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Eating Disorders, The Media, and Me: A Memoir

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

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I recently decided to start an ask.fm account.  Why?  I don’t know. I’m a social media addict or something.  It’s like Pokemon; I gotta catch them all.  And then potentially never use them and let them die a terrible, sad death, but whatever.  I wanted to try it.  If there’s one thing I can say about the human race, it’s that we LOVE answering questions.  It’s true.  Being asked a question shows that someone is interested in you, and when someone takes an interest in us?  We beam.  And answering questions is a good way to let people know who you are.  In my case it more than often triggers my introspective personality and I just end up brooding for hours, but eventually I’ll get an answer out there that I feel is worth listening to.  For those who don’t know me, I have a YouTube channel that pertains to gaming; mostly retro titles of my past, but sometimes a new title if I’m feelin’ modern.  I am also an online activist in regards to mental health.  I participate in campaigns and engage in activities that might inspire change and erase stigma surrounding mental illness, and I often write very candid and personal accounts of my own experiences with mental illness to give people people hope, and something to empathize with.  I’ve found that being a producer on YouTube helps me with my struggles and keeps my mind stimulated, while writing about my struggles helps me to help others; so while these two things I do online seem very separate, they are honestly more connected than you may think.  After putting a very graphic account of my experiences with suicide, BDD, and bulimia on my YouTube channel in the form of a Draw My Life, I started to get a lot of questions.  And I still get a lot of questions every day, ranging from “How are you doing?” to “I think my girlfriend has BDD, what should the first step in helping her be?” to “I think *I* have BDD, what do you think?”  I can’t answer every question, which is why I write as much as I can about my experience with the hope that it will give people a starting point for their own recovery, but I did receive a question the other day that I’ve been wanting to address for awhile now.  There’s never a better time than right now, so I figured I would put a ginormous blog together trying to answer it.  Frankly, there ain’t no possible way I can answer this in just a few paragraphs.  So if you’re ready to do a lot of reading, then awesome.  Let’s go.  If you’re not ready, then here: Go get pumped.  Then return when you’re done.

Question, asked anonymously:

Do you know what “caused” or “triggered” your eating disorder? You mention the media having a huge effect on you in your Draw My Life — can you expand on that? Do you feel how women are portrayed in entertainment affected your bulimia?  What do you think about the diet product industry?

Oh man.  Let me begin by saying: Fuck; any time people talk about the portrayal of women in the media and how entertainment affects people, it always turns into a shit storm.  Personally, I find what I am about to say extremely uncomplicated, but for some reason, discussing eating disorders and talking about the cultural significance tied to them leads to some of the most angry, insane arguments I’ve ever seen.  I don’t know if people are just very sensitive when it comes to openly discussing eating disorders and illnesses that pertain to self image or if people just want to play backseat psychologist on the internet for their own self serving reasons or what, but I can tell you right now; this is a dialogue worth having.  And I encourage everyone, no matter who you are or what your background is, whether you suffer from a mental illness or not, no matter what gender you identify as, to please consider what I have to say here.  It’s all I ask.  I’m asking you to listen with an open mind.  Eating disorders are extremely difficult to talk about because even though there is a lot of love out there, there’s also a lot of judgement and asinine people out there with extremely skewed views to slog through, and that can genuinely mar someone’s perception.

I like to think myself credible when it comes to this discussion; At least, I  consider myself an expert on my own mental illness and how it has affected me.  I’ve suffered BDD since 5th grade or so, meaning I’ve been struggling and getting treated on and off for about 19 years.  I became bulimic a little later in my life, around 17, and relapsed on and off as late as December of 2014.  (I am extremely proud to say that I have not relapsed since that date though.)  There were several suicide attempts, a few that nearly came to fruition, and a lot of my time was spent trying various forms of therapy, and my teenage years were filled with many, many medications.  I did it all; group therapy, individual therapy, weeks in inpatient facilities, weeks in outpatient facilities, psychiatrists, medical doctors, nutritionists, different hospitals, different units, plastic surgery (people who suffer from BDD frequently turn to a plastic surgeon, wanting to correct what they perceive as a flaw in their appearance.  It rarely, if ever, works.); trust me when I say it was intense.  I know that people are often confused by this; they see me on YouTube and think I am this confident personality who is able to just hop on camera and put out personable content without any issues.  People describe me happy, snarky, sassy, exuberant, and so forth.  Don’t misunderstand; I am capable of truly happy moments, but also know: it took a lot of fucking work to get to this point.  A LOT of work.  And I am still working, and I still struggle.  I can’t imagine having to never struggle with BDD ever again.  This is something I have accepted.  But I can, and do, work on and manage my symptoms so that life is better.  The entire reason I started YouTube is to do something I had previously convinced myself was impossible.  To prove that I could no matter HOW I perceived myself.  That I was still the one in control of my life.   I even studied psychology for a few years, wanting to further educate myself on not only my own form of depression, but others that were in a similar spectrum.  I have worked very, very hard to get to this point.  I don’t have all the answers in this blog post, but I can assure you that I wanted to take a very measured and balanced approach to writing this all out.

I know I am still rambling and have not technically answered the question at hand yet.  Please bear with me; I promise everything I am saying has a point.  Before I even answer, I want people to understand where I am coming from, and how these experiences have shaped who I am right now.  I believe that everyone’s beliefs have a base.  You know how people often describe people they don’t agree with as having baseless ideas?  I don’t really buy that.  There is always a base and whether you agree with it or not is a completely different thing.  This is mine.

