We preach about weight loss and disease prevention and other aspects of physical health but we rarely talk about taking care of our mental health.
While it’s generally accepted that we all struggle from time to time, very few like to admit they might struggle more often or to a greater degree than what might be considered the norm. But if no one talks about their struggles, how can we even define a norm?
I’ve always tried to be transparent with my struggles with depression, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It’s because I want others to know they aren’t going through it alone. One of the worst parts of mental illness is how isolating it can be. I’ve often felt that no one could possibly understand my loneliness, fear of people, the compulsion to binge eat, or my deep-seated self-hatred. But I’m not the only one. So many people deal with it every day. And knowing that doesn’t fix the problem but it does take some of the pressure off it. And it makes you feel a little less alone and a little more understood.
And because we don’t like to talk about it, you never know who’s going through something difficult. Money, class, and religious affiliation does not exclude you from depression. Just think of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and Robin Williams. They have access to the best psychiatric care possible and it didn’t help them (assuming they sought treatment). And through the years I’ve learned the people from high school who I thought had it all were in actuality suffering greatly. One classmate killed himself about a year ago and another, arguably one of the most popular girls in my grade, is currently in treatment for severe anorexia. I’ve even talked to people who said they thought I had it together but I’ve always felt like a huge mess.
You just never know what someone is going through in secret. So why do we make it so hard to tell each other? Why do we make it so difficult on ourselves to reach out, to give a helping hand or to ask for one?
I got to a point where I knew something had to change in my life or I just wasn’t going to have one. So I sought counseling. I’ve been in therapy for about a year now and while none of my problems have been magically erased, I do believe it has helped.
One of the best things about it is just knowing I have a safe zone where I can rant, cry, and ask questions without the fear of being judged or shamed. But really that’s something anyone with a good friend can do. And let me tell you, therapy ain’t cheap. So if you do have a good friend with a willing ear, use it. If you’re in a position to go to therapy, use it. If neither of those are an option, research online resources.
I don’t have as many destructive thoughts anymore. I don’t automatically tear myself down when I make a mistake. I’m insecure and I want positive attention and reassurance and companionship. I want to make a difference, feel like my life has meaning. I’m also scared of being left behind, scared I’m not good enough for people, scared to stand up for myself. I can be aloof or distant because I don’t want to be abandoned again. I let others reach out first because I don’t think anyone wants to talk to me and I don’t wanna be a burden. I have high standards and low self-esteem. I love giving advice but can’t take criticism. I’m hard on others and extremely hard on myself. But it’s only because I know we can all do better.
And all those good intentions and bad habits make me human. And I realized there’s a difference between wanting to be better and beating myself up for not being perfect. I’m never going to get it right every time, whether that comes to people, work, or art. But that doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of the good things life and people have to offer.
One of the things I’ve learned in therapy is to love myself, something I’m not sure I’ve ever done, something I never even thought I should or could do. But it makes sense. When you don’t love yourself, you allow other people to dictate your actions, your mood, and even your self-worth. But the more you love yourself, the less others have control over you and the more you get to have a say in how you live your life.
We make the easiest things in the world so hard for others. And ourselves. We keep affection at a distance because we don’t want to feel vulnerable. We attack others’ choices because it makes us feel superior. Pain begets pain and, well, that’s just not cool. But I get it. I want to lash out at people sometimes too. Not because I want them to hurt like I’m hurting but because a lot of the time I don’t think people realize how badly I am hurting.
But I guess that’s when we need to take a step back from our own pain to recognize other people’s paths. If only we could use our experiences to help guide instead of gun down the hard times of others. Pain isn’t a pissing contest. We all have it crappy in one way or another. And as long as we can keep our crap and everyone else’s crap in some kind of perspective, it might make things easier on all of us.
55 miles. 1.5 hours. 2 more days. Speedometer climbing from 45 to 55. 3 traffic lights. 4 songs left on the CD. The slowest, saddest song was next. 5 minutes and 33 seconds. My favorite.
