Categories
body liberation Living While Fat My Story

Body Image, Gender, and Sexuality

I’m learning to accept my body as it is. It’s not always easy–it comes and goes–because I am very, very fat. Somewhere on the edge between superfat and infinifat, depending who you ask. Some days I am completely at home in here, and other days I feel like a caricature of a human being.

The thing is, I have been married a very long time (20+ years) and before that I never had any serious sexual or romantic relationships. I would have told you back then that I was entirely unattractive and no one would ever want me. For the first three or five years of my relationship with my now husband, I held my breath–not knowing if he was with me in spite of me being fat, and would one day “wake up” to my hideousness and move on. Eventually it became clear that he truly loved me, but even now I don’t know whether his appreciation of my body falls into the category of a fetish.

Now that I am learning to normalize the diversity of shape in the human body, I have certainly accepted that many different body types can be attractive. I spend time on Instagram admiring selfies of all sorts of people. But am I attractive? If I were to put myself out there, would men be interested in me? If they were, would it be “real” or would it be a fetish? What does that even mean? Is it possible for a person as far out from the norm as I am to just be attractive, or must there always be a frisson of the weird and taboo about me?

A related question is that of gender identity. I am a cis woman, and always have been, but I won’t say I’ve never had trans thoughts. Being a woman in a man’s world (and my work world is even more of a man’s world than 2019 America is in general) is not easy. I am a strong, assertive, impulsive, conflict-accepting personality. Combine all that with my body image issues and consistent self-desexualization, and you have a recipe for a person who wishes they were a man. I have done so for many years. I like to lip sync to the radio, to songs with male vocalists. Sometimes, just at the peak of the song, just for a moment, I can believe his voice comes from my throat and I am truly a man. And then the image snaps and I am back to confusion.

I would have guessed that if I ever became free of my mental issues, I would become more, not less, trans. Trans is something our culture frowns on, so wouldn’t I be more willing to be openly trans if I were free?

Apparently not. The further I go in this body liberation dive, the less trans I am. I guess it’s not really odd. I’ve never been so at home in my own body. In all its plush, padded, feminine soft glory. I’ve started wearing makeup, jewelry, skirts and dresses. Even perfume sometimes. I primp before going out. I love being a girl, and I identify with women. I crave friendship with women. I read feminist writing and watch feminist works. Maleness has become so foreign to me that the idea of wanting to be a man is pretty much horrifying.

I no longer fantasize about being a man but instead think about smashing the patriarchy so that no one ever has to wish they were a man for purely political/social reasons ever again. So that true gender identity and expression, as well as sexual identity and expression, can win free and be based on what’s inside, not on the outside. And so that all bodies, no matter how far from the “normal” look, are free to be fully themselves, fully sexual, fully loved.

Categories
Eating Disorders My Story

ARFID

As I have written about before, I have binge eating disorder. I have been working hard on this, on staying in tune with my body so I don’t fully check out and eat more than I mean to, on letting myself not finish food that I have obtained, and on knowing that food will be there later if I leave it now. This is working. I haven’t had what I would describe as a true binge in a number of months. I am still partially checking out. I am not eating often enough and therefore eating too much in each eating episode. I am still eating highly dense and heavy foods which I don’t even want to be eating but which seem like a good idea at the time. However, my binge eating disorder is a much less serious complaint than it was six months ago.

I am losing weight. I am not weighing myself regularly, but I did weigh myself about two weeks ago and I found that I had lost about 15 or 20 pounds from where I was in late summer. This is to be expected as I am not bingeing nearly as much. The theory is, as one gets closer and closer to eating as one’s body truly wants, one’s body will naturally approach the weight that it wants to be at–an internal set point.

Problem is, I also have ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, about which the DSM V says this:

  • An eating or feeding disturbance (e.g., apparent lack of interest in eating or food; avoidance based on the sensory characteristics of food; concern about aversive consequences of eating) as manifested by persistent failure to meet appropriate nutritional and/or energy needs associated with one (or more) of the following:
    • Significant weight loss (or failure to achieve expected weight gain or faltering growth in children).
    • Significant nutritional deficiency.
    • Dependence on enteral feeding or oral nutritional supplements.
    • Marked interference with psychosocial functioning.
  • The disturbance is not better explained by lack of available food or by an associated culturally sanctioned practice.
  • The eating disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and there is no evidence of a disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced.
  • The eating disturbance is not attributable to a concurrent medical condition or not better explained by another mental disorder. When the eating disturbance occurs in the context of another condition or disorder, the severity of the eating disturbance exceeds that routinely associated with the condition or disorder and warrants additional clinical attention.

