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Anorexia, or where I've been

Guys, I have to be honest with you that 2019 kicked my ass from start to finish. I had significant depressive episodes, and I was battling and losing to anorexia. It’s been a lot of therapy, and my medication is still being adjusted. There was also a lot of energy absorbed by the usual–chronic pain, parenting, etc.

I stopped posting here because I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t maintain the facade that everything was okay when my life was the farthest thing from okay. Not the lowest point of my life, but it’s among them.

I’ve decided to share my story in hopes that it might help someone else. I was not educated about how fat people can still be anorexic—in fact, I joked that I could be “anorexic” until I was actually anorexic. I thought of anorexia as something that happens to teenagers, not mothers in their forties.

I have a long history with hating my body, and I have been restricting since I was young, although never like this. Primarily my restricting has been the other component of my eating disorder–what’s called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID.

The restricting that turned into full blown anorexia started by accident in the summer of 2018—what a therapist called momorexia, because I was eating small bites on the go, stopping at the first hint of fullness because I was super busy. I lost weight, and since I was losing at a “safe” pace of 8-ish pounds a month, or 2-ish a week, I shrugged off my initial concerns that maybe the weight loss wasn’t such a good thing, or, more to the point, that it wasn’t happening safely. I kept restricting further and further, taking every less bite of food as a moral victory. After all, I’ve been in a body that has weighed 200+ pounds for the past twenty years, and every doctor I’ve talked to from my back surgeon to my pcps have urged me to lose weight. I’ve done dieting. I’ve done exercising until I hurt myself. But I never was able to move the needle much at all (because, as science tells us, our bodies tend to have a set point weight, and it’s really hard to move that needle when it’s possible at all) until restricting.

When I told my doctor that maybe I wasn’t being safe in late November (by which point I was eating less than I ever had, and my weight has never been about overeating). She told me to eat at least 1200 calories a day and it would be fine. AT LEAST. My fucked up brain said if 1200 is good, under 1200 is better. After all, it’s not like I’m losing weight too fast.

Then I began counting calories explicitly. Weighing food. Measuring food. Then my weight plateaued in February 2019. Then came the spreadsheet, and the game I played with myself, which was effectively “how few calories can Delilah eat without having dizzy spells?” In April I blew up at my therapist over eating—the first time she’d seen me fully lose my composure in nearly four years of weekly or bi-weekly therapy. I ended up confessing everything. She talked to a colleague who specializes in eating disorders. The colleague strongly urged me to seek evaluation and treatment. I made an appointment with Stanford’s eating disorder clinic for evaluation, but I also made an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I knew how many pounds I was away from “overweight” as opposed to “obese.” I was constantly getting positive feedback.

I shopped in straight sizes for the first time ever as an adult. Clothes became a way I compensated myself for all the awful shit I was putting myself through. But I was a pretty absent mom because I was so exhausted all the time because I wasn’t eating.

Then came the first week of June. I ended up in the ER for pain we thought was a kidney infection, but was actually a cyst on an ovary. But as they ran tests, they found that my potassium was extremely low–even dangerously so. I was given a mega dose, and told to follow up with my doctor. Then came the multi-day nausea (which I now suspect was a series of worsening panic attacks as there is a clear pattern between nausea and anxiety attacks for me) and dry heaving, during which I ate virtually nothing and threw up what I did eat and drink.

I got evaluated by the eating disorder team, and it didn’t go well.

But the real bottom of the barrel, and the reason I ended up getting help was that I collapsed at my older daughter’s fifth grade graduation. I felt like shit—I could barely pay attention because it felt like there was something on my chest and that I was struggling to breathe normally. I survived through it, although I remember nothing beyond what I was physically experiencing, which took over everything. When the room started telescoping, I told my husband that I needed to leave and go to the hospital. He agreed, and I went to the car while he went find our daughter and tell her what was happening and why we were leaving. At the car I started feeling really faint, and staggered to the front office where I asked them to call 911. I got taken away, dehydrated, mid massive panic attack (the source of the chest pains, most likely, based on tests), and on the verge of fainting in an ambulance. Instead of celebrating graduation with my daughter.

