THIS HUNGER IS SECRET
MY JOURNEYS THROUGH MENTAL ILLNESS
It’s out! The Kindle text is ready! You can now get This Hunger Is Secret in paperback from Chipmunkapublishing’s website. The .pdf text at Chipmunkapublishing has been replaced so there are no more bugs in it. The Kindle text has now been replaced at Amazon as well.
Here is the link to the paperback:
Here is the link to the .pdf:
here’s the link to the Kindle:
Prices are as follows:
Paperback from the publisher: 14.99 British Pounds Sterling, $25.48 USD includes shipping.
E-book from the publisher in .pdf form: 5 British Pounds Sterling, $8.50 USD, downloaded, no shipping cost.
The Amazon Kindle version will be $8.99 USD to be delivered wirelessly.
American prices from Chipmunka will vary according to exchange rate in the future. The British price will remain the same.
I will have some copies available that I can sign. Please contact me if you’d like to purchase a signed copy directly from me! If you know me in person, you may want to do this!
Here is a link to my home site
So there you have it.
Pretty cool, eh? Nope, not out yet, but “coming soon.” You can order it now, though. I can’t imagine it will be more than another week before it’s officially out.
Well, I got my first review at Amazon…one star. Wow, cool to have a review, though. The author of the review stated that I was “all over the place.”
Well, gosh darn it, I AM all over the place! Heck, I am everywhere! Yippee!
No, the paperback is not officially out yet but you can pre-order it from the publisher!
Go to the sidebar. The link is right there on top.
Hint: when you get to the Chipmunkapublishing site, there is a drop-down menu on the RH side of the page. Switch British pounds to American dollars if you use American currency, or you can switch it to Euros if you live in a country that uses Euros. I think there is an Australian dollar option but I’m not sure.
The price is just over 25 bucks, lots more than I’d like it to be, but this does include shipping. The book is printed in both the US and the UK. I believe we are also printing in Australia. So if you live in those countries, it will not be an international shipment. I believe once the book is in print, it is shipped within 24 hours. I’m not sure how fast Amazon will be shipping.
Anyway, the e-book text has not yet been replaced that I know of. Still waiting on that one. Also, the pages where the book is displayed on the publisher’s site need to be fixed up. I e-mailed them from the hospital but have not yet received a reply. There are just a few technicalities that need to be taken care of.
You know, red tape.
I am proud to say that sometime the week of the 9th, I’ll be “signing off” my paperback, and it will be in print shortly. What is thrilling is that I am writing my “John Hancock” not here at home via e-mail, but in London, at my publisher’s office. My publisher is Chipmunkapublishing. The office itself is located in the Canary Wharf district. They have recently switched to a new building, but it is very close to the one I visited in November. I think their old building was being remodeled or something and this was the reason for the move.
Not only that, but very soon a new version of the e-book will be substituted for the old version. I believe this is a free download for those of you who already have the e-book, so long as you have a registered account with Chipmunkapublishing. I also believe Amazon will supply the Kindle update for free. Please, please don’t take my word for it, and wait till the substitution is made, in case I’m wrong about the free download. I’ll let you know when all’s a-okay.
How is the new e-book different? The main change is that all the glitches that appeared as a result of file conversion and passing from one computer to another (and between continents) have been fixed. The other major change is that my proofreader extraordinaire, Tiffany Maxwell, has rescued my punctuation and made it spotless. She also honored my request to fix up the technical problem with the dashes, substituting the clumsy-looking hyphens that Chipmunka put in there and changing them to proper “m” dashes. My publisher pointed out that the most important thing here was consistency.
I am now waiting for Will at Chipmunka to return the file I sent a while back. There were some page number issues that needed addressing. I’m sure the file will be in my hands very shortly, and we’ll be able to proceed.
While double-checking the new e-book file, I found spots in two chapters where the indented paragraphs were indented a speck too much. Just to make sure, I went through the entire file and checked that there were no other places where this occurred. There weren’t. All other problems were ones that occurred in my own copy-and-paste action, for whatever reason, and were simple to fix.
The weird thing was that the chapter that consistently messed up formatting-wise was the first of my two “Family Therapy” chapters, which are the funniest chapters of the book, in my opinion. Actually, I believe my wonderful stand-up comedy instructor, Bob Gautreau, would agree. My very first stand-up act was based on these chapters!
Above all I would like to say to writers out there, beware….If you do any editing to your Acknowledgements page, make sure you don’t accidentally delete someone’s name! I did exactly that. A while back, I found that the list was getting longer, and the page, therefore, had become cumbersome to read. So I simplified the entire page. This was when I made the accidental deletion. I’m so glad I read it all over carefully, and found my mistake in time.
In only two hours, the sun will be rising in London, England. Not long after, Jason, Will, and Andrew will be headed over to the Chipmunka offices. They will find my e-mail. Yes, the ball is rolling. Hello, World.
When we use swear words in speech, there are certain do’s and don’t’s. These have somewhat changed over the years, but I notice that despite the loosening of taboo, most people are cautious when using these words, and would agree with the statement, “It depends on the situation.” I know a few people who choose not to use these words ever, and others who come out with the “F” word a number of times in each sentence they utter.
