How can I know what “normal” is if I’ve never experienced it?

“I don’t even know what a normal life would look like,” I sighed, disheartened at the fact that my lack of normal was largely due to my apparent need for drama.

I’m bipolar. For close to twelve years, I cycled between deep depressions and wildly irritable, energetic, too-much-in-too-small-a-space hypomanias. It happened every three months like clockwork. And before that, I’d spent the better portion of my teenage years slipping ever downward into an eating disordered abyss.

So it really isn’t my fault that I can’t imagine “normal.” I haven’t had a long enough period of stability to even think about it.

Until now.  I’m rounding the bend on half of a year.  A whole six months without totally losing my shit, without my sanity being painfully ripped from my mind and tossed aside like garbage. I haven’t had to pick up the shattered pieces of my mindset and use energy pulled out of nowhere to put them all together again. I haven’t had to do any of that. In six months.

I have the time to figure it out now, this “normal” thing, and I think I’m going to try. I felt stupid about it at first, thinking it was dumb to be confused about something so obvious, but apparently, it’s a good question. And even if it isn’t, my standards are different than other people’s. I have a different set of circumstances. And I respect myself enough to cut myself some slack.

Right. Onto defining normal.

I think what it really comes down to is “who am I when I’m not struggling” and “how is my life when I’m not struggling.”  Who am I when I’m not in a mood episode, when I’m not fighting with myself over my weight, when I’m relatively stable, when I’m not actively in a crisis.

Part of me has been afraid to ask such a question because I’m afraid of the answer. What if I’m no one without my diagnoses? What if my life is pointless without my struggles?

There’s no doubt that lots of ME is inextricably linked to my bipolar disorder (or my ADHD, my anxiety, and I guess even my eating disorder). Things that make up my personality are also markers for my mental health issues. Particularly my intensity and my reactivity. While they’re both telltale signs of being a raging bipolar, they’re also two of my favorite qualities.  The same can go for my passion, my one-track-mind, my motivation to create. I see the world differently because mental illness requires it, and I’m driven beyond belief to fervently capture that difference in an imaginative and exciting way, and not stop until I’m finished. I’m so often wildly energetic, unable to sit still or stay in one place. My ADHD is probably to thank, but isn’t that also just part of who I am?

I think for “normal” to happen, I’d need to set aside the drama that accompanies mental illness. After all, I have been known to sabotage my sanity when things are going too smoothly. I don’t blame myself –I blame my brain for having fucked with me for so long that I’m scared of the quiet hidden in the moments of calm. But normal requires slowing down. It requires letting go of the need to be busy every waking moment of the day to keep from becoming too reflective. It’s not like I’m in a period where I’m constantly working. But I still create lists of things to complete each day with way more tasks than need to be done. I will myself to concentrate on something, anything, because I worry where one stray thought might lead me. If I wanna move forward, I can’t be afraid to be alone with my thoughts.

To keep things short, normal probably means less negativity and less anxiety about my future. Not living in constant fear of another mood episode while still being realistic about the possibility and trying to prevent one. Doing the right things for myself while not focusing solely on symptom relief.

No obsessive thoughts, less stress. Calm, content happiness. Excitement (in a comfortable, contained way).

Knowledge. Self-awareness. Knowing my purpose, my reason, my why, my truth. Working to be the best version of me. Thinking about the big picture. Being more productive in a variety of ways. Accomplishing what I set my mind to. Actually looking forward to the future. Enjoying each moment as it comes. Being sure of who I am and how I want to be. Being sure of my values.

Being the ME I want to be: bright, bubbly, outgoing, energetic, friendly, kind, optimistic, loving, hard-working, full of life, a social butterfly, accountable, trustworthy, helpful, inspiring. With that, being seen as I want to be seen. I want to be known for those good qualities I value (while also not letting it bother me when every single person doesn’t get to know me; not everyone will know me personally, not everyone will know my story, and that’s okay because not everyone has to). I also want to be seen and understood as the whole, multifaceted, and at times contradictory person that I am. Because I accept that I am and always will be more reactive, more intense, and yes, more dramatic. I want to see and understand myself as the whole, multifaceted, contradictory way that I just am.