ARFID means I am picky to the point of disruption in my nutritional health. In my case I am unwilling to eat virtually any fruit. My nutritionist says this is fairly normal for ARFID sufferers, as fruit is very delicate and unpredictable–sometimes it is amazing and other times gross, and you can’t always tell before you bite in. I have an unnatural level of anxiety about whether I will bite into a mealy apple or a soft blueberry, and so I don’t bite into fruit at all. Veggies are a bit better, but have similar issues.

My eating habits are extremely texture- and smell-driven and focus on high calorie density foods, because every eating episode is an anxious and stressful experience for me. So I eat as much as I can in each one so as to avoid eating for as long as possible; I eat the simplest, mildest foods possible because I want to minimize the stress of the eating episode itself.

It would seem that the binge eating disorder is actually a coping mechanism–to ensure that I get enough food, I overeat when I do eat. Now that the binges have eased off a bit, I am starting to get to the root of the matter, which is that I routinely (as in at least once a day) find myself avoiding eating, even though I am hungry and aware that I am hungry, because I am too stressed out by figuring out what I am willing to eat, how to get it, etc. Hence, weight loss.

Any sane person would probably be pretty sanguine about a superfat losing weight, but to me it is a mixed blessing. Yes, I have health effects from my weight. Yes, I have social and career impacts. But I have spent the past year learning to love myself as I am and to accept that dieting is a cruelty imposed on us by a sexist, racist, cishetnormative culture. So now I am not sure if I am allowed to feel happy about losing weight. Worse, I am afraid that feeling happy about losing weight will let loose the diet culture in me all over again.

My nutritionist in fact fears that I have anorexic tendencies as well, typified by not wanting to eat because of the joy of controlling myself and the sense of cleanliness and lightness that not eating brings. Diet culture and weight loss honoring are triggers for that.

I have no answers right now. I am working to figure out what I can and will eat that is a bit more nutritious than my usuals without becoming judge-y and diet-y. But it’s a hard road so far and I’ve taken maybe 8 inches of steps along it.

Categories
My Story

Friends

For a sequence of minor but congruent reasons, my lack of close personal friends has been much on my mind lately. I live a very social life: my job requires constant interaction with others, I am happily married and very close to my husband, and I am also very close to my sibs and my mother. I have close “work friends” that I spend time with at lunch on most workdays. For many, many years, this quotient of socialization and relationships has sufficed me.

Now it doesn’t. I miss having a friend, a true bond of openness and trust and equality with another person. I typed “woman” the first time I wrote that sentence, but it is not clear to me that a friend needs to be a woman. In fact, most of my really close friends in my life have been men. My husband likes to tease me for my tendency to make friends with “little men,” That’s right, I have a physical type for non-romantic friends, which is short, thin men.

That said, I am, for the first time in my life, deeply craving friendship with women. I spent much of my life fearing or avoiding other women due to my social rejection as a child and teen. But now, with all my reading about body liberation, I am becoming cognizant that I missed a lot that way. I am a 42 year old woman who has only ever had one close female friend as an adult, and she lives far away.

But the real question is, how does one obtain a close friend as an adult? Let alone a middle-aged, working adult? I’m working several angles–meetup, the local women’s collective, Bumble BFF of all things–but no signs of success yet. The old ways of meeting people seem all gone and the only people I spend time with in a normal, organically scheduled day are coworkers and my husband. It’s not at all clear to me whether spending time online to try to get leads on friends is a good plan or not. Sometimes it seems like I might be getting real leads that way, other times it seems like I just end up with even more excessive screen time than usual and nothing to show for it but the same few sentences exchanged with random strangers again and again.

I also wonder if I might be hoping for too much, that the kind of deep sisterly bond I crave may be impossible to build at this point in my life. But I am too much of an optimist to completely abandon hope.

Categories
body liberation Depression Eating Disorders My Story

Long Time No See

It’s been a while…I had a rough fall. In August I cut back on a med–Abilify–which I had been taking for years for my depression. I cut it back because I had been doing so well that I thought I might not need it any more. No such luck. I spent three months dealing with fairly awful withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, and renewed depression. During the first of those months I didn’t even realize what was going on, which made it even worse. And then when the withdrawal symptoms finally settled down, I realized I was not in an ok place without the med anyway. So I started it back up and within a week or so I was back to the happy place I had been in over the summer.

Eating disorder-wise, things have also been eventful. The binge eating disorder has become fairly quiescent. I almost never have a true binge these days. But the lowering of that tide has revealed rocky shores–I am not eating properly still and there are many issues now revealed. A tendency to enjoy not eating, and a tendency to avoid certain foods. My nutritionist now believes that my primary diagnosis is actually ARFID (Avoidant-Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). More on that in another post. At the same time, she’s identified anorexic and bulimic tendencies as well as a past history of rumination disorder. So that makes five eating disorders that I either already have or have to watch out for. Yay, I’ve got the whole set!

