New Years Got Me Like: Wah, Wah, Wah

New Year, new start, new resolutions and all I keep hearing are noises reminiscent of an adult in a Peanuts comic strip “wah, wah, wah.”

The lady sitting next to me on the subway with blonde tresses and a raspy voice proudly says, “I am going to lose x lbs.” Translation: wah wah wah. Just stop.

A man in my apartment complex asserts, “I am going to quit eating sugar.” Translation: wah wah wah whatever!

A hung-over mama in my spin class says, “I am going to drink less” in-between wheezes as she chugs along on the bike and according to her on way less Vodka on the Rocks. Translation: wah wah wah. How boring.

Or more precisely STFU! Just stop, stop, stop. Please stop. Setting these goals that will never happen! Never. Ever. Happen.

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I am like the revenge-seeking Grinch that stole New Year’s resolutions. I come with my big brown bag tossing people’s New Year’s dreams out the window, and then retreating back to the outskirts of Whoville. Like come on, why do I need a New Year to tell me to be a better person? Plus, I feel like most New Year’s resolutions are about weight and that makes me very angry on another level. My overall frumpiness feels threatened and my inner ninja fights back hard.

 When I think of New Year’s Eve in my early twenties, I picture myself getting all dolled up in a slutty dress with way too much boobage popping out. I’d cover the girls in a cardigan that I would never take off (ironically feeling too slutty…) and high heels that I’d wobble around all night in like an elephant on stilts. Starting the night out walking confidently filled with high expectations, piss and vinegar, and whatever weight goal I set for myself starting tomorrow.

By the end of the night, and only god knows how many drinks, my head would be in the toilet, shoes in hand—barefooting the streets of New York—crying “I want my mommy” like my daughter does. Because dammit, when I don’t feel well I want my mommy. Don’t judge.

 What makes me so bitter? Well let me fill you in where my deep hate stems from.

I personally don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions because I think you should better yourself every day. I know a very Brady Bunch answer, but it’s true. A part of me doesn’t like them even more because a number provokes it. On January 1st, you are supposed to start whatever your goal is and pursue it hard—weighing it on a figurative scale of your success every day. Like an eating disorder, you are setting yourself up for disaster. This is why I advise you to evolve healthily each and every day of the year.

Every day, try to respect your body, always be true to yourself, don’t waste your time on nonsense, and spend your time with the people who love you the way you are. Most importantly, you will never be everyone’s perfect person, so just be YOU—that unique, vibrant, amazing person I know each of you are. It’s easy to be you everyday, and not fail at it. So just do what comes naturally.

This year, my first New Year’s Eve in my thirties, it will be my hubby and me in bed, watching New Year’s Rockin Eve 2017 or hopefully some Bravo special countdown—I can only hope, this is my plea Andy Cohen! My daughter will be fast asleep in her crib. Again, I can only hope. And it will be absolutely perfect. No expectations except for a kiss from my husband at midnight. And I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year. Just like every other day.

 

 

 

What Turning Thirty Means To Me After Beating Mental Illness

Only a thin white gown covered my body as I shivered ferociously, despite the plush white blanket my mother had brought from home. I couldn’t move, not even to make eye contact with my mother, who, flanked by doctors and nurses, peered over me.

“What happened to me?” I wanted to ask, but I was too confused to form words. I knew one thing for sure—my head hurt. I closed my eyes again to relieve the pain and blurriness. I could hear the piercing wails of the ambulance, so loud yet ever fading as I went in and out of consciousness.

“Danielle, can you hear me?” the EMT asked with such command, it scared me into answering him. But what came out of my mouth was only gibberish, like playing a record backward in slow motion. The one thing in English I could say became my mother’s saving grace as she squeezed my hand in terror: “I don’t want to die.” Her saving grace, because for far too long I had done everything in my power to die.

My abuse of laxatives had been going on for a good ten years, and I was finally paying the price. I swore I could feel my body breaking down the night before, and I was right. I had known something bad was going to happen, and it did. Like I had a crystal ball, I’d predicted it, and I was lucky I’d asked for help and wasn’t alone. Now, what was going to happen to me?

