schoolpsychnerd: (del)
Trigger Warning: I name and discuss Eating Disorder Behaviors in this post.

I write a lot on here about the emotional aspects of recovery. Dealing with my feelings is a huge part of recovery. I keep pushing aside my thoughts about the more nuts and bolts of recovery because I keep saying it's window dressing. And yeah it is but when I worked in retail briefly, changing our window display was as big a pain in the ass as changing the layout of the store. I was reminded of a Cracked article about what happens when you stop drinking and I was surprised at how much of it was physical. And I admired the bravery of the writer for talking about how their abstinence affected their health, both in the positive and the negative ways. So here goes

I've talked on here about my behaviors before. Though EDA is not an abstience based program, but a balanced based one. There is one behavior I am hardline abstient from and that is my purging. If I do that, I reset my day count (which is just over 6 months!). I've never come up with a rule on when missing a meal becomes restricting and when flexibility is needed. Excercise is tough because while my time is shorter there are other ways to abuse myself while excercising. Cardio is easier for me to "slip" on than weights. My dad's back pain is a reason I'm very mindful of my form and how much when I lift. By the time I started recovery, purging was pretty rare for me. Even one time is still not good but it was not nearly as frequent as it had been during other periods of my life (Seriously, I went to this tiny bathroom when I worked in Japan to purge out of the way of everyone. Those moments when you look back and realize the ridiculous lengths I went to for my disorder.) Restricting is the hardest behavior to overcome for me, hands down.

I see a dietican ever two weeks. Recently, after I realized I was having post workout pain like I did last summer I checked my calorie intake and saw that, while better than last summer was no where near approachign normal. She now checks my ED recovery app where I log thoughts, feelings, and just a discription of what I ate and how strong desires for behaviors are. We decided that it was time to take the next step and increase my intake. That was two weeks ago and it's been a haul in places. I know my intake is still not close to a normal person's intake. It's frustrating to wonder why I can't just eat like a normal person. It's frustrating to have a list of fear foods that, while getting shorter, is still longer than I'd like. I mean, I'm a grown ass woman who was afraid of a mini-cupcake yesterday. Not even a full size one! And yes, I do know there's progress. I've eaten a whole cupcake in front of people and been ok. My ability to cope with fear foods at this point in my recovery, is based on how many challenges I've taken on that week. This week there were a lot of them and I was eating very outside of my comfort zone. This time though, my office was all really supportive and there wasn't any diet talk. Also, period bloating that coincides with yoru intake increast: Fuck. That. Shit.

Another hard part is hunger. I've starved myself for so long that my stomach doesn't tend to easily register that I'm hungry (and registers that I'm full really quickly but we're working on that!). As I'm trying to move to more intuitive eating, less "must wait 4-5 hours between meals and snacks!", I've noticed that my stomach is not good for hunger cues. By the time my stomach grumbles, I've already like mentally exploded most of my friends and coworkers in Hanger. Mood and fatigue are my most frequent indicators of hunger and while I'm starting to pay attention to those, it's taking me some time. It'll come as well my normal stomach rumbles. I get hangry waaaaay more often than I used to and I know this is a good thing. But seriously you guys, I'm sorry for the things I say when I am hungry...especially because I may not know I'm hungry.

I knwo it's frustrating for [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas when I'm like "hey I got X number of calories today (which is still below where I should be but higher than it's been)". But I also hear a lot of praise from him or Bucky or Rogue or a lto of you that I seem better than I was. And I can feel it. I can recognize more quickly why I'm not eating something and ask for the strength to correct it. I'm accountable now to my deitican and I surrender to her meal plan and our goals. I've added more protien into my diet, since she knows I feel safer with protien. We're working on my fear or bread-based carbs and my fear of sugar. There are parts of the way I eat that are healthy (lots of veggies and healthy fats) that I'm bringing with me into recovery. I know practice makes progress, not perfection.
schoolpsychnerd: (Chu)
A game that I've been a part of for two years (or a bit more if you consider I was part of the planning group) ended yesterday. It was a great ending, my Murder Hobo character got a happy ending and it was a great conclusion to the story that we'd been telling collectively for two years. I have to admit I've been tearing up a bit today on and off. Instead of doing my usual thing where I yell at myself and apologize and say I'm stupid for crying I decided to just go with it. Even happy endings are still endings and for me, this game was more than just a game. It was a community that provided a jumping off point for so much growth.

When Changeling started, my dad had been dead for a little over a year. My strategy for dealing with his suicide was to not deal with it. It's fitting that my character was in the Spring Court because that was my way of coping, denial. I learned that denial wasn't the literal "that didn't happen" but that it could be the subtle "this doesn't affect me emotionally" or "I have no feelings about this topic." I had also dug deeper into a long relapse into my ED where I used how my character dressed and her kith/seeming as an excuse. If I was going to play a fairest in a LARP I had to look the part and in my mind that meant as skinny as possible. I'd make jokes at game about Devorah's short dresses being "exposure therapy". Devorah never used feelings words. She had a dead dad that she didn't talk about. Devorah deep down believed that she was worthless unless she exceeded everyone's expectations and did everything alone. Yes, dear readers, as vulnerable as I feel saying it, Devorah was a self-insert character though I wasn't conscious of it at the time.

And I learned through LARP that I could trust people with my story. I could have characters who knew more about Devorah and they would still have scenes with her. As Devorah started telling certain characters more about herself, I started to share more with people about just how much I was struggling. I have a very hard time trusting people, particularly in LARP situations. And I learned in this community that I could show up as my character and that I would be taken care of by the community that I had around me. I knew that if I had a plotline that could be difficult, the STs would work with me and cared about my fun. I knew if I had a night where I was just not in top roleplaying form (usually because I hadn't really eaten in weeks) that my scene partners would help me out. I learned to trust people with my insecurities out of game that mirrored my in-game insecurities. No one laughed at me, no one patted me on the head. People treated my concerns and issues and triumphs as if they were real and mattered. And if I could tell Devorah's story, maybe I could start to tell mine.

A huge part of my recovery is learning to tell my story, undramatically and with self-compassion. The friends I met and/or became closer with because of this larp helped with that. I went to my first EDA meeting the Wednesday after I stopped playing Devorah. I had always said I couldn't do group counseling, I couldn't trust others with my story and it was probably dumb to them anyway. But pretty much every week I show up, tell the truth, and do the work. A big part of that is because of LARP. And this LARP ending couples with some other transitions or endings in my life. I have a best friend moving away (who was my other half in this LARP. We share a brain), a job contract ending (and I don't know if it will be renewed), a school year ending, and moving into new phases of my recovery. And as afraid as I am of transitions, which are incredibly hard for me, I can accept them and trust that I'm going to be taken care of by the sparks of something bigger that my friends reflect.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
One day in an EDA meeting, one of my recovery buddies mentioned that her treatment team had recently allowed her to start running again. She used the phrase "I was given back running" and it struck me as odd. My disordered brain said "Why couldn't you have just run? I mean did they have to know and I mean can't you just run?! Given it back, so weird!" but I didn't say that outloud, naturally. But the phrase sat in my head for a few weeks. I put it down to the fact that because I was never hospitalized it wasn't language I would use. Then I went running outside for the first time since I started my recovery a few weeks ago and I understood it. Today I finally decided how to write about it.

