“When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep… and you’re never really awake.” This is a quote from one of my favorite movies of all time. In some ways, I can relate. In others, I can’t. I know that the insomnia I have dealt with is nothing compared to what some people experience. Sometimes insomnia is like a tsunami…a natural thing I can’t escape. And I hate it and fear it. Other times, like recent days, it is something I don’t mind as much. If I can’t sleep, I get up early and read or do things that I just haven’t made time for yet. When I was in the darkest throes of my disease, sleep was a tonic that I drunk deeply of every night. I spent a good portion of my day thinking about sleep, and sometimes I was so tired that I could hardly function. I can remember several years ago, I would go to work, eat a smidgen of food, and just lie in bad, in a dizzying, coma-like state. Time would pass, but it had no meaning to me. I was basically a dead girl walking. Within the last few months, I have been consuming enough fuel to keep me going, but I was always on the verge of collapse. I had to force myself to be in a pleasant mood, even though I am on an antidepressant. I would climb a flight of stairs, and just want to sit down in an easy chair for the rest of the day. Now, my body has an abundance of energy. I feel so wound up most of the time, ready to live, not sleep. Unfortunately, this is probably a negative thing in a way. I need to conserve energy to heal, not use it all up before the sun even rises! I try to get the sleep I need, and right now I am doing all right, but I hope my lack of ability to sleep doesn’t become too much of an issue. I have always appreciated sleep, sometimes too much, and sometimes just enough. I hope I can learn balance and moderation in this part of my life too. Food, sleep, patience. Balance. Patience.
Today was a good day, for several reasons. One: I went to work and was in a good mood already…and then several amusing people came in and just seeing them made my day, in the weirdest way. My mom and little brother also stopped by. The library here is getting prepped for our summer reading kick-off tomorrow, and I has lots of things to get ready, so that made the day fly past. I ate what I had told myself I would, including a Subway sandwich, which was delicious. I “dropped” a book (https://www.facebook.com/lidderary) and I hope someone amazing finds it. I got to recommend a whole pile of books to a very thankful lady (I basically live for this). I’m feeling content…but maybe too content. I need to push myself, which I kind of did the other night, when I had my sister over to watch Fight Club…(this was a step forward for me, because usually I spend my nights eating “comfort” foods and reading copious amounts of books) but I need to push harder. I just have to find a way to trick my brain into thinking that the challenge is exciting and healthy, not frightening.
It’s funny, I was sitting here, thinking about how to write a post that narrated how I felt, and I saw in my mind’s eye my brain caving in…imagine it with me: a pink gelatinous mass that slowly starts to sink in on itself…like a popped bubble of gum. This is how I feel sometimes when I think about food. Well, okay, maybe not only like this. Sometimes I feel really…irritated? Like I have way too many choices of what I could eat (or should eat) and I just want to ignore it and not eat. Some days it feels like my brain is ready to collapse, like it’s all just too much. This is all self-inflicted though, right? I have a choice whether I feel this way or not. Yeah, sometimes I do have a choice. And other times it’s like my mind is on auto-pilot and it just does it’s thing. So to put it in perspective, my brain is a car on auto-pilot. It tells me to avoid pot holes that may cause trauma. I have to override this feature and take the wheel, press my foot to the accelerator, and tell myself that the potholes are annoying, they aren’t fun, but I have to face them sometimes. And when I do, sometimes it’s easier to speed up really really fast and almost hop over them, to avoid getting too jostled around. I’ll keep on driving along this road that is uncomfortable, because I really don’t see any detour. And though there may be patches that are really rough, and I might lose my tail-pipe along the way, I think I see smoother roads ahead.
I know people worry. I know they worry about me. This is one thing that has always bothered me, and even though it causes me pain and shame to know that people feel like they are helpless and can’t do anything for me, and that they worry about me, it was never enough to make me stop what I was doing. My mom would tell me she worried. My grandma didn’t voice her concerns much, but when I flipped through her journal after her death, I stumbled across an entry that voiced her relief about me being released from the hospital after a bout with pancreatitis, and how much better I looked. I started sobbing uncontrollably when I read that. People would tell me that they thought I was too skinny, that I needed to drink some milkshakes. I heard these things, but it’s not like they made much of an impact. They made my heart hurt, but my brain has little devils running around in it, and the tell me that food is bad, and that I should avoid it at all costs.
I am naturally a people pleaser. It’s in my blood. I hate to disappoint people, which is why it’s so ironic that I have a disease of the mind that is constantly disappointing others and myself. It’s like I’m never enough, even though I have no desire to be enough. I have always wanted to be the background music, blending in and not causing attention to be drawn to me. And yet, this disease attracts attention. How can it not? I hate that something I am doing to myself causes other people to worry. I hate, hate, hate it. Maybe that is why my change of mind feels so good. Because not only am I doing something to help myself, but I am also helping ease the minds of those around me. Being proactive feels so good.
