Treacherous

Wow it’s like I am insanely inspired to blog lately…so here I am, coming at you again with some tough topics. I’ve got a lot on my mind, and I need a break from studying–and I only have about seven pages left in my journal and my new one isn’t coming in the mail for about a week. Have to pace myself…

So we’ve talked about depression, anxiety, and the famous 13 Reasons Why. I’ve shared a pretty dark story with you that kind of let you into what goes on in my head sometimes (hey, it got me an A in the best class I’ve ever taken!). But today I’m going to take you down the other little path of mental illness in my life. That’s right, we’re going to talk about eating disorders.

This one might be the hardest for me to talk about because I have always struggled with whether or not I can really consider what I had an eating disorder. On top of that, I still have those lingering Bad Thoughts about my body…every time I look in a mirror. Okay, okay, maybe not every time, but at least ninety percent. That percentage is too damn high! It doesn’t mean I act on those thoughts–sure I have cried in the shower more than once this year and had a mental breakdown or two in my car. It happens and it sucks, but I’m only human.

I gained weight abroad, and ever since I have been back, I have been telling myself that “I have to lose the abroad weight.” Everything still fits me, sure, but now that I’m not perpetually wearing sweaters and I’m on a campus full of beautiful people, I notice the change. So last quarter, I gave myself a gym routine I said I would stick to. It wasn’t aggressive, but I would go a few times a week and take a class. No big deal. Well, I did not follow through with that after around Week 3. I wasn’t mad at myself or anything, I just didn’t have the time. That was okay. I still didn’t love to look at myself in the mirror, but I wouldn’t say I hated it either.

However, this quarter I have been really good about going on a more regular basis. I go a few times a week to hit the elliptical. I even go at six in the morning sometimes. Honestly, who am I?? Kidding, it’s just the best time for my schedule to go. Yes, I am pretty much asleep in the Rec and I nap once I get home and shower, but that’s not the point. The point is that–get this–I actually feel better. I have never been one of those people that feels good after a work out. In fact, I feel pretty shitty. I still don’t feel on top of the world when I leave the gym (the word “potato” comes to mind…), but I have more energy and motivation to actually do things throughout the day.

One of the reasons I wanted to start going more often and regularly was because I would lose all my energy when I would hike with my friends. My endurance and stamina has never been great, and it really showed on a trip to the top of Bishop’s Peak. I am always one of the slowest. That is partly because my knees and ankles kind of suck, but it’s also because I get tired so fast. I’ve gotten a lot better now that I have spent the last few weeks at the Rec.

Bonus: I don’t pant walking around our hilly campus or to my apartment on the third floor (much) anymore!

All of that is fine and dandy. I am not overdoing it or pushing myself too hard, and I still eat whatever I want, when I want (except SloDoCo–I need a maple bar, stat!). I am eating a lot of fruits and veggies, but I also splurge on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Some days you hit the gym, some nights you hit the bars. It’s called balance.

But today when I was working out, I spotted a girl in the weights area. She looked…well, quick frankly, she looked like maybe she was overdoing it (to put it in simple terms). She had slightly sunken eyes and I could see the chords in her neck. And I know people at the gym don’t really look happy, but she didn’t seem to have the life in her that a lot of people do. I know it is not my place to judge or to make assumptions, but I worried about her. And I looked at the miles, the calories, and the minutes on my machine, and I slowed down. I was at a pretty fast pace to get and keep my heart rate up, but seeing her made me cool it for a minute and remind myself that those numbers don’t matter. Yes, running elliptical-ing a mile in less than ten minutes is really exciting for me, but I have to remember that “beating” that personal best might push me past my limits. Maybe I will beat that time, but, like writing in my journal in the next week or so, I have to pace myself.

I have to be conscious of why I am going to the gym. To lose weight? Maybe, but that’s not the overall goal. To build muscle? Possibly. And I have to remind myself that it’s not a requirement of my day. If I’m really not wanting to go work out, then I won’t do it. Yes, I want to keep a routine and stick to it, but it’s not supposed to control me. I think for a little bit this quarter I was letting it take the reigns of my life. Like with depression and anxiety, I had to take a step back and reevaluate. Seeing that girl at the gym made me do that. So this morning, I skipped the gym to sleep in and then study. I might go later today, but I won’t force myself.

