Anhedonia 101

One of the more common symptoms of depression is what is known in psychology circles as “anhedonia”. Most people see this word and go “huh?” then continue their lives. However for those people who experience anhedonia, it’s an incredibly debilitating aspect of depression and is one that more people need to understand. Without that understanding, others can make suggestions that seem like impossibilities, or simply say things that are cruel without realizing it.

You can read the rest of this post at Aut of Spoons.

 

I’m Worse Than I Used To Be

In my recent internet browsings, I ran across a Facebook status from a friend who suffers from depression. The status was fairly simple. It basically said: “I’m so much worse than I used to be.” This language is in a lot of places. “My depression has gotten worse”, “this is the worst she’s ever been” and so on. But there is an important distinction between saying “my depression is worse” and saying “I am worse”. One of these is helpful and is an assessment of the seriousness and difficulty of a situation. One of them reflects back upon yourself, and can have some negative consequences.

Here’s the thing: when you are in the midst of depression you are not “worse” than you were a year ago or five years ago. Your situation is worse. You however are exhibiting great courage and strength by continuing to get yourself out of bed each morning and struggle through each day. YOU are amazing in the moments that your struggle is the worst.

Let’s imagine a situation in which it is not your brain or your body that is making things difficult for you. Let’s imagine that you’re navigating a wilderness. Things keep trying to kill you, it’s desolate and dark, you don’t know how to get out, and you have little hope of it getting better. You struggle to keep going. You find tricks to make light, to find food, to keep yourself putting one foot in front of the other, moving in the hope that something might change. If someone were to look at you, they would certainly judge your situation as bad, but I seriously doubt they would say that you were doing worse than you had in a cushier circumstance. YOU as a human being are surviving, growing. You may not be flourishing, but you are learning tools to flourish.

Depression is just as difficult a mental landscape as this imagined world. You are navigating. You may not realize how much skill you are navigating with, but you are still alive, you are still moving, you have created your tiny lights to bring you through the day.

But why does it matter? What’s so bad about using this colloquialism?

We all know language is important. We all know that people already feel enough shame around mental illness. Many people struggle to succeed in day to day tasks when they’re in a difficult time with their mental health. It’s easy to feel like you’re “bad” or you used to be “better”. There is no reason to continue to reinforce that message to people, and in fact reminding people of their own power and strength is highly important to recovery. Especially when someone is talking about themselves, they need to remember that their own judgments can cut down their self-esteem and make it even harder for them to recover. Saying ‘things suck right now’ is a way to keep your own value out of it: you’re still kick-ass, but depression sucks.

Each time we reinforce the idea that mentally ill is equivalent to broken, wrong, bad, or inept, we are harming those who suffer from mental illness. It is far too easy to be sloppy about our language when we’re referring to mental health, and too many people already do this. Especially when there are so many fantastic ways of describing how frustrating it is to deal with depression (jerkbrain is laying siege! Release the hounds!), why would we fall back on words that repeat to us that we are not good enough for the world or that we were better when we weren’t sick? Why would we reinforce to ourselves that we have an obligation to get better because we suck so bad now?

Repeat after me fellow sufferers from all forms of jerkbrain: I am not bad. I am no worse than I was before jerkbrain struck. I am striking out into a wilderness that no one before me has braved and I am STILL ALIVE. It is dark and it sucks and I am afraid, but I am STILL ALIVE. I have survived things that the neurotypical cannot imagine, I woke up this morning and I got out of bed and no one can imagine how brave that was. I am a kickass jerkbrain warrior. I am the best I can be.

Triggers: What Are They, What To Do

I realize that I said I was going to be taking a blog break until this Thursday, but something happened to me last week that I really felt the need to write about and I wanted to do so while it was still fresh. Before I start the post, I want to add the caveat that this whole incident was very emotional and very upsetting for me. I am somewhat angry at some of the people involved, however that is primarily because I am hurt and afraid. I’m going to do my best to keep this post from becoming accusatory or rambling, but if it starts to go in that direction, that’s why.