Have you ever stopped and thought about how many things in this world revolve around food? At least, that’s the way it is in America. You throw a party…but what will you serve? Wanna watch a movie? First, you should make sure you’re stocked up on popcorn and ice cream. Holidays are the worst offender. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter…they all have these foods that are tied to them. Most people look forward to these holidays and their traditions. Most of the time, I dreaded them.
I have missed some moments in life…I don’t regret it yet, but I may someday. I can’t recall exactly how many family functions I have bowed out of, for the sake of my sanity. A handful, to be sure. I know I stayed home from a Thanksgiving celebration or two, and maybe an Easter meal. Graduation parties can be awkward. Birthday parties, same. Weddings can cause me anxiety beyond belief. And all because of one thing. Or really, several things. It’s sad though. Because most of the time it was my self-conscious holding me back. And always it was my depression. People might notice that I’m not eating what they’re eating, or not as much as I should be…but usually I could brush that off. I did my own thing, and that was ok with me. I don’t want to be like everyone else anyway. But depression is different. It’s hard to feel the desire to be social when it involves a thing you are deathly afraid of, and interacting with people when you don’t feel like it. I’m not saying I made the right choices, skipping out on things I probably should have been at…but I will say that I still feel all right with my decision. Because at the time, it was what I needed to cope.
Why does anyone do anything? Because they want to? Because they can? Because they feel compelled to? Maybe if we do something that seems insane, we really are insane for a brief moment in time. Maybe we are possessed by something other than ourselves for just a millisecond, and that is enough time for everything to shift just a little bit, until bigger cracks start to form in our foundation. I didn’t try to become who I am today, it just happened. I’m sure you can relate? You might have made some effort here and there, maybe you went to college to become something, and now you are that. Maybe you tried so hard, and finally your work is paying off. Or, maybe you hardly tried at all, and all of the pieces just kind of fell into place. The bad things that happen to us, is blame really needed for them? Weren’t they going to happen anyway? Maybe, maybe not. I believe things happen for a reason (or I think I do), but I don’t believe that those reasons need to be, or are, always visible to us. The good things…we like to take credit for, don’t we? I’d much rather brag about the marathon I ran because I am soooo strong rather than how much hard work it was for me to recover from a self-inflicted injury. I’m not in denial…I did something, but I don’t have a reason as to why I did it, or why I am still tempted to continue on that crooked path.
Hunger. We all know what it feels like. But I’m going to cue you in on a little secret…there are different kinds of hunger. One kind is the “typical” hunger of your body telling you it could use some fuel. Another is that sick feeling you might get if you’ve been putting off eating for a bit too long. Or what about that weird craving you might feel…it’s not really hunger (after all, you just ate half an hour ago!) but it is insistent…your body is telling you it could really use some of that cookie dough ice cream sitting in the deep freeze.
I have come to the conclusion that there is hunger beyond the norm. How do you think it feels to put off eating until 2:00 in the afternoon? You get up at 7:30, and just…don’t eat. Why, you ask? Oh, no particular reason. Just maybe it has a little bit of something to do with that anxious feeling you get when you think about the first bite of substance passing your lips. Or maybe it’s because your body has lost the ability to feel real hunger. Yeah, it can happen. It’s like this emptiness beyond empty. Where your stomach lining begins to look like a BLT sandwich to your body…your insides start to crumble in on themselves and your intestines become a cannibal. It’s scary, no? I mean, seriously, it almost makes me cry.
So, this hunger…it feels bad. Like, there is this one phase where it feels good. It feels clean and pure. Then we move on to the grumpy stage. Where your body, your whole being is crying out for food. “Feed me!” But your brain says “nah, silly human! You don’t need food. Food is dumb, you can live off of air and water.” Ummm, no. That just won’t work. And yet somehow, it does. Temporarily. Until you get to the place where you feel this acidic burble in the depths of your stomach. And then you start to picture the lining of your stomach deteriorating, bit by bit. But no matter what you eat, that feeling stays. Want to know why? Probably because what you ate is like feeding a peanut to an elephant. It’s gonna take a lot of peanuts to fill that tummy, sister. And it’s scary, you know? Not only the amount it’s gonna take and the willpower and the letting go…but the fact that you have to give up that feeling. The pure, clean, empty feeling. You have to let it go. Because that feeling is your enemy. It is your worst nightmare. It’s the grim reaper, and the grave, and the 9th circle of hell. But you’ll let it go. You will let go because you know you must. And you will learn, that being full and satisfied? It’s so much better than being empty.
