Hold Me

Last night, after cooking dinner with him, sweating off all my makeup in the humid NY air and over the pan-seared salmon and risotto, after playing with his dog, after we ate and drank and laughed, after we kissed tightly, me on my toes, arms wrapped around his head, his on my back and my hips and my butt, we stood still. My arms circled his waist, his draped around my back. His head was on mine, his breath on my ear. My face was turned in to his neck, pressed against his skin. I clutched him tighter than I have hugged anyone in a very long time. I thought I might cry. I was having an emotional experience totally separate from my sexual attraction to him, totally separate from a normal hug. I held onto him as though he was the last solid thing in my life.

I wish I could tell him that. I will, someday, when I can tell him more about the twirling, whirling, gusting darkness and struggle inside, when I can say more than “I was a tough kid” or “I just came from therapy.”

I wish I could tell him that touching him, holding him, makes me feel so safe, it almost scares me.

I will.

Medical Records

Sometimes too often, I find myself struggling to fit what I remember about my childhood into my sense of who I am today. When I meet people these days, I seem to be a quirky, friendly girl, of course with problems but nothing too crazy. They don’t know about my struggles with ED, they don’t know about my depression. And they truly don’t know about what I went through between the ages of 8 and 14. To be honest, neither do I.

I ordered copies of my Behavioral Health medical records this week. I knew that asking for your records was something you were allowed to do, but I’d never considered actually going through the process of getting them.

I told my therapist about this decision, feeling a bit shy. Like I said, I sometimes think that I steep myself in the struggles of the past too much– making too much of the manic depression and the screaming and the anxiety and the bedwetting, exceeding its importance in who I am today. I rarely talk about it now, never with my parents, who saw me through it, and only at key moments with my closest friends. I’m not ashamed… it just doesn’t seem to come up.

But I think I continue to return to those years for a reason. My memories of what happened are jumbled and vague, flashes of images and emotions with no sense of chronology or cohesion. I have no language to talk about “those years,” besides just saying “those years” and hoping whoever I’m speaking with understands.

But understands what? Not even I know. And that’s why I’m hoping for some kind of sense of understanding to come from reading my records. I do know that it’s highly likely it will be far from enlightening, highly likely it will just frustrate me in its vagueness. But I have to try.

It may not be a part of my everyday life, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that “those years,” and all those feelings, all that pain, still lives inside me, somewhere, deep, longing to be understood.

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

That’s a quote from one of the members of my little theatrical mansion-commune last night after a few glasses of wine.

He apologized this morning, assuring me he meant it ironically. Of course I knew that.

And I told him, last night, and this morning again, he was right.

This comment came out of a discussion about the boys who hover around me. There are two, both incredibly attractive, both accomplished in their fields, both of whom I’ve had a little somethin’-somethin’ with already. And both promised to come see this show, and both asked to stay over. The one I’m really focusing on is the one we’ll call “Eyes.” He said he’d come next week, and could we have a pajama party? Obviously that’s code for something. And it got me excited, because unfortunately, I’m head over heels in love with him and have been from the first moment I saw him.

The bad news is, that after an amazing, epic, seven hour “date” (which involved dancing and kissing, FYI), on the way home he told me “I have a girl in my life.” Whatever the fuck that means, it ain’t good. (For the full, unedited tale– it’s LONG– refer here: https://twirlinggirl.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/22/).

So basically, this is what it is, as elucidated by my dear friend last night:

“So this guy is an asshole who treats you badly and will continue to abuse your heart. And yet you will continue to let him. You’re a fucking idiot.

He’s right.

(ooh, that’s a good end to the entry… unfortunately I have more to say)

Yesterday in therapy, I was focusing on all the good feelings of the show and this great group of people. My therapist was guiding me through enjoying the feeling of that in my body. But then my hands flicked over my face, skimming over a pimple. Immediately, the feeling of “full-heartedness” was gone, and I couldn’t get it back.

I told my therapist that I’d lost it. She asked what had stepped into its place. I had a hard time putting it into words (therapy is hard, y’all!), but basically what it was is that feeling of: “Oh good lord, why are you happy about yourself? You are ugly and fat, and whatever specialness you feel right now is going to get shot down the second you walk into an audition room or the gym or into a theatre.”

So what is that part’s purpose, my therapist asked. What does a part whose job is to pull me back down from happiness and the feeling of being “special” into the feeling of being inadequate do for me?

