Okay, so the last part of that title isn’t quite true. I’m waiting for the final results of the election before I make any relocation plans. In all seriousness though, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as shocked and repulsed as I did watching the election. If I thought the nauseous feeling in my stomach was bad in 2016, it was nothing compared to last night.
A quick disclaimer that this post is very political/contains strong language and my own opinions and rants. Because what else would you expect from a sleep-deprived, politically-charged twenty-year-old who’s fed up with misinformed and close-minded adults making all the decisions?
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Anyway, back to me feeling sick last night. Did I expect a blowout? No. Did I expect Biden to have a solid lead? I was cautiously optimistic. But I certainly didn’t expect such a close race. (Seriously, who’s conducting these misleading polls?) As I sat on the couch in my TV room, my two moms sitting next to me, and watched as more districts and states on John King’s magic wall turned red, I couldn’t believe it. It felt like 2016 déjà vu.
It genuinely baffles me how people—and so many at that—can vote for the bigoted, ignorant, disgusting man “running” this country; a man who once bragged about grabbing women by the pussy; a man who continues to spew hatred every time he opens his mouth or tweets; a man who has broken more rules and has had more scandals than any president in American history; a man who has taken an already-divided country and completely ripped it apart. And let’s not forget that this is the man who is responsible for thousands of people dying because he refuses to believe in science and wear a goddamn mask.
At least in 2016 no one knew how much damage this man was capable of causing.
But this is 2020, nearly four years of witnessing Trump wreak havoc in office. How can so many Americans still think he’s a good leader—or simply a leader at all? How can so many Americans still believe his lies and support his open, unabashed prejudice? And let’s not forget we’ve got four more years of McConnell and Graham too (howdidthishappen?).
A lot of people will say I’m overreacting; that I’m being a “poor sport” because my candidate might lose. But this isn’t a fucking basketball game; for many of us, our rights and our freedom are literally threatened by Trump. My rights as a queer female, my same-sex parents’ rights, my gay friends’ rights, my black friends’ rights, my Jewish extended family’s rights are all at stake. And that’s fucking terrifying, knowing that the leader of my country doesn’t just dislike me but wants to take my freedom away. The worst part is; I know I have it much better than many other people on Trump’s shitlist. At least he doesn’t despise the skin color I was born with.
If you’ve never experienced that fear, then you have no right to tell people not to be upset about the results of last night.
Honestly, even if Biden does pull through (and I have to remain hopeful that he will), I won’t be truly happy because that won’t change the fact that, despite all the awful things Trump has done, millions stood by him last night—and will continue to support his close-minded beliefs for years, decades, probably even centuries to come. And that’s a bitter pill to swallow.
2020, simply put, has been a complete clusterfuck. Worst. Year. Ever. It’s caused irreversible damage and brought immense pain to individuals and families across America and the world. Just when I thought there was a chance for some redemption, I was sadly mistaken. Because although Democrats turned out in unprecedented numbers, Republicans did too.
If you’re like me and feel upset, sad, scared, angry, disgusted, or all of the above right now, I advise you not to internalize it. Write about it, confide in someone you trust, do something that will make you smile or laugh or simply distract from this political pandemonium. Above all, look after yourself this week. It’s going to be a long and stressful haul so please prioritize your mental health and don’t get down on yourself. You did your part yesterday by showing up and participating in democracy. What happens next is out of anyone’s control.
The best we can do at this moment is to take care of ourselves and keep hope alive. And if things really do go to hell, at least there’s still Canada.
I’ve heard a lot of people saying how weird Halloween is going to be this year. Many towns, mine included, are adamantly advising against trick-or-treating, while others have banned it completely. Then there’s the issue of staying socially distanced at parties, parades, attractions, and all those other highly anticipated, heavily populated festivities. Elizabeth Park, a popular local rose garden that always goes all-out for Halloween, actually decided not to put up their elaborate decorations this year to avoid drawing a crowd.
All this talk has got me thinking about my weirdest Halloween.
I’ve had a lot of interesting Halloweens in my young life. The worst one was in eighth grade when my eating disorder was so severe that a hundred-calorie chocolate bar seemed, in my mind, more terrifying than any ghost or ghoul or goblin. And who other New Englanders remember the very premature snowstorm that got the holiday canceled altogether in 2011? But I think that, of all my unconventional Halloweens, tenth grade takes the prize of being the weirdest, wackiest Halloween of them all.