Sometimes I think I have all this control over my body and my life, and then I realize that I only think I do. That’s when I stop looking in mirrors and reflective surfaces, I walk right past the scale, I don’t compare myself to every single person that passes me. Instead, I look at the flowers growing literally everywhere in SLO and I jam to the music in my headphones. I can overcome those bad habits.

I was talking to a friend of mine about my new mile time and how exciting that was for a non-runner like me. He said that seeing results like that can be addicting and that was a great feeling. Now, I would in no world put him into any unhealthy habit category–he’s one of those guys who looooves the gym and lifting weights and playing basketball–you know the kind I’m talking about (still love ya, Ben!!). But the word “addicting” didn’t quite sit well with me. Working out and I haven’t had the best relationship because I got addicted to it like I got addicted to the numbness of depression. Again, his words made me take a step back.

I don’t like that I still struggle with this. I feel like I am better than this–I should be, right? Yeah, well, mental illness doesn’t work like that. Sometimes it creeps back into your life and you don’t notice for a while. Recovery doesn’t mean you’re never tempted or you don’t ever slip backwards. Recovery is being conscious of those temptations and overcoming them. It’s been an ongoing battle.

But today is going to be a good day. Great things will happen and I am going to be the best person I can be. My morning pep talk.

Thanks for keeping up with me!

-Ash

PS Literally an eating disorder ad just came up on my Spotify–relevance!! Talk about it, start a conversation, be there.

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Sad Beautiful Tragic

So now that it’s been a month since my last post, and I’ve sufficiently put off writing about a particular topic we all know and love on the blog, here I am! I have risen from my accidental hiatus for a very special purpose.

It took me quite a while, but I made it through Netlfix’s newest binge 13 Reasons Why. As I’ve said before, I loved, loved, loved the book. Hannah Baker’s story hits close to home for me, and Clay Jensen is such a great character. I was so excited for the show to start streaming because I couldn’t wait to see this book I loved so much to come to life. I was very anxious to see how they would stretch the story over thirteen episodes. I can honestly say that the show made me feel so many emotions all across the spectrum and that I am incredibly happy that its message has reached soooo many more people since moving from page to screen.

So here we have my offical reactions to the show.

First off, as excited as I was for this series, I knew it would be hard for me to watch. This would not be a binge I could finish in a day. Maybe two or three, but not one. As it turned out, I had to go through the episodes over the course of a week.  Obviously I had to stay on top of my schoolwork (New Quarter, New Me, ya know?), but it was also important for me to dedicate time and focus to this show. Something that changed my life this much deserved that.

Normally, when I watch a show on Netflix, I can just go from episode to episode, reading the one-line synopsis and pressing “Next Episode” without much thought. With 13 Reasons Why I could do no such thing. After every episode, I needed to take a moment to collect my thoughts. To sit in silence and think about what I just watched. It wasn’t intentional, I just found myself stopping and reflecting. It felt wrong not to. The episodes were heavy, and I related to them so much. They took me back to middle and high school where I was depressed and had suicidal thoughts, and I needed to breathe. To remind myself that I’m not that girl anymore and I have so much to live for. So many people don’t believe that, and I feel incredibly lucky that I found that light in my life. But I had to remind myself of it. And I pray for those who haven’t found it yet.

Watching the show and needing these breaks between episodes was not like having my anxiety attacks, where I slipped backwards and had to wallow in that darkness before pulling myself out. Or like any other anxiety or panic attack I’ve had in my life. They were just moments where I needed to breathe. It’s hard to remember those thoughts, but I can’t let myself forget about them either.

