mandemonious

Thoughts and things…

May 30, 2016
by mandemonious
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On Mental Health

As May draws to a close, so does mental health awareness month. Mental health has always been an important issue to me, as I have always had friends and family that struggled with mental illnesses and addictions. This year, it became much more personal, as I finally admitted to myself and my doctor that I needed help with my own depression and anxiety. A new day has dawned in my life and I am feeling more like ‘myself’ than I have in, what? Years? Decades? It’s hard to say, really, but I feel good enough to share more of my own story regarding mental health.

I know people that would find this next bit hard to believe: For most of my life, I’ve felt like I didn’t BELONG anywhere. Life felt really HARD all of the time. I was frequently angry without being able to explain why. Anger would quickly turn to tears, as I felt shame and embarrassment for not understanding myself. I regularly wondered how I could expect others to understand me, when I couldn’t even understand myself? To defend this vulnerable place in myself, I pretended I didn’t give a damn about people, save a few close friends. I felt like I was broken and thought there was most definitely something “wrong” with me.

15-year-old me, already hardened against the world

15-year-old me, already hardened against the world

I thought the way I felt was just the way I was. I accepted my suffering as a state of being that I only escaped in fleeting moments of joy and happiness or through altered states, the latter of which I pursued with zeal for the better part of 15 years.

Having spent most of my life without access to medical or mental health care, I didn’t have a lot of options. I wrote a lot. I talked to friends on the phone a lot, usually unproductive lamenting. Mostly, I pursued those altered states. This was a coping strategy that I understood. Continue Reading →

January 5, 2016
by mandemonious
3 Comments

New Year, New Glue

Content note: death of family member.

My only post last year was a new year’s post. A friend that is one of the handful of people that subscribes to my blog asked recently when I’d start writing again.

I wanted the answer to be right now. I will write right now. I am writing right now!

The truth is that life got really hard for me last year. It still feels pretty hard, but I am on the mend. I have been struggling with depression and higher levels of anxiety than I have experienced in years. Yesterday, I couldn’t find my keys and it felt like the world was going to end and I was a failure at life. This is not a healthy* response.

For added fun, one of my go-to coping mechanisms for stress is to focus on my “faults,” namely this body and the dismissal of my valid grief and it’s grab-bag of symptoms as me “just being crazy.” It is important to remember that not all coping skills are functional or healthy…some serve as a mere distraction from things that feel less controllable. It’s much easier to focus mental energy on counting calories (a well-practiced endeavor) than it is to process grief (something I don’t know shit about). Continue Reading →

January 12, 2015
by mandemonious
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Revolutions Schmesolutions

audre lorde love selfI like to show up to parties late, which is why I am writing a New Year’s post 12 days into 2015. The truth is, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to recommit to this blogging endeavor. Last year was  a bit overwhelming in my personal life with family stuff, taking on more responsibility in the workplace, and doing intense personal work that was simultaneously healing me and breaking me. Sometimes, you’ve gotta shake shit up to shake it loose. That is what I’ve been doing.

As the title would indicate, I’m not much for resolutions. I used to make them every year and try so hard for some days before I quickly crashed, burned, then scolded myself for being such a miserable failure. These days, habit change is happening at a much slower, sustainable pace. One that allows mistakes, celebrates small victories, and is slowly changing my relationship with myself while building long-term, life-changing behaviors. I am the only person that can make these investments in my life and health and things are clicking in my brain that have been rolling around up there all willy nilly for some quarter of a century. Continue Reading →

September 11, 2014
by mandemonious
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On depression and suicide…

This week is Suicide Prevention and Awareness week and yesterday was World Suicide Prevention Day. I couldn’t bring myself to publish this last month when it was more relevant to the world, but having a cause to support while ruminating over my own stuff bolsters my confidence.

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I have been toying with writing about my thoughts on Robin Williams’ tragic passing, but felt my opinion insignificant in the larger picture. Still, my reaction felt so personal. After a recent phone call with my father, I realized why it has been such a painful process for me to confront and accept the death of a man that I’ve never even met.