Perception is huge.  It is an essential component in people with BDD and eating disorders.  But where does perception come from?  Does your perception of yourself come from within?  Does it come from how your parents raised you?  Environment?  Media?  It’s complicated.  Understanding any kind of human behavior is complicated because we are all so different.  We have our own unique brain that responds to different things; we have different tolerance levels, different experiences; that’s why we study behavior and why we continually analyze things that could  further explain how and why we do the things we do.  I think it’s fascinating.

To answer your question in a blunt manner:  Yes.  The media, along with how women have been portrayed in entertainment,  had a significant impact on me,  Though these things are not solely responsible, they have greatly contributed to how my eating disorder evolved.  Especially the diet/beauty industry.

That’s the short answer.  I feel like elaborating is required here, so I will do just that.

First of all;  I know I am not alone when I say the certain things in our media has affected me.  It has affected a lot of people. When you consider that the media is a machine that needs to make money to sustain itself, it’s not hard to believe that it juuuust miiiiight be sending people false messages in order to profit.  Marketers don’t give a shit about you.  They want to make money.  And thus, we get exposed to questionable things that influence us on a daily basis; some things for the good, and some things for the bad.

One person attempted to tell me that I MUST have become bulimic because my parents didn’t love me.  Thank you booboo, you have all the answers, don’t you?  That assessment must have taken years and years of talking to me and learning about my life, right?  Oh, wait.  My bad, you’re actually an idiot.

I know; that sounds harsh.  And yes, how people are raised can play a crucial role in how they behave as adults.  The people that raise you have a great influence on your personality; mine did.  My Dad inspired a lot of who I am today, and my Mom did everything she could to help me and understand my depression.  I loved my parents and they loved me;  not everyone who suffers from a mental illness falls victim to one because of a lack of love.  It does happen, but don’t always presume that’s the case, ESPECIALLY when I am telling you otherwise.  If my problems were the result of neglect or abuse from my family, that’s what I’d be writing about right now.

The people who raised you are not the only thing you’re going to be exposed to as you go through life; you grow up, and then there are other stimulants that create new influences and new ideas.  New perceptions.  To presume my parents didn’t care for me and that’s why I became bulimic is ignorant.

My parents loved me.  A lack of love was not the problem.  In fact, my father was always reminding me of how special and gifted I was.  I was overweight, but I thought nothing of it until I was a preteen.  As a young child, I was very happy.

One of the first memories I have as a kid questioning my own body was when I was over at a friends house playing Barbies.  I had always liked Barbie dolls and had a moderate collection of them along with some Ken dolls and a Power Ranger action figure that liked to date Midge.  My friend had a fake scale toy that you could put your Barbie doll on and it would “weigh” them.  Now, first of all… doesn’t that strike you as weird?  A toy SCALE?  Not a toy scale that weighs food or random objects, no.  This is a scale meant to tell you your weight.  I was just a kid so I didn’t really know how fucked up that was; from what I gathered, women were supposed to be weight conscious.  Always.  I mean, it says so in commercials, all of my friends favorite singers and actors were very slender, and if I wasn’t supposed to be thin, then why are there so many products that claim to make you such?  I bought into it hook, line, and sinker.  I put my Barbie on the fake scale, and it read 110 pounds.  110 pounds.  That must be the ideal weight.  SOMEONE thought so, right?  That moment stuck with me.  And I know what people want to say.  Here, I’ll say it for you: “But Roses, it’s just a doll.  She’s not real.  She can’t hurt you.”  First of all, do I fucking look like a dimwit to you?  You don’t think I know a plastic doll can’t “hurt me?”  I react the same way to “It’s just a game cartridge, it’s made of plastic, it can’t hurt you”, and “It’s just a book, it can’t hurt you,” and “It’s just a DVD, it’s can’t hurt you.”  …Are you fucking serious?  Are you seriously questioning my intelligence right now?  Because I truly find those arguments to be condescending as hell.

Angry and profane Roses aside now (she may come out every now and then whenever I’m feeling salty, but I will try to remain as eloquent as I possibly can),  yes.  I was (and am) aware that Barbie was just a doll, and I know that cartridges and books can’t physically hurt someone (unless I lobbed a reeeeally heavy novel at someone’s head, which is very tempting sometimes, I tell ya.  I’m told I have a wicked good pitch);  it’s not the doll, or the CD, or the book that hurts you.  It’s the ideas inside of those things that are harmful.  We all know that, right?  Ideas can be harmful as much as they can be beneficial.  It doesn’t matter that these things are real or not.  Barbie isn’t real, but it didn’t matter to me.  She is what the media says is beautiful.  And it’s not the doll’s fault of course.  Barbies have the right to exist, and people have the right to like and play with them.  The problem is the sheer volume of things similar to that that contribute to this very strange beauty ideal, and these ideals, whether you like it or not, leak into our entertainment, and do influence people.  I know it’s considered so uncool to even suggest that media may be causing harmful things in our lives, but it shouldn’t be.  And even if it is considered as such, I am so far beyond trying to be cool that I really don’t mind being candid with my experiences and being labeled uncool.  Being cool doesn’t benefit me, and it doesn’t help people anyone else either.  So I am just trying to be as honest and thoughtful as I can be with my accounts and experiences.

