Heartbreaks and bellyaches seem to be the name of the game as of late. But why shouldn’t it be? One always leads to the other.
I had my usual year-end binge in December and said I would do better in January. Don’t I always? Don’t we always? But the funny thing about making plans is every time I say I’m going to do better, I usually end up doing worse. It’s the conscious effort, the deliberate decisions that derail me every time. It seems I always do my best when I don’t think too hard about it.
After helping myself to Christmas leftovers, Valentine’s Day came around and I had to allow myself some candy. And by some, I mean 3 boxes of post V-Day clearance candy that I ate in as many days. I also had two new donut shops open up and Taco Bell has these new amazing nacho fries and I discovered a new coffee shop in the town I work in. I’ve also had various co-workers who wanted me to join them for a dinner out and how can I refuse the chance to go to a restaurant? It’s been a whirlwind of grease and cheese, fried chicken and Cheetos, ice cream cones and creamy parmesan noodles.
I’ve been progressively bingeing more and more and it’s getting so out of control that it scares me.
These new food discoveries and opportunities are just convenient excuses to eat, to soak up all my melancholia with a slice of fried bread. But my face is getting fuller and my pants are getting tighter, all following the familiar formula of sadness leading to overeating. My mother criticizes everything I do so I get fast food. My dad only talks to me when he’s drunk so I eat 20 snacks a day. My boss at work drives me crazy so I ignore my packed Lean Cuisine and grab a burger and fries for lunch. I’m bored on my hour-long drive home so I eat a bag of chips to occupy myself so I won’t sleepily swerve off the road. I’m lonely as hell so I treat myself to two desserts after dinner.
I try to walk a straight and narrow path and these people come along and throw me off course. They’re demeaning or dismissive, dramatic or deteriorating and sometimes I think they’re determined to throw their drama onto me. And I have to eat in order to balance myself out again. It’s the only way I know how.
But I also know it’s not the best way. I look at myself and see the changes, the way in which my lack of support system and sour opinion of myself are bloating my body, branching out into every aspect of my life, making work harder, making family more frustrating, and isolating me from the fun times I used to care about.
My tears are like the tide, coming and going and I have no control over the contents of the ocean or how they sway to and from the sand. All I can seem to do is sit back and watch and respond accordingly. I don’t have a choice, just a spectator to the mouthfuls of agony, awash in a fog that hovers over everything and steals all the scenery from me.
”Sex is the one thing, more than any others, that makes you feel human.”
”Remember, your children can’t praise the Lord if they’ve got genitals in their mouths.”
-Nudist Colony of the Dead
I remember walking into my first college class, looking at my classmates, and thinking, “I’m probably the only virgin in this room.”
That was over 10 years ago and every time I walk into a new room filled with people, I still think the same thing.
Living in a small, religious town, I learned early on that the true “F” word was fornication. Sex before marriage was about the worst thing that could happen to you, besides being gay. That sentiment echoed through the church pews and school halls. But as I grew up, my friends realized other people’s genitals was about the best thing that could happen to you. Even the most devout got dicked eventually and their stringent sexual views began to relax.
Except for the gay thing. That was non-negotiable.
But it’s easy to change your mind with a hand down your pants. I never got that opportunity so I was able to hang onto my shame over sex for much longer than my peers. And the interesting part was I actually didn’t mind it that much. Although preachers and parents warned of the religious ramifications of sex, they also lauded the beauty of intercourse between two married people. And that was the message I chose to hold close.
I actually wanted to wait until marriage. I’ve always thought of myself as a romantic and the notion of me and my future wife saving ourselves for each other sounded pretty special. We’d be the first to have that intimate connection, to reach that milestone in pulsating unison. And so not having sex was not a big deal because, at the time, marriage was not on my mind, therefore sex was not either. But just because I’d made a no-copulation commitment to a stranger didn’t mean I wasn’t affected by sex.
I used to be a great listener and great friend. My classmates came to me for counseling. I heard all about their relationships and through their confessions, I learned that sex not only changed relationships but changed people. And it didn’t necessarily change anyone for better or worse. But it did feel like there was more at stake. Emotions were either heightened or deadened at the point of penetration. Some people could turn off their heads and hearts while others’ only grew heavier.
And just by growing up and living and being interested in people, I learned more about sex without actually ever experiencing it. It came pieced together from conversations, observations, and, thanks to the power of the Internet, research.
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.
”I’m Peter Pan in a black hole…“
-DIES, Less Than Zero
”Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”
-Lane Del Rey, Young and Beautiful
I was picking at my toenails the other day (because I’m psychotic and it relaxes me) and as I bent over to really dig into the nail bed of my big toe, I noticed a few varicose veins on my leg. They weren’t too apparent or bulging from the skin but I still noticed them, little purple squiggles running beneath transparent skin.
I know this condition isn’t just reserved for older people, but still. I’m already finding gray hairs running down the length of my body and what’s not turning gray is rapidly falling out of my head. I’m developing lines around my eyes. And now I’m noticing visible veins on my legs? What’s next? Liver spots? Incontinence? A general disdain for Generation Z?