Now that I am feeling better again, I really want to get back to blogging pretty regularly, so hopefully you’ll see me on here more. I’ve also re-started my insta. And bought a lot of clothes. So keep your eyes open for some fun ootd pics!

Categories
body liberation Living While Fat My Story

Weight Stigma Awareness Week

It is Weight Stigma Awareness Week, hosted by the National Eating Disorders Association. My recent experiences have made me particularly sensitive right now to issues of weight stigma. Normally, I think weight stigma is such a constant hum in my life that it often settles to the level of background noise.

  • Weight stigma is never being able to sit comfortably in your boss’s office because she doesn’t have any armless chairs. (And no, I’ve never had the guts to tell her even though I know she’d be chagrined and fix it immediately.)
  • Weight stigma is being afraid to order dessert at restaurants for fear of getting judgy looks or comments.
  • Weight stigma is having to allow extra time to get to meetings because the elevators are much further than the stairs. And, even more, weight stigma is never taking the stairs because no one likes the sight of a fat person sweaty and out-of-breath at a meeting.
  • Weight stigma is never, ever getting to try clothes on in stores because there are no brick-and-mortar stores which sell clothes in your size.

The constant burden of having to be aware that you are “too” big and that things you sit on might break, that people you talk to are probably already judging you before you open your mouth, that you are assumed to be lazy and not care about your health–it’s a lot.

I’ve been learning lately to advocate for myself and to handle situations that make me anxious or upset with directness–with forthright statements of what I need to be safe, mentally and physically. I’m proud of myself for that. I’m trying to also become more alert to issues others might have that limit them in other ways–so that I don’t become the person imposing stigma on someone else.

Too, I think weight stigma can be more subtle than people on Instagram say. It is actually more expensive to produce larger or sturdier items like chairs, clothes, and airplane seats. It can put a strain on a business to meet those needs consistently. I dislike that my clothes often cost more than those of a thin person, but I actually need significantly more fabric to cover my ass, and fabric costs time and resources to fabricate. So I don’t judge a company if they charge more for larger sizes.

I do judge large corporations and public venues if they don’t provide any options for fat people. I’m an outlier on the fatness scale. Most people can fit in normal chairs. But if you are going to build a 300 seat auditorium, why not make 5 of those chairs extra wide? Not only does that not cost very much extra or significantly reduce capacity, but it shows an awareness and sensitivity that has value to everyone. (And if you are sensitive enough to build your auditorium that way, why not go the extra step and put up a sign asking thin people to sit elsewhere?)

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where, even when being big created some inevitable frustrations due to actual physical difference, we could work together to find comfortable compromises for everyone?

NEDA has a lot of relevant resources and discussions on their site: nationaleatingdisorders.org.

Categories
Depression My Story

Setback

Last week was awful. And strange. I came home Sunday evening from the event I posted about here. I was extremely tired, but I slept a lot and got up and went to work on Monday. It was a normal, if sleepy, day.

Shutdown

Tuesday morning I woke up and my brain said “No.” I cancelled my early morning appointment and went back to bed.

An hour later, I dragged myself out of bed, did my morning routine, and drove to work. I parked my car. I didn’t get out. I thought about the day I had ahead at work and I just couldn’t do it. It was like there was a wall between myself and the world, and I could not get through. So I called my office and let them know I wasn’t coming and arranged for people to cover my few un-cancellable obligations that day.

I went back to bed. I had three naps and five large meals that day. I was exhausted and starving from the weekend. At first I thought I was having a binge eating relapse, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t actually eating much past satiety and that my hunger was genuine. So I kept eating. I’m proud of myself about that because the temptation to limit myself based on perceived “portion size”s or ideal meal frequencies was hard to resist.

Wednesday I woke up and I felt a little better so I did my morning routine and drove to work. I parked my car. I didn’t get out. I called my husband to ask what to do, and he convinced me to go in to work.

As soon as I got there I knew that it had been a mistake, but once I was in I couldn’t leave immediately. I spent about four hours there catching up on exigent work and making a plan to clear my desk for Thursday. By the time I got home I had a pounding headache and felt like death. I went to bed. I only had time for two naps that day but they were really good.

Thursday I woke up. More of the same. This time I did not even try to go to work. I spent the morning puttering around and answering emails in my pajamas.