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It’s hard to believe this was four years ago when my body broke down and had a seizure. Now I am going to be thirty—the big 3-0. I didn’t believe I was going to make it to twenty-six, I was going to die of anorexia. But, lo and behold– here I am and a shit load has changed. I have learned so many lessons and I am here to tell you what thirty and being in recovery feels like. So listen up:

1). My soul feels so much older than thirty so turning thirty actually seems young to me believe it or not.

Growing up with mental illness I took on a lot being the perfectionist, type-A, OCD girl I was. While my middle school, high school and college peers were talking about parties and each other, I was worried about everything from my grades, the state of my family’s happiness, to homeless youth on the street (seriously). I felt like it was my responsibility to make everything in the world perfect. With that superman-like responsibility, I had to mature a lot quicker than most.

To recover from mental illness, you also go through a lot of self-reflection and discovery that makes you feel way beyond your years. This is why turning thirty is a piece of cake. I actually am excited to have a whole decade ahead of me, the first sick-free decade I will ever have.

2). I have perspective from being sick and appreciate things a little more

I appreciate the small things like going out for dinner and being able to eat. I appreciate the fact that I have the strength to carry my daughter in the Baby Bjorn for a couple of hours or at least until my back feels like it is going to give out. I appreciate being able to watch Stranger Things on Netflix and not feeling guilty for being unproductive or not having my own demogorgon in my mind telling me how lazy and fat I am.

3). My possibilities are endless in recovery

It’s amazing what your brain can do when you are in recovery. You have so much more room for creativity when you’re not constantly counting calories. You have more time to have an actual life. Without anorexia, I was able to meet a great guy and now have a beautiful baby girl. He was not my cure-all, by any means, and I am not saying that a ring and a wedding cured my eating disorder or made me well, because it didn’t. What I am saying is that because I was happy and healthy enough, mentally and physically, to let myself be vulnerable, the conditions for true connection were set. Without anorexia, nothing is holding you back. You can do whatever you set your mind to. There is a whole world out there, with endless possibilities.

4). I know who my real friends are

When you go through mental illness you realize who your true friends are and who you have been keeping around as filler. And you know what? Fillings can stick to the cavities in my mouth, thank you very much. I don’t have time for filler-friends of any kind. The number of friends I have dwindled, but the quality has gotten more like that authentic Chanel bag then the fake knock-off on the street.

The facilitator for a webinar I took through the National Eating Disorder Association summed it up perfectly with these words: “Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.”

At thirty, I finally feel deserving of surrounding myself with these kinds of people because I am kind enough to myself to accept them. I don’t have anything to hide from them anymore or push them away now that I am in recovery. I am finally embracing my flaws, so I have to believe that other people will as well, and if they don’t, well . . . fuck ’em.

5). I have learned how to say no to the bullshit.

This person cancelled plans on me for the fifth time with no excuse. That person has me waiting over thirty minutes. I am going to leave. Your priorities change too much to care about the bullshit. I have a baby too, and way too much going on. If you aren’t here for the right reasons, bye Felicia!

6). Me time, is more than okay

This is hard to fit in as a mama of a nine month old, but I deserve it and need it. For the longest time I did everything for everyone else and was people pleasing up the wazoo that I forgot about myself. Now I make sure to have some time at the end of the day to write, watch television, and do whatever I need to unwind.

I don’t abuse my body and push it to the limit. I listen to it and let it guide me. It’s like in the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The controversy stems from whether the relationship between the main characters, a tree and a boy, could be interpreted as positive (i.e., the tree gives the boy selfless love) or as negative (i.e., the boy and the tree have an abusive relationship). I looked at it more on a positive, with the tree being like a mother figure to the boy, content just to make the boy happy. However, if it were multiple people just taking, taking, taking from the tree, the tree would wind up with nothing, and maybe no one would care. The boy appreciated the tree as a stump, but some people wouldn’t.

