time I turned 22, the anorexia came back with a vengeance. I went from a healthy-ish 125 (someone described me, at this point, as “fleshy”) to 105 in about six weeks. I’d gone through another bad breakup, couldn’t eat without feeling sick, and got ridiculously thin. There was a lot else that went into it; I was doing a lot of drugs and staying out all night and drinking a lot and mostly eating bran muffins from Starbucks and drinking chai. That’s where I got my calories. My shit smelled like… well, shit. Baby shit. Because I wasn’t eating enough solids, I had diarrhea all the time. I was always cold. Shivering when other people were warm.
This is the time in my life when I really wish that someone had spoken up and seen that I desperately needed help. Some people voiced concern, but many of them just stopped talking to me because I was too much drama to handle. I can’t blame them for that, looking back. Not only was I high all the time, I was sort of a bad person for awhile. And I hated myself, but I loved being thin. I knew I was hurting myself. I wanted to hurt myself.
But, of course, when I hooked up with Mike that next winter, he started force-feeding me. I got ridiculously fat!
The way my thighs kinda… blurp… down in those chubby little rolls was a great source of shame for me. I thought I was ugly and needed to start dressing like a fat old fatty because, well, look at me! I had gotten out of control!
And as the years went by, being with an abusive, alcoholic fucktard took its toll, and when we finally did break up in early 2008, I actually– gulp– was overweight. For the first time in my life. And I was goddamned horrified.
I still felt pretty, still felt desirable… but, y’know, for a fat chick. In that picture I’m probably about 170 lbs. I hadn’t weighed myself in forever, and when I first saw that number, I honestly felt like a failure. I enjoyed the big boobs, but I promised myself that I would lose weight and keep it off and never get that fat again. Over the next six months I lost 30 lbs by dancing, eating better, and not being in a relationship with an abusive, alcoholic fucktard.
So let’s skip to mid-2012. I’m living back in California, but about to move to Oregon. Life has not been swell. I had moved to SF, got dumped by my SF-dwelling boyfriend right after I moved, and then was in a car accident where I sustained a head injury and hurt my back. I was not ok. I’d had to move back to my mother’s, and I’d struggled to get medical care, got laid off from my job, and found out my mom was losing the house and I had to move again soon.
I was, once again, the heaviest I’d ever been. 180 lbs! Holy shitballs, I was wearing size 14! I no longer got skinny when I was stressed out, I ate and ate and ate. This photo was me trying to accept myself. Trying to get it under control again, but safely, smartly, with self-love and all that shit. I thought it would work this time. I resolved to swim all summer when I got back to Portland, to get actually healthy. But it didn’t go that way. Life continued to suck. My job situation remained unstable. I got up over 200 lbs.
And in September 2013, I got into another car accident, which triggered an emotional breakdown, which triggered an inpatient stay at a mental health facility, at which point I weighed 210. My boobs were, and are, HUGE. Well, huge for someone who used to have tiny bumps where other women (my mom included, even at her thinnest) had a RACK. I was always comparing myself to other people. I was always comparing myself to myself.
Which is why I was so shocked when that guy said “You look like you were dying” about that first picture up there. Because I’d always thought it was a great picture. I longed to have shoulder blades that jutted, arms that didn’t pudge, knees that I wasn’t ashamed to show in a skirt. He said something else, too: “I think you’re way hotter now.”
My mind was blown.
Who would want a girl with this body? Stretch marks where there used to be smoothness! Thighs that rub the fabric thin on the legs of my jeans! Arms that don’t fit into some dress shirts! CELLULITE.
I’ve lost something like 15 or 20 pounds in the last few months. I’m eating better. I plan to start exercising. And after almost 33 years of a life that has been, in so many ways, colored by my shame over my body (even when I was super thin,) I think I’m ready to fucking STOP. Just stop.
My self-worth doesn’t depend on which parts jut and which parts pudge. My moral character has nothing to do with numbers on a scale. I’m actually a bit sickened by the fact that I know how much I weighed in all of those photos. Why does it matter? Who cares?
I care, I guess. Some other people might care. But what bothers me now is that my back hurts all the time. I don’t move as well as I used to. Plus-size clothing can be super cute, if you know how to shop, but mostly it’s pretty sad. Trying to buy a cute bra when you’re sporting double-D cups is… hard. They’re all “smoothing” and “minimizing” at that stage. As if fat chicks don’t want hella cleavage too.
When I was thin, I hated my tiny tits, and hated myself for not being more “womanly,” whatever that means. When I got fat, every time I reached THE FATTEST I HAVE EVER BEEN OH MY LORD I hated myself for my lack of self-control. I have always been vain, and I have always felt not-good-enough. These things are inexorably linked.
So now, a bit into the new year that followed the worst year of my life (and that’s saying something,) I’m resolving to just… be okay. Be okay with wherever I am, whatever I look like. Be okay with not being the hottest girl in the room, not having a 26-inch waist, not being “perfect.”
