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Coming Out: Eating Disorders, Veganism, Sobriety and Depression

2 Sep

Note: I did not realize that I hadn’t posted this entry from 2014! It expands upon some of the things I spoke about on my post from 9/2/16. 

“All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but unignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his speedboat, there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they’re looking through you to somewhere else they’d rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.”–Russell Brand

I have not written in quite a long time on this blog. I took a hiatus and was *sort of* working on a few other blogs, but mostly? Honestly? I have been intensely wrestling with a lot of heavy shit and not practicing yoga. Although I speak a lot about recovery on this blog, I am not always super clear and honest about how much I have struggled with bulimia and  intense depression since I got sober in 2007. I don’t even think I could admit to myself how much I had been struggling, and things had gotten especially tough with the bulimia since I moved to Austin in 2012. I finally broke down and admitted that things had gotten really bad and that I needed professional help outside of 12 step recovery. This was so hard for me. I was in total denial about both the bulimia and the depression. I kept trying to work my 12 step prgrams “harder”. And I kept getting worse. So yes, I am outing myself right now: I am in treatment for both an eating disorder and major depressive disorder and I am getting the help I need. If this blog post can help anyone out there to seek help, I figure it is worth it.

I am also outing myself again: I am still vegan. Veganism is not a part of my eating disorder. I am not longing for animal products and forcing myself to not eat them. I am not secretly bingeing on animal products and then purging (my dietitian asked me about that point blank the other day). During one of my first meetings with my therapist, she expressed her concern about my veganism. I explained to her that I do not feel my eating disorder and veganism are at all connected.  Veganism is not a way to restrict or control my food. Veganism is about living in a way that reduces harm to animals and people. She listened to me and then asked me something that I think I will never forget: What about harm to you? That stopped me dead in my tracks. And I suddenly had an image of geese being forcibly fattened for fois gras. I am basically stuffing myself forcibly and then forcing myself to purge. How is bulimia consistent with my ahimsa, my living without harm? It’s not. This was both a horrible and an awesome moment for me, because that was the moment where I realized that I really do not want to do this to myself anymore. I felt simultaneous hope and despair—hope that I can get better, and despair about letting go of the eating disorder that has been with me since I was a teenager. I have no idea what recovery looks like. I didn’t know what being sober would look like when I stopped drinking, either. I had to take it on faith from my sponsor and other sober people that I could get and stay sober and that I would have a much better life. And what that life would look like would remain a mystery for awhile. I think my life without Cruella (that’s what I call my eating disorder these days) is a very mysterious proposition, but I just keep telling myself it’s going to be OK.

 

 

 

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I’m baaaaaack

2 Sep

I have been away for so long, dear readers. I developed a lot of health issues in 2014 and it’s been a challenging two year hiatus. I decided to come back and revive my blog; I always looked forward to writing, and it’s fun to interact with random strangers as well as old friends in the Blog Universe. Also, I find myself needing an outlet/space for writing about some of my health stuff, as I can feel isolated and stuck since I spend so much time at home these days.

In short, here’s the deal…

I relapsed into bulimia and restricting in 2014 and had to go into treatment. It was immensely helpful, but really, really hard. And freaking expensive, as I had to pay for all of it out of pocket. I thought I had it all figured out and that I had beaten my eating disorder, but that was most definitely not the case.

I had a huge major depressive episode in summer of 2014 while I was still in treatment, and finally started taking medication. Historically, I have been pretty anti-psych medication. However, this depressive episode threw me into the bottom of a black, mucky well and I could not seem to claw my way out.I started to develop agoraphobia as well as panic attacks. I was barely functioning. I needed the help, and I am so grateful that I took a chance and was open minded about something I had always been opposed to; in fact, I had been derisive and mocking about it, I’m ashamed to say.  I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, as well as Bulimia. To see those words, from my psychiatrist, written on paper…I cried for about a week.

During my gnarly depression (which took me a year to recover from!), I started to experience more muscle pain and stiffness, as well as bizarre joint problems. My knees would swell up and hurt like crazy, and it would just rotate from one knee to the other. I’ve always been creaky and achy and stiff, so if you have read any of my blog entries that’s not a big surprise. It kept getting worse, and I was going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Sometimes it would hurt even to lie down; I’d suddenly become the Princess and the Pea, heavy metal Austin edition.

Finally, in January of this year, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Although I was relieved to get an answer of sorts, I was not happy about it AT ALL.I’m in a pretty consistent chronic state of pain. It takes me forever to do what I used to consider “normal” activities: getting dressed, taking a shower, doing laundry, walking the long stretch from the parking garage to, well, anywhere. Basically, it is totally pissing me off and it sucks. I accept that I have fucking fibro, but I certainly don’t like it.