Let’s talk about the beauty and diet industry, shall we?  That one is always fun to talk about.  I’d like to preempt this by saying I wear a little bit of makeup;  I used to wear it because I felt extremely pressured to, but now I wear it because I actually find enjoyment in the experimentation of applying it and being artsy with it.  I am not against makeup.  Of course I’m not; you’re reading something written by a girl who has stabbed colorful, permanent designs all over her body, so I very, very much respect the right to do whatever you like with your body as long as it is healthy and something that makes you feel good.  The freedom to decorate my body any way I prefer is extremely important to me.  If you like makeup and body mod because it makes you happy and you’ve never felt pressured to wear it for any other reason than for yourself, then what I would like for you to do is just listen.  It is good that you have a healthy relationship with beauty.  I would like you to listen to someone who has not felt that way, even in the very recent past.   If you don’t enjoy makeup or hair dye and do it because you feel pressured to meet a certain criteria of beauty or sexiness, then this is something you will be able to relate to.

It is extremely hard to dodge the messages we get about beauty standards on a daily basis.  Especially if you use the internet, listen to the radio, watch TV, go outside (seriously, there are billboards freakin’ everywhere), go to the store…man.  The beauty and diet industries are MACHINES.  They are absolutely MASSIVE, and they are huge, huge money makers.

You needn’t search far to hear or see an ad or commercial telling you that you are broken.  Seriously, something about you is broken and needs fixing.  Chubby?  Well, let’s see.  We have pills, juicers, diet food that will make you wish you were dead, bunk exercise machines that cost a fortune, powdered something or others, cleansers, blahblahblah.  Too much body hair?  Well look no further because I have a product that is guaranteed NOT to work AND shrink your wallet, all because we’ve scared you into thinking body hair is bad.  Need to lose weight in a extremely unrealistic amount of time?  Here, try this junk.  Not only does it taste like ass, it will also make you FEEL like ass while simultaneously doing NOTHING.  Cellulite?  HOW EMBARRASSING.  HOW CAN YOU EVEN STAND TO GO OUTSIDE, YOUR MONSTER.  YOU’RE SCARING THE CHILDREN.

A lot of these products are targeted at women; there have been standards and products set for us for…what seems like forever, honestly.  Refer to the Dexatrim commercial I linked above; obviously targetted to women. I go to the pharmacy and the first thing I see are aisles and aisles of makeup being advertised by photoshopped airbrushed models, and aisles for other beauty products are just intense.  Waxing kits, cellulite creams, skin moisturizers, creams for dark circles, exfoliates, wrinkle plumpers, skin lighteners;  anything that needs to be fixed, you can find a product for.  The men’s department is a lot more sparse, but I’m not excluding the fact that men also get drawn into these “fixes.”  How many commercials have you seen depicting a balding man with statements like “you don’t need to be embarrassed by your thinning hair, we have a fix!  Here, just put this nasty shit on your noggin and now you’re a babe magnet”?  ( I may have paraphrased the end of that sentence.  But seriously, what the fuck is that shit she’s putting on his head?)  This industry will say anything and everything to make you feel like an ugly, broken sack of shit as long as it will drain your wallet.  There is no profit in saying, “Hey.  You’re great just the way you are!  Love yourself!”  That ain’t gonna sell products, my friends.  I have also had a number of significant others who have been insecure about having sex, expressing fear that their penis was too small and feeling utter shame.  And of course, there’s a huge industry dedicated to fixing the size of your penis.  The women I had been intimate with often felt terrible about their breast size and one partner could not remove her bra in front of me.  If you feel that bad about yourself, you WILL drop money to fix your perceived flaws.  I know I did.  I had a shameless amount of product and makeup and I found no enjoyment in it.  All I wanted was to be thin and beautiful.  The truth is, though…YOU ARE NOT BROKEN.  You don’t need to be fixed.  There is nothing wrong with you, you’re just a human being with your own individual appearance.  If you want to change your appearance or embellish something about yourself because you love yourself, that is fine.  That is absolutely fine.  But don’t fall into these things because you think you HAVE to.  You don’t HAVE to do anything.  You don’t owe anyone anything.  You don’t have to fit some standard of beauty because some money making machine says it’s the ideal way to be.  You need to do what’s healthy for you.  Mentally and physically.

These standards find their way into our entertainment mediums.  It’s not always malicious, but it does happen.  Here is an example of something from a video game affecting me that I don’t consider a malicious attempt to make me feel bad, but it did anyway:  I love, love, love adventure games.  I love video games in general; I always have.  A series I discovered in my early teens was Leisure Suit Larry.  Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail particularly intrigued me.  It was smoothly designed in this sexy, 2D cartoon look, and the characters were vibrant and buxom.  I liked it a lot.  At the risk of sounding extremely weird, for me, the game portrayed sex in a very enjoyable, pleasurable, not dirty way.  That sexual pleasure is not something to be ashamed of as a woman.  So I did take something very positive away from it.  But I recall responding to the character design very strangely.  The female characters in that game are very, very sexy.  They all have similar body shapes; very voluptuous.  Tiny waists, larger breasts, perfect faces.  I actually liked their design because it’s exactly what I wanted to look like.  I started drawing women who ONLY had that body type because I felt like this is what people were attracted to.  I go through my art from time I was really questioning my body, and it is very, very telling.