Toward the end of his life, Joe used the “F” word indiscriminately. It wasn’t that he was angry, but rather that he’d adopted it as an adjective to use in a way that I use the word “wicked” in a sentence. I believe he was hardly aware that he was doing it, and had no clue that someone might not like hearing the word. People around us realized this, and lovingly forgave him. They knew that when he came up with the “F” word, it was more often than not a sign that he was overwhelmed with positive emotion, or extremely impressed with something, such as, “That’s fucking amazing!” I forgave him as well, even though I was occasionally embarrassed at places like restaurants where there were families seated nearby who may not want their kids to hear.
Which brings me to my next point: these words are still considered “adult language.” So in many families, it is considered taboo to say these words in front of kids or to teach a child to use them. We are warned of songs and movies that contain “adult language.” In many situations, it’s the law that this disclaimer is stated in reviews, introductions, and previews. If “adult language” shows up in a movie, it may be given a rating that indicates it’s meant for older audiences. If a movie is rated G, rest assured that you won’t find a single swear word in it. But of course it’s rather naive to believe that a child won’t learn these words as his or her English vocabulary increases.
As a kid growing up in the sixties, I was a latecomer to this type of vocabulary. To shelter a kid from “adult language” was the norm in those days. Sure, my dad would come out with “damn” at times if he accidentally hit his finger while trying to hammer in a nail, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t heard the word. It is weird how a kid mind works. For whatever reason, if “shit” had ever been uttered in my presence, it didn’t register at all until I was taught the word by another kid, who told me it was a sin to say it and made me promise I wouldn’t taddle on her. Eventually, we decided that some swear words were “dirtier” than others, so we ranked them. “Damn” was barely a swear. “Shit” was fairly bad. “Fuck” was an absolute no-no. We didn’t even think about “ass.” Ass was a kind of farm work animal that was mentioned a zillion times in our very own Bible, which of course among us Jews meant what the Christians refer to as the Old Testament, or, more specifically, the more holy part of the Bible, the Torah, or Five Books of Moses. Yeah, there are asses all over the Torah. I don’t recall hearing the word “asshole” until well into college. These swear word compounds, such as “motherfucking” or “bullshit” weren’t used much back then, at least to my recollection, with the exception of “Goddammit.”
My dad said “damn” and “goddamn” quite a bit, but usually he’d mutter these under his breath and never used them in his “lectures” to us about poor grades or about the evils of faking an illness to stay home from school. He’d swear to himself while fixing things if the fixes weren’t working out. Occasionally, he’d get pissed and say, “Goddammit, Julie, can’t you see I’m busy?” or something like that. My mom generally didn’t swear.
When I was in second grade…let’s see, I must have been just turning seven in the middle of the school year, in January…we went skiing and I had a bit of a tumble. I had a minor ankle sprain. I think I spent only a day on crutches, maybe two or three. It didn’t hurt but it was a good way to get excused from stuff I didn’t really want to do, such as making my bed or cleaning my room. My mom, remembering the advice of an aunt, had enrolled me in a music class, but I used the sprained ankle as excuse not to go. (Actually, this kid Robbie Blake, who used to tease me horribly, attended this class and terrorized me with a clave drenched with his saliva. Claves are generally used in pairs. These are wood sticks you hit together that make a nice plunking sound upon impact. I haven’t a clue if he had the other clave in his possession, but my main worry was the germ warfare.) So I was delighted to use the sprain as the perfect excuse to get out of going to this music class. My excuse worked brilliantly. A few days without being tormented by Robbie was very nice.
It came time for Show and Tell. Do they still play this game in schools? I got up in front of Miss MacDonald’s class, my homeroom, and did my little song and dance about “damn music lessons.” I was clueless that this wasn’t said in class or anywhere at the school. Miss MacDonald took me aside and lectured me on my inappropriate language. I was so, so embarrassed and I rarely made any presentations for Show and Tell for quite some time.
I believe I was in junior high when my brothers made an amazing discovery: Philip Roth’sPortnoy’s Complaint. Yep, they had leafed through the pages and bookmarked (a real bookmark? Huh?) the pages where there were zillions of swears. We read this in secrecy, over and over to ourselves and each other, clueless as to what was going on in the book. Looking back, I am fairly certain that our absolute favorite passage was just someone’s rant. There was a big problem that my brothers and I ran into when this paperback book ended up with its spine creased right at that page. I think it was then that our parents found out. I was embarrassed. We weren’t punished, though. The book was right on the bookshelf and not hidden away somewhere. It wasn’t like we’d gone leafing through my mother’s underwear drawer.
The word “nigger” had long since change status, but was far from the swear word it is today. My mom explained that the proper word was “negro,” and that “nigger” was bad because it was slang. We weren’t allowed to use slang, believe it or not. The explanation as to what constituted slang was very confusing. Slang was for low-lifes, my mom explained. We are a proper Jewish family.