I want to talk about triggers. A few days ago, I posted on Facebook about something that was triggering to me. I specified that I had been triggered. I was surprised at the response I got. Many people argued with me, told me I was wrong and that what had upset me was good and necessary, and even gave graphic descriptions of why it was so necessary (which was another exercise in being triggered). After things calmed down somewhat and I reiterated that I was being triggered and upset by their comments, I had one person mention to me that the had never heard of a trigger before: they didn’t know what I was talking about and so they didn’t understand that what they were doing was going to hurt me.

I was surprised. I live in a context where trigger is a common word. But I needed this reminder that it’s not something that everyone knows about, and that intelligent and well informed people may still need some explanations. So with that in mind, here’s a primer on what a trigger is, some basic do’s and don’ts of how to react to someone’s triggers, and a brief description of what it feels like to be triggered.

A trigger is an intense, uncontrollable, emotional reaction to something. It is typically a term reserved for someone with a mental illness because it is more than simply being upset or bothered by something. Triggers generally are related to past traumas that have left your brain impacted in some way. This means that when you see or hear or experience something that is a trigger, your emotions completely take over and you are in extreme, intense distress almost immediately. In its immediacy it is similar to an anxiety or a panic attack, although unlike those it doesn’t require that the individual react in certain ways. One could react to a trigger with a panic attack, but one could also react by sucking it up and dealing with it (which is what people are often expected to do).

A trigger is not the same as throwing a temper tantrum over something small, although it might appear to be so from the outside. It is also not weakness or simply being “oversensitive”. To take a parallel from physical health, let’s imagine you had broken your ankle. A trigger is like those elements of the ankle that never heal, only in your brain. Triggers are indications of where trauma has injured your brain. Being triggered is somewhat like being kicked in a broken ankle. It hurts, it’s scary, and you cannot stop that it hurts and is scary. The fact that you might have a friend who would laugh off getting kicked in the ankle doesn’t mean that you’re wrong for being hurt. It simply means that you have different situations.

Triggers can be all sorts of things depending upon the difficulties that an individual has faced before. For a vet, it could be loud noises, or the sound of helicopters. For someone who was raped, it could be the color of the curtains in the room it happened. For someone with an eating disorder it could be talk of calories and dieting. Triggers come in all shapes and sizes and don’t always make sense from the outside, but they’re simply about what sets off certain scripts and chain reactions in your brain.

So if you’re around someone and they say that they’ve been triggered or that something is triggering, what should you do?

First and foremost, accept that they are triggered by what they say they are triggered by. Respect them to know their own mental health better than you do, and whatever you do don’t tell them that they’re overreacting, that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel, that it’s inappropriate or wrong to feel what they feel, or that they should be able to deal. These statements are all very invalidating of the experience of being triggered: a trigger is not an opinion or an argument. It’s not something you can disagree with or argue with. It’s an experience. That would be like telling someone that you don’t agree with how much it hurt them to step on their broken ankle. It simply doesn’t make sense to say. So accept what they have said, don’t argue with it, and don’t tell them it’s wrong.

As a corollary DO NOT intentionally trigger someone. It’s important to remember that you’re not doing anything edgy, heroic, cool, or badass by ignoring someone’s triggers. You are not telling someone that you won’t put up with bad behavior or temper tantrums, you’re not teaching them about how harsh the real world is, you’re not “just having some fun”. You are being intentionally cruel. You are looking at an open wound and deciding what you can throw in it to make the person scream. This is a sick exercise. Don’t do it.

If someone opens up enough to you to tell you that they’re vulnerable in a certain state, the best thing you can do is ask them how you can help. Validate what they’re feeling, tell them that it must be horrible, and then ask if there’s anything you can do to help them avoid things that really hurt them that way, or help them when they’ve been triggered. Different people need different things when they’re distressed, so asking them what helps them is very important. If at all possible, try to do this when they’re not in the middle of being triggered.