I think there are a number of reasons.

1. It’s trying to protect me from getting hurt. If you’re mediocre, you’re not surprised when you encounter cruelty.

2. “Special” is a dangerous place to be. I think this stems back from early childhood, where I was popular and well-liked, without really trying or thinking about it. Then a girl came into the school, and after befriending me and taking me deep into the bowels of secret-girl-sisterhood, proceeded to tear me down, stripping me of my power, turning the rest of the class against me, and essentially turned me into a pariah. I’m genetically programmed to have psychological issues, but this bitch got those motors running full throttle.

3. And when it comes to boys, feeling mediocre and being “chosen” makes me feel special. There aren’t many ways, when I so frequently feel inadequate and ugly and like a terrible non-human, to make me feel special again. One of those ways is the attention of attractive boys. Now, this is not to say that I seek this attention out– but in the case of these two men, these two men “totally out of my league”— I continue to seek their attention because it makes me feel like less of a homely disaster. Yeah, and that’s healthy.

So all of this to say, no, I’m not generally a fucking idiot. But in terms of these boys, these gorgeous, asshole boys (who I KNOW would NEVER come see my show unless there was something in it for them– “Eyes” didn’t even see my last show, in which I played the lead, even when I got him FREE TICKETS) I am a fucking idiot.

So let’s just check that off the therapy checklist of things I’ve gotta work on.

It’s getting long.

What Once We Felt

I spent a portion of tonight re-reading many archived emails deep in the “vault”: I have archives in my box that go back to September 2008.

I can’t say it makes me feel good, but I know why I do it. I do it to make sense of the things that happened to get me to where I am. Because I do this… well, not infrequently… I remember most of what’s there. But occasionally I stumble upon something that really hits me.

Here are a few things, for my reference, so I have them in one place… and I wonder if some of them bring up things for others. Sending love.

B.

November 2009 – Feeling Like a Victim

Tough session with [therapist] today. It started great… I told her about how great it felt to do Katie’s birthday, a lot of what I expressed to you on Friday. But somehow we sort of got on how I have a hard time feeling like I know how to care for others (I never know what to say!), and maybe that’s because I don’t know how I want to be taken care of. I ended up telling her about this weird thing I have about always wanting to be a victim– like loving being in the hospital when I got that kidney test done, all the Holocaust and Salem Witch Trial obsession stuff– weird stuff. What amazed me was how often I feel that way (wanting people’s pity, wanting to  suffer), and although I don’t totally know why, part of it ist that I feel like I need some sort of validation to be in pain. Like my life didn’t give me any reason to be in pain, and an outward, excessive expression of suffering (like being in a hospital) would allow me that. I feel that way shockingly often.
 
[Therapist] had me try and isolate a place where I felt truly sad– the place that I feel like I need a “reason” to feel. From there we spent a long time “exploring” this deep, ancient grotto of sadness. That sounds really esoteric, but we sort of found this imagined location where I spent a long time. We didn’t “discover” anything, I didn’t have any great realizations, but we explored. It wasn’t a comfortable place to be for a long time.

November 2009 – What Is Going On?

[Therapist],
 
I want you to know some things that I haven’t yet expressed. It is really, really difficult for me to say them, and I think that’s part of the reason I haven’t yet. I wrote a list of sentences I wanted to share and am sending them to you in this sort of unfinished form because otherwise I’m not sure I’d be able to.
 
I eat when I’m not hungry
I feel as though I can’t stop eating
I feel guilty afterwards
I don’t starve myself after I binge, and I don’t purge, so that’s good
 
Even though I know I should gain weight (I bought a scale and I weigh between 98 and 102lbs) the idea of gaining weight is really scary to me and repulsive to me.
 
I love cooking and making food. When I binge I don’t cook, I just eat. I don’t focus on anything but putting the food into my mouth. There is no joy in it.

I hide this from everyone—I only binge when no one is looking.
 
Besides the binging, I am a very healthy person. I feel good about the way I treat my body beyond this one thing.