For what it’s worth, my daughter is so understanding of all of it–which almost makes it worse. She’s forgiven me. I have yet to forgive myself.

Inpatient treatment was recommended, but I was able to find what’s called a partial hospitalization program near me. Partial hospitalization was a six and a half hour a day commitment, but I could live at home. I’d go there, eat lunch (supervised), do two hours of therapy, eat a snack (supervised), two hours of therapy, dinner (supervised), then home. I was at that level of treatment for pretty much the entire summer, initially six days a week, although I moved to five pretty quickly.

I have mixed feelings about my treatment program, but I can’t deny that they saved me from a far worse fate–despite being 180 pounds, despite losing at a safe rate—I was courting heart damage and death with my actions. I developed and still have a problem with being orthostatic (blood pressure changes dramatically when moving from laying to standing, which can cause fainting among other things) because of it.

I went several months without treatment and began to backslide.

In late 2019 I was able to connect with an eating disorder specialist and dietician, and I am currently working with them to pursue recovery.

Were there any bright points? Lab Rats was 90% edited during 2019. I started leading my younger daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I had a short story in an anthology. I wrote the forward for an anthology put out by Jayhenge (again, I’ll highlight that in another post). But that’s about it.

So how to move forward when I’m not quite out of the woods yet either eating disorder or mental health meds-wise? Well, I started 2020 by putting Lab Rats up for pre-order (I’ll do a promotional post with an excerpt another day), so that feels significant.

Writing feels foreign to me as I’m really out of practice. I didn’t write much of anything new for 2019–editing Lab Rats was all I could manage. But I’m starting again, and even if it feels hard and stilted and sucky at least it’s happening.

Romance Writer’s Blog Challenge–If I weren’t writing

Today’s question is what would I do if I couldn’t write. The answer is simple–I’d be a teacher. In fact, I used to be a teacher until Athena was born almost ten years ago.

I used to teach middle school Math and History, and I was damned good at it. I had only intended to take a year long break from teaching when I had her, but she had serious health issues and needed me. So I stayed home. Then we moved to Singapore. So I stayed home. Then we had my younger daughter who is nicknamed Bunny (because she was born in the year of the rabbit and her class was always the bunnies). Then I started writing professionally. I did some freelancing.

I’ve thought about going back. I’m getting my paperwork together to transfer my teaching license to California, but it’s more of a “break glass in case of emergency,” sort of thing. Besides writing and doing the mom thing, I also have fibromyalgia, which is an illness with chronic pain. It’s questionable if I *could* go back as several medications I take make it hard for me to wake up from. I have trouble getting out of bed before 11 most days. I’ve started doing my girls’ hair at night in tight braids that will survive the night and the next day of school because it’s questionable if I can be waken up enough in the morning to do their hair.

So I guess the real answer is that if I couldn’t write, I’d watch a lot of tv and read, I likely wouldn’t be able to go back to teaching.

Sorry, I didn’t realize how depressing this entry would be.

Twenty things about me

I thought I’d play a game I’ve seen floating around, and tell you twenty random things about me. This is totally off the top of my head…

1–I’d love to be a cake decorator/pastry chef.

2–I can’t sleep unless my room is super cold, much to the irritation of everyone else in my family when I keep turning down the thermostat.

3–I’m a Ravenclaw. (I’m wearing a Ravenclaw tank top right now, actually.)

4–I love two truly terrible movies–Deep Blue Sea and A-Team.

5–My house is fully of my photography. I have two walls of family photos and two of travel photography (soon to be more).

6–Taking cannabis has altered my quality of life dramatically. I have fibromyalgia and without it, walking is painful. Most things are painful. Taking cannabis pills alleviates a lot of the pain that my medication doesn’t.

7–I can’t draw for shit. Stick figures are about the most I can handle.

8–I used to be a teacher. I loved teaching the kids–I hate the politics, which is why I probably won’t go back.

9–I was a huge Baby-Sitters Club fan as a kid. I identify as a Kristy.

10–Even though I’ve lived outside the US, I never flew on an airplane until I was 20.

11–Next month will mark my twelfth wedding anniversary.