During our conversation, my dad confided in me that he thinks he is getting back into that “damned deep depression again.” I suppose he has always struggled with it, though I doubt he has ever been diagnosed and likely has never received any treatment until very recently. He has generally preferred self-medication, though that has done little to improve the quality of his life, other than in an immediately gratifying, wholly unsustainable way. It is, in fact, what eventually led to his current incarceration. The truth is that self-medicating was a more accessible option than treatment. That is often the unfortunate reality for the unemployed, underemployed, and disabled. Continue Reading →

April 12, 2014
by mandemonious
8 Comments

Rock that body, Love!

photo (3)

Sweet swag for the stuffs I did to help.

Last weekend, I made the trek westward to Tucson, Arizona for the first annual Body Love Conference, or BLC. When I first learned of the event sometime last summer, it was a mere twinkle in The Militant Baker’s eye. I was immediately intrigued and wrote to Jes, The Militant Baker herself. I offered my event planning skills to her mix and was thrilled when she wrote back requesting a Skype date. My skills were only useful for a short time, since my Florida location isn’t exactly accessible to Arizona and an amazing onsite planning crew was established shortly after I came along. Still, I was thrilled to be a part of it all, even if only on the periphery. Plus, our organizational chart was a cupcake, and how freaking adorable is that?

Jes has found herself in the international social media spotlight several times with her deliciously radical responses to the status quo beauty nonsense that permeates our culture and, many times, shatters the sense of self worth in perfectly worthy people. Her blog “Things no one will tell fat girls, so I will” grabbed my attention when it went viral last year, and I became hooked on her writing and her perspective. I was just beginning my own healing process with my body and found comfort and strength in her straightforward honesty and wit. She doesn’t know this, but she inspired me to start this blog. Continue Reading →

February 3, 2014
by mandemonious
4 Comments

Lessons I learned from the kitchen drawer

Compassion for others starts with ourselves.

Compassion for others starts with ourselves.

Life lessons can turn up in the most unexpected places. Today, I found a lesson in the kitchen drawer. For the umpteenth time since we rearranged a few things in our kitchen, I opened a drawer looking for the utensils that have been moved to the only other drawer in the room. My instant reaction was a groan of frustration that I can’t seem to ‘get it right’ and that I go to the wrong drawer every damned time. In a moment of ultimate awareness, I noticed the grunt and made a priceless connection.

It’s been a topsy-turvy month in my world. I’ve been up, down and all around. Mostly, I’ve been simmering on the realizations I’ve made since my last post and focusing on being more gentle and compassionate with myself. That isn’t an easy thing for me and is, in fact, much more difficult than I ever anticipated. The main challenge is navigating between compassion and complacency. This can be said for any number of areas in my life or habits I wish to engage with more or less frequency. In the past, I have used my dissatisfaction with myself to be the motivator for changes I made. While effective in the short term, this has never proven a sustainable approach for me. How do I love myself as I am, even while working to make positive changes in my life? How do I show compassion to myself, even while I challenge myself to improve? Continue Reading →

January 7, 2014
by mandemonious
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Weight, what?

On Friday, I wrote about how my body is a “fucking marvel of biology,” yet by Sunday I was having a breakdown about my own relationship with my body. Chatting with a close friend, I realized that I have a lot of attachment to the number on the scale, even if I don’t admit that to myself or anyone else. I don’t admit it to myself because I have spent the last year telling myself that I should no longer focus on weight as a determinate of my success in life.

Despite all my effort, I found myself not able to get over that number on the scale. It made me uncomfortable and I couldn’t shake it.. I couldn’t figure out why. In talking with my friend, I realized that my body image issues triggered the real, deep painful stuff in me. Like the core of the core of the shit that gets me down and sometimes breaks me. All the fear, pain or anger that I never expressed in my whole life lives in the place that this number reached; the abyss I’ve named the Land of Perpetual Disappointment, home of Woe is She. The voice in my head, the naysayer, the one that never believes that everything will turn out okay. This is the voice that wants to say “Yes” when my friend asks me if Mandy at 200 pounds deserves less love than Mandy at 190 pounds. Continue Reading →

January 3, 2014
by mandemonious
3 Comments

‘Society’ tells me I should be really worried about my weight

Content Note: negative self talk, triggering and restricting talk. There is also an f-bomb, for those that aren’t fond of cursing.