I'm not going to go too deep into my behaviors, those are pretty well documented and really, I'm not a huge fan of gratiutious gory details in recovery narratives. There's a place for that but it isn't this entry. I have a problem with compulsive overexcercising and it really impacts my life, my world view, and my relationships with those around me. Seriously, some of the biggest arguements I've had with Dorchadas have been because he dared to point out that I was working out too hard, even more so when one considers my intake. When I started recovery this time, I stopped working out all together. I, for the first time, really acknowledged that I was not able to manage my physical activity on my own.

In most 12 step programs we talk about giving ourselves over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d. I've talked a lot about how I expeience my idea of a Higher Power through connection with others. Connection is the anthesis of my Eating Disorder. And I've learned that by giving myself over to the care of my treatment team: My therapist, my nutritionist, my fellow EDAs, my friends, and family, I can do more than I ever could alone. I've been working out again, but non-compulsively. I've been able to take time in the mornings and check in with myself. Sometimes my ED voice tries to tag along but I can at least see it for what it is now. I have now run twice outside where I am the one setting my goals and pace and not gone overboard. I was mindful and observant of the world around me. I smiled at passers by. I waved at babies who waved at me. I was in the world instead of using my disorder to take me out of it.

Before this, I'd only ever had a "runner's high" that euphoric feeling when you finish a run, once or twice. Now I have it often. I'm present and checked in, and through my recovery, all aspects of it, I've been giving running back and it has been a gift.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
Hi, my name is Rachel and I believe that I am fundamentally unlovable. I don’t know how long I’ve had this belief, though I know I have to go back deeply into my childhood to remember a time when I didn’t think I was The Unlovable Worst™. Some days I carry it in front of me, on my sleeve. I apologize to people I haven’t even met. I send text messages to friends saying I will miss their friendship and I’m sorry that I ruined everything. Other days it sits in my head and I try to deal with it in my own brain. Some days I even believe that no deity or higher power could be big enough to love me. On those days I lay on the bed and cry, too paralyzed by the cocktail of my own self-hatred and perceived rejection by others. I sit there and try to trace the moment that I will cross the Unlovability Threshold for each person in my life.

What is the Unlovability Threshold you ask? It’s a concept based on a Jewish theological concept of levels of sin. The idea was that our righteousness fluctuates based on the choices we make. Generally most people aren't super low or high, we’re average in terms of our righteousness and can be forgive/do better, but there are outliers. There were people who were so righteous they could not sin (The Lamed Vavniks or 36 righteous people) and those who were so wicked they could never atone (Pharaoh, Haman, Hitler, etc.). My own disordered thinking, masquerading as spiritual reflection, led me to think that this concept not only applied to forgiveness/righteousness, but to love. Each relationship had a finite amount of Love in it and eventually, you could screw up enough times that you were unloveable. While I didn’t think I was worse than Hitler in terms of wickedness, I certainly believed that I had long hit my Unlovability threshold with G-d. Knowing this, that G-d loved everyone but me, I then set about trying to figure out just what the Unlovability Threshold in every relationship in my life was.

I had been a popular kid up until the age of 9 when all my friends seemed to dissipate like fog. One by one they peeled away and I couldn’t figure out why. Throughout middle school I had a hard time being close with people who I didn’t go to summer camp with. I usually had about 1 close friend per year only to turn around my next year and see them moving on. Once I started dating, most “relationships” lasted about 3 weeks. I had been struggling for years to figure out why I didn’t have more friends. I knew, deep down, there was something unlovable about me. I, mean, I hated myself so much that I wanted to die just so I could stop being around me, made sense other people would find me equally repulsive (once again, is that even possible?). The Unlovable Threshold, much like the Sin Threshold described above, provided (so I thought) an operational measure of my relationships. Much like sin and virtue, if I fucked up in friendship, I used up a level of our relationship, and if I did good it would only boost me up a little. Eventually, every relationship had a point where the sum total of my fuck ups would mean that I could no longer do anything to make it right. The best part of the Unlovability Threshold was that it made it all my fault and every friendship’s “failure” completely my fault. For a budding anorexic, this was the perfect side dish to my daily self-hatred regimen.

So I waited and tried to figure out where each person in my life’s Unlovability Threshold was. If I could see it coming, while I likely couldn’t prevent it because I am The Worst™, I could prepare for how bad it would hurt by numbing out. I’d starve more, purge more, isolate more. Some people surprised me, seemingly bottomless pits of love. My friend Amanda comes to mind in particular, who had persisted with me since preschool. But when I felt the time was drawing near, I would begin this weird dance. I’d both shove someone away and cling onto them violently. I’d tell them that I didn’t blame them if they never talked to me again while also saying how important they were to me. This dizzying dance would succeed in proving my Unlovability Threshold theory often. By the time I left for college, I felt that I’d collected enough evidence to make the Unlovability Threshold a Law of How Humans Work. The obvious end result of the Unloveable Threshold was that everyone would leave me eventually, because there had never been a person more unlovable than me...yes, not even Hitler. I never said my Eating Disorder was rational.

I continued on through life figuring there was a point when everyone would leave me. I started trying to check-out first. Sometimes it was obvious, I’d just stop talking or seeking someone out. Other times it was less so, I’d start mentally checking out, turning our friendship into a true one-way mirror. But my favorite was to double down on the perfectionism to the point that it ratched up my crazy to very intense levels. I’d show up to hang out with a friend with cuts on my arm. I’d engage in loud restricting in the caf. I’d take a double dose of diet pills and be so caffeine intoxicated I’d be vibrating. I made myself exhausting to be around because the sooner I got them to their threshold, the sooner they would leave. And once they left, it would hurt but then the pain would be over. The part I hated the most about my friends was when they stayed, after all of that. Not only that, but they welcomed me back. They hugged me. They said they were glad I was feeling better. Why, why didn’t they just stop loving me? Why, why didn’t everyone hate me like I hated myself?

[livejournal.com profile] dorchadas was an incredible test of this theory. I had nuked my personal life from orbit about the time we got together. And after a week of failing to cope with all that actual, final confirmation that yes, I had hit the Unlovability Threshold of every person I went to college with, I had gone on an ED and self-injury bender that didn’t heal by the time he came for his weekend visit. It was Sunday night and he was preparing to leave and happened to roll up the long sleeve shirt I’d worn most of the weekend. He asked and I bristled, saying that I was just being stupid. I don’t remember his exact words, but something about his tone and his general Dorchadas-ness assured me that he meant it when he said he wasn’t going to leave just because I had problems.

It would be really great if I could write “And that was the day the Unlovability Threshold died to the Power of Love!” The truth is, I’ve been using the wrong tense this entire story. The Unlovability Threshold didn’t die in my dorm bed 10 years ago. I’ve still asked, out loud, to the very man who reassured me when I was un-reassurable, why he is still with me. I sit and look at my friendships and try to figure out how much of me they can take before they leave. The difference is that I know now that I suck at predicting it. Everyday, every time I ask for support and I am convinced that this time, it’s the end, I get proven wrong. Someday the Unlovability Threshold is going to die, but for now it’s just being refuted in mental scientific journals.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
The theme of Eating Disorder Awareness Week was "I didn't know that..." in order to confront the myths that surround Eating Disorders. Those myths not only hurt society as a whole, but those of us who battle them. I've found, personally, that conceptualizing my ED as an addiction rather than an event, helpful. And like a lot of addicts, I need to justify that I'm not really sick. That I'm not "that bad". Yet here's the thing, the goal post for "not that bad" keeps moving.