I think listing shit like that will help me to envision normal because it shows what I think I’d be like and what my life would be like if I continue in this period of relative peace.

Like…I was recently inspired to picture the kind of future I want to have. What will I be like? What will my circumstances be? When I really stop and think about things like that, I do picture myself happy and successful and fulfilled and proud of my accomplishments (deep down I know I’m smart and capable, so I can manage that!). I picture myself doing okay with the resources I have. I picture myself surrounded by the same love I’m lucky to have now, as well as new love. Basically, I picture a normal life. And I think all of what I described above relates to that.

So I guess I already have an idea of what normal is, and I guess it’s time to just…manifest that shit.

One of my most vivid memories is of what happened one sunny April morning when I was sixteen.  My parents had brought me to a random doctor’s office for a random appointment, and it pissed me off because I should have been in school.  I should have been sitting in my AP chemistry class learning about radiation. It would require so much time to catch up on all of what I missed, and even though I was acing the class, the ever-present whispers of derisive thoughts emanating from my brain were particularly loud that day.  Their volume increased until they were almost deafening, until I could barely hear the sound of blood rushing through my head, until I could barely concentrate on standing up, barely fight to stay on my feet as black spots clouded my vision. They told me everything would go to shit because I was going to fail chemistry and not get into college and never amount to anything.  They told me I should have fucking been in class.

But instead, I was pacing in the waiting room of this strange, unfamiliar office, painfully cold as always despite my layers upon layers of clothing.  I had my belt pulled tight, as it was the only thing holding my baggy 00 jeans onto my ghostly and withered body. I genuinely didn’t know why I was there, yet I had an overpowering feeling that something life-shattering was about to happen.

A nurse called me back.  I followed her into an exam room.  She instructed me to undress entirely and put on a gown.  I did, and it finally hit me what was coming. Panicked apprehension coursed through my veins with every pained, frantic beat.  She told me she had to get my height. I slid off the exam table to be measured, stood tall, steadying my shaky hands as they fell to my sides.  Five feet.

Then, with nerves reaching an insurmountable level, she told me to stand on the scale. The heavy-duty, never-inaccurate, medical-grade scale. I stepped carefully onto it, as if I didn’t already know what it was going to say. A lifetime passed by in a second, my heart stopped as time froze. The machine beeped as it landed on what it had declared as my weight. I didn’t look, I didn’t look, I didn’t look. Nothing was happening. Don’t look, don’t look. But after I’d stood there forever and ever, holding the air in my lungs until it hurt, I looked at the nurse. She was staring at me. I breathed out. I looked at the scale. I sucked a lung-full of oxygen into my body involuntarily.

My heart leaped at the number, three pounds below what I’d last seen, and then plummeted into a free-fall. There was no derisive voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. There was just a pitter-patter of words bouncing off the edges of my mind, echoing loudly between reverberating silence: Sick. Shame. Sick. Broken. Sick. Sick. Sick.

In the sheer terror of the moment, I had no idea how it had happened, how I’d gotten that way. But the truth was that I was nearly seventeen years old and I weighed sixty-five pounds.  And at that point, I knew what I was doing and how I’d gotten that way.

It was simple in the most complex and intricate of ways: I had an eating disorder.  And I’d had one for three years. It had been all I’d known for three long years. The gnawing, excruciating hunger that had long since dissipated into expansive internal emptiness.  The bitter cold that lay so deep within me that it had settled permanently in my bones. The sheer, unrelenting anxiety, the weighted feeling of impending doom. I’d been trapped.

And in an eternity that lasted only three months, I was released into a freedom I hadn’t realized existed.  I could write novels about what happened during those months, those wonderful, terrible, frightening, uncertain, beautiful months.  And I will write those novels. But the point is that the identity I’d been chained to for so goddamn long would no longer be attached to me.  Being reborn like that? It’s indescribable.