Light poles illuminated the sky like shiny pearls forming a winding path. Leading me back to the smoke that filled my lungs and dried my lips, the noise that cluttered my brain and strained my neck. A warehouse of carpeted excess. Flashing lights and MIDI sound effects. Chirping machines and amber drinks. Scraping ash in a silver vest night after night. 2 cars whiz past me. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I graduated college and received a degree and depression. The security of school was gone and I had no choice but to become an adult. And a janitor in a casino. But how could I be an adult when I was never a kid? Just a trash bag enveloping a skeleton. 100 lights down that hill, steering me toward that ash. That smoke. That drink. Those epileptic lights mocking me. I so badly wanted to be scraped away as well.
55 to 65. 3 years wasted. 90,000 dollars down the drain. Humiliation. Rejection. Gnashed between God’s teeth. 1 life wasted. No friends or family to see the pain. No instructors to see the potential. 2 tears rolling down my cheeks. Such a waste. I could have been better. I was too weak, too insignificant, much too afraid to touch the face of a lover, to grip tight to a goal, to push past the persistent patterns that planted me to that place. Too poor to leave. Every decision was dumb. Every friend was fake. But I was the fakest of them all. A total fraud. I couldn’t do it anymore.
The bug-blurred windshield splintered the light in all directions, turning the pearls into shards, stabbing me on my way down. I wouldn’t do it anymore. I could stop.
So I accelerated.
65 to 75. 2 hands on the wheel. 5 cars trailing behind me. 1,000,000 thoughts, fears, hesitations, and determinations flooding my brain. My heart pounded at the thought. Would I really do it this time? Adrenaline sang in my ears. Then a calm crept up and confirmed my course. I squeezed the steering wheel until I saw 10 white knuckles. And then I closed my eyes.
75 to 80. 80 to 85. Darkness for 1, 2, 3 seconds. Eyes squeezed shut. Lights bursting behind my lids like silent gunfire, a celebration of an end. Just let go. It doesn’t matter anymore. Because you never did. 85 to 90. My grip softened. I peeled my fingers away and for the longest time, I felt like I was floating. Flying. Skyrocketing toward rest.
And then the fear pounded into me, funneled into my fingertips and pried my eyes open. I steadied the wheel, let off the gas pedal. A Rolodex of responsibilities spun around my brain. It was only a few seconds. But I wanted to. I needed to. I just didn’t have the guts to have mine splayed across the dashboard.
I turned into the parking lot and turned my life over to another night of labor, of boredom and ashtrays, fingerprints and sticky beer bottles. Clinking glasses and walking holes in floors. I tugged at the last bit of moisture that clung to my lashes. I watched as the knuckles turned as pink as my eyes.
I learned the real labor was existing with this sickness, to breathe with no pulse, to live with no purpose, to have to fight with lungs and heart just to get out of bed, to know you are a fuckup, to count each day as both a miracle that you made it through and a tragedy that you didn’t die.
8 more hours to go. I couldn’t do it anymore.
But I did it anyway.
I was in Hobby Lobby the other day looking for a new calligraphy pen. As I walked through the aisles, it reminded me of when I was a little boy. I would have been in heaven.
Living in a small town, we didn’t have specialty art supply stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels. All we had was a small Wal-Mart in the next town over. As a single-digit-age kid, my world is incredibly small so a trip to the next town felt like a huge adventure. And a trip to Wal-Mart was like Walt Disney World. ‘Cause that meant I could get a toy. And also some new crayons.
I was happy with my one aisle of arts and crafts our Wal-Mart provided. Over the years, I did outgrow the space as I eventually purchased just about every piece of charcoal, fine-tipped drawing pen, pastel, and watercolor set available. But at first, I was mesmerized by all the different tools and techniques I wanted to master.
I loved drawing when I was a kid. And coloring. And painting. And building. And creating in general. It was fun for me and the more I did it, the better I got at it. Not only did I enjoy the creative process but took great satisfaction at the outcome, felt genuine pride over that final polished piece.