February 2010 – What People Are Saying / What I Am Feeling

Then, after I finished classes, I got a text from the Theatre Department manager asking me to come to her office. I went up, and we talked about some work things/business stuff (because I’m the head of the department’s assistant, so I help with money and paperwork stuff). Then she asked me to sit down. When she almost started crying, I knew what she was going to bring up, and sure enough, she told me that “there is a lot of concern in the department about whether you have an eating disorder.” She was really sweet and caring (as everyone is when they talk about this stuff to me), but in the place I already was yesterday, it was especially hard for me to hear and kind of put me over the edge. I didn’t know what to say and I just felt really lost and misunderstood. I told her what I always say, about the fact that it was accidental and I know it’s weird and I SO appreciate the concern and all of that, and also that I am making direct efforts to help myself. Of course she was really wonderful about all of it, but I felt self-conscious and really sad all through the rest of the day.

On my way home, I called my mom to tell her how it went, and opened up about how frustrated I was feeling. At some point she said, “I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself, but I’m sorry it had to take your hip injury to make you realize that you need to deal with this problem.” I reacted to that, saying that I had been taking care of this particular “problem” long before my hip started hurting (I’m not sure if I told you, but the hip stuff may be related to demineralization, which could be related to the weight loss). I tried to explain to her what I was hearing and what I didn’t agree with in that, and we came to a kind of understanding, but I think therein lies the root of what I’m feeling right now…

 I wish I wasn’t feeling quite so hyperaware of how other people are perceiving the way I look, and I also wish I didn’t have to jump through all these hoops with doctors and meds, but that’s sort of where I’m at right now. I feel a lot of resistance towards calling the internist and even more towards the nutritionist (I think because I don’t want to be seen as someone with a problem with eating that has to be fixed– I just want to keep doing what I’m doing). And, frankly, I don’t want to take the birth control for very vain reasons– I felt moody, I broke out, and I gained weight. I know the goal is to gain weight, but I want to do it on my terms, not the pills’ terms. Maybe that’s a sign of a “problem,” but I still want to be in control of the things that happen to my body. With all of these things to change how I’ve been going through my life the last few months (a life I feel REALLY good about), I’m feeling nervous, sad, and lost. I’m feeling a lot of resistance to all of this but I think I just have to buck up and do it. I do want to be healthy. But I wish it wasn’t mixed up with all of this.

February 2010 – Acting Notes Sound Like Porn

First Orgasm Sillhouette – we will look at this today but maybe you can sit on his lap on “why are you so sweet, so juicy, and so bad?” – so that it is easier for you to climb up the wall?  I want to hold your back arched for a bit longer with your hand up before you moan.

March 2010 – Bragging

And then I rediscovered this: one of the final scenes from the play I did in Feb/March 2010. It was for a forum at my school about Religion and Madness. I went to a Jesuit school. I flashed a lot of people. You’re welcome. Don’t judge me.

 

ABC ED

How old are you?

22, but I turn 23 in exactly one week. Hooray?

What is your gender?

Female.

Do you consider it possible to recover completely from an eating disorder?

Hmm. I do think it’s possible to recover in terms of symptoms– ie. not starve, not binge, not purge, normalize eating patterns. However, my experience of my ED, at least so far, is that it has changed me. I believe my ED is a symptom of my depression, and now that I’ve used this symptom to control my emotions, it will always be a tool available to me, just like self-harming, just like all these other protective measures I use to regulate myself. I don’t think I, or anyone really, can go back to exactly the way they were pre-ED.

Do you consider media (magazines, television, etc) to encourage and contribute to the spread of eating disorders?

This is a complicated question. The media does not cause EDs,no. Have I found it hard to manage gaining weight and maintaining self-confidence and integrity during recovery in a world (and a profession) where size is key? YES. It’s as though an extra layer is put on the process of recovery. I needed to weigh more than I ever had in order to get my body back into functioning mode, but it was nearly impossible to separate my pride of being where I needed to be to be healthy from the self-hatred for being above a “perfect” weight. In other words, it just worsens things, I think.

What do you think is the primary cause of an ED? If you believe that different disorders manifest differently, please specify.

To be honest, I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s the case for many of us. I believe that my ED was a manifestation of other psychological disorders in my history– bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD. It was a new method for me to self-regulate. Personally, it had NOTHING to do with how I looked or the desire to be “perfect” or “remain a child” or those other things people tell you cause EDs. I think each person is different, but like other forms of self-harm, it’s a way to keep scary emotions at bay.

Would you classify yourself as currently suffering from an eating disorder?

I tend to say I’m in recovery, or I’m recovering. That word is meaningless by itself, but to me, it means that I have all the tools in place to move forward– but it means nothing about my “success” in “beating” an ED. I still fuck up, constantly, but I feel my brain and my intentions are in the place where I am slowly, but surely, moving towards health.