But it’s twelve years later.  Twelve fucking years later. And I once again officially fall into the category of “someone with an eating disorder.”  Instead of three years, it’s been three months. Instead of being grossly underweight, I’m just 25 or so pounds lighter.  But the thoughts, the fears, the discomfort…it’s all there. Again. As if no time has passed. I’m afraid of jelly. I’m afraid.  Of fucking. Jelly. I’ve arbitrarily attached emotion to jelly as if the main ingredient of the stuff is “paralyzing anxiety.”

I hate it.  I hate that I’m doing this again.

It’s different now, though.  I just keep telling myself to “cut the shit.”  I’ve done it before. I’m no longer in the dark. I have knowledge.   I’m well aware that I can be released into freedom, that the chains holding me to this identity are nothing compared to the supernova of resilience powering all that I am.  But I feel too far gone. It scares me.

Not to mention, as I’m ashamed to admit, that I like my body better now.  Superficial as it maybe be, it’s a relief to have gotten rid of all the weight I’d gained after getting on the new meds (which, by the way, are a literal gift from whatever god might be up there).  I know I shouldn’t like the weight loss, but I do. I have a sick pride in it, just like how I’m stupidly proud of the fact that I was 65 fucking pounds two months before turning 17. With that at least it was because, after three years of suffering, that number was all I had to show for it. But now? I don’t know what the deal is.  I guess it’s just nice to be able to be good at something again.

It probably also has to do with control again, with how I desperately want it.  It just isn’t making me feel any closer to that elusive concept anymore. Like, why is it that when I’m waging war with myself over the simple act of sitting down to eat, I never have control over the outcome?

It probably has to do with how I was bored.  How I wanted to be distracted, wanted something to focus on. How I was morbidly curious.

It probably has to do with the low self-esteem I’ve begun to wear even though it doesn’t feel right on me.

I keep telling myself that I just “went at this a little too hard.”  That it was really just an attempt to lose weight gone wrong because my brain naturally just jumps to this shit when life gets stressful.  A result of the fact that I’ve never known any sort of middle ground in regards to anything. I’ve never understood healthy dieting. If you want to lose weight, why not just stop eating altogether?  It’s a miswired translation code in my head. I’ve never been able to fix it. I’ve only ever worked around it.

Maybe that’s the problem: I never got around to rewiring everything.

When I write, it’s to give people something they can read to understand something.  Something they can read to be dragged down to the depths of my mind and come out with my feelings and desires, as fucked up and crazy as they might be, as souvenirs.  I don’t think many people need to visit hell, though. I think it’s enough for me to do so. 

Maybe writing this will help me rewire.  Maybe afterward I’ll remember even more vividly how fucking insanely disgusting my eating disorder was at its peak.  Maybe I’ll drag myself down to the depths of my former mind, the mind I used to try like mad to learn an entirely new way of looking at things, processing things, and understanding things.  The mind I used to smash the title of “anorexic” into so many pieces that it no longer lingered above my head and next to my name. 

I can’t fathom where in the fuck to start.  But if my brain is made of wires, the wires are reduced to words.  So let’s just call this a beginning.

Eating Healthy (for real), in spite of eating disordered thoughts

“Think about how it’s nourishing you.”

 

I’ve gotta cut the crap with this “falling back into my eating disorder” thing.

So I’m supposed to eat at least 2 actual meals a day and while I eat, I’m supposed to think about all the good the food is doing me. Nourishing my body. Making my skin and hair healthy, helping me function the right way. Nourishing my brain. Allowing my meds to work the right way.

I ate one actual meal today already (almost immediately after being told that I have to do the above by my therapist). I tracked it on this app I’m gonna start using called “Recovery Record” (because it’s a fucking cool app and because even though I’m once again shocked by how I’m at such a low with the eating stuff, it’s apparently necessary for me to get all the help I can). And I truly did think about how food is literally necessary for a person’s body and brain and health and happiness, etc etc etc

#therapywin

It’s actually a really helpful thing to think while eating. It’s really comforting to know that I’m doing something good for myself. I mean, it’s quite obvious that restricting and starving or whatever other bullshit I’ve been doing is bad for me. For my body and for my already dysfunctional brain. But the allure was obviously still there (for reasons I’ve said before and reasons I think I’ve still got buried under the piles of crap in my mind).

