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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.

50 Shades of Glitter Kickstarter

Hey all
My twitter pal Dead Cow Girl has a kickstarter project that needs some love.

Women have always been stuck in the middle of a battle that’s not entirely our own. If we are openly sex positive, we are slutty and broken. If we are sexually reserved, we are frigid and uptight. Now with Fifty Shades of Grey on every best seller and must read list, talking about sex is all the rage. But, is the sex we are talking about our sex? Or is the sex we are talking about the sex we are expected to talk about.

While I dislike the book, I do love the fact that it has so many women talking about sex. Let keep that trend going!

I want to publish an Anthology of real women’ sexual histories and defining moments.

I have worked as a Dominatrix for the last twenty years, and once I had my son and started blogging as The Dominatrix Mommy blogger, I starter to hear from women who wanted to talk about their fetishes and fantasies. Their stories were fascinating and diverse, from fairly simple, to wildly adventurous, but a vast majority had one thing in common; nearly all of those women thought they were the only one. They felt ashamed and weird, and many had never shared their story with anyone.

I want to collect and share these stories so that women can read them and understand that they aren’t alone. That they aren’t “different” or “damaged.” They are just…. normal, healthy, curious, amazing women.

 

How can you not want to be part of that?  (Yes, I’ve submitted a piece, and have backed the project personally).  Go here to donate.

Raising daughters…princesses and all

I am the mom of two young daughters.  As a cis-woman, I am painfully aware of what it means to grow up female in our culture today.  I am well acquainted with hating my body.  I have had many illusions about “happily ever after” shattered.  And so I worry.

My three year old is deep in throes of a love affair with the Disney Princesses, particularly Ariel.  For a far better summation of my issues with this movie than I can articulate here, see Nostalgia Chick’s takedown of it here.  Part of me wants to just say “no, bad…no princesses!”….but that would make me far too much of a hypocrite.

Although the Disney Princess brand didn’t exist when I was a kid, I grew up on Disney (although I was 10 or so by the time The Little Mermaid came along–I still caught many of the “Disney Renaissance” movies in the theater).  I read fairy tales.  I played at fairy tale and princess play.  I owned barbies by the box full.

My love of fairy tales and princesses eventually parlayed itself into a love of the fantasy genre.  I did not gravitate to stories with passive women–I’ve gravitated to stories and movies with strong feminist and powerful women.

I think that part of what contradicted the negative aspects of fairy tales and princess culture for me as a child was my early exposure to Wonder Woman, Xena, Buffy, and Madonna.

I sang unedited Madonna songs by heart right from the get-go.  While I had no idea what any of the lyrics about sexuality meant, I think it planted the seed of feminism early.

So when it comes to my girls…I don’t hesitate to play unedited Lady Gaga.  I feel like she’s a far better model of feminism and sexual empowerment than most female musicians (I also like Taylor Swift, although she’s not so much the “sexual empowerment” role model) AND she has a killer voice (and can play music).

We also talk, constantly.  That they don’t need a prince.  That they can grow up and marry another princess (or not get married).

I *could* eliminate princesses, I suppose.  But, in truth, I like The Little Mermaid.  I like sharing my favorite stories from childhood.  I think that it’s a big part of childhood, and that she would miss out on a lot if I did.  Also, gateway drug to awesome fantasy literature (Tamora Pierce is the ultimate goal).

But she’s still 3.  As she gets older, we can teach her to be a more active and critical media consumer.  But I figure Lady Gaga’s a good start.

Supporting slutwalk and what it has to do with breastfeeding

It wasn’t until today that I realized the reason I’m so nervous about breastfeeding in public is that I’m scared of being slutshamed.

Slut shaming is when a woman is made to feel as though she’s been inappropriately sexual when she hasn’t been (among other definitions, but when discussing breastfeeding, this is the right definition to use).

If you want to see negative comments about breastfeeding in public, you only need read any article about it or a board that mentions it.  Someone will inevitably accuse the mom of wanting to flaunt her breasts, of her finding sexual enjoyment from “exhibitionism”, misunderstandings about how much breast is actually exposed, and so forth.  Asking a woman to cover up implies that she’s doing something wrong, that she needs to hide her breasts from the licentious eyes of the men around her, lest she inflame their lust…it is slut shaming.

As a mom who supports the rights of women to breastfeed publicly, and without a cover if that is their or their baby’s preference, I support slutwalk.

I attended slutwalk in Singapore with BG and the LM.  They were the only children there, and sure, both were too young to know what the day was about, but they were there.  As they grow older I’ll have to explain the knife’s edge dance all women do when it comes to sexuality…walking the line between frigid and slutty, madonna and whore…but at least when I do, I can also tell them that they’ve been fighting against that since the inception of slutwalk, and their mother even before that.