Keep in mind, I still love this game.  I even replay it from time to time (I would argue that it’s the best game in the entire series, but that’s a debate for another time, heh heh), and I am not saying Leisure Suit Larry is this horrible game that exists to make women feel bad.  Hell, it’s not even the game’s fault as an individual title;  the only reason I responded this way is because so many other characters in the entertainment industry are depicted that exact same way.  The game, along with many other forms of entertainment, is a product of what the media and it’s marketing feels is attractive and ultimately what will sell.  It’s not about the body type presented; in fact I draw a lot of pinup art in my spare time and identify as a sexually charged person who likes a bit of raunch every now and then. So games like this do have the right to exist and be enjoyed, and these female designs also have a right to exist and I would never expect them to be removed.  The problem is not the medium, and I in no way believe movies and video games are turning people into monsters and sexual deviants.  I believe the problem is diversity; and growing up, I didn’t see it and I didn’t feel it.  I genuinely didn’t.  I thought I had to look like Charlize Theron to be considered beautiful.  Who is absolutely lovely by the way.  I just wish I felt like it was acceptable to look like… well…how I looked.  Like myself. Not like someone else.  Not like the standard that so many entertainment industries have already set.  And to be quite honest, even though these ideals are more likely to affect people who are overweight, it still also affects slender women and models and actors and actresses; that is why you are always hearing about a celebrity falling victim to an eating disorder, and why models speak out about how unhealthy these industries are.  The pressure to look a certain way is so fucking ridiculous, anyone can give into them, no matter what you look.

So it’s not the character.  It’s not the body type.  It’s not the actress or actor or pinup illustration.   It’s the expectation society has set for us.  The expectation to look perfect in accordance to how the media portrays it unfortunately flows into so many forms of entertainment, directly and indirectly. The reason people want diversity in entertainment and the reason so many public figures step forward to talk about how warped these industries are and how it has hurt them is so that we can ALL have something to relate to, and so we can adjust some of these ideals.  So we can ALL have our fantasies.  So things can get better.  So more people can be happy.  And so we can tell these industries that make money off of telling us we have to look a certain way to fucking piss off.   Speaking up is a good thing.  I’d like to reiterate: this doesn’t mean I want to erase all character designs that resemble the Leisure Suit Larry girls from the gaming and movie mediums.  I don’t want to replace a specific body type with another, or claim that one is better than the other.  Hating or dismissing a certain body type, EVEN if it’s the body type that already fits a societal standard of beauty, is not the answer.  In fact, isn’t dismissing a certain body type why I feel this way in the first place?  I felt like my body type was never accepted anywhere, and I would never want other women to feel completely ostracized or judged the way I did.  I want to keep all the Leisure Suit Larry characters, the Bayonettas, the Juliet Starlings, the Cammys, in our games.   But I would like to see them alongside so many other body types and character designs, knowing that despite them being real or not, a game character or a movie character or a comic book character, they are all okay to be.  I had to learn and retrain myself for years  to realize there exists more than one kind of sexy.  I’m not a Bayonetta.  She is very sexy, but I will never be a Bayonetta, and that is okay.  I’m sexy the way I am.   And seeing more diversity online and in entertainment has very honestly given me hope, and HAS helped me manage certain toxic thoughts that contributed to my eating disorder.  The more I see actors and actresses onscreen who don’t fit the Hollywood mold and the more diversity I see in gaming and in television and art makes me realize that it’s okay to have the body type that I do.  We’re all just people, and we’re all different, and those differences are what makes life interesting.  I am telling you flat out;  seeing diversity in our media is beneficial.  It DOES help. Calling out the diet industry as being harmful and unrealistic DOES help. These are not complex ideas; when we add variety to the things around us, it gives us more to think about, so what I am saying here isn’t exactly revolutionary.  And yet, despite this not being a difficult concept to understand, the mainstream media doesn’t change very quickly.  There has been some amazing progress, but for some, it’s still moving at a sloth’s pace.

That is why people are so critical of what they see media.  Because there’s a lot of garbage floating around, and because people genuinely do become influenced by what our brains are processing all day long.  Some more so than others, of course.  Here’s an example I found to be really interesting:  Have you ever seen Mad Men?  It’s one of my favorite series.  It’s on Netflix if you’re interested.  The main character, Don Draper, is known for having this drink:  The Old Fashioned.  Now, personally, I think Old Fashioneds are friggin gross.  Whiskey with sugar cubes in it?  The heck?  NO!  …anyway, he drinks these throughout the entire series.  It becomes a very well known thing for this character.  This drink was very popular in the 60s, the time the show takes place.  By the 2000s, mixologists noted that the drink had basically fallen off the radar.  It just wasn’t very popular anymore (is anyone surprised?  IT’S WHISKEY WITH SUGAR CUBES AHRHHGJJHJD), but that isn’t uncommon.  Things change, style changes, we move on, find different things.  Pretty normal.  But when Mad Men became popular, suddenly, everyone wanted a friggin Old Fashioned.  This disgusting drink was suddenly desired after losing its popularity for years.  Why?  Because we saw Don Draper drinking it.  It doesn’t matter that his character is fictional; he had a very real influence on real people’s behavior.  It seems innocuous, but you gotta think:  Wow.  That is the power of a fictional character from a television series.  It’s very common, and it happens for better or for worse. Geezus, why can’t we have a character that goes around town buying people new cars?  COME ON PEOPLE.  MAKE IT HAPPEN; MAMA NEEDS A NEW DODGE VIPER.

There’s a lot of stats out there, so I will not bog you down with a crap ton of numbers, but it is common that girls between the ages of 6 and 12 start becoming increasingly concerned about their weight.  It sounds so young, but that’s how old I was when I started to become aware of my appearance, and there was a reason for it.  It’s not a strange coincidence that I, and so many other girls, start to feel that way at a certain age.  Though studies commonly show that women are more likely to develop disorders and skewed thoughts about their image, it does affect men too.  About 10 million men in the US suffer from an eating disorder, and BDD is also relatively high among men.  Those who suffer often have a skewed image of their muscles, and suffer from muscle dysmorphia. I cannot identify as a male with this illness, but I do feel that it must be insanely difficult to step forward and tell someone if you feel this way, given the pressures to be rough and tough all the time.  All I can say is that if you do identify as a male, and you suffer from an eating disorder or BDD, you will get no judgement from me and others who suffer.  And I encourage you to speak up.