Art was all I knew and that’s all my peers began to associate me with. I was “that chubby artist guy.” And while I was better than average, I was no Picasso. But everyone acted like I was. And I found that kind of reputation hard to live up to. I started developing art anxiety that compounded my general anxiety. I wasn’t as good as people thought and I started to feel like a fraud. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be as amazing as others expected. And the art that I enjoyed so much began to feel more like a chore.
But I thought college would help me catch up to the expectations people had for me. I would learn the craft, refine my techniques, and learn to fall in love with art again. Unfortunately, attending an art school only reinforced my fears that I was not good enough. My classmates were lightyears ahead of me and wildly talented. But again, art was all I knew. God knows I’m not good at math. I’m not really good at anything, actually. So I stuck with it, got my degree, then promptly moved back home and “retired” from art.
I didn’t want to deal with my insecurities, didn’t want to face the possibility of failure, so I just stopped trying. One of the biggest mistakes I could have made.
Since graduating college nearly ten years ago, I’ve only occasionally done something creative. I’ve drawn a picture here or there. I’ve made a couple of videos. But for the most part, I’ve just not been artistically active. But I still think about it. I still want to learn more about drawing, photography, calligraphy, design, and animation, which was my major in college. Yes, ya boy knows how to do cartoons. I could have worked for Nickelodeon if I wasn’t such a knucklehead.
Back then, I had no expectations. I did art for fun, not for fame or recognition or validation. It was for me and me alone. And the mistake I made was trying to associate my art with my value.
I still feel the pull to be creative. I still get excited about stationary. Still feel the pinpricks of possibilities from pens and pencils. It’s bittersweet and it almost hurts a little bit because I think of the time I wasted and think that I could actually be talented if I would have just kept practicing. Now I’m very behind. But that doesn’t mean I’m totally done.
I almost want to start over completely. Rebuild a foundation first. Start small. And go back to my roots of doing art just for the fun of it. Just for me. It used to be soothing and enjoyable and I want to have that back because I could sure use some soothing these days.
There are so many resources out there. It blows my mind. The Internet is an amazing place and offers so much knowledge. Youtube alone has so many free videos that can teach you to do just about anything you’d ever be interested in. There are also great places like Lynda, Udemy, and Skillshare. And although you do have to pay for those, some of the classes might be worth it.
So that’s what I want to focus on. I’ve had good intentions before and they never panned out. But this time I really do want to get back into it. And I want to take it easy on myself. I’m no professional and I’m not going to try to be one. I just need to do something creative and productive instead of just being lazy all the time. I want to feel proud of the work I do, like I used to be.
I get very confused about people and how to relate to them. What’s the difference between flirting and just being nice? What’s the difference between standing up for myself and just being a jerk? I haven’t always been so out of sorts. I used to be well-liked. And I used to think I had a grasp on grafting myself onto others. Then depression settled in and I withdrew my social self from the world. And instead of experiencing people, I just observed them. And by the time I wanted to step back into human relations, it seemed too late.
I think the best way to understand humanity is through both research and relation. I only achieved half of that. And that’s why I think I have some knowledge of correct and appropriate behavior but not enough to be successful in having fulfilling relationships with others. It’s that experience I lack, the on-the-ground research of getting to know and love and trust other people.
It’s hard to put myself out there because I’m insecure. I’m 32 with not much to show for it. I know we all have our own timeline for achieving goals in life but I have more potential than what I’ve produced. And this feeling of knowing I’m better, more capable, than what I’ve accomplished makes me very hard on myself.
It’s true that I hate who I am but unfortunately, it’s not self-contained. It seeps into conversations I have with other people. Long-term acquaintances are familiar with the inner insults I hurl at myself. I don’t even think about it. I’m so used to putting myself down as a self-defense mechanism and form of humor that it comes naturally to me. In my fear of being judged, I try to beat others to the judgment, pointing out my flaws in a funny way so we can all relax around my receding hairline or chuckle at my chunky body.
It’s usually when I meet new people that I become aware of how easily, how quickly, and how viciously I tear myself apart. When new acquaintances ask me to tell him about myself, the flogging floodgates open right up. It’s only after the conversation is over and I can reflect on the car ride home or before I go to bed at night the ramifications of my self-flagellation.