This?

Is not sexual.  Is not pornographic.  Is not dirty.  Is not shameful.

I’m not covering up, and you can’t slut shame me into doing it.

 

Singaporeans don’t like condoms

I found this article, critiquing Singapore’s condom-phobia particularly interesting.

As a married (and at the moment monogamous) woman, I haven’t really experienced the dating scene here, so I can’t speak from personal experience as to how widespread the aversion truly is.

What I can speak to, from anecdotes shared with me anonymously from Filipina domestic workers, is that it is common.  There isn’t a domestic here who doesn’t know another girl who was sent home because she tested positive for pregnancy during a six-month routine medical check (specifically they’re testing for pregnancy and STD/STI’s…the presence of any will get them deported).  I’ve asked why condoms aren’t used, and it seems to be a mixture of women who don’t feel empowered to ask, the cultural (I’m unclear if this is a Filipina, Singaporean, or Asian culture) implication that requesting a condom means that the person requesting condom usage thinks their potential partner is “dirty,” and flat out male refusal to use them because “it doesn’t feel good.”

The frustrating aspect to this is that domestics don’t have much in the way of other options.  Hormonal birth control is denied to them, and is too expensive to be considered even if it were available.  While abortion is legal and available (I would have no trouble having one, if I so desired), domestics don’t.  I haven’t seen much in the way of other options, like spermicide, so condoms are the one option domestics have.

Some argue that domestics shouldn’t be having sex.  For many of them, the local pay (while better than what they could earn in the Philipinnes) is not enough to both live on and send money home.  Some women engage in sexual activity for groceries, or money to supplement the earnings they send home.  Others are young women alone in a foreign country, and are lonely.  Sex is a natural progression with a partner who makes you feel less lonely.  Further, I would argue that a woman does not give up her sex drive when she goes to work, and that they have every right to a personal life as I do.

Faced with deportation and the stigma of single motherhood, many women (again, every domestic I’ve talked to knows at least if not several) turn to herbal abortifacients.  Many don’t work, and the girl is left still pregnant, sometimes ill from the effects of the herbs, or with an infection that she doesn’t have the money to treat.  They are sent home.

But as long as condom usage is low in Singapore, it will continue to be domestics who suffer most.  Sent home in disgrace, abortion is unavailable back home.  Some of these domestics have to go home and face a husband who is not the father of the child they carry…and will suffer for that.  Others will face the social ostracism that comes with single parenthood.

Regardless, it’s a disturbing side effect that no one seems to care about.

Resolution Suggestions for Moms for the New Year

Dear Mothers of the world,

You are sexy.  You may not believe me, but you are.

As we enter 2011, I encourage you to…

  • Pursue an interest, activity, or education that has nothing to do with your child/marriage.  Something that YOU love.  Even if it’s an hour a week, do it for you (If you have to, put the kid in front of the tv for a show and put on headphones so you can focus on your thing…do whatever it takes).
  • Buy yourself something that makes you feel attractive or sexy…it doesn’t have to be lingerie; sometimes something as inexpensive as a hair clip can make us feel attractive, or a new bottle of nail polish.  But if you feel the impulse to go for a vibrator–I highly encourage you!
  • If you have a partner, make an effort to connect with them regularly…if money is an issue, find another mom to trade with once a month (you watch her kids, she watches yours) and have an at-home date.
  • Make an effort to make a regular connection with your sexuality.  Even if it’s just quietly playing “who would I do” when you watch tv or walk down the street, connect with that part of yourself.  I encourage you to enjoy your own body, and to share it with a partner (or partners) you care for (or just lust after).
  • No matter how hard it is for you, talk to your children at an age-appropriate level about sex, sexuality, bodies and safe sex.  It’s never too early or too late to do it.  If you have a teen (or even a pre-teen) and have trouble discussing sex, send them to scarleteen.  If your child is gay or trans, reach out to Pflag and remind them that there’s always support waiting for them at the Trevor Project.

 

Wishing you all a prosperous and happy 2011.

Volunteering for Reproductive Freedom

  • First Published-September 16, 2009
  • Edited-December 30, 2010

For about five months in 2009,  I chose to donate my “free” time to a pro-choice organization.  I did this rather than go see a movie, shop, or run errands that would’ve been easier to do without my daughter along…or write, for that matter.

Why?

  • Because it needs to be done.
  • Because I can.
  • Because it’s my way of thanking all the women who have come before me to give me reproductive freedom.