The ones that particularly radiated with me this year were "I didn't know my passion had become a problem". I love working out. I love being active, well I do now. This summer I'd be so run down I could barely leave the apartment but I'd still work out an hour a day while not giving myself the nutrients I need to maintain that level. I'd say the most awful shit to myself while I worked out. Seriously people, you'd think I was carrying Golem on my back...and really I kind of was.

The other one was "I had no idea my quest for health was making me sick". I've had to realize I have no idea what actual balanced eating looks like. I talked a lot about this in my entry, but I take suggestions as mandates. I can vividly remember ordering a bagel after game and worrying that everyone was judging me for eating the "nutritionally void" bagel. I now see a nutritionist who specializes in personal training and eating disorders and she's awesome. We talk about challenges and we take it slow. I've eaten things I never would have eaten a year ago. I had hush puppies last weekend for the first time in like 5 years and while I did feel guilty afterwards, I ate them anyway. I've reintroduced quinoa into my diet. I ate a Sprinkles cupcake in front of people and lived! I'm still working on this, it's a huge battle for me. But so many of my friends who I eat with and are aware of my disorder are so incredibly supportive and cheerleadery that it makes it less of a slog and more of a difficult hike.

A big feature of all of my attempts at recovery was doing it alone. I did this in a lot of ways. I wouldn't come out and say "I have an eating disorder", I'd say "I have body/food issues". I didn't tell people when I was struggling or accept their support when they offered it. The number of people who have commented or messaged me has been the biggest treat of the week. Hearing people share their own journey, no matter what it is, has been an incredible gift. A part of Judaism I latched onto is the idea that everyone has a spark of the divine in them (what that means is a bit hard for me to describe) and that our job is to bring our spark into the world. You all have lit up my life and my facebook, not just this week but everyday with your sparks. Thank you for sharing that and letting others experience the warmth of your spark.


Also this summer, it'll be around my 6 month mark (long story about why it's not a year...) I'm getting a tattoo. I have a lot of reasons I've held off, mostly worrying about pleasing other people and not me. I'm getting it either on a shoulder blade or in between them. I'm getting the NEDA symbol. It's pretty and I want to celebrate this portion of my recovery journey.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
In many addictions recovery, there's a lot of work done around our relationships with our parents, and for a lot of us it's the relationship with the parent of the same sex. I could probably write forever about this, bemoaning the ways in which my upbringing and family dynamics contributed to my disorder. But I don't really want to, so I won't.

I finally told my parents I had an eating disorder after I went to the family planning clinic and found out I weighed 105. I had read that birth control can have serious complications if you purge, though I was more afraid of getting pregnant than I was dying at the age of 18. I had told all of my friends at college before I told my mom. Her response was "Oh I knew, I cleaned your toilet after you left." I kind of shut down on the phone at that point. I didn't really tell mom about anything else. I told her I was getting counseling on campus and not to worry. She bought a book on being a parent of a child with an eating disorder and my brother, who had just become a vegetarian, thought the book was about him (he and I had a good laugh about that. I love you bro!).

My dad called me a few days later and left a different message. Even if his actions didn't always match his words, I do admire that at least to me, my dad usually knew the right thing to say. He said that his first response was "How do I fix it?!" but that he recognized that this wasn't something that he could fix or that we could fix, that it didn't have an easy solution. He said he'd support me in what I needed to do.

Inviting people, especially parents, into your recovery is a process. This week and this blog in general have been a way of practicing and inviting people into my recovery. On the one hand, neither of my parents were very involved in my recovery at least in terms of me. My family doesn't do confrontation. But I also didn't invite them in. I think they both wanted to support me but they and I had no idea how or what that would look like. There are days in recovery that I really miss my Dad and his ability to cheer me on or say the right thing. I wonder if he would be proud of me or if I would even have been able to tell him. I told my mom when I started going to EDA and she didn't take it too well. I don't know why, but my guess is there's the whole "well you aren't super thin like you were in college so do you still have it?" but then she comments on a photo that I look too thin. I have, in a lot of ways, pushed my family away. I'm worried they won't like who I am now. They're used to the quiet, people pleasing Rachel and like I'm worried with my friends, I'm worried that my family isn't going to like me without my eating disorder. Am I still the Rachel they love? As much as I know if they don't then, As Elphaba said "if that's love, it comes at much to high a cost" but I need to be loved and liked by everyone...

On a side note, my in-laws don't "know' but I think they know. My MIL's response to me debating to eat a Kind Bar because...reasons? was "Eat the bar!" in her way, which is difficult to convey in text.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
I can acknowledge that I’ve been lucky in my disorder. For the most part, I’ve escaped the turly awful physical side effects of my behaviors. I had iron so low when I was 19 that I craved ice constantly. I didn’t realize how close I came this summer. While I still have low blood pressure, I am no longer getting dizzy when I stand up or feeling constantly exhausted. My hair’s finer and a bit thinner than I was. I have less joint pain than I did and my body recovers faster from injuries. Actually in the recovery process, I've been in awe just how my body is adjusting. Even my hunger cues coming back.

When I first started any kind of recovery my mom hauled my butt to the family doctor when I finally got home. I was really hoping my doctor would validate my bullshit, my favorite justification for it being that I wasn't contributing to the obesity epidemic (ugh, shut up ED.) And he started to! He praised how much weight I had lost, having always been a kid toward the heavy side. He was about to go on when my mom cleared her throat. And then I said I had been eating a lot less and making myself throw up anything, even a salad, that I ate. He was dumbstruck and fumbled his way through the exam but never used the word eating disorder. When I was re-weighed at the end of the summer, after requesting to not know my weight, he told me and said “Congratulations on your weight gain.” which I then went home, skipped dinner and spent the weekend on a behavior bender in my room.

When I was weighted the first time I was 110. I had gained 5 pounds before coming home and by the end of the summer I was 120. Technically I was just on the low end of my body weight and therefore didn’t qualify for an Anorexia diagnosis but I didn’t binge so I didn’t qualify for a Bulimia or Binge-Eating DIsorder diagnosis. I wasn’t a walking skeleton even though I was a shell of the vibrant girl who had made up stories about far away lands and danced in her living room for imaginary adoring crowds. I didn’t identify as Anorexic until like...October/November? There’s a temptation in the medical field for us to let the scale determine who gets help, who has a disorder, who is worthy of care (because insurance). Diagnosis can legitimize our experience. I have a wonderful care team who encourage me to continue identifying as Anorexic because it helps me come to terms with my sickness and what that looks like. It helps me feel seen. I respect the need for criteria, but it shouldn’t be so restrictive that it mirrors my “diet”. It should be about getting help, not about denying help.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
One day I was working with a student, just returned to school after the round of what she called “ED camp” and we were talking about the dieting talk the women outside my office were engaging in. I wanted to tell them to shut up more for my own benefit than the students. In the kind of non-chalance I aim to emulate, my student laughed, shook her said and said “Dude, that’s eating disorder talk” and moved on. That child hit the nail on the head right there. Few things are more triggering than “healthy eating” talk.

I realized in my recovery that I’d started to read less of the obvious and labeled pro-ana websites, a lot of them made me feel worse for being an adult woman with this disorder. Instead, I’d traded them for a host of food blogs, mostly paleo in persuasion. Our house is very much a tale of two different approaches. [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas is able to look at food advice, evaluate it, and leave it with no guilt. He has never flipped out over eating a slice of bread if he wants a slice of bread. I on the other hand, and this is true for my life in general, tend to view suggestions as mandates. My whole office is on this insane diet, like think EXTREME Paleo. They can’t even eat onions because they have too many carbs. I joke with myself that I realize that I can think I need to 7k after eating ice cream but tell me that onions are bad for me and that is just too much crazy. While I don’t think that being a vegan, or gluten free or vegetarian automatically means someone has orthorexia, I do think examining why and what’s behind it is important. I didn’t cut out carbs because they made me feel sluggish or upset my stomach. I didn’t replace my lunch with raw veggies because of ethical problems with factory farming (though I have them!). I did these things because they would make me thin and feed my disorder.

