the genesis of my diagnoses

As a child I would use my allowance to buy candy. I intended to have it for a period of time, but I would always end up eating it all at once. I would try to make it last, but I seemed incapable of stopping. Thus began my disordered relationship with food.

Growing up, I spent lots of time in my room, alone, reading and re-reading the same books, over and over. I would lie on my stomach, with the book propped up against the pillow. Hidden behind the pillow would be a pile of freezer pops and a pair of scissors. I would bolt to the basement freezer, grab a strip of the colorful, artificially flavored pops, and shove them into the waistband of my shorts to hide them under my shirt in case my family saw me. I would flee up the two sets of stairs, back to the safety of my room, to gorge myself in secret. If my brother or parents were to come into my room, it would appear that I was simply enjoying a single freezer pop, with a dozen empty wrappers safely hidden away.

My first memory of depression is from when I was in my early teens. I don’t remember a lot of what was going on in my life, but I remember an immense sadness that was more than just simple teenage angst. I spent endless nights crying myself to sleep without knowing why. I was extremely introverted, painfully shy, unable to focus in school with poor grades to show for it. Looking back, I am not sure how my mother, a nurse, did not make the connection that I had attention deficit disorder.

I was in my late teens when I first remember having issues with skin pulling, i.e. dermatillomania. I had always had trouble leaving scabs alone. Something was there, on my skin, and it was a strange sense of satisfaction to pull it off. I began destroying my thumbs, primarily, pulling the skin away from the sides of the nails, to the point of drawing blood. I am still this way, and it’s often times compulsive and uncontrollable. It becomes worse when my anxiety flares. I have learned what the “good” bandages are, and which ones will start coming off right away. At times, covering my fingers is the only way to keep myself from pulling.

At 20, I became involved in what turned out to be a controlling, manipulative relationship. It was so subtle that I didn’t even realize it was happening. My insecurities, disorders, and naiveté were preyed upon, exploited, and used to make me feel worthless. It happened over a decade of time, so again, very subtle. Even when I started running marathons and lost weight, I was told, verbatim, that “it’s good to be hungry” and that there was nothing wrong with fasting. At my lowest weight, I would come home from running 20 miles, and was told that I should eat something “light” so that I wouldn’t undo all the running I just did.

It’s taken a lot for me to get where I am these days, despite the disadvantages I’ve been handed in life. I’m coming out of a severe episode of depression, finally seeing the light at the end of a ten month long tunnel of darkness. I’m using all the tools I can to get control of the things that have been controlling me for so long.

It’s really quite delightful and refreshing to be on this side of my life.

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The Flinch

I wish this book was available in print form.

“You don’t know anyone at the party, so you don’t want to go. You don’t like cottage cheese, so you haven’t eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don’t kid yourself: it’s also the flinch. Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy. You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like. If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way.”

— Julien Smith, The Flinch

never too late to start fresh

I’ve been struggling with my most recent depressive episode since last November, so wow, almost a full year. It’s been difficult, overwhelming, debillitating, and extremely detrimental to my health. I am a creature of habit, it’s how I stay on track. I’m all-or-nothing. I need clear plans laid out, I need checklists, I need control. Last summer, control was lost.

My wife and I built a house and sold the old one; unfortunately the timing didn’t match up so we moved in with my mother-in-law for five months. We lived out of one hot upstairs bedroom over the summer. I was training for an Ironman at the time, and it was difficult to get my training in as I would have liked, but I made it work. However living in someone else’s home, with 95% of your belongings buried in a storage unit, makes it hard for a type A such as myself to function.

I also began a new, completely different job last July, which required me to commute on public transit. The Port Authority of Allegheny County leaves much to be desired, to say the least. After my six month probationary period, I was able to begin working from home four days a week. Unfortunately, the moment I transitioned to working from home, I was moved to an extrememly demanding and difficult client. My stress and anxiety sky-rocketed. I figured this out the other day – I gained 29.8 pounds since I began with this client mid-January. I was shocked that it was that much, but it makes sense. I ate and drank my feelings constantly.

Despite being in our own space, with control, I felt helpless to control myself. It was easier to have pizza instead of make dinner, so that is what we did. Countless times. And countless bottles of wine, drank by myself. Generally one per night. I told myself I was too stressed out to excercise, and should just relax on the couch. No wonder I gained so much weight.

I named this blog the way I did because obviously I am working on losing weight, but it also has to do with how far I fell away from myself over the last ten months. I lost who I was and became someone else – someone depressed, crippled with anxiety, a physically inactive alcoholic. I was just simply alive, despite many, many thoughts about remedying that situation.

I lost Lora: the person, the wife, the friend, the athlete. I am slowly finding my way back to her, while losing the literal heaviness I picked up on that spiral down into simply existing. I need to remind myself that I didn’t get to this point overnight, and to be patient with myself while I heal and get back to being the me that I like.

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