And I have a goal weight. 150 lbs. Because of all the pictures of my body, this is the one that makes me the happiest:
This is me at 29 or 30. This is what I looked like and weighed and how I dressed when I was happy. I had curves, but I wasn’t fat. I had a waist, but I wasn’t skinny. My boobs were a tolerable 36C. I could zip up my Doc Marten high heeled boots. And I went out all the time, and I danced, and I ate a lot of avocado, and while I still thought I was fat and needed to DO MORE so I WEIGHED LESS, I did generally feel pretty good about myself. I didn’t worry about what I ate, but I tried to eat well. I didn’t go out of my way to exercise, but I did get exercise. This is the same era when the below photo was taken:
That’s the biggest I’d smiled in a picture in about ten years.
I no longer aspire to be skinny. Not just because it’s unrealistic, but because it’s unhealthy for me. I worried about my weight so much more when it was close to 100 lbs than I do now that it’s close to 200. I was obsessed. Now I’m merely concerned. I want to be healthy and in less pain and able to move around without having to worry about throwing my back out. I want to have boobs that don’t weigh so much that they yank on my shoulderblades (no longer jutting, of course.) I want to be able to zip my Docs again, damn it.
But I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to give it time. And I’m willing to love myself, as I am, and be kind to myself. Which is something I never was when I had a model-skinny body and turned all the heads.
I never realized how gorgeous I was, just as I was. I never realized that the prettiest thing about me was the light in my eyes. I thought that my life would be easier, better, happier, if I was perfect, but looking back, I see that I wasted years of my life and so much energy trying to be something that isn’t only unattainable, but illusory. There is no perfect.
And I didn’t write this to solicit compliments, or even moral support. It’s just what’s on my mind right now, looking through all these old pictures and feeling so very sad for the girl in the early ones. In a way, getting fat has been a blessing. Not being anywhere within shouting distance of my old ideas of “perfect” has liberated me, mostly, from the desire to be “perfect.” Because life is short, and I’ve wasted enough of it.
And, well, I think I look hotter now than I did when I was starving. Pot belly, stretch-marks, and all.
I’ve been unmedicated since mid-January. Off the Effexor, which could have gotten me killed. Off the Lithium because it made be feel flat, like I hadn’t used color-safe bleach and all the colors had faded. So it’s just me. Unmedicated.
The one thing I still have is gapapentin, which gets rid of my headaches, and makes me feel giddy and slightly high. You can’t overdose on it, and I don’t take it very often. But I took it tonight.
I’m up at 4:30 in the morning, and I have a good and rational reason for it: I’m a night cabbie. My shifts last 12 hours and sometimes don’t end until sunrise. There’s a consolation in that, driving home and seeing the sun come up behind Mt. Hood. I didn’t work tonight, but I feel like if I have to be nocturnal, I might as well get used to it. I am once again a vampire.
I’ve been losing weight, which is fine because I got up to about 210 lbs. last fall, and wanted to cut hunks of fat off myself. I’m lucky; I inherited my mother’s genes, so even at this rather extreme weight, I’m proportional. I haven’t weighed myself lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were under 190 now. I haven’t been exercising or paying a great deal of attention to diet, it’s just that more and more foods seem to make me sick. Sushi doesn’t, so I eat a lot of that when I can afford it. Drinking a lot of smoothies. I’m hungry all the time, but my stomach cramps and I feel nauseous when I eat the wrong things. Sometimes I vomit. I soldier on.
The job is going well. I’m better at it than I expected. I’m still learning how to be a cabbie, but I’ve always been a good conversationalist, and my customers seem to like that. It’s a very free job, I go where I want or where the fares take me, and I can have a break whenever. I’ve mostly stopped smoking again (betcha didn’t even know I’d started,) so I puff on my e-cig constantly. I can do that in my cab so I take fewer breaks. I make a lot of money when I try. People seem to like me.
But the depression is still here, tearing holes in my heart. The mania manifests in restlessness, sleeplessness. One would think that driving all night would be good for someone with my temperament, and maybe it is or will be, but I so wanted to be the sort of person who slept at night and woke up in the morning. It seemed healthier, you know? Like what a real grownup would do.
The pieces are in place for me to have a good life. I have a good job, for now, which I’m good at most of the time. I have a sweet and amazingly patient partner who thinks I’m amazing and is pretty damned cool himself. I am making money and my situation is improving. I have plans, goals, hopes, dreams.
But I feel so lost. I am going through the motions. I don’t know how I feel about anything. I don’t know whether I like my job or hate it. I don’t know whether I want to be in a relationship at all. I was thinking the other day, wondering if I’m just with Jeremy because it’s better than being alone. Then I asked myself, how many of my relationships have actually been better than being alone? And then I laughed and realized that I think too much.
My mom is visiting next week. I haven’t seen her in a year and a half. That boggles my mind. Mom has been amazing and supportive through all the mental-health bullshit I’ve been through, unwavering, present, understanding. We are very close these days.
I guess I’ve sort of closed myself off. And I need to open back up if I want to get better. I just don’t really know what “better” looks like, yet, or how to get there. Drugs? Therapy? Buddhism? I think a lot about death, but passively. Wondering if I really am doomed to keep living like this, wondering if the merciful thing to do for myself would be just to end it. But then practicality steps in: it would be very cold jumping off the Fremont Bridge, and I can’t kill myself in Jeremy’s bathtub, the poor boy has been through enough.