Ashtanga seems like a glorious thing from a distant past. Going to the grocery store is like, a crazy workout. Just going to all of my doctor’s appointments, acupuncture and therapy sometimes seems like a marathon.

This has all been a big lesson in getting humble and staying humble. I celebrated 9 years of sobriety this year, and clearly there is always more to learn. Acceptance, love and tolerance, easy does it, just for today, humility. Rinse and repeat.

It feels good to be back.

 

Ghost Body

9 Nov

“In ancient times, bears were considered equal with men…”

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai  is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I stumbled across the clip on youtube. As I watched it I realized, “wow, I used to way more than a bear!”. No wonder they are my totem animal! I’ve had the phrase “Ghost Body” pop into my head frequently during practice for the last two weeks. At first I was like, “WTF?”. Then i realized that sometimes I still think I am carrying around my former 320 pound body. I will think that I can’t fold forward in certain positions when I actually can. It’s as if there is a “Ghost Body” surrounding me and I can still “feel” her, like people who can feel an amputated limb. Interestingly, I never stayed in my starved, thinner body long enough to develop a skinny “ghost body”.  She’s more like a whispering voice, a feeling, than a physical thing I lug around with me. When I am truly present in my current body and not divorced from it, I spend a lot of time trying to find the “edges”—how big am I, actually? Where do I stop and start? How far can I bend or reach? Where does my arm or leg go, really? Somewhat like moving to a new city and learning how to navigate the streets…you get lost a lot at first.

I also have begun to notice how much I “guard” certain areas of my body during practice. I clocked this after a conversation with my sponsor about how emotionally guarded I still am with certain people and at certain times. I find in Ashtanga that I seriously guard my left elbow (broken when I was skateboarding and drunk and 25), my right hip (could write a novel about this), my knees, my left ankle (surgery), my right hand (two surgeries). There’s a geographic area of my body that I feel like I need to protect, to keep it from further pain and trauma. But my guarding and vigilance is actually preventing the healing from happening! I realized this today during Ardha Baddha and burst into tears on my mat, which is happening again frequently. I felt a bizarre wash of warmth down my injured right side…so strange. And now my hip is feeling much better, go figure. Maybe my inner Samurai needs to find a new occupation instead of guarding my injuries. I have been throwing around the idea of learning Kendo lately…

I am trying notice my Ghost Body and just acknowledge her without fighting her. I carry her with me, and I don’t have to hate her. I am still a “fat” Ashtangi, and I will probably never be a skinny, bendy yoga chick–I  honestly don’t give a sh$t anymore. My weight is no longer my business, and I have no idea where this practice will take me physically.  I’ve spent so many years trying to artificially manipulate my body and my consciousness that I have no idea who I am or what the f*ck a “healthy me” looks or feels like physically. I have a sneaking suspicion that through dedication to this practice (practicing these principles in all my affairs for you 12 steppers out there), I will eventually regard my current body as yet another “Ghost Body”—with kindness and compassion. Everything changes. Bring it, Universe! I am f*cking stoked for transformation.

Heavy Metta Link Round Up: “I Am More Than Numbers On A Scale”

5 Oct

 

 

I just spent the weekend at a recovery event for people with food addiction issues. It was an absolutely amazing weekend that brought me to tears on more than several occasions. I have great appreciation for the process of recovery and for the days and sometimes even weeks where I don’t think about my size, appearance, weight, food or dieting.

I also have a new found, great appreciation for my plus-sized body and the things it can do. In spite of the many ways I have abused it over the years, I can now do these things: I can walk long distances (with a limp!), hold myself up in chaturanga, get my ass an inch off of the floor in tolasana, actually do navasana (!! this just happened recently) and finish an Ashtanga Primary Series workshop without dying. The strength, endurance and forgiveness of my body amazes me.

 

picture courtesy of yogapaws.com

 

I am grateful for the gift of being able to eat healthy, balanced, plant-based meals that are nourishing as well as tasty and aesthetically pleasing. I did not have this ability two years ago, and I spent my time lurching from fast food drive through to crazy workout regimen to insane diet plan and then always back to the binge followed by the starve.

Life is too short to eat ugly food. I spent the majority of my life bolting down ugly, greasy, brown and extremely unnaturally colored food from bags and boxes in secret; sometimes purging it, most times not.

Life is too short to restrict my food unreasonably, to be scared of carbs and fat grams and calories, to demonize some foods while forcing myself to choke down others that I can’t stand.