I’ve always joked that I have an old soul. When I was younger, I felt like I had a grown man’s burden on my shoulders, despite all my needs being taken care of. It was the demon of anxiety that slipped underneath my skin and wrapped itself around my ribs. And now that I am a grown man with actual burdens (and with the anxiety squeezing ever tighter), I’m still projecting into the future, looking at my life like an old man on his deathbed reminiscing on his regrets.
I’ve got a lot of them, a ton of unfulfilled wishes and experiences and just like the man with the waning heartbeat, I often feel like much of it is too late to repeat, repair, or realize. Should I have attended that art school or should I have played it safe? Should I have experimented with drugs and alcohol and should I have plunged into those people and possibilities? Should I have held on to the friends I had? Should I have been more available to make more? Should I have made that phone call, kissed some lips and split others, fallen in lust and out of love, kept my faith and forgot to stay angry at those who wronged me?
Maybe some people emotionally age faster than others. Maybe some people are a product of their environment. With all the jobs I’ve ever had, 95% of my co-workers have been at least twice my age. And since I was always awkward, most of the social interaction I got was through them. They spoke of marriage and mortgages, worried about their children and bills, told me all about their physical aches and pains, the same ones I’m now starting to experience. Had their age and adages put a curse on my own crown?
I never went through a rebellious, crazy phase. I never sowed my wild oats or got a glimpse at anyone else’s. I never fell in love in high school and locked lips next to a row of lockers. I never joined a fraternity or fared well at social gatherings. I never snuck out of the house to meet someone special or sip cheap alcohol on a restaurant rooftop. No one ever touched my skin while it was smooth, rocked my body while it was strong, or caught my eye while it was sharp. I never partied or participated in a protest. I never did anything that mattered to anyone or to myself.
At my new job, I’m “the kid” ‘cause, again, everyone I work with is twice my age. Yet, at my old retail job, I’m now one of the oldest ones. My peers moved on, found better jobs, made something of themselves. They were replaced by careless teens and not only am I balancing two jobs but trying to find my footing with both sets of employees within. I’m unable to relate to the diabetes or dank memes and often feel out of place.
It really creates an identity crisis because there’s a part of me that feels absolutely ancient but when I realize that I’m 31, it doesn’t seem possible that I’ve gotten this old without having gone through certain milestones most people get to experience. Despite the wrinkles, I still have pimples and I’m shiny and awkward. I have a fear of making doctor appointments and traversing the intricacies of insurance and equity. I carry this naivety with me, something that used to be cute in my teens but is now offputting in my early 30s.
I’m like an adolescent octogenarian.
And maybe what’s more upsetting than a few unsightly veins is that I’m very much a vestige of both youth and maturity. I was a wise thinker at 18 and a simpleton by 28. Everyone caught up to me and then propelled past me. Along the way, I got off course and ended up regressing. I’ve been backsliding ever since. Maybe I’m not so far gone. My brain and body haven’t completely broken down on me yet. But I bet I’m a lot older than my face might portray.
”It’s amazing how words can do that, just shred your insides apart.”
I’m in need of new glasses and I’ve been asking people their opinions on different frames I’ve been considering. While most opinions were constructive, one person said I should choose frames based on my face shape, which is lumpy.
I know I’m not conventionally good-looking. My face is asymmetrical, my teeth are crooked, and I’m losing my hair. I’ve struggled with my appearance for as long as I can remember but I’ve worked to make peace with my imperfections.
But as I was talking to an aquaintance, asking for frame suggestions, this is the feedback I received.
To get such a random, hurtful comment from someone I thought would be supportive, someone who should have known better than to say something like that, unravelled any progress I had made.
There was no hint of a joke or sarcasm. This person was serious. And although it’s been weeks since the insult, I still think about it and it still hurts. It was not a critique of my frames but of my face, an unprovoked insult intended to tear me down.
It reminds me that people are just cruel because they can be, that words are an easy way to wound. There is a distinct lack of decency in people and with so many bad feelings and bloodshed all around, we still choose to bash those close to us. We are all so blessed and yet we curse everyone we can. It doesn’t make much sense.
Maybe in this new year, let’s try to hold our tongues just a bit more. Let’s try to help instead of hamper. Let’s show appreciation, give credit and compliments, make someone laugh, preserve peace and reject negative energy.
We don’t have to turn into Ghandi but a few good words can go a very long way. The world is already hurdling toward hell. We don’t have to help fan the fire.
Years ago, a thyroglossal duct cyst formed in my throat. After visiting several doctors to find out what it was (no one knew for a long time and it really worried me), I finally got a definitive diagnosis and eventually had it removed.
All seemed fine and good for a few years. I had a normal neck. Not having to navigate the razor blade around the cyst while shaving was a relief and not having to hold my head down to try to hide it was a bigger relief.
Now, it’s back. I noticed it a few weeks ago after I’d gotten over my pharyngitis.
I’m really bummed about it.
