Anorexia

caring-for-me-1

I got on Pinterest just before writing this post – just as a last minute attempt at visualizing the statistics of anorexia. And that is what I expected to find – posts fighting against being emaciated – against anorexia nervosa. But when I searched “anorexia”, I did not find those cute graphics that I was looking for – graphics telling me the percentage of the world population struggling with the disorder and lists of how to combat it.

anorexiaNo. For the first time, Pinterest did not give me what I wanted to see.

I cannot write a light-hearted post about anorexia nervosa because it is a disease that is serious, mentally, emotionally, and physically, down to the soul – to the core of the one who struggles with it. Medicinenet.com defines it like this: An eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder”. This disorder can be fatal.

When you google anorexia, you find help for eating disorders. But on Pinterest, where real people pin and re-pin what they want from the internet, you find tips on how to be as skinny as possible. Just like in magazines and in our society, being skinny is glamourized.

I went through the first 102 pins that came up in my search – just out of curiousity. There were only 16 that had any sort of anti-anorexic mentality – four books about surviving an eating disorder, a sweatshirt proclaiming “I beat anorexia”, and some sad quotes that showed how difficult it is to beat an eating disorder. Only 15% of the first 102 pins were anti-anorexia.

The other 86 pins? On my count, 34 of them were just of underweight girls – some with words glorifying starvation, exercise, or self-hatred. 37 other pins were solely dedicated to losing weight, including “ana tips”. Apparently, chewing ice burns 55 calories per cube.

This post was going to give you statistics and attempt to help readers become a little more aware of what anorexia nervosa is and how difficult it is to overcome. Throughout this week, we’ll look at other eating disorders, so maybe we’ll get a chance to go into that later. But what I want to do today, because it struck me completely down, is go through some of what I’ve seen re-pinned in the last hour.

I pray this shows you more about eating disorders than I could tell you on my own.

The first photo I saw took me by surprise. I kept repeating it in my head, thinking that it mustn’t say what it said: “We never regret eating too little.” A photo of a skinny girl, thighs not touching, face not showing stands in the background.

 

Here is another one: “Have you ever just cried because you are you?” The comment beneath it was this: “I can’t even look at myself because I’d rather die than being me.” Can you imagine the heartache of the girl that pinned this?

 

I am not ‘beautiful’. You don’t see

What I do when I look in the mirror.

You don’t hear the voices in my

Head telling me I’m fat.

 

Don’t tell me I’m perfect just the way I am. I have a mirror.

 

The nagging guilt in the pit of your stomach asking, ‘Why did I just eat that’?

 

I didn’t eat for three days so I could be lovely.

 

You keep a lot to yourself because it’s difficult to find people who understand.

 

Hungry? Have a bottle of water.

Still hungry? Eat an apple.

Still hungry? Too bad. You need to be skinny.

This one was pinned by a girl whose Pinterest name is “Thin Princess”. She pinned it to her “Motivation” board.

 

How about this saying that you’ve heard before? In this context, it’s a little different: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

 

I feel too fat to have an eating disorder.

 

My problem: I don’t want to eat, but I do, and when I do, I hate myself a little more.

This particular pin stuck out to me: “I don’t care if it hurts. I wanna have control. I want a perfect body. I want a perfect soul.

In their book on beating eating disorders, Maisel, Epston, and Borden echo this idea that anorexia nervosa, as well as bulimia nervosa, is more than just physical. There is a link that anorexics feel between morality and food. They even say that most of the women with anorexia or bulimia have had a very high level of justice and carried the ideals of helping others in their lifetime, even from a very young age. When their dreams of helping others seem unreachable, it’s their eating disorder that offers “help”. They write that anorexia and bulimia vow to “bring an end to the pain, fear, and despair” by helping one see their “hopes and dreams possible” (Maisel 23). Those with anorexia are good people, like many of us. It’s not a matter of just eating to solve the problem. It’s often a matter of just wanting to perfect themselves in every way, but finding it almost impossible to step away from the harmful aspects of what that perfection demands.