So yeah. Focusing on health. And on that note, I’ve compiled a list of things that sorta have to do with food and how it related to actual physical and mental health.

 

The obvious stuff first, some of which I’ve already said, and other general positives of eating healthily and not restricting :

— good nutrition gives your body and brain what it needs to function properly (duh)

— therefore making you feel good (as opposed to weak and hungry and overall just shitty)

— hi, if you want energy, you need food and you need calories (which, by the way, is a word that means energy)

— hi, if you also want to focus, then eat some goddamn food, because not eating reduces gray matter in your brain, which as you can imagine is not a good thing to be reduced

— eating well has a positive impact on mood (as I’ve learned multiple times and should definitely try to fucking remember because my moods are fucked up enough)

— making good choices ensures you’ll feel good and be in good health later in life (AKA don’t screw up the entire second half of your life due to dumbass reasons to stay eating disordered)

— it maintains your immune system so you don’t get sick every other week and so you don’t stay sick for months at a time when you do get sick

— basically, food affects every aspect of your life and eating like a normal human being is hella helpful (granted “normal” is subjective, but I use it to try and kick some sense into myself)

 

Stuff that happens with the disorder gets really bad:

— the loss of your period (amenorrhea), which is the result of fucking up your estrogen hormones by not eating, can decrease your bone density by decreasing calcium in your body, leading to osteoporosis, which honestly sounds really terrible, so let’s just not [sidenote about the calcium thing, taking a Ca supplement when you actually get your period totally helps cramps]

— also you might mess up your chances of ever getting pregnant, so there’s that, and the sooner you “restore your period” the better your chances of staying fertile are

— your body will start eating its own muscles, including that good old heart muscle, because of something called like, “protein-energy malnutrition” or something

— anemia, lack of iron, not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen (which is kind of important) through your body

 

List of things that are “not otherwise specified” (see what I did there? EDNOS? I don’t think that’s what they call it anymore, but whatever):

— preventing yourself from eating for a prolonged period of time only makes you eventually want to start eating and not stop for a prolonged period of time, which, if you have an eating disorder, is confusing and upsetting (not that there’s anything wrong with eating to your heart’s content, but if you’ve been there, you know what I mean)

— dude, you’ve gotta get them vitamins, and yeah taking supplements helps (I certainly take all mine when I’m not eating because I might as well hold onto a sliver of health, amiright?) but those don’t do as well as vitamins and minerals from actual sustenance

— I keep thinking about the skin and hair thing that my therapist mentioned, and I love remembering that eating makes my them healthy (because that stuff makes me look healthier in a way unrelated to weight, and that’ll make me feel better) [also, when I went back to school after being in the hospital for a few months due to the anorexia that I’d suffered from for three years, one of my teachers complimented my hair specifically, and I remember thinking that that was the absolute most perfect thing to say because it didn’t have to do with my weight, and it made me feel proud to be healthy]

 

I could keep going with these lists, but I feel like that’s a good start. Maybe I’ll continue adding as I think of more things. We shall see, but tbh now I have to go focus on eating another actual meal. I’m gonna think about this stuff while simultaneously trying to eat “mindfully” and “intuitively” haha, so go me, I guess?

 

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Rising up from the ash

My insides were rotting with fiery emptiness. 

A terrifying lack of control stoked the flames along with tenacious sadness. The sadness that had simmered on my internal burner for too long, causing the contents of the pot, the emptiness that filled me, to boil over, eventually turning it into the unmatched heat of full-blown depression.

The parts of me that hadn’t already been rotted away were scorched away into nothing as hell itself had come for me.  I drowned in the flames.

My skin melted off, my bones were incinerated, the essence of my humanity was reduced to dust and blown away by the gale-force winds of the surrounding stormy hellfire.