Life is too short to spend it living a lie; drinking and drugging myself into oblivion because I couldn’t tolerate the body I live in or the thoughts in my head, spending so much energy putting on a false front of “fuck it” and “I don’t care”.

Life is also too short to spend it chained to a treadmill, barbell or exercise bike; I spent endless hours, sometimes most of my waking hours, choking down “legal” speed and “energy” drinks and exercising like a maniac.

Life is ultimately too short to live it without purpose, appreciation, love and service. I don’t get to embody or enact those things when I am caught up in my addictions.

I came across this video on my Facebook feed this week and I found it to be really moving. The only bully worse than the ones I faced as a fat kid growing up in uber-weight-conscious 80’s South Florida is the voice of the Eating Disorder Bully that still rents space in my head. I need to evict that bitch, stat. Kudos to Jennifer Livingston for eloquently speaking about against bullying and fat-shaming:

A  link from Huffington Post on Yoga and an amazing recovery from anorexia by Chelsea Roff. Her plus-sized power yoga teacher was an integral part of her recovery story> I really want to buy this book just so I can finish her story!  Very, very moving stuff:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/intent/anorexia_b_1928891.html

An article I really related to by Erica Cheung: “Fat for an Asian, Flat for a Latina”. Ether cultural standard is oppressive; if you’re not svelte like Lucy Liu or “bootylicious” like J Lo, well then—you’re just fat:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erica-cheung/fat-for-an-asian-flat-for-a-latina-body-image_b_1910972.html?utm_hp_ref=eating-disorders

From the Curvy Yoga blog (gotta give them a shout out!)–what happens when more curvy peeps practice yoga? “Body diversity becomes the norm in yoga classes, not the exception.”:

http://www.curvyyoga.com/yoga/when-more-curvy-people-practice-yoga/

Tapas: I do not think it means what you think it means

6 Sep

Tapas. In Spanish, it means fun, little, yummy meals–frequently involving pork products. In Vegas, people frequently mistake it for “topless” (of course). In Sanskrit, it means the fires of hell!!! OK, “heat” and purification—I’m so dramatic. Quote from Kino MacGregor on tapas, yoga and healing injuries:

“It is not the physicality of hatha yoga that transforms, but the state of presence cultivated by a conscious effort to heal the body and train the mind that heals. It is actually higher awareness itself that brings about great changes in practitioners’ experience of reality. One of the biggest challenges along the road to the discovery of presence is pain and injury. Paradoxically every yoga practitioner owes a debt of gratitude to each injured body part and all the accompanying emotions brought up. Most people, me included, have relatively strong egoic minds and need to be pushed to the precipice before they are ready to change. According to the Sanskrit “tapas” that defines accepting pain as help for purification, yoga defines pain as your teacher, but not in the most obvious way. It is not enough to feel pain and push through; actually pushing through some types of pain is pure insanity. Instead pain is your teacher on a much deeper level that forces you to dig deep into the heart of yoga.”

Since I am thinking about tapas in terms of food (as usual) lately, I happened to stumble across some David Garrigues youtube videos on food this weekend. This was the one I found to be the most interesting/disturbing:

Interesting points from this David Garrigues video:

“Some people are humbled immediately {by practice} and it feels awful” (that would be me)

“You feel like you are battling against something…and that’s when you have to start refining it and looking at all the possibilities…to look at your diet and to reign it in and look at it, that’s an avenue of progress…start looking and seeing where the junk is…and those you start eliminating…it’s actually not that much of an experiment. It’s a reduction, a reigning in, it’s just like the other forms of tapas.”

“If you take up yoga practice and you continue to eat bad food, you won’t make progress. You won’t.”

I am torn on this one. On one hand, I know he’s (partially) right. Much of this is in line with the Ayurvedic principles that have worked so well for me, especially the lighter meals at the end of the day for Kapha peeps. On the other hand, part of me is screaming, ” noooooo f@&k that, no way, hell to the no!!!”  No food is really “bad” or “good”…I can’t handle the making food a moral issue thing. And the idea of finding “legitimate”, yogic reasons to starve myself? No bueno. Been there, done that. My yoga practice is about healing, not furthering my ED. The Wicked Stepmother (or Eating Disorder Bitch Voice, if I am in a saltier mood) started perking up after watching this so I had to check myself before I wrecked myself. Take what I need and leave the rest.