Remember that when someone has been triggered, they are not themselves. If they’re typically someone whose statements are open to discussion, typically someone who’s analytical and wants to discuss things, typically someone who can just deal with whatever life throws at them, know that those things may not be the case when they’re in this extremely vulnerable state. Remember that you might need to give them a bit more space, or treat them a little more gently than you typically would. If they don’t want to talk about whatever has triggered them, let that rest. If they don’t want to solve whatever problem has triggered them, let that rest. If they simply need to vent, let that rest. They’re hurting.

So all of this discussion has been fairly hypothetical, but I’d like to finish by giving you a concrete example of what it feels like when you’ve been triggered. I’m going to use the example that prompted this whole post because it’s the most fresh in my mind and because I’ve spent a lot of time reliving it recently so I feel it will be the most vivid and descriptive. (Note: there is a trigger warning for eating disorders on this)

Earlier this week I went to Starbucks. This was out of the ordinary for me, but I had a Starbucks gift card so I went to Starbucks. I walked in and looked at the menu and there, listed next to each and every drink was a calorie count. I felt my whole body involuntarily tense, my breath catch. I nearly turned and left the store, or bolted for their restroom. All I could think about was that I deeply wanted to stick my fingers down my throat and puke up everything I had eaten for the last week. I wanted to leave this store and go home and hide where I would not be tempted by food, where I could wait until my body shriveled away and passed out, where I could safely avoid food for at least the next week. All these thoughts ran through my head immediately.

I took a deep breath and shoved them away so that I could get in line. I had to go to work and I was exhausted. I needed some caffeine. I stood in line with my mind racing and racing. I had to get a small. I had to get the lowest calorie count thing available on the menu, even if I didn’t like it. NO, fuck the calories, I should get the HIGHEST calorie count just to prove that I can. Or maybe a compromise, maybe if I just get a small of what I actually wanted I’d be ok. No that wouldn’t work, it was a full breakfast worth of calories and I don’t eat breakfast. Breakfast is unacceptable.

I barely remember getting to the register and ordering something in a haze. It bothered me for the rest of the day, and I threw up a post on Facebook about how distressed I was. I got comment after comment about how calorie counts are necessary, about all the hidden calories in our food, about the obesity epidemic, graphic descriptions of the size and calorie counts of Starbucks drinks and how they were going to lead to death from obesity. I have not been able to stop thinking about calories and this incident ever since. I imagine I will never go to Starbucks again.

I’m worried about going to restaurants now, something I’d finally been starting to get over. I keep replaying over and over how much I keep eating and wondering how many calories are in each dish. I had stopped thinking about calories for a long time, and now they’re hiding in the back of my mind again. I’m terrified that my diet is entirely unhealthy, that I’m going to give myself diabetes, that I’m going to become obese and get heart disease. I have been unable to focus at work during an incredibly important time, I have found myself dissociating extremely badly, I have almost cried at work. I’ve been unable to sleep, constantly composing responses in my mind that justify why I was hurt, struggling to let myself eat, struggling against the impulse to self harm or to purge.

It feels as if my mind simply can’t shut off or won’t shut off because the most important thing in the world has presented itself: calories. And now I need to react, protect myself, run, escape in any way possible. That is a trigger.

P.S. For anyone who thinks that triggers don’t exist or are made up 1.Go fuck yourself and 2.There is a great deal of psychological research into the ways the brain is injured by trauma and how that affects the way someone functions for the rest of their life. It’s real. Figure out google and find some articles.

 

Strengths and Mental Illness

Lately, our culture seems to be all about optimizing our strengths. At work, we’ve been taking Strengths Finder and analyzing our strengths up the wazoo. We’re often told how we need to play to what we’re best at. While in the past, we were often told to focus most on what we were worst at to bring it up to speed, we’ve had somewhat of a shift to focusing on how your strengths can help you across the board.

While hearing all of these comments about strengths, and how to optimize myself, I found myself somewhat frustrated. It can be hard to imagine excelling at things when it’s a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. In addition, my strengths in Strengths Finders came up as competition, achievement, input, intellection, and learning. Essentially, all of these things at their root have caused me a great deal of heartache and stress. I can’t imagine I would have the mental illnesses I do without them, particularly without competition and achievement. It was hard for me to see how those could be strengths, how they could help me succeed and flourish in life. I was also frustrated at the idea that we should focus on our strengths and not worry about our weaknesses because we would never excel at them. As someone whose weaknesses are not just a nuisance, but are in fact seriously debilitating, this doesn’t seem far practical to me.