One particular patient, Emily, wrote this at the age of 14. She had been anorexic since age 11. “Anorexia approached me when I was miserable. It told me it could make me feel better. It told me that my fat was making me unhappy. It told me to get rid of the fat and then I would feel better. Basically, Anorexia told me that losing weight would make me feel better, because all of my problems and all my bad feelings were existing because I was fat and ugly. If my fat was gone, all my problems would be gone too. There. There it was… the answer! It all seemed so simple and so perfect and SO EASY. That’s why Anorexia is so appealing. It seems like the perfect solution. It gave me the power I could lose the weight and then I would no longer have any reason to feel bad. I could have reasons to feel good, too, on top of it all. I was really quite impressed and pleased by Anorexia in the very beginning when it first introduced itself. It told me it would make me feel better if I lost weight but it didn’t tell me it would punish me for failing to lose weight. It didn’t tell me how difficult it would be to lose weight. I did eventually realize that if I lost too much weight I might die but by then I didn’t really care. Oh, well, if I die, I die. Big deal. Being thin and beautiful is worth dying for” (Maisel 46).

I want all of these words to help lead you, as they have me, into a greater understanding of eating disorders, particularly anorexia. I want us to be able to see all people – no matter their disorder, their illness, their disability, or their struggle – as just that. People. The struggle those with anorexia nervosa face, from very young ages to much older, is not something we can judge. It’s not something we can understand, but it is something we can identify, help with, and make a small difference.

Here is a simple way you can help. Post and Re-pin positive messages about the body. Don’t let it be you who pins or accidentally supports negative body image. Let beauty be shown in any skin – “fat”, “skinny”, short, tall. Let your messages on the web lead to positive change in the world. Simply doing that can create change.

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References:

Maisel, Richard, David Epston, and Ali Borden. Biting the Hand that Starves You: Inspiring Resistance to Anorexia/Bulimia. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2004.

Loneliness: Finding Meaning in What You Do

Loneliness (2)

Happy Independence Day, everyone in the States! This is my second 4th of July in New Zealand, and there are no fireworks… or American flags. But I’m looking forward to the 5th of November – when Kiwis set off fireworks all across Auckland on Guy Fawkes Day. None of them know why (none that I have found). They say it’s just fun. I feel like Kiwis will do anything for fun’s sake. They don’t really need a reason.

It’s good to do fun things for fun’s sake; it’s a part of being happy and boosting serotonin. But, I really think that sometimes in life, it’s useful to have a reason for doing things. Americans celebrate their independence as a reminder of the freedom gained from an oppressive nation. In New Zealand, they celebrate Waitangi Day to remember the unity and promises made between the colonists and the Maori people. We need to find meaning in the fun.

finding meaningAnd we need to find meaning in the not-fun. In the horrible. In loneliness.

This blog was a project that I have been wanting to do for a long time, but it was when I needed it that I finally cracked down and made it a reality. I felt, sometimes, like life had no meaning.

In your loneliness, do you sometimes feel like there is no meaning or purpose to your life?

I think it’s hard to talk about, and honestly, I try and forget that I ever think those horrible thoughts. And I usually do well until the next time I experience extreme loneliness or even depression.

And so, I found myself in a new country with a bunch of strangers – in a new suburb, just married, with a husband in his last and most difficult semester of nursing school. And I yearned for purpose. I cried a lot. With almost every other adventure in my life, God had told me to go or do, and it often happened pretty much last minute. I chose New Zealand because, I believe, God has plans for Mark and I as a couple, but I never thought about what I might do in the in-between – on my transition.

And so I say to you: Sometimes in life, you have to create purpose.

How? By taking what you have and applying meaning to it.

