Tag Archives: Addiction

Dammit (Janet) – Exercise Addiction

I’m sick. It’s just a cold, but it’s my first one in a year, and it’s taking it out of me.

The bigger problem: I’m supposed to be going to yoga class right now.

Now, as WGT well knows, while I admit to having overexercised in the past as a part of my eating disorder, I will SWEAR UP AND DOWN that I do not now, nor have I ever had an exercise addiction. As far as I am concerned, the mechanism of my eating disorder was based on a series of obsessive calories in/calories out (and then some) calculations, and exercise was obviously a big part of those calculations. But when I decided to recover, I considered my exercise obsession a thing of the past.

Today, however, I’m beginning to have doubts.

Dammit.

I had a midterm and a presentation today at school, and was fully planning on leaving at lunch (long presentations prevented that), but was still planning on going to yoga class. I have a studio introductory pass: I have to get the most out of that 30 days for $30, don’t I?

So I’m sitting on my couch, binge-drinking water, Emergen-C, and tea, and trying to psych myself up to get out the door for class. It’s cold and rainy in Toronto today, though . . . surely that will make my cold worse? And if I get sicker, and I have to miss work, it’s going to really mess me up financially, especially since it’s the holidays.

But . . . in all honesty, my body has been freaking me out lately. My thighs seem to be touching  differently,  and my waist is looking more solid these days. I haven’t weighed myself in about 6 weeks, which is the longest I’ve gone in, well, ages, by about 4 weeks.  It’s a combination of trying to overcome my obsession with the number on the scale, and the fear of what that number will be . . . as well as the fact that the only scale in my house lives in the form of my Wii Fit Plus, which I only use as a scale. If I stop weighing myself, I can sell it and put the money towards more yoga classes!

Long story short, I didn’t go to yoga class. And I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out about my body, and I’m freaking out about being a lazy person, and I’m freaking out about being faced with the fact that I have to admit to an exercise addiction.

It’s so frustrating. Everyone else seems to get to exercise as much as they want, without anyone telling them it’s a problem, and without having to exercise as much as they can. (insert pity party here)

So I’m sitting with it. I hate it. I keep debating whether to run myself through a yoga sequence at home, or just take a sick day. (Sick days? What are those? As it stands, I’ve only had 3 days off in the past month . . . most of which have been spent studying.)

The moral of the story is: I’ll survive. But it sucks.

5 Comments

Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear

Shameless

Today is another anniversary.

One year ago today, I stepped off the bike.

That may not sound like a big deal, but it was. Up until June 5th, 2011, I was absolutely chained to my exercise bike. I had to burn off every calorie I ate before I ate it, then keep going into the night until I hit a predetermined, ever-increasing number of calories burned, or passed out. Some days, even if I’d hit the requisite number of calories, I’d have to keep going, sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning. That was my whole day.

One day, when I was touring with my last show, we had a drive from Toronto to Ottawa, with a stop to do a show in between. I left my house at 9 am, and we didn’t get into our hotel until 11 that night. For the last hour of the drive, I’m pretty sure I didn’t shut up: “Do you think the hotel gym will still be open? Sometimes they close at 11 . . . Can we call to find out? Do you think they’ll have a staircase I can run up and down if it’s closed? Maybe I can just run back and forth in the hallway if I’m quiet . . . ” I was beyond caring if I sounded crazy. I NEEDED to make up for the day in the car. (The gym was 24 hours. I didn’t see much of the city that trip, but I could draw you a very detailed picture of that hotel gym.)

WGT would regularly challenge me to just step off the bike x number of minutes before my predetermined calorie burn. She was met every time with a flat out “NO”. I wasn’t budging on that one. I couldn’t imagine it. How could I?

Finally, one Friday night, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. The bike was driving me crazy. The only way I could NOT get on the bike was to sleep the whole day and not have to eat anything. The next day, I would just keep myself asleep. Every time I woke up, I’d take more medication and go back to sleep. Finally it stopped working, and I had to get up. I had to get on the bike. I was never going to be able to stop.

The morning of the 5th, I read my meditation of the day. My friend Dawn had recommended the book The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie about a month before, and a lot of the passages really resonated with me. June 5th’s was titled, “Combating Shame.”

Watch out for shame.

Many systems and people reek of shame. They are controlled by shame and may want us to play their game with them. They may be hoping to hook us and control us through shame.

We don’t have to fall into their shame. Instead, we’ll take the good feelings – self-acceptance, love, and nurturing.

Compulsive behaviors, sexually addictive behaviors, over-eating, chemical abuse, and addictive gambling are shame-based behaviors. If we participate in them, we will feel ashamed. It’s inevitable. We need to watch out for addictive and other compulsive behaviors because those will immerse us in shame.