12–If I could have picked my own name, I’d pick Katherine.

13–My favorite candy is Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

14–I’ve reread the Jewels series by Anne Bishop a ton of times. I’m so upset by everything going on in the US right now that I’m rereading them for comfort.

15–I hate coffee.

16–I love Disney–the movies, the animated movies, the music, the parks, all of it.

17–I keep meaning to write some Star Trek Voyager fanfic because the series finale has some serious issues. Janeway and Chakotay forever.

18–I almost moved to New Orleans, but I’d just met my husband and wanted to see where things would go.

19–After leaving a small town as soon as I could, and living in cities for the past twenty years, I’m shocked by the fact that I like living in a suburb.

20–I play violin. I started taking lessons in Singapore, but had to stop because I hurt my shoulder. I’ve just recently started playing again, and now both my girls are starting to learn, too.

Strip Clubs in Las Vegas

I’m still readjusting to real life after my week in Vegas alone with my husband. I wanted to write about some of the adult fun we got up to, and it made sense to start with the strip clubs. This post is based on my experiences, and is not sponsored in any way. Obviously I don’t have personal photos to use.

First a bit of advice

1-Take the free limo from the club. Taxis and hotels get kickbacks for taking you and you have to pay whatever the full admission price is. If you take the club’s taxi, you will likely get reduced admission/drink tickets. However, getting home is your problem. Popular strip clubs like the two we went to had lines of cabs outside, but the small club near the Erotic Heritage Museum that we didn’t enter didn’t so we had to call an uber to get back to the hotel.

2-Read the Yelp Reviews before you go to the club. Had we read them in advance we wouldn’t have had the bad/ugly experiences. We went by the recommendation of the travel guide and their #1 pick sucked.

3-Do not go in expecting the sort of full strip down that you might get in your home state. Vegas has topless dancing, and dancers just usually get on stage in a bikini or equivalent and bare their breasts. In Rhode Island (the nearest state with good strip clubs to Boston) dancers would come on in a costume, like a schoolgirl outfit and strip progressively down to either just a thong or nothing at all–something more burlesque by comparison. Vegas does have a few fully nude clubs, but they were either grandfathered in and can serve alcohol (Palomino Club) or don’t serve alcohol (Little Darlings or the equivalent).

The Good—Spearmint Rhino

Our first club night out, we went to Spearmint Rhino, which had the best reviews from women based on my skimming Yelp and comparing it to Sapphire, one of the other big clubs. (Sapphire’s reviews were fine, but in my opinion, Spearmint Rhino’s were better). We took a cab there and had to pay full entry (they told us it would’ve been better if we’d taken the limo).

I have gotten used to what I call the “enthusiastic woman at a strip club effect.” Dancers LOVE when a woman is there and is enthusiastic. My experience at Spearmint Rhino was no exception.

Lap dances–the girls at Spearmint Rhino know how to give a lap dance to either a man or a woman. There’s a subtle art to giving a woman a lap dance as we don’t have a penis to grind on. I got lap dances from like four or five different girls (extra shoutout to Annamaria and Tyler Rain), and my husband and I shared a half hour booth dance from Tyler Rain. They weren’t cheap, but they were worth it.

Stage dances–We sat at the main stage right as you walk in. Like I noted above, there was nothing burlesque about the dancing, but some of the women did pole tricks, and the rest danced with varying degrees of flirtiness and interest.

Being approached–I was approached and not just my husband, which is refreshing.

Drink service was prompt. The drinks were a little weak, but I found that to be true in Vegas for the most part.

Overall it was a fun night out at a strip club, and we happily stayed there until something like three or four in the morning.

The Bad: The Hustler Club

(Sorry the pics won’t upload)

Let’s just say that the women at The Hustler Club are immune to the enthusiastic woman at a strip club effect. If anything I seemed to be an inconvenience or invisible to the women who came over to chat up my husband (I have no problem with him getting chatted up, but I don’t like being ignored or seen as an obstacle to his wallet). We’d taken the (battered) free limo to the club, and received drink coupons to be used either downstairs at The Hustler Club or upstairs at Hunk Mansion (we’ll get there in a second), but I couldn’t get any attention (in a club that was pretty dead) to use them. There were plenty of dancers, but they were clustered together by the bar.