In late October of tenth grade (in 2015), I was about a month into my nine-week stay at a residential treatment facility called Center for Discovery in Southport, Connecticut. CFD exclusively treated eating disorders, so suffice to say I was not the only person in the house with an irrational fear of sweets.
Those of us who were on Level 2 or higher were permitted to go on a staff-selected outing every Saturday. The Saturday before Halloween, that outing was to a pumpkin farm. I’ll be honest; I don’t remember much of what happened that day, other than a kid in my group getting scolded for trying to steal a pumpkin. But I do remember having fun—as much fun as I could have in eating disorder treatment anyway.
The next day, I visited a local Halloween store with my parents (thank you, Level 3 privileges) and bought a spooky masquerade mask and a white cape. I’m not sure what look I was going for; I think I was just so happy to be out of the house for a couple of hours that freedom was more important than costume coordination.
On Halloween night, three of us dressed up in actual costumes, two kids who didn’t have costumes on-hand borrowed hospital gowns and went as—no joke—insane asylum escapees, and the final kid refused to dress up altogether and wore pajamas. Our little motley crew, accompanied by two counselors, headed outside into the unusually warm autumn night and walked through the very dark and very desolate streets for about half an hour. (The houses in that particular neighborhood were enormous and pretty spread apart, which was good because if anyone saw us, they’d probably think we were a bit mad.) Afterward, we returned to the house for evening snack and ate however much candy we needed to fulfill our daily Exchanges. (1 fun-sized candy bar = 1 starch.) Then we made our nightly phone calls, watched a creepy episode of Supernatural, and went to bed promptly at 10:00.
In retrospect, it wasn’t a bad Halloween per se—at least in comparison to eighth or ninth grade—but it certainly was unconventional. Leave a comment letting me know what your weirdest Halloween was or if this year will take the cake. And if you are going out tomorrow, please, please, please be safe and wear a mask. And no, I’m not talking about the spooky kind!
There’s nothing quite as long and lonely as a sleepless night. I should know; I’ve had a lot of those recently. Getting enough sleep has been an issue for me for years, however over the past couple of months, it’s gotten so much worse. Even on the nights when I’m not pulling dreadful all-nighters, it can take me ages just to turn off my active mind and fall asleep.
I’m currently writing this post at 3 a.m. (although I’ll surely edit it with a clearer head). It’s been about five hours since I took my melatonin and crawled into bed; five hours of tossing and turning, of practicing the many sleep skills my therapist taught me, of anxiously staring at my dark ceiling wondering why none of those skills are working, and finally of reaching my breaking point where I can’t take it anymore and grabbing my computer.
Basically a pretty typical night in the life.
Pinpointing the direct cause of my insomnia hasn’t been easy. At the end of the summer, I decided (with the consent of my psychiatrist of course) to gradually reduce the dosage of an antianxiety medication I’d been on for six years. I went from 225 mg to 50 mg over the course of a couple of months. (I tried going off it entirely but that was a disaster so I stuck with 50). We think this was around the time my sleeping got worse.
But I’ve also been more excited—and stressed—lately than I have in a while. Anxiety about the pandemic and politics aside, a lot has been happening in my personal life, namely the upcoming publication of my third book. Anyone who’s ever self-published a book knows how much there is to do to get ready for a launch. From communicating with my cover designer to editing proofs to uploading materials to KDP to figuring out how I’m going to successfully market this thing entirely online, I’ve been working diligently all day—and sometimes through the night—to make sure all the key components are in their place. Add that to the semi-weekly uploads to Nourish and my ever-growing college workload, and my mind is in overdrive twenty-four seven.
Then, of course, it could be the time of the year. Historically, my mental health is always the worst in the fall for a variety of reasons (check out my September Slump post for more on that). Usually that slump manifests as depression, but this year, anxiety seems to have taken the reins. And, like the insomnia, determining the culprit for my anxiety, not to mention how to best manage it, has been a puzzle more perplexing than the four-thousand-piece jigsaw in my living room.
Whatever the reason is, I know I can’t go on like this. Good sleep hygiene is essential for everyone—especially for people who are in recovery from mental illness. When I’m tired and have no energy, I’m more likely to feel depressed, and when I’m depressed, I’m more likely to restrict. It’s a toxic chain reaction that begins with a crappy night and ends with a plethora of mental health issues.