I could detail here all the foods that I’ve missed that I’m now getting to rediscover, but it’s difficult. Foods that are high in sugar or carbs are particularly difficult. I try to eat one thing everyday that scares me. I try eating challenge foods in front of others, but I really fear everyone judging me for eating something "bad" for me (even though I know no one cares except for me). I’ve been able to improve my caloric intake, it’s still not where it should be for someone of my activity level but it’s better. One of the hardest parts of my disorder to let go of is the orthorexic “healthy eating” component. One day I'll be able to not need to coach myself through eating a cookie.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
I've referenced or explicitly mentioned being bullied before. I struggled today with what to write here because I would place myself in the 65% whose bullying contribued to their eating disorder development. I don't feel up to recounting the experiences, rather I think I want to talk about how they affected my relationships.

I'm going to start with my relationships with women because I had a realization at a Cuddle Party. While my first bullies were men, the intensity with which girls bullied me was worse for me. From 4th grade through 8th grade I spent most of my day with people who bullied me. I wasn't in GT and because of tracking, that meant I didn't even get to sit with my friends in Gifted and Talented at lunch. And their behaviors were erratic. Some days they would be incredibly nice to me and others they'd eviscerate me. By the time I got to high school, I had internalized this narrative and twisted it. The only reason my friends, my good and steadfast loving friends, kept me around was because I was the ugly crazy fat friend who made them all look better. This is a thought pattern that is deeply ingrained in me. I have a hard time feeling comfortable in many of my relationships with women because I worry that they're just keeping me around because I make them look better. They can all feel good knowing that at least they aren't as awful as me. I fear the judgement of other women so much.

Boys were my first bullies and this might be why I am more sensitive to the approval and disapproval of men. I shrink around men on the train because I know I'm not supposed to take up space. I'll eat markedly less around men and it's like a 10 minute internal debate before going to the bathroom if I'm hanging out with not-[livejournal.com profile] dorchadas men. While I worry that women are judging me, I worry that men will say it out loud. Seriously, if I get called fat by a guy on the street it affects me way deeper than it should.

This isn't as deep as I thought it might be and it's a loaded topic. I still don't have all my thoughts in order about this. Sorry guys, I'm a little less coherent today.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
I was going to write about how the media sells the idea that being thin will make us happy but decided what really interests me about media is how it directly related to eating disorders

I'd admittedly been reading about crash diets since I was in the 4th grade, though my mom warned me against it. I had a fascination with eating disorders starting with DJ Tanner passing out on full house. I remember admiring that she could only eat ice and keep it up because I knew I never could. In 5th grade she and I watched "A secret between friends", a lifetime movie where a single mother saves her daughter from her eating disorder. I was fascinated that the whole world stopped for this girl. Everyone told her how much they cared about her and how pretty she was. I even attributed her Bulimic friend's death to her not being "strong enough to starve" (the boat, I missed it..or did I). I was completely entranced by what an eating disorder had to offer me. When I read books or saw movies or special TV episodes I identified with how unhappy and full of self-loathing the characters were. I heard about how good it felt to finally be complimented on how you looked. I heard how light it felt. And I usually skipped out on how miserable they were, and their awful near death experiences. In characteristic addict's invincibility, I believe that wouldn't happen to me. I have said this line before and I'll say it again: At age 9, I wanted a bunny for Christmas. At age 10, I wanted an eating disorder. I can't deny the role that media played in my development. It didn't give me an eating disorder, but it certainly didn't help and in some places actively triggered me (and still does.)

I had these long before I found pro-ana websites (hey, been 7 months since I looked at thinspo!). Pro-Ana sites are just more honest about the glamorization and fetishization of Eating Disorders. We tell lurid tales of behaviors because those are visible, but leave out the whole story, and recovery is glossed over. Reading explicit and mindful recovery narratives has been incredibly helpful. When I relapsed, running through my head was Kelly Osgood's "How to DIsappear Completely" calling me a wannarexic. Eating Disorders aren't a body type, they aren't fun, they are soul sucking and life ruining. And if media wants to talk about eating disorders, focus on recovery, on the self-discovery and painful voice development, not how few calories, how many hours at the gym, and how often they vomited. We need more real recovery stories for wide audience.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
I've written and re-written this entry about 200 times. Today's theme is marginalized voices and to be completely honest, in the ED community I'm the dominant voice. I'm a white, upper middle class, visibly-able bodied, cis, straight-seemning woman. Orthodox Jews even make up a large percentage of ED hospitalizations so really, I am about as far from marginalized as you get in this community. I orginally had a reflex to talk about my own narrative but today's theme isn't about me. I have plenty of chances to tell my story and really, my story is told like every damn day.

But what I can do, while I have your attention is point you all to great people who are traditionally marginalized in the ED community. So here you go!

Black Girl Dangerous
http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/02/eatingdisordersareforwhitewomen/

Short audio on Latinas and Eating Disorders
http://latinousa.org/2014/03/21/eating-disorders-latins-risk/

Trans Folx Fighting Eating Disorders
http://www.transfolxfightingeds.org/

National Association of Males with Eating Disorders
http://namedinc.org/

Mochi Mag
http://www.mochimag.com/article/diagnosing-the-asian-american-eating-disorder

I'd prefer a less clinical resource but my internet searching did not yield non-research paper work on the experience of First Nations People with Eating Disorders
http://www.unified-solutions.org/pubs/eating_disorders_fact_sheet.pdf

The Body is Not an Apology
http://thebodyisnotanapology.com/

This list is by no means exhaustive and I know I hear so many more narratives in my EDA meetings. We need to make more space as an ED community to give these narratives center stage, they've been ignored and downplayed and marginalized for too long.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
I decided that I wanted to do a short, slightly less polished personal story each day for eating disorder awareness week. The theme is "I didn't know that..." and while I can't speak to others experiences, particularly the voices of people with marginalized identities in our Eating Disorder community, I can share parts of my story. I someday doubt my narrative as being legitimate or worth telling. But then I have to remember that everyone has a choice about if they read it. So here it goes!

Today's theme "I didn't know that my passion had become a problem"

Most of my Chicago friends know I'm a fairly active person. I run 2 days a week on the treadmill at school, I lift weights at least 3 days a week. I walk everywhere at a quick stride after almost 10 years with Brian. My Knox friends know that I was a dancer and almost minored in it. My Kahdalea friends know me as the girl who dove into playing soccer or bombardment and even if she huffed and puffed up the hill, still did it with a smile. My Paducah friends...well they know me as the kid picked last in gym class who while i wasn't a total couch potato, was not naturally inclined to structured excercise. I'd try doing workout tapes at home that people bought me (age 8: barbie workout, age 10: Fun House workout, age 11: Tae Bo!) but I couldn't keep it up because honestly, I wasn't very good and it wasn't fun. Over my life I have become much more fit and active. I can now do "boy" push-ups with increasing depth, lift heavy things, run/walk 7k in pretty decent time, and dead sprint to the El wearing 3 pairs of pants, 2 shirts, a scarf, jacket, and giant snowboots to make a train. While on the whole these are really positive changes in my life and fitness level, most of them are a result of years of compulsive exercise.