Reproductive freedom is at the root of all female freedom.  When a woman can control her fertility she is less likely to end up in poverty.  When a woman controls her fertility she is acknowledged as a full person, capable of making decisions, rather than a passive vessel from which future generations will spring.  She has the freedom to work and to progress in her career, only taking child related breaks on her terms.  Economists unanimously agree that a key step in a country’s progress towards “first world” status is female self-control over one’s fertility.

You may argue that in this day and age, control over fertility means access to the pill and other contraception.  I disagree, saying you need to include access to abortion to have full reproductive freedom.

Abortion isn’t a pleasant procedure to contemplate.

In later stages of pregnancy, the procedure become downright gruesome.

However, a woman should not be held hostage to her body because she was raped, had a contraception failure, made a bad decision, or was coerced into unprotected sex because of cultural/social taboos.

The American right would like us all to give these unwanted children up for adoption, which makes for a pretty fantasy.  Of course, that fantasy only works if you assume that every child, regardless of physical, emotional, or behavioral needs would be adopted.  That every child, regardless of the parent’s ethnic background(s) would be adopted.  The truth is that children with special needs, children of mixed race, and minority children are not as “desirable” to prospective parents, and thus are less attractive to potential adoptive parents.

Putting all that aside for a moment, it assumes something far more insidious…that women need only step back and gestate and all will go well.  Anyone who thinks that has never been pregnant.  Never experienced the literal growing pains of a uterus.  Never become diabetic with pregnancy (and as someone who stuck herself a grand total of 14 times a day-10 for blood sugar checks and 4 to give myself shots of insulin I can attest to what it’s like to feel like a pincushion).  Never puked for all 40 weeks of pregnancy (I know what it’s like to come close to being hospitalized because I was practically dehydrated from all the puking).  Never had the heartburn.  Never had their lungs infringed upon by a 3rd trimester fetus.  Never gone through labor. Never experienced the joys of having their vaginal walls tear as the baby entered the world.

It’s also a pretty fantasy where no woman ever gets pre-eclampsia.  Never gets diagnosed with cancer while pregnant.  Never is faced with a situation where it’s your life and death on the line.  Keep the baby and you both die, or abort the baby and you live…which would you choose?

There’s no discussion of where restrictions on reproductive freedom would end.  These “pro-lifers” are often the same people rallying against “big government,” saying that the government has no right to get involved in personal affairs.  But what is more personal than a pregnancy?  How would they force me to stay pregnant?  Would there be a law that all women of child bearing age take folic acid, just in case?  What if I forget to take my prenatal vitamin?  Chose not to control my pregnancy induced diabetes?  Would I be sent to jail for negligence?

What about miscarriage?  How would they prove the difference between a natural miscarriage and the ingestion of herbs known since time immemorial to cause “accidents” for pregnant women?  Would every D&C (such as I had after my first pregnancy did not pass naturally after her/his heart stopped beating) be cause for a police investigation?

I don’t know how it ends, except that I suspect it would look a lot like “A Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

And so I volunteer.

Each time I volunteer I park my car near the clinic.  I scan the perimeter of the clinic for protesters.  The legal line is drawn on the ground in yellow paint, and I often see the protesters put a foot over it, or pace it like an angry lion pacing his too-small cage at the zoo.  A frequent protester is an elderly woman, who often gets away with more small transgressions because it would be bad press to have her arrested for every small infraction.

I enter the double doors and pass through a metal detector.  I hand my purse to a security guard for inspection.  I sign in using my first name and last initial only…for my protection.  I exchange my id for a badge that will open the elevator or give me a code to use on the numerical pad that changes the order of it’s numbers regularly.  I know where the panic buttons are in case of emergency.  I know when to call 911.

My path does not lead me through the waiting room, but I’ve been there as a patient.  There is an air of sadness, and quiet resignation.  No one is happy to go to the abortion clinic.  Relieved, yes…but never celebratory.

I work in an area far removed from the medical procedures.  It could be any office.  There’s a water cooler, a copier that breaks frequently, staplers that jam, files that need alphabetizing, and envelopes that need stuffing.  Like any non-profit, there’s money to be raised and lobbying to be done on our behalf.

But there are also industrial shredders, and no piece of paper is thrown away without first being shredded.  Those who dislike what happens behind our doors could harass a doctor, a patient, an employee, or a volunteer like me.

When my time is done, I use my badge to descend to the main floor, and exchange a few words with the guard as I pass back my badge and sign out, receiving my ID once more.  I push the heavy doors to the street open, and again glance around to look for protesters before making my way back to the car.

I drive back to my sitter’s home to pick up the little girl I love more than any other child in this world.  Because a morning away from her to help fight to secure her reproductive freedom is a far better use of my time than getting a manicure.