I’m Zooming with my psychiatrist tomorrow so hopefully we can sort this out. I’ll be sure to post an update when my sleep improves and possibly share tips if I can find ones that work. Please let me know what works for you in the comments. At this point, I’m open to trying almost anything that will help me catch some Zs!
I’ve decided that September is my least favorite month. It’s not the coldest or the longest, but in my experience, it’s the saddest. I had hopes for this September—not very high ones, I’ll admit, but I was still optimistic that it might be okay for once. After all, I’m home, comfortably enrolled in an online school, and have some exciting new projects I’m hard at work on. But recent events in my personal life have made “taking back September,” as my therapist so eloquently puts it, a difficult feat.
I’m currently writing this post in South Hampton. I’m in a beautiful place with nice people, working Wi-Fi, decent physical health, and plenty to look forward to, and I’m not having a good time. On the contrary, I can’t wait for vacation to end so I can go home. It’s thinking like that that makes me wonder: what’s wrong with me?
That, in of itself, is a loaded question. One important thing to note is that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. I wrote a post on SAD ages ago (you can check it out here), but basically what it means is that my mood dips when the seasons change, the temperature drops, and there’s less sunlight. I have my lightbox and antidepressant, but neither is a cure-all. Acknowledging that I will feel sadder and more tired at this time of the year, that there’s nothing I can do about it, and, most importantly, that there’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed of, is important for my wellbeing. I’m the type of person who always likes to be productive and will work myself to the point of exhaustion. I have to accept that because of my mental health, I won’t get as much done during the colder months, and that’s okay. I owe myself that much.
In addition to SAD, there are the bad memories of past Septembers: eighth grade, when I spiraled into my eating disorder; ninth grade, the first time I was admitted to the hospital; and, of course, last year: my epic college flop.
I don’t talk a lot about college because it was such a disaster. Having to medically withdraw—and after such a short period of time too—was a reminder that my eating disorder was still very active and could return to wreak havoc on my life at the slightest sign of weakness. Even though I was able to rebound and get my life together, the memories, especially at this time, exactly one year later, are still so present and upsetting.
Talking about them helps. Venting to my parents and my therapist, people who have been there for me when I was at my worst and who I know will listen to me without judgment or criticism, is good when I need to get something off my chest. Of course, writing helps a lot too. Maybe not on this blog—yet—but in the new stories, fact and fiction, I’m working diligently on.
So, will this be the year I reclaim September? I think not. The best that I can do, I’ve decided, is to simply get through it while trying to focus on the positives. Things like the online cookbook, Nourish, my mom and I recently launched, the abundance of pumpkin spice foods, the fact that one of my favorite TV shows cleaned up at the Emmys, the four-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle in my living room, my adorable therapy cat, Chibi, the upcoming release of my third book. I have a lot to feel good about it, and even if it doesn’t “fix” my depression or break this slump I’m in, it’s somewhere to start.
It’s been almost seven years since I was admitted to Walden’s Intensive Outpatient Program for my eating disorder, but I still remember my first day as if it had happened yesterday.
I was thirteen, deep in the trenches of an eating disorder, and convinced that a number on a scale determined my worth. I wore baggy sweats to hide the body I’d grown to despise and carried my backpack, as I’d just come from middle school. My two moms and younger brother accompanied me. All three confused and conflicted in their separate ways. One thing was clear though: we were broken and desperately needed help.
And Walden did just that.
On that first day alone, it exposed how bad my illness had become when I wouldn’t complete my meal, staying until 8:30 PM—nearly two hours past closing—because I just couldn’t eat a snack-size bag of chocolate chip cookies. Over the next eight weeks, I was challenged again and again. I yelled, cried, and even ran away once, but at the same time, I also gained long-term skills and strategies that helped me cope in moments of crisis. And while I was still a conflicted mess when I discharged, Walden was the starting point of my long and complicated journey to getting better.
The years that followed were the darkest and scariest years of my life with numerous inpatient admissions. I felt lost, confused, and hopeless. I was convinced that my eating disorder—the thing that was killing me—was the only thing that mattered. It was my identity, and without it, I didn’t know who I was. That is the sad truth for many people who struggle with eating disorders. Breaking out of the mindset is incredibly difficult, but with support, time, patience, and determination, you can do it. I have.