I want to be accepted but I also know I have several mental and emotional issues that could be off-putting. So I always have this need to explain away my crazy. But I over explain and end up making things worse. Instead of staying, people scatter and I’m left confused and lonely. I have to wonder if I should start keeping more things to myself. I always find it refreshing when people are open and honest. And so I try to be open and honest as well. And I never realized that other people could find that unattractive.
Should I change who I am and how much I share in order to keep people around? Or should I stay the same and hope that someone accepting will eventually find their way to me? It feels like a balance because you want to better yourself but you also don’t want to bend over for anyone else. How much change is too much? When do you go from improving your relations with others to compromising your personality for them?
I just wonder how I can be charming without charring my character. How can I make jokes without making myself the punchline? I’m sure it would be easier if I liked myself more but how am I supposed to do that? From the outside, it might seem like I’m well-adjusted and have a lot going for me. In some ways, that’s true. But only I can see the real me, the small squishy parts on the inside, the place where all the self-doubt and anger and despondency live and flourish. And it’s hard to like the person those qualities belong to, even when it’s yourself.
But I do understand that doesn’t have to be the case. And I suppose that’s at least one step in the right direction. And maybe one day, if I can get myself aligned with love instead of lashing, I might actually make a friend who will want to stick around.
Have you ever just clicked with someone?
When I was visiting my college friend and her husband in Atlanta, I was floored by how open they were to complete strangers. If they had questions, they walked right up to people and asked them. They chatted with our servers, made conversation with our Uber drivers, and did not seem shy with anyone at all. All I could do was stand by and be amazed at their ability to converse.
I wanted to talk. I wanted to share a genuine smile, to give a compliment, ask an open-ended question. I wanted to elicit a laugh, to leave a good impression. I wanted to have that connection with another human being, no matter how small. But despite my best efforts, my mind just doesn’t work fast enough to form a thoughtful word and before I know it, I’ve exchanged greetings and goodbyes and I’m left wondering how I scored.
I really want to be good with people. But the problem is I just don’t like people that much. But I am fascinated by them. They are simultaneously the most basic and the most complex creatures. Most humans want love, connection, safety, and security. That goes across the board. But the way in which they obtain those things is where it gets interesting. And confusing.
I haven’t had that many great experiences with people. I don’t have any long-term friends. Never been in a romantic relationship. I don’t fit in with my family. And I’ve worked in customer service for well over a decade. If that doesn’t sour your view of mankind, nothing will.
I think people have the potential to be great but most of them just suck. Especially me. I don’t give people enough of a chance. I make snap judgments and can be too quick to cut someone out of my life. I know there are good people out there but I’ve been dropped so many times that I just expect people to give 20% before crapping out. But does such an assessment make me an ass?
Maybe I’d be more inclined to have a genial response to a welcoming hand but I just haven’t experienced that alleged human connection, love, dedication, and care.
And I just really want to.
I could learn a lot from people. But I’m put off by them, thus I don’t want to interact with them, thus I never learn proper people skills. So when someone cool does come along, I can’t capture their attention. I can only bumble around like a butthead.
I understand that I need to work on things. I’m flawed and frazzled and often stutter and sweat when nervous. I have trouble continuing conversations, finding interest in others, picking up on social cues and niceties. I’m a huge mess and therefore I can’t always be surprised when I feel left out of the crowd. I know I’m not always a lot of fun to be around. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to fix it.
I’m wondering how I can break the cycle of simultaneously wanting people and pushing them away. I suppose I should just practice. Just talk to people. Ask questions. Show care and concern. Maybe I’ll figure it out. Maybe the skill of learning to connect will come to me. All I know for sure is the connection itself will not. That is something I will have to make happen.
I’ve waited for years for someone to come along, to care, to be in my actual life. I’ve wanted that feeling of finding my people, of discovering my complement. It hasn’t happened. It doesn’t mean it won’t. But with every lost chance at a friend, it does become harder to carry on, to finally experience that immaculate connection I’ve craved for so long.