I almost wound up being a stump because I gave too much of myself and never gave myself anything or took anything in return. You can’t give, give, and give until there is nothing left of you. You have to find a balance. I am learning that. I refuse to be a stump ever again.

7). I finally feel found.

I know who I am. I know my beliefs. I am not wishy-washy on them like I was in my twenties. I used to be insecure and wouldn’t voice my feelings; scared I wouldn’t be accepted or liked-the horror! Now I am not affected by what others think. I don’t need to be liked by everyone as long as I know I am a good person. If they don’t like me, so be it. Yes, I doubt myself at times, but far less than I used to.

8). I am finally comfortable in my body

Gosh, this one seems like it took forever to achieve, but I am finally here and yes at dirty thirty. Wahoo for that! After I had my baby I realized how amazing my body is and what it can do. I mean it created my little girl so it can’t be all that bad. I am more than my body and when it came down to it my anorexia wasn’t even really about my body to begin with.

9). I accept my flaws and even like them believe it or not

Part of my recovery was realizing that no one is perfect, and that is actually the most beautiful and life-changing realization I ever had. The people who have to pretend to be flawless are the ones I now feel sorry for. I want to shake all those people who are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves and scream loudly in their ears so it registers in their brains: “Snap out of it! It’s okay to be imperfect! Your flaws set you apart in a great way. You will be so much more happy once you embrace them!” Because now that’s really how I feel. And it’s true. I am happier now that I have embraced and even love my flaws.

10). I eat what I want and don’t feel bad about it.

I don’t have good or bad foods anymore. I don’t believe in diets and have a really healthy eating lifestyle with moderation for whatever I am in the mood for. If I want a slice of pizza, I am going to have it, dammit! Now that I am eating normally (compared to disordered) I listen to my body’s hunger cues and enjoy what I am eating. It takes time to get to this place of enjoyment with food, for me it was probably a solid three years into recovery, but once you get there it is amazing

I never was actually aware of the concept of mindful eating until I was recovered and realized that I was practicing it all along—while I kept on getting better and better. I was slowly letting myself become more aware of my feelings and why I was restricting or bingeing—turning to food to cope. This way I am never tempted to over eat or under eat again. I listen to my body.

So this year when my family sings the Happy Birthday song and I blow out the candles on my birthday cake, I will be feeling happy, even grateful to be here. I feel like I have a second chance and am so lucky that I have a beautiful family to celebrate with. So thirty bring it on, I am ready for you!

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Yoo-hoo Invisible Teeth, Where are you?

Teething. Three words: Shit. It. Sucks.

“Da, da, ahhhhh,” then tears–non-stop tears out of her dark baby brown eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I say, rocking her up and down, shushing while simultaneously doing squats. It weirdly helps and as a nice bonus, is also good for my inner-thighs and booty. When that doesn’t help, I try the bottle or bah bah. She pushes it away like it’s the worst thing ever or in her eyes, naptime. Then, when all else fails, I am left with the realization— she must be teething.

The worst part about it is that it has been two months of on-and-off pain, this past week being a very on week, with no teeth in sight. I call them the imaginary teeth.

I tell my husband, “I am going to give Viv Tylenol for her imaginary teeth,” as I squirt some into her mouth. Vivienne usually plays hard-to-get with the syringe, but actually enjoys the sweet cherry flavor.

I find myself massaging her gums, letting her nibble my fingers; to make the imaginary teeth feel better. I am giving her frozen teethers on the daily hoping they are laced with magical whiskey to really make her feel better. Kidding, but I think my parents may have done that to me, which may explain a couple of things…

We are waiting for those first few teeth to come in because we are told after they come in it gets better. Plus she is almost nine months and most babies sprout their first tooth between four and seven months.

The interesting thing about imaginary teeth or not visible teeth is that there is nothing to justify the pain. Invisible pain is exactly what mental illness is. Mental illness you are hurting terribly but an outsider can’t see your pain. It’s not a broken limb and the person doesn’t look sick. It’s kind of like your soul is sprouting its first tooth, teething non-stop, but like Viv’s current gum situation, everything on the outside looks unchanged.