My recovery began in late-2015 when I was admitted to a residential eating disorder treatment facility. This was my last inpatient admission. After years of refusing to embrace help, I was finally in a place in my life where I was genuinely fed up with my disorder controlling me. As my mom would say: I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
With the help of my treatment team, support from my family, and my own internal strength, I’ve stayed on the road to recovery. Sure, there have been detours and speed bumps, but even when I’ve strayed, I’ve always managed to find my way back.
During the summer of 2017, I started writing my first book Changing Ways, a story about a sixteen-year-old’s journey to overcome mental illness. While marketed as fiction, much of Changing Ways is based on my personal experiences. Writing, then subsequently publishing a book, marked a new chapter in my life. I realized that if I was going to put Changing Ways out into the world, I couldn’t be afraid to talk openly about my mental illness. I’d spent most of my adolescence feeling ashamed of this part of me—and wrongfully so. It wasn’t my fault that I was mentally ill, and the sooner I accepted that the better off I’d be.
Sharing my story was intimidating at first, but when I saw the impact my candor and vulnerability had on other people, especially those who either knew someone or was personally battling mental illness, it made the nerves entirely worthwhile. This creative hobby that had saved me when I was at my worst was now helping other people. I was slowly chipping away at the stigma associated with mental illness, and it turns out that all it took was speaking my truth.
Eating disorder recovery isn’t easy. It’s messy, unpredictable, and so brutal that some days, I just want to give in. But when I think about how far I’ve come from an insecure thirteen-year-old filled with self-hatred to an independent young adult proudly living her truth, there isn’t a single doubt in my mind that it’s worth it.
*This post was written for Walden Behavioral Care’s blog. Read the original post here.
When I started college one year ago, the world was a much different place. Stores and restaurants were booming, handshakes and hugging were commonplace, sneezes were met with “bless yous” and not suspicious side-eyes, and no one wore a mask. I remember at one point during Orientation, the lobby of the freshmen dormitory was packed with so many people that we were literally on top of each other. And we didn’t think twice about it.
One year ago, the world was in a different place. And so was I.
Since I was thirteen, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder and depression. Getting to a place in my recovery where the mere possibility of going away to college was plausible had been a difficult feat, but I’d conquered it—or so I thought. In fact, everyone—from my parents to my therapist to my guidance counselor—was under the impression that I could succeed at college. After all, I was eating independently, I’d been weight-restored for years, and I had a foolproof plan that included a local support system, a single room, and unlimited access to the dining hall. Not to mention that I was attending my number one school.
But even the best-made plans can flop, and that’s exactly what happened. Without getting into the specifics, basically everything that could go wrong went wrong, and I couldn’t cope. I knew I was sinking fast, but I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone because then I’d be admitting that I needed help.
My inability to reach out was my greatest demise. Without anyone to intervene, my eating disorder weaseled its way into my life, and suddenly, I was back in that dark place; restricting food, sleeping most of the time, and barely leaving my room. It felt like all the progress I’d made and everything I’d worked so hard for was coming undone right in front of me, and I couldn’t stop it. I kept trying to convince myself that it was just a phase and that something positive would happen, and I’d be able to climb out of the hole I’d fallen into. But as days, then weeks, passed and nothing changed, I realized that if I didn’t take action soon, that hole was only going to get deeper. So one afternoon, as I lay in my bed feeling completely hopeless, I finally mustered up the courage to call my mom. I told her that I couldn’t do this anymore and asked her to take me home, which she did.
I’ve been home for almost a year now, and while things in my personal life and the world continue to challenge my recovery, I’m in a much better place. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but I know now that leaving college was the right choice. It wasn’t the easy one, but it was right nevertheless.
My college experience, while a bit of a disaster, taught me a lot. I still wanted to get a degree, so I enrolled in an online school in January. Realizing that there are options for people who can’t get a “traditional” education was reassuring, not to mention timely given the increase in online learning lately.
While online learning works well for me, I know that isn’t the case for everyone. I still remember how excited I was about moving into college last year, and in retrospect, I feel fortunate that that excitement wasn’t hindered by legitimate safety concerns. My younger brother is one of many students who was looking forward to starting college but can’t due to that school exclusively doing remote learning or—worse—personal health concerns.
To the freshmen who are in this position, it’s okay to feel upset and angry. But know that there are still so many new beginnings in your life to look forward to. Just because this one was taken away doesn’t mean that others will be as well. The world won’t be this way forever. This too shall pass.
And to the freshmen who are starting college on-campus this fall, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and uncertain. There’s a lot to navigate—now more than ever—and it can be challenging. But keep in mind that you’re not alone. Furthermore, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help.
