What I do, Not who I am

Do you remember that old anxiety provoking game of “Perfection”?

Where you were given a time limit to put various shapes in their respective slots before the board buzzed and the pieces you managed to meticulously put in place were then shot into the air and back in your face.

Somehow this “game” feels like the perfect metaphor of my childhood.

Being busy and doing “stuff”, was always regarded as “good”. If mom was vacuuming we were expected to get up and do something as well. It was hectic, and typically felt like we were walking on egg shells. The anxiety and panic my mom could set off, similar to that timer of the game.

Still to this day, when my sister calls me because my mother is stressing out and off in one of her whirlwinds, I just tell her, “Stay out of mom’s way. She will freak out and yell at you if she sees you, so go hide downstairs, or at least stay out of her sight.”

When my parents were gone, I would sometimes arrive home to a list of things to be done:

Vacuum

Empty the dishwasher

Clean the cat box

Fold the laundry

Feed the dog

It was a race against time to get all the tasks done before they arrived home, and god forbid I forgot something on the list.

I was “lazy”, “selfish”, I did things “half-ass”.

I was constantly bombarded with the pursuit of what was “good enough” and because of that became very driven and goal oriented. I found my identity in what I accomplished and how well I accomplished said tasks. My worth was knit tightly with my productivity.

In elementary school these goals and fixation on my productivity started off small, making the honor roll, getting a lead in a play. Later, these became the idea that I had to do it all, and do it with excellence. I’m not sure my story could become more cliché, but if I made a 95 on a test I was congratulated and reprimanded in the same breath, “Well, what about a 100?” “Were there no extra credit points?”.

Somewhere in the mix, I was doing sports in middle school, and staying busy with student government, the school paper and science fairs; dodging the school receptionist and my math teacher because between the two of them they weren’t sure if they had ever seen me eat.

Learning about Eating Disorders in my health class, as if I hadn’t already stumbled across that tucked somewhere in between my mom’s comments about my body, my parents’ drunken fights and taking care of my two little sibs before I could even drive.

For as long as I can remember I stayed busy in school, especially in high school. I would go into school early for a National Honor Society meeting, or a Student Government meeting. I would stay late for practice, or tutoring classmates, then head off to work where I would stay, by myself, until about 11 – if I didn’t have to call the cops because of a hostile customer. While other high schoolers may have been sneaking alcohol and cigarettes, I could tell you the price difference between Marlboro and Pall Malls, and the total the packs would come to, including tax. If I skipped class it was to go back to the weight room and work out, my music kept me preoccupied, I didn’t have to think. I could immerse myself in music and not have to worry about later.

Did I stay so busy because I didn’t want to go home where my parents were probably drunk and screaming at each other, or was it for another reason?

Did I want to be prideful about how I could juggle everything at a young age and still succeed at school?

Maybe – regardless, self-esteem and worth held hands with grades and productivity as they skipped through the freshly mopped aisles of the gas station I worked at.

No matter what I did, I was blamed for the bad, and my mom took credit for the good.

Full ride scholarship to college? Oh, my mom just raised a smart, mature daughter.

Marriage falling apart? I’m the trouble making selfish child.

Softball award? Well, it’s a good thing mom went to all of those games… or, ehhh, one, that one time.

I did anything I could to get my mom to like me. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, or why nothing was good enough. Voted most unforgettable, holding a job, participating in sports, scholarship, live in babysitter. I didn’t understand why nothing I did seemed to be right, or enough.

I figured if it wasn’t my productivity and accomplishments that weren’t good enough, maybe it was just me.

Maybe I was just “too fat”.

My mom, on a good day, soaking wet, is probably 100 lbs.

I did sports, but I began to run.

And run.

Weight came off, I was still staying busy, and it was another way that hopefully my mom would like me.

It was more or less my commitment, I would run in the rain, in the snow, it didn’t matter if it was 9 degrees or 90.

People noticed, they commented on the weight, or how frequently they would see me run.