In our neighborhood, we kids joked that parents, upon hearing their kids swear, would put soap in the kids’ mouths. We kids debated at length whether this constituted morally appropriate punishment. I heard rumor that there were a handful of parents that did, in fact, do the soap thing. They were probably from the same families where having Dad take off his belt to dole out punishment was an everyday occurrence, but that’s pure speculation on my part.
I believe it was one of my brothers who sang the praises of the word “fuck.” He pointed out that it was perhaps the most versatile word he knew. What I know now is that when a word becomes that versatile and flexible in the way it is used, it automatically becomes meaningless. After all, if one were to say “fuck you” to someone, what is one saying specifically? Nothing harmful, really. It does not constitute any kind of threat in the legal sense of in any other way. It says nothing that is tangible, so how can it truly be an insult? Saying “fuck you” causes no bodily harm. Bad vibes, yes, if you see human relation in terms of vibes. One thing is clear, though, it is generally considered to be a rude thing to say. One has to be careful when saying it in friendly manner or in jest, because surely it can be taken in a way that is not intended.
The last time I said the words “fuck you” to anyone, if I recall correctly, was while I was a patient at Walden Behavioral Care. This was after I had gone to my room and burst into tears in utter frustration because once again, I’d tried to make a point while in a group and I’d been interrupted and told that what I was saying was “inappropriate.” The staff absolutely loved using the word “inappropriate,” a word that is often used while correcting a child’s behavior. Of course, I hadn’t even finished making my point. My point was quite appropriate. I was interrupted mid-sentence, in fact. As a writer, I abhor censorship. I was furious. This was the one meeting I literally walked out of.
When you’re locked up and completely under control of these staff people in an eating disorders unit, that is, all bodily functions controlled and monitored by staff, all conversations monitored and eavesdropped on for “appropriateness,” you feel so, so vulnerable. If you have never been to one of these places, you just don’t know. The idea is that we are to completely give up all control over ourselves and bow down to these staff and their so-called research-backed “treatment.” They make every attempt to brainwash us into thinking that we know nothing, we are totally wrong about the world, and they are always, always the right ones. For some unfortunates, this brainwashing lasts a lifetime, and this is precisely how people are turned into chronic mental patients. I’ve been there, trust me.
In my utter despair, I ran to my room, burst into tears, and let myself have a nice good cry. I sobbed aloud. A staff person came in after a while and, assuming wrongly I was approaching a state of mental instability instead of reaping the benefits of letting out my frustrations aloud, attempted to tactfully calm me, saying, “Julie, deep breaths….” I was so furious, only because of her attitude, that is, her desire to censor my nice good cry in the name of keeping this unruly patient “under control,” that is, control of staff, that I blurted out that lovely two-word phrase, “Fuck you.” The look of shock on her face was priceless. I knew all along that the three actions I’d taken, that is, walking out after being censored, sobbing loudly, and then making the statement, “Fuck you,” were symbolic acts done as a matter of principle.
So in comes the covering weekend doc to see patients. Let me tell you about weekend doctors: These are highly paid folks who see patients for about two minutes each, or not at all, and charge a zillion to their insurance. At Walden, specifically on the eating disorders side, our weekend docs varied in quality of advice and prescribed “treatment” doled out. Most were residents from nearby hospitals. It is the law that while inpatient you have to be seen by a doctor every day, or at least I think it is, so this was all done as token so the hospital could say it had been done. We were told by staff that the weekend docs really couldn’t do anything, anyway, except to prescribe something like an antacid or Tylenol, or, in rare cases, to respond to an emergency. The weekend docs varied, like I said. From my point of view, some were worthless, some were…shall I say, assholes?…and some were darned interesting to talk to. Once, one of them took the time, quite a bit of time, actually, to carefully read my chart, but this, trust me, was a glaring exception, and this didn’t take place at Walden, hardly. (Let me add that most doctors of every specialty in most hospitals do not read patient charts but lie and say they do.)
It was no surprise to me, after having made this “fuck you” statement, that I was assigned as first in line to see the weekend doc. The staff, or, rather, most of the staff, probably figured I needed to be heavily medicated, that is, chemically forced to shut up and obey. Meanwhile, I had done quite a bit of written analysis of the situation. I considered myself well-prepared to see this doc. And I hoped I wouldn’t have to deal with one that fell into the “asshole” classification.
I walked in. The young doc I saw before me was a bearded guy, wearing, if I recall correctly, the classic hospital uniform often worn by nurses on medical floors. They no longer wear white, neither males nor females, except for their lab coats. This garb consists of loose button-down shirts or shirts that are snapped and have handy pockets, and drawstring or elastic waist pants that resemble the “johnny” pants often worn by patients. Women might wear flowery tops, and nurses in pediatric wards might wear teddy bear tops or tops that have candy canes, confetti, and ice cream cones printed on them, or perhaps cutesie cartoon kittens and puppies. You get the idea. The guy had a pen in his hand and my chart already out there before him.
He grinned at me. I grinned back. Our eyes met.
Anyone who sets pen to paper is a writer, but I was the only patient there, to my knowledge, with graduate training in writing. My training gave me incredible ability. I was only then beginning to realize this power, to seize it and put it to good use. So the fact that I had my notebook, with my writings inside, right in my hand while I sat there gave me all the confidence I needed.