Our past, and the brainwashing we may have had that imposed “original shame” upon us, may try to put shame on us. This can happen when we’re all alone, walking through the grocery store or just quietly going about living our life. Don’t think . . . Don’t feel . . . Don’t grow or change . . . Don’t be alive . . . Don’t live life . . . Be ashamed!

Be done with shame. Attack shame. Go to war with it. Learn to recognize it and avoid it like the plague.

I knew by that point that my eating disorder wasn’t about the weight, really, but couldn’t figure out what else was keeping me chained to my behaviors. This put a name to it: shame. Being so ashamed of everything about myself meant that I couldn’t stop exercising. Exercising was something I should be doing. That’s what the media tells us. I was so ashamed of the thought of anyone finding out that I wasn’t exercising anymore, I couldn’t stop it. I was ashamed, too, that I couldn’t stop it.

People kept asking me what I was afraid would happen if I stopped exercising, if I started eating, if I started gaining weight. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s because I wasn’t afraid, per se, I was ashamed. Shame is what dictated that my food be chopped in a certain order. I wasn’t afraid of a mis-chopped apple, but I was ashamed that I hadn’t chopped it correctly. It’s what dictated that nobody see me without my make-up and hair done. Not afraid, just ashamed.

Shame was something I could fight. I may still be ashamed a lot of the time, but it’s easier to live with than a nameless fear.

It’s been a year. I never got back on the bike. In fact, I sold it over Christmas. Yes, I still exercise. Yes, sometimes it’s more than I’m “supposed to”. But now it’s at a healthy weight, and without being chained to it. Yes, I’m still ashamed, but I’m choosing to live with the shame rather than kill myself trying to erase it. I’m told there are other ways to get through it. I’ll let you know if I find them.

 


7 Comments

Filed under Fighting Fear, History Lessons, Inspiration

One Week.

It’s been one week.

It’s been a long fucking week.

It’s been the first week of its kind in 16 years.

This week, for the first time since I was 11, I was completely sober: no major food symptoms, no self harm, no drugs, no anything.

It’s been hell.

I didn’t really believe that the things I did to distract myself from life really made that much of a difference. I was wrong. Until recently, I didn’t know all of what I was avoiding feeling. At least, I think I know all of it now . . . I hope I know all of it now. Now that I have nothing to distract myself, it’s all hitting me head on. It’s like I’m being forced to look directly into the sun after a lifetime of living in the dark. There’s no relief. Even things that I didn’t know I was upset about suddenly hurt a lot. Things that seem, comparatively, so small and insignificant, that I didn’t really care about at the time, that I’ve spoken about without emotion in years since, now feel like they’re destroying my soul.

So why do I keep doing it? Believe me, I ask myself that same question every day. It’s relatively simple. A two part answer. Part one:

There is nowhere left for me to run. I can’t have any semblance of a life if I keep avoiding the work. As much as I try to do the work, my body tries to stop me. It twitches, my hand clamps itself over my mouth, my head jerks violently to the right as if trying to escape my body, my voice won’t work. My brain tries to stop me, too. It tells me I’m not worth it, that I deserve the pain, that I’m better off dead.

So why do I keep doing it?

That shred of hope. Even if it’s not hope that it’s possible for things to get better, it’s hope that it might be possible for things to get a little bit less unbearable. Even if it fails, I can’t imagine things feeling any worse.

The shred comes from seeing people who’ve done it. People who have come through similar things, worse things, different hells, and survived. Some of them have even thrived. It’s inspiring to see. And maybe it might be possible.

That’s all I’ve got. It has to be enough.

2 Comments

Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear

A Quiet Thing

I should be cleaning my apartment right now. It’s not dirty, per se. The laundry on the floor is clean; I just haven’t had the energy to put it away. Same goes with the dishes in the drain tray. There are a few too many papers on my coffee table. So my apartment isn’t dirty, but it’s a little messy. Probably a metaphor for life. Based on the chaos of my life right now, I’d say my apartment looks damned good.

So why am I writing, instead of cleaning? So glad you asked. Believe me, the perfectionist monster in my head is screaming at me to get off my ass and put those towels away. I’ve managed to quiet it some, as there is a load of laundry in the dryer, and chick peas cooking on the stove as I type. (Somebody poke me in ten minutes, or they’ll burn).

Today, I am writing because of a question posed to me (well, everyone) in group therapy today.  We were asked to identify tactics we use to escape reality, which is something I’ve been working on for a while now. That part was easy. Then, we were asked to identify our “pause button” . . . a healthy something we can do to escape the noise and reset our brains. Not so easy. Most things I would do to get out of my head are either blatantly unhealthy, or could easily become so. For example, ballet gets me out of my head, but it’s not something I could do as often as I’d need to, as it could easily lead to an exercise symptom.

I sat there for a long time drawing blanks. If my head is spinning, no amount of reading, tv, computer, music can quiet the noise. Being around people distracts me for a time, but the noise picks back up where it left off as soon as I’m alone again.

