Friday, March 20, 2015

What I am and what I'm not

I wanted to clarify why I decided to start blogging again. Part of it is that it helps to have somewhere to write things out and clarify my thoughts, but that isn't the main reason I'm back. I get the same chance to work through my thoughts and emotions in therapy, or writing in a journal, or talking to friends.

No, the main reason I decided to start blogging again is that I've been seeing things about people with bpd recently that are kind of horrifying. There's a book called Stop Walking on Eggshells that's about how to deal with your toxic, borderline relative. There are forums and groups for parents of people with borderline where they commiserate about the horrors of watching their child destroy their own life. When someone with bpd wrote in to askamanager.org to ask a question about job accommodations, the comments section became an absolute nightmare. I'm realizing that there's almost no place where you can see someone with bpd whose life isn't falling apart. Images in the media perpetuate the idea that those of us with bpd are doomed to be a burden on society, unable to held down a job or even form healthy, meaningful relationships.

Well, that's bullshit. I may feel like my life is falling apart around me most of the time, but when I step back and take stock of the situation things seem pretty okay. I'm doing well in school. Actually I'm doing kind of awesome in school. My grades are great. I have friends, and a social life. I'm applying for jobs and my resume is pretty strong. I'm helping run an internship program right now, and while it's really stressful and I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, I'm not doing a bad job.

So yes, bpd complicates matters a bit. It makes everything more stressful, makes it harder to manage stress, makes everything seem a lot more emotionally charged. Yes, it makes it harder for me to navigate relationships and interpersonal stuff. But I'm not doomed to a terrible life. Just to recap, here are some things I'm not:

1. Toxic
2. Manipulative
3. Abusive
4. Incapable of forming healthy relationships
5. A drain on society

And you know what? Maybe there are people with bpd who are those things, but that completely ignores the fact that most people with bpd developed it due to a predisposition for it and a pervasively invalidating environment growing up. It doesn't generally exist in a vacuum. Bpd is essentially some unhealthy coping mechanisms that people develop to deal with some really tough stuff. So maybe let's focus less on vilifying people who are just trying to cope with the challenges the world has dealt them, and more on developing ways to help them learn new, better ways to cope. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What, this again?

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but of all my issues that I have (and I have many), the only one that I feel deeply ashamed and uncomfortable with is the eating disorder. I can justify depression and bpd to myself to some extent, but the eating disorder is absolutely antithetical to everything I believe. I hate myself for caring so much about my weight, for hating my body so much. It's really hard for me to reconcile having an eating disorder to also supporting health at every size and feminism.

All of this, of course, means that the eating disorder is around for the long haul. But the thing is that, even if I were totally accepting of it, I don't think it'd be at all easy to get over this shit. Part of that is just the nature of the disorder: you constantly think that it isn't bad enough, you don't need/deserve/want help, or you haven't earned it yet. You aren't thin enough, disciplined enough, sick enough. You are not enough.

In spite of all of this, I do think that a part of the problem is that there's very little I've found that is about or aimed at people who are not anorexic, bulimic, or who have BED. Those of us with EDNOS, or as it's now called OSFED, aren't often the focus. It increases the sense that I have that my problem isn't real, or isn't important, or maybe I'm just exaggerating or overreacting or making it up.

Let me give you an example: the past couple of weeks were particularly rocky. I went for a week or so when I wasn't eating anywhere near enough. When I finally got back to the point where I was ready to get back on track I experienced some extreme hunger, which is apparently fairly common after restricting. I wasn't really sure how I should handle that (do I eat when I'm hungry and risk overeating? do I just eat meals regularly and tolerate the OMG HUNGRY in between even though that feels like restricting?) So I went to the internet to see what others had to say about this.

Unfortunately, what I found wasn't helpful. Or rather, it wasn't helpful for me. Everything I found said some variety of "well, if you've been restricting then your body has a lot of damage to repair, muscle to rebuild, weight to replenish, so it's signaling you to eat more to get the nutrients it needs." Sure, that sounds reasonable. Except I don't have weight to gain. I may restrict a lot, but my weight is firmly in "normal" range. I didn't really lose much weight at all. That answer doesn't seem to pertain to me, and once again I feel like my problem isn't legitimate. If I had a real problem I'd have lost weight. I'd be thin. I'd have proof.

That's how it feels every time I read anything about eating disorders. Mine isn't mentioned, or if it is they say something like "EDNOS or OSFED is a less serious eating disorder." Which of course in my mind means "wannarexic, eating disorder failure" because apparently I can't do anything right. (Just as an aside, from what I've read people with EDNOS have a similar mortality rate to people with other eating disorders, so that isn't even particularly accurate.)