So I watched each episode with care, and what I immediately noticed was that the characters were not what I was expecting–and that was a good thing. Dylan Minnette as Clay was not shocking whatsoever (he fit exactly what I had imagined), but the rest? I pictured something completely different. I obviously went into the show with an open mind, and I was blown away by the performances. They actors exceeded any expectations I had going in, and I was very pleased with casting. I loved Alisha Boe (as Jessica), Katherine Langford (as Hannah), and Miles Heizer (as Alex). Justin Prentice made Bryce a great, loathe-able villain, and Kate Walsh was phenomenal as Hannah’s mom.

In the book, the only character you get to know outside what the tapes say is Clay. You learn who Hannah is because of them, and you form judgments and impressions on the rest of the characters by the things she says–Clay’s thoughts shed some light, but not much. I loved reading the book because it was easy to keep track of who everyone was and what they did. However, the show presented those characters as flesh and blood and defined them as more than just what was on the tapes. You got to see everyone’s reactions to the tapes, rather than just Clay’s. I didn’t know I needed to see their stories until I watched. There is so much more background and insight, and it helped to see just how everyone was dealing with it. How they really thought about Hannah.

At times it was overwhelming to see all the facets, but I’m glad the writers and producers seized the opportunity to do as such. Though the book wasn’t, the show could have been pretty boring to just watch Clay move through the tapes by himself. And a viewer can learn a lot more by seeing all the sides–because there’s more than one side to every story. And while I think it is important to believe Hannah’s side, it’s also vital to look at everyone else’s.

The book so heavily impacted my life, and I was so happy the show could keep that love alive.

That’s not to say I was head over heels for everything about it. For example, showing Hannah’s suicide was risky. It was definitely triggering, and I would recommend–well, advise heavily–to proceed with caution. Or not at all. If that’s something that will hurt you or your recovery, then steer clear. I don’t think the show’s creators would take it personally whatsoever, and it’s better to stay away from something like that. For me, I struggled to watch it. I thought about skipping over the scene altogether. But I am far enough in my recovery and confident enough in myself that I could sit and watch it. That doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt or that I didn’t have to stop watching it and take a moment afterward. I cried throughout the entire episode, and that particular part had me sobbing.

I don’t know if I would have gone about it in the same way. Hannah killed herself by swallowing pills in the book. In the show, she slit her wrists in the bathtub. Much more difficult to watch. More painful. I wonder if it was the right decision to include that scene.

I get why they did it. It makes sense. But I just don’t know if I would have done the same. But it has started a conversation, and I think that’s essential.

To those saying the show glorifies suicide and glorifies killing yourself as an act of revenge, I have to disagree. And say that Hannah, though a fictional character, only killed herself to get back at the people who wronged her is saying that her suicide is invalid. That she had no reason to be as depressed as she was. To the people that say that, screw you. That’s harsh, but I have reasons.

If you’ve read my story, and if you’ve ever heard me talk about my depression, you would know that for a long time I blamed everyone else for my Bad Thoughts. It was a list of other people’s wrongdoings that led me to think about killing myself. I wanted all those people who were horrible to me to know that they were what drove me to such drastic measures. I didn’t think they’d care, but I wanted them to know it was the things that they did and said that made me hate myself so much. I still want them to know.

If wanting that “revenge” invalidated Hannah’s suicide, then it sure as hell invalidates my depression–and I can tell you, those emotions (or lack thereof) were very real. If you told me they weren’t, that I was just being stupid, well I might just hit you. And then cry probably a little, out of anger mostly. Because I fought so hard to get where I am and to stop blaming those people and myself.

Had I killed myself all those times I wanted to over the years, it would have been a “revenge suicide.” I can admit that. Doesn’t mean it would be petty or unreal or unnecessary. I would have still done it. Having people tell me I there was no reason to be upset or depressed would only have driven me more towards that decision. Invalidating someone else’s suicide or depression doesn’t validate yours any more.

That’s more of a reaction to a reaction, but I needed to say it. It bothered me so much that it made me second guess my own depression. That those ten years of my life weren’t even real. That I was just being dramatic.

I wasn’t and neither was Hannah.

So no matter what I disagreed with or didn’t quite love about the show, what I did love far outweighed anything I didn’t. The book changed my life. The show only made me believe that more.