I can only toss money at disinterested dancers for so long before giving up. There was one dancer who flirted a bit with me, but was uninterested in giving a lap dance to a woman, I guess–it was disappointing.

This is the top rated strip club in Vegas. I expected more. At minimum I expected to be able to get lap dances and have some fun flirting. But sometimes things just don’t work out as we’d hoped for.

That said, this is the third Hustler Club I’ve been to (the others are New Orleans and San Francisco), and I have never had fun at a Hustler Club. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing (in that they are disinterested in female clientele or assume I must be hostile) or if I have phenomenally bad luck or if it’s just some spiritual disconnect. Regardless, in my limited opinion–give it/all Hustler Clubs a pass and just go somewhere else.

The Ugly: Hunk Mansion

(pic unavailable)

On the roof of the Hustler Club on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays there is another club in operation–Hunk Mansion with male dancers.

My partner and I have done female strip clubs for over a decade, so the opportunity to check out the men was irresistible. I wish we’d resisted.

It’s kind of obvious that the space isn’t used or used frequently outside of hunk mansion. The stage is pretty much what my kid’s preschool used to set up–something temporary, almost rickety. The chairs and tables are much more fragile looking and battered compared to what’s downstairs. Just as downstairs, it was pretty dead.

The thing about male strippers is, apparently, that they leave me cold. “Stripping” seems to be comprised of impressive dance moves, but dance moves I have seen done equally well in the subways of New York City. They take off their shirts and pants, but there’s no burlesque or performative element to it. That can still work (see Spearmint Rhino) but there’s nothing to write home about seeing guys in manties that cover more than most European male swim bottoms that would pass muster with PG13 censors.

The above would have taken it to meh territory but there were a few elements that ruined it.

The first was, again, being ignored including by wait staff. I never used my drink tickets because no one was interested in selling me a drink, and I wasn’t waving the tickets around so there was no reason for them to think I wasn’t going to be paying for said drinks. There were one, maybe two dancers besides the one on stage and at least one of them seemed to be actively trying to avoid attention.

The crowd was a mix of apathy and from the bachelorette and several older women overt aggressiveness which made for a weird vibe. (I’d see this at Magic Mike as well).

It was, in a strange way, too well lit, unlike most strip clubs which tend towards low lighting. Which meant it felt like I was attending a PG13 talent show in a school cafeteria where some of the parents are bored and waiting for it to be over.

But the thing that truly raised my ire was discovering that men don’t get lap dances at Hunk Mansion. If you’re willing to pay 3x the cost you can get a short private lap dance, but the establishment is pretty anti-gay. The policy of charging men more and making it shameful for a gay/bi/curious man to even ask in the first place is ethically repugnant to me. If you don’t believe me, just read the yelp reviews. Most of the one star reviews talk about how anti-gay this place is.

So like anywhere, your strip club experience is hit or miss. But hopefully you’ll end up with the kind of experience I had at Spearmint Rhino. In fact, just go to Spearmint Rhino. I wish I’d gone back there instead of wasting a night, and ending it in a fairly irritated mood, at Hustler Club.

Seeing my photos (Wicked Wednesday 282)

It’s ironic that this week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt is Mirrors. Monday I posted a snippet of For Love of Snow White, which included a mirror scene. Today I’m going to talk about photos, both sexy and not.

I hate having my photo taken. I never like what I see. I hide behind the camera more often than not, preferring to take photos of others. So it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life to decide to do a boudoir photo shoot—it wouldn’t be just photos of me, but increasingly nude photos of me. Would I like some of them, or would my self esteem be shattered by photos that reflect the negatives and imperfections I see in the mirror after nearly 40 years of being subjected to a media barrage that my value lies in how fuckable I am (and at times in my late teens/early twenties I based my self-worth on whether people found me fuckable).

About a month ago, I posted about doing a boudoir photo shoot. I purposefully wrote that before I’d seen my photos because I was worried that my own insecurities in looking at photos of myself might taint my memory of the shoot.