This summer was really the summer that my beahviors started to catch up with me. I developed stress injuries, blood pressure so low I got dizzy standing up, and I lacked the energy to do anything but work out. Yeah, I could barely get off the couch to walk and get a glass of water but I could run 7k. If I didn't get my workout in that day, for whatever reason, I became every bit as irritable as any other addict in need of a fix. I have picked more fights with my husband and ended with "well I'm cranky because I didn't run today". I needed to work out alone because in my mind everyone was judging me. I'd skip out on time with my husband or friends because I had to work out. If I wasn't about ready to pass out and die by the end of a workout I'd feel like a failure (one of the reasons I shy away from doing Crossfit, the intensity isn't healthy for me). I even turned yoga into a competitive thing and only did "cardio yoga" instead of nice relaxing poses that would have allowed me to check in with my body.

My point with this is that yes, compulsive exercising is a thing that happens. One of the hardest parts of my recovery was admitting that my exercise level was excessive. At first I said it was excessive given my very low caloric intake, but now as I write this I realize that it was really just excessive. When I started recovery, I had a 2 month (at least) detox from any kind of structured activity. And I was a brat about it, but I knew I needed to do it. And yes, my ED still sometimes pops into my morning workouts, but it's a lot less common. I now work out before school, where there is a definite time limit and often others are around. I now use my workout time to check in with myself, when I'm tired and the treadmill is hard I try and speak words of compassion to myself. I am slowly learning that I can love activity without making it another tool in my "Beating myself up" toolbelt.
schoolpsychnerd: (del)
I am afraid of the dark and have been since I was very young. I would lay in my bed terrified of what was under it, or the pattern of branches on a window. Worst yet was the odd shadow cast on my wall that I once convinced myself was a “Murderous Elephant” (I had just learned the word murderous so forgive me the melodrama.) I stayed up for hours eyeing the shadow that my brain, through a tedious argument, convinced me was an elephant of insidious intent. I wanted to ask my mom to move things, to make it go away but she was asleep in the bed next to me and would be upset to have to cure my fears of the dark at the age of 6. I remember barely being able to keep my eyes open the next day in school but at least the elephant hadn’t gotten me. I never saw a shadow in that pattern again so I never knew what it had been or where it had come from.

Living with my Anorexia has been like living in a nearly dark room when I have crappy low-light vision. I know there are things in the room, I know there are scary shadows and possibly monsters but I can’t get confirmation. I’m stuck in bed because my disorder robbed me of the energy or intellectual curiosity to get out of bed. Like 6 year old me, I didn’t want to disturb the disorder sleeping next to me that hogged the covers. I have constructed stories about what the shadows might be and given them names that in the light of day sound just as ridiculous as a Murderous Elephant living on the shelf of my closet. My recovery has been a powerful flashlight that I can destroy the shadows with or at least shine a light on them when I am still too weary or fearful to get out of bed.

There is the body image monster. No one will ever judge my body as harshly as I do and the dysmorphic demon distorts my mirror image. It tells me that if people were to see me or my body they will think I am ugly and fat and laugh at me. It pulls evidence of this from elementary, middle, and high school. It conjures images of food thrown at me, pig noises ringing in my 6th grade ears, and gagging noises of boys at school dances. The lights shows me what the monster actual is. My weight and likability became linked in my head and in untangling them I see now that I am really afraid of being unloved or having others dislike me, exclude me, abandon me. I am afraid that if I let people see the real me then they will reject me. That fear of peer rejection leads me back to my disorder. It leads me to starve and work out for hours so I will be thin because no one loved me until I was thin. More lies my Anorexia said in it’s sleep.

There is the ghost of fat feelings. My once expansive feelings vocabulary has been reduced to words like “fat” and “heavy” by this specter. Instead of telling my father I was stressed about my upcoming wedding and the pressure to be a thin bride by ALL the magazines and websites pushing Dress Diets, I stood in front of him and cried that I felt so fat. My father tried to shine a light but he only made it bigger, taking me to a weight loss clinic that was fortunately closed that day. I settled for looking up gastric bypass on the internet and buying over the counter diet pills. But that fat feeling never went away until after my wedding. Because, dear readers, fat is not really a feeling for me. It is a substitute for the multitude of feelings that I have deemed unacceptable. It feels safer to tell my friends that I feel fat, because I’m a woman and that is supposed to be normal, than that I feel angry or hurt or taken advantage of or depressed or devastated or infuriated or exuberant. Those emotions were stuffed animals that Anorexia said took up too much space in the bed and had to go.

Which brings me to my own hobgoblin that says I am both too much and not enough. I take up all the space, want too many impossible things before the breakfast I refuse to eat, am never good enough or thin enough or sexy enough or smart enough. I try and shrink my presence in my best friend’s life because I think I take up too much undeserved space because I’m not good enough for someone like him to care about. It makes me think my friends are products of pity instead of admitting they see what I don’t. This hobgoblin isolates me, but it isn't the whole story. I’m afraid to admit what I want and that I exist. I’m afraid of being told no or hurting others or making someone uncomfortable. I would rather let Anorexia have all of the covers while I shiver in the wintery uninsulated mental bedroom then grab a handful and yank warmth back. I would feel guilty in the warmth, like I feel pained when my best friend tells me my hands are warm. Warmth means I am reclaiming want, that the hobgoblin is retreating.

But I miss those shadows and their stories some days because they had become all I knew. I was comfortable in my misery and discomfort because it was familiar. Part of living in the light of recovery is letting go of the shadows. Of seeing something in the light of day and remembering what it looks like when night falls. The honesty of being able to call it what it is and go back to sleep knowing that the shadows only have as much power as we give them. It is the internal security of knowing that something bigger than boogeymen is there, whatever we may call it, G-d or Logic or Higher Power or Common Sense. I’m not always good at shining my light, sometimes I hide my flashlight under the bed and avoid looking for it. It’s progress not perfection and I now know that the monsters are just clothing clutter windmills.
schoolpsychnerd: (totoro)
The best example of "goodness of fit" personified was in Pacific Rim (yes, I know, contain the eyeroll). The idea of synchonization that allows people to pilot big, unruly machines and fight giant monsters basically sums up goodness of fit. It's how well you work with someone, or how much someone "gets" you. When a relationship seems to just click, that's goodness of fit. I talk about it a lot in the context of therapy and supportive relationships but I've been thinking about it more in the context of gaming. Also how goodness of fit changes depending on if I am GMing or playing. Goodness of fit in a group comes up when we discuss group therapy, and I think it's easy to generalize that to gaming. It can take a game or two to figure out if someone is a good fit for your game. Yalom talks about stages of group, with attention to the norming and storming process. I firmly believe gaming groups also deal with this as they work out their dynamics (don't get me started on my combination Gaming and Social Skills group!). But being a school psychologist I tend to break down the components of goodness of fit into sub-areas.

The first is GM goodness of fit. As a player I tend to like GMs who are understanding, consistent, and have a story focus. I don't mind more rules heavy games, because of the two parts, understanding is what I require because of my math computation issues. I think often the things we like about GMs share similarities with things we like in teachers or support figures. If we fit well with a GM, there's a sense of peace even when they disagree with us. We may be throwing Doritos at them, but we ultimately know it's fine. There's a trust that develops, even if it includes joking that she's out to kill you all, when a GM is a good fit for their players. If you're not fitting with your GM, it could be any number of factors, including that their leadership style doesn't resonate with you, and that's fine! The great thing about approaching group composition from a goodness of fit position is that it doesn't have to be anyone's fault if it doesn't workout (unless the person opens their mouth and removes all doubt that they are the worst. If a player makes a transphobic statement or joke at my game, it's on them that they don't work out with me.)