Because the whole thing had to do with more than just me.  Yes, I was the one burning. But that was either caused by the storm forever raging beneath heaven and earth, or perhaps the reverse. Perhaps my internal fire run rampant had somehow caused the swirling chaos encompassing it, had caused hell to alight. Perhaps it was a matched flicked to life in an underworld full of gas, working its way toward combustion, creating an explosion that took down a whole damned place, in addition to swallowing the little match wholly and completely.

The fire took me. I decomposed.

But guess what. I’m a fucking phoenix. So fire, and its ferocious affinity for destruction, did not end me. It could never end me. Decomposition? That’s where I’m born, motherfucker.

Yeah. I was reborn eleven years ago. I built another life, somehow related to the previous one but still distinctly new and radiant and beautiful. I wore my vibrant red, purple, and yellow hues with pride (an experience that had died long before I was taken by the aforementioned flames). I took to the skies, flying freely above the world, observing it all with a birds-eye view (the wind felt like home, and the return of my scope of vision felt powerful). I participated in life and all its majesties (who would have thought it possible?).

Eleven years ago. And then suddenly the temperature began to rise. It had been a lifetime since that had happened, but I reacted reflexively. A phoenix should know what’s coming, shouldn’t it? Their lives are reminiscent of the adage “same shit, different day.” Life live. Burst into flames. New life. It’s expected, isn’t it?

But apparently, I don’t have to throw myself into the depths of hell in order to start again. I’m a motherfucking phoenix, but hey, that’s just a metaphor. And the cool thing about that is that I can choose to rise up from the ashes without the morbid part having to happen.

 

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Life: starts going too well, suspiciously well
Brain: hey, know what would be fun? a little throwback to the raging anorexia of your youth
Me: *is an idiot*
Brain, in too deep for comfort all of a sudden: fuck
Body: fuck
Everyone around me: fuck
…so the moral of the story, people, is that even after 11 years (about 6 of which were completely non eating disordered), shit can still hit the fucking fan so be careful…
[Also, totally leafed through Harry Potter 4 to find those two fucking words lol]
Also also, I’m working on NOT being an idiot, and I’m fairly confident the idiocy is mostly over, but I still felt the need to vent about my personal life on social media bc isn’t that what people do these days???

My insides were rotting with fiery emptiness. 

A terrifying lack of control stoked the flames along with tenacious sadness. The sadness that had simmered on my internal burner for too long, causing the contents of the pot, the emptiness that filled me, to boil over, eventually turning it into the unmatched heat of full-blown depression.

The parts of me that hadn’t already been rotted away were scorched away into nothing as hell itself had come for me.  I drowned in the flames.

My skin melted off, my bones were incinerated, the essence of my humanity was reduced to dust and blown away by the gale-force winds of the surrounding stormy hellfire.

Because the whole thing had to do with more than just me.  Yes, I was the one burning. But that was either caused by the storm forever raging beneath heaven and earth, or perhaps the reverse. Perhaps my internal fire run rampant had somehow caused the swirling chaos encompassing it, had caused hell to alight. Perhaps it was a matched flicked to life in an underworld full of gas, working its way toward combustion, creating an explosion that took down a whole damned place, in addition to swallowing the little match wholly and completely.

The fire took me. I decomposed.

But guess what. I’m a fucking phoenix. So fire, and its ferocious affinity for destruction, did not end me. It could never end me. Decomposition? That’s where I’m born, motherfucker.

Yeah. I was reborn eleven years ago. I built another life, somehow related to the previous one but still distinctly new and radiant and beautiful. I wore my vibrant red, purple, and yellow hues with pride (an experience that had died long before I was taken by the aforementioned flames). I took to the skies, flying freely above the world, observing it all with a birds-eye view (the wind felt like home, and the return of my scope of vision felt powerful). I participated in life and all its majesties (who would have thought it possible?).