The take home message? Something is rotten in Denmark right now. I am disturbed, and it is definitely something going on with me. In the past, I’ve had drinking dreams or bingeing dreams or even running dreams when I am really stressed. I’ve had dreams twice this week about gorging on monstrous, Alice-in-Wonderland sized cakes and washing it down with gallons of beer.

From bigfatcook.com, I kid you not

My weight is stagnant, my practice is stagnant, I am so tired and lethargic and I just want to eat everything that is not nailed down. My body feels unhappy and stuck. Kapha derangement, anyone? If I am honest with myself, my weight is not just stagnant it is trending up. There’s lots of vegan convenience foods sneaking in lately, and I want to eat nuts or nut butters with every single meal. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee with coconut milk, and coconut milk is a no-no for Kapha dosha. “But Jillian Michaels drinks it!” whines my inner rule breaking, I-want-my-damn-coconut-milk voice.

I am not Jillian Michaels. I am a 42 year old, injured Ashtanga practitioner who happens to be vegan, in recovery from addiction/eating disorders, hypothyroid and sits at a desk researching crazy shit about methylfolate, schizandrins and phosphatidylserine all day. I don’t really need the coconut milk every single day, several times a day. And hello, I’ve been going through like 4 containers a week by myself. There’s plenty of other things to eat that would make my body much happier. It’s time to reign it in and look at the possibilities. As an experiment. The concept of eating to properly fuel my practice is new to me. Food has always been either a reward or a punishment; a drug or a curse.  But with this being said, I have to walk the line of the Middle Way and not get too crazy and go into Restriction Land.

In any case, the only kind of tapas going on over here these days are the tapas that make me blinded by sweat during downward facing dog, not the tapas that consist of bacon-wrapped dates and marcona almonds.

Your Body Is Not A Wonderland, It’s A Wasteland

9 Aug

I’ve been thinking a lot about the very Western fascination with “detox” lately and way it intersects with yoga practice. I have mixed feelings. The health food freak in me (hey, I worked for Whole Foods Market for 17 flipping years—I can’t help it!) likes the idea of organic produce, lots of water and green juices/smoothies. Then part of me is like, why not all of the time? Why do I need to “detox” just so I can “retox” at a later date? My biggest so-called-“vices” are the occasional bag of Pop Chips, vegan pizza and coffee. If I’m in a situation where other people are drinking “festively”, I have been known to drink Diet Coke. Burn me at the stake! I saw an article on Elephant Journal the other day with a pic of what happens to your innards when you drink soda that nearly made my eyes bulge out. I got this image from the blog littlebitbetter.org:

It’s obvious that eating, drinking and slathering your body with lots of toxic crap is not practicing ahimsa. Hurts you, hurts the environment, hurts other animals and humans. But the hysterical prudishness and rhetoric behind most of the “Detox” diets, websites, books and e-books just leaves me with a bad, toxic taste in my mouth. A lot of it just seems like thinly veiled anti-fat, “obesity epidemic” hatred.

And, quite frankly, some of it just doesn’t make any damn sense. There’s a lot of woo-woo BS that gets touted as nutritional fact and I am just not down with that. Just disregard my love of Ayurveda and TCM here for a minute and bear with me, OK? I recently picked up a copy of Kimberly Snyder’s The Beauty Detox Solution at the lovely Las Vegas library (our library system ROCKS!). Part of me wants to buy what she’s selling hook, line, and vegan sinker. She’s so cute and healthy looking and I like the color of her book. And the green smoothie recipe looks really good! But then I had to dig a little more and look at what she actually wants me to DO.

For Phase One of her plan (“Blossoming Beauty”), she wants me to drink hot lemon water and take some probiotics when I first wake up. WTF is the deal with all of these alternative health gurus and lemons? There are 2.4 million studies on Pub Med alone. Do any of the studies reference the miraculous alkaline power of an acidic citrus fruit? If you find this information, please email me immediately. I did find some interesting studies on Citrus species and a drug made from them for sickle cell anemia, however. Very interesting. I will have to do some more digging on this topic because it has been seriously nagging me for years.

Next on this phase, I get to eat “two or three” celery sticks and dry toast for breakfast. But only if I am hungry. Seriously? Lunch is kale salad and soup (rice crackers optional) and snack is, you guessed it, raw veggies. Yay! Dinner is more salad with oil free dressing and either fish (ewww) or a alkaline grain veggie burger. Then, this is the kicker: “LATE NIGHT: if you experience cravings, have herbal tea with stevia or more veggie sticks dipped in Sally’s Salsa or Green Bean Miso Dip.” “If” I experience cravings? It’s more like when. All I have to say is that someone would be getting HURT if that was how I had to eat every day. Cravings? Ya think? Just writing this made me hungry!