The second component is player goodness of fit. As a GM I work best with players who are not giant rules lawyers, since I'm not. I value players with a good knowledge of the rules, but it's often balanced with an understanding of my narrativeist style. This not only speaks to a player-GM fit, but a player-player fit. I've been in games where there's been a mismatch in fit between players and it really makes the game suffer. If you have multiple players who NEED to be the center of attention then they may not be great fits as players. If they want these deep, meaningful character interactions and to marry the farmers daughter but their partymate wants to go to the Worlds Longest Dungeon and named their character Gary McCheeseballs, may not be a good fit. Freaks and Geeks teaches us though that we can't judge a party member by his reputation or character name (Shout out to Carlos the Dwarf!). If you're playing with a group who normally hangs together, which is admittedly more common in my adult gaming life, then usually the players already fit well together. It can be jarring to get into a game with your good friend and realize that you have entirely different approaches to gaming or even just that game. Or, because people are not perfectly consistent robots, personal changes and conflicts come to the table and a once well oiled machine is now cannibalizing itself. Once again, amazing that it doesn't have to be anyone's fault!

The third component is culture goodness of fit. This may be easiest to think about in the contexts of LARPs but I think it makes sense in even one-shots. Generally if there's a good fit between the players and GM, there will be a good cultural fit. However, conflict or interpersonal dynamics that aren't clear at jump can create a bad fit culturally. It could be a schedule goodness of fit/compatibility. If everyone but Daniel Desario can play on Saturdays and he can only play on Fridays, the day that half the group can never make it, he may not be a fit at this moment. Or it can be the game your running. Trying to run a cooperative game with a bunch of PVP loving players is not going to breed a good cultural fit. On this end I'm a big fan of discussing expectations up front and being open to players being honest. When I GM, I give every player a list with the following categories and 100 points to distribute between them "Combat, Mystery, Intrigue, Romanticism, and Exploration". That way I know what each player wants as well as group themes. I do this during character gen so that I get a feel for what themes I can bring to a game. Some GMs prefer to go in more set, and that's fine too but I still think expectations should be up front (but again, may be the school psychologist in me). I'm more fluid with my story based expectations but I am rigid in others, like making transphobic remarks or rape jokes is a quick way to get kicked out of any of my games because I think that creates a toxic culture in a game. Once again, goodness of fit and if you're looking for a game where you can make those jokes and have everyone yuck it up, you can go find that but it won't be at my gaming table!

I keep highlighting that goodness of fit is a no-fault explanation for why someone doesn't want to keep playing in a game or why you don't want someone to play in your game. How you broach the topic is up to you. This came up for me more in my college years, since now I know most of my friends well enough to know who will work well together. I've found being upfront about my strengths and weaknesses as a GM helps. I give people outs if they need it. I think a one-on-one sit down is how I would do it. Depending on the goodness of fit issue, I may offer them a spot in another of my games. Thankfully a lot of my friends are very self-insightful and are already having their own thoughts that it's not working out. We live in a society that functions on blame and shame, so carrying this message of "We're just not fitting together" can be taken as chiding but I don't think it's meant to be. Everyone wants to get their gaming needs met, and better they look for games where than can than be stuck in a game where they are struggling. Games are, after all, fun!
schoolpsychnerd: (del)
The tart sat on the game table, untouched but with my friends gathered around it. I am in an article of clothing that gives me permission to eat, which would sound ridiculous to anyone who has never had an eating disorder with that favorite side dish of dysmophia. That acute awareness that a flat stomach becomes less so after a meal. I have pleaded the fashion excuse, that my food consumption is like a physical visible panty line, it ruins the line of the dress. Yet now I am freed of those clothes and that character, now playing one who could care less what others think. I look at the tart, carob and pumpkin with an gluten free, vegan almond crust. I have made this tart once a month for a year. I know exactly what is in it. I have watched my friends’ faces light up as they eat it. I've heard from everyone how amazing it is. People have left notes on Facebook asking for the recipe.

I have never tasted it. I have no idea how true their statements are. But now I face a dilemma. I had promised my now former sponsor and my friend that I would eat a piece of the tart. My sponsor had ended our relationship two days ago and my friend was absent from game. No one would know if I didn't follow through and I tell myself no one would care. My anorexia whispers that I am just being dramatic, it doesn't matter to my recovery if I eat the stupid tart or not. It’s easier to just not eat at game anyway where everyone can see me eating. And if they see me eating and enjoying foods that magically always end up on my forbidden list they will all nod sagely and say “This is why Rachel is fat, we knew it!”. The thoughts crystallize around this and a pattern emerges.

Feeding others can be a skill that those with eating disorders develop. I've learned at meetings that I’m not the only one who makes huge elaborate meals for loved ones but never has a bite. I can think back to my last dinner party where I spent days on prep but never tasted any complete dish I made. Like the paragraph above, I have told myself time and again that I will take too much and then there will be nothing left for others. That I am a food hog who limits the enjoyment of others by curtailing their appetites with mine. In my mind I am 12 again with an overflowing buffet plate, foods I never get at home. Things that I want to try, that look good and smell good. My plate is piled high and I go to take more only to be told by a friend’s mother that I need to save some food for other people. But the past is window dressing, it both keeps people distracted from the mess of my mental house and calls them to look inside.

If you have always enjoyed food and eating for the most part, it makes sense to continue. The genetically loaded, nature cocked, and emotion triggered nature of my disorder took my enjoyment of food from me. My frontal lobe engages around food rather than the pleasure centers of my peers. Feeding them, at my most maladaptive, is a way to avoid eating by taking the attention off of me. Those who don’t know me will rarely ask why I’m not eating when presented with food. In my moments of clarity, I see it as connecting with something I lost. Like watching and old lover walk down the street deliriously happy with a new person. The moments are bittersweet. I want to join them though know I can’t (because reasons!) but I am also happy that they are happy. Through their love and enjoyment of my cooking I can vicariously enjoy food I haven’t allowed myself to eat. I want to join them but the thought feels physically painful. My anorexia is a too tight corset under my clothes that I am too afraid to loosen the laces of.

I didn't realize how weird it was to tell someone you like watching them eat until it slipped out at dinner with one of my best friends. After a meal of shared food and vulnerability, my tongue loosened and I said “I like watching you eat”. He blinked at me and said

“What does that mean?” in his gentle tone. This is before I had told him that I even had “food issues” or “body issues”. I had been trying to look as normal and healthy as possible with this person. Forcing myself to eat in front of them even when my anorexia was screaming at me and I knew I’d go run 5k after we ate. I had been caught letting my disease show, a slip poking out of the perfect little black dress.

“I….I just...you really enjoy food unabashedly and it gives me permission to enjoy it too.” in spite of all my control I could feel my shoulders hunch.

“Well thank you.” he said “I like eating with you too. You pick great places!” and bless that man for changing the topic.

There is a more generous side to this desire to watch others eat food that I have planned and prepped and plated meticulously. It is that I am learning, or maybe re-learning to enjoy to eat. It’s reprogramming, trying to override the hundreds of pro-ana websites, computer folders full of thinspiration, and my internalized bullshit beauty standards. I’m starting to step out of my confining “support” garments that really just make me feel more uncomfortable in my own skin and eat with friends. To take a piece of tart that I made and appreciate the sweetness of the perfectly shiny ganash, without thinking I will be weighed in the balance and found disgusting.