Then it hit me. Lately, WGT has had me doing a lot of writing as part of my therapy. On days when I do it, I find I sleep more soundly. I just assumed that it wore me out, but maybe there’s more to it. Then there are times when I’m lost in my head and feeling tortured, and I’ll write something here, on the blog. It doesn’t have to be about what is upsetting me, but spending so much brain power trying to organize my thoughts into words seems to be enough to stop the rest of the noise. It’s my pause button.

Pausing and reflecting in writing seems to keep me from  sitting and spinning in my head, and stops the noise long enough to maybe get some time off after writing. Your comments, both here and via Facebook/Twitter etc., will often prolong the quiet times, sending my brain juices flowing back in this direction instead of towards the murky vortex of doom. (If you say that last part with a creepy voice, it makes it sound way cooler).

So thanks for being a part of what gives my brain a break. Just knowing you’re there, maybe reading, maybe skimming, maybe just looking at the pictures, helps a lot. If you have any brilliant “pause button” ideas of your own, feel free to share.

And just so you know, my chick peas are safely stored and did NOT burn.

*Bonus question: today’s blog title is also the title of a song. 10 points to anyone who can tell me who first sang that song. For those of you keeping track, Tess is in the lead, points-wise. Not that I’m encouraging competition . . . just healthy musical theatre nerd-dom.

6 Comments

Filed under Blatherings, Tips and Tricks (The Healthy Kind)

What It’s Like to “Know Somebody”

Happy (?) Day 3 of NEDA Awareness Week! Tomorrow is Wear Purple Wednesday to raise awareness/show solidarity. I wore my purple socks today, so it looks like I’m wearing my purple-ish shirt tomorrow. Join the party! Purple is pretty 🙂

Since the theme this year is “Everybody Knows Somebody”, I thought I’d dedicate this post to those who know somebody. As excruciating and painful as it is to be consumed by an eating disorder, it’s pretty hellish to watch someone you love go through it, too. I’ve been on both sides, and hell is hell, no matter who you are.

The other day, before the Oscars, the 1954 version of A Star Is Born was on tv. It’s the best version, in my opinion, starring Judy Garland (not so much looking forward to the Beyonce remake . . . ). There is a famous scene where Judy, as Esther/Vicki, talks about what it’s like to live with her alcoholic husband (played by James Mason). Judy, herself, suffered with drug and alcohol addiction, which I think makes this scene even more poignant. While addiction and eating disorders aren’t exactly the same thing, the effects and the mental/physical torture are similar enough.

Eating disorders and addiction affect everyone touched by them, so it’s up to us all to fight against them. Please share with those you know, take a stand, get help if you need it (there are groups for sufferers AND friends/family of sufferers out there), and maybe wear a little purple tomorrow. It takes a village to raise a child, and a community to save a life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blatherings

On The Passing of An Icon

Those of you who have been following my writings/rantings know that I’m not a big fan of pop music. So, I decided while the rest of the world is watching the Grammys, I’d write out some thoughts I had on the passing of one of music’s greats (and a woman whose talent I admired very much – sans autotune), Whitney Houston.  She was a true artist who could do things with a song that nobody else could. She was a brilliant mix of talent and passion, and it came through in everything she sang.

Here’s a video of her in one of her better times, singing a song with a beautiful message that we can all learn from.

I wanted to write about her, however, for another reason. Since her passing, the internet has been exploding with everyone’s two cents about it. I’ve heard everything from “Rest in Peace” and “How tragic” to “I’m not surprised” and “Why are we wasting our grief on a crack whore?”.

A penny for MY thoughts? So glad you asked.

I have many thoughts. I’m not surprised. While I’m very sad that she died before her time, I’ve seen firsthand how addiction and mental illness can steal people’s lives away, both literally and figuratively. It’s hard not to wonder every time the phone rings if something has happened to someone I love.  I do not agree, however, that grief is wasted on a “crack whore”. This woman was ill. Her addiction was a symptom of a larger problem.

I know eating disorders and addiction are two different things, but I feel like they stem from the same root. Things happen in a person’s life that are painful and out of their control. They find something that makes them feel like they’re taking their power back: pain on THEIR terms, a set of rules/behaviors that seem to make order out of chaos, and an escape from their pain. I found my escape and control through starvation, Whitney through drugs.

It’s hard at any time to find the stability and courage to be willing to let go of that control. I know I couldn’t have done it if I’d kept living my life in the public eye (on a small scale for me, of course). People in “the business”, no matter how successful you are, will use you for whatever they think they can get from you to further their own careers. It’s hard to trust anyone in that situation. And the world is so fickle . . . I’ve had people asking me for my autograph after a show one day, then treating me like shit the next when I’m waiting on their table. I can’t even imagine what it was like for Whitney on such a large scale.

I hope she finds the peace in death that she didn’t seem able to in life, and I hope her memory gets some peace from those who speak without understanding. Thank you for the music, Whitney.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Rantings