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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.

 

Stripping Things Down, or, the Yoga of Hell No

15 Jan

I went to Mysore at a new studio in town this morning at 6am. Ironically, the teacher did not come because he has school that morning. The gym did not mention this on the schedule. So I bumbled through practice on my own, and was able to go very slowly and very carefully. It was interesting, and I had to laugh at myself once I realized the teacher was not coming. I was so nervous about meeting a new teacher, and he wasn’t even there! Just like life– I get myself all worked up over nothing in the end. Once I relaxed and realized that it was Ashtanga business as usual, I was able to drop more deeply into my body than I have been able to in a long time.

On the way there, I was thinking about how long the journey has been between being over 300 pounds and a drunk cocaine addict to standing on the front of my mat at 6am in Austin, Texas in very sober samasthiti. To get to this point, there has been a lot of subtraction. Subtracting the drugs and alcohol, subtracting over 100 pounds, subtracting excess material possessions, distractions and unhealthy relationships; ultimately, subtracting a whole lot of thoughts and closely held beliefs that did not serve me. I’ve heard Ashtanga repeatedly described as “The Yoga of No” and in my case, it seems to be the Yoga of hell no. Hell no I don’t want to stay up late. Hell no, I don’t want to go to a bar with you and get totally f*cked up. Hell no, I don’t want to eat that junk food and hell no, I don’t want lots of distracting noise and chaos in my life. These things just don’t do it for my anymore. I realized that I was yogastoned after practice this morning—very similar to accustomed (the high you get after accupuncture), but a lot sweatier. I’ll take the yogastoned over really being stoned any day.

I belong to the World Wide Metta meditation mailing list, and I received their newsletter this morning. There was a piece by Thanissaro Bhikkhu called “Stripping Things Down” that made a lot of sense to me:

We can think of renunciation as a process of simplification. That’s a word with a nicer ring to it nowadays: You want to simplify your life, to cut away the unnecessary clutter. But either way, whether you call it simplification or renunciation, there are hard choices you have to make. And so it’s best to look at it as a tradeoff. You can spend your time on activities that give immediate results that don’t last very long, or on activities that give more long-lasting results but take more effort, more time, more patience, require more precision. Ultimately you realize that the best trade is the one where you give up lesser forms of happiness for more long-lasting ones, ones that speak to the really deep issues in life.

Yes, and yes.

Tomorrow is a Moon Day, which is a perfect day to connect with others in loving kindness and do a practice of metta meditation. Well, every day is a perfect day for this, but I really like knowing that somewhere out there on New and Full Moons, there are other people metta-ing.

Link to the original article here: http:///gallery.mailchimp.com/ea2e5620a6396a3fc34db91d5/files/D_Stripping_Things_Down_Part_One.htm

Ooops I Did It Again: Prodigal Ashtangis and Brad Ramsey on Pain

23 Oct

Here’s an older post from May that I did not quite finish:

I rearranged all of my furniture and formed a mini-shala in one half of my bedroom. I now have a nice, albeit small, practice space for morning Ashtanga. And so I got up and did it, starting this past Monday. The difference in just a few days was unbelievable. A sense of peaceful calm after I get off of the mat. And on the mat? It’s a shitstorm, folks. Stiff body, stiff mind, craaaaazy thoughts. Even though I have been practicing several times a week in a class setting, it has not been Ashtanga and it has not been at 6:30 am.

Lately, I have been feeling like I will *never* get back to the way I was practicing in Las Vegas. I have been feeling hopeless, unmotivated and I’ve been in a lot of physical pain. Still, the desire is there. I’ve been reading a little bit of Guruji every night before I go to bed as motivation/inspiration. The chapter with Brad Ramsey was unexpected and incredibly moving. He was a strong and stiff practitioner (sound familiar?) and much of the interview was about pain. Here is his commentary on going to Mysore to study with Pattabhi Jois:

“I felt like I was being dismembered, My body was changed…when it hurts, put your mind on God instead of your pain, whatever your concept of God is–whether he is the great architect or the basic element of the universe, which everything is made out of…the series is just a mold toward a body that meets the requirements for spiritual advancement, I believe. I don’t think you can get there without pain. I never met anyone who did. For me, it hurt from the first day to the last, at least something. There’s always something…sometimes even to make the effort is painful…it’s the nature of the beast. It’s a birth process, really.” 

I don’t know whether I feel validated and comforted by that, or terrified and ready to run away.

Guruji has been a great read so far. I have been reading it very, very slowly. Usually I gobble up books like I gobble up food. The discipline of reading something slowly is good for me. It also mirrors my practice–very, very slooooow. As they say in the rooms, “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

On Being a Bad Lady

15 Aug

 

Yes, I have been lifting weights again. And I know–David Garrigues would have my head on a platter. With some macrobiotic food on the side…

I conducted a little “experiment”, and went to a boot camp through my job for four months. I also started doing Crossfit. I even ran (!!!) which I haven’t done in any sort of serious way since my tendon repair surgery in 2008.

And I loved it. Not gonna lie…it’s so much easier for me to stay in the comfort zone of really physically rough exercise. It feels good, and it’s not confusing or weird or “internally challenging” like Ashtanga. It doesn’t cause me to need to rearrange my mental landscape. And in the end, it also doesn’t necessitate a total physical rearrangement, either. It’s more of the same. My body is like, “Oh yeah, this. I know this.” With Ashtanga, my body is like, “Oh my f*cking GOD, not THIS! Anything but this!”

In the end, I decided to stop bootcamp after almost 5 months. My hip is killing me again, and my knees may soon join my hip in united protest. This time, though, there’s something different going on. I feel very mentally and spiritually “stagnant”. I am craving the “internal rearrangement” of Ashtanga, even though I am scared shitless of starting a serious morning Mysore practice with a teacher. I am coming up with every excuse known to humankind to not do it. I’ve also been letting my new job and lots and lots of socializing get in the way of dedication to practice. I have been dabbling with Ashtanga Fundamentals classes here and there, with erratic home practice, with hot yoga and with classes through my job (which happen to be taught by an Ashtanga teacher, hmmm…). For the same reasons that I stopped lifting weights and started Ashtanga in 2012, I am stopping now. It looks like pain, both physical and emotional, remains my best teacher. Surprise!

Forget

25 Apr

I am still here in the land of wildflowers and way too much good vegan food and *distractions*. Home Ashtanga practice totally derailed. Having lots of struggles in many areas of my life, and some progress in others. Life on life’s terms?  Sometimes I just forget all about that sh*t. I was doing some reading this morning during my AM quiet/meditation time that had nothing to do with yoga. It was a twelve step recovery book, and I came across this sentence: “the yoga principle of non-attachment to the fruits of labors”. What? How could I have just thrown that proverbial baby out with my bath water?

I was in Half Priced books the day before yesterday and I looked up at the Hindu section and there it was, shining like a beacon: a half-priced, used copy of Guruji! Let me tell you, that is not an easy find.

Thanks for the nudge, Universe.

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.

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