Eleven years ago. And then suddenly the temperature began to rise. It had been a lifetime since that had happened, but I reacted reflexively. A phoenix should know what’s coming, shouldn’t it? Their lives are reminiscent of the adage “same shit, different day.” Life live. Burst into flames. New life. It’s expected, isn’t it?

But apparently, I don’t have to throw myself into the depths of hell in order to start again. I’m a motherfucking phoenix, but hey, that’s just a metaphor. And the cool thing about that is that I can choose to rise up from the ashes without the morbid part having to happen.

 

A fun little throwback to the eating disorder of my youth, ugh

I haven’t eaten breakfast.

This isn’t a surprise; I usually forego actual food in the morning in lieu of something caffeinated.  Although my choice of caffeine has changed lately, for what a part of my brain deems better and another part deems punishment.  But regardless, lattes and mochas are no more. Plain coffee with stevia and some half and half. At least it’s better than sugary crap, right?

Why I’m over here even contemplating my morning beverage of choice is beyond me.  I drink a fancy-ass, overpriced drink like, every day. And I don’t usually bat an eye at it.  In fact, there have been times I got straight-up pissed off at people who brought it up (typically in some stupid judgemental comment about how much those drinks cost).  Leave my guilty pleasure out of this, motherfucker.

But I’m contemplating it either way.  Because less sugar, fewer calories, that’s gotta be better, right?

Better than WHAT? says the rational part of my brain.  You know, the part of my brain I used to claw myself toward awareness, overturn self-doubt, beat the ever-living hell out of terrifyingly negative thoughts.  The part of my brain that gave faces to the demons whose names I learned, whose sinister motives I removed myself from. The part of my brain that rose from the ashes of a decayed will to live and withered-away motivation, that rose from that torment with forces unmatched in order to survive and thrive and charge ahead at full speed toward a future.

Better than what?

I shouldn’t eat lunch.

At this point last week or the week before, as mid-afternoon rolled around I would’ve felt the hunger pangs already.  I would’ve begun salivating upon entering my kitchen, my mouth ready to begin the process of digestion due to mere anticipation.  But I don’t feel it anymore. That happened rather quickly, I think. Back in the day, oh, 13 years ago, it took much longer for my body to adjust to eating itself instead of actual sustenance, much longer for the twisting, gnawing hunger to recede into simple omnipresent emptiness.  But I guess falling into eating disordered bullshit and all the dangers of its realm is easier the second time around. I’ve heard it said that the pathways are already there in my brain. Like a path forged in a dirt road. A path that hadn’t been there before. A path that, regardless of lack of use, would still be capable of guiding risk-taking travelers to the dark destination they seek.  So repeated wear on whatever-the-fuck brain circuits I used to starve myself into oblivion literally carved out my tendency to return to the whole calorie counting, weight loss driven, number obsessed me that I was back in my youth.

I’ve said it before, in recent years nonetheless, that it’s so easy to just whip out that handy-dandy anorexia and use it to obscure whatever pointless issue that happens to be blocking my path forward.  If I can’t see the problem, it isn’t there, right? Mental illness logic at its finest. But weirdly enough, I’d said practically in the same breath that I “could never” let hunger consume me again, not in the way that it did in high school.  I could NEVER. I wouldn’t even be able to!

Except that, uhhhh, I can.

And I shouldn’t eat lunch.  If I’m empty, at least I’m focusing on something.  At least I am something.  If I’m not eating, at least I’ve done something.  Fuck knows I’m nothing else, that I haven’t done anything else.  Nothing I’m proud of, nothing I value. I know, I know. I’m basing my self-worth on irrelevant nonsense, like a job and money and…I guess that’s it.  But goddammit I’m sick of going nowhere. I’m capable of so much more than treading water in a swirling ocean of confusing options that don’t make complete sense.

But something throws a punch at me from the left.  I tumble into uncertainty, into the depths of “this is all there is for you” and “don’t bother trying when you won’t make it anyway.”  I punch back, miss, and try to duck another oncoming blow. I’m hit with “everything sucks.” I sidestep in an attempt to evade more damage but I’m weak, exhausted, and although I usually refuse to admit it, dizzy.  And then from the right, the dramatic ending to the fight scene, “you’re fucking fat.” One, two, three. Down for the count. And all of that violence taking place within the confines of my all-or-nothing, one or the other, reactive, ridiculous bipolar brain.  How many wars am I expected to win?