I still thank Jay Asher for his story and for making me feel not so alone. And I thank God for my recovery. 13 Reasons Why reminded me of that.

–Ash

Before Midnight – Some Pre-2017 Thoughts

Day Eleven. The couch. Gilmore Girls, season five, episode four. Level of sadness on a scale from one to ten: eight.

Being home has been strange. After calling London home for three months, calling Burbank home still feels a bit weird on my tongue, but calling it anything else does not feel quite right either. Just wait until I am back SLOme.

I am more or less adjusted to the time change. For the first time in years I was able to pop out of bed at the early hour of eight o’clock on Christmas morning, per Haley’s request. Of course, waking up early means I am back to taking naps during the day. Does it waste precious daytime? Yes. Do I care? Not much.

I have read five books–and counting–since coming home and watched a serious lack of Netflix. I’ve made up for the latter in the last day or so, which means the sixth book has taken a bit of a backseat. Unless I am watching The Crown or Sherlock, I can’t sit idle while watch TV, which means I have been doing some work on Book 2. It’s always the middle where I second guess everything I have written and wonder why on Earth I decided to write this story. Things stop making sense, I get tired of the plot, and I consider giving up. I just want it to be over. Well, I have gotten over that slump, and I am falling in love again.

There was one scene I had been looking forward to write, one I had imagined since I came up with the plot. It all happened this one, specific way in my head, and I could not wait to write it. But after writing fifteen chapters, I started to second guess myself. And writing the scene itself changed everything–okay, not everything. It just played out in a different way than I had initially pictured, but it was better than what I planned. I am utterly inspired again, and that’s a wonderful feeling. It’s something I needed after all of this negativity on social media.

All I have been seeing on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are posts that talk about how God-awful 2016 has been. And I will tell you, this has not been a shining year: Brexit, the fiasco that was the US Presidential Election, bombings in Brussels, Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, and now George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds (all three within a matter of days, no less). It has been a rough twelve months for a lot of people, and I have seen so much pessimism. Too much, maybe. Coming from someone who received an award in high school stating simply, “Hates Everyone,” I am kind of shocked at this kind of cynicism. Not to say it’s not warrented, but nobody can seem to find anything to be positive about.

I, for one, personally have had a great year. I went to Spring Training, I got a job with fun perks, I turned 21, and (as if you didn’t know) I spent the last quarter in London, England. I have come a very long way from the cynical teenager I was less than two years ago. It seems like so long ago that I was that girl, and I do not miss her one bit.

Now is the time that people are thinking about their New Year’s Resolutions, and I am no different. The last few years, I have been taking them more seriously and putting more thought into who I want to be in the new year. But for once, I really like myself. I am actually happy with the person I have grown into in the past year. That’s not to say there is no more room for growth, but I don’t feel like I need to “force” myself to improve. It seems to happen naturally.

Of course, I am still mourning the loss of so many icons–Carrie Fisher being one of my favorite humans, and all–but I can’t stop moving. I can’t let this negativity and tragedy get me down. That sounds dramatic, but that’s how I am feeling right about now: dramatic. Since I am in that mindset, time to get back to Book 2!

-Ash

Getting in Tune – Day 1: It’s an Adjustment

So I’m here…

And let me just start this out with this: I have a lot of anxiety. About everything. Traveling, public speaking, driving, talking to adults, talking to my peers, talking to kids, taking the subway/tube, sitting in the front half of a classroom, flying, being late, being too early, signing paperwork, packing for trips, freeway changes…the list goes on and on. I had weird levels of anxiety about this big step in my life and my education, but I was mostly excited to live in this city I’d been dreaming about my whole life. You can imagine how jittery I was getting off the plane. I could not believe that I had actually done this. Me!

And in the 24 hours since I have walked off that big aircraft, I have felt a lot of emotions. A lot. Excitement, of course, but anxiety, too.

To recap: I followed the people on my plane through Heathrow (following signs as well–I love signs, which becomes an issue later) until I found Customs/Passport Check. I said this to a few people: it was like Disneyland times seven. So. Many. People. So I drank the rest of my water (against my bladder’s better judgment) and texted my friends and family. It may have been three/five (Dad and Chelsea are in California, Mom and Haley and Mitchell are in Texas) in the morning over there but I got replies from my parents.