Mom disregarded it all together, by that point I was no longer living with them, but still lived in fear of her, and wanted so badly to be loved and appreciated by her.

If I didn’t run what I deemed to be far enough, it was twisted as something I could have and should have done better. I considered it a lack of trying, or being lazy, not necessarily listening to my body and what it needed. Skipping a day of running was a lack of productivity, leading to the ever spinning cycle of “fat”, “lazy”, “selfish”. It wasn’t like a tape you see, because tapes have to be stopped and rewound to get back to the beginning. This was an endless loop of judgement based on my actions.

Why I still cling to running is still cloudy to me. Could be because it is something I can still be prideful in, or that is looked at through the disordered glasses of the diet culture as something to be praised.

Sometimes I’m not really sure who I am. It feels more or less like a list of what I do.

I go to work, I take care of my dog, I run and workout.

Who I am seems more uncomfortable.

I am a biochemist, a dog mom, a runner.

The first and last still seem to be closely tied with what I accomplish and how productive I am, not necessarily WHO I am.

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Ella and the Non Verbal Child

Friends of mine typically know two things about me: I have a three legged dog, and my typical, daily extreme dislike of people.
Today was different, since it was raining Ella and I didn’t do our normal routine of going to the dog park. Instead, I spent over an hour in That Pet Place. The look of fear I get from some people due to the fact that Ella is a German Sheperd kills me. She is the sweetest baby ever, but yet people still avoid the two of us, as if somehow Ella is going to viciously go after them and their small children.


I met a mom and her two kids, one of her daughters has nonverbal autism, seizures, and cerebral palsy. Seeing that Ella had three legs, the mom made a statement of her daughter and Ella both having disabilities.


The daughter, Bri, quickly fell in love with Ella. She copied Ella by panting with her tongue out, squealed, held Ella’s tail, pet her ears, and shook with excitement when Ella soaked her face with kisses.

Was I scared that Bri would reach for Ella and was going to fall out of her wheelchair onto the floor?

No….. I was terrified.

Image may contain: one or more people and dog

I knew my dog better than anybody in that store, and knew nothing would happen. I could feel my anxiety rising, I hated being out, in stores, around people and my very vocal dog for any amount of time. I lived for the fact that I could run in and out of stores by the time most parents got their kids out of their car seat.


This family and I walked around the store for about an hour, letting the other daughter walk Ella, while we trailed behind. Listening to the excited squeals coming from both Ella and Bri. This was an amazing rainy Saturday, that warmed my heart as I watched this little girl shake, squeal, laugh and reach for Ella out of pure joy.

This was the Saturday that absolutely melted my heart.

Trusting The Process With a Trust Problem

If not now, then when?

The question was enough to fuel my morning drive to work.

Recovery has been filling my mind and thoughts, probably more than it should.

Life is going great, I have no more stress than the next person,

A good job                                          an awesome dog

A warm apartment                          a running car                      supportive friends

Coffee                                                  benefits                               paid time off

The ability to run

Why does my recovery want to take a sudden stop?

I don’t think it was sudden, it never is, but the restricting became more and more, until my list of foods was as depleted as my ability to fight ED off.

I’ve begun seeing a nutritionist, after months and months of putting it off, not wanting to go, etc. I like her, she is a believer and advocate of HAES, believes in intuitive eating. Overall, I have enjoyed the experience.

Yet the battle in my head is still raging.

It isn’t as easy as the “talking back” that I hear others talk about so frequently. No, for me, it has to be factual.

Which kinda fueled the internal dialogue this morning.

On more than one occasion I have been in a room of people struggling with their Eating Disorders, whether it be in treatment, support groups, wherever.

I look around, (and no, this is not going where you think it is going), and sometimes I am almost the oldest in the room, sometimes I am practically the youngest. When I am at the upper range of age I remember being their age, being so filled of denial, and so full of my eating disorder.

When there are people much older than me, I think of that is how I want my life to be at their age?

Should my life be focused on my body and eating disorder when:

I have kids

Get married

Start another job

My kids are grown up

My siblings get married

So, if not now, then when?