The doc had already been primed by the staff, of course. I knew they’d told him I was “out of control.” I knew they’d hoped he would medicate me so I’d be less of a nuisance and less of a threat to them. I was a threat, actually, because I challenged the lies they used to keep control over the entire patient population.
The person he saw before him was hardly out of control. She was intelligent, well-educated, well-poised, witty, and articulate. In fact my skills in these areas were emerging rather suddenly and were a delight to me. With my written notes to back me, I told him in the most organized fashion I could, the story of what had happened. I ended with the statement I made a bit ago regarding the absolute harmlessness of the phrase “fuck you.” I pointed out that I had not hit anyone or caused bodily harm and I had not harmed myself. Then I said, “You know, doc, I could have said something far, far more hurtful, but I didn’t. I could have said, “You’re fat.”
Even before I said this, I had already won him over. We launched into a lively, intelligent, and enjoyable discussion. We laughed quite a bit. He seemed curious about my writing, so I shared a bit about my history, how I earned my degree…stuff like that. I asked him questions about his own life, how his studies were going, and I must say, of all the talks I had with doctors the entire time I’d been there, this was the most enjoyable and stimulating. I skipped out of there, precious notebook in hand, grinning at the nurses, whom I guessed would soon hear of the outcome: no meds, no chemical restraints for me. No sirree. Mostly because of my well-thought-out analysis of the words, “fuck you.”
Yes, writing is empowering. It’s the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. But powerful writing cannot be overdone or it loses its power. If you use too many exclamation points, they lose their power. If you use all CAPS, you risk discrediting yourself. And the same goes for overuse of swear words. Depending on your style, a swear word can be used to shock or amuse, or both. You might have one of your characters swear, and the meaning, intensity, and perhaps shock value of the swear will vary depending on the character. If the reader sees too much “fuck this” and “fuck that,” the word “fuck” fades into invisibility, losing all meaning and power.
I learned this the hard way while writing my chapter “Walking the Line” in my soon-to-be release-in-paperback memoir, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness. The voice of my character, that is, my voice, is a bit different in this chapter from the voice I wrote in in other chapters. My awesome advisor at Goddard, Beatrix Gates, was quick to point out my overuse of swear words. She made many suggestions as to how I could trim them out of the text, showing me line-by-line examples of how I might do this. I immediately saw what she was saying and realized how my overuse of profanity weakened my writing. In fact, all at once it was quite glaring and obvious to me. So I began the enjoyable process of very careful editing. I paid attention to rhythm and timing, and kept in mind the subtle humor I meant to convey as well.
Unfortunately, I did a reading of this piece far too soon, before I had done adequate trimming. It was the only reading I did while at Goddard that I’d say completely flopped. Not only that, but the glaring faults in my writing came clear to me while I was actually standing there, reading aloud to the audience. I watched in dread, out of the corner of my eye, the faces in the audience fall, and fall, and fall, not just a couple of faces, but what seemed to me like every single face before me.
Oh shit. Shit shit shit shit shit. I let my audience down. I disappointed them. I suck as a writer. I am an amateur, a coward. And so on.
Since then, I’ve been very careful when choosing what to read to an audience. Whether the work contained swear words or not didn’t matter so much as whether the work was adequately polished. I vowed that I would never, ever suck in front of an audience again. I decided that if I were to present an unpolished work, that is, a draft, it had to be presented in a certain way otherwise my presentation would flop miserably.
Yes, I have read unpolished works in front of audiences since then. But I learned my lesson. Remember the show “Candid Camera”? This was unpolished work at its finest. Before us, we didn’t see professional actors, but ordinary people with no training whatsoever who didn’t even know they were being filmed. And yet the show was hilarious. It was tastefully done, ironically, by lacking taste. The scenes were filmed as is, and then–hey, listen up, this is important–the film was clipped and edited and introduced with oh-just-so-perfect explanation, not too much and not too little, taking into account the concepts of suspense and anticipation. My guess that after all these decades, the show is still on air and still well-loved by young and old alike.
So I kept this in mind, quite a bit ago, when I read from my work, The It Notebook. This work is in fact what ended up being what I might call a “focused journal.” I’ve never altered any of it from its original, unpolished state. And yet I felt the work had enough merit and was timely enough that I wanted to present it to a live audience.
I picked out excerpts for their emotional intensity. I made sure that there was not only variety but stark contrast between the segments I chose. I kept my my entire reading relatively brief. I put all my heart, guts, and soul into my delivery. What I was presenting was a window, a rare glimpse into a very painful part of my life that had only recently ended, almost too recently. I stood there and wept while I read, not a lot, not in a way that interfered with my reading, not in a way that would make me appear helpless or out of control or someone to be pitied. My tears, which were of course involuntary, represented my candidness and honesty and depth of sharing. And you know something? It worked. It worked damn well.