A few years ago, the idea that your body regenerates new cells all the time, and you have all new cells every seven years was kind of big news. When I Googled it (or Binged it?!) today, I pretty much came to the conclusion that there is no proof behind this theory. But…before I did my little bit of research, I was pondering the idea, and I think it’s kind of a weird/cool coincidence how events have played out every seven years of my life so far. The first seven years were no big deal. Somewhere around the time I was 13 or 14 I started noticing subtle changes. Not in the way you’re thinking…like, I started to question everything. I started changing the way I ate. I curled up into a little ball and built a shell for myself out of my calcified bones and started to pull away from the world. And here I am today, at 21, and something new is happening. I feel like I am in the cusp of something…and I’m not sure what it is yet, but it feels significant. And also, I just like to use the word “cusp”.
I feel like I am at great place right now. I knew my fears were holding me back, but I didn’t know how much. I feel so free now. Seriously– who wants to go on a roadtrip? I have plans in the works to change the world (not really, but I feel this energy…like I can do anything). How about a meal at a restaurant? I’m up for it. Where before I felt so tired and headachey…so on edge. It was not a good feeling. Some days I would just hold my hand over my heart and feel the tha-thump, tha-thump and think about my life. I was so stuck. So terrified. I’m not saying everything changed overnight. It didn’t. But my mindset is changed. I saw a problem, and for years, I tried to ignore it. I did a darn good job of it too. But, if all good things must come to an end, then all bad things must also, right?
How far would you go to get a cup of coffee? Folgers, at that. Probably not very far, huh? Well, there are some patrons that use the library I work at like it’s a coffee shop…or their own kitchen. So, one day I opened up as usual (made coffee, unlocked the door), and a lady came in with a group of mentally disabled people. She seemed pretty normal…until she saw the coffee percolating. Right away, as quick as you can, she was on that coffee. We have tiny Styrofoam cups, the 12 oz kind, for patrons to use to get themselves a cup of horrible hot coffee. She didn’t even wait until the coffee was finished brewing, she just poured what was done right into the cup. And chugged it down. And repeated this. Until the whole pot was gone. The. Whole. Pot. I was astounded. Every time she has visited the library since, the first thing out of her mouth is: “can you make coffee?” if there isn’t some already on. Turns out, she’s not the only one that loves her coffee…
I not only act as a librarian, I am also the cleaner of the library. So I get to see firsthand some of the nastiness that happens in bathrooms, toilets, and drinking fountains. For a while it was chewing tobacco. So when I saw this brown flaky stuff in the drinking fountain one day, I thought “great, just what I need”. But it wasn’t tobacco. It was easy to wipe up, and I cleaned the fountain no problem. Then the librarian downstairs phoned up and told me there was something odd in the drinking fountain downstairs too. I went down to check it out, and it was the same stuff…it looked like coffee grounds. I wondered who the hell was spitting coffee grounds in the fountains…were they rubbing it on their gums?! The weirdest part of this situation is: the coffee grounds didn’t only show up once. No, I saw them again a week later. I cleaned it up, but not before noting that a local group home had been in to visit that day…and quite possibly the previous time this had happened. What was going on? Well, today, my curiosity was laid to rest…kind of.
Today as I was doing my routine cleaning of the library before we opened to the public, I noticed a water bottle from the fridge in the kitchenette downstairs, perched on a wooden shelf. I glanced at it, and noticed that it looked like the contents were a bit yellowed, and little pieces of what looked like coffee grounds were floating in the water. I’ll admit, my stomach turned a little bit. The water that should have been fresh from a spring had been tainted with who knew what. I emptied the offending bottle and threw the bottle in the recycling. As I was cleaning the men’s restroom, I noticed the trash bag seemed inordinately heavy. Peeking through the side of the clear bag, I saw another water bottle, of the brand we have in the fridge. And from what I could see, this bottle too, had weird brown floaters in it. Why were there coffee grounds in the fountains? Why were these bottles filled with water and what looked like coffee grounds? Eeeeew.
Upon further thinking, I realized that the day before, the group home had been in. I had made some coffee, and a man who usually grabs a cup, had poured himself some coffee, but before he could drink it, his supervisor had plucked it out of his hands and poured it out. “You know you’re not supposed to have coffee!” she reprimanded him in exasperation. He mumbled something about using the restroom and hopped into the elevator. Ok, so this guy was obsessed with coffee…and the grounds seemed to show up in the fountains after he had been to visit. I asked the library director what her first thought was. “Someone’s trying to make their own coffee” she said. A light went on in my head. YES!! The Children’s librarian kept a container of coffee in the refrigerator downstairs. Someone was taking the coffee from the fridge, and trying to make some sort of coffee with the fountain water, or when that failed, bottled water. You just never know what you will come across at my job. Just when I think I’ve seen it all (a patron pooping in the hallway and paying me $5 to clean it up, anyone?), I discover a new wonder. I love being a librarian. *Takes sip of hazelnut coffee*