Cacioppo says that “loneliness may damage the cardiovascular system not just by inflicting stress, but also by promoting passive coping in the face of stress” (Cacioppo 106). He says that, often, lonely people will act “with pessimism and avoidance” (103). This means that us lonelies are more likely to just let whatever situation we are in keep us from doing positive things. But, I think, we can create positive things.

One day when I needed to get my mind out of my negative-lonely-world, I just coloured in one of those adult colouring books that are pretty popular right now. I chose one that had words that would encourage me – with some of my favourite animals on it or something. It was an easy way to think of something else, but still get my happy hormones up.

I had a colouring book. I applied meaning to it. I used it to re-focus my mind on the positives.

In this book called Wired to Create by Kaufman and Gregoire, they talk about how we are naturally creative beings. Children left to their own devices will play and imagine and make up stories. Adults will do this, too, and the adults that have continued to “play” do well. Their idea is that we should “play with what you do”- integrate the idea of enjoyment and fun, in effect, with seriousness. This increases endorphins, making you feel good, while doing what you have to do.

You have to work. Apply meaning to it. Find fun in it. Enjoy what you can, because sometimes the stress of work can overwhelm.

You go to school. Apply meaning to it. It is making you a better human being, preparing you for who you are meant to be.

I live in New Zealand and I have no job. I need meaning, so I take what I have – a laptop, a library, a love for writing. And I create a blog with the help and support of a few people. This gives me something that I can see as being important, gives me meaning in how I spend my time. I feel better, and I even feel like I look better. I’m out of bed more, and able to do more.

How can you apply this idea? It can be as simple as drawing or colouring, or as dramatic as a job change. I’d love to hear!

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Missed something? We don’t want you to feel left out. 🙂

Check out the rest of the “Loneliness Series”:

 

1.        Loneliness: It’s All of Us

2.       Loneliness: The Problem, the Paradoxical Virus, and a Cure

3.       Loneliness: Finding the “Inner” Person

4.       Loneliness: Finding the “Other” Person

5.       Loneliness: Finding Meaning in What you Do

6.       Loneliness: For the In-Between

7.       Loneliness: Understanding Loneliness in All People

8.       Loneliness: Helping Others, Helping Yourself

9.       Loneliness: Finding the “Upper” Person

10.     Loneliness: Final Thoughts on an Un-Final Topic

Loneliness: It’s All of Us

10 daysversuslonely ness

 My husband is from New Zealand, but I am from Texas. We got married at my grandparents’ house last Thanksgiving, and now we have been living in Auckland for a few months. I cannot work because we don’t have immigration consent as I am writing this post, so I have had little to do while my husband is in his last semester of nursing study.

Loneliness.

I feel like I say that word a lot lately. Yet, somehow, even the word doesn’t carry the weight of the emotions conjoined into those three simple syllables.

We all feel lonely. And that is part of why this site exists – so that we know that we are never really alone. Thanks for that.

Part of my coping with this new time of my life – starting off in a new country with new people and foods and ways of joking and teasing – is by writing. Writing this blog, for example.

But in the last few weeks, loneliness has integrated itself into worthlessness and a lack of purpose. I had purpose when I was teaching English literature to teenagers. I had purpose when I was helping youth at my church community back home. I had purpose when I was planning a wedding. I had purpose when it was only me and I could dream of travelling and wandering and going wherever I wanted – whenever I wanted.

I’m learning something new. Life changes and sometimes purpose changes with it.

So how do I cope with this?

How do I get back to a life of purpose in the middle of so much change?

Through life, I have learned that when negativity floods in – whether it’s self-doubt, being fired from an easy job, or just someone looking at you the wrong way – immediate action is required. If not dealt with and changed to a positive, the negative thought or feeling seems to compound itself and leads to other negative thoughts and feelings.

EUGENE (1)My theory in working through loneliness is, at the present, largely based on the same skills we learn in counseling to combat depression. Both loneliness and depression can be debilitating, and one can lead into the other if the dice lands a certain way on the table of brain chemistry.