I think it makes people feel better when something is visible. Like, if Vivienne’s teeth started coming in, we would feel better, because it would be actual proof to why she was acting moody, cranky, waking up every two hours. Now, we can only suspect and go by her moods because there is nothing that meets the eye.

That’s the same thing with eating disorders: anorexia and bulimia. Because anorexia has a physical component people take it more seriously than bulimia while both are deadly eating disorders. This also applies to people with EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified). The person can suffer from anorexia but not meet the weight criteria and therefore not be qualified for treatment. Just because they look healthy doesn’t mean there isn’t something deeper going on. I suffered with EDNOS for most of high school, but because I gained weight people thought I must be healthy, until I lost the weight. And then some.

I remember thinking this was so ironic, and it is, in a totally Alanis Morissette way. When I was making myself sick with laxatives every night and Jabba-the-Hutt fat (as I called myself at my weight peak), no one said anything about my eating, but when I was skinny, that was considered unhealthy and a cause for concern? I never really understood that. In my mind, even though I was too skinny, I wasn’t abusing laxatives so I was healthier. Either way, I wasn’t the pinnacle of health, but I digress. That’s the crazy thing about invisible pain—no one knows about it except for you.

Now Viv unfortunately doesn’t speak a lot of English yet, but I go by her moods. I know she is in pain and can’t let her suffer. Soon her teeth will come in and her pain will be gone. It’s not that easy for people with mental illness. Viv speaks her pain with tears and that’s the only way I know. If you have mental illness don’t be afraid to speak your pain. People care, will listen, and you can get better. In the meantime, all I can say is teething. Three words: Shit. It. Sucks.

Proud Of My Frump

“Why do you still order maternity swimsuits?” My husband said eyeballing me as I slipped on the new polka-dotted swimsuit I got on amazon to see if it fit. I just looked quickly down at my body and went through the checklist in my head: it fit ✓, covered my thighs ✓. Perfect, I thought, and then stripped it right off robotically. This bathing suit was a “winner winner chicken dinner,” in my book. Which brought me back to another very important decision in my life– hmm, what should we have for dinner?

“Hello, Yoo-Hoo, Earth to Dani.” The hubs said waving his hands in front of my face. Waking me up from my zombie or more like zombie chicken like trance.

“Because they are more comfortable, a little lose, more flattering.” I answered, swatting his hands away like he was a pesky bee zigzagging around my head. Plus, he was kind of acting like one.

He clearly doesn’t know my checkered history with swimsuits. At least I will now wear one in public. My worst nightmare was to actually have to go to a store and put one on in front of the mirror. Both, terrible nightmarish situations—especially for this self-proclaimed anti-shopper with a poor body image.

It used to go something like this:

Try it on. Look in the mirror: flab, cottage cheese, fat or arms, thighs and stomach respectively. Followed by feelings of sadness and failure.

It would not be legen–wait for it—dary in the words of How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson or “not legendary at all.”

If you don’t get it still here is a simple equation: See-no-evil monkey emoji times twelve, as I would stare in the mirror completely horrified.

Now, I find myself in this not so legendary bathing suit situation every Thursday. My daughter takes swim lessons and obviously an eight month old can’t swim alone, meaning I have to go in with her. Though her instructor informed me she is pretty buoyant, I don’t think I should chance it just yet. So every Thursday we go to swim and I change myself then her into our bathing suits. When I walked out of the locker room our first lesson, to my surprise, I didn’t even think about the fact that I was wearing the dreaded swimsuit. And five months later, I still don’t.

Recovery is the key that unlocked all of my doors clasped tightly together by shame. Recovery has let me live, and thus experience. All of these amazing momentous things happened to me because I am in recovery. There was a trickle down effect of sorts. If I wasn’t in recovery, I couldn’t have a baby: one, because I wouldn’t have let anyone in (so unless I was The Virgin Mary herself that wouldn’t be possible) and two, because I wasn’t healthy enough to conceive. If I didn’t have a baby, I wouldn’t have really understood how amazing my body was and really appreciated it.