I’m sure there’s plenty in this book that is useful information. I just can’t get past the starvation part. The total caloric content of the food I listed above? 913 calories, with the optional extra carrot sticks at night. I would be diving head first into a vegan pizza followed by a bag of Uncle Eddie’s, I can see it now. So I will continue on my merry way, making my body toxic in the morning with coffee before my Ashtanga practice and eating lots of healthy vegan stuff for the rest of the day. In the meantime, I do not feel like my body is a wonderland (screw you, John Mayer) or a wasteland. It’s just my human, imperfect, and awesome body. I try to honor the temple as much as I can and treat it with gratitude, respect and love.

Off With Their Heads! Heavy Metta Link Round Up

8 Aug

Today I noticed on my wordpress blog stats analyzer thingie that apparently if you search for “yoga made me skinny”, my blog pops up. Not sure how I feel about that! I do not practice yoga to “get skinny”. I practice yoga as part of my spiritual, emotional and physical recovery from alcohol, drugs and a raging eating disorder.

Do I think that every single person who is overweight or morbidly obese has an eating disorder? No, just like I don’t think every single underweight person is anorexic. I don’t think that every person who “wants to get skinny” has an eating disorder, either. The difference, for me, was that I had an insane mental compulsion to binge eat and then “compensate”/punish myself through compulsive exercise, starvation, diuretics, laxatives, diet pills and sometimes even vomiting. It went way beyond “watching what you eat” or “trying to lose weight” into being The Mayor of Crazy Town. At some point, I crossed the line and things just got ugly. It resulted in surgery and me being in a wheelchair for six months because I pushed myself to such an extreme with my binging and compulsive exercising. It resulted in me being pre-diabetic, exhausted, injured, severely asthmatic and suicidal. I began having liver problems and PCOS/hormonal problems and existed in a general state of incredible unhealthiness. I also have a sneaking suspicion that my years of abusing diet pills that contained ephedra could have possibly contributed to the thyroid condition that I now have.

No yoga = no prana. No sanity. No serenity. I need a spiritual connection today or I cannot live a sane and serene life. Yoga gives me that. Yoga keeps me honest. I cannot engage in my compulsive exercise behavior within the scope of my Ashtanga practice. My body can only do what I can do at that particular moment, and pushing will result in injury pretty quickly. The bandhas, drishti and breath keep me spiritually connected as well.

I have been avoiding the news lately because it makes me feel like a crazy person. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s some special sound bite on The War On Obesity with headless pictures of fat folk. Trust me, I have fought my own War On My Obesity and I was a casualty. Waging war is a losing battle. Ironically, I wrote this before I found the Christina Sell video that I linked to above. If you haven’t read her books, do yourself a favor and get them.

The yoga world doesn’t exactly embrace plus sized brothers and sisters, either. “Core Strengthening Yoga”? I know what your shorthand means! And vegans? Fuggadabbout it! If you are a “fat vegan”, let the shame and blame begin. And often if you are overweight even by a little bit, no one thinks that you have an “eating disorder”. They feel free to say the most triggering and fucked up comments imaginable that quite frequently send me into a total tailspin. I have to guard my recovery and sobriety very carefully. I spend a lot of time on my yoga mat and a lot of time meditating. I go to 12 step meetings, surround myself with positive and loving people and read lots of spiritually uplifting books.

Yoga is so much more than a workout or a weight loss strategy.

Here’s some links that got me thinking recently:

Fat “papping”—how do they get those annoying Headless photos of us fat people anyway??

http://www.obesitytimebomb.blogspot.ca/2012/07/i-got-fat-papped-for-daily-mail.html

“Assana” my fat ass! Who makes a line of yoga pants called “Assana” and then sizes them only in SMALL and MEDIUM? Seriously? I call shenanigans! Things like this really grind my gears, thus proving I need to avoid most media lately.

http://assanas.com/firefly-yoga-pants/24-firefly-boot-cut-pants.html

Natala Constantine is one of my vegan heroines; this is another post from her. She now is an Engine 2 team member.  A post on being vegan, still being 100 pounds overweight and how she feels about that. As to whether you agree with the dietary suggestions part, take it with a grain of salt:

http://engine2diet.com/the-daily-beet/should-you-feel-bad-for-being-overweight-plus-12-tips-for-losing-weight/

Laura Dunn on what happens when yoga becomes 100% practice and 0% theory. It’s a fine line between “healthy” and “restricting”:

http://lauradunnyoga.com/2012/04/22/yoga-and-body-image/

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