30 Things That are More Important Than my Pant Size.

So yesterday, I reached a precipice:

I had an important meeting to go to… the kind that you can’t wear yoga pants or leggings to.  Which meant digging through my closet to find ACTUAL clothes.

Sometimes being a grown up isn’t fun.

Anyways, I found 3 pairs of pants:

  1. A pair of thai pants… anyone who knows what thai pants are knows that these gems, while super comfortable, make leggings look like business suits.
  2. A pair of sweats… a skip from casual leggings to the lazy Saturday, not-leaving-the-house wear.
  3. A pair of pants I bought around January/February of this year. Wrinkled, but nothing an iron wouldn’t fix.

Obviously, I had to go with the third option.  While to many, this is a non-stressful endeavor, for me, trying on clothes that I haven’t worn in a long time produces tons of anxiety.

Will they still fit?

Has my body changed?

I see fat accumulating on the daily, but they say it’s not an accurate perception.  What if this is my worst fear come true?  An enforcement that what I see is really what’s there?

If I do put them on, and they don’t fit, how will I react?

Will it be the start of more restriction?  A more intense exercise regime?  A reinstatement of my old eating disordered ways?

How will I cope with this?

Regardless, I had to put on the pants.  I built myself up while ironing them, popped a few benzodiazepenes (kidding), and tried to tell myself it would all be okay.

And guess what?

The stupid things didn’t fit.

Correction:  The stupid things didn’t fit the SAME as they fit at the beginning of January.

So let me clarify something… your brain doesn’t store useless information, or stuff that is deemed unimportant.  That’s why, if someone asks you what you ate on September 1st, the most likely response would be something along the lines of:

“WTF, I have no idea?!  Why the heck does it matter?”

And believe it or not, what your body looks like on a day to day, minute to minute basis is pretty useless information.  I mean, your brain is much more preoccupied with keeping your heart beating and remembering how to get home from work so you don’t end up half way to Alaska.  THAT my friends is useful information!

Hence, the argument of many eating disordered patients of, “I swear my stomach has grown two inches since the last time I looked in the mirror!” is pretty unfounded.  The brain plays tricks, the disorder plays tricks, and creates a fictional perception of what you looked like before based on what you BELIEVE you looked like before, and what SEEMS logical in your brain.

Regardless though, the facts lie in the fabric:  my pants were tighter in certain places.  While I can’t remember EXACTLY specifically how the pants fit, because again, useless information, I remember them being a touch looser around my thighs, and butt.

The argument of me is instantly:

The argument of the boyfriend is: “It FITS you, instead of being baggy.  They look good!”

It’s not a drastic change, but it’s a change nonetheless.

In ED recovery, one of the hardest things is coping with a changing body, even if its changing for all the right reasons.  There’s the constant comparison between where you were and where you are now.  You have to make peace with yourself, inwardly and outwardly.  That includes accepting that your body wants to be a certain size and shape, and you have very little control over that if you want to live life as a normal person and not as a crazy food-and-exercise obsessed control freak.

That also includes accepting that the clothes you had when you were disordered, or the clothes you had even before your disorder might, or more likely than not, won’t fit.  AND knowing that that doesn’t mean you’re ballooning, anymore than it means you’re fat.  And even if you are, is that the worst thing you could be?

You also have to decide what you’re willing to give up to create the life you want.

In a world of people telling you to never give up, to push yourself to the limit, and to strive for nothing short of perfection, I am your antithesis.  It is impossible to create a life that is filled with everything.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Something’s gotta give.  _______ (Insert other overused historical/film quote here).

The same thing applies to eating disorders, or rather eating disorder recovery.  If you hope to recover, you have to be willing to let go of things.  I know this seems like an obvious statement, but when put into practice it’s actually quite a difficult thing.

So what do you have to give up?

Is it the idea of a lack of cellulite?

A thigh gap?

The ability of the ED to act as an excuse for putting life on hold?

Is it exercising when you’re really anxious about moving?

The idea that health = thinness?

All the food rules and judgements you hold in the name of “health”?

Is it the need to feel in control and right/perfect all the time?

For me, it’s all these things and more.  AND it’s the idea that a certain arbitrary label sewn, probably haphazardly, into an article of clothing has the right as well as the power to determine my worth, value, beauty, and integrity as a human being.

Because in your everyday life, do you look at a woman next to you on the bus, who society deems as “overweight” but who also has volunteered countless hours at the local homeless shelter, and say, “You have less value than the thin woman next to you who has fundraised more for the SPCA than anyone in the town.” ?

Do you say to an “overweight” woman breastfeeding her newborn that because she’s “fat” her breast milk is worth less to the baby she’s feeding, than the thin woman doing the same sitting next to her?

Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.  And whether or not you can fit into a size 2 or a size 14 is hardly the most important thing in your life.

At some point, we have to make peace with our changing shape.  With everything in our lives, we have to decide whether it is something that is important, or whether it’s something that is preventing us from creating the life we want.

We stand at a crossroads, or a fork in the road as obvious as the fork dividing your left pant leg from your right.  We can put on our pants, suck in our guts, and do up the button, all while lamenting the loss of our willowy frames, our high school bodies, our 25 year old stomach, or our grey-less hair.  We can beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel like crap for changing.  And we can choose whether the things we have given up or lost, are things that we still want to hold on to or get back.

As my pants hugged my thighs, and caressed my hips and butt, I felt like a failure.  I felt panicked.  I felt as if my world was ending and my worst fears were being realized.  I felt like the person I was was gone, and I could never get her back.

All because denim is unforgiving after a trip through the laundry machine.

But I had a choice.  I could continue to hate myself.  I could cut out sugar.  I could decrease my portions.  I could skip a few snacks.  I could exercise for just 10, 15, 20 minutes more.  I could bust out the screwdriver and put the treadmill that I dismantled because I didn’t want to be chained to it, back together.  I could find the person I was, and bring her back.

I’ve done it before.  Enter relapse, again.

Or I could decide that there were other things that I valued MORE than the person I was, or the size of my pants.  I could be uncomfortable, unsure, unsteady, and exposed to the harsh realities of limited motion fabrics, and not change a thing.  I could move on with my day, and my life.

I could set my priorities… and I did.