I could feel myself rotting. My skin was sandpaper. My heart a hunk of meat.
I was dead for a few years. Crushed beneath student loans, liars, and the realization that I’d lost all I’d built my life to achieve. I was no artist. I was a con. I was no friend. I was a fraud. Friends, Family, and The Father fled and I was left alone to bear the weight of failure. But I was not strong enough and succumbed to the stress, the shame, the disappointment of departed dreams.
It was an avalanche, crashing on top of me, propelling me to the floor, grinding me into the dirt.
And then I thought I was alive again.
Someone came along and gave me several months of mouth-to-mouth. They gifted me a breath that burrowed its way back to my desiccated body. But when they broke the kiss, that connection to life did not linger and I was left in limbo, teetering on a thin string between life and death, losing all identity of being alive and all the peace of being buried.
It hurts to be in the middle, to be torn between two realms of being, to not belong to the day or the dirt. A lot of times, I don’t care which way I fall as long as it’s a clear conclusion. I would feel just as comfortable in a coffin as I would under a comforter.
My heart beats every few weeks. It reminds me I’m alive again. And so does the pain. It’s not the kind that sinks into me like a hot knife but the kind that gently evaporates all my joy. It arrives through the doorstep, dancing silently, getting to work with nimble fingers, picking up pieces of me and peeling it from my being: art, writing, pets, music, and food. It’s a more subtle searing sensation that’s not visible to others. It lurks in a lonely mind when I’m not occupied with work or worry. It’s the pain of being scraped hollow. It’s the pain on looking back on a life that had no real value.
It is not the pain of what has happened but the pain of what has not.
My heart halted. My spirit stopped. But my body continued to age and so much time was stolen from me. It was a 7-year gap of gaping wounds and unheard screams. It was a failed book, a failed relationship, a withering of animals and blossoming animosity.
And when I think about the mess I’m still in, the darkness deepens, blinds me to any future at all. That crushing weight descends on me one more time. It pulls at my eyelids, lulling me to a glorious rest, a sweet promise of permanent peace. But bills and responsibilities to jobs and family keep my eyes open. I reluctantly fight the urge to lie down. I want to give into it. I want to welcome it. But I can’t. Not just yet.
I can laugh and cry and carry on with my day. I can scream and howl and binge eat and nap away my week. I can work hard and impress my bosses. I can listen to the worries and daydreams of others. I can construct a daydream of my own, a vision of a better time, a better life, a better opportunity. I can act like a living person. Because, in many ways, I am one again. But it’s only a temporary recovery. I was carried out of a pine box prematurely and I’m left to deal with the consequences.
My path has been lined with sour honey and I’m forced to trudge through the muck to face more agony. And on this day each year, the clock resets and I regress a little more. More dreams die. More people disappear. My outlets are drying up, including the divine. God does not listen to my cries. He’s only interested in dictating my direction, the ebb and flow of fire in my head, and the distractions and derailments that set me back even further. He’s a voyeur of the coldest kind.
It’s impossible to go back. It’s daunting to look forward. All I want to do is just lie down and sink into the sticky substance. To be enveloped in the bittersweet bath. To rest. Because I know, I’ve always known, that I just don’t want to be here.
Some days, it’s not the food but the fools that send me into a downward spiral.
As of this writing, I’ve been dieting/exercising for a little over 100 days and have lost a little over 40 pounds. The first week wasn’t too bad once I got over the initial adjustment. I’ve been down this road countless times before so I knew what to expect: hunger pangs, being more obsessed with food than usual, immediate feelings of wanting to give up as soon as a craving craned its neck in my direction. But I didn’t give in and all was well.
And then the second week happened and I hit my first wall. Yeah, that soon. You’d think the longer you do something, the easier it would get. But that’s not the case with Bran Bran. Things always seem to just get harder and more difficult the longer I’m involved in it. Either way, I pushed through and the next couple of months was pretty easy.
But over the past several days, things have gotten harder again. I’ve been craving food more than usual and I can’t seem to get satisfied when I do eat. It didn’t help that I took a 4 day vacation a couple of weeks ago. I just sat around the house and ate food. I didn’t binge but I ate more than I wanted to.