Unless it’s just me seeking out trouble.  Marching into battle, one after another, because well. What the fuck else am I supposed to do with myself?  Live a normal life? Like a normal person? How does one even accomplish that, particularly without even knowing what it means?  

I’m should really eat dinner.

But I’m “restricting.”  Yuck. I absolutely HATE “treatment words.”  I guess because I’m (supposed to be) so far removed from them.  Been there, done that, used them, moved on. But have I?

Ughhhh.  Fucking YES, I fucking HAVE.  Or I fucking had?  Why.  Why is this shit barging into my life right now?  I hate myself for letting it and I hate myself for almost wanting to let it.  How. How could I have come so far, so far, to basically invite this monster of a disorder back into my life.  And honestly? How dare it just waltz the fuck back in here as if I didn’t rip out its heart and crush the thing to dust?

It cannot possibly be because I’ve gained weight this year.  Because, oh hey, that’s what human beings do. And that’s perfectly okay.  And I actually didn’t mind my body, this awesome thing that carries me around and lets me experience life and houses my consciousness and every part of who I am, about a month ago.  Not to mention I know so much better than to equate anything about who I am with what I weigh. I’m pretty fuckin’ awesome.

I block a disfigured fist from knocking the wind out of me.  I lean away from another as it tries to catch me off guard. But I use that momentum to swing back, full-force, with “I don’t have to do this.”  BAM! I land another punch, make full contact with the thing’s face. And in a moment of adrenaline-fueled bravery, I kick the motherfucker between the legs and it drops to its knees and folds into a defeated, self-mutilated fetal position.

“Know your place.”  I don’t shout it, but the ferocity in my voice doesn’t require backup.

I’m hungry.  I’m gonna go have a fucking snack.

I can’t figure out my emotions/ moods/ anything involving self-awareness…or can I? No really, someone tell me which.

I discovered the word “alexithymia” like, ten years ago with my friend Meg at the Barnes and Noble between our houses.

For the longest time, she was the only person I knew in the real world (not from treatment) who struggled with mental illness like I did.  We connected immediately, skipping most of the normal pleasantries required of new friendships and got right into the deeper, and usually darker, stuff.  We talked for hours about the ins and outs of anorexia and bulimia, the nitty-gritty of what went on in our eating disordered lives. We talked about how, as a result of crashing into the brick wall of mental illnesses so intensely we were completely flattened by it, we nearly had our lives stolen from us.  We talked about what we survived. What we were still surviving.

Anyway, I digress.  In the middle of what was a time of great self-discovery, exploration, and reflection, we came across the word “alexithymia.”  I don’t know what we were looking up to stumble upon it, or what we were even talking about specifically. But we were sitting in the bookstore (our favorite meeting spot and general happy place) when we tried the word out in our mouths and tested the meaning in our minds, and we had to stop and think about it.

It’s apparently the inability to identify and articulate your emotions to other people.  It’s like an actual thing, and neither of us actually have it, but after getting together nearly every day for an entire summer discuss our struggles as philosophically and knowledgeably as teenagers could, I guess we’d somehow been halted.

Again, we shouldn’t really be described as really having it, but I’m trying to make a point and citing this memory is the best entrance into it I could come up with.  So yeah, let’s get to my point.

Meg and I both felt suuuuuper self-aware.  We figured out why we did what we did and had lengthy conversations dissecting our actions.  We were honest with ourselves and each other. The typically elusive reasons for engaging in eating disordered behaviors suddenly seemed so obvious to us.  Looking back, we were a little conceited in our thinking that if a person had no insight into what they were doing, they’d better get their shit together and quick.  Like, calm down young Laura and Meg.

That still isn’t my point.  But this next sentence is, I promise you.