30 things that are more important than my pant size:

  1. I can go out to whatever restaurant my friends, family, or boyfriend pick without having a complete mental breakdown, ordering a salad, or looking up the menu/calories ahead of time.
  2. I have a latte every day, and it is 100% delicious and a very normal, enjoyable part of my morning.
  3. I’ve had a few cocktails, a couple slices of cake, and made memories to last a lifetime.
  4. I’ve had cookie crumbs fall into my bra, and lost a drop or two of ice cream in there as well.  I remember a time neither of those would touch my lips or fingers, never mind get up close and personal with my feminine features.
  5. I FINALLY learned to bike, and I bike… a lot.  And have increased the strength and musculature of my legs, as well as my genetically crappy knees.
  6. I’ve spent more time with my friends and family than I have on a treadmill or yoga mat.
  7. I have the strength to go up stairs and hills without getting winded.
  8. My energy level is much more consistent and I have more get-up-and-go than I have had in my whole life, even before the ED.
  9. I have learned to relax my standards a bit more, even though it is uncomfortable to do so.
  10. My hair is crazy soft… and not brittle at all.
  11. I’ve spent less time at home, and more time exploring the world.
  12. I frequently have conversations that don’t revolve around food, weight, or shape… and I can pay attention and remember having them.
  13. I can have a bite of pizza without counting it as a snack or meal.
  14. I have more patience and more compassion for those around me.
  15. I’ve stopped mumbling, “Fuck you!” under my breath every time I saw someone genuinely happy.
  16. I’m not trapped in a specific exercise cycle, with a specific route, for a specific amount of time, EVERY SINGLE DAY, until I die.
  17. I can’t remember the last time I specifically set my alarm clock earlier to fit in a work out.
  18. I can’t remember the last time I did sit ups, weights, or pilates at 2 am.
  19. I’ve carved out a niche and found a great love for blogging, which I never could do when I couldn’t sit long enough to open a browser window.
  20. I’ve fostered relationships that fill the gap in my spirits to replace the one in my thighs, and that never would have had a chance to grow had I not stopped moving.
  21. I have a figure that allows my boyfriend to hold me without fear of breaking me.
  22. I can wear shorts again.  Both in terms of temperature, and in terms of acceptance.
  23. I’ve begun to view my “unforgiveable” past choices, simply as choices.  They don’t speak to who I am now, or who I will, or can become.
  24. My body does not determine my worth, value, or integrity as a person.
  25. I’ve begun to do things regardless of the fear there is in doing them.  I push myself to not stand in my own way.
  26. I don’t take life so seriously.  One choice, one day, one hour, one meal, or one conversation does not a life sentence make.
  27. I’ve shared my deepest and darkest secrets… and was met by only love and support.
  28. I’ve become more literate on the many ways society is more flawed than I am.
  29. I’ve laughed more, seen more, and done more than I ever did when my pants fit.
  30. Basically, I’ve learned how to live, and lived a life worth living.

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And that is worth so much more than my pant size.  So in the end, it really comes down to:

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This or That- A Lighthearted Post Because I CAN.

Is there anyone else who loves reading posts like these?  Sometimes you just need these kind of things that mean absolutely nothing but are everything in your daily life all at the same time.  I am a human, not a robot, and these kind of things really connect you to the writer of the blog.

Or so I think.

I saw these questions on Jillian’s blog and loved reading her answers, so I had to give it a spin myself.  Side note:  If you haven’t checked out her blog, definitely do it!  She’s a joy to read 😘👍.

I also love link love posts, and lists of random stuff.  The queen of these lists is Shutterbean, so if you need a good dose of random and without doubt a few laughs, be sure to check that out too.

I just had a thought pop into my head about the latest season of Orange is The New Black.  This whole “This or That” game, reminded me of the creepy new guard and him playing this game with the Latinas… you know the episode I’m talking about?  Yeah… rest assured this game of “This or That” is NOTHING like their version.

So without further ado:

Instagram or Twitter?

Instagram, 100%. I could never figure out Twitter, but that could just be me and my lack of technological savvy.  I love scrolling through my instagram feed and being able to see life 100% in colorful fabulous imagery- it appeals to the artist within me.  Plus, does anyone else find the Twitter bird notification sound super annoying?!

Pepsi or Coke?

Ooh, tough one.  People say you can’t tell the difference, but there is one, albeit subtle.  I think I really alternate, but in general I think I’m a Coke person.  Every so often I get tired of it and switch to Pepsi, but it never lasts more than a couple.

Bath or shower?

“Showers. Who has the time for baths, honestly? Haha I’m kidding. Personally, I don’t like baths. The thought of laying in bath water that’s filled with my dirt from the day grosses me out. Sorry not sorry.”

THIS!  This was Jillian’s answer, and I finally can say I found someone who shares my opinion about lying in your own filth!  Boyfriend is always giving me grief about how ridiculous this is, but FINALLY I’ve found someone who agrees.😁

Plus, I get super anxious in baths for some reason.  I’m not sure why.  I’m okay if the water is warm, or lukewarm, but I can’t handle hot.  It freaks my system out, my throat constricts, and I feel like I’m suffocating.  The only exception to this is when it’s the middle of winter and you’re in a hot tub, but the air around you is cold.  Then, I’m good.  I don’t know why this is, but it makes saunas impossible too.

Glasses or contacts?

Well, funny story, I used to have glasses.  For at least… 2 or 3 years.  Plus a stint when I was in elementary school.  Miraculously however, my astigmatism corrected itself right after graduation.  The optometrist was amazed, and confused, as I had gone to him because my glasses were blurry to me and I thought I needed a STRONGER prescription or something.  I still have them, but they only ever make an appearance when my eyes are SUPER tired or I’m sick, where they seem to help.  I’ve never tried contacts, but I’m pretty sure if I did, it would be something like the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where she almost blinds herself.  I don’t think I could stick them in my eyes without blinking as I have enough troubles with eye drops.

Online shopping or shopping in store?

Depends.  There’s something about shopping in store that’s SO much more fun.  I love to make a day out of just wondering through shops and up streets and looking at stuff. Most of the time I don’t even get things, although I would if I was rich, but the process is fun!  And there’s no way I can clothes shop online, as I seem to be totally different sizes in everything and am not really in touch with my actual body size as the dysmorphia will often get the better of me.  BUT, I also LOVE AMAZON!  Most of my cooking stuff, coffee, books, and things like that will be online as it’s often a much better deal and so much more accessible as I live in a small town without many shopping options in the first place.