I thought I’d keep myself busy. I’ve got plenty of movies to watch and books to read and I wanted to catch up on some writing but every time I tried to invest in a cheesy slasher film on Netflix, the kitchen would come a-callin’. And most of the time, when I get it in my mind that I want to eat, I can’t concentrate on anything else until I do.
I’m also extremely stressed out. Both my jobs suck and my parents have been getting on my nerves and all the horrible things happening in the world have all gotten to me. I’m always worried about the next massive bout of destruction, whether it be man-made or from mother nature. I’m lonely and hungry and bored and lethargic. And all I want to do is forget about everything and eat. But I can’t.
My last defense mechanism is food and that’s gone so I’m just a raw nerve, constantly hurting and yearning for something that I usually pushed down with pizza.
But I can see my ribs again. So there’s that.
I’m an emotional eater. We all know that. And I’m an emotional person. Well, mostly I’m just an irritated person. So it’s easy for me to eat. It’s natural. It’s comforting. And there are days when I literally feel compelled to eat. Even when I’m not hungry. Even when my stomach hurts. Even when I’ve finished a meal or had a large snack. I want more. I always want more.
People are starting to notice the weight loss. Co-workers are saying my face looks slimmer, that my torso isn’t as rotund as it once was. And these are all nice compliments to hear. And then I had one co-worker tell me not to get too skinny. And it’s just crazy to me that people feel they can comment on my weight and dictate my size. I’m not reshaping my body for anyone but my self. Again, I like the compliments but I’m not fueled by them. And I’m not gonna stop just because someone tells me not to get too skinny.
And it’s hard to talk about food with others because no one seems to understand. It’s not about laziness or just “really liking junk food.” It’s so much deeper than a deep fried doughnut. Sometimes food feels like my last attachment to reality, the only thing that can ground me when I feel like going off the deep end. And that’s not something you can easily bring up to someone when discussing casual dieting. Someone’s just looking for a way to make kale taste good and I’m over here expounding upon my unwavering sadness and need to self-medicate with marzipan.
And because people don’t get it, they think they’re helping out by telling me I should have a cheat day. But because I’ve struggled with my weight for about 20 years now, I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I can’t just have a cheat day. You can’t give an alcoholic just one drink. I can’t just have one slice of cake.
Or people tell me to drink water before a meal or have a handful of nuts when I feel hungry. I’ve never been satisfied by a handful of anything. And I end up getting irritated with people because I’ve seen and done and heard it all. They can’t tell me anything new or effective and I know they’re just trying to help so I feel like an ass and a hypocrite. I’m sure I’ve tossed out those same tidbits to other dieters in the past.
At this point, only a handful of Xanax could probably help me now.
I’m constantly annoyed. The people I work with are honestly batshit and I have to put up with it every day. It really puts a strain on me because I’m also batshit so I can’t keep it together for me and them. It’s too exhausting. And I have many unresolved relationships that I can’t seem to sort out because I keep getting ghosted and I don’t know what’s so wrong with me to warrant that kind of exit. It hurts so much sometimes.
And food always used to soften the blow. When I got irritated at work, I stopped by McDonalds on my way home. When I felt like the last connection with a friend snap, I served myself spaghetti and it all went away. You can chart my depression by my pant size. The sadness has always been there but there have been times I’ve been able to suppress it. It’s in the moments that it becomes unbearable that I become a glutton again.
When you see me gain weight, that’s when you know I’m really suffering.
You’ve heard it before: depression comes in waves or cycles. You see people smile and laugh and tell jokes and you wonder how they could ever be depressed. It doesn’t seem like them. But that’s the tricky part about depression. It’s not always all-consuming. You can have decent days while you’re deteriorating.
Depression circles around you. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the symptoms alleviate themselves and you realize you can get out of bed. And you get this false sense that you can actually endure this. And that’s when it strikes again, just when you’ve become stable or complacent. It slaps you right in the face to remind you that you’re not in control, that it decides when you can be happy and face the world again. And if it wants, it can send you straight back to bed or straight into the arms of an addiction, something to numb the overarching sadness, the void that envelops you, the completion of becoming blank.