This reading, done at the now-defunct Mouthful Reading Series, was in a way a closure for me on a chapter of my life, the chapter I think of as the time I spent with It. This time period seems like so, so long ago now, like history I guess. While I was going through it all, I had no clue if I would spend years with It, or if It would go away fairly quickly. In fact, the latter was the case. The act of writingThe It Notebook was what It was all about. The notebook had to be written because it was an intrinsic part of what I was going through. Never mind that while It was happening in my head, there was little else I could do but write.
I wrote. I empowered myself. It was all just so cool, now that I think of it. Looking back, I was beginning to find my Power long, long before it became clear to me that I was anything but powerless. This Power lay within the act of writing. It was always, always there, waiting me to grasp onto, and for the sake of survival, hold deeply within me, with full commitment, ever so close to my heart.
I surprised myself two days ago. I was lying on the acupuncture table with needles in me when suddenly I said to my acupuncturist that I was going to let go, that is, let go of the exes in my life. I can let go of my ex-therapist and all ex-therapists that were complete negative influences, because I no longer have to deal with them. I can let go of all the hospitals, nurses, doctors, and abusive mental health situations, cuz I’m not going back there (if I can help it) and will not have to endure such atrocity again. Mostly, I can let go of my ex-friends. What a blessing. Just not think about them. They are not part of my life anymore, meaning that I can stop dwelling on their hatred and ignorance and move forward without them. I should have done this ages ago.
That is not to say I won’t write about this stuff in a more general manner. Sure, informed consent is vital. I am against forced treatment in almost all cases. I have never known ECT to work for anyone. I won’t take psych meds but I don’t mind if you take them…and I hope you are informed about your treatment, too. I am sick of being taken with a grain of salt because of my psychiatric label, and I’m tired of being kept at a very long arm’s length because people are scared to get too involved. Yes, I know this is happening, I see the walls. It can get lonely in here.
My NEW case manager said that people with eating disorders lose friends. Losing friends just as universal an experience for people with ED as it is for people with schizophrenia. Eating disorders scare people just like cancer scares people.
Eating disorders strike differently than schizophrenia. To others, people with schizophrenia may appear to become ill very suddenly, suddenly act bizarre, suddenly end up in the hospital, or suddenly try (or succeed) in killing themselves. So losing friends can be very obvious and dramatic. Poof! You’re gone. You’re a freak so you’re out of my life. There is often so much focus and panic around the patient on the part of those that do stick around that this “dumping” may at first go unnoticed. Suddenly, it’s all about treatment or lack thereof.
And then, reality hits: no one’s there anymore. In my case, when I was first hospitalized and then got out, I came home to discover I no longer had the network of support that I had before I went in. (Never mind the eating disorder, which wasn’t being treated or recognized.)
Last night something super radical dawned on me: You know whom I can trust most? Other people with eating disorders, “recovered” or not. This is where the understanding is. This is where the true knowledge is. I went to my first support group meeting a couple of days ago specifically for folks like me, never mind the qualifications for this group. There was no gray area. These folks had serious eating disorders, not merely disordered eating or “food issues” or a “weight problem.”
Looking back, there was only one instance when I’ve been completely rejected by another person with an eating disorder. She assumed that I was just like her and her attitude was, “I can do it, so can you! Rah rah!” and when I failed to meet these expectations and er timeline, she rejected me. It wasn’t her fault, I just don’t think she had the disorder very long and her initial attempts at treatment were successful. This is only speculation on my part as to her motives. It was decades ago and doesn’t matter anymore, especially since what happened was atypical. Another person with an eating disorder dumped me quite dramatically in 1984 when she found out I tried to kill myself. A lot of people can’t handle something like that. I guess it’s some kind of deficiency, inability to admit there are a lot of very ugly sides of life that can’t and shouldn’t be denied, sanitized, swept under the rug, or ignored.
Just like shit. Shit is a human experience. If it ends up in the wrong place, you gotta clean up the mess, and no matter what, it’s gonna stink for a while.
There are some excellent suicide prevention organizations that are working on the political front to stop all this hush-hush about suicide. One organization points out that murder crimes are widely publicized, but suicide is kept hidden. A family will even lie that a member has died this way, or lie about the “real” reason someone ended up hospitalized. Some religions consider suicide a sin, and won’t do the same type of funeral. They won’t mourn the same way. Some will even go so far as to state that this person has gone to hell, though I haven’t heard this much lately.
What has the person really died of? The victim died of despair, depression, poverty, frustration, delusion. Perhaps it was a command hallucination, but generally, the person knows what they are doing and is oriented okay…as well oriented as you can be considering you’re doing something that can’t be reversed and you will exist no more. I feel that in no way should suicide be condemned. A person who is deeply depressed and does suicide has in fact died of a symptom of depression. Let’s take morality out of the picture. When you get desperate and perhaps cornered, you do what you have to do to survive, even if it means taking the step to end your life. This may sound completely contradictory, because suicide means you haven’t survived…but you do live on, actually. Your history will always be there.