I also have “Trust the Process” tattooed on my wrist, to remind me of recovery.

I’m struggling with following my meal plan given to me, and it is so difficult to listen to my body when I am hungry and not feel the need to run first in order to “earn” the food that my body needs.

I am telling myself that I wouldn’t want someone to tell/question me on how to do my job, so then why am I questioning and fighting her so much?

She knows what she is talking about and is on my side, so why am I fighting her?

I need to focus on Trusting the Process.

I may not always enjoy it or find it easy, but I’ve been here before.

Hungry *Warning: calorie/carb counting*

Why, why don’t I want to eat? I’m hungry, I know I need to, but I just don’t want to. Nothing sounds appealing. My stomach is growling though.

I take out my phone and go to My Fitness Pal; I type in the Larabar I ate, considering it “breakfast”, but who really knows what it is, and does it even matter?

I’m hungry, but I feel like I just ate. Maybe I’ll drink a little water. No, a lot of water.

I eye the speckled banana on my desk and type it in, considering that “lunch”. It immediately calculates the calories, the 19 g of sugar and the 30 g of carbs.

I’m hungry, but not that hungry. Not 30g of carbs hungry. Not 19g of sugar hungry.

Is it fear? Am I worried about foster care? Am I afraid I’m gonna gain weight?

Why am I afraid of carbs? What has happened lately to set me into this cycle?

It doesn’t make sense. It never makes sense.

I’m hungry, and now I’m out of water.

Millennials and Adulthood

I think one of the most infuriating things about being a “Millennial” is the fact that the generation before us doesn’t seem to take us seriously.

Hearing comments from the Baby Boomers and Generation X like, “Welcome to Adulthood” “Adulthood isn’t all it has cracked up to be, has it?”, or the ever sarcastic, unwanted invitation of, “Welcome to the real world”. As if our struggles through finals week, in college was all just a bad hallucinogen trip.

We are put into a category of “entitled”, “lazy”, “selfish”, the list goes on and on, and yet, seldom do we fit this tight narrow minded view of ourselves. With these confounded credit cards, and the debt we had dug our way into trying to afford an education.

Not to mention the technology we are so attached to, neglecting the fact that we may, in fact, be checking work email, or comforting a friend whose parents don’t understand their mental illness.

It isn’t that we are failing expectations of past generations, or that we are somehow unsuited to grow into adulthood without past generations’ supervision, it is that we are different.

Our goal is no longer to be married with kids by the time we are 20. It isn’t that we don’t want a good house, car or job, but it has become exponentially more difficult. Healthcare prices, cars, education, housing, everything has increased in price. As Millennials, it is our decision to choose what necessities we actually “need”, and what gets cut off the list. Some continue to live with their parents, some decide to rely on other modes of transportation, we try and stay on our parents’ insurance for as long as possible.

We sit and do the math, living paycheck to paycheck, wondering what should be paid first and what can wait a little while longer. The decisions from past generations impacted where Millennials are today, but they don’t want to admit that. The fact that prices didn’t change overnight, and the adults that were supposed to be looking out for future generations didn’t screw us over….well guess what, you did.

I feel to be one of the few, one of the blessed. I graduated college on a scholarship. Got a full time job, with benefits, right out of college in the field I studied for. My apartment is small, drafty and expensive, but it has hot water, carpet, and everything else I could want. I am able to see my therapist every week, and it not costing me an arm and a leg.

This too, did not happen overnight. Baby Boomers and Gen X, you don’t get to take credit for my accomplishments, when you are the reason I had to work so hard to overcome it. I live paycheck to paycheck, I also work ~100 hours every two weeks, so it is not for a lack of trying. It is that no matter how hard I try, I can’t get ahead.

So next time you call us lazy, selfish, and entitled, I want you to look around. If you are at work, I bet there is a Millennial close by trying to get ahead. If you are at the coffee shop, I bet the barista behind the counter is a Millennial, trying to pay her rent, or car, while going to school.