I work with a handful of nuts and I’m told to eat a handful of nuts. But food is not the solution. I know that. But what is the solution? I’ve tried different things. I’ve tried it through art and writing and meditation. Nothing has ever worked the way food does. So am I supposed to just continue to suffer or settle for a “healthier” but ineffective alternate form of therapy?
It’s hard to make a compromise when it comes to your physical health. It’s even harder when you’re mental health is also in jeopardy.
I’d been looking forward to this mini vacation for months now.
Back in March, I searched my work calendar for the next holiday and almost keeled over when I realized it wasn’t going to be until the end of May. Would I even last that long? I circled the 29th and trudged through the work day, counting down each week as it slowly passed.
Since my company does comp time instead of overtime, I’d acquired enough comp time to take the Friday before Memorial Day off, which gave me 4 precious days instead of 3.
Right away, my mind raced with all the things I wanted to do. I had a lot of writing I wanted to catch up on. I also wanted to start working on some other art projects and get back into being creative again. What I actually ended up doing was staying in bed catching up on Orange is the New Black. At first, I was annoyed with myself. I’d piddled away 4 days when I could have been constructive. But then I realized I needed to recharge my batteries. If staying wrapped up in sheets and widdling away at my Netflix queue was how I needed to nourish myself, then I needn’t get so down about it.
Says the guy who thinks deep dish pizza is therapeutic.
I’ve really noticed a dip in my energy the past few months. I’ve never been a poster boy for stamina but the only energy I can muster these days is to fluff up my pillow before taking a long nap. I nap during my lunch break at work. I nap when I get home. And then I go to bed at night and I still can’t seem to get enough rest. The only time I feel good is when I’m dozing off.
The only reason I don’t sleep more than I do is that sleeping passes too much time. Before I know it, it’s a new day and a new crop of crap to deal with and I often try to prolong the morning sun as long as I can.
But at the end of the day, after I’ve dealt with mentally declining coworkers, sycophantic supervisors, and self-disgust at how horrible I am at humaning, the only thing I want to do is get out of my head. And the only two ways I can do that is either by eating or sleeping. But neither is a good solution yet I’m too tired not to take the easy route.
I know most would say I’m too lazy to be exhausted. I sit at my job and sit at home. I get it. But depression can be draining, too. As much as I try, I can’t turn it off. I can only delay it with dreams and donuts but as soon as my eyes open in the morning, the dull ache sets in as I set myself up for another struggle.
I wish I could get lost in writing and drawing again, like I was able to do when I was younger. But again, I get in my own way and I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t simply color an image or draw a picture or write a poem without picking it apart. I know I’m capable of better. I see it in my head, feel the rhythm of the word, taste the nuanced tones but I can’t seem to translate it to screen. And it frustrates me so I just don’t bother. Eating is often easier.
I only get out of bed because I have to, because I have a job and bills. And as much as I’d like to travel or learn a new trade, the exhaustion empties me out again and it all seems like an Everest-sized endeavor. My bulb has dimmed so much that I can only see as far as the end of the work day. I put up with bureaucratic b.s. and nap in my car and go through the rest of the day sleep drunk and scan my calendar and circle a date in July, a day steeped in the dark.
There’s always an instinct to eat. But it’s not predatory. It’s compensatory.
Food is my comfort, confidant, and companion. Any time things get tough, it’s the first thing I think about. And things are always tough.
I’ve gained quite a bit of weight again. Since getting this new job, I sit on my butt for 8 hours a day. And since my depression has gotten worse, all I want to do is eat to not think about how detrimental every day is. If I fill up my stomach, there won’t be any room for misery, right?
Yeaaaaah. It doesn’t work like that at all. But it doesn’t keep me from trying my darndest.
My pants are getting harder to button and the skin on the side of my stomach is irritated from consistently rubbing up against my too-tight-t-shirts. And this discomfort is directing me right to the Doritos. It’s all I can think about most days.