I started my day today with a hot shower in my cold bathroom. I noticed myself thinking about my weight, which I accidentally discovered recently at a doctor’s appointment after swearing off the scale for a few months. I didn’t react when I saw that number there, being higher than it had ever been. Instead, I noticed that it made me uncomfortable and tried to let it go. At least, that is what I told myself. In reality, I quickly shoved that awareness away and all of the complicated emotions that it triggered because I didn’t want to deal with it.

So, instead, it has been lingering in the peripheral margins of my mind for two weeks, coming up at random times – like my shower this morning. So, there I was in the shower, and I caught myself thinking about my weight. I responded to my self-critique with a surprising, yet welcome inspiration to consider each body part as I washed it and think of what I appreciate about it. ‘Shoulders and biceps, you are strong and I could see your muscles rippling in the mirror during yoga yesterday,’ I thought silently to myself. Continue Reading →

December 31, 2013
by mandemonious
1 Comment

Obligatory New Year’s post

As the masses line up for new gym memberships, sign up for diet food delivery systems, and stock up on detox products and diet pills, I am choosing a different approach to the new year. My approach does involve a gym and there is a focus on health and well-being. The difference is in what will be missing. I won’t be swearing off any macronutrients by going low-fat, fat-free, low-carb, carb-free, paleo, or fruitarian. I won’t be setting a goal weight, nor will I be aiming to fit into my ‘skinny’ jeans. In fact, I’ve either donated or consigned all of the jeans that could fall into that category. No more pining away at a stack of denim for this gal…

I won’t be buying any Slim-fast or signing up for Nutri-system or Weight Watchers. There will be no throwing away of any “bad” foods from my refrigerator. There will also be no judgement of any of the people who choose to do any or all of these things as they ring in their 2014.

So, what will I be doing with all of my time if I’m not studying my new diet or looking down my nose from my high and mighty throne of judgement? How will I spend all of that transformative new year’s energy that we all burst out of the gates with on the first of each year, only to tuck tail and crawl back to our old ways before the end of the first month?

I will be continuing to make small upgrades and improvements to my attitude, my habits, and my relationships. I will focus on being more mindful and present in my life. I will accept things as they are, even as I work to make changes. I will be grateful for my lessons in whatever form they arrive, even if that form is the ever dreaded and long avoided failure. I will push my own boundaries and stretch my comfort zone until it is wide enough for my heart to open all of the way. I want to love myself so much that I can’t help but to love others.

Am I perfect at any of these things now? No. Do I expect to be this year? No. What I do expect is that my efforts will be rewarded as long as I am making the effort. It doesn’t mean creating the ‘perfect’ life. It means accepting that life isn’t perfect, but it’s beautiful. As ugly as it can be, there is always beauty. Happy New Year, friends!

Spreadin' the love, some for me, some for you. Pass it on!

Spreadin’ the love, some for me, some for you. Pass it on!

December 13, 2013
by mandemonious
6 Comments

To wed and be well-fed

Content Note: Negative self/body talk, distorted body image, dieting, restricting

I had a body image breakdown three months before my October wedding. I had just received my wedding dress and it would not zip up past my waist, no matter how I contorted my body. I was devastated, then disappointed in myself for letting it get to me, then completely overwhelmed by a cocktail of emotions I couldn’t translate into anything helpful. I was literally sitting in front of my computer and sobbing while researching fasts, detox plans and juice cleanses. Part of me felt GREAT for taking decisive action and finding a solution to my perceived problem. Another, much larger part of me cringed at the obvious backslide from all of the body-loving progress I had made in the previous 9 months; my weight was stable and I was active, healthy and happy.

But old habits and thought patterns are quick to return in times of stress. And, despite my happiness and my years of experience in event planning, I found myself succumbing to it. It started early in the process with random weight and diet related remarks from a handful of people, who likely had no idea how their words might trigger me. How could they? It’s not like many people knew how messed up my relationship was with food and my body. I began waking up with thoughts of having to find a dress to fit my body and feeling instant panic. That lasted for a couple of months before I worked it out with the help of professional support* and a few loved ones. I was just beginning to embrace my body and change my perspective, and then that dress arrived…bringing us back to the meltdown.

Internally, I had the healing me dismissing the hurting me, leading to quite the internal argument:

Healing Me: You don’t want to go on another diet! You’ve made so much progress; you’re so much healthier and happier than you were this time last year.

Hurting Me: But I can’t be fat at my wedding. Everyone will be looking at me. Everyone will see me! Continue Reading →