Coffee or tea?

BOTH!  Four months ago I would have said tea, 100%.  But as part of my recovery I have a latte everyday midmorning, and give myself permission to enjoy it fully, and it’s one of the things I enjoy most about my morning.  I’m getting pretty good at making them too.

The rest of the day it’s tea 100% though.  Especially The Spice is Right from DAVIDsTEA… I can’t get enough, and will easily go through half a kilo a month.  No joke.  It’s a problem, and all the staff at the store know me by name now, and know exactly what I’m coming for with my jumbo half kilo tin every month.

Pen or pencil?

Pen.  Pen, pen, pen.  Does anyone else have a favourite ink thickness too?  I have this addiction to slightly thicker ink, not quite like a thin sharpie but between that and a ballpoint.  My old boss always had the best pens, and they had the PERFECT thickness.  I was constantly on the hunt for these pens but I could never find them, and then when I did come across one I liked, I ALWAYS forgot to write down which one it was so once it ran out I was right back to square one.  I’m still looking…

Pancakes or waffles?

Mmmmm…. sweet pancakes and savoury waffles.  If that makes sense?  I adore dense, hearty pancakes, that I glom up with rolled oats, and I don’t touch those light fluffy ones if I can help it.  Hence if I’m out for breakfast, you’ll never see me ordering pancakes, because they just don’t get it!  BUT, one of my favourite lunch things is making a savoury buttermilk cornbread waffle and then topping it with guacamole, black beans, and cheese.  Nom.

Side note:  I HATE MAPLE SYRUP on pancakes.  And I HATE WHIPPING CREAM always.  Like nothing grosses me out more.  I always top mine with nut butter, or cottage cheese, or yogurt.  And granola.  And fruit.  Perfect.  It was hilarious at the residential treatment center I was in, because every couple of weeks on a weekend we would have pancakes for breakfast one morning.  And not only were the pancakes light and fluffy, but you had two topping options: maple syrup and butter, or strawberries and whipped cream.  Can you see my dilemma?!  I always asked, “Can’t I have butter, and strawberries?”  No dice.  I hated that breakfast.  I always went for the whipped cream and strawberries though and choked it down, because if you picked the maple syrup and butter, you had to have a whole quarter cup of syrup on just one silver dollar pancake.  It was literally, did you want a pancake with your syrup?!  I mean I guess I could have just played Gilligan’s pancake Island in a maple syrup sea too… but they probably would have called food games disordered too.

Winter or summer?

SUMMER.  Boyfriend would have called this instantly without even looking at the answer.  I struggle so much with winter because I get cold so easily.  I always have, even before the eating disorder.  We’re only a few days into cooler weather, and I swear I’ve said, “I’m freezing!” at least 4 or 5 times.  The plus to winter though is we do have a heater, whereas we don’t have an air conditioner.  And cozy sweaters, hot lattes, tea, and PSL.  But that’s more fall than winter… and that wasn’t an option.  Actually keep my temperature in the 15 to 25 degree range, and I’d be one happy camper!

Sweater or hoodie?

Probably zip up lighter hoodie, or my absolute favourite kale sweatshirt.  Seriously, there is nothing as comfy as this guy!

Sun or moon?

Sun.  I’m a morning person, and sunrise means breakfast.  And breakfast means oatmeal.  And oatmeal means BEST THING EVER!

Tv shows or movies?

Probably TV shows, although I don’t watch either with any regularity.  I mean I like to GO to the movies, but I love the fact that when you get hooked on a TV show you have something to look forward to every week, and it’s prolonged.  Movies are over and done with.  I mean come on Grey’s Anatomy, Orange is the New Black, the Amazing Race, Friends, Gilmore Girls… they’re all genius.

Side note:  Boyfriend and I just started watching Stranger Things last night… we’re two episodes in and hooked.  Who else is watching?!

Rain or snow?

RAIN!  I love rain!  Just like I love the ocean… man I need to live on the coast!  There’s something about it that is so relaxing, and when I’m anxious and it’s raining, I throw open the windows and just smell that fresh signature scent.  And the sound… oh it’s the best.

Snow is cold, and wet, and icky, and turns to ice.  And then you can’t ride your bike.  And you walk, slip, and fall in the middle of a crosswalk, probably in a pile of dirty snow-plowed snow that is also yellow because Winston (my dog) has no filter and has peed on it.  Yep, can you tell I hate winter.  And I hate snow.

Chocolate or vanilla?

 

Vanilla.  Vanilla yogurt is the best.  Vanilla based ice cream is the best.  BUT vanilla with chocolate chips, or vanilla with chocolate chip cookie dough, or vanilla with oreo crumbles…. that’s where it’s at!

But dark chocolate covered almonds, or dark fudgey brownies, or Justin’s Dark chocolate peanut butter cups…

OH the decision is too much!

The Face of Functional Anxiety

I remember when I was first hospitalized, my favourite high school teacher came to visit me.  She came several times over the months that I was in there, but I remember that first visit specifically.

She hadn’t seen me in years.  Not decades, but it had been a solid two years.  And two years before, I was graduating high school, and looking towards a bright future.  I was heading off to university for the first time, and I had enough scholarships to cover my expenses for first year for sure, with the possibility of a good number renewing the next year, so long as I kept my grades up.  I had a 96% average (stupid physical education just kept bringing me down!), and was looking towards a science degree in veterinary medicine.  I was the class valedictorian.  I had a plethora of extra curricular activities. The skies were nothing but bright for me.

Except for that dark cloud… the one that no one ever noticed.  The one that had been there for so long that it was simply a part of my normal, when in reality it was anything but.

When she turned the corner into my room and laid eyes on me for the first time, I remember the shock.  I remember the look of dismay and fear in her eyes.  The look that was initially there, but quickly covered up by professionalism and compassion.

She wasn’t expecting to see a human skeleton.  She wasn’t expecting to see a shell.  She wasn’t expecting to see a broken person, whose future had once been so bright, now just scrambling to hold it together and stay alive long enough to put together all the pieces.

I remember talking to her.  I was too sick to retain a lot of memories at that point.  There are large chunks of my life that I to this day don’t remember…  I can pinpoint a moment, usually an ingrained memory of this time period that is only recognizable by the emotion I was feeling at the time: terror.

