mental health, psychology, social media

Triggered…

After writing yesterday’s lofty post, I found myself a bit triggered last night. When I say “triggered”, I mean I melted down in tears. It’s been a long while since I last did that. Those who have known me awhile might be surprised that I had trouble crying. I used to cry at everything. Now, it’s somehow physically difficult for me to break down in tears. It’s like I’ve mostly lost the ability. I noticed it when I was taking antidepressants. When I stopped taking them, I still couldn’t cry like I used to. It’s mostly a good thing, although it is a bit curious for me. At least I no longer have embarrassing hyperventilation episodes, I like I used to.

So what made me melt down? It was something pretty dumb, actually. I’m sure a lot of people in military communities would laugh at me and call me a snowflake. It all started over a spam email and trying to make conversation.

I got bored yesterday and posted that I just got spam for treating “ED”. ED, for your edification, is the current euphemism for erectile dysfunction. As a woman, I don’t have a problem with erectile dysfunction. “ED” is also a euphemism for eating disorders. Some people with eating disorders name them– they use names like ED, Ana (anorexia), or Mia (bulimia) as code for the eating disorder, which has become almost like a person. It’s basically like a voice in the head, telling its victim what to do, berating them, calling them disgusting, weak, or fat. People refer to them by those names online a lot. It’s one way to disguise what they’re writing about in forums or chat groups.

Anyway, I had posted that I got spam for getting rid of my ED. A friend didn’t know what ED was, so I explained– it’s either a euphemism for erectile dysfunction or eating disorders. Somehow, she ended up cracking that, for sure, I didn’t have a problem with an eating disorder. All of a sudden, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

I know she didn’t mean any harm, but that comment took me back to a really bad place. What she doesn’t know is that for years, I did have issues with eating disorders. It wasn’t obvious to most people. I never “looked” the part highlighted in movies of the week back in the 80s and 90s. I certainly was never hospitalized for it, nor did any I visit a doctor to talk about it at length. Actually, one of the main reasons I don’t go to doctors is because of this issue, which has haunted me since I was about eleven years old.

Most people don’t know that there are more than two eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are just the best known ones because they are so dramatic and potentially deadly. But there are others… like binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating and orthorexia (hyperfocus on “clean” or healthy eating), as well as damaging behaviors. Then there’s the catchall term, EDNOS- eating disorder not otherwise specified. There is no specific “look” for someone with an eating disorder. You don’t have to be super skinny to have one. You don’t have to have scars on your knuckles or rotting teeth, blood pressure that bottoms out, blotchy, dry skin, or unusually thick hair growing on your body. Not everyone who has an ED has anorexia or bulimia, and it doesn’t always lead to severe medical consequences that are obviously related to the disorder.

I probably could have taken that comment from my friend as a teaching moment, but I was too mortified and humiliated. Aside from that, she’s a lot older than I am. What made things worse is that I know she didn’t mean to be hurtful. So there I was, sobbing at the table, talking to Bill about these really old issues that I thought were mostly gone. They aren’t totally gone, though. They always lurk in the shadows, popping up like a bad case of shingles when my guard is down.

I remember hearing comments from the people who had created me… supposedly the people who should have been my biggest supporters. My dad touching my back and saying, “You have some fat that you need to lose.” My mom looking at me in disgust, saying “I wish you would lose some weight. My dad calling me names like “hog”. My mom pleading with me, telling me she’d buy me a new wardrobe if I’d lose twenty pounds. The night before my wedding, my grandmother, whom everyone adored, looking at me in my wedding gown and saying, “Oh, so you do have a waist, after all.” or comparing me to another relative’s very obese ex wife. Or my sister telling me that I’d never been the “ideal” size and encouraging me to do sit ups and go jogging because once I stopped growing, I would get fat.

I’d hear them from medical professionals, once I was an adult. The very first (and only OB-GYN) I have ever managed to visit was an Air Force doctor who told me I was going to gain weight in Armenia, as I sat trembling in her office, having been tortured and traumatized by her oversized speculum. I was a virgin at the time… felt too unattractive to date anyone. She confirmed it by making comments about my weight. She asked me if I wanted a prescription for birth control and sent me on my way. I was absolutely horrified and humiliated by that exam. It was twelve years before I had another, that time done by a much kinder physician’s assistant. And it’s been fourteen years since that second exam.

I even heard them from mental health professionals. One doctor put me on a medication used for migraines and seizures, not because I had either of those problems, but because one of the side effects is appetite suppression. I remember him telling me, with glee, that the medicine would make me forget to eat. It did suppress my appetite, but I didn’t lose any weight. It made some things taste weird and made me disinterested in most other things besides food. Bill didn’t like the way that drug affected me, and every time I went to get the prescription filled, I had to get the third degree from the pharmacist, since I was also taking Wellbutrin, which is contraindicated for people who get seizures because it can cause them. I don’t have seizures, but the fact that I was also getting medicine used to treat seizures would raise red flags. My psychiatrist just thought I was too fat and wanted to fix me with a drug.