I do not mean to say that if you’re thinking about suicide, you should go ahead and do it. Hardly. Chances are, what you’re going through is very, very temporary. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at how quickly life turns around, if you give it a chance. You’ll be surprised at exactly how it turns around. I’d suggest putting off the suicide act just one more day, or one more hour, if a day seems too long. I know cuz I’ve been there. No one has been exactly where you’ve been and no one feels what you feel, not exactly, cuz no one can get into your head, and no one has a right to claim that they can read your mind. But many people have been in similar situations that have caused them to choose death over life. So in that sense, you are not alone.
So when I share with others with ED’s, including some of you readers, I am sharing with folks who understand. That’s pretty cool, when you think about it. I truly believe that we are all different. I love diversity. It bugs me when someone claims they are exactly like me, cuz they aren’t, or when someone denies my uniqueness. We are all unique.
If you are suffering, know that while there are others who suffer greatly, some do struggle more than others. I have one brother who struggles more than the other does. The one who struggles less plainly admits it. This has nothing to do with your worth as a person. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all.
If we are to measure it by something measurable, such as money, it’s plain to see that some have more money than others. It’s a fact. I’d venture to say that regardless of quantity of money, some have more happiness than others. No, it’s not a moral or religious issue. Missing the bus is not a moral issue either. A lot of the time, it means you were just unlucky.
If I look at things this way, the way my life turned out, the fact that life has been so tragic and sad and the fact that I have to work a little harder than others to survive seems so much more bearable. I can just accept it. It doesn’t mean I’m weak or a sinner or any less of a person. Quite a bit of it was genetics and I had no choice from Day One. The part that’s wrong and immoral is the way that I am treated because I have a psychiatric label.
But as yesterday demonstrated (see yesterday’s entry) it’s all about presentation. I can be articulate. I can be self-assured and self-confident. I can do this, and at the same time, because I am upright and proud, freely admit that I have a disability, a psychiatric disability. I can state that not only am I not ashamed, but proud to have been brave enough to write, and continue to write about my unusual experiences. No one is exactly like me or you or anyone else. I can make meaning out of my experiences, and in so doing, make my experiences universal.
And so in stating this, I am proud to say that I will be “signing off” my paperback during the second week of July. I am proud to say that I will not be signing off via e-mail, but in Canary Wharf, London, at my publisher’s office in his presence. This means that at last, you can hold my words in your hand. I can even sign the book. The e-book text will be replaced with what I’ve got in the paperback, same text with the embarrassing glitches gone. I’ll let you know as soon as this occurs. I’m not sure how it will coincide with the paperback release.
I found out all that on Thursday, the same day that I lay on the acupuncture table and decided to let go of the bullshit in my life. The more I think about it, the more solid it all becomes. Being an asshole was a trap. I wasn’t therapized out of that trap, I wasn’t lectured out of it or dragged out of it or medicated out of it. The fact that I knew I was being rude didn’t change anything even though I enjoy my good manners. The problem was that it felt darned good to get revenge or plan revenge. It’s addicting.
I felt so validated when our group leader verified that people with eating disorders don’t do their eating disorders to control and manipulate others. They don’t do it to jerk around their partners, friends, families, and coworkers. My thought is that others react and feel manipulated and that is their feelings. I did not put these feelings into their heads. If they choose to condemn me for something that they think is my responsibility, then they need to take a good look at what’s deep inside.
Deep inside everyone is some damn ugly stuff. We look at someone who is suffering and deep down, wish they would suffer more. What I learned from writing fiction is that the more my main character is up against, the better. Fiction writers talk about giving their characters a hard time. Readers love to read about struggle, whether fact or fiction. Otherwise, there is no plot and no interest and the narrative usually goes nowhere. Some people enjoy violence, guts, and gore. Some people find this stuff quite satisfying. Some enjoy a good horror book, while others enjoy a more subtle violence.
The reasons why society rejects people who live on the fringe is because of the ugliness in people. I have to accept that this ugliness is just as much a part of our minds as shit is to the human experience. I dare anyone to outlaw shit. I think we’d be in a bit of trouble if that happened.
Meanwhile, may your toilet never clog. It’s just plain inconvenient when it does. And if you have to get rid of the toilet, for godsakes, replace it. Like I said, shit has to go somewhere, and it might as well go where it belongs.
On one hand, I wrote this today:
“March 10, 2012
Disgusted with waist size increase ___ and only ___ weight loss. Just so gross. Legs are disgusting. So ashamed of my fat chubby face. I feel dead inside.”
Here in my blog, I tell it like it is, and this is what I wrote, like it or not. This is how I live my life from day to day. I can and will change this but right now, this is the reality of what I live with and right now these are my feelings.
On the other hand, I am making some very positive changes in my life. I decided to change therapists. I have an excellent therapist for whom I have a lot of admiration but this is not working. I went sharply downhill when I started seeing her (the end of November 2010, right after National Novel Writing Month) and life has been shit this whole time.