Well, I’ve seen the photos and we selected 16 to keep. Here are two examples of photos I’m really happy with…

I can honestly say that the experience is very high on my list of things I was terrified of, but am so glad I tried. I have been very self conscious about my body for decades and to see photos where I actually feel like I look sexy is new and a little scary. It calls what I see in the mirror most days, and gives me a hint of what my husband sees that I can’t.

 

wicked wednesday

 

I’d definitely do this again, and not just because it gives me a glimpse of what’s on the other side of the looking glass.

I did a boudoir photo shoot

*This is not a sponsored post. I was not asked to write this post. I received zero discounts or perks.*

I’ve wanted to do a boudoir photo shoot for a long time now. As an amateur photographer I’m fascinated by sexual photography–naked or nearly so bodies, fetish photography, the whole nine yards. I longed to be a model in one of those photos, but the voices in my head that said I’m not pretty enough or thin enough drowned that desire in a bog of self doubt. I generally hate how I look in photos, with the exception of my wedding photos (which the voices remind me was twenty-five pounds ago). But beneath all of that was a sense of inevitability.

Several months ago I was introduced to Groupon (remember, I just moved back to the US–I’d heard of it but it wasn’t as big a deal as it is now when we left in 2010). One day I was idly scrolling through offers in my area and stumbled across a discount for a boudoir photography shoot with two photos for a steep discount.

My partner turned forty last year and I turn forty next year. No matter what the voices in my head said, he has always found me beautiful.  decided to push my boundaries and do this shoot for him. Or at least I told myself it was for him.

I booked my date and because of childcare and travel issues had several months to dread and second/third/hundredth guess my decision. Initially I made up a bogus appointment to explain why he needed to take the kids one day while I went into San Francisco. I’m a terrible liar and my excuse fell apart, so I told him what was up. He was incredibly supportive and together we crafted the four looks I would shoot with.

The price of the shoot was just the beginning. I hadn’t thought about all the details.

In the months before the shoot…

I’ve had back surgery, and was told heels were off limits for me. But I wasn’t about to wear flats in a sexy shoot. I bought three pairs of heels and a pair of dominatrix boots.

I bought a new piece of lingerie.

I bought new lacy panties.

I bought a man’s white shirt as mine didn’t look so fresh, and I wanted a better fit.

Celebrate Your Sexy sent me an email to ask me questions, including how do I feel about photos of myself and what are my concerns. (Top concern–I’d hate the photos and it would wreck my fragile self esteem).

The week of the shoot….

I got my eyebrows, lower arms, under arms, and full legs waxed.

I got a pedicure and acrylic nails.

On the day of the photo shoot…

I couldn’t find one of my outfits and had to rethink an entire look. This totally freaked me out. (It was on top of my bureau so I wouldn’t lose it–which I discovered that night.)

I had my hair and makeup done.

When my stylist asked what I wanted done with my hair I said “make it look like I just had really good sex.” My straight hair was curled and teased. Since I was (mostly) going to keep my glasses on, we added fake lashes and just did some liner on my eyes. I did a blood red lip (fiery liquid lipstick from Stila–it is my go-to and the only red I’ve ever tried that didn’t look pink-y or orange-y).

All of this added up to way more than the photo shoot cost. A more secure/more cost conscious person could probably do without these extras, but this is my journey.

The experience…

I was ready about an hour before my shoot, and I sat in my car so as not to sweat my make-up off in the insane heat wave that gripped the Bay Area a few weeks ago. This gave me plenty of time to contemplate if I wanted to take anxiety medication.

I drove to the location of the photo shoot with a carry-on suitcase full of clothes/shoes/props and texted the photographer that I was downstairs.

The photographer immediately put me at ease. We talked through my outfits and shoes. She let me plug my phone in and put on a playlist (regret–should’ve had a better playlist as it wasn’t something I’d really thought about or planned for). We talked about my props and which outfit they went with, etc.

We set up my four outfits, and I changed into the first one–a sexy red dress with red heels with a matching black lace bra and panty under it. The photographer started me off on the bed, moving the lights and herself around me. She walked me through poses, and told me to tell her when something was just not okay for my back or any other reason. Some poses were indeed uncomfortable, and I gained a small appreciation for what it must take to create ads and layouts in magazines (apart from photoshop).

