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March, 2017:

Giving Myself Permission to be First

Making myself a priority is not an area where I excel. I put my work first. I put my goals first. I put other people ahead of taking care of myself. I didn’t want to be in a position where I felt like I was letting people down, especially when it seems like everyone around me is doing so much more than me.

I know, quit comparing my insides to their outsides.

The Road Not Taken by Greg Westfall from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Lately, I’ve felt like a typical lawyer: I get up; I go to the office; I do client work; I go home; I wake up the next day and do it all again. This isn’t what I wanted for my life. I’m so drained by the time I leave the office, I barely have enough energy to work on my blogs, let alone new projects.

I’ve been working on my first online course, but it’s been a much slower process than I envisioned. As long as I need sleep to function, I don’t have enough energy or bandwidth to just work on this just in the evening and on weekends and expect to bring it to market. It needs substantial blocks of uninterrupted time. The hackathon method has been effective so far, when I do it.

Yesterday, I decided the right thing to do to get this course done is to take one weekday every week to stay home and crank on this project. I think this is the only way to give myself the time and space I need for this creative endeavor.

Yeah, that’s me with fire breathers. 
Photo by Annie Christodoulou

So that’s my plan – I’m going back on the road less traveled and clearing my calendar one day a week until this course is done. I hope once I re-dedicate substantial time to this project, that it will have a snowball effect and I’ll be even more jazzed about it instead of being crippled by the fear of failure.

I’m reminded of the Beverly Sill’s saying: “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” One step at a time, one component at a time, this is going to get done. And likewise, if I want a lifestyle that works for me, I have to make it happen.

Footnote: I have no plans to leave my firm. I love working at Venjuris, but I need to balance client work (which is so satisfying to help people in a way that they can’t do for themselves) with speaking, writing, and other projects. It’s just who I am. I’ve never been normal, and I’m not going to start now.

My Disease is Always with Me

My disease is a bitch. Even in recovery, there isn’t a day that I’m not aware that I have an eating disorder.

The best way I can describe my disease is it’s the Fast-Eddie-used-car-salesman-older-cousin of The Oatmeal’s The Blerch. It feels like it’s floating next to me, everywhere I go, and I can’t shut him up. For St. Patrick’s Day, I had a constant barrage of thoughts about binging and purging. I felt like my Blerch was hovering next to me saying:

Back to My Old Life: Alone by Rachmanuddin Chair Yahya from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

“Check out all the St. Patrick’s Day goodies. You can have an entire tray of cupcakes with green sugary buttercream frosting. Oh – and a Shamrock shake. You’ve never had one of those. You can eat all the things, and don’t worry about the calories – because you won’t keep it down. It’s win-win. It’ll be great.”

Reality check: When I was in my active disease, forcing myself to binge and purge was not great. It hurt – a lot. Eating that much hurt my stomach, and then forcing it to contract to vomit really hurt. It’s violent, and when it’s over, my head throbbed, I had no energy, and I felt like shit.

Ugh. I wanted to growl, “Shut up shut up shut up. Shut the fuck up!” My disease tried to convince me that it’s not dangerous, that all the literature that binging and purging is hard on your heart and rips your esophagus apart was written by neurotic doctors. My disease said those are rare instances. It wouldn’t happen to me. Reality check: Eating disorders have the highest morbidity rate of any mental illness.

I dragged my fingers through my hair in frustration, then grabbed my phone and sent a single request to two of my confidants: “Tell me again why it’s bad to eat all the things and puke my guts out. My disease is messing with my head.” They both reminded me of the myriad of ways this disease can destroy my health. One of my confidants is also in recovery from an eating disorder. He reminded me of the powerlessness that comes with this disease. Giving in once makes it that much harder not to give in next time (and the next time, and the next).

I asked my therapist if my Blerch will ever go away. He said it might not, but it can get quieter. I likened that idea to Russell Crowe as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind making the decision to ignore his hallucinations, though they seem to always be lurking in the shadows. As he said, “I’ve gotten used to ignoring them and I think, as a result, they’ve kind of given up on me. I think that’s what it’s like with all our dreams and our nightmares . . . we’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”

I’m not fond of the idea of living with my Blerch for the rest of my life, but that may not be something I can control. The disease of addiction never goes away. My default setting may always be to self-medicate and self-destruct, but choosing recovery means I don’t have the luxury of indulging these thoughts. Perhaps if I ignore it long enough, my Blerch will finally shut up.

Not Running is Not an Option

I’m at a point in my life where not getting a workout every day is not an option. Getting up early to go for a run at sunrise helps me feel calm and focused throughout the day. It’s so peaceful to start my day pounding pavement by myself with music or podcasts in my ears. Starting my day with a run helps with my entire demeanor.

Arizona Cactus Sunrise by WillHolmes from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

And have you seen a sunrise in the desert? It’s gorgeous!

I know I have no sense of moderation, so I have to be careful not to over train and take out my shins or my feet. As an act of self-care, I skipped running on Tuesday this week and went to the office early instead. By 10:30am, I hated everyone on the planet.

Lesson Learned:
Skipping Workout = Bad Idea

I know some people who run every day, no matter what, but I was pretty sure that’s not a good idea for me, even if I’m only doing 4-6 miles/day and 20 minutes of yoga for runners. I reached out to triathlon coach David Roher for his recommendation. (He wrote my training schedule for my last half marathon.) He suggested running no more than two days in a row and biking on my off days.

Based on David’s advice, I think this will be my workout schedule for a typical week:

  • Day 1: Run and yoga
  • Day 2: Run and yoga
  • Day 3: Bike
  • Day 4: Run and yoga
  • Day 5: Run and yoga
  • Day 6: Bike
  • Day 7: Fun Workout

I want to use my fun workouts to get my sweat on by doing things besides running. It could be walking around a museum or street fair, hiking, rock climbing, going to the ropes course, horseback riding, step aerobics – really anything goes as long as it’s a workout.