Or, when I lived in Armenia, I’d hear them from perfect strangers who wanted to sell me Herbalife. In the late 1990s, Herbalife had come to Armenia, and there were many people on the streets trying to peddle it. They saw me, a foreigner, with an obvious “problem” that they could fix with a dubious product from a notorious MLM scheme. They’d approach me with before and after pictures, thinking I’d be dying to buy from them, since I was an American who clearly had money (NOT) and just needed a magic bullet cure for my grotesque body. I’d tell them to fuck off, shaking my head at the intrusion.

The way some people talked when I was younger, I realize I must look hideous today. But I wasn’t a particularly fat kid, and I still got those comments back in those days. I was in good shape from riding bikes and horses, and I was dieting a lot then. I would go days without eating, trying to muster inspiration from books and movies. Sometimes I’d faint, or become really hyper bitchy or moody. But I didn’t have a terrible figure, even though I was obsessed with dieting at the time. It probably came from watching my sisters, who were also obsessed with calories, jogging, and slimming down. And for what? Men?

I gave up those behaviors years ago. They probably mostly stopped when I was in graduate school, living on my own. Then, I met Bill and he made me feel beautiful. He doesn’t care that I’m not the “ideal” size. He loves me for who I am. Moreover, I look around, and I see that many people look like me. So I just kind of tossed away that issue… and it stayed mostly buried until last night, when someone made a comment that came across as unkind, even though it wasn’t meant that way. She doesn’t know about my past… it’s not something I talk about very much anymore.

After I finally calmed down following my crying spell, I took a deep breath… and I saw Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. He was wearing two face masks. I’ve got no quarrel with that. I know a lot of people think it’s a good thing to do in the wake of COVID-19. However, I have no desire to wear two masks myself. Despite having told myself, yesterday, not to comment with negativity, I felt compelled to post when I saw commenter after commenter leaving thumbs up and kudos for Wil Wheaton’s responsible double masking. Others were chiming in about how they double mask, too. Once again, I felt triggered, because all of the virtue signaling about double masking makes me fear for the future. Before I knew it, I typed:

“I am not wearing double masks. Forget it.”

I know I shouldn’t have. In fact, as I hit “enter”, I knew that I would get comments. Much to my surprise, there weren’t too many of them. I thought I would get bombarded with them. The first came from a friend who explains what he does. I clarified that where I live, cloth masks aren’t allowed anymore. We have to wear medical masks in Germany. In some places, not even a surgical mask will cut it. I understand that this is due to the virus and it’s a necessary step. However, I am feeling so overwhelmed by depression, anger, and hopelessness, and the overall attitude of people who feel like hyper-reaction is the best reaction… and if I am not cheerfully complying, I need criticism and “re-education”. COVID-19 has taken most of what I enjoy about living, and I’m getting ready to snap.

Then some guy wrote, “What’s your problem?”

My response to him was, “You.” He gave me a laughing emoji.

Someone else asked if I had been “forced” to wear double masks. I haven’t, but I suspect it’s coming. If I complain, I’ll get a ration of shame and shit for not getting with the program and doing my part to crush the virus.

It doesn’t matter that this lifestyle is soulcrushing and makes me wonder why I stick around in this fat, hideous, unsuitable body that so many people, some of them total strangers, feel fine commenting about… It doesn’t matter that it’s a healthy body that, at least until very recently, has taken care of me perfectly well and allowed me to do most everything I’ve wanted to do. It doesn’t matter that it makes pretty music or allows me to write this tripe in my blog. It doesn’t matter that it houses the parts of me that make people smile or even laugh. All that matters is that it’s not as beautiful as I’d like it to be… or apparently, others would like it to be. And that makes people feel like they have a license to add their opinions.

I unfollowed Wil Wheaton, not because I don’t like him or his posts, but because the crowd following him are the type to crawl up in people’s grills about things like mask wearing, and the “proper” or “best” way to do it, or any other “cause” that people like to preach about. One guy on another post wrote that he thinks pepper spray is a good way to teach the “anti-maskers” (of which I am not) to properly social distance. I thought that was an unnecessarily hostile comment, so I posted that I thought the pepper spray idea was a good one. I’d carry it for perfect strangers who feel it’s necessary to confront me about my mask wearing habits instead of practicing social distancing and staying the fuck away from me. Or really, for perfect strangers who want to confront me about ANYTHING that is not their business. Just leave me alone.

And now, Bill has made breakfast, which I will sit down to eat… even though maybe I shouldn’t. I didn’t manage to eat much dinner last night after that conversation about ED.

We’re all under a lot of stress. We all have different ways of coping. I probably need to unplug from social media. I probably need to unplug from everything. I’d like to go to a spa or enjoy a lovely meal in a restaurant… but that’s off limits. So here I sit in snowy, rainy, depressing Germany, writing about crying over an unintended slight that brought back pain that I thought was long buried. I really hope things turn around soon.

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