Friday, July 05, 2013

A Whiter Shade of Pale

So it's been, like, five months of keeping quiet here.  I don't know why, in a way: I like blogging.  On the other hand, I went through a rough patch that I nodded toward and then, as I began to come out of it, I watched with fascination what my moods do when they have free play.

I should add that my psychiatrist, when I was finally able to crawl to the phone and call her, increased my meds.  I also got kind of abstinent.  These things together have put some distance between me and my inner life that I am more a spectator of than participant.  In general however, the black dog has rolled off my chest and curled up in a corner and the white dog with its own dangers has taken its place as my close emotional companion.

There came a day when I decided to fast for 24 hours from the binge the night before.  That led to a second abstinent day.  The relief of waking up in the morning without hating myself for what I'd eaten the day before gave me space to think about what I should do that day & what I might actually, in fact, get done.  It gave me space to think about what else I hated myself for.

As the increased medication kicked in, I was able to measure my obsessiveness as it dwindled.  The one really productive thing I did this winter was to get rid of all clothes that don't fit or aren't within a size of fitting.  I donated, I packed off the smallest and best to my nieces and sister-in-law, I sold some on eBay.  Because my VCR doesn't work, I donated all of my VHS movies and started to replace them with DVDs...until I realized I had tapped out a credit card.

Tapping out a credit card brought me up so short that I began obsessing about paying off debt, which I did a lot of until recently, when my dogs went away for the summer, moved away or died.  In ten days, I'm taking over a colleague's roster of dogs and will get back to it.  Currently I'm determined to get rid of one bookcase & am in the process of donating books or putting them out on the street on fair weather weekends.  It's a good way to develop an interest in life because every time I leave the house on weekends, I'm curious to see what's been taken and refresh my drop-off points if they've been cleared out.

In that sentence are two leading features of my interior life that a more elevated mood and sort-of abstinence force me to deal with: my near-agoraphobia and my generalized ennui.

Which leaves me with three things to explain, because who knows what "sort-of" abstinence is?

Here is what I'm doing about abstinence.

The Stepfords of the 12-step program I wish I went to more often count days of back-to-back adherence to whatever food plan they are on.  The last ten years or so have proven to me that if I try to live that way, when I do fall off and lose the Almighty Day Count, I will simply be off and running with the food.  So on days when I screw up, I am detracting a day from my day count and moving on.  I've been doing that since late April and have seriously messed up with sugar twice.  I've messed up with other things -- flour and chips -- another dozen or so times.  In nearly 70 days, then, I've averaged nearly 90% adherence to sort of planless plan.

Planless?  Oi.  Blame menopause, that ennui I mentioned, Prozac for having no plan.  I eat when I'm hungry, usually twice a day or twice a day with a yogurt/fruit at night.

Whatever.  I'm sick of food.  I can be starving & my indifference won't move me to do anything about it.  I don't want to write about the nuts & bolts so I'll leave it that.  The important thing is how much more space there is (or isn't) for everything else in my brain.

With a clearer head, I seem to cycle through spells of OCD, ennui, depression and massive anxiety.  I may have three days of one of these and then move on, or go through the cycle day-by-day.  I suspect they may be fewer actual states of mind.  Do I develop ennui and exhaustion instead of anxiety, for instance?  If I'm indifferent or too tired, then I can shelve ambitions of leaving the house and allay my anxiety.

I don't know which mood is more painful.  Probably the occasional days of the Black Dog because I really do feel helpless.  The other moods can be coped with, although anxiety is the physically most painful and emotionally most taxing -- it makes me impatient when I go out or something stupid, like dropping a bowl of salad on the floor, happens.

The anxiety takes a mild form of agoraphobia.  My particular species makes going downstairs to the trash or washing machines difficult.  Getting proper groceries in can be a week's berating of myself as I survive on take-out salads or wrap sandwiches that aren't hideous to purchase because it's only a little out of my way on dog walks.  The dog walks require a mantra, "Be here now," to survive because I want to get it done and be home again quickly.

I've got as much or more work to do on anxiety as I do on depression.  A lot of it is shame: shame of gaining weight, shame of having been fired all those years ago that settled into a sense of being unwantable.  It's weird, too, because when I go to Key Food, the bank, the pet stores, Housing Works to donate stuff, to buy cigarettes, to the doorman buildings where my dogs live or simply to walk Daisy, I am known and always marvel at the banter I share with all those people.  They don't hate me.  They don't think of me as being some unhireable slacker.  There is a tiny bit of social life I engage in when I get a carton of yogurt or bag of kibble, sometimes more than tiny.

When I can, I impress one of my few friends into escorting me beyond my comfort zone, which is pretty tight.  I think of those excursions as something I did when I was thin and I was frantic to get away from the Bat Cave.  I spent a lot of money in those days.  Now I spend it on having salads delivered.  Sigh.......

There's a lot from That Time -- the thin time -- I have yet to process.  I failed to learn how to have fun and then everything exploded and I saw how frail the life I'd created was.  I think I'm terrified I'll run into someone who knew me when I was thin.  Shame is such a powerful and pointless emotion, isn't it?  I mean, who cares?

The other day I saw one of the Stepfords who has left my 12-step program for a harsher one.  She is super thin.  She gave me The Look.  You know: pity based on disapproval.  I wanted to laugh -- really: shame did not kick in -- because she knows nothing.  She doesn't know I'm crafting my own abstinence, that I could not do that without what I learned in the Rooms.  She doesn't know anything beyond her own reality.  & in my hidden life, I am still speaking daily to people struggling with the hopeless form of obesity, handing out information, suggestions, gentleness, urging self-acceptance, small steps, clapping my hands at success.  Much of what strength I have comes from the Rooms I'm afraid to go to.

The last meeting I went to, I was greeted by the leader as though it were my first, as though I'd never attended a meeting in my life.  That's what a stranger I've become.  Later, someone told me how much they like my Psychology Today blogs and I thought, well, there goes anonymity.  So I'll continue to be lackadaisical about meetings.  Something in the Rooms broke for me, or I broke for the Rooms.

On the OCD days, I do 80 things at once or obsess at books.  On good ennui days, I read.  Yesterday & today are ennui days, it seems.  I haven't brushed my teeth since Wednesday although I did manage to get to the grocery store yesterday & to put some books out for the high pedestrian traffic of a long weekend.

I feel really bad for Daisy in all of this.  There are a couple of people even my much "better" mood hurts, but day-to-day it's Daisy.

Who is ten years old today.  Which makes me want to cry in fear of what THAT means.

So there you go.  Talk soon.  Or not.


Anonymous said...

So glad to hear from you! Your writing has been much missed!

Give Daisy a big hug

E. Jane said...

I am also glad that you have posted. It's a connection that is always there, and hope there will be more words from you.

Katherine said...

It's good to hear you again. Your writing is so drenched in honesty that I feel a kindred spirit to much of it. Congratulations on making the somewhat abstinent progress. It is very hard and I agree that thoughtful choices every day are a more permanent solution than the rigidity of some programs. I hope you feel more and more like getting out of the house for yourself.

Hilary said...

Hi Frances, I too am thrilled that you have posted and congratulations to you on continuing to hang in there and on your abstinence. I've been having a lot of indigestion at night which keeps me awake so I have to think about a different way of eating perhaps. Also, I've been having anxiety at night. I am the opposite from you. I feel most anxious when I'm in the house. Nights can seem so long. I rarely feel anxious when I'm out. My mom was like you--sooo comfortable in her own home. She spent more time at home than anyone I can think of. She had anxiety attacks when she was out. Thanks again for writing. I enjoy hearing about what you're up to and I'm rooting for you.