Through the line and off to Baggage Claim, where I thought they lost my bag. Add that to the list of things that I have anxiety about. The line had taken so long that all the luggage was already off the carousel and sitting out on the floor to be taken. I even saw my bag, but my mind told me it was someone else’s. Hey, it was a long flight, okay?

So bag acquired and off to catch a taxi. I assumed I would wait a while, but I was only fourth in line. And then about six taxis pulled up. No worries! My cab driver, Mo, was very nice and talkative. He gave me some advice and pointers and pointed out a few things along the way. It was a long drive and I was almost nodding off. I was so tired! I told Mo I would probably take a little nap when I got to my new flat, but he said that, since it was Sunday, a lot of places close early. So food would win over a nap–not a rarity.

I found my place (spotting a Five Guys along the way in Camden, yay!), checked in, and finally got to see the place. It is small, I won’t lie, but I was sort of expecting that. It was pretty clean, which was good. Bedding, though included, was not impressing me. I guess I am not surprised about that, but it was another thing I was going to have to deal with before getting to sleep (Disclaimer: they’re not awful, I swear, they are just a little old and I am high maintenance). I googled the location of the nearest Tesco, which was very close. I passed a few places I could have stopped for a few groceries, but I decided to stick to my mission. After buying cereal, some snacks, and a water (keeping it extremely simple for now), I walked back home. Round two of the place was much better. Tiredness got in the way of my first impression.

Then I was off to a home goods store I found on Google! Sticking with simplicity, I bought a fluffy throw pillow, pillow covers, a bed sheet, a blanket, and dish soap. There’s a ton of stuff there for pretty cheap, so I will defintely be heading back there if I need anything like that (like another blanket, probably).

It was 5:30–I mean, 17:30, excuse me–but I was so ready for bed. So I showered and read for a bit. By 18:34 (that is, 6:45), I was out like a light. Aaaaand then I was awake at 3 am. Here’s the thing, I had forgotten to eat before I went to sleep (I know, I am mad at myself, too), so it was time for an episode of something on Netlfix and some Frosties (which are Frosted Flakes). Much needed! It took me a little while to fall asleep again, but by the time 9 rolled around I was making good use of my snooze button.

I was supposed to meet some people in my program for lunch, so I got myself ready and made sure I had the right directions to the tube station. I opted for a station a little further so I wouldn’t have to change trains. Leaving early to give myself time to find the place and figure out this Oyster Card business, I headed off into the late morning with my Maps screenshots.

Here is where my love of signs becomes a problem. There are not exactly street signs here. Sometimes there are signs on buidings, but at intersections? Nope, not really. So needless to say I got very lost and went in the biggest circle. As in, even with my buffer time and young people these days being late to things, I still would not have made it or even been fifteen minutes late. Frustrated and anxious, I texted the group I couldn’t make it, and walked back home (since I was basically there already).

I felt so defeated. Like I’d put way too much faith in myself. My brain told me to just go home and cry because I failed. I failed. I missed home for the first time in my life. I don’t know if I would call it homesickness, but it sure didn’t feel good. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I am all alone here right now. My flatmate (a girl from Cal Poly in my program) doesn’t arrive for another few days, and neither does Amy. I don’t know anyone else in my program, and I don’t live incredibly close to any of them. Lunch was my chance to make some friends before orientation, but I couldn’t even navigate my way to a tube station! I really want to cry.

But I have to remember that this is my first day here. Of course, I am going to get lost. Of course, I am going to have doubts about myself. Of course, this isn’t going to be easy. I am forgetting that when I left my flat this morning, I noticed how beautiful this place is. The houses and architecture are everything I love, the park I live across the street from is so cute and full of families, the restaurants and shops that are within walking distance are trendy and exactly what I wanted to be around. I wish I had stopped to take pictures of everything in my panic. It would have calmed me down, for sure.