So what can someone with a mental illness learn from these strengths based ideas? Can we use them to our advantage? Can mental health treatment benefit from this movement towards strengths?

The first thing that stuck out to me when contemplating strengths is that I spend a lot of time in the mindset of my strengths. Perhaps too much time. When we were discussing them in my office, we mentioned that one could over rely on one’s strengths: focus too much on one way of doing things, and get lost in that. This can be damaging, and actually turn your strength into a weakness of sorts. As an example, let’s look at competition. This strength is about being able to compare yourself to others, to see where you fit in, to see how others are doing things, and to use that comparison as motivation. When you rely overly hard on it, everything becomes a competition, you start to be extremely hard on yourself if you’re not first at everything, and you can become vicious in your attempts to win at all costs. You don’t focus on the larger picture of how competition is helpful, and instead compete simply for competition’s sake. This happens to me quite often. In this case I’m relying way too hard on one strength to get me through, using it as my sole motivator, and I’m not allowing myself to be balanced.

I am used to looking at my competitive nature as a weakness, as something that needs to be fixed. I’m used to seeing it as the source of many of my problems. I’ve been told not to compare myself to others because it will make me miserable. But truth be told, I feel quite lost when I can’t compare myself to others. If I don’t have a benchmark, I’m not sure where I should be. If I don’t know that I’m getting better, I feel a bit lost about myself and my accomplishments. Having this shift to seeing it not as a weakness, but simply as a strength that I need to be more aware of has been incredibly helpful.

Another way to look at this is to circumvent some of your perceived weaknesses. I’m not so good at a lot of the including, social type skills. Social anxiety and me are best buds. This can make my life harder when it comes to things like making phone calls or doing the customer service portion of my job. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get past this social anxiety. However it might be more helpful for me to put my time and effort into projects that come more naturally to me, or to try to approach social engagements as a way to learn something so as to engage the things I do feel good at. I feel good at explaining things to others, so if I view myself as simply a help desk rather than someone trying to make a deep personal connection, I feel far more comfortable.

However despite how helpful focusing on your strengths can be, there are times when weaknesses require your attention (e.g. when you can’t get out of bed in the morning). This can make focusing on your strengths difficult. This might be a time to think about balance, and to think about how strengths and weaknesses are related to the myths that we carry. In DBT, we like to talk about myths. These are things that you are convinced are true, that were probably helpful coping mechanisms at one point, but are not any longer. They include things like “anger is not acceptable”, or “I can’t ask for help”.

Oftentimes, we internalize myths about what our strengths should be, or about how heavily we should rely on our strengths. To go back to competition, I often tell myself that I need to be the best at everything I do. This is a myth. And it means that I obsess over my competition strength. It may even mean that I force myself into it in situations that I don’t want to use it. Perhaps if I didn’t feel the weight of having to be the best at everything all day long hovering over me from the moment I wake up, I’d have a bit more spring in my step upon waking. Thinking about the values that you assign with your strengths can help illuminate some of those myths and help you understand how pulling back on a few of your strengths may help you with some of your weaknesses.

Perhaps mental health treatment focuses too much on what we can’t do and the ways that our brains hurt us, rather than imagining what we do right and asking us to rely on those things. Perhaps spending some time thinking about what we do well can help us find workarounds for the things we don’t like.

What Discrimination Looks Like

When you think about discrimination what do you imagine? Most likely someone without a college degree, working a less than stellar job. Perhaps someone who has been abused. Do you imagine someone with a college degree, nearly no debt, working for a nonprofit and happily able to pay their bills? Probably not. Do you think it’s even possible for that person to be discriminated against? Do you think it would affect their life?

