Sunday, June 4, 2017

Why I Don't Want to Live Forever

When I was younger, I wanted to be immortal. I watched Highlander (the movies and the series) and read about vampires and other immortal creatures. I never understood why they were either tormented and sad all the time, or really really nasty. I thought it was just because you needed bad guys for the plot and happy immortals didn't really lend itself well to a good plot either.

Going off on a tangent: when I was 9 I got a cat. His name was Pizza (silly name, but I didn't come up with it). I loved him very much. He was with me all through my teenage years (which were extremely hard and difficult for me, emotionally). He was a steady rock; his love was always there, always abiding. Of everyone in my life, I could always count on him to approve of me, to love me, to enjoy being around me and with me.

When he passed away, it felt like a hole was ripped in my heart, and all the love I felt for him was hemorrhaging out the hole, no longer reciprocated. It took five years for me to "recover" from the grief. But I had my parents, as I was still living with them. And I had Pippin.

Pippin was a Maine Coon I got because of all the cats I read about, Maine Coons matched Pizza's caring personality the best. I didn't really mean to get Pippin so soon after Pizza died. I was simply visiting breeders to have an idea who to choose. And Pippin chose me.

Pippin was different than Pizza. He was just as loving, just as caring, but he had health problems (it was a bad breeder I got him from) and I took care of him just as much as he took care of me. Our relationship was deeper, more nuanced. Pippin was, quite honestly, my best friend. He helped me with my anxiety and depression and enabled me to function with a fair amount of ease in the "real world." And I did the same for him.

With him by my side, I even felt strong enough (emotionally) to move out into a house of my own.

That meant that when he passed away, it hurt even worse. The hole was bigger this time ... I hadn't known that was possible. Compounding the issue was I had no one. I was completely alone for the first time in my life and I surprised myself by hating it with a passion. While my human friends and family tried to "be there" for me, it wasn't the same. They had their lives and their own concerns and I felt guilty inflicting my grief on them, especially when it didn't get better.

So I turned it inward against myself. Four years and I am still hemorrhaging. Four years and I have new friends--Colby and Apricot and Thimble. Three lovely cats who care for me and love me and help with my anxiety. And I am still hemorrhaging. I'm barely hanging on emotionally. The least disturbance to my routines, my friendships with humans, and I fall apart.

Yet I cannot cry. I rarely smile, much less laugh. I'm isolating myself and I know it's not healthy but losing Pippin hurt so much I don't want to love anyone else that deeply ...

But I do. It's what I do. I'm capable of deep love and I need it. I need the connections. I need the stability love brings. I love my boys, my CAT. I love my parents, my siblings. I love my friends (well, some of them!)

I knew Pippin fourteen years, and the same for Pizza. I've known my parents all my life. How much deeper will my grief be when they pass away? And I'm the youngest of my siblings. If life goes the way it should, they will pass away before I do. I will experience the grief for all of them.

Who wants to live forever? I certainly don't.

When you have lived long enough
and have lost enough of those you love so dearly
that there are more holes in your heart than heart,

You will understand that death is not a foe to be fought,
but instead a friend
to be welcomed in the fullness of time
who will fold you in gentle darkness
and in that last moment

you will know peace. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Old Me

Yesterday Facebook threw up a post in my face that came from my past. March 2013. It was about eating chocolate chip cookies from the Publix bakery.

Thanks Facebook. As if I needed a reminder of a time when I only had two diagnosed anxiety disorders and not five. The time before Pippin died. A time when I could eat four chocolate chip cookies on the way home from the bakery without worrying about how many calories was in them.

It's bad enough that I suspect half my friends want the old me back. I want the old me back, too. I've waited a long time for her to come back.

But I don't think she ever will. This is my reality now, and I have to accept it. Pippin is never coming back. I have CAT now: Colby Apricot and Thimble. I do have an eating disorder which I have to manage carefully.

And I am different. My personality has changed, and I'm just going to have to get used to that. I have different routines now.

Maybe part of it is just growing up, too. I have better emotional regulation now. That sounds better than saying I only have surface emotions anymore, and that inside I just feel numb all the time. Right?

In some ways, though, I like myself better now. I never really liked being a drama queen. Even when I was in the throes of emotions there was a part of me that would have really preferred not to be. I like the new calmer me. Even if I feel mostly just numb.

I do wish my sensory processing disorder hadn't gotten worse, though. It's hard enough to be around people, without having everything be too-loud-too-bright-too-smelly. I mean, it was before, but now it's worse. I mean really. Perfume serves absolutely no purpose, and it just makes you stinky. It baffles me why people wear it.