My second outfit was a turquoise bra and panty under a white men’s shirt and black heels. I posed with a copy of Capturing the Moment. I wished I’d brought my own laptop, but the photographer lent me hers. I’m hoping I like one of these photos so I can use it here on the site.

My third leaned hard into kink. A nightie with a vinyl/pleather breast bra top, black lacy panties, and dominatrix boots that on my five foot two/three inch frame went nearly into my vagina. I posed with a riding crop with a sparkly handle and one with a heart-shaped surface.

My fourth? Mesh with nothing under it and black heels. I should have felt self conscious or uncomfortable, but by that point I felt comfortable with the photographer, with my body, and most shockingly–with the camera.

The photos…

I’m seeing them on Friday. I wanted to write about the experience before I saw them, and then I’ll write another entry about that experience.

Final thoughts…

I had such a positive experience that I volunteered to model in a plus sized lingerie show next month. It was a safe space.

After the shoot they give you a pamphlet with next steps and it’s not until you reach that point that you learn the ridiculous per photo costs. However, this seems to be a standard thing in the world of boudoir photography. So the selection process will be brutal, or at least I hope I like enough of the photos for it to be a difficult decision.

I’d definitely recommend Celebrate Your Sexy if you go into it knowing the photos are really expensive. They shoot all over the US.

Here’s hoping that I’ll have an excellent Friday morning.

On moving, and writing

I moved back to the US in February. It’s now nearly August–nearly six months of being “home.” Except it’s not home. Not my coast. Not my state. Not my city–definitely not this as I live in the burbs. My neighbors tell me it’s a city and that there are over 100k people, to which I reply that my last home crammed nearly 7m people into the same geography of 1/4 the size of Rhode Island. In fact, it’s a lot like moving to Singapore, only I like the food more and there’s Target.

Six months.

Six months of my children begging to move back to Singapore, their unhappiness mingling with my own until even retail therapy is no form of therapy at all. Six months of scolding myself for not adjusting better, even as I know that re-entry is often as or more painful than leaving. Six months of having my youngest home all the time because here she’s too little for Kindergarten and the pre-schools all have waiting lists. Six months of trying and failing to find a place in my house where I could write but be away from my children (especially the one who can read over my shoulder and who doesn’t need this thorough a sex education at her age) when my bedroom is half the size it was and can no longer fit my office. Six months of getting lost every time I leave the house (thank Google for Android Auto and Google Maps).

Plunder was supposed to be done nearly three months ago. After all, I rationalized to myself–it’s not like I’ll have friends there, I can just write. And write. And write. Hell, I might even finish it in the two weeks my kids are with my in-laws.  I’ve barely begun to write the second draft.

When this entry publishes, I’ll be back in Boston for the first time in nearly four years. I’m frightened it will also be too unfamiliar, too alien and that nothing will feel like home again. I’m scared that I’ll forever be in-between. Not Boston. Not Singapore. Not the West Coast. Not at home anywhere.

That melancholy, right there. That’s where I’ve been for the past six months. Depressed. Frightened. Trying to reassure my children when I’m just as unhappy as they are. Looking for doctors, orthodontists, the good Target, the good grocery store, buying a car, talking to teachers, looking for a Chinese tutor, and sometimes just too depressed to even get out of bed.

I took the first really hard steps–I told my partner that I thought I was far past the normal amount of grieving. I’d even shut out my therapist (whom I have a skype relationship of 2+ years with). I got my mental health meds adjusted to help drag me out of the darkest parts of the depression.

I’ve started writing again. Who knows if any of it is any good, but I’m at least doing it. I’m sharing here because in writing erotica we lay ourselves bare–we share fantasies, we share desire, we share romance and sex and relationships. Sometimes, a relationship is difficult, even when it’s with ourselves.

Hold me accountable to write here again. Poke me on Twitter, leave a comment on the blog, email me at delilahnight at gmail dot com and say “hey, where are you?” Writing for me = mental health.