This year is the 30th anniversary of the publishing of Shadow on a Tightrope by Aunt Lute Books, and there is a blog carnival this week for the book! I am so happy to be participating. I can’t think of a lot of books that have changed my life, but I would say that this one has. I was about 19 years old when I first picked up SOAT. I was bulimic and fat, and had always been told that being fat was the worst thing in the world to be. In high school I had starved myself down to a “normal” weight, but I gained back some of the weight by the time I was 19 when I was trying to starve myself again. I remember being in Seattle at Bailey Coy Books (now out of business) where I found the book, and later reading the book during my lunch break at the University Bookstore where I worked for a short time. I could not believe what I was reading! For one thing, there were these other fat people out there! Who knew?!? And some of them had endured horrendous surgeries that I didn’t know existed back then (which are all too common now). AND then they were saying that fatness wasn’t the horrid devil wrapped in bacon strips that I had always been told it was! WHAT?!? Did I read that correctly? I didn’t know it at the time, but the book forever changed my outlook on fat and fat activism. Maybe not all at once, but it all stayed with me. It found a little space in my brain, and when everyone else and all of society screamed at me to be thin I remembered the words in SOAT. I remembered (for once) that this experience of being fat was not something I had to do alone, and even though I didn’t stop the bulimia for years, and hated myself for being fat a lot, the messages from SOAT were there working their magic. And, I really think it was like magic that these words in a book could so profoundly alter my view of the world. Years later I stopped the bulimia, and I now consider myself to be a fat activist of sorts, and SOAT is still helping me to figure out how to live with my body and how to live with a world that hates my body. I am forever indebted to Aunt Lute and all of the people who put the book together. I hope that this book can get in the hands of more fat people just so they know that it doesn’t have to be like this, they don’t have to hate themselves, and they aren’t alone.
Hey Everybody! I just wanted to let you know that I had a blog story published over at HealthyPlace.com. Here is the link: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/yourmentalhealth/2013/10/30/is-not-disclosing-mental-illness-perpetuating-stigma/ . I hope you read the article and can participate in the conversation. I’m really interested to hear what people think! Thanks! :)
Recently I made a medication change (with the help of my psychiatrist), and as you might know from your own interactions with meds sometimes it can cause issues to develop. I was happily strolling along for a couple of months with a few bad days here and there, and then I started to notice the bad days piling up more often. I was really irritable, sad, became unmotivated, and suicide starting sounding better. I became alarmed, because I knew something was going wrong, but how was I supposed to explain to my psychiatrist that “irritable” is a symptom for me?
The problem with mental illness is that even when we fit into a diagnosed category of disorder, we all have our own unique symptoms that we need to pay attention to. I have schizophrenia, but for years I didn’t appear “sick enough” to most doctors, because they expected me to be talking to the walls and completely disheveled. There were times when I was talking to the walls and completely disheveled, but the doctors rarely saw me during those times, so they figured I wasn’t that bad off. Because I could communicate relatively well most doctors dismissed schizophrenia as a diagnosis.
Over the years I have come to realize what my symptoms are (for the most part), and now that I am doing better I can advocate for myself more effectively. However, it still isn’t easy to call up my psychiatrist and say “wow, I’m extremely irritable, this isn’t normal for me, and I need to increase my meds.” Most psychiatrists won’t believe that “irritable” is in any way related to schizophrenia, but for me (and many others) it is. I don’t become psychotic over night, and I don’t believe that I should have to be talking to walls in order to get the help I need. I also don’t believe that people should have to try to kill themselves before mental health professionals take people seriously.
Unfortunately, a lot of mental health professionals won’t take a person seriously unless they are debilitated to the point of needing to be hospitalized. So, as people living with mental illness or people who love people with mental illness, we have to be very proactive about getting the help we need before it turns into a crisis. Think about the good days and what you are like on those days, and compare them to the bad days. What are YOUR symptoms? How do things manifest in your day to day life? You might want to write down what you know your symptoms to be, and take that list with you when you talk to your doctor. It isn’t easy or fun, but we have to advocate for ourselves even when we are not doing our best.
In the end, you know your symptoms the best. Remember that you aren’t “crazy” for wanting to feel better and you aren’t making up excuses. Be pragmatic and straightforward, and get the help you need.
Loud In the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl is a new book by Stacy Pershall. Of course, I was immediately drawn to this memoir, because it is a) a memoir b) about a “strange girl” and c) deals with mental illness. Yay! Since I’m undoubtably a strange mentally ill girl, I knew I had to read this. Pershall writes about her life growing up in Arkansas and her morphing from an über-sensitive child into a teenager and young adult with Borderline and Bipolar issues. Anyone familiar with the mental illness memoir genre will certainly have heard of Elizabeth Wurtzel, and I just bring her up, because UNLIKE Wurtzel, Pershall is not whiny in her writing! Pershall is matter-of-fact about her trials and symptoms, even though the reader can imagine the actual playing out of illness to be much more harsh and unbearable.
