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.”

Trump and TV

This is not related to eating disorders in anyway, but it is related to television and something I found quite interesting:

Now That Trump Is President, How Will TV Respond?

The article points out a number of ways that TV could be affected by the election of Trump (I’m sorry, I refuse to call him President Trump). First, networks might be afraid to lose audience members who voted for Trump, which might make them less likely to greenlight projects that are seen as more creative or creative risks. Broadcasters might be less willing to air shows featuring LGBTQ characters, although on the flip side creators might be more inspired to create shows with these characters as protagonists.

The article also mentions how existing shows will deal with the election. For example, Jane the Virgin will feature episodes that deal with immigration and the potential repeal of the ACA. The article doesn’t mention medical dramas, but I would be interested to see if medical dramas will bring up the ACA issue at all, as a few years ago when it was passed Grey’s Anatomy had a plot line about a young girl who had waited for months to have surgery for a tumor until she could get health insurance under the law.

The article also mentions perhaps TV shows will try to steer clear of politics and focus on their primary mission: entertainment.

What do you think? How will TV be different with Donald Trump as President?

Kimmy Schmidt – Putting Your Needs First

First, all of the quotes in this article are great: 14 Empowering Quotes From ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ That Will Motivate You To Take On The Day

I want to draw particular attention, however, to this one:

“Happy People Value Their Needs As Much As Others”

Putting my needs first is something I really struggle with. I have a hard time saying no to any request, especially when I’m doing so in the service of my own recovery. For example, if a friend asks for a ride somewhere, but giving her that ride means missing dinner, my eating disorder tends to do double duty and say “you can’t say no because that would make you a bad friend, and also this is the perfect ‘excuse’ to not eat dinner.”

However, that line of reasoning has resulted in nothing but countless admissions to the hospital, so I am really trying to do something different now. Specifically, when it comes to helping other friends who are in recovery, my therapist likes to remind me of how on an airplane they remind you to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. After putting everyone else’s requests ahead of my own needs for basically my whole life, it feels really weird to say “no, I can’t do that, I have to eat”, but I’m trying.

I’m also hoping that this quote from Kimmy Schmidt will help remind me that perhaps the way out of the depressive funk I am in now is not trying to keep pleasing others. I often think that I’ll be happier if I work more or do more for others, but maybe what I actually need to do is give myself that day off instead of taking on more work, or allow myself to curl up on the couch with my cats and watching Netflix instead of going out when I really don’t need to (although sadly I have now finished all of Season 2 of Kimmy Schmidt). It is a real shift in values/priorities, but here’s to hoping that Kimmy is right.

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

Talk To Someone

I have to give kudos again to Code Black for bringing up the important issue of mental health and therapy. The following exchange is from the Season 1 finale “Blood Sport”:

Angus: I killed someone, and now I can’t walk in here without thinking about it. The pills let me not think about it.

Mike: I made a mistake when I told you not to talk to anyone about this. I pressured you, and it made you think you could go around this problem. But you can’t go around it. You can only go through it.

Angus: How do I do that?

Mike: Well, for starters, we find someone you can talk to. Would you let me help you with that?

For the record, I have never killed anyone, but I can relate to what Angus says. I don’t abuse substances, but the eating disorder does the same thing – it allows me to numb out to things I don’t want to think about. No one ever directly told me not to talk to anyone about things, but for years I acted the way Angus has been acting – trying to go around the problem. I figured that if I just flew under the radar, that things would be ok. For many years, that strategy “worked” in that I stayed out of treatment, finished college, had a great internship, and started medical school. However, the eating disorder was always there, and eventually it caught up to me.

I have learned the hard way that what Mike says is true – you can only go through it. It really stinks, and there are many days where I feel like the “solution” is to quit treatment and go back to flying under the radar. But, when I am in a better place, I know that I can’t really live like that. I have to go through it.

Furthermore, I love what Mike says about talking to someone. I wish there was a pill that could fix the eating disorder, just as Angus wanted a pill to fix his mental health problems. But, therapy really is the way to go, and as hard as it is to talk about this kind of stuff, that’s what needs to happen.

Finally, the way Mike asks Angus “would you let me help you with that?” is just perfect. I think too often friends and family try to be the solution, rather than helping their loved one get help. Mike doesn’t judge Angus for using the pills, and he doesn’t try to fix him. He simply offers to be there and help him get professional help. Absolutely perfect.