I’d like to use myself as an example of how discrimination can hurt those who look highly successful, and how discrimination is far more pervasive than we think it is as it’s often invisible. Often, people who experience discrimination but who are doing fairly well in other areas of their life won’t report because the police and legal system aren’t stellar towards people who are in an oppressed category, and because it’s long, painful, and sometimes expensive. You never know who has been affected by discrimination or how it’s changed their life. These are my examples. I am one of the more privileged people I know, so I’m sure that nearly everyone else out there reading has more, but if I can have my life impacted by discrimination, then so can anyone else. It is a serious problem.

From the moment I entered the workforce I have experienced discrimination. The following story reeks of privilege and I understand that, but even with that reeking of privilege, I want to point out the gender discrimination that happened. When I was 16, my parents decided that I should probably get my first summer job. When my brother was my age, he had gone to work for my dad’s company. My dad worked for a company that made staging equipment, and my brother went to work in the shop doing physical labor. He was paid $10/hr. Obviously having parents who can get you a well-paying summer job is a huge privilege. I am not denying this. However when I reached the age to start working, my father made the same request: could his daughter work the same job that his son previously had? The company responded with “we don’t let girls work in the shop. It’s not the right environment.”

As some background, I was entirely physically capable of any job that my brother was. I was swimming almost 12 hours per week at the time and in incredibly good shape. There was absolutely no reason that I should be denied that job. The company didn’t even try to cover it up by saying they didn’t think I was capable of the job, they simply said that they would not hire me because of my gender. What they offered me instead was an office job paying $8/hr. Now as all of you know this is highly illegal. Thankfully, my mother is a lawyer and not someone who takes that kind of shit lightly, so she called them up and kindly informed them that they would pay her daughter the same amount of money they paid her son or she would sue their asses off. I was so lucky to be able to get a job for $10/hr, but they didn’t hire me back the next summer and hired someone for a lower pay rate, despite the fact that I was an incredibly dedicated worker at a really sucky job (data entry is the most soul-killing endeavor ever). My brother on the other hand worked for nearly 5 summers there, easily making more than I made at any other job I could get. I now know for a fact that I’m starting out my post-college life with less than he did. In addition, in college he was offered a job through my uncle’s river rafting company that a. paid well and b. was amazing. I was not offered this same opportunity despite expressing interest.

Again, I understand that these things didn’t leave me in a really bad situation. I am not homeless. I am not without a job. I wasn’t left with no way to start saving for college. However they did leave me with a significant dent in my finances that my brother didn’t have, when in nearly every other way we were identical (with the exception that I had a better GPA than he did, but apparently that counts negatively??). In the long term, these things make a difference. They limit my ability to do things like take unpaid internships. They make my current position as a VISTA a much more significant risk than it would be for him. They mean that I’ll be starting with less resources than he has, and that impacts my future. They have significantly contributed to my anxiety surrounding money. They have left me feeling like less of a person in many ways. They have impacts, even where it appears that they don’t.

But beyond sexism, and the effects of discrimination that I may be able to make up for in other ways (like be being a super awesome badass), I’m also currently experiencing some discrimination that may seriously impact my life and will likely be a lot harder to recover from. Last week, I asked my therapist if she would consider basically “prescribing” me an emotional support animal (a cat to be specific). As y’all probably know I have an eating disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and sub-threshold borderline personality disorder. One is entitled to an emotional support animal if you have a disability which affects your ability to do basic functions in your home (I would argue that the inability to eat due to eating disorder, the insomnia due to anxiety, and the lack of personal safety due to self-injury would qualify here), and if the animal will improve those symptoms and is not an undue burden to the landlord. This applies even if the landlord has a no pets policy. Cats really do alleviate my symptoms. They are incredibly helpful for soothing anxiety, they lighten my mood, they help me sleep, they calm me if I’m having a bad day or having difficulties with food, and they are really really good at interrupting purging and self-injurious behavior (seriously have you ever tried to hurt yourself when there’s a cat who keeps knocking your razors on the floor? It’s too ridiculous to even attempt).