Have you ever been in therapy? If so,when?

I saw a therapist as a kid, from around 8 years old to 13ish. I took a long hiatus, when I was doing “well” and my mother crowed on about how I was “fixed.” Obviously, that’s not the way it works, so I started seeing a therapist again in fall of 2009 (funnily enough, I entered into therapy, without meaning to, right in the middle of developing the restriction portion of my eating disorder. In June I called her and told her I wanted to meet, July/August was the first stages of my ED, and then I met her for the first time in Sep. Classic.)

For how long have you suffered from an eating disorder?

Summer of 2009 is when it started, so going on 3 years now. Jesus.

How would you describe your experience with therapy, if applicable?

I couldn’t really tell you what it did when I was a kid, but now I have such a strong relationship with my therapist I think it does a lot. She’s the one person on the planet who I can tell literally anything to with no repercussions. She’s also given me an entirely new language of talking about and processing my feelings. I think our work together has literally changed ways that I think. It’s a great gift.

Do you consider yourself a happy person?

Yes. However, I’m also one of the saddest people I know. Basically, I’m chemically imbalanced in every sense of the word. But I do go through my life with great wonder and joy. (my laugh/cry is legendary)

Do you share the nature of your disorder with anyone in your personal life? If so, describe this relationship.

I sent an email to about 8 of my closest friends during the deepest part of my ED, letting them know that I was struggling and working to recover. I have never talked directly to my parents about it. In the last year, I have talked about my ED (usually just the restriction part– I still find binging to be waaaaay too shameful to discuss with even my therapist) directly with two or so friends. I do not share gory details with anyone except on the internet.

Do you actively hide your disorder from anyone in your personal life? If so, please elaborate.

Not really. I don’t talk about it, never let on if I’ve binged. Sometimes I’ll say “I’m having a rough day,” if the ED has disrupted me in an extreme way. It’s not necessarily that I hide, more that I don’t volunteer information.

Are you a competitive person?

I kind of think I am. I’m not into sports or anything, but I do like to keep one step ahead of the pack. I think it’s tied to my perfectionism and my deep desire to keep everything under control.

Do you believe that you will ever overcome your ED?

Yes? I mean, it’s already been over two years I’ve been actively recovering and I still trip up all the freaking time. I hope someday I have more good days then bad, but to be honest, the recovery process has been even longer and more fraught then I ever thought it would be. If I every do “overcome” my ED, I imagine it’ll be 10+ years from now.

jesus, that’s depressing.

Little B

Thanks to ALL for the support on the booking of that job. I still feel like I’m flying a little bit each time I think about it. Beyond all the rest of the “stuff,” this whole process has just reinforced the fact that life is unpredictable, unplannable, surprising, and comprised of uncontrollable ups and downs. My life, at least, but I think probably everyone’s lives. I shouldn’t even have been allowed to audition the first time because I’m non-equity. And then I booked the show. Life is weird, y’all.

Yesterday in therapy, I brought this great news to H (my therapist). She was very excited for me, I know, and honestly it was the first time I’d really talked about how it made me feel, what it meant, what it even was. She allowed me to effuse prolifically, something that I’m often shy about because my brain says, “It’s therapy! Stop talking about your happy stuff, work out your shit!” But hell, sometimes the good stuff is important to bring into the room, says H– no shame (oh shame, you old goose).

I described how I could talk about the logistics of the part for ages– what it pays, what being Equity means, why the schedule works, why the part is good– but what has really changed is this feeling inside me. Very quickly, from one of the worst weeks in a long time, where all I wanted to do was disappear into myself and become totally translucent, I felt solid. I felt as though there was a think beam of bright light in the center of my chest. It didn’t make me want to scream and brag and run around, it just changed the inside of me. When I walked down the street, I felt more solid, more human, as though I’d been filled with something thick and warm that no one needed to see or understand but that I could feel.

Near the end of the session, my therapist asked me what would happen if we brought “Little B” into the room. “Little B” is the part of myself/memory of myself at age 10, deeply bipolar, depressed, and incredibly alone. She lives in perpetual sadness, banished to my childhood room after an explosion of anger which nearly instantaneously turned into pure guilt. The moment H mentioned her, my eyes filled with tears and my breath caught. I could see her, see the pain in her eyes (as an actor, I have quite the imaginative faculty– my therapist loves me).