So, what am I trying to say here exactly?  That the media causes ALL of our societal ills and creates horrible behavior?  Well, no.  Obviously not.  I think the impact the media has on people is far more complicated than that.  It’s like I said earlier, there are SO many things that contribute to who we are.  So many factors. Media exposure is one thing.  Other things that frame how we think or that could contribute to disorders like this are sexual abuse, environment, a violent upbringing, and a pre-existing mental illness.  The way I see it is this:  I developed a mental illness at a young age.  That is one factor that led to having turned to bulimia.  I also bought into societal ideals of beauty; there’s another factor.  The women in my life also bought the societal ideals of beauty, and I grew up hearing my sister say “I’m on a diet” very frequently.  The first boy I dated when I was a young teen verbally abused me and called me fat; two more variables right there.  BDD and Eating disorders do not run in my family, but of course, there are genetic factors connected with mental illness as well.  There’s a lot of things that cause us to behave the way we do.   It’s not going to be one movie, or one show, or one magazine, or one video game, and I don’t believe it is the fault of those artistic mediums all by themselves.  It is going to be the ideas we as human beings put into them alongside these other conditions.  And we are responsible for what we put into the world, so it’s crucial to teach people, especially at a young age, to be critical of what we see around us.  It doesn’t mean we try to start banning movies, books, or video games.  It doesn’t mean we go all alarmist like our good friend Donald Trump; But we can teach resilience and strength through criticism, and being honest about the things that affect us.

It was not until I really learned to be critical and skeptical of what the media was feeding me that I realized I was destroying my body and health over something that should not dictating me.  When I was young, I used to look at beauty magazines and not realize the images were photoshopped.  Ads can be incredibly deceptive; anything to sell a product, right?  Now when I look at beauty magazines, I remind myself how many filters and airbrushing techniques were used to “fix” the model, and there does not exist a perfect person (with the exception of Dave Grohl).  I remind myself I never needed fixing in the fucking first place.  I wasn’t broken, but I did nearly break myself trying to become what I was taught was acceptable.  And I know how easy it is to overlook some of these problems, and just turn your head the other way.  My hope is that some of these issues return to your scope.

So what else helped me overcome bulimia?  Well, besides being trained to think more critically about my body, I also worked extremely hard to restore my physical health in the way of exercise and eating right.  Exercise and eating right, however, became a much easier task after I started correcting the weird way I idealized specific body types.  I do still suffer from BDD, and the causes of that are varied.  Some studies show that there is something wrong in the way people with it visually process things, particular faces and their expressions.  So…what does that mean?  Well, it means that I cannot see my own face correctly.  My brain doesn’t process it accurately, and thus I am seeing something that other people are not.  This is sometimes mapped to seratonin levels, and could be aided by psychiatric medicine.   Even though I believe video games can always be improved (I like video games, so I am always nitpicking about them.  We jab at the things we love the most, aye?), they have helped me a lot, and I play a lot of games to help me escape my own thought process.  It’s not a cure, but it is a temporary way for me to find contentment.  I also find that music is an amazing healer when my thoughts are getting out of control.

Finding diverse things through the internet has also helped me.  I am 30 years old now, and growing up, it was harder to find like minded people and dodge these mixed messages on TV; but on the internet, I am able to always find a group of people who either understand, or at least want to understand, the struggles I am going to.  It’s one of the best parts about the internet, and also one of the worst because now idiots also have a place to congregate, but yanno.  With the good comes the bad.  And I find having a online community and seeing diverse things from all kinds of artists and creators to be an incredibly positive thing for me.

It is truly strange having an illness like this, because overall, I am a confident person.  I know what I want in life, I know I am very intelligent, I know I am creative, and I am very good with people.  It sucks when your own confidence is at war with an illness that just wants to take it all away.  I am a confident person with BDD.

Maybe you don’t care.  Maybe you were not affected the way I was by ANY of these things, and you don’t care if things ever change.  I’m not asking you to understand everything I said here and suddenly hop on the Roses boat of dedicating your life to combating BDD or Bulimia or Depression.  We all have our own problems to take care of; our own lives.  I’m not asking you to drop everything and join me on a mission to take down the diet industry; but what I am asking, and what I would like, is that you just hear me, and take what I say into consideration.  You may not be able to relate to anything I said here, but I’d like it if you respect my experiences as they are, because it is insanely difficult expressing thoughts like this without being judged.  There’s always going to be someone who thinks saying “Just get over it” or “Grow a thicker skin” is the miraculous answer to all of life’s issues, and that’s just not the way people work. It’s not how brains work. The way I see it is that I am an incredibly strong person for overcoming an addictive eating disorder, and turning my habits around to where they are healthy.  That takes a strong person.  And remember: you can’t just automatically grow a thick skin; it takes time and experience to build up that kind of resilience, so don’t let people make you feel like you are weak.  It’s just not realistic.  And like I said before, we ALL have our own issues and things we want to dedicate time making better.  I understand that.  Maybe you’re saying: “Screw this, there are worse things happening in the world.”  There are always bad things happening in the world, but to me, these issues are bad things that I can help with.  I care about other things that are happening in the world, but I also want to put my efforts to good use and do what I can with my own knowledge, and when I can help in other areas and other people who also have it bad; I do.  I help where I can and when I can.  For example, my Father passed away of brain cancer when I was young, so every year I donate to the American Cancer Society.  That is another thing I care about alongside mental health.