I had previously learned how to cope with a certain level of sensory assault. Now that it's worse, some of my coping mechanisms aren't sufficient anymore. And it's taking me a while to learn new ones. It's exhausting.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Eating Disorder One-Year Update

I'll start with a summary in case you haven't been following my journey.

At the end of November 2015, I began to suspect I had an eating disorder. I even knew what type, I thought. Binge eating disorder. This is where you eat large amounts of food, beyond the point where you're full, beyond the point where you want any more, and in fact you keep stuffing food into your mouth whether you want it or not.

The loss of personal control is very alarming, and I begin to think I might need to do something about it. But it was only the one time, right?

It happened three more times before the end of December and at that point I thought I really needed to do something.

About that time I came across an app, which allowed you to record your food with great ease, including recipes you made yourself. So being the scientist that I am, I decided to gather data before I made a decision.

After two weeks of gathering data, I realized several things. First, I didn't have binge eating disorder. I had binge/starve eating disorder. And the starving part, all unbeknownst to me, was actually what was triggering the bingeing.

Yes, that's right, I didn't even realize I was starving myself. I thought this was a normal amount of food for someone my size to be eating. I was eating about half of what I should be eating. It's no wonder that I started bingeing. My body was desperate for food.

The other thing I realized, was that I was eating a quarter of the protein that I should. Part of this was due to the fact that I am allergic to chicken, and part of it's due to the fact that meat protein is expensive.

Now that I had data, I needed to do something about it. It was obvious (to me, anyway) that what I needed to do was even out my calories, so that I was eating the same amount each day. This would prevent me from starving or bingeing.

I looked up on the web in multiple places how much I should be eating. Turns out there are two different calculations, but they both came out to about the same amount. I didn't believe either one.

So I set my base calories in the app to 1200. Which is about 300 more than I had been eating on a regular day. This was at the end of January 2016.

Over the next few months, I increase my protein intake. I also had to keep increasing my base calories. Mostly because I kept losing weight. I know that at this point many people would have loved to be in my position, but the fact is, I had lost so much weight that I was getting into the danger zone. I seriously did not need to lose any more.

I finally got my base calories to the point where I was no longer losing weight. Want to guess what it was? The exact amount that has been recommended by the calculations on the web. I guess I should've believed them in the first place.

In addition, because protein is expensive, I decided to try and do something with it: try to gain muscle by getting an exercise bike and using it while I played my video games. This meant that I had to eat more, to compensate for the extra exercise.

The results of this side experiment were absolutely fascinating. For the first time in my life, I actually gained upper body muscle.

I found a really good website, called Eat More to Weigh Less. While I was not trying to lose weight, it really helped me understand how your metabolism works, and the damage I had done to myself by eating so little all those years.

Granted, I hadn't been eating at quite that lower level, all my life. But I had been doing it to some extent and it just got worse in the three years before 2016. A lot worse.

At first, increasing my metabolic rate led to nothing but annoyance. I had to start cutting my fingernails more often. I had to start washing my hair more often, as my head's oil production increased.

And oh my goodness, eating all that food. It takes ages to eat enough food. Unless of course you go to a restaurant and then you can do your entire days' allowance in one meal. However this leaves me hungry for the rest of the day, and I don't exactly appreciate being hungry.

And that was another thing I did not appreciate about increasing my metabolic rate. I started getting hungry again. Apparently, if you eat a small enough amount for a long enough time, your brain turns off your hunger signals.

In addition, remember my social anxiety that results from being around people? It was one of the reasons why I had stopped eating in the first place. I don't get hungry when I'm anxious. I still don't. But there's no way I can eat that much food at night, so I had to start eating at work anyway.

So there were a lot of roadblocks along the way. Including the reactions of other people. Most people did not understand, and thought that my sudden calorie counting was an indication of an eating disorder, not a solution to one.

The few people that I did explain it to, while supportive, still did not fully understand. I believe there was only one person who actually got it.

This made it very difficult to eat while being around other people. Added to that, was the fact that when you start eating twice as much, you start paying twice as much for groceries. Which meant I had less money to go around for say, going to a restaurant.

I tried, for a while. Going out to eat with friends was part of my routine, and being autistic I hate giving up my routines. But it just got too difficult, to watch other people eating what looked like massive amounts of food, when I knew that if I ate that much, I couldn't eat anything else for the day. Add in the judge-y stares from other people and I just gave up.

(I'm not kidding about the restaurant meals. The burger I used to get at Ruby Tuesday's is over 2000 calories. That's without fries or any other kind of side.)

I even got a pressure cooker in July, and started cooking a lot. I had always been a baker, not someone who cooks.