I turned to my above mentioned best friend and asked him to cut me a piece, him noting that I had never tried it. He cut one slice for himself and one slice for me, exactly like how my husband taught me to eat forbidden foods with him. I take a bite and in that moment, I begin to stop only window shopping.
schoolpsychnerd: (Chu)
In Judaism there's a concept of a wall around the Torah. It's essentially tightening religious regulations so that even if you break them, you still don't break the essential commandments. It leads to certain restrictions like women not even being allowed to be on the same side of the street as Haredi men or some of the more out there Kosher rules. It's supposed to be protective, knowing that even if we fall short then we still haven't done anything "unforgivable". Part of my anorexic thinking is a wall around my weight, food, feelings. I didn't realize I constructed these walls until I started trying to get back into cosplay.

The cardinal commandment of cosplay I heard was "Cosplay your body type". It seemed sensible at first, that someone well-endowed like me should not cosplay a character with smaller breasts because it just won't look right. My disease doesn't let me do sensible, which would have included the numerous problems with that statement. I took that commandment from Cosplay.com forum Sinai, but I broke it. I cosplayed characters that showed their stomach and while no one made comments, I felt revolting and disgusting, cosplaying midriff characters when I had anything but a flat stomach. My penance was swift and painful, I knew I would never do it again.

I built my walls, no stomach showing cosplay turned into no tight clothing cosplay, which became no thin character cosplay, at which point I had essentially stopped cosplaying. But I was safe. I never had to feel that anxious again. I was safe from the judgement of myself and the assumed judgement of others. I had decided the only way to be safe was to never cosplay at all. I will never look like Black Widow or Jean Grey or Yuna. I would look longingly at my friends who cosplayed, never once applying my rule to them, knowing I could never be like them. But my love of dress up wanted out, I took a tentative step outside, I cosplayed Poison Ivy to applause and compliments. I may have wept and fasted, wept and ran, seen my lunches grow ever smaller on their platter, but it was just Halloween so it should have been no great matter. I started to run up against the wall but this time I knew the only one who had built it, was me.

I couldn't see the wall because it became a way of life. It was the Way It Had Always Been so it must be the Holy Word right? It's not some people's interpretation of cosplay. It is the criteria that I will be judged on, did I cosplay a character whose body type was mine? I can see the holes, that this commandment is no longer relevant or healthy. But I still feel the urge to apply it to me. As I put on the catsuit for my black widow cosplay, the deviously pious voice of my anorexia says "Girls who look like you are not allowed to cosplay Black Widow." And yet, I make my costume anyway.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
So first I'm going to do an entry on the process of making my BW costume this year and then I may do another one all about my feelings around cosplay. Now for the fun post.

I told my friends I was going to be Black Widow this year in part to motivate me to actually do it. I tend to put things off when they're something I enjoy and even though I've said "When I have a salary I'll cosplay more" but I kept finding excuses not to. Some of them were run of the mill "Hmm, money, I need to plan and price everything!" others weer a bit more from the crazy side of my head "Oh, see that example, she's perfect for BW so why are you even trying?" Telling my friends I will do something tends to keep me accountable, and this time was no exception. I toyed with the idea of buying the Marvel merchandise costume to save time but it's expensive and from what I read of the reviews just not that great for what you pay. Most people ended up scrapping the accessories entirely, which is the hardest thing to get for BW so I decided to try making it.

The first thing was finding a catsuit, which shouldn't have been too hard. My main issue in this area is getting one that's meant more for costuming rather than latex-play. I found a few that I liked, alternating between Classic Black Widow and Marvel Cinematic Universe Black Widow. I decided for the time being to go with Classic Black Widow since it's how I first encountered the character and it's a bit less involved costume-wise. The Movie Widow's costume has lots of fiddly bits and patches. I like it because it makes her less cheesecake and more sensible but sexy bad-ass but buying a bunch of gun holsters and SHIELD patches to sew on and gloves and...you get the idea. I bought a reasonably priced catsuit that had great reviews, with many of the reviewers using it for Black Widow. I let [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas and Rogue talk me into buying the correct size instead of the distorted size. It came in the mail a week or so ago and fit perfectly! It's nice and warm too! Always fun to have a warm costume on Halloween! Also my butt looks fantastic in it!

Next came the accessories. Black Widow wears a belt and has her widow's bites. I have some extra weight lifting gloves that a friend gave us so I decided to use those since I would be gluing my Widow's Bites to them. I've seen a couple of different tutorials on how to make the bites, one using the mouthpieces of noise makers. I went to Michael's and saw they were out, but stumbled upon 1 dollar Avengers markers. They were the right size and the perfect shape. I painted them black first, to cover the art and color, and then gold except for the tip. The top layer is glued onto the gloves and the rest of the bites are drying. It looks better than my cardboard bites!

The belt is iconic but it's also a challenge. I talked to The Question about how to do it. I'd seen a lot of people using wooden craft disks or resin casting. The Question brought up resin casting but she said that she thought the disks would work as well. So I went with those. I hammered holes into them and after painting them threaded craft wire through them. They links aren't the prettiest but they aren't super visible when I'm wearing the costume. Again, this belt looks much better than the cardboard dots on a cloth belt that I wore last time.

Now to upgrades. I think the catsuit should last a while, so my next upgrade is going to be gloves and bites. Most cosplayers buy bullet bracelets so I'll likely upgrade to that for Anime Central or C2E2 (where I beg Bucky to go with me and cosplay The Winter Soldier because reasons) and get pleather gloves to match the catsuit. The belt is going to be last because it requires some time and the acquisition of a new skill. The wooden belt will hold for a while and should photograph well so I'm not too pressed to fix it yet.

Now all I have left to do is figure out the hair situation. Natasha, like many Marvel women, has a variety of hair styles. While it was straight in CA:TWS movie, in the movies it's traditionally been curly. Her hair's been straight or curly depending on the artist. I opted not to get a wig, giving me an excuse to henna my hair. I haven't straightened my hair in almost 5 years and don't own a flat iron. What do you all think?

I think the next costume I want to do/have is Jean Grey. I like her vintage dress (in iconic green and gold!) that she wears in All New X-Men. I also know there's a few of her in black pants with a Phoenix shirt and coat that I could quickly and easily put together for C2E2 or Anime Central. I would eventually like to do White Phoenix but a lot of components to that are more expensive do it's going to take some time before I can justify the cost to myself. Maybe I'll start assembling it slowly, since most Phoenix doesn't lend itself to my slow upgrade model.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
I've been GMing since my freshman year of high school. I ran 1 on 1 game for my friend Cory. As my social circle expanded I ran a VtM game that had like 13 people in it (who all crowded into Books-a-Million's small cafe, but we spent generously and were well behaved). I ran some one-shots in college, with my Little Fears game being particularly successful, but I didn't run anything long term. I'm not a huge rules person, I'm a very narrativist GM. Being a perfectionist and knowing I wasn't as amazing as the other GMs in university I didn't let myself run anything. I dipped my toes back in occasionally but like most gaming groups it was hard to finish stories.

I started running my summer session game, Flight of the Phoenix, with the desire to run a game for people who seem to always be GMing but don't get to play as much. I was really nervous, as I told [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas and Bucky, because everyone was so seasoned and was I going to be able to make it fun for them? I mean I am not a rules person at all so were they going to think the whole game was stupid because I was like "is that what you want to do? Hmm, sounds cool! Go for it and see if it works!"