My feelings are mixed about the future of therapy. Quitting entirely is the route I had originally thought I would go, but decided to try someone else. I have decided, though, not to drag things on and on with my current therapist and to end as quickly as possible. Of course I have no one lined up to replace her next week but as of today am sending out e-mails, and will be phoning people Monday. I am taking advantage of free introductory sessions. I am looking into anything out of the ordinary. One of these is acupuncture. I am contacting a couple of nutritionists as well, but I am not interested in nutritionists who talk out of textbooks and prescribe traditional “meal plans” that I am supposed to follow like a mindless robot that has no brain. I am flat out doing away with these weekly “weight-checks” and will no longer tolerate this outright humiliation. I have tried 12-step four times. I have mixed feelings about it all. Just mixed. I will look into it and will also look into Smart Recovery and get a bunch of books on different approaches. I have a list of books I want to read.
I am anything but a mindless robot with no brain.
I now see through my T’s reasoning in getting me hooked up with DMH. It was not for the purpose of “help” like I had originally thought. My T was actually thinking ahead and in her mind (so I speculate) thinking that if I had DMH, it would be easier on the paperwork to force me to give up my apartment and move into a group home! This would mean losing Puzzle! Right now, actually, during Thursday’s session, she again threatened that if I starve myself again, she’d send me to the state hospital. DMH involvement makes it a lot easier for this hospital admission to take place. This was her plan all along! Oh my god! Now I’m stuck with this useless, irresponsible DMH person who is a complete appendage to me, and an “easy in” to the state hospital system. Oh, shit.
Positive: My contact person at Chipmunkapublishing has written to me to tell me that he’ll be sending me a big file, the proof of my paperback, on Tuesday. I’m sure he’ll be e-mailing me with more information on this as well. I was so pleased to meet him when I was in London in November.
Positive: After a lengthy search, I finally found a decent deal on plane tix to London in July. I booked flight and lodgings both and will again be seeing my publisher.
I will be flat out broke and in serious debt for a long time. It will get paid off. It will get paid off. It will get paid off. And debt cannot harm me physically so long as I have a roof over my head and food on the table. I do have low-income housing and I do have food stamps and there are food pantries.
I have a lot to do today. I feel positive. I am looking toward the future. My eyes are placed on my head in such a way that they face forward, not back, always looking in the direction that my body is headed. I think this is telling me something.
I can ‘t really backtrack my entire thought processes this morning. I thought a lot about the link I posted yesterday, or maybe it was earlier today, the You-Tube done by, I assume, a high school girl who had anorexia. I started thinking a whole lot about this kid. I guessed that she was sixteen. I don’t know why, but sixteen strikes me as an extremely miserable age.
Sixteen was miserable for me, and I didn’t even have an illness. I was just a confused kid. I think all the kids were confused. If you ask most people, they’ll talk about the “good times” they had at high school, and look on their times participating in clubs and teams as fun and exciting. They’ll remember how fun it was to party with the other kids, and to get a little naughty.
Sixteen wasn’t like that for me. None of high school was like that for me. You’ll see this when you read This Hunger Is Secret. The experiences I had in high school were more than unusual. They were bizarre. No, I was not mentally ill at the time. I was involved in a very twisted, abusive friendship, and let me twist your arm a bit more and tell you that I was the one being abused. Bullying? I guess if you had to give it a name, any name, maybe it could be called that.
We’re talking about someone who called herself my best friend. We were always, always together, she and I. We were known for this. Such pairings, these close friendships, are not unusual in high school, and on the surface it appeared that we were just another of those duos that are inseparable, occasionally to the point of getting on everyone’s nerves.
But I had a secret. Actually, I was full of secrets. This Hunger Is Secret was given that title for a reason. In high school, I pasted a smile onto my face and made sure it stayed there all day long so no one would know that I felt like a complete fuck-up inside. I hated being her slave and I hated that she ran my life and I hated that I didn’t have a life of my own. I was so completely dominated by this girl that if I wanted to do something, I had to ask permission, and she knew my every move, all day long. I had no privacy and no dignity. I was allowed no other friends. What friends I had previously watched her turn me into her robot, and she either stole my other friends and took them as her own, or rejected my prior friends, pushing me further into isolation.
Perhaps, if you have been in an abusive partnership, you can see stark similarities. But we were thirteen years old when we met, freshmen in high school. I had only started menstruating and wearing a bra the previous school year. She was the same age. We were children.
And no, this wasn’t a one-week experiment. This lasted four years. For four years, I pretended to be thrilled to have this really close friend. I pretended to be having fun. Pretending itself was fun and challenging. I practiced my faces in the mirror. As the abuse worsened, I challenged myself to see just how much I could take. Problem was, it had already gone so far and so out of control that as a powerless child, there was nothing I could do to make it stop.
We met right away when freshman year started, in the high school band. Come winter, my family got involved. They invited her to come skiing with us. Now, there were four kids: me, my two baby brothers, and my friend, who was also one of us kids, one of the family. She was blonde and so were my brothers. I have brown hair, so it looked like I was the friend and she and my brothers were the family. She started calling my parents Mom and Dad. They let her do this. She started inviting herself to participate in family activities. They let her do this. My parents encouraged and endorsed this friendship, saying it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Do you see the trap I was in? For the four years of high school it only got worse and worse.