Even though we “had awareness of our character, feelings, motives, and desires,” we were also still fucking clueless.  I guess it’s one of those things where there’s always more to learn?

I don’t know, but the reason I’m thinking about that one random situation so intensely right now is that I’ve been sucking at talking about my actual feelings lately.  I’ve always felt like I was so great at getting myself.  But do I actually get myself?

Spoiler: I don’t.

I dunnooooo, maybe I used to be good at it but stopped being good at it for some reason.  If I was self-aware I’d probably know the reason. But I’m not. I don’t think? Fuck, this is confusing.

(Sidenote, I legit just googles “self-awareness test” and tried to complete it and it only proved to me that I have some emotional and mental sorting out to do)

I was diagnosed bipolar around the time Meg and I spent that summer in that bookstore.  And ten years later, I’m literally sitting right here in that same store typing a long-winded analysis of what I thought I was so good at when I was 18.

The problem I’m facing right now is that I’ve been all over the place with my moods for so damn long and I think I’m just sick of trying to figure them out.  It requires a lot of effort. I mean, I know when I’m crippled with depression. And I know when I’m irritable and agitated and violent, when I’m in a Hulk-like bipolar rage.  I know when I’m flying high, riding on the adrenaline from too much energy in too small a space. I have apps on my phone that track the mood fluctuations, my symptoms, when I take my meds, and the like.  I journal pretty obsessively. I do it all and I thought it was enough.

Maybe I’m confused about what I’m confused about.  ‘Cause my therapist always asks for me to describe how I feel and I can’t do it.  And I just had a psychiatrist appointment where I babbled for 20 minutes without saying anything productive or useful.  Can I just not describe this shit under the pressure of someone watching me? I’m tryinggggg. A while back I made a list of emotion words for me to use when I need to come up with a word for what I’m feeling.  I haven’t really referenced the list. But still. I have a scale I made up, a 0-10 rating scale that I use to conceptualize how I’m feeling. The problem with that is that my moods change over the course of the day.  Oh, and a while ago I realized that what I feel as mood fluctuations might really be my anxiety going up and down. And all of that could be situational. And maybe it’s just a normal thing that normal people feel on a normal bunch of days.  Not everyone is happy all the time. Ahhhhhh. And maybe what I’m feeling now is just NOT MANIC and NOT DEPRESSED and I’m not fuckin’ used to it.

I was so fricken excited about June and July.  I kept telling everyone how great it was to have nearly two months of stability.  It wasn’t too great. Meaning it wasn’t painfully great, precariously great. It was just stable.

Or was I actually manic?  Because there’s a marked difference between what I feel now and what I was feeling then.

It’s a constant struggle to determine what the truth of the situation is.  I wrote in a poem the other day that I can’t tell the difference between what’s reality and what’s “overdramatic, over-imagined hyperbole.”  Good line, if I do say so myself. But seriously.

I have nothing to measure my life against.  I’ve only ever existed the way I exist. I have nothing to compare it to as a test.  I have no control group in this scientific experiment. All I have is my bewildering take on things.

Alright, this is one of those posts that don’t necessarily help me solve the problem.  It’s probably a start, though. To be thinking in this way and at least trying.  I’m gonna keep journaling, keep doing what I tried to do here.  And I’m gonna make those journal entries more than what they normally are (to-do lists and random shit I did that day).  Gotta get back to that self-aware life.

Wish me luck.

Medication-related weight gain (or putting on pounds in an unrelated whatever)

I’m tremendously uncomfortable in my body. I feel it underneath my consciousness at all times, physically and emotionally. It sucks. But I’ve been in this disconcerting situation before, and even though it’s laced with inward-pointing disgust, even though it makes my skin crawl, I know what to do (in theory at least). I’m taking discomfort by the throat and smashing it into a brick wall like a criminal in a mugging until I’m able to bend it to my will, fit it into a box labeled “this shit doesn’t matter” because I’ve crushed it’s bones and taken them for myself. Fuck being uncomfortable. Fuck letting it ruin what should be a fun and exciting day. Fuck that.