I remember that I went to my Grandma’s right before I was hospitalized, but I don’t remember being there.  It’s a black chunk of space.  It’s like I can remember up to a certain point, and then it’s as if someone just used a ____________ and wiped the slate clean.  The only thing I remember is the terror that struck me when I stared at the menu selection of split pea soup.  I remember I was there because I remember reading split pea soup on the dinner menu at the retirement home.  And I remember the terror I felt because she didn’t have wifi for me to calorie count.  That’s it.

I remember staying at my aunt and uncle’s just before that because I was too scared to be home.  I have photo evidence I was there from a selfie I took, although I don’t remember taking the selfie at all.  But I do remember the breakfast before they drove me to Grandma’s.  I remember 5 cheerios, a peach, and a handful of almonds.  I can picture the plate perfectly in my mind, and the terror I felt while staring at it.  Just as perfectly as I can remember myself scraping the whole thing into the trash can and covering it up with tissues (save 3 cheerios.  I ate three cheerios), when no one was looking.

So I don’t remember everything.  But I remember the terror on her face when she saw me.  And the shock.  And I know that I told her everything.  I know I told her how difficult it had been, all the crap I faced growing up, the late nights staying up till 4 in the morning when I had to get up again at 7.  The fact that school was my sanctuary because I dreaded going home at the end of the day at 3:30.  The fact that the only thing that got me through some nights was some intense prayer, and the reality that I got to escape again for 7 hours the next morning.

I don’t remember telling her, but I know I did.  Because I remember her response:

“I had no idea.  You always seemed to have it all together.  You had everything figured out.  You were so together and collected.  I had no idea all the stuff you were dealing with.  I had no idea you eventually weren’t even living at home for the last couple years of high school.  I guess it proves, you can’t judge a book by its cover… I just can’t believe that underneath the exterior, the inside was so torn up.”

The amount of times I’ve heard it:  I had no idea.  You never told me.  You had everything so together.

It’s the face I deal with every day.  It’s the untold story that lies beneath.  It’s that dark cloud that seems invisible to everyone else.  That dark cloud that only I can see, but is so normal that I forget, it’s not supposed to be there.

Functional Anxiety… or rather High-Functioning Anxiety.

I read an article that explains it all so much better than I ever could, but regardless I’m going to try.  I do however, urge you all to give the article a read, because it is SO enlightening, and so relatable to so many people, if you struggle with any kind of mental illness.

I’ve had so many conversations, in which when I finally let down the wall a little bit, it’s perceived as a relapse.  It’s perceived as a greater amount of struggling, or like the therapy and recovery process is not going well.  It’s perceived as not working.  The reality is, perhaps it IS working, because I’m finally getting too tired to hold the wall up.  My shell is cracking, and I’m allowing myself to trust you enough to let you in.

It’s like in Harry Potter ( 🤓🙌🙌), when unless you’ve witnessed death, you can’t see the threstrals.  Well, up until now you haven’t seen my head, so you can’t see my cloud.  But if I remove the veil, you can see just how dark of a place it is.

What is functional anxiety?

It’s a mask.  It’s an illness that is so pervasive and sneaky.  It’s a shroud of diligence that keeps you alive and moving in your life, treading water, not sinking but not swimming.  In limbo… but limbo appears normal.

What does it look like?

It’s in my movements.  You see it as productivity and energy, a strong sense of drive and priority.  You see it as high standards, and dedication to getting jobs done to the T.

What you don’t notice is those subtle movements that give it all away.  The shifting of my feet as I stand.  The wiggling of a foot as I’m sitting down.  The plethora of scars that litter my legs from picking at nicks and scabs.  The amount of times my hands wander up to my hair, and how often I have to wash it because the constant swiping makes it oily.

It looks like me holing myself up in my room when working on coursework and staying up until all hours of the night to study or get a project done.  It’s reading and rereading every page, every note, and trying to commit it all to memory.  It looks like studiousness.  In reality I remember nothing, because all I can see in those moments of trying to learn it all, is my inevitable failure.

You can see it in my words… in my frequency of using “…” to end a thought.  Unwilling to commit to a period (“.”) because of the finality of it, the inability to change your mind.  Because, what if that thought was wrong?  The amount of times I say, “I don’t know.”  The amount of times I commit to something with, “maybe”.  My initial excitement over something spontaneous, the invigoration in my whole body and soul, shrouded by a flash of panic in my eyes when something out of the ordinary changes my plans.

It looks like me standing in front of a coffee shop or ice cream parlour menu for inordinate amounts of time, because for these two things that I enjoy so much it isn’t a simple decision.  My brain is confusing choosing an ice cream with buying a car.  The commitment is unequal, but it must be just as perfect.  Every decision I makes dictates my fate, not my moment.

It looks like busyness.  Always doing something.  Refusing to rest.  It looks like a lot of yawns, covered up by diet coke, from a 4 or 5 hour sleep.  It looks like a bike ride, or four.  Racing, running.

What does it feel like?

Filling my life with breaths of fresh air as my feet or my wheels pound the pavement, and feeling the rejuvenation that each blast of air circulating through my body brings.  Racing, running, flying, always moving because it feels that by moving I can outrun my thoughts.  I can leave them behind me in the dust.

It feels like a progressively worsening throb right between my eyebrows. Like shackles and chains holding me down, pinning my arms and legs to the place I’m in, both mentally and physically.  It’s the claws of a lion digging into my shoulders and neck, slicing further and further into my muscles and nerves while I try vigorously to free myself.  Constant rotation of my head, rolling of my shoulders, massaging them with one arm, or both.

It’s a sinking rock suddenly falling into my stomach, and subsequent trembling of my arms and hands when something changes the plans.  When I’m put on the spot.  When I’m surprised.

What does it sound like?

A sudden shift, a dramatic outburst.  A cloying frustration with a simple question.  A nasty sneer, with an occasional swear word.  As if I’m arguing, but with an unknown person.  A calm conversation that suddenly becomes heated.  As if you’re interrupting a conversation, but I’m not talking to anyone you can see.

You are interrupting me.  You’re interrupting the train of thought in my cloud.

It sounds like nothing.  The world is quiet.  I am quiet.  I am silent and non communicative.  You hear nothing.