She started bossing around my brothers. They were very little, and didn’t know anything. She bossed me around and hit me in front of my little brothers. She started bossing around my parents. They didn’t recognize that she was doing this. Instead, they started doing things to try to please her. But if you’d asked either of them, she was a faithful, generous friend to me and a wonderful addition to our family. Our sick, sick family.
One of my brothers started acting up in school. He got in trouble because of temper tantrums and bad behavior. He got kicked out of a bunch of things and I guess you could say that at the time he had become a troubled kid. He ended up having to see a shrink and we went to a family therapist as part of all this. Family therapy was hopeless with my parents, the way they were, never really listening to us kids or to anyone for that matter. We burned out three family therapists over a period of, I guess, a year, probably less. I was sixteen then. My brother seems okay now, and is married and has kids and stuff. We don’t talk about it.
I was sixteen then. I didn’t have an illness, and I wasn’t messed up on drugs, but every day, I seriously considered taking my life. Sometimes it seemed like the only way out. I had no one to talk to. Everyone thought I was happy. If I had the guts to tell them what I thought and felt inside, and what I thought about my friend, they wouldn’t have believed me anyway.
I am asking you to believe me now. When my memoir, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness comes out, the truth will also come out. My chapter, “Locker #47,” describes my high school years. It is written in my voice, my voice at sixteen. My memoir is already out as an e-book, but the paperback version will be out very, very soon and it will be worth the wait. My story will be in print, on paper, as a book that people can hold, and turn the pages, and see what happened. And this isn’t the only story in there, of course. But with this publication happening within maybe a month, six weeks maybe, my life is going to change. A lot. The book isn’t just going to sit there. I am going to publicize. I want people to know what it’s like to have a mental illness. I know it’s really hard to publicize and market a book, especially when you’re not the super aggressive pushy type, and not even sociable, but I’ve got a handful of ideas, and the burning desire to want my voice to be heard.
I was thinking all this while getting ready to take Puzzle out this morning, showering and brushing my teeth and the like, when I realized that today is January 20 already, about a year since I left McLean Hospital in 2011 and began The It Notebook, a journal that I kept while I was very ill. I kept the journal for two months, then ended it. I believe every entry can be found here at this blog. I have not yet written the Introduction and Afterward of The It Notebook, which are the only two parts of the book that I will write in polished form. The rest is written once, then left as is. It is, after all, merely a journal. I plan to print out maybe two dozen copies of this very short book, and sell them for cheap, a buck or two, at readings, to anyone who may be curious. I consider this book to be a historical document of a very hard time of my life. Much of it is written in verse.
But I asked myself, when I thought of The It Notebook, what I had done since. What have I written? I have not been involved in any project. Not really. I started a novel revision course but I didn’t have the mental capability to concentrate well enough or work consistently enough on it to follow through. I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul, my fifth and favorite book, the novel I was trying to revise, remains in first draft form. (Dang, I love that book.) Besides this?
Besides this? Besides this? I have just turned 54 years old. I have survived 53, the most hellish year anyone could possibly imagine, and for the entire year, every day, I came to the computer, and sat here for hours, blogging, writing about myself, yes, myself, telling the world exactly what I was experiencing, feeling and thinking. I told the world about my suffering and misery. I told the world things that I hadn’t told anyone before. I wrote in my blog things I would never tell my therapist. When I had no hope, I wrote about my hopelessness. And when I felt that there was nothing left to live for, I said that, too.
I wrote so much about myself that I’d say that by now, I know myself very, very well. I think I have so much understanding through my writing and so much will to share my words that it’s time to start writing a new memoir.
I started planning things out while walking Puzzle. Chapters. Topics. What the heck I want this book to be about. How I want to say it. We came home. I fed Puzzle, packed for the library, and left. I stopped at the church on the way over and said hello to the minister. He was the first to hear of my plans. At the library, I wrote down notes longhand. Just ideas. Some came out as surprises. Some were rather detailed. Others came out in spurts.
But I had brought something with me that has never left the house. It was my calories and weight notebook. The secret notebook where I have written my food. I began this notebook October 9, 2011. The first page doesn’t contain any calories or food. It has the letter “S” written on it. S stands for starvation. I didn’t want to write the whole word. I was afraid, I guess, that someone might see it. I read the entire notebook, from the beginning, in October, until now. Then I wrote today’s entry.
“Friday, Jan 20, 2012
beginning my new book
My memoir about my anorexia
I did not eat today
Reading this entire notebook now
I have been so sick
I have put myself so close to death
Not just once or twice, but
every day that I have kept this notebook. Begun Oct 9, 2011.
Not recorded: For a month at least, and ending mid-December, I bought 2 2L bottles diet soda, guzzled them @ night. I stopped.
I still desire thinness and intend to continue starving myself. This is how I survive.”
When the library closed, I walked over to CVS and bought a new notebook. I decided to include the “S” notebook, along with last summer’s Starvation Spreadsheets, in my new memoir. Somehow, I’ll figure out which parts need to be edited out.
After I got home, I read the entire “S” notebook again, and cried. I’ll share some of it with you sometime. Maybe. Or maybe you’ll just have to wait for the paperback.