So yes, because I am in recovery and my body was able to give me my daughter, wearing a swimsuit has become a non-issue. I hardly think twice about how I look while playing in the pool with her. I see my daughter’s smile, hear her laugh as she “splashy splashes the water,” and that’s all that matters. In that way, thank you recovery for giving me the experiences and perspective to make a swimsuit that—just a swimsuit.

So no, I won’t be the girl rocking the tiny string bikini, thinking I look hot, but that just isn’t me or what I am about at all. Plus, I think some old fashioned modesty goes a long way. So yes, I will be the girl in the one-piece, or comfortable two-piece playing confidently with my daughter, smiling, laughing. And you know what, I don’t care what society says about my frumpy suits; I am happy and have come a long way.

Don’t Handle The Holidays Like Tickle-Me-Elmo

I gazed over at the table set-up buffet style in the kitchen examining what I was going to eat at this break-the-fast feast. There was a brown basket filled to the brim with bagels: two cinnamon raisin, four everything, the rest plain–at least that’s what I made out from my view. Cream cheese, whitefish salad, egg salad, tuna salad, all in perfect circular scoops, rested on a long plate beside the carb filled basket. There was a tray, to the right of that, filled with kugel and blintzes. Wow, so much food.

Not too long ago, it would have made me literarily shake, hands vibrating like an out of control Tickle-Me-Elmo doll, and want to plan my exit. I know I would be great at Escape the Room, because no one has perfected the escape better than me. Now, the food was actually beautiful in its arrangements, smells, and colors. How poetic, right?

“Vivie look at the pretty colors,” I said, giving my baby girl a tour around the table from my arms.

Vivienne stared and started smiling, even clapping her hands–then she tried to reach for a bagel. I hope she always has this attitude towards food. She loves it.

Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday in terms of dinner food, and no, not because it’s the one-day I get to fast without people asking questions. I could eat breakfast for dinner everyday and be happy. I can’t say that wasn’t the reason a couple of years back though…

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Holidays are the worst when you have an active eating disorder. Everyone is there, analyzing what you look like and what you put in your mouth. It is neither relaxing nor fun to be around all that food, especially when people are talking about their dieting resolutions while stuffing their faces. Enraging! They’d be commenting on how all the food on the table was “fattening” before eating it, while simultaneously talking about putting on their “fat pants.” Then they’d expect me to eat all that fattening food after that. Yeah, right. Triggers anyone?

 People who really meant well would piss me off with insulting my intelligence by trying to entice me to eat. “Mmmm, Dan, you have to try these mashed potatoes; they are so delicious.” Don’t shove it in my face that you can eat it, you fool! It’s not going to make me want it more! I wanted to pat them on the back and say, “Good for you.”

I would feel uncomfortable and bad about myself with each bite everyone else took, with each bite I took, with each moment where I felt abnormal. I couldn’t go. I couldn’t handle any of it, and it was no one’s fault but my own. That’s why I would tell them I was too sick to make it or my eyes were burning, as I had corneal erosions from malnutrition at the time—anything to get out of it.

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The holidays for me now represent recovery. In recovery I can get together with my family, loved ones, and really enjoy myself. I don’t have to worry about eating in any capacity and can catch up with my family.

However, I do think it’s important for family members to not make triggering comments that can set a loved one in recovery back. Avoid trying to get someone to eat by shoving it in their face, making comments about their size, drawing attention to their problem, demanding they eat etc.—it won’t work and will most likely be detrimental. Pick a time when you can speak to the person in private, then explain why you’re concerned. At a holiday meal, is not the time.

Anyway, the point is that the holidays, once a time I avoided, now is a time where I can embrace my FULL—being FULLy in recovery and being okay with the satisfied FULL feeling. How are you going to embrace your FULL this holiday season?