As someone who believes in Jesus, I have the ever-present peace of knowing that my faith is giving me purpose. That is more helpful than anything. I daily thank my God for the purpose and plans that he has for all of his children. That is my number one.

And so, here, I write my list of what I do (or try to do) to refocus and balance:

  • Be in the light – both physically and spiritually.
    • The sun not only gives us Vitamin D, it boosts serotonin, increasing mood. On cloudy days, my husband whips out this handy “lightbox” and turns it on right in front of my face. It helps me.
    • The son of God is the light of the world. Without this source of light going into the deepest parts of my soul, I am empty. He fills voids created by loneliness. And I’m not even just saying that.
  • Draw. Or Colour.
    • Get an adult colouring book. Or a kid’s one. Create your own. Colours can be oddly therapeutic. So is colouring.
    • Sometimes, I draw myself how I want to be – happy, peaceful, thinking good thoughts.
  • Go to school. Any school. (Today, I’m sitting in a university library. I don’t attend here. 😉 )
    • This may not be useful for many people, but I freakin’ love to learn. So I sit and I learn whatever I want to learn.
    • Research your interests. I’m very interested in the subject and science of “loneliness” right now, as you can see. So I spent three months finding everything I could on the subject. I’ve also been studying pet therapy… because I want a dog. 🙂
  • Teach.
    • This is something I enjoy, partly because I learn so much myself through teaching.. So I’ve created a blog where I can do something like teaching while I’m unemployed!
  • Socialize. Find the “Other” Person.
    • Join a club, a church group, a gym. Be with other people. I joined a gym, and even though I don’t talk to anyone there, it’s nice just to be with people. The same goes for the library or a café!
    • Our landlord has an 18 year old deaf cat at our house. I pet it when my husband is studying or at his clinicals. It’s just an animal, but being with something else that is alive and breathing is comforting. If you have an animal, cuddle it. If not, hamsters are cheap in the States. 🙂
    • Be with your family, if you can. I can skype my parents. I can go to my in-laws’ house. I, personally, always “leave” feeling better.
    • Tell your best friend, your husband, your wife, your kid – whoever – that you want to spend time with them. Make a plan, set a day, and enjoy every moment. One day when I was at my loneliest, Mark stayed home with me and took me to the wharf. A week later, I was still looking back to that day, feeling the good feelings over and over. Count the blessings of those days as hope during the bad days.
  • Write.
    • Writing has always been my favourite thing to do, even though I’ve been shy and embarrassed to do it as much as I like. It’s therapeutic to write in a journal. It feels good to write a card to people I am thankful for.

What is your list? How do you deal with your lonely times? If you can’t think of anything, try to concentrate on what has always made you happy. Most of the things on my list fit into everything I wanted to be when I was a child: an author, an artist, and an adventurer. Look back at your childhood self. Where do you find joy? We all find joy in being with people on some level. How can that help you in your loneliness?

If you don’t have an answer, yet, then I hope and pray that by the end of this series, you will have one. Or two. Or many.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series of, what I believe, will be useful articles on the problem of loneliness, solutions to help you through the loneliest times, and the hope that you can have within yourself to make it. Stay tuned for:

 

24 June       Loneliness: It’s All of Us

 

27 June       Loneliness: The Problem, the Paradoxical Virus, and a Cure

19 June       Loneliness: Finding the “Inner” Person

1 July          Loneliness: Finding the “Other” Person

 

4 July         Loneliness: Finding Meaning in What you Do

6 July         Loneliness: For the In-Between

8 July         Loneliness: Understanding Loneliness in All People

 

11 July        Loneliness: Helping Others, Helping Yourself

13 July       Loneliness: Finding the “Upper” Person

15 July       Final Thoughts on an Un-Final Topic

Loneliness is not something you alone feel. Everyone feels lonely. Many people feel chronically lonely. You are not alone in the fight to be with others and feel whole. It’s not just you. It’s all of us. Let’s take it head on – together.