And it did! We had our final session yesterday, a make up session for July when we only met once. I planned the game out like a TV season, with the idea that this season had 6 episodes. I let gaps in the scenery or description that the players asked about happen. My players have a huge base of both academic, life, and GM experience and seemed to really enjoy filling in the world. Mara's player created a university with rich details including that Archaeology students are the jocks of academia. [livejournal.com profile] drydem came up with this beautiful iconography for the god of night with his massive folklorist knowledge. Bartelby's player helped create the underworld smuggling network as well as providing foder for me to flesh out the Dragons. And of course, [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas was indispensable. [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas has written a lot about the world and has meticulously chronicled our sessions. I almost cried at the end of our session because my players all clapped for me. This is the first time I've finished an arc of a game (aside from the social skills gaming group). It was a game that had a clear beginning, middle, and end. The "Season Finale" gave opportunities for growth, closure, and exploration. It gave Mara a reason to leave Aurora, Petrichor and Autumn Oak a chance to go off on their own, and Bartelby to (like so many of Bucky's characters) say yes to things he probably should have said no to.

As an GM, I feel incredibly fulfilled by my players' enjoyment and success in the story. Watching how players shape stories is my favorite part of game. I'll grouse a little about [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas ruining my careful plot idea by stabbing someone but I love it. I used to say I was bad at thinking on my feet, and I may have been. But it's a skill that I've developed. I'm more comfortable with having a general idea of a plot hook for game and then seeing where they take it than I used to be. It's a lot like how I've grown as a mental health practitioner. I used to try and plan sessions meticulously, and yes there are students you need to do that for, but having an idea of what you generally work on and being present to help guide where the student takes it is very similar to being a GM.

My recent GMing experiences have taught me something, that I have a very approachable style for people who are new to RPGs. 99.9% of the kids in my social skills gaming group had never played an RPG before or they'd had bad experiences with D&D. I've got a player in my Princess game who has never really played in an RPG before. I also know how to use people's strengths. [livejournal.com profile] dorchadas is a human rule book without being a rules lawyer and is more than willing to fill me in and help me understand a rule. I know my style doesn't work for everyone but the great thing about being an adult with a large base of friends is that I get to pick who I play with. If someone's style doesn't match mine it's not going to torpedo may gaming life, and I'm often flexible as a GM (I just need people to give me a moment with basic math...accurate but slow or fast and wrong!).

I used to feel self-conscious about my GMing style and my skills, but I've started to value them. It can show people that there's more than one way to run a game. More than a few girls in my Social Skills gaming group talked to me about how I made up stories and ran games. It takes all kinds of people, players and GMs alike, to make games work and it's all about goodness of fit. Learning that my past GMing problems weren't because I was the Worst (though I was learning, as always), it's because there wasn't a good fit. Maybe I should write an article about goodness of fit and gaming!
schoolpsychnerd: (del)
I'm on a list for a book about eating disorders and archetypes and it's been interesting for me as a geek to think of characters or plot lines that have resonated with me.

Jean Grey has been my favorite X-man since I started reading the arc. Jean (like Storm, that's why I like them as friends, I think they understand each other) is all about control. And in her initial arcs she's someone who is talked about, she lacks agency and has to be the good girl, the Girl, on the team. And she is both incredibly self-less (when she sacrifices herself to save her team) and selfish (needing to be the hero, to be everything, is pretty self-focused). Jean has this force inside of her that she can sometimes keep under wraps but it comes out in big, destructive ways. And even when it's not active people still treat her like it is. It's always a part of her, Jean and the Phoenix was very much one and the Phoenix, like my ED doesn't give a fuck. I also feel like Jean is punished for her demons. When she "fails" to coddle Scott's ego, she's punished with an affair with Emma Frost (I fucking hate that. I want to rewrite one where Emma and Jean are friends because I think Emma has something that Jean needs. I realize as I write this it's no wonder Emma is my second favorite, Emma is the antithesis of my disorder.). And it even comes out in Logan. Granted Logan has different expectations for Jean but he still idealizes her in a way. But Logan also gets her demons more and I think that became more apparent in Endsong. Logan is the boyfriend you go to therapy with because he won't enable your bullshit. Cyclops doesn't care if you work out for 2 hours a day and eat less than 1000 calories as long as he doesn't have to see it or think about it. I married Logan, my rough around the edges, doesn't need to please everyone, will not let me get away with just becoming Dark Phoenix.

Well I guess I'll write about that now. Emma gets a lot of shit thrown at her and her family is 800 shades of fucked up. But Emma has a strong sense of self and who she is. Emma will not let others break her as personified by the diamond exterior. She wants to be liked but she has no illusions about her past or who she is. She considers herself impressive as is and fuck you if that's not enough. It's why I don't hate her with Cyclops because Emma is very self-possessed. And yeah, she treated Jean like shit but that's because writers have an inability to let similar women be friends. Like I said I want to write a comic where Jean and Emma are friends or even in this poly relationship with Cyclops (as much as I hate him). I love Emma, but I do not identify with Emma at all. Emma is aspirational (I used to say Thinspirational), Jean is the reality.

As for Black Widow, another person I deeply identify with in comics it makes sense. Natasha is a master spy and she is great at pleasing others. Natasha was created to do what other people wanted, it wasn't until she finally broke out of the red room training that she starts to be her own person, and even then people still question how much Natasha is her own person. Natasha's also a character who is very looks centered in spite of being amazing as a fighter and leader, people always go back to how she looks. And as we've seen again and again, it's easy for Natasha to go back to her old ways or have her identity stolen from her. She is Natasha Romanov, whatever that means, and the Black Widow. In a similar vein it's probably why I like Bucky with Natasha vs. any other person in the Marvel universe. Clint has the audacity to ask Natasha Fucking Romanov if she knows what it's like to be unmade, Bucky would NEVER ask that. Clint isn't a person you would tell you go to EDA, Bucky picks you up from meetings.

So I didn't hate Iron Man 3, because in the end I took away from it that fear of losing your identity. Tony throwing away the arc reactor spoke to me. In the book I'm reading now, Gaining, it talks a lot about how the most terrifying thing for most people with EDs is building a sense of self. I've been defined by my disorder, it's filled in for my sense of self for 15 years and losing that is terrified because in some way I don't know who I am without it. And there are times it has felt like my ED gave me super powers but those have almost killed me (think Iron Man 2) until I found a "better" way (I stopped throwing up 5 times a day and using IPECAC but I restricted and engaged in punishing workouts) but it still didn't change the problem and I didn't take the chance even when better options became available. It makes sense to me given that Stark in the comics is an alcoholic, his suit is a powerful metaphor for that and for any of us who struggle with unmanagablity. Even as brilliant as Tony is, even as much as he tries to manage it, he's still unmanageable and doesn't know who Tony Stark is. I think that's why RDJ is so perfect for the role given his own battles.

I've written about the Bruce Banner thing before, my eating disorder is the Hulk, it's a superpower that isn't really a superpower and just lives to control my life.

Maybe that's the theme for me with characters, I identify with characters that have these two sides inside of them, characters who struggle with identity because that's my struggle too. Like Jean and Natasha I want to be the star student, I want to make my teachers/parent figures proud. Like all of them there's this part of me that keeps me from really getting to know who I am. Thankfully, like all these characters, I have some amazing teammates who are on this journey with me. Even when my progress gets retconned, they're still there.
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