Maybe if I’d reached out sooner I wouldn’t have had to leave college. Maybe I was doomed to fail no matter what. I’ll never know. What I do know, however, is that leaving college wasn’t the end of the world. Sure, it was a hard decision and took time to get over, but it was in my best interest. Everyone has to find what works for them. For me, that wasn’t traditional college, and by realizing that, I was able to discover new options and opportunities that will help me achieve my goals and dreams.
Freshmen, we’re rooting for you. You can do this. And, if for some reason you can’t, then that’s perfectly fine too.
*This post was written for a back-to-school newsletter for Jewish Family Services. Read the full newsletter here.
It’s amazing how a few days can change everything. Just last week, I wrote in my blog post how I was handling the pandemic better than I’d expected. Sure, it wasn’t easy, but I was using my coping skills to get through tough times and even learning a few things about myself along the way. I was in a good place in my recovery, quite possibly the best I’d been in in quite some time. Once gloomy and pessimistic, I was slowly embracing a more optimistic attitude on life.
Lately, however, all that optimism has been slowly slipping away. It started on Wednesday when, thanks to Tropical Storm Isaias, we lost our power. Four days later, we still haven’t gotten it back, which is why I’m currently spending my Sunday afternoon in a freezing-cold office at UConn Health Center. Having no power for an extended period of time in the middle of the summer in the middle of a pandemic is already bad enough, but to make matters worse, I was scheduled to get my wisdom teeth removed the morning after it went out.
Anyone who’s been a part of my recovery knows that I’m not good at drinking calories. Too many liquids make my stomach achy and bloated, which in turn triggers my body dysmorphia. That said, we had prepared for my post-surgery liquid diet by stocking our refrigerator and freezer with drinks and soft foods I could tolerate. But when the power went out, most of it spoiled or melted, leaving me with way fewer options than I’d anticipated.
After the removal—which was a bit of a disaster in of itself—I spent the rest of the day in a hospital room so I wouldn’t have to return home to my dark and stuffy house. But even though it was nice to have Wi-Fi to watch shows and promote the new recipe that had uploaded to Nourish while I was in surgery, I was in a lot of discomfort. My mouth hurt like hell, and I couldn’t extend my arms due to bruising from the IV (I have bad veins). That, and simply being in a hospital, eating hospital foods again, was bringing back some pretty dark memories.
It wasn’t until the next day when I was back home when it all sort of hit me at once: the pandemic, the power outage, my wisdom teeth, my wavering mental health. I felt so overwhelmed and started to cry, which really only made my mouth hurt more. With my parents looking on in concern, I let all the frustration I’d been repressing for months come spilling out.
Since then, I’ve been on Survival Mode. I haven’t been sleeping well, and my mood has been low, so not letting myself get too depressed has become a full-time job. This means eating enough despite my swollen jaw and disordered thoughts, talking to my parents when I need support, and doing whatever I can to distract myself and bring some joy into my life.
So, how have I been doing that? One word: entertainment. I’ve taken to rewatching some favorite TV shows and funny YouTubers to keep my mind off of everything else. As someone who’s super ambitious and always has to be productive, kicking back and relaxing with mindless pastimes goes against my instincts. But it’s been making me feel comforted, and with so much discomfort in my life, I need it. After all, it’s damn hard to be productive when I’m depressed.
I’m genuinely trying to stay positive, but with all that’s happened, it’s easy to get discouraged and defeated. Still, I’ll keep plugging along and doing what I can to maintain my sanity. I have no idea what obstacles the universe will throw at me next, but I do know that these experiences, while hell now, will ultimately make me a stronger person. And, as my mom jokingly pointed out earlier, I’ll have plenty of writing material for my future projects, so I guess it’s not all for nothing.
Update: It’s mid-day Monday, and things are looking a little brighter—literally. The power came on last night, forty-eight hours earlier than projected. I’m feeling better (although my mouth is still sore), but I’ve decided to upload this post anyway to show how recovery is full of ups-and-downs. It’s important to know this and to prepare for this, so that when a “down” inevitably presents itself, it won’t completely derail you and you can get through it.
I’ll end this post with a quote from Skam (which I’m currently rewatching for the 4th time): “When everything seems hopeless, just take one day at a time. And if one day becomes too much, just take one hour at a time. And if one hour becomes too much, then just take one minute at a time.”