I had, in my panic, made an extra appointment with my therapist in the afternoon. When the time came to get dressed and go I almost could not make myself do it. I knew she would help, but I get agoraphobic when I am depressed and getting dressed and going out was almost too much. But I went. We talked for the regulation 50 minutes. She said a lot of helpful stuff.

I left feeling superficially much the same as I had since Tuesday. I decided to get a late lunch on the way home because I was very tired of house food by then. I ate lunch. It was a normal lunch. As far as I know it contained no special psychoactive chemicals.

When I finished the lunch I felt absolutely fine. Completely normal, happy, restored energy level, the same me that had been walking the earth the week before. Depression gone. No trace.

Went to work somewhat hesitantly on Friday, worried that work would be a trigger, but there was no problem. Worked a full day and even went out with friends afterwards.

Depression

I have been struggling with depression for decades. I explicitly remember being suicidal in middle school but I can’t say for sure that it didn’t start before then. So at least 30 years. High school, college, grad school, my first five or six years of grown-up-ness. All misery. I cut myself; I fantasized about killing myself; I lay in bed in a semi-catatonic state. I hated myself and wanted to die.

For the past 8 or 9 years I have been working my ass off to beat it. It was a slow crawl at first, because it’s hard to find the right providers and the right meds. There were setbacks, bad weeks, months, and years. Depression was my constant friend, my familiar companion, my home place.

Gradually, that began to change. Zoloft works. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works. I stabilized. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t a danger to myself and I could do my job and live my life.

Then I found my current therapist, and we have actually been working through things for four or five years at a deeper level. I found out that people like me, and that I am naturally sociable and outgoing. I found hobbies. I got promoted at work and developed more confidence in that sphere. I found out that I didn’t actually give a shit about people who thought I wasn’t that good at some parts of my job. I found out that I could be myself and do what I wanted to do. I found out that I am a good person who is doing her best in the world, and I found out that that actually is enough.

I got better. Most of the changes were under the surface. There were still bad patches, but they were more like days or weeks instead of months or years. Energy was up. Resilience was up. I actually worked through some of my issues with my family.

The final ingredient was my introduction to body liberation and radical self love earlier this year. One day, after seeing my new nutritionist for a month or two, talking with her over those ideas but maintaining reserve and skepticism, something snapped inside. It was like “Fuck you, I’m awesome and I’m not afraid to feel it and say it.” Since then, things have been dancing. Lots of changes, above and below the surface. Lots of happiness and lots of love. My therapist actually said my depression was asymptomatic at this point and my psychiatrist reduced my meds. Victory.

Relapse

What happened on Tuesday felt like I had woken up in a horrible flashback nightmare. I was 28 again and couldn’t deal; a wall had come up between myself and all my work and all of my recovery. In every detail it was a perfect mirror of the old me. The near catatonia and inability to talk or communicate. The light sensitivity. The desire to cut myself (although I successfully resisted). The extreme pleasure I used to take from sleeping, especially naps. The excessive REM sleep. Even the starting hints of some suicidal ideation.

I was shocked. I felt confused and helpless. And terror, because I didn’t know if it was back for good. Intellectually, I knew that somewhere inside I had a whole bunch of tools that would eventually lead me back to myself. But every time I tried to pull a thread in the knot, it would snap or lead nowhere. I didn’t know what to do.

Recovery

I still don’t know what I did. All of sudden I was just fine again. It was like a broken bone that had been set, or a train being set back on the rails. It didn’t feel gradual and organic, like my work at recovery had paid off. It was just…fixed…gone…better.

Not that I’m not grateful. I’m incredibly grateful. I thought I was going to have to take a leave of absence from my job and start again at the beginning of the recovery. But I’m still terrified because if it happened once it can happen again. I suppose that’s why you can never not have chronic depression once you have had it–you just go into remission.

I wish I knew what precautions to take, what tools to prepare. My husband says I must have been a boy scout in a former life because I always over-prepare. And I want to over-prepare for the next relapse. But I don’t know how. I think I understand the weird combination of triggers that set me off this time, but I can’t guarantee that they, or others, will never catch me again. And I don’t know how to be ready if they do.

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Uncategorized

Apology about the Double Posting

Hello, y’all. I want to apologize about the batch of notifications you all recently got about posts that were actually old. In the midst of a crisis last week (more on that here), I took down all of my content. The only way I could figure out to put it back up was to publish it again, as though from scratch. So I apologize. Really new content is coming right up.

Categories
My Story Uncategorized

Sandwiches

I’m going to try to write everyday–it’s good for me to be consistent and I have a lot I want to talk about, but we’ll see. Sometimes I get exhausted or too busy or just too deflated to talk about something significant.