Maybe your mission is to volunteer at an animal shelter and stop animal abuse.  Maybe your mission is to hold charities to benefit the research of cancer.  Maybe you want to inspire change to our social issues like racism, or discrimination towards the LGBT community.  It’s all okay.  We all have things we are passionate about and there is enough people in the world to fulfill so many causes.   Doesn’t mean you can’t care about other things, though; so no matter what your cause is, no matter what you care about in your life, I hope you find some merit in this blog.  And if you are in the same boat as I am, then I really, really hope reading my experience has helped you in some way.  And at the very least, I hope you find it insightful.  This is my experience.  What’s yours?

Academia-Schmacademia

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

*ACHTUNG!  The following article has nothing to do with video games, The Monkees, or tape worms.  It is a speech I plan to give.  You may read it at your own risk.  Or you can go back to browsing the mature section of my art gallery for further amusement.

 

There is something to be said for being “the most improved student.”  When I was in Jr. High, there were awards given to students who achieved academic success.  “Most likely to succeed”, “Least amount of absences,” and the incredibly unappreciated “Most improved” award.  Many students do not realize how impressive the title really is.  “Most improved?  Doesn’t that mean you SUCKED at first?!”  And it does. It means you weren’t doing so hot in whatever classes you were taking.  But it also implies you stepped it up, and overcame those academic and life obstacles that may have initially kept you from success.

When I was 7, my family and I moved out of a small town and into a bigger city.  Being a quiet child, I found it difficult to make friends at my new school.  And thus began the 15 year downward spiral of despising school and everyone who went.  Up until 4th grade, I didn’t show any signs of being a troubled child.  And then 5th grade came along, and BAM.  GALLSTONES.  Yes, I was 10 and somehow had gallstones.  I went in for surgery to have the stones and affected organ removed, and when I went back to school, I found it extremely difficult get back into the routine.  Part of this was because I felt like I didn’t have many friends, and I feared the other kids were talking behind my back.  It seems quite silly at the time, but I was positive, in my neurotic, 11 year old mind, I was being ridiculed for having to have my gallbladder taken out.

Between the ages of eleven and fourteen, I longed to be popular.  It was almost an unhealthy obsession – I wanted nothing more to be apart of the popular crowd, but I was too shy, and I was labeled a loser.  As a child, it was impossible to foresee my future, not knowing that labels wouldn’t matter in college or beyond.  I became so depressed and self conscious about myself, that I didn’t care about learning, or making the best out of my education.  I was blinded by my own selfish thoughts and wants.  The longer I went to school, the more I hated myself.   So I did terribly.  Present me would absolutely hate past me.  I would kick my own ass if I knew myself back then.

I started high school with the same morose thoughts leaking over.  I did not care to learn in my classes.  I just wanted out.  I fell into the awful category of people who go around spouting, “Why am I learning THIS?  I will never use this in real life!  Screw this garbage.”  To make matters worse, my father was suffering with cancer at the time.  When he died, my apathy for school turned into pure, irrational hatred.  I was kicked out of public school and put into an alternative school.  After my fathers passing, I dropped out.

It’d be easy to say that I dropped out due to my Father’s death, but it only played one factor in my decision.  My father’s death was tragic, and of course affected me a great deal, but wasn’t the main problem keeping me from fulfilling my academic goals.  It put a strain on things, but at that point, I still didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with my education.

My mom pushed me to get my GED, and thank god she did.  I owe her one.  Even though I wasn’t very dedicated to going to my GED study courses, I passed, and it was enough to get me into college.

Without even thinking, I started college without any set plans as to what I should major in.  I figured, “Hey.  I can draw!  I’ll major in art!”

I loathed it.

Drawing on command?  Why would anyone want to do that?

I struggled with many majors between the ages of 18-23.  Over those 5 years, my motivation seemed to slowly climb, but because I was  so indecisive about what I was going to study, I never really got anywhere.  Fiction writing, psychology, illustration…christ, I almost went into phlebotomy!  And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with any of these subjects.  But they didn’t keep my interest long enough, and my enthusiasm seemed to dwindle.  My GPA was a 1.3.  I had flunked three courses.  Yeah, I was really going places.

It was not until I met a guy through some mutual friends, who was majoring in computer science, that I finally started to become passionate about learning.  Before I go any further, I must admit to you guys, I am a hardcore nerd.  Computers, video games, and anything technology related always fascinated me, but due to my ignorance, I never thought I could find a school concentration that allowed me to work with those things.  I fell madly in love with this guy, because he was passionate about computer science.  Always striving to be better.  I wanted to be like him.  He was now my hero.

So I followed in his footsteps, and with his help, I found a major that helped me learn more about computers and internet related technologies.  Which is a great thing, because I am pretty much putzing around on the internet all day anyway.  I suddenly felt like I belonged in school.  The ideas of being popular were gone.  Instead of my father’s death plaguing me, it inspired me.  I enjoyed being smart, and I enjoyed learning about something I truly loved.

After awhile, one of the school professors urged me to apply for a teacher aide/tech tutoring position at the school.  She probably noticed that while I was in her class, I was constantly helping the other students sitting around me.  So I applied, and got the job.  Teaching people has been a truly gratifying experience.  It’s a job that not only makes me happy, but makes others happy when they finally understand a concept they couldn’t grasp before.   My confidence was now boosted. I currently have a GPA of 4.0 in my core classes, and a 3.6 all around.   I still have two F’s on my school transcripts, but with my dedication to my concentration, I was able to combat the two F’s with a slew of A’s.  It was not easy, and it took a long time.  But good things are often difficult, and time consuming.

