My Brain Works Differently

I’m an alcoholic. I don’t have one drink. I don’t understand people who have one drink. I don’t understand people who leave half a glass of wine on the table. I don’t understand people who say they’ve had enough. How can you have enough of feeling like this? How can you not want to feel like this longer? My brain works differently. ~ Leo, The West Wing, Season 3 Episode 10 – Bartlet for America

I was watching this episode yesterday in anticipation of The West Wing Weekly podcast about it, and this quote really stuck out to me. Leo is talking about his experience as an alcoholic, but I can relate this very much to the eating disorder.

For most people, restricting their food intake is an adverse experience. They don’t have a chance to eat lunch or a snack one day, and they feel like crap and think “I am definitely going to make sure I have that tomorrow.” However, for me the opposite happens. I get this sort of high, and think “I want this feeling to continue.” I want to keep feeling that hunger, that emptiness. As Leo says, my brain works differently.

This is also why restricting is such a slippery slope for someone with anorexia. Just like Leo cannot have one drink, I cannot have one missed meal or snack. It just leads to more restricting. There are many days were I want to miss a little, and think it’s not that big of a deal. But if history is any indication, pretty soon that one exchange or one meal becomes two or three, and it just keeps on going. Why? Because as Leo says “My brain works differently.”

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You Don’t Get Cured

From The West Wing, Season 1, Episode 13 – “Take out the Trash Day”:

KAREN: Is that why you drank and took drugs?

LEO: I drank and took drugs because I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic.

KAREN: How long did it take you to get cured?

LEO: I’m not cured. You don’t get cured. I haven’t had a drink or a pill in six
and a half years, which isn’t to say I won’t have one tomorrow.

KAREN: What would happen if you did?

LEO: I don’t know. But probably a nightmare the likes of which both our fathers
experienced. And me too.

KAREN: So after six and a half years you’re still not allowed to have a drink?

LEO: The problem is, I don’t want a drink, I want ten drinks.

KAREN: Are things that bad?

LEO: No.

KAREN: Then why?

LEO: ‘Cause I’m an alcoholic.

KAREN: I don’t understand.

LEO: I know. It’s okay. Hardly anyone does. It’s very hard to understand.

Thankfully I don’t struggle with alcohol or drug addiction, but I could relate a lot of what Leo says about his struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction to the eating disorder. Even though restricting often starts out for me with “I’ll just miss a couple of exchanges here or there”, or the goal of losing weight just starts with “I only want to lose a couple of pounds”, the problem is I don’t just want to restrict an exchange or lose a pound. What I really want is to lose 10 pounds. The eating disorder is very tricky and I often don’t see that at the outset, but if I take a step back, I can see that just how Leo says that his problem is that he doesn’t just want one drink, he want’s ten drinks, I don’t want to just lose a couple of pounds. I want to just keep losing.

I also liked how he responds to Karen’s question “they why?” with “’cause I’m an alcoholic.” People have often told me things like “I don’t understand why you hang onto the eating disorder, you have so much going for you.” As Leo points out though, it has nothing to do with whether or not things in life are going poorly. Things could be going great, and I will still want to restrict and lose weight because I have an eating disorder. I think the thing is that when life things are going well, I am better able to fight off the eating disorder voice. I am able to remind myself of the things I have going for me, and what I stand to lose if I give into the eating disorder. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have an eating disorder, and don’t still have to fight that urge everyday. I do think that with time it gets easier, but I know that it will probably never fully go away.

I agree with Leo too that you are never fully cured. I believe in recovery for sure, but I do think it is something one always has to be diligent about. Again, that’s not to say that it doesn’t get better, or that one day I might hardly notice the eating disorder voice. But it is something I will always have to be diligent about, and as Leo points out, continue to resist day by day.

I also agree that hardly anyone understands. Unless you have lived it, it’s really hard to explain to people just how strong that desire is, and how you really are fighting every day to keep it at bay.

TV Moments

16 TV Moments That Helped People Through Their Depression

Of Note:

  1. Kimmy Schmidt is number 1 – That show really has so many great lines, and I definitely use the 10 seconds at a time thing all the time.
  2. Parks and Recreation also has great lines, and I have blogged about several Grey’s Anatomy quotes.
  3. #15 – The West Wing! Best show EVER. I LOVE that scene too. Best episode of the best show ever. Speaking of The West Wing, check out my other blog: The West Wing in Real Life

The “Right” Decision

My apologies for the blogging hiatus.  I once again ended up in inpatient, and had limited computer access while there.  I am ashamed to admit that I had to go back, but it was definitely for the best.  I got the kick in the butt physically and mentally that I needed.

Moving on, as I have mentioned in past posts, I really struggle with making decisions.  I was writing a post for my other blog, The West Wing in Real Life, and I realized that the quote I was using for that entry just so happens to be a quote I cite almost every time I talk about my struggle to make decisions.

President Bartlet: “Every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts.”

Intellectually, I know that what President Bartlet says is true – for most decisions there is no absolute right or absolute wrong.  But in reality I still get really hung up on making a right or wrong decision.

My old therapist once wrote me a great email that said  “There are no wrong choices. There are only the choices we WANT to make. If we make choices based on avoiding or fear, then that is the choice we WANT to make. To try to WANT to make healthy and positive choices for ourselves we need to take a hard look at our values and make sure that the choices fit with those values. What are a person’s values? Being powerful, Achieving success in work life, being financially stable, being safe, being respectful, being spiritual, contributing to the larger community, having integrity, feel secure, advocating for equality or fairness, caring for nature or the environment, to name just a few…For example – if your emotions/values tell you that you are safer being “sick” than being well, then your choice will be to do the behaviors that keep your symptoms going….[but] If you don’t like where you are with your ED, it is your responsibility to take action to change that. It is not easy to take the risks we need to take in order to change ourselves, but it can and must be done. Otherwise we stay stuck and resentful.”

So, thinking about it in those terms…I never think “what choice do I want?”  I always think “what is the right choice” and “what is the choice that others will approve of?”  Thus, I get super stuck because as President Bartlett says there is rarely and absolute right and an absolute wrong.  Furthermore, it is impossible to know what others will think of me in advance without using distorted thinking like mindreading.  And, both of those things values (doing what is right and what others think is right) are going to be tied up with a ton of “shoulds” because there is always room for second guessing when it comes to what is “right” and what others think.