It was a complicated moment of imagination. I knew I couldn’t save her from her sadness, and I knew it wouldn’t make her feel better to say something like, “You’re going to be an Equity actor at 23!” She will still be sad, and she knows she’s going to be successful. But in my mind, I put my hand on her chest, that warm, thick, glowing inside of me now giving a brief moment of comfort to “Little B.”

That little girl is an enormous part of me. She is in me every moment, and she won’t ever go away. I cannot cure her, because I’m not cured. I simply love her as much as I can, and accept that she, in all her sadness and anger and shame and loneliness, will appear for the rest of my life. But I’m so glad that at least in brief moments, I can give her a bit of warmth, a bit of solidity, a moment to breathe and feel the ground beneath her.

What’s going on?

I’ve been binging like a motherfucker. Every single day, for at least seven days, I have binged. It’s terrible. A part of me is hopeful I’ll get my period just so at least I’ll have a reason for the insanity. Another part of me is just accepting it and trying not to make myself go crazy over it. Another part is just. So. Over. It. All.

I did a really great monologue in class today. Portia, from Julius Caesar. It was a particular achievement since I literally memorized this quite circular four-page monologue last night at like 10pm and then today on the subway. Skillz, y’all.

I texted L the other day to apologize for being distant. I told her that I’d had a really tough week (basically explicitly said I was depressed), and that I hoped to be more present in future. I also invited her to be my plus one to a mutual friend’s show this week. No response. And she didn’t come to Shakespeare today. So it’s been since Wednesday night that I heard from her, though I texted on Thursday, Sunday, and today… Nothing. She’s been playing Words with Friends, a good sign, and occasionally tweeting and Facebooking, so she’s not… god, I almost said “dying.” Anyway you take it, this is causing me excessive anxiety– and not from worry about her but shame I’m putting on myself (isn’t narcissism great?).

I’m ashamed that I must’ve done something wrong that made her mad at me.
I’m ashamed that I had a drink with a friend before WIT when she couldn’t.
I’m ashamed that I am healthy and auditioning and she’s not, and I’m ashamed that I’ve started talking about it in front of her again– I really should stop.
I’m ashamed that I wasn’t there for her this week because I had to tend to my own depressive gardens.

These are clearly quite healthy thinking processes.

What the hell. I did a good monologue. That’s something to hold onto for a moment.

The rest of the week, I have work tomorrow, my callback in NJ on Wednesday (the annoying thing about callbacks is they allow you to actually want the part– making it much more miserable when you don’t book it), an audition for a student film and for a regional production of a musical (? who am I?) on Thursday, something with Magis on Saturday, and Sunday tea party with Leslie and a few other girlfriends at one of our professor’s apartments (can I tell you how psyched I am to see this woman’s place? She runs the directing program and she’s an enigma).

The rest of the week, I hope to go to the gym at least twice, I hope to not binge every day, I hope to do my Shakespeare homework. I hope to shower a normal number of times. I hope to not feel that hot, prickly feeling of shame and sadness. I hope not to cry, but if I do, to not cry for shame.

OH AND GUESS WHO JUST TEXTED ME BACK.
She said “thanks for remembering” that she was at Sloan tomorrow and no worries her parents were going to be there. And sorry she hadn’t been in touch, she’d been “sorting through some stuff and needed some alone/reflecting time.”

I can’t tell if that makes me feel better or worse. A normal person would feel better, right? I know how I’m supposed to respond, but I get incredibly anxious about what it all “means.” It probably just means she was depressed like me.

So… I also hope I don’t feel so freaking crazy much longer. I am all over the place.

Love to all. Sorry for the word vomit.
B.

“I cannot escape myself, though I feel that I am consuming my life. To prepare the honey I feed to unknown crowds, I am doomed to brush the bloom from my dearest flowers, to tear them from their stems, and trample the roots that bore them under foot. Am I not a madman? Should I not be treated by those who know me as one mentally diseased? Yet it is always the same, same old story, till I begin to think that all this praise and admiration must be a deception, that I am being hoodwinked because they know I am crazy, and I sometimes tremble lest I should be grabbed from behind and whisked off to a lunatic asylum… I did not know my readers, but for some reason I imagined they were distrustful and unfriendly; I was mortally afraid of the public, and when my first play appeared, it seemed to me as if all the dark eyes in the audience were looking at it with enmity, and all the blue ones with cold indifference. Oh, how terrible it was! What agony!”
Anton Chekhov (Trigorin in The Seagull)