Monday, February 11, 2008

A partial equation

In thinking over my post about hormones and what not, I realized that I left out some key components to the equation. It was not just the surge of certain hormones that led to the 5150s. Instead it was a combination of three things -- hormones, lack of sleep, and poor eating. I know that I cannot necessarily control the first but the others I do. And this is probably why now in my life I have such an in-depth relationship with food, so to speak.

I normally sleep four to six hours a night. While I can survive on four hours a night for a few days, the practice starts to take its toll by the end of a week. In all of the times during which I felt suicidal, I had been sleeping four hours a night for at least three to four weeks. Almost hand-in-hand with the irregular sleep patterns went poor eating. Actually that first time, the poor eating was not necessarily of my choosing.

That time I had just lost my part-time job; they told me that they decided that they needed someone who could work full-time. Fortunately I was able to go back to one of my old supervisors and to get my old job back. (I was in college at the time.) My job paid for my monthly expenses outside of rent. And some of my books. My dad paid for tuition, rent and some of my other expenses. It was the beginning of the term and both were due. When I called my dad to ask where the check was, he said, "In the mail." I waited a couple of days and checked the mail. No check. I called to ask about the money and was told, "Oh, I forgot to mail it the other day. I'll put it in the mail today." This went on for weeks. (My father later told me that he was being audited by the IRS and so he didn't have much available cash. I told him that I wish he had told me this then. I guess he was ashamed. I was starving.) I was so broke eventually that Emerald and her roommate, my neighbors at that time, laid down a rule. Anyone hung out with them had to meet a minimum weight requirement. Every night they would knock on my door at dinner time to let me know that dinner was ready. (This is the point at which Emerald became my best friend for life. And in later years we bonded even more over her insecurities. She is one of the most beautiful women I know but she always felt inferior to me. Because I was the skinnier, more fair-skinned of the two of us. And that's probably part of my anger at the world. That they can't see how wonderful she is because of their narrow views of beauty.) Most days it was the only meal that I had. If they hadn't been feeding me, I probably would have lost even more weight. When I returned home, I weighed 110 pounds. I'm 5'10". Picture that in your mind. A year later my mother told me how frightening I looked when I stepped off the plane. (I told y'all that my mother had been there for me in some really bad times.) She made me go to a doctor immediately who told me that five more pounds and I would have found myself in a hospital hooked up to an IV.

You would have thought that that would have been enough for me but I kept going through the cycle until I did a full year of therapy. And it was shortly after this that I realized the combination of events. I also learned a great number of tools to help me cope when things are bad. So first and foremost, I make sure that I am eating well and that I'm getting adequate sleep. The latter can be a bit more challenging since I have suffered from insomnia since high school. But somewhere along the line, I bought into what the first therapist said -- I really wanted to live and I was just trying to ask for help because I didn't know any other way to ask.

And during these last couple of years was the first time that I have really felt like I wanted to live. Because one of the ground rules that I set down was that it had to be on my terms and not someone else's. Because I finally started to truly believe what others had been trying to tell me -- I am a wonderful person. And that I always have the power to define myself.

Oh, and these are for Jill. Because I know how much she loves to see B&N.

Oh, and I've come to realize something recently. I used to get upset when Boris would try to eat Natasha's food. What I have noticed is that she will sniff the food and then walk off. Boris will then eat a few nibbles from her dish. When she returns and sees that some is gone, she then eats the food. Silly me didn't realize that Boris is the royal taster.

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