I had a dream the other night…
I walked along my usual dirt road route. I concentrated on my iPod and tried to find a few uptempo songs to carry me through the next mile when a school bus zoomed right by me on the narrow dirt road. It shot up a cloud of dry sand that landed in my eyes and the crevices of my mp3 player. When the dust cleared, I saw the driver had horns jutting out of either side of his head.
That’s when I knew it was time to turn around and head home.
The distance from the dirt road to home lengthened the farther I walked. My stomach tightened with a growing anxiety I couldn’t place. That’s when the memory of a dead kid crept into the forefront of my mind. He was found underneath a small bridge in a shallow body of water near where I was walking. His face had been torn away. He had greasepaint smeared on his hands.
The road lengthened even more as the school bus appeared in the distance in front of me. But during the time it took for the bus to circle back around to me, it had changed. It was armored with steel rods like some kind of brace or support system fused to the sides. It tore into the dirt and kicked up a blinding cloud of dust. It charged toward me, the engine growing louder. The sound caught up to me first, entered my ears and invaded my body.
I saw my house on the horizon and ran as fast as I could to make it to my front door before the school bus could make it to me.
I burst through the door to my kitchen and found my mom putting away dishes. I wheezed as relief pushed away the engine noise in my guts. I told her about the school bus.
As I spoke to her, she closed the cabinet door and turned to me. There was something off about her face.
“What’s wrong with your nose?” I asked.
“It’s just blistered,” she said. But as we talked, it grew bigger and bulbous. It flushed red as if all the blood vessels in her nostrils had burst in unison.
Something wasn’t right. I took a step back. I kept my face to her as I inched closer to the front door. My hand reached for the doorknob as her nose bloomed into a blood-filled ball.
And then she lunged.
I put my hospital socks on the other day and paced around the house. It brought me back to the time when I had an operation to remove a golf-ball sized cyst in my throat.
I sat back on the hospital bed as all these men in scrubs came in with their clipboards and told me they were going to take good care of me.
It was nice hearing that, like I mattered to someone. It was a warm feeling when I took to the cold hospital floor.
I’d like to go back to that.
I was around 19 when I lost 40lbs for the first time. All my old shirts swallowed me up and I needed to get something that would fit my smaller frame.
Even though I looked better than I had in over 5 years, I still felt the pangs of insecurity tap at my spine when I saw all the pretty tanned people walking by with their paper shopping bags in one hand and their partner’s hand in the other. I was still big. And it was at that moment I realized the weight had gone away but the worry hadn’t. I still felt gross, ugly, fat.
And now, nearly 10 years later, having lost and gained those same 40lbs, I know the worry is still there and will never go away. Even at my thinnest, thinner than I was at 19, I hated the way I looked.
It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and know between the ages of 11-13, you ruined your body for good. To be so young and so damaging and so unaware is absolutely frightening. From the first stretch mark, you have damaged yourself beyond repair. When the skin doesn’t bounce back the way it used to, when you do hundreds of crunches and the back fat just won’t go away, you know you are ruined.
But at the time I just needed to dress myself.
“Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.”
-Peter De Vries
“Well, I hate myself. I already have a pint of ice cream, a pizza, and mini eclairs. I don’t need these cookies. I’ll have to put something back. Pizza. I’ll put that back. I have pizza at home. But no, that’s why I came here. I want this kind of pizza, not the kind I have at home.
“I’ll just put back these eclairs. I can do without them. Yes, I feel good about this. Actually, no, these eclairs remind me of the time when I was in college and went to Publix and bought eclairs and ate them all in my car to soothe the pain of being a gigantic loser. Those were good memories and I think I want to re-capture them.
“And I really want this ice cream. And the cookies. I haven’t had the cookies in a long time.
“I’ll make chili dogs when I get home. I don’t need this pizza. But if I bought the pizza, I could have that the day after. That way I could satisfy my cravings for chili dogs and pizza. Yeah, I have to keep the pizza. But I have one at home. But this one has a cheese stuffed crust. I’m definitely keeping the pizza. Nah, the one at home is just as good.
“Okay, pizza is gone. Too many sweets here. Okay, ice cream gone. Just eclairs and cookies. That’s not too bad.
“Okay, the ice cream is back. I know I can do without it but it will literally be on my mind, making me crazy, until I eat it so it’s better to go ahead and get it so I won’t drive myself nuts. But that means I’ll have to, have to, put back the cookies. I’ve got to compromise. I don’t want to spend too much money. Or calories. But my diet is already shot. What’s another weekend binge?
“Damn it. Okay, keeping the eclairs for sure. It’s just…I’m so annoyed right now and these frozen foods, these processed pizzas, is what soothes me. I know I’m hurting myself. This is not normal, healthy behavior. But I’m sad and so I just don’t care.
“Screw it, I’m gonna get the pizza too.”
This is an average conversation I have with myself when I go to the grocery store, except I use a lot more foul language and stand around being indecisive for a longer period of time. People passing by probably think I’m lost. And in a way, I am. Continue reading