I hear:

You are nothing.  You are worthless.  You are pathetic.  You are lazy.  You are a pig.  You are a terrible friend.  You’re a terrible girlfriend.  You’re selfish.  You don’t deserve to be loved.  You are unloveable.  You are going to mess it all up.  You’re going to fail.  You’re a mistake.  You’re a waste of space.  You’re a waste of time.  Why did you say that?  Why did you do that?  You’re so stupid!  They’re going to hate you.  What if they hate you?  He’s going to leave.  Why should he stay?  Why would he want to?  You’re boring.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  You should be ashamed.  You should feel guilty.  What if it hurts them?  You’re going to get anxious… and then you’re going to quit.  You let everyone down.  No one loves you.  No one likes you.  You bore everyone.  You ruin everything.  You deserve to be alone.  No one wants you around.  They’re just saying that.  They feel sorry for you.  You’re too needy!  You’re immature.  You’re useless.

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It’s a run to the mailbox.  It’s two trips to the basement instead of one.  It’s a way to channel your thoughts and energy and try to burn them out.  To wear yourself out so much that you don’t have the energy to think.  To wear yourself out so much that the cloud will turn foggy and the thoughts will be quiet.  They’ll turn to a mush instead of such distinct statements about yourself and your worth.  It’s a constant attempt to be better and do better to try and prove them wrong, but their volume never lessens, and their requirements just get higher.

It’s running the line between being productive and procrastinating.  The unimportant things get done because they don’t matter, and it doesn’t matter if they’re done wrong.  The important things don’t get done because you can’t risk doing them wrong or making a mistake.  It’s one extreme or another.

It’s waking up in the middle of the night with your thoughts racing, your chest constricting, and if you’re going through something particularly stressful, feeling your heart racing and wondering if you’re having a heart attack (but it’s just a panic attack).

It’s never admitting to being overwhelmed because it’s a sign of weakness.  It’s never allowing them to see you sweat because it ruins the exterior appearance of control and dedication.  It’s not being able to communicate what is wrong for fear of judgement, and for fear of proving the judgements of yourself to be true.  It’s not being able to admit to how you’re feeling because you don’t want them to see you crack.  And if you voice your feelings out loud, and own them, they become so all consuming and real that you can’t cope with them.

It’s avoiding discussions and arguments because you don’t want to be put on the spot.  You want to have all the answers, and maybe, just maybe, you won’t have one.  You don’t want to seem foolish.  You don’t want to appear uneducated.  You don’t want them to see you fumble.

It’s either telling yourself, “You’re a complete mess!” or to “Suck it up, whiny baby!”

It’s constantly invalidating your struggles by telling yourself to, “Get off your high horse! So many people have it worse off!”

It’s being in a crowd of people but not feeling connected to anyone.  Feeling like everyone would be happier if you weren’t at the party, or at the event, or that they only asked you to come because they felt obligated to.  It’s not answering a text message because you don’t know what to say, and you don’t want to appear boring, because you don’t want to lose one of the few people that you feel like you have on your side.  And then feeling like you’re a terrible person for not replying.

And it’s when things that are insignificant everyday occurrences to many, are the world’s biggest victories to you:

1:  Drinking a latte, and allowing yourself to enjoy it.

2: Saying that you’re frustrated.

3: Taking a break from exercise when you’re sick.

4: Taking on a new responsibility at work, even if it’s just to carry rags to the back room.  It doesn’t matter how small.

5: Only biking for 10 minutes instead of 20.

6: Sitting down for your lunch instead of standing in your kitchen.

7: Laughing instead of crying.

8: Talking instead of isolating.

9: Admitting you made a mistake.

10: Moving on after making a mistake.

11: Eating an ice cream cone instead of a peach.

12: Going out with someone new.

13:  Talking to someone on your lunch break.

14: Admitting when you want to eat out, not waiting for someone else to want to.

15: Showing up for something, regardless of how much you’re shaking at the time, or how much terror you’re feeling.

16: Watching a movie.  And actually WATCHING it, not just going through the motions while your head is elsewhere.

17: Deciding your remote control is more friendly than your tennis shoes.  Or that your tennis shoes are more friendly than your remote control.  It depends on the day.

18: Only skimming the pages instead of reading them.

19: Going out on a Friday night instead of studying all weekend.

20: Allowing yourself to cry on another’s shoulder.

And it’s functioning.  It’s appearing okay, to have it all together.  To be at peace on the outside when the tornado rages within.  It’s not productive.  It’s not powering through.  It’s not MANAGING your struggles.  It’s not even coping.

It’s surviving.  It’s not living.

It’s not being happy.

It’s not being content.

It’s not being at peace.

It’s grasping at moments, at split seconds when the tornado dies down, when the winds aren’t quite as gale-like, and then realizing you can hear the birds chirping.  And taking that moment, that second to exhale.  And to smile.

Because you, unlike those around you, realize:

You’re not at a safe harbour.  You’re just in the eye of the storm.

 

 

 

 

Screw it. Let’s do it.

So, it’s raining outside, and life sucks.

How many times have you heard that?

It’s something I could never understand, because, shock of shocks, I love the rain.  I am the happiest person ever when it is raining.  Like this morning, I was lying in bed I had the most amazingly restful sleep.  I didn’t wake up until 5:30, so I was dead to the world, and when I did wake up to roll over, the first sound that greeted my ears was the sound of gentle rainfall.  And the biggest smile came over my face.

Then I took a big breath in, and I could smell it.  That fresh, clean, spring-type smell that comes along with the rain… gosh I love it! I rolled over, and before going back to sleep for a couple hours, I hoped to myself that it would still be raining when I got up.

AND IT WAS!

Cue my happy dance as I prepped my oatmeal in the kitchen this morning, clad in my favourite sweatshirt (seriously, buy it and you will never be more comfortable in your whole life!), and pyjama shorts, spoon of peanut butter in hand.  Then sitting there with this delicious monstrosity:

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And a cup of tea, right by the window, listening to it pour down = bliss.

But this bliss was quickly replaced by the most nagging, annoying anger and frustration that I’ve experienced in quite some time.  I was finishing the last couple bites of oatmeal, and thinking about what I wanted to do next, and all I could think of was how much I wanted to be outside, soaking up all that glorious rain in a walk to the coffee shop to do some writing.  I mean how satisfying would that be:

A day off, that had been preceded by a restful sleep that results in waking up full of energy.  Then commenced with a delicious breakfast involving blueberries (the best berry), followed by a walk in spring rain (the second best rain to summer rain- which is so refreshing because it’s so hot!- because it’s not too cold to walk in), breathing in all those smells!  Then, THEN, a nice, warm latte in a cozy cafe while I get down to creative expressionism.

Can you beat that?!  I think not.

Except… ugh, I have an eating disorder.  But not just an eating disorder: an eating disorder with an exercise obsession. And my dietitian set goals in our session yesterday for me to do different types of movement this week instead of walking, so that I break rigidity and don’t get repetitive and obsessive.  In theory, all practical, and solid plans… except then it had to go and rain!

Part of this is a me problem.  I never learned to ride a bike when I was little.  Plus, now I have my license (finally… stop smirking boyfriend), but I don’t yet know how to drive, and even if I did, I would have to drive WITH someone.  And the dietitian would totally support me going to the cafe to write, but then I’d have to get a ride… not that easy when the other person in your house sleeps till noon.  I don’t want to go at noon.  I want to go now.  I like to write in the morning.

Plus it’s raining, and my favourite time to to walk is when it’s raining!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not in denial here.  For once, this is not an eating disordered behavior!  I don’t enjoy walking in the rain if it’s pouring so hard it’s bouncing off the streets, or if it’s raining in the middle of fall or winter and the water is actually freezing cold.  And I hate being wet… so if it’s going to involve me coming out on the other side looking like a drowned rodent, I’m out.  HOWEVER, if it’s above 14ºC, not bouncing off the pavement, smells like fresh heaven, and I have access to flip-flops and an umbrella, GET ME OUTSIDE AND ON THE SIDEWALK!  AKA: if it’s like this morning.

So you have the healthy version of me, throwing a hissy fit, because for once, FOR ONCE, it’s me wanting to be on that pavement, not ED, and I’m not feeling motivated by ED in the slightest (something that hasn’t happened in YEARS), and I CAN’T GO!  I can’t go, because I’m supposed to be trying out different forms of activity.  I can’t go because, once again, my eating disorder is in my way of me being my healthy self.

Cue the Googles:

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Note the search term: Ways to get around NOT walking

And what does it come up with?  Helping my baby learn to walk, how to walk around the world, and a science article that promotes walking to work.

The Googles be mocking me…

Cue more frustration.  I’m in a small town, there’s no bus, no train, ridiculously priced taxis that you’re insane to take, I’m stranded, and the cafe is a measly 20 minutes away. My creative expressions are pushing at the inside of my brain to find an outlet, which is just more annoying, and the longer I sit here, the closer the rain is to ending because I live in a desert and it only ever lasts so long and then I might not see it again for months.

Cue my brilliant idea to do lunges to the cafe.  It’s not walking!

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Then I remembered the whole point is to find different activities to do that I ACTUALLY enjoy.  I hate lunges.  I hate lunges more than I hate potatoes, which is saying something.  My hatred for lunges and the pain they bring to my crappy genetically-weak knees, is second only to my hatred for burpees and the elliptical, which also hate my knees.  It is possible that I hate my knees more than I hate lunges, but I have to live with my crappy knees.  I don’t have to live with crappy lunges.

Scratch that idea.

Idea number 2: Skipping to the cafe.

This one was more so amusing than practical.  It actually came from my conversation with the dietitian yesterday, who suggested skipping around my yard instead of walking, followed by a weights session.  But the impracticality arose from how on earth I was going to manage to skip with a laptop.  Cue the idea that someone should invent some sort of laptop transport system that literally straps it to you so it can’t bounce up and down… does this system exist?  I’m envisioning something similar to a baby carrier… although I think that if we created that we’d have some ridiculous activist group claiming that it was a comment on how screwed up our society is that we value our computers as much as we value our babies.  Kind of like the whole Starbucks red cup epidemic, or the suing of Starbucks over ice in their drinks relative to the price…

Man, Starbucks has had a rough year…

Either way, it would have been interesting.  I think people might have thought I was insane skipping up the sidewalk… the things you can get away with when you’re a kid that you definitely cannot when you’re an adult.  But then again, I really loved skipping as a kid, so maybe in the future I should just say, screw what everyone else thinks about my skipping and do it anyways.  But I have to find this laptop carrier first…

Moving on.

Frustration, anger, and annoyance all reaching a climactic level by this point, now coupled with a sense of urgency.  It was after nine, usually the point by which I have already gone, and I was feeling nervous and anxious because I didn’t want to miss the rain and I knew it was only a matter of time.  It never rains all day.  MAKE A DECISION.

My decision can be summed up in precisely two words:

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This is five words… but I was literally referring to the first two.  It was those two that I literally said to myself in that instant as I pushed myself off the chair by the window, slammed by laptop closed, and grabbed my book bag.

Now, of course, while I was walking I had a plethora of time to think.  Being the perfectionist, and non-rule-breaking-type that I am, this can backfire on me, resulting in over analysis, guilt, and anxiety.  It’s the same sort of thing that happens when I’m at work and I don’t wipe down the cupboard doors (a relatively minor thing) because I don’t have time to do them.  It’s on the closing checklist, so if I don’t do it a cornucopia of negative self talk comes up: lazy, not trying hard enough, don’t work hard enough, slacker, etc etc.  Followed by the catastrophizing (what are they going to think of me?  Will they think I take my job for granted? Will they think I don’t care? Will they fire me? Will they cut my hours?)… Needless to say the emphasis of this scenario is exactly this:  I don’t have time.  So realistically, there are many other things that it is MORE IMPORTANT to get done for closing, such as stocking, cleaning windows, etc etc, and if wiping cupboard doors doesn’t get done one day it IS NOT the end of the world, and honestly, if it’s not smattered with stuff it would probably go unnoticed.  But it’s me; chances are, I’m more likely to stay late on my own time to wipe the cupboards than to miss it for one night.

Same thing goes on here:  the rule and assignment was to find alternative ways of movement so that I’m not rigid and ruled with walking and thus redeveloping old obsessive habits.  Here I am, walking to the cafe, when I’m not supposed to, even though it is me NOT ED that is wanting to do it.  This key emphasis is important, but like the cupboards it is considered irrelevant in my mind.  The negative self talk begins as early as the point when I step outside the door: irresponsible, cheating, guilty, unimaginative, stubborn to a fault…

Followed by the catastrophizing:  What is the dietitian going to think?  Is she going to be mad (or worse, disappointed) in me for disobeying the rules?  Is she going to take some activity away (again!-this is an on and off thing, as I push limits too far or let the ED take over)?  AND MORE IMPORTANTLY:  Am I just fooling myself?  Do I only think that it’s me that wants this, but in reality it’s all ED?  Am I jeopardizing my own recovery process by doing this?  I’m walking a fine line, and is it possible I’m letting it go too much?  Is this the beginning of the end again?  I just started to let go of some of the exercise obsession, did I just ruin all I’ve achieved and put myself 10 steps back?

Let’s be honest:  These are all good questions.  Well, actually I take it back… they’re good questions if they’re relevant and possible.  They’re not so good if they make you feel unjustifiably guilty and ashamed of yourself, or create more useless anxiety.  It’s good, especially in recovery, to think about your reasoning and motives for doing things, and the possible complications that can arise from making a particular decision.  In a sense, this is mindfulness in practice: actually being in the moment enough to think about what you’re doing in that moment, rather than mindlessly jumping into something without a second thought.  It is this differentiation that can save you from engaging in disordered behaviour without even realizing this is happening.  It’s your opportunity to interrupt the cycle of thought-emotion-behaviour, and choose what to do.

It’s a good thing.

Where it becomes mindless, is when you’re overanalyzing it.  When you step too far away from the present, and it becomes a cascade of what-if’s resulting in your ultimate destruction and the realization of the worst possible scenario.

So you have me, walking up the street, and then eventually sitting at the cafe, feeling glorious: liberated, fulfilled, satisfied, happy, and completely anger and frustration dissipated… but now shadowed by this nagging guilt and uncertainty of myself and the ramifications of my decisions.  Did I make the “right” choice?

How do we know when it’s “okay” to break the rules?

How do we know whether we’ve made the “right” decision?

Is it ever okay to go against the advice of seasoned professionals, especially in an eating disorder recovery sense, and change the plans?

Did you notice the resounding theme in all these questions?  Let’s examine again:

Okay.  Right. Wrong. Black. White.

Do you see the pattern?  In therapy, a universal practice in the management of anxiety, depression, addiction, and the like, is using knowledge of cognitive distortions to recognize and interrupt toxic thinking patterns.  I’ve mentioned some of these in previous posts, and a few in this one (catastrophizing and overgeneralization, labelling, as well as filtering [I did one thing, and therefore it ruined everything], plus mind reading [she will think/do x]), and now to all be lumped together resulting in one of the patriarchal distortions: all-or-nothing/black-and-white thinking.

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Once again, even in the pursuit of recovery, we become wrapped up in the idea of good vs bad, right vs wrong, success vs failure.  We try so hard to achieve a “perfect” recovery, or if not “perfect” at least striving to always be in pursuit of recovery, that we don’t even realize that we’re putting the same limitations and boundaries on ourselves that got ourselves into this mess in the first place.

It’s something I, as well as many others, come up against on a daily basis.  We become hyper-vigilant, and we transfer our food related anxieties to other aspects, just as when the other aspects of our life became too difficult to handle we transferred the anxiety to food.  I remember when I was in the hospital, the doctor had me hooked up to a heart monitor constantly because they were so terrified that my heart that was going down to 20 something beats per minute in my sleep, and 30-40 something when I was awake,  was just going to give up.  One day I had a scare.

I woke up early in the morning, and went to the bathroom to pee before my weigh in.  I had just sat down on the toilet when suddenly a frantic beating on the door was heard.  It was the head nurse, her voice in a panic, calling my name.

“Tiffany!  What are you doing?”

“I’m… peeing?” I answered, uncomfortable and bewildered.

“Peeing?  That’s it?”

“Yes… would you like me to unlock the door so you can see?”

I guess the calmness of my voice, as well as my bewilderment was enough to convince her, and she told me to just finish and get back to bed.  I finished, opened the door, and she watched me walk back and climb in, at which point she grabbed my wrist checking my pulse.  Worry was evident on her face, but after hanging on for some time, she seemed to calm, and reminded me to stay in bed before she left again.

It was only days after the fact that I found out my heart rate upon standing had skyrocketed to 180 beats per minute, AKA danger zone, and TOTALLY NOT NORMAL for someone just standing up at a toilet.  The minute I laid back down in bed it climbed down to a low 50-ish.

Later that afternoon, I was playing a dice game with a friend that came to visit when suddenly a nurse popped her head in the room and told my friend in a worried voice she had to leave.  The panic in her voice was enough to get me scared.  What was happening?  Why was she making her leave?  What was going on?

Not even two minutes later, people were rushing in with a portable ECG machine, and I was suddenly surrounded by people stripping off my clothes and poking me with electrodes.  They were quick moving, serious, and answered none of my questions when I asked what was going on.  They just told me to lay still, relax, and keep quiet.  “Breathe, they said, “Slowly, calmly, in and out.  Relax.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I found it incredibly difficult to relax in this scenario!

And without more than the reminder to lay still, keep calm, and DON’T get out of bed, they ran off.  And I was left, alone, terrified, unsure what was going on, struggling to breathe because my panic had escalated to a point of terror, in a hospital bed.  At least half an hour passed, and I remember calling my mom on my phone, sobbing, begging her to come up, telling her I was so scared, that I didn’t know what was going on, and that I thought I was dying or something.

It was only after my mom made the half hour drive to the hospital and badgered the nurses for a solid twenty minutes that someone finally told us what was going on.  The heart monitor was showing irregular beats at 216 BPM, and they were scared my heart was stopping and I was having a heart attack, so they had to do an ECG.  Turned out that the machine was glitching, which apparently was common, because the ECG came back totally fine.  They just forgot to come and tell me that everything was good.

Thank you for leaving me alone in a bed panicking for two hours.

Moral of this story: As a result of this day, this episode, I have since developed horrible white coat syndrome.  I PANIC when someone has to take my pulse.  Blood pressure, fine, needles, fine, sew up my gaping hole I made when I sliced my hand at work, totally fine.  But you try to take those two fingers and press them to my wrist or throat… NOT OKAY!  PANIC.  TERROR. Fear that they’re going to find 180, or 216 again, and we’ll have a repeat, except this time it won’t be a false alarm.  It has taken years, literally years, to get a little better.  I don’t turn into a complete basket case.  But I still freak out.

Anyways, the day after that episode, the heart rate monitor that had caused me so much torment, the thing I’d been begging to get taken off for weeks because I was allergic to the tape and it was giving me the most painful welts, became my best friend.  His name was Herbie, and I was chained to him.  I was so scared I was going to have a heart attack and die, that I wanted to keep it on forever, so someone could always be monitoring me.  So I wouldn’t die without anyone realizing I was going before it was too late.  A few days before I was transferred to a bigger specialized center in Vancouver, my doctor wanted to remove the monitor.  He was convinced I was now eating enough and had passed the risk point for refeeding syndrome and that my heart would no longer stop.

Side note: A wikipedia definition for those of you who don’t know about refeeding:

Refeeding syndrome is a syndrome consisting of metabolic disturbances that occur as a result of reinstitution of nutrition to patients who are starved or severely malnourished…Patients can develop fluid and electrolyte disorders, especially hypophosphatemia, along with neurologic, pulmonary, cardiac, neuromuscular, and hematologic complications…

Refeeding increases the basal metabolic rate. Intracellular movement of electrolytes occurs along with a fall in the serum electrolytes, including calcium and magnesium. Levels of serum glucose may rise and the B1 vitamin thiamine may fall. Cardiac arrhythmias are the most common cause of death from refeeding syndrome, with other significant risks including confusion, coma and convulsions and cardiac failure.[citation needed]

This syndrome can occur at the beginning of treatment for anorexia nervosa when patients have an increase in calorie intake and can be lethal.[3] The shifting of electrolytes and fluid balance increases cardiac workload and heart rate. This can lead to acute heart failure. Oxygen consumption is also decreased which strains the respiratory system and can make weaning from ventilation more difficult.

And I freaked out!  I begged and pleaded with him to leave it on.  My anxiety over it being gone when he insisted that it be removed was so high I compulsively checked my pulse almost every minute for almost a whole year, and they had to medicate me with benzodiazepines.  And then I was left on them, became addicted, and then had to eventually wean off of them and go through med withdrawals.  But that’s another story.

“There’s a reason why it has to come off,” he said to me while I was shaking and begging in my bed, “You don’t need it any more.  This is a transference.  You are transferring your anxiety about food, which you can no longer control, to something else.  You have to cope with your anxiety, not just move it around.”

And (tada, roundabout point!  I bet you were wondering where I was going with this!), this less lethal, but anxiety and guilt provoking situation is the same thing.  In the pursuit of recovery, we become just as hyper-vigilant of doing the “right” thing, as I was with monitoring my heart rate, or as we all were when we were vigilantly monitoring /restricting our caloric intake.  We still feel the need to be perfect, so we try to have a perfect recovery.  We over-analyze things, and apply black and white thinking to our recovery mindset too.

I made the choice this morning to ignore the plan, set by a professional, and do an activity that for me has in the past been a known ED behaviour.  Does this mean I did the “wrong” thing?

I don’t think so.

How do we know we did the “right” thing?

First, acknowledge/admit that there is the vast possibility that there is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” choice.  You didn’t do the “right” thing, anymore than you did the “wrong” thing.  Recovery, just like the rest of life, is not black and white.  In therapy we are taught to stop thinking in ultimatums.  The same thing applies to this process.

Second, is it “okay” to go against the advice of a professional?

Of course.  It’s your life.  Your life, your rules.  HOWEVER, this comes at a cost.  I would say you can ONLY go against the advice of a professional if you are solid in your frame of mind and are completely aware of what your motivations and reasonings are for making a different choice.  Stop making rules for yourself.  You don’t have rules about brownies or burgers anymore, so stop telling yourself you need to make rules about everything.  Everything we are told in recovery is a CHOICE.  No one can force you to do anything.  But you need to be aware of the choices you’re making, and you have to be just as aware of where they’re coming from, as you are of where they’re going to lead you as a result of making it.

There is a point in recovery where you are not aware of where your motives are coming from.  You’re not yet at the point where you can separate that ED voice from your own.  AND sometimes even those who usually can separate it, can’t.  You need to be honest with yourself there.  If you can differentiate, you can choose.  If you can’t differentiate, it’s probably a better idea to stick to the plan.

For me, I knew this morning that it was me, and I was 100% sure of it.  I made a choice, and it was one based on a message that my body was sending me from my HEALTHY SELF.  This was even more evident to me when it was over, because I felt HAPPY, LIBERATED, and STRONG.  Not guilty, conniving, anxious, or ashamed.

Did I question it?  Of course.  Did that questioning result in anxiety and second guessing?  Yes.  And this is where we need to draw the line.  No ruminating.  You made a choice, stick to it.  Don’t rehash it if it doesn’t need to be rehashed.  Chances are, what you’re rehashing is distorted.

What will they think?

Why does it matter?  Screw it, let’s do it.

If you were solid in your decision making, there’s nothing to question.

Screw it, let’s do it.

Will it appease the ED?  Maybe.  But that’s not black and white either.  Just because the eating disorder is happy, doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong choice.  It just means that you have to be extra (but not hyper) vigilant in the decisions you make in the near future, because chances are ED will try to needle its way in because it’s active.  You have to be able to once again analyze your motives before you make future choices.

Jenni Schaefer writes in her book Life Without ED that we have three selves: ED, anti-ED (always rebelling against ED), and our intelligent self.  You could also look at this as black, white, and grey.  Sometimes you got extremes, but almost always it’s some kind of mix (AKA, your intelligent self).  Chances are a choice you make will have a ramification, and often times that choice will impact ED, but the more choices you make, and just because that happens doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  We don’t want ED, and we don’t ALWAYS want anti-ED, sometimes we need the grey.

So if you find yourself questioning, if you need to make a decision, if you’re finding yourself frustrated, unsure, and trapped, sometimes you need to take a step out of the box.  And sometimes, that step is unconventional.  Sometimes, that choice breaks the “rules”, and sometimes it doesn’t.  You do you.

And when it all comes down to it, sometimes you just gotta say:

“Screw it.  Let’s do it.”