With all the client work, speaking engagements, new projects, and the California bar exam on my plate this year, taking time every day to move my muscles and clear my head is going to be essential for my sanity.

Suicide or Homicide

Every person, when pushed to their limit, is a Suicide or a Homicide. The Homicides are people who take their stress and frustration out on other people who don’t deserve it and blame others for their misfortune. These are people who scream at wait staff, key your car, engage in road rage, and get referred for anger management training. In the worst-case scenario, these are also the people who “go postal” and physically attack others.

Image by eflon (Creative Commons License)

The Suicides are the opposite. When they reach their breaking point, they self-destruct and vent their emotions against themselves. A Suicide who acts out will berate themselves, engage in self-injury or eating disorders, self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, and possibly attempt suicide (accidentally or intentionally). The Suicides are sly because a lot of what they do happens behind closed doors or only in their minds. Outsiders often only get to hear about a Suicide’s process after it’s over. It’s not a public display like a Homicide.

I’m a total Suicide – always have been, probably always will be. I remember being self-destructive when I was just 8 years old. One day, I was really angry about something, and I decided the best way to deal with it was to cross the monkey bars in the backyard 100 times. Don’t ask – it made sense at the time. Around pass 65, my hand started to feel weird but I didn’t stop. Finally, after pass 88 I took my hand down from the bar and saw I had a huge blister that covered my palm that had popped.

Even as an adult, I’m a Suicide. Early on in my relationship with my current therapist, he started to confront me by saying, “Don’t throw the pillow me, but . . .” When I see my therapist, the first thing I do when I get into his office is take off my shoes and make myself comfortable on his couch, usually with a pillow under my head and another one my knees. I started laughing and said, “You know I’m only a threat to myself.” I’m such a non-threat, it would never cross my mind to do such a thing.

One of the ways I knew I was getting healthier in early recovery was when I started to shift from being a Suicide to having appropriate angry thoughts against other when warranted. Such as, when a person cuts me off in traffic, puts pressure on me, or says something rude, instead of wanting to take the negativity out of myself, I had fleeting non-serious thoughts like, “You’re an asshole,” “I’m going to kill you for this,” and “I hope you get crabs.” Remember, I said they were fleeting thoughts and I’m still inherently a Suicide. I don’t actually wish ill-will on others. These thoughts mean I can direct my anger at the appropriate target instead of myself and in a way that validates my feelings and without causing harm. I don’t always deal with my emotions in an appropriate manner, but I’m getting better.

Author’s Note: Using “suicide” and “homicide” in this post may be crass, but I assure you, it’s not meant to be offensive or minimize the experience of anyone who has been truly suicidal or homicidal. It’s just how my mind works – I process ideas best in unambiguous forms so I can’t overthink them. I think I picked up this idiom from someone else in the recovery community. When I first heard this idea, it made perfect sense to me. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t use it. If you feel suicidal or homicidal, please seek help.

Mulling Over my Gender Identity

It’s been about three months since I came out about questioning my gender. For now, I’m most comfortable identifying as non-gendered. I don’t feel like I fit with the concept of being a woman or a man. This is quite freeing, and a source of insecurity. It’s also exhausting.

Self Portrait at Dawn by Jörg Reuter from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’ve been paying more attention to my physical body – how I wish it looked, and how these thoughts fit into my gender identity. For the most part, I’m not a fan of my feminine curves. I’d rather see myself with muscle definition – especially vertical lines on my abs and striations on my shoulders – but still maintain a thigh gap. I’ve never been a fan of my own boobs. They serve no purpose and I wish they would shrink. I’d rather have muscular pecs than tits.

I wish I could pass as male or female and/or be so androgynous that strangers aren’t sure how to interact with me because of my unknown gender. It would give me a “blank slate” to play with. As it is, my dress varies widely day-to-day. In one week I wore a feminine top with a bound chest, a shirt and tie, and a dress and heels. I was also giddy when my new Starfleet uniform arrived – the red mini dress from the Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Despite my desire to have an androgynous shape, I think my hips will disclose my biological sex. Even before puberty, my hip bones stuck out, and now, I have curves that I fear can’t be slimmed through diet and exercise. And while I know I have a “good butt,” I prefer to keep it smaller, firmer, and lifted. Being curvaceous does nothing for me.

Note: these are my thoughts about myself. I feel no animosity towards the female shape on other people and U.S. standards for beauty.

Image from Last Year’s Junkyard Photoshoot by Devon Christopher Adams (Used with Permission)

It became obvious that I want to be more androgynous when I was invited to the annual Junkyard Photoshoot. I went last year and had a blast. And I enjoy being a model – getting to show different emotions and aspects of my personality. When I model, I always want to feel my inner strength.

But this year, I declined the invitation. This is an open photoshoot where models and photographers get to show up, have fun reign of the junkyard to do almost anything we want. Most of the models are women, and many of them use the setting to pose in lingerie or less – very over-the-top sexy. (And a lot of female models do this type of modeling. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just not for me.) I’d rather be in jeans and a tank top, feeling more like Wolverine than a centerfold.

I decided not to go for two reasons:

  1. I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin. Questioning my gender and other events exacerbated my depression, so I didn’t feel strong and confident. It wasn’t a good space to be in for going into an artistic setting where there would be lots of people I’d never met before.
  2. I was afraid of feeling rejected by photographers who wouldn’t want to work with me. (I know, they can go fornicate with themselves, but easier said than done when I’m feeling vulnerable.)

I’m still mulling over lots of different thoughts about gender identity and how I interact with a mostly two-gendered society. The more I learn about myself, the more I realize that many social norms don’t apply to me.