You will know when something truly clicks.  The moment you “get it”; the moment you finally understand that math equation, or that programming concept, is one of the most rewarding feelings you will ever experience.  And it is worth it.  Even if you think you are trapped in a class that you may not ever use, you owe it to yourself to make the best out of those classes, and get the grade you really want.   Pay attention to other people.  Pay attention to people who are passionate about what they do, and let that inspire you.

Someone once told me that a large part of intelligence is not your ability to *do* your work, but the ability to adapt to situations, and have an understanding of what you are doing.   I didn’t realize that when I first started my education.   I always wanted the “best grades” award right off the bat.  But I embrace my “most improved” status.   Never lose heart, even when you felt like you’ve lost it.  There are some things in life you can’t change;  some obstacles that seem impossible to move past.  But you can always go back and learn.

They Paved Paradise

Friday, April 29th, 2011

You know, for the most part, this website has been used to promote my incredibly banal and daffy thoughts and ideas.   Every now and then I’ll throw up a “deep” blog, just to get my frustrations out, but for the most part, it’s been mindless prattle.  Today, I think I’ll go the “profound” route.  I can’t guarantee this won’t turn out cheesy.  But we all like cheese.  S’all gouda. PUN.

I usually hate cliche sayings.  They usually irritate me.  But some cliche sayings happen to be true in every sense of the word.  “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” (Not to be confused with “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone”, which is a very well known Joni Mitchell tune and has nothing to do with anything I am saying, I am just babbling), has struck me lately.

Specifically when I think about people I’ve lost through death.  Especially in the instance of my father, who I lost to cancer when I was 14.  That was a strange age for me.  Like most 14 year olds, I was awkward, greasy, and unsure of my place in society.  I was also a pain in the ass who instigated fights and got kicked out of public school, but that’s a different story altogether.

Me and my Dad were always close, but our relationship really blossomed far after he was diagnosed with cancer, and I feel like before that, I may have taken advantage.  Nobody ever thinks they will lose someone, and no one ever thinks someone bad will happen to them.  The common idea people have is “That’s something that happens to someone *else*…not *me*.  Life is unpredictable like that.

It’s way too short.  So I am going to eat this entire stuffed pizza and not care, because dammit, I like pizza, and I deserve a treat.   If you want something, take it.  If you like someone, take THEM. (…..Not sure what I actually mean by that.  It’s probably sexual.)

It’s so easy to take things for granted these days, and I know I have in the past.  We all have.  The past month has taught me a lot.  Particularly to not waste my time on petty things that will just cause undue stress.  Time to focus on what really matters.  PIZZA!

I mean…uh.  Friendships and people

.....and food.

I take a lot of business classes for my college major.  One of the most important things I’ve learned came from my presentations class.  A rule of thumb is to focus on the cheerleaders (the people who are interested) during your presentation, and ignore the ill attentive.  Spend your energy catering to the group of people who are interested in what you have to say, and keep them interested.  Don’t spend all your energy on one or two people you will never be able to impress.  Focus on the essential.

……And buy some pizza.

You’re probably hungry!

Consequences

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Not even a week ago, something happened that left me frightened. While in bed, sound asleep, I woke up to have what can be called a seizure; I thrashed and flailed about for what I would say ten minutes. I don’t remember specifics or what I was thinking or feeling, but when I woke up the next morning, my entire right arm was numb, which is why drawing has been somewhat hard recently. The root of the seizure is something that I have been struggling with for a long time now – 8 years – but because of what happened last week, I decided to be more candid about it.

I grew up a very chubby girl, and grew into an obese teen. My friends were a little more than rude, it was hard having skinny friends making fun of overweight people when we hung out – calling them whales – laughing behind their backs – I felt awful.

I was that girl in elementary school, secretly wishing she could look like the popular students, yearning for blond hair, blue eyes, and zero fat on my body. I was that girl who would look into the mirror, and smile to see if she looked pretty, or turn her head to see what she looked like at different angles. I would grab at my chub, and wish it was muscle. I fell into the media hype, I wanted that American Dream – I wanted perfection. I was that girl who was influenced by the wrong ideas – the idea that thin was beautiful, and I could not be beautiful without being thin. I couldn’t handle being the fat girl, the girl nobody wanted, the girl I saw in the mirror. I was the girl who took the joke personally. And the last straw that started it all was the comment I got from my first boyfriend: “She’s as big as a house.”

I couldn’t handle giving up food, so I went the destructive route, and quickly became bulimic.

BulimiaBulimia proved to be difficult at first; throwing up is never pleasant, whether it is provoked by the flu, or self induced. But I quickly got over it, and it became routine. For years, I would purge my food as much as 30 to 60 times daily, without telling anyone. I felt like I was getting away with something, as long as I hid it, and as long as I stopped before it became out of control, I would be fine.

Negative eighty pounds later, I couldn’t stop. My weight fluctuated, my hair started falling out, my skin became blemished, my eyes were dark and puffy, my teeth rotted, my heart often pumped irregularly, there were bite marks and scars on my hands, where my teeth would clench into my skin when I was purging. The consequences were not light or subtle, but I didn’t stop, my mentality was so extreme that I would rather die than become fat again. Even the incentive of death was not powerful enough to tame my disorder.