The reason why am writing this post, is that I am a year into this recovery process. I'm more comfortable talking about it, and I wanted to record my progress.

So if you add in my exercise calories, I am now eating over 2000 calories a day. This still seems slightly incredible to me, but I've gotten used to it. I even get a little resentful, if I don't get to eat everything. For example if on a Sunday I don't exercise as much, and watch TV a lot.

I'm finally starting to see good things coming from increasing my metabolic rate. I can function well with less sleep. I'm not quite as cold, usually, although this is still a problem.

And I can carry all three cats in one crate, although I cannot lift it or lower it to the ground. That's over 45 pounds. Never in my life did I think that I would ever be able to lift that much. OK technically I'm still just carrying it, not lifting. But still.

Physically I feel stronger and more able to do things. It's nice to be able to lift stuff, even stuff that doesn't weigh as much is 45 pounds. And not be exhausted.

Emotionally I am still struggling with this whole eating disorder thing. I can still feel the impulse to eat less when I'm stressed, and to eat more when I'm not. This is not a good thing.

It's kind of like being a recovering alcoholic. Other people around you can have that one drink with dinner, but you can't. In my case, that means other people can have that celebratory cake and go a little over their calories and then eat a little less the next day to make up for it. I can't.

I think at this point, that's the hardest thing for other people to understand. I cannot let up on this yet. Maybe someday I will be able to "have that one drink," but not now. Yes, it's been a year since I started "fixing" this, but it's going to take more than a year to fix the habits of a lifetime.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Third Appliance

Monday night through Wednesday afternoon I had a massive headache from a fever, although no other symptoms of illness. This doesn't happen often but enough that I'm kind of used to the concept. Then Wednesday night I had some kind of intestinal blockage or gas that was quite painful but went away overnight--just had the echoes of pain in my body the next day, if you know what I mean. 

So when I came home Wednesday and went to wash my hands after using the bathroom, and discovered that the third appliance in as many months had gone bad, I was not in a good place to deal with it.

My hot water heater is over ten years old, and they only have a ten year average lifespan. (Mine has to be at least 12.) So it's not a big surprise that it died. 

However when I called the parents to see if daddy would try to light the pilot light (if it was the problem) he said no. He'd never worked with gas water heaters. (I fail to see the difference between lighting the pilot light on a water heater vs gas logs or a gas stove top, both of which he has done multiple times.) 

I just got so frustrated. People say they want to help me but when the time comes, there's always some reason they can't. Honestly I think my sister, who visits twice a year, is  the only one that I don't have to pay to help me do household stuff. 

Between what I couldn't say (but wanted to) and the entire week stress and the whole third appliance and money and stuff, I literally lost the ability to say anything. And on the phone you can't do charades. It took me five minutes of repeating over and over in my head "I gotta go" before I could force it to go verbal. 

Which of course upset them no end. So I got multiple calls (including one the next morning while I'm trying to get to work on time, grr) wanting me to make them feel better about their decision not to help me. 

(I have more sympathy for intermittently verbal autistics now than even before--this has happened to me previously but never with someone I love and never on the phone. The frustration was infuriating.) 

It's not that I was even mad at them. If I'm not willing to go out in the dark and unscrew the door and try to light the pilot light I really can't object when someone else doesn't want to. 

But since they were not available I had to make decisions and find someone who was, and I didn't have the emotional capacity to soothe their guilt and do all that too. 

In the end E-- (an HVAC company I deal with) came through for me again. I decided to buy a new system rather than trying to fix this one given that even if it could be fixed it's going to permanently die soon anyway. 

By Friday afternoon they were out there installing a tankless water heater (it has a >98% efficiency rating!). They didn't want to stay overtime on Friday (I imagine) so they fixed the old one so I'd have hot water over the weekend and they'll finish installing the new one on Monday. They didn't charge extra to do that, either. 

Turns out the hot water overflow valve had been going bad for months and finally broke. I'm glad I had forgotten to open my gas bill for January until last night because it's massive (yet more money down the drain--this time literally) and I would have been distressed and confused as to why. 

I spent yesterday's walk researching my new heater and it's pretty awesome. I said I wanted efficient and durable and they hooked me up with the most efficient and longest heater coil warranty on the market. 

After work Friday I stopped by Duncan Donuts on the way home and got a small box of munchkins. When I went behind the house to see how far they'd gotten (etc) I held the box up and announced "I brought motivation!" One of them goes, "ooh, we love motivation!" So that made me feel good. 

And my gas bill should go down (below what had been normal) and that will help too. But I had to stop paying extra on my mortgage, which is disappointing but it _is_ why I refinanced last year.