So I am taking a breath. I didn’t give up by going home to my flat. I am not giving up by watching The Goonies instead of going out there again. I will try again maybe later tonight. Maybe tomorrow. But again. And I will not get so frustrated. Maybe I will just take a walk to soak in my surroundings: the park, the pubs, the cafes, the brick everything. It’s all at my fingertips! Plus, there is a KFC around the corner, thank the Lord.

I have been blessed with this amazing opportunity, and I cannot let one not-so-great morning ruin what is going to be a wonderful adventure. I mean, when have I ever given up on something I wanted this badly and worked so hard to make happen?

Goonies never say die!

Your Perservering Writer Friend, A

In Fear of Fear

In my time on this blog, through my eating disorder, and through my recovery, I have found many other recovery stories from really strong, amazing women. Still looking for men recovering because I know that is highly underrated, but I only have women’s to go on.

These stories break my heart. Truly. My mind goes through a plethora of thoughts and emotions: sadness, anger, jealously (this one will need some elaboration), happiness, relief… I feel like I am living their experience by their side. And yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I am jealous of how deep their disorder went. I know that is awful, and I wish I did not feel this way. So often I feel like my eating disorder was not real or valid. I won’t go into that much, but you can read about it over here. [Chipmunk version: I am jealous that these girls got that thin, that they had that much will to do take it that far. I am jealous that people noticed and made them get help. Unless you read my blog, you would never know that I had an eating disorder at all. You still might not think so. I am jealous that they are sure of what they had, and I am not.]

But in so many recovery stories, blogs, videos, these women find their recovery in words like veganism, plant-based, gluten-free, and so on. I am totally, 100% not discounting their recovery. They are at a healthy weight and are eating enough. That’s great for them.

Sometimes I think that maybe I should do that. I mean, I never could because I am in deep need of an In-n-Out burger right now. But sometimes I see their smiles and their tasty-looking smoothies and…and…I can’t think of anything else without looking it up. And that is exactly the point. If I became a vegan or went “plant-based” or something like that, I would feel like I am depriving myself of all of the foods I once loved. I would feel like I am getting gipped out of conquering my fear foods because so many of my fear foods fall into the category of “Do Not Eat” in those lifestyles.

That has been a huge thing for me: conquering my fear foods. It is how I know I am recovering. If I feel like I might be restricting one day, I venture out to get a donut after dinner. Or I make a sandwich with extra cheese or with an extra swab of peanut butter or honey. I know that I am getting what I need and a little bit extra. I do not feel the need to eat a piece of fruit afterward or in lieu of one of the ingredients.

“It is a healthy lifestyle.” Well, great. Donuts really are not that good for you, but that does not mean I am going to gain a million pounds if I eat one.  Quite frankly, I could not make that lifestyle change because I don’t have the bank account for it. I would rather skip out on a few “gluten-free” labels if it meant I could buy a new pair of shoes to go with my rockin’ bod. Which I have. Even if I don’t go to the gym every day and eat only fruits and veggies.

Okay, this all sounds very critical of this type of recovery. And in a way, it might be, even if I don’t mean it that way. But that recovery works for some people, and I am so, so proud of anyone who choses recovery. However, I do have this question: do you miss any of the food you can’t eat under your lifetsyle? And if you were given one of those items (be it a burger, a taco, a brownie (a real one, not a protein one)), would you eat it and be able to enjoy it?

know that if I chose veganism or something like that I would so longingly look at a slice of cake or a donut. I would feel like I was not really recovering because I would not eat the donut or cake out of fear. I would be terrified to let that sugar and fat into my body like I was every dark day in my eating disorder. And you know, sometimes I am still afraid of them. ED Thoughts are still a part of me some days, and I will say no to a trip to a 24-hour donut shop or a pastry at Starbucks. It is okay to still be afraid, though. Fear is a natural emotion, and there are times when I must give into those fears to stop an anxiety attack. I can try again tomorrow or the next day.

Because recovery is about conquering your fears. It’s terrifying, like jumping into darkness, but you have to do it. Just a little food for thought (ha ha, get it? Food. Yeah, I know you got it.).

-Ashhhhh