As recently as last year, I sought help for my disorder after having frequent fainting spells. I have tamed my disorder, but it’s never over. Reintroducing food into your system can sometimes shock it – causing seizures sometimes, or sometimes panic attacks. The hardest parts are my thoughts, the ones that keep telling me I am fat and ugly, the ones that remind me of the cruel kids in high school who wouldn’t leave me alone. And the media. The media was the worst influence on me. But I have worked hard at it, and have gotten much better about accepting myself and realizing that I was beautiful all along, fat or no fat, blond hair or black hair, blue eyes or green eyes – my personality overrides those things. But it took almost 8 years to get over these things, and by then, harm had already been done.bulimia

What am I saying to my readers is, if you struggle with something, if your self esteem is low, do not, DO NOT, give up on yourself. Accept yourself the way you are, and realize that you can be happy even in grim situations. You can be happy with what you have. Surround yourself with good people, genuine people you trust. Remember material things do not matter. Money is good, and hard to come by in this economy, but people are the ones that matter. People can talk to you, love you, hold you, and be there for you. Money and material things could not solve my problem, only loving, caring people could do that. I promise you that.

If you are being destructive, and you know it and think you are getting away with something, you aren’t. There are always consequences to what you do, and some things are irreversible. My arm has not regained feeling, and my hair never grew back to what it was. I spent an ungodly amount of money fixing my teeth, if I had only realized sooner that appearance does not define who I am, I could have avoided many physical ailments.

More importantly is, we are not going to be young forever. We are all going in the same direction, which is getting older, getting gray, and getting saggy. Enjoy your youthful looks if you’d like, but it will not last.

Even if only one person reads this post, and it inspires them and takes something positive away from this, I will be a happy that I shared. And if you are on the bullying side, don’t ever think that your words or actions will not influence someone. You never know what is going to hurt someone, or not affect them at all.

Breast Laid Plans

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Alright, let’s get right down to business.  Something has been bothering me for a good while now, and I really think it needs to be addressed in a serious, and classy manner.

Boobies.

….Hrm, that isn’t quite the way I wanted to present this.  But it will have to do.  So, we all know what breasts are.  And if you don’t know them as “breasts”, then you might know them as boobies, tits, jugs, racks, headlights, hooters, mammaries,  or my personal favorite, chumbawumbas.  The myriad of slang terms for breasts is actually pretty impressive, but for the sake of this entry, lets call them breasts.

So my question is: what makes breasts, particularly female breasts, so appealing?   Guys seem to go ga-ga over them, becoming drooling sacks of testosterone at the slightest hint of cleavage, and even I admit to being physically attracted to the shape and look of female breasts.  No one seems to pay any attention to male breasts unless they are categorized as moobs, and it’s normally negative attention, even though female and male breasts arbreastimagebuttonupe basically the same thing: roundish sacks of fat.

Now, it’s speculated that males have an instinctive attraction to breasts, due to breast feeding and motherly things, and all that Freudian-style  junk.  And I do think it’s junk; maybe that theory does have some merit, but it doesn’t explain my own attraction to this body part as a female, and I am not saying that I lust over them, but there is something attractive about that particular area.  So while I think this idea does make some sense in a psychological manner, I think it’s a bit old fashioned.  I don’t think most men are drawn to breasts because they were breast fed, and I certainly don’t think breast feeding causes lust in men years later into adulthood.  What is the likelihood of men seeing a busty woman and thinking “Oh man, I like that rack because it reminds me of breastfeeding from my mom.”  It’s very symbolic, but not really a feasible idea in the real world.

So perhaps there is something more.  Maybe it has something to do with stimulation; perhaps knowing that the breasts hold a pleasure spot for intimate times is in itself intriguing and arousing to our minds.  But this doesn’t have anything to do with physical appearance, does it?  I figure this idea is more of a mindset thing; after all, vaginas are not exactly nice looking, but it is also a nerve sensitive area, but you don’t see men clambering to see a woman’s cameltoe – not as much as breast cleavage at least.

Well, it has a point.

Well, it has a point.

Maybe people are drawn to breasts because it has been pushed onto us by the media, and society.  Maybe over time, we have learned to worship this body part because it’s constantly a hot issue in the press:  nip slips, controversy over implants, reductions; it seems to be a big deal, and as people apart of this pop culture heavy world, we tend to become impressionable, and the media is very good at shoving things in our faces whether we want it there or not.  Remember when Tara Reid (of American Pie fame) had an incident where her dress strap fell and it exposed her breast?  What about when Janet Jackson exposed HER breast to the world at Super Bowl Half-time?  The press went insane when those events happened.

Maybe it’s not as in depth as that either.  Maybe breasts really are just…pretty.  Maybe they are a nice shape.  Maybe they simply look nice in a flattering dress, or compliment our hips, or make nice pillows to tired girlfriends and boyfriends.  Maybe it’s as simple as that.  Whatever it is, it boggles my mind.   It truly boggles my mind.  The mention of breasts in any conversation is enough to turn mature men into ogling boys; mention you will show off your cleavage, and you will have everyone’s attention for the next five hours.  Offer to show off your vagina? ….Well, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

“I just bought this nice set of pants, it really complements my crotch.”

…Yeah, that doesn’t sound very alluring.

“I just bought this nice shirt today, it really complements by chest.”

Much better.

As for me?   I don’t know exactly why I am drawn to breasts, but I can speculate that it is just the feminine side of me, enjoying my feminine traits.  I would be lying if I took a picture of myself with some cleavage showing, and claimed I didn’t want men to notice.  Of course women want people to notice, otherwise what is the point of wearing  a low cut shirt?  Or push up bras, or wonder bras, or corsets?  At this point, I rarely get mad if I catch someone staring; I am more prone to feel flattered.

I am going to conclude this blog with a question:  Why are breasts great?  Are they overrated, or is there something about them that make them amazing?  I await to be enlightened.