“Will lunch time ever get here fast enough?”
“What will I have for dinner?”
“If I go to bed early, I can have breakfast sooner.”
“Well, the next meal isn’t for about an hour or two. I can’t hold out that long! Let me have a snack.”
And I eat and while I’m eating, nothing can touch me. There is nothing wrong in the world and I am at peace. It’s that fragile, ephemeral contentment that creates the cravings, that evokes an addiction to that peace. Between feeling bad and feeling better, I’m going to choose to feel better. If I have to eat to get to that point, I will eat. And if I have to be physically uncomfortable to balance out my brain, it’s something I can accept.
Until I actually am physically uncomfortable. Then that brings me back around to feeling bad about myself again. It’s a seesaw of wanting and withdrawals, of addictions and adipose tissue.
Nothing has ever made me feel better than food. When I go out to dinner with someone, I’m more excited about the cuisine than the company. When I get fast food at the end of the week, it’s my favorite thing ever. It’s a treat for making it through another crappy week. My excitement is embarrassing. When the fast food employee hands me that brown paper bag and the scents fill my nose, I’m in heaven. I’m actually happy. And it’s just really sick that empty calories and liters of grease can make me feel something no one ever has.
There’s never been a pill or person, prayer or position that has brought me that kind of peace.
It’s an obsession. It’s a constant calorie count, a war between my stomach and my sensitivities. It’s the back and forth between food and feelings, of losing weight and gaining it right back, of feeling frustrated with the world and ultimately, with myself, because I cannot control my compulsions. I push down the guilt until it bubbles up in an overwhelming sense of self-hatred. And what better way to get rid of that hatred than to eat?
Thinking about food all the time is exhausting. And I just know if I didn’t have food taking up the entirety of my mind, I could focus on other things. My head is trapped, strapped down by the schedule of eating, planning meals and waiting to taste happiness again.
Santa should have stuffed my stocking with Gas-X for X-mas.
I know a lot of people overeat during the holidays. It’s a given. But as someone who has struggled with my weight and overeating in general, it’s safe to say that I took it too far.
It all started in late September/October when all the Halloween candle started arriving on the store shelves. Again, as I fell into another depression, I turned to food. I was losing more hours at work and going through some relationship struggles and candy was there for comfort. I fell into a dark whole of dark chocolate truffles and couldn’t find a way out.
There’s the logical part of me that knows what I’m doing is terrible for me, that the temporary comfort isn’t worth the time and effort it will take to take off the pounds once again. I know how destructive this behavior is. I know how terrible it is for my body. To a small degree, I’m abusing myself. But the numbing effect is so powerful that it overrides that logical part of me. I don’t care because I can make up for it later. I can fix this. I won’t let it get out of control. And sometimes I don’t let it get out of control. But sometimes I do.
My new job has created a lot of stress and has taken up a lot of my time so I haven’t had as many opportunities to work out (lame excuse, I know!). And I’m still at my retail job on the weekend and retail during the holidays is always a nightmare. And I’ve been working 6-7 days a week and I’m tired and I’ve been having frequent headaches and it’s taken its toll on me. It’s just easier to block it all out with a block of cheese.
But this month, I stood back and realized I was taking the “normal holiday eating” to an extreme. So many cakes and cookies and greasy fried entrees. So many bowls bloated with peppermint bark. So many candy dishes stashed around the house and at the office and in my face all the time. Temptation around every corner. And I’m a weak guy.
I’m pretty ashamed of myself because I know better. Again, this isn’t normal holiday bingeing. This is a hardcore relapse of relish and cool ranch Doritos. And I really have no excuse. Life never matches up with your plans. In fact, it often feels like Life will make sure it disrupts your dreams as much as possible. But you just have to find a way to pounce over the pitfalls and persevere. I’m having a lot of trouble with that last part, especially with all the leftovers in the fridge.
I know I’ll get it together. This isn’t my first time spiraling out of control. Once the new year gets here and I get comfortable with my job and find some balance, I’ll get my eating under control. At least, I really, really hope so.