To tie this all together, I guess the point of this post is that I'm feeling kind of lost with regards to the eating disorder. I don't know that what we're doing is particularly helpful, I don't know that I should even be doing anything about it since clearly it isn't a real problem, and I don't see myself represented in anything I've found to read. So, if anyone is actually reading this, if you have any websites or books to suggest please leave them in the comments. I'd love to check them out.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hi There!

It's been a rather hectic year or so since I've posted. Over the summer I was in IOP while also working part time, and eventually I also took on an internship at a congressional campaign. Once classes started I left both the IOP and my job, but kept the internship alongside a full time courseload until the election in November. It was busy and stressful and a lot of fun, and it all turned out pretty well. I finished the semester without any mishaps and actually made the dean's list. I was looking forward to a slightly easier semester this spring, but that was not meant to be, apparently. Once again I'm taking classes full time, but I'm also running a community organizing fellowship program. My current stress levels are off the charts, but it's working out okay so far. 

I've been thinking a lot about getting back to this blog recently. I need somewhere to vent, somewhere to talk things out. It clears my mind and clarifies what course I want to take a lot of the time. I really find writing to be helpful, and I want to start doing it on a more regular basis. I definitely won't be writing every day like I did in NaBloPoMo last year, but I'd like to make blogging part of my routine again, at least a couple of times a week or so. So I guess I'll be seeing you around!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Summer!

Dear mostly hypothetical reader: it wasn't intended to, but this post turned into a long whine, so feel free to skip it if you so choose.

As a season, I like summer. I appreciate the (occasional, since we are in Pittsburgh after all) blue skies and sunshine. I like being able to do stuff outdoors and enjoy seeing everything go from barren and dead looking to vibrant and green every year. But to be completely honest I've come to dread the end of the school year and the start of summer break.

Last summer I was completely miserable. I'm terrible at anything and everything social, or at least I feel like I am. When I go to classes and can hang out with my friends in between them it's less of a problem, but I don't know how to plan things with people, so over the summer I end up losing contact with pretty much everyone but a select few, basically those who make the effort to keep in contact with me. Of course I don't blame the friends who don't take it upon themselves to do all the work. They shouldn't be expected to do that and I'm a grown ass adult who should be able to do this social stuff. It's simply something I need to work on.

Nevertheless, the result of all of this is that I've come to dread the summers because I'm just so lonely. I've tried to get a job this summer and succeeded but after a single day realized that it was clearly too high stress for me. I was so anxious by the end of that first day that all I wanted to do was sit down and cry. I felt like a complete failure, like nothing I did could possibly be good enough. I just clearly am not in the right headspace for that kind of job yet. And I'm so angry with myself about that, and anxious and disappointed and terrified about what it means for my future and a whole lot of other things but I think it warrants its own post so I'll leave it at that.

Point here is that I'm lonely. I spend a lot of time alone. This year is a lot better than last summer, but I'm still really, really lonely. I don't do much with friends, and most, if not all of it is only if it's suggested or planned by other people. I want so badly to learn to be better at this but I don't even know where to start. I feel like I've had so many instances where I've completely burned out friends by relying on them too heavily so now I keep everyone at arm's length or more, but more than that, I don't even seem to be able to make plans with people to just hang out or whatever. There are a couple of people I'm comfortable with and that's it. When those people are busy I'm pretty much guaranteed to spend a lot of time on my own.

So this summer one of my goals was to find ways to stay busy, both by finding things to do that make me feel productive and useful like a job or volunteering and by working on actually having a social life. The only problem is that I don't even know where to begin with this. And that's not even considering the issue of my complete lack of a love life. :sigh:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Doing Things

It seems like a really simple thing to do, but I'm really bad at it. "How silly!" I hear you, dear (probably imaginary) reader, say to yourself. "Of course you must do something every day." Nope. I assure you, I am fully capable of doing absolutely nothing all day.

I'm not saying that I'm not being productive or that I'm wasting a lot of time or doing things that I don't think are a good use of my time. I mean that I am finding that many days I look back at what I did and find that, not only did I do nothing productive, but I also did nothing enjoyable, or useful, or really anything of any use at all.

During my long absence from blogging I once again did stupid, unsafe, and inadvisable things that landed me in the hospital (and led a police officer to go to my Arabic class inquiring after me, which was kind of awkward to explain later) and one of the consequences of that was that they took me off my meds and readjusted them a bit. In the shuffle the medication I was on for ADHD was never restarted in the hospital since it wasn't considered urgent and outpatient hasn't decided what to do about it yet. Now, it could be the lack of strattera making me incapable of focusing on and completing tasks, it could be the fact that it's summer and I'm just anti-work over the summer, or maybe I'm just a lazy bum who lacks any trace of work ethic. Maybe it was a placebo effect. But I'm getting nothing done. I spend all day chasing stray shiny thoughts and I'm lucky if I manage to make a to do list and do maybe an hour's worth of work in a day.