So I live, I go to work and to therapy, I talk to my mother, I write blog posts. I try to take care of myself and get out of this fog. I am going through the motions, and I am basically fine.
I am not a great decorator. After Mike The Asshole told me my taste was tacky, I stopped putting things up on my walls for awhile. After we broke up, I of course plastered my walls with weird postcards and the like. But I’ve moved seven times in 3.5 years, and I seldom put anything up because it’s exhausting and I’m just gonna probably move in six months anyway.
So my current bedroom has only one thing on the walls.
It’s a letter my dad sent me years ago, when I was desperately poor and felt, well, lame. Because I needed help again and I felt like a 28-year-old shouldn’t be asking her daddy for money every month. I should have had my life together, and I didn’t. He sent a check, and included this note, and everywhere I’ve lived in the past five years, this has been on my wall.
I am, whatever our problems, and whether I want to be or not, Daddy’s Girl. I have always wanted to impress him. I tell people, “my father is brilliant, I am merely very,very bright.” My father has something like 13 patents. My father had a part on the space shuttle, although I’m not sure what. My daddy does things with lasers and tank armor and makes assloads of money and lives in a house with a glorious view of the Pacific. My father is generous and charitable and at times astonishingly kind.
Which is why this is so hard for me.
He doesn’t goddamned get it, at all.
Martha says it better than I can:
You say my time here has been some sort of joke
That I’ve been messing around
Some sort of incubating period
For when I really come around
I’m cracking up
And you have no idea
No idea how it feels to be on your own
In your own home
with the fucking phone
And the mother of gloom
In your bedroom
Standing over your head
With her hand in your head
With her hand in your head
I will not pretend
I will not put on a smile
I will not say I’m all right for you
When all I wanted was to be good
To do everything in truth
To do everything in truth
I don’t know if that conveys it to you, but it’s playing in my head on a constant loop these days.
I talked to my dad about 10 days ago. It was about an hour after my weekly therapy appointment (and two days before I cracked up and went to the hospital.) And he gave me his usual dad advice that what I probably needed was some stability, that I should get a job, that the happiest and most stable I’ve ever been was when I was working, and that my first priority should be getting back into school.
Let’s address these points, shall we?
I probably need some stability.
Well fucking DUH
I should get a job
I totally agree! That’s why I’m working on becoming a cabbie! Also, if you haven’t noticed, I’m losing my mind like right now this very moment and perhaps a desk job isn’t going to magically fix things.
The happiest and most stable I’ve ever been was when I was working
Y’know, I’d noticed that too! And I looked for work for months, but I’ve been sort of bedridden with this whole “I want to die I want to die I want to die” thing I’ve been indulging in lately, so it’s made it hard to keep keepin’ on. I applied for everything I could until I could no longer work anyway because the depression and anxiety were close to killing me.
You should go back to school (even though I’m unwilling to adequately support you while you do it.)
I dropped out of school when I was 28 because of what I now know was a raging case of bipolar disorder. I could not sit still in a classroom. I spent my days at home hating everything and my nights at bars with pretty boys because they were the only thing that reliably made me even temporarily less horrid. You won’t help me pay for it, and I’m ineligible for more loans.
And I have some points of my own!
If I went back to school now, the same goddamned thing would happen. I would crash and burn. I know it. This is not a guess, this is the truth.
The last job I had, I had to quit after five hours because I got a panic attack so bad that it gave me diarrhea.
My top priority right now is to get healthy.
My top priority right now should be to get healthy.
I cannot do anything useful until I am healthy.
I have lost 15 lbs in the past MONTH. That’s terrifying (although I did have it to spare.) When I try to eat normal food, I shit or vomit. I’m basically on a liquid diet most days, and that’s more expensive than you’d think. I’m going through withdrawal from Effexor, which means that I burst into tears sometimes and my head constantly feels like it’s receiving electric shocks. All I can think about all day is going to bed, but when bedtime rolls around, I’m wired and don’t get to sleep until 2am when I meant to be in bed at 9pm and have to be awake at 8am. I have not once been on time to the hospital where I spent 20-30 hours a week trying to get better. Getting better is exhausting. Lots of anger, lots of crying.
This is hell. This is hell. This is hell.
Honestly, I’m feeling hopeful and better and therapy is working and I think lithium might fix some of this so I go to my stupid groups and I take my stupid pills and I deal with the BZZZZZZZZZZT in my brain and I get by on not-enough sleep and I try my hardest not to buy that cute vintage jacket or fuck that cute boy because I don’t want my mania to rule my life.
And I unreservedly say FUCK YOU to anyone who has never been through this but thinks they know what’s best for me.
This is HELL. And I am fighting, and I am BRAVE, and I am STRONG and I am going to fucking BEAT THIS even if you don’t believe in me. Even if you think I’m not trying hard enough. All I do is try. I fight and fight and fight and this is hell hell hell.