Pershall describes her unrelenting eating disorder, mood swings and suicide attempts with a steady and precise hand. This book seems really accessible to me, because Pershall speaks not only to those of us who have been through the mental health care system, but also to people who might not really understand this special weirdness. The only thing I would like to see more of in this book is more OF this book! haha. Seriously though, I enjoyed reading this memoir and would love to read more from Pershall. I would especially recommend this book to people struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder. There is a special misery only known by Borderlines that is never really represented in the books that ostensibly deal with Borderline Personality Disorder. I really wish there were more accounts like this that show the uncrazy through the crazy of Borderline Personality Disorder.
WHAT?!? Yes, it is true. They now make an even skinnier Barbie! Apparently she wasn’t thin enough, so they have flattened her out some more. It is okay with me, as long as they make a FAT BARBIE, which they never will do! It is hard to say how much Barbie really warps young minds, but I do think she has had some influence over generations of girls. There have been endless discussions about the body image of Barbie of course, but Barbie is only a part of what the issue is. While Americans get fatter, body image issues get more complex and the Hollywood image of beauty gets thinner and thinner. I guess I can’t be too surprised by Barbie’s new look, but did Barbie really have to go there?!? At least her boobs are smaller, but the dolls are seriously anorexic. Barbie was so thin and out of proportion before. What good could come of anorexic Barbie dolls I ask you?
It has been a long while since I’ve written about body acceptance. I sort of ran out of “steps” that I could think of. For me, it really is a process. I told my therapist that when it comes to weight, weightloss and size acceptance, I feel like I am walking on a balance beam. Not quite a tightrope, but still balancing nonetheless.
Over this past year quite a lot has changed. My blood sugar levels were elevated with an A1C level of 6.3, so my nurse practitioner qualified me as diabetic. She also did other blood work and discovered that I was really low in Vitamin D and that my thyroid was off (hypothyroidism ), so I started meds for those too. I decided that I was sick of people suggesting that I get a gastric bypass, and I felt like I really could be in better shape, so with the combo of meds for my thyroid and blood sugar, watching what I eat a little more, and getting a bit of exercise, I have lost some weight.
However, I still want to maintain my outlook as one of size-acceptance. I know it seems kind of weird to say I am for size-acceptance and still be trying to lose some weight. There really is no manual for this kind of thing, so I’m just working on it as best I can. I am taking steps to improve my health. I got my A1C level down to 5.3 (non-diabetic) so far and my other labs are looking better. I’m still taking meds, but I’m TRYING to take a bit better care of my body. I know that at my size I am not quite as healthy as I could be, but I also know that I am not going to starve myself and turn into a raging bulimic again to try to maintain and lose weight (well, I really hope not at any rate!!!).
But, it is hard in some respects, because when I do make some attempt to pay attention to what I am eating, all of those negative thoughts tend to come back to haunt me. Thoughts like if I eat something “bad” I am being a “bad” person. My therapist calls thoughts like that ANTS (automatic negative thoughts). You know, some months I might gain some weight or not lose weight, and I have to be okay with that.
As a person who has struggled with weight issues all of my life, it isn’t like losing weight is just a matter of calories in and calories out. It is a whole quilt of past experiences, thoughts and feelings related to weight and how I have dealt with things throughout my life as a fat person.
So, I feel like I’m in a process of understanding how to accept myself and my body while trying to take some steps to improve my health. For me, it is important to remember that at the end of the day, the whole world drifts away and what matters is how *I* feel and how *I* can function and accept my body in this life. So, maybe I want to lose some more weight, but I still eat. I still eat “bad” stuff and I’m not ever going to live on a diet of celery, that is for sure. I don’t want to give up my life and I don’t want to give up eating. I just want to live my life the best I can!
P.S. And just so you know I am not anywhere near skinny, I have posted a picture of myself that was taken a couple of days ago! lol
Well, not only am I a schizophrenic, but I’m a regular girl type. The kind of girl you all know. Which means that growing up I had regular girl problems (not that eating disorders are girl-only problems), not just schizophrenic girl problems. I was a chubby kid. And then as a teenager I went on a crash diet right around the time I first started losing touch with reality. I essentially starved myself so the weight would come off, but then, my hair started to come off too. And, eventually
I don’t talk that much about my eating disordered self. My eating disordered self is like the proverbial (fat) skeleton in the closet! Okay, I know skeletons aren’t fat, but mine is! haha. People tend to think one of two things when you are fat. They either think that you don’t have an eating disorder and that you are just lazy, gluttonous, disgusting, and everything else along those lines…OR if they don’t think that, they think you DO have an eating disorder and the eating disorder is OBESITY period. So, basically
Okay, I rarely write about celebrity gossip, but overnight Britney Spears was taken into the hospital for psychiatric evaluation and I guess I feel the need to comment. From what I’ve heard on the news, she hasn’t slept since Saturday and she’s now on a 72-hour hold. I have also been