You Feel Worse (At First)

From Code Black Episode 13 – “First Date”:

Dr. Rorish: Will therapy make me feel any better?

Therapist: Not if it’s working…Let me ask you something. Are you really ready to walk away from a job that is your whole life?

Dr. Rorish: That’s the very reason I’m here.

I know that I have blogged about this concept before, but I am writing about it again because it could not be more timely for me right now. I just finished a month of intensive treatment, and although I am nutritionally more stable than I was a month ago, I actually feel a lot worse. Physically I am nauseated, bloated, and exhausted. Mentally my depression and anxiety are far worse than they were when restricting was numbing me out.

I am very frustrated that I do not actually feel any better despite being objectively healthier from a nutrition standpoint, but my treatment professionals keep telling me the same thing that Dr. Rorish’s therapist told her – that the fact that treatment is working doesn’t mean that it is going to make me feel better. In fact, the very fact that I do not feel better actually means that it is working. Dr. Rorish was throwing herself into work in an attempt to numb herself from feeling all of the uncomfortable things that she did not want to feel in the same way that the eating disorder numbs me out. So, therapy is going to feel awful (at first).

Also, I kind of feel like I am having to do what her therapist asks of her with regards to walking away from something. The eating disorder is not my whole life, but it is a very powerful coping strategy. It is very hard to walk away from something that has seemingly worked so well or taken up a big chunk of your life. However, it is really the only way for me to move forward, in the same way that she needs to refocus her energy if she is going to get over her trauma.

On that note, everyone should start watching Code Black because as you can see from this post and past posts, it really has some excellent messages and writing 🙂

Impostor Syndrome

From Code Black, episode “Buen Arbol”:

Dr. Savetti: “Wish they made a pill for what I got…everyday I wait for someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me this doctor thing was a mistake.  I’m actually a mechanic in the Jersey.”

Patient: “It’s called impostor syndrome.  It’s the feeling you’re about to be found out as a fraud.  Everybody has it.  We’re all faking it.”

When I heard this quote, I almost fell out of my chair because recently I have been talking to pretty much everyone I know about impostor syndrome.

My therapist first introduced me to the concept about a year ago. I often talk about how I feel completely inadequate in all walks of life (see this post for more about that), but I particularly feel this way at work. My boss in wonderful and is often compliments me on my work, but nevertheless, just like Dr. Savetti I keep waiting for someone to walk in say “whoops, this is a mistake, you are not supposed to be here.”

I should clarify that it is not like I sit there and pretend to know things that I do not. I am very open with my boss and my coworkers about any lack of experience and when it is my first time doing something. However, I still feel most days like an impostor. Even though people tell me that I am doing a good job considering my experience level, I still worry that in the fact of their mind they are thinking “what the hell is this girl doing here?”

I do agree with the patient that to some extent everyone is faking it. A lot of people I know have told me that they have felt like they are about to be “found out” or that they don’t really belong.  I think this is particularly true of women in traditionally male dominated fields. To a certain extent, that fear can be motivational. I think a lot of people are continuously motivated to push themselves because they want to feel like they are contributing and that they belong.

However, at some point it crosses a line where it no longer becomes motivational, and instead becomes pathological. I know for me, sometimes the anxiety is so great that, rather than being motivational, it just paralyzes me and makes me really depressed. What Dr. Savetti is talking about, where every single day you feel like you are going to be “found out”, is crossing that line. It’s one thing to question your performance here and there, but to feel every single day like you are inadequate, well, I can say from experience that it is a horrible feeling.

I think for me though, this impostor feeling goes beyond a single experience (i.e. work). When I think about it, I think the problem is that I feel like an impostor at LIFE overall.  It’s not just that I feel inadequate as an employee, but I feel inadequate as a person in general.  So, that makes it a lot harder to reassure myself that I am doing a good job.  I mean, if I think I suck as a person, then how is it possible that I am a good employee?

I recognize that the above is distorted, and goes all the way down to faulty core beliefs. I am working at it, but in the meantime, I guess it just makes sense to keep plugging along and doing opposite action.  Hopefully in time some of this impostor feeling will go away.

So overall, Dr. Savetti, I feel you.  As to the patient, while we all are faking it to some extent, I do believe that there is a spectrum, and it is possible to get to a point where this feeling gets better (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself).