Why I Need a Higher Purpose than Pleasure

February 21, 2011

I’m not an ascetic. I enjoy an expensive steak, a sparkly piece of jewelry, and an intimate moment with my husband as much as the next gal.

I do, however, abstain from a number of foods that many people find pleasurable. Chocolate, for instance. Spaghetti. A nice bottle of wine.

A lot of people in my life don’t get it. “Everything in moderation,” they say, shaking their heads, incredulous that I haven’t allowed myself the “pleasure” of eating these foods in more than 11 years.

They don’t understand that, for me, although the actual act of tasting the food might give me pleasure, it’s the same kind of pleasure a heroin addict feels as she pushes a needle into her vein.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Suffering’s Role in Creativity

January 17, 2011

I’ve always fancied myself to be a creative person. A reader from a young age, I wrote my first “novel” in the fifth grade. I won prizes for my short stories in high school. I went to graduate school for creative writing, and I write for a living today.

For a long time, though, writing was something I had to do—as Maya Angelou once said, “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”—but it wasn’t necessarily something I enjoyed.

You see, I bought into the myth of the suffering artist. I thought great art could only come from a place of pain. I identified heavily with Hemingway when he said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I conveniently forgot that Hemingway killed himself, which is the most destructive act anyone can ever achieve.

Read the rest of this entry »


Authenticity vs. Anonymity

December 13, 2010

When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was blend in with the crowd. I never raised my hand in class, I never raised my voice.

When I went away to college, I’d wander off the small, safe campus of my liberal arts college and walk aimlessly around the mall to avoid seeing people I knew.

I sat in dark movie theaters by myself for hours at a time bingeing, because eating while watching other people’s lives unfold onscreen was safe. It required nothing from me.

Bingeing in anonymity meant I didn’t have to know who I was, and I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why Community Can Be More Healing Than Therapy

December 2, 2010

I love therapy. Truly, I do.

My husband and I have been seeing a therapist since he came out of the hospital two years ago. She’s great, and going to see her has improved our communication by leaps and bounds.

John also sees a therapist on an individual basis, and honestly, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with him coming home from the hospital if he hadn’t been willing to go. Seeing his therapist has helped John come to terms with his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and it’s given him the tools he needs to cope with it.

That said, though, I haven’t always derived great benefits from therapy, and there have been times when having the support of a community of my peers has been way more transformative than participating in therapy ever could be.

Read the rest of this entry »


How Much Is Good Enough? Work’s Role in My Relapse

November 4, 2010

One of the first things I learned when I joined my Twelve Step program back in 1999 was that when it comes to figuring out how to live my life, I have to consider my recovery first, my family second, and my job third.

When I’m in the grip of addictive eating, I’d way rather hang out on the couch with a pile of food than with my friends or family. (Eating in isolation was so easy; hanging out with people when I was feeling crummy about myself was so much work.)

When I’m eating addictively, I’m too distracted at work to do a good job. And I can bet you good money that, as I did through high school and half of college, I’d be spending a lot of time in a toilet stall, stuffing down candy bars before throwing them back up.

So for a long time, for five and a half years, I put my recovery first. But once I entered the work world in 2004, keeping that order of priorities became a bit more difficult.

Read the rest of this entry »


Surrender, Serenity, and the Same Lesson, Yet Again

October 8, 2010

A couple days ago, I ended a post with a story about how drowning victims sometimes fight their rescuers until they need to be knocked unconscious and plucked from danger.

Well, this is me, trying not to drown.

*****

John and I went to see our baby for the 20-week anatomy scan on Wednesday. Everything looked great—baby is healthy and growing right on schedule. That night, though, I saw blood.

It was actually the second time I’d started bleeding. The first was about a month ago, after John and I went hiking in Palm Springs. That time, the doctor chalked it up to dehydration. On Wednesday, however, I was simply doing my desk job. No lifting heavy boxes, walking long distances, or forgetting to quench my thirst.

When we talked to the doctor about it on Thursday morning, he said it was my body’s way of saying, “Slow down.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Binge Eating = Bipolar Disorder?

October 5, 2010

Last week, I wrote a bit about my recovery from binge eating and bulimia. Today I came across a HealthMap for bipolar disorder that lists binge eating as a symptom of the disease.

I hadn’t really thought about the connection between the two illnesses before.

I don’t know why I never made the connection. In my Family-to-Family class we learned that anywhere from 30-60% of people with a mental illness have a co-occurring addictive disorder as well. In fact, I believe that my mother-in-law was hit with this double whammy. Never diagnosed with a mental illness because she was never willing to seek help, she drank to modulate the  effects of her disease.

Although it may have helped her in the short-term (although perhaps it just gave her the illusion that it was helping her, as the study cited in this blog post seems to suggest), this approach to mood regulation killed her. She died of liver failure at age 59 after many years of alcohol abuse.

Read the rest of this entry »