Now, it's summer so really I don't have all that much work I need to get done, just some school stuff I need to catch up on that I missed while in the hospital as mentioned earlier and a few odds and ends but I don't do very well when I feel aimless. Writing has never felt very much like work, so I figure if I make a concerted effort to put blogging back into my daily (or at least weekly?) routine it may help. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Insanity of Another Kind

It's been a while, I know. Way too long, though again I'm not entirely convinced anyone actually reads this. In any case, my apologies. Things here have been crazy. Not the kind of crazy I generally write about though, more the kind of crazy where I'm trying to do well in classes while also fulfilling my responsibilities for the fellowship I'm currently doing and still making time for friends and family.

Things have been okay. I'm currently going through a bit of a rough patch, probably due to being so busy and being a bit stressed out about that, and also because I'm currently in the process of choosing a new therapist. I'm not at all pleased with this but it's not like I didn't see it coming, I've known it was going to happen for two months now. I should probably get over it soon, but it's kind of a big deal. It took me about a year to become comfortable talking to my current therapist and just as that started to happen I found out about having to switch. I'm not very good at transitions, hence the rough patch.

It's still a marked improvement on the last time I had to switch therapists, which is sad considering that I once again landed in the hospital. But this time was just a short stay and I didn't do anything destructive to necessitate hospitalization. I'm having increased trouble eating and a lot more suicidal ideation but unfortunately I'm just going to have to learn to get through stress without dealing with it through unhealthy coping strategies, and that includes learning to do so without resorting to the hospital.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On Being an Ally

Sometimes when I'm bored I like to read hilarious internet drama disasters. If this isn't one of your hobbies then a) what is wrong with you this is the best use of time ever and b) I should probably fill you in on one of the more recent blog disasters that happened was on xojane. Long story short, a young white woman went to yoga class and there was a new person there who happened to be black and overweight. Naturally this led to a complete meltdown of guilt over the author's white privilege. She went on and on about how terrible she felt, about all the things she imagined this woman was thinking about her.

Now, I'm a minority and when I'm out in public my thoughts are very rarely all about some random person standing in front of me. I highly doubt that the black woman was so incredibly consumed with thoughts about the lady with the "skinny white girl body" in front of her. To be fair, I hate yoga with a passion, so I'd probably be aiming my thoughts of death and destruction towards whoever had convinced me that this was a good idea, but that's neither here nor there. And yet the author says that
"Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body."
I doubt that that was actually the case, but oh well, let's assume that she's not mistaken. This woman is pissed off about being the only black woman in class and she's decided to aim that frustration at the author, and the author, bless her heart, feels bad about the situation. She feels guilty about the lack of inclusivity at her yoga class. I assume this means that she wants to do something about it, an assumption further supported by the fact that she then proceeded to post a blog about it where it'd be seen by lots and lots of people. Maybe she hoped that this gripping tale of woe, full of gnashing of teeth and such, would be a call to action for others. Maybe it'd spur other skinny white women to try to ensure that everyone is welcome at their yoga class, regardless of whether or not they have the requisite tastefully tacky attire.

But the thing is that her assumed good intentions don't mean much in this situation. If this was a bid to be a good ally she didn't succeed. In the comments section for a reaction to the original post I came across a comment that resonated with me (and, it appears, with a lot of others as well based on the other comments):
Personally I have no need for "allies" who think it's okay to hijack my struggle for their own ego validation.
And this comment points out exactly what's wrong with that original blog post. It did nothing to actually help any marginalized group. It neither ensured that women of color would feel more welcome in yoga class nor made the class any more accessible to overweight women. All it did was assuage the author's own guilt and it erased the woman who prompted the entire post. It made the entire situation all about a woman who is, as far as I can tell, fairly privileged. This is not how to be an ally.

And yet when I see people talking about mental health this is a common mistake. All too often the discussion is framed as one of ensuring that the crazy people get the help they need to keep from hurting normal people rather than one of ensuring that people with mental illnesses get the help they need to live a full, satisfying life or the help they deserve because they're people too. It's all about how to erase us so that we're no longer a problem for everyone else.

This post is getting a bit long so I'd just like to point out what I hope is the take home message here: If you want to be an ally to a marginalized group that's great. But you have to remember that the cause you're helping fight for isn't about you. It's rarely a bad idea to take a step back, shut your mouth, and spend some time listening to the people you're trying to help. They're the experts here, not you.