There’s two ways I know how to eat. 1) All the things. The “worst” possible things I can find, in huge quantities. Drive thrus, delivery, convenience stores. 2) None of the things. Salad, with a protein on top if I’m feeling brave. A boiled egg. A low carb protein bar. A 100 calorie pack of god knows what. Popcorn.

Nowadays, I’m working hard to learn how to nourish my body. I’m “allowed” (by me, because listen y’all, I’m only listening to me from here on out) to eat anything I damn well please, and I do. I still go to drive thrus and convenience stores, and get way more delivery and takeout than I can actually afford. I never eat fucking diet food anymore, unless I actually want it, like I sometimes still want popcorn or a hard-boiled egg.

But more and more, when I discover that I am hungry–and that’s hard enough to do without waiting so long that I’m panicking–that’s not what I want. I want something that is going to make me feel good and be satisfying. Funny, that I should want those things. 😜

Small problem. I have no idea how to feed myself that way. Forty-fucking-two years old, and No. Fucking. Clue. I’m not kidding. I feel like it sounds dumb; everyone around me seems to pack delicious, reasonable, nourishing lunches like noodles, or chunky soup, or cool bento boxes full of little fun things like hummus. People seem to go home and eat dinners that they cook or prepare or whatever, at tables with other people and silverware and such. Not weird rabbit diet food, but not giant piles of delivery chinese either.

All I can handle so far are sandwiches. With my nutritionist’s help, I’ve managed a few pb&js and one or two turkey sandwiches. Turns out, there is bread out there that is actually yummy, and mayo doesn’t have to be measured out by the teaspoon. Also turns out that pb&j is delicious if you don’t use fucking powdered peanut butter and low-sugar jelly. Turns out those things are allowed. Turns out, if I eat those things, I don’t need deep fried cookie dough in the mid-afternoon. Turns out, pb&j is not the devil.

What will turn out next?

Categories
My Story

Activity

Short post tonight. Hideously busy at work today and now exhausted.

Had a training appointment today with a #haes, weight neutral trainer. Lovely experience. Very gentle but I still feel sore. Glad to be back to doing some strength training. I missed it. Glad there are trainers out there for people like me.

Categories
My Story

Feeling Full

I had what I would describe as a near-binge last night. I had a bad day at work. One of those days where you’re running around all over the place and yet somehow have gotten nothing done at the end of the day. It was 6:30pm, I was exhausted, grumpy, still not alone in my office, and very, very hungry. It had been a long time since lunch and I had been ignoring the signals for a while.

I ordered pizza. I ordered pizza in the way that a person preparing for a binge orders pizza. This is a big problem for me these days–I don’t know how to order/obtain food in moderate amounts, as I discussed in my post a couple of days ago. I ordered a large pizza with meat on it, chicken nuggets, and a chocolate chip cookie pizza too. It took forever to arrive, so by the time I was eating I was famished. At least I was finally alone in my office.

I started with the chicken nuggets. I ate all of them, telling myself that they would not keep well so I had to finish them. I was still hungry when I was eating them, but I didn’t need to eat them all. They didn’t even taste that great. That didn’t stop me.

Then I went to the pizza. I ate a slice. I was starting to feel full. I started on a second slice. I was losing steam. Somehow, though, I needed to finish that second slice. I stopped after that, but I still went for “dessert.” I ate two slices of cookie pizza. I sort of planned in my head to stop there but I didn’t. I ate two more. I stopped.

In sum, I didn’t eat as much as I might have a year ago. Half a pizza plus the nuggets plus most or all of the cookie thing would have been my norm. And I stopped before I was hopelessly sick. But it was still troubling, and caused by a sequence of things I am working to avoid, like getting starving, ignoring self-care during the work day, and getting so ragged that the only thing I have left in my toolbox for self-soothing is my eating disorder.

I spent another hour or so at work after that, resting and recovering from the day, calming down. When I finally went home, as I walked to my car, I had a weird experience. I was full, very full, and I didn’t like it.

I say “weird experience” because I like feeling full. I’ve always liked feeling full. It’s why bingeing is so calming for me. Full is satisfied, full is safe, full is calm. Several times recently, people in the ED recovery-BoPo realm have said to me that they “don’t like feeling full.” I was struck by that because I couldn’t imagine how that was. How could feeling full not be a state of rest and ease?

And yet, last night, as I finally made my way home, possibly for the first time ever (even including the many times I have made myself so sick that I have needed to purge or have actually been sick sick), I was conscious of not liking the feeling of fullness. And although I was too full, I wasn’t sick full, so it wasn’t that. I just didn’t like feeling full.

Stay tuned, I’m interested to see how this turns out.