Having this animal is important to my safety and mental well-being. In fact, it directly impacts my quality of life, my ability to function at work and at home, my health, and perhaps even my life (I don’t imagine I’m anywhere near a suicidal state of mind right now, but it’s happened before and it is a very real possibility for someone with my conditions). However when I called my landlord to run it past him, let him know that I had appropriate documentation, and make sure he didn’t have any questions, the response I got was “No, no way no how, you are being underhanded and dirty, you are an improper tenant, and you don’t get to live here if you want to have this animal that you need for your health”. This response has directly put me in jeopardy as my anxiety and anger shot through the roof. Since then I have been exhibiting some unhealthy exercising and eating practices, and it took all my self-control not to self-harm after that phone call. Looking at me, no one would know the kind of impact that this discrimination is having on me, but it is serious and it is potentially life threatening (because yes, not eating, over-exercising, purging, and self-harm are all potentially life threatening).

In all sorts of places that you would not expect, there is discrimination and its consequences are real and they are serious. For all the privilege I have dripping out of my ears, I have now been put into a seriously unhealthy position because of my mental health. I am now left with the choice of whether to attempt to manage my mental health without what would be an extremely helpful tool, or to try to go through a court battle (which I don’t have the money or time for, which would stress me out immensely, and would most likely exacerbate all of my symptoms). No matter what someone looks like or how their life appears, you have no idea how systems of power affect them. They are pervasive and intensely harmful. This is one life, one set of stories. Imagine multiplying that by all the people my age, or all the people with my mental health status, or all the women. We have not solved these problems. They are very real.

P.S. The little cutie in the featured picture is the baby that I really want to take home with me.

Building Mastery

There’s a skill that we’ve been working on in DBT called “building mastery”. This is the process of doing something new/difficult/fulfilling in some way and feeling a sense of accomplishment after you do it. You don’t have to complete the entire project (get in shape or graduate from college), but rather every time you take steps towards getting something done you are building mastery. Building mastery also doesn’t have to be anything huge, it simply has to result in that special feeling that can be describe in no way except “I did a Thing”. This is about building a self-identity through feeling accomplished. Generally these things should be guided by your values, so that they contribute to feeling as if you’ve done something worthwhile.

 

I’ve been struggling with this skill lately, and it’s something that I think many people misunderstand and could use some work on. So we’re going to do some building mastery of building mastery today.

 

I’ve noticed among many of my friends, particularly the accomplishment minded of us, we discount all of the work or effort that we put into something until we have reached the end point, and then we simply nod and move on to doing something else. Rarely do we take the time to look at our accomplishment and accept it as something we’ve done and done well. This is a serious problem, especially as we’re part of a culture that expects us to be endless wheels of perfect accomplishment. Particularly for the women among us, perfection is apparently a prerequisite of acceptability, and the number of things we need to be perfect at just keeps on growing.

 

So how can we fight back against a culture that tells us we should always be getting more done? How do we retrain our minds to accept the things we’ve accomplished and praise ourselves for them? This is something I’m struggling with myself, but here are my suggestions so far:

 

1.When you finish something, do more than cross it off the to-do list. Give yourself a reward, take a break, or spend some time thinking about what you just did. Let it sink in that you got something done.

 

2.Make sure you check the facts at the end of the day. It’s so easy to discount all the things you did when looking at the endless list of things that still need to be done. Sit down and honestly think to yourself about what you did today. It’s probably a lot more than you think.

 

3.When doing 1 or 2, try to honestly compliment yourself about some element of what you did, or at the very least think about the effort it took and the impact of your success. This doesn’t have to be big. I’m sick today, so if I manage to get clothes on and leave the house that will be a huge success because of the effort it took to get there. It’s incredibly easy to just assume you should have been able to do everything you did, so it doesn’t count. That’s not true. Everything you do is a victory for you. Let it sink in, don’t brush past it.

 

4.It’s especially easy to ignore your progress across time. If you’re working on something like getting in shape, it can be a good idea to keep a record of how you’re doing so that you can look back and see how things have changed. This is especially true for things like depression and anxiety. Often we don’t notice when we’re getting better. Keeping a diary card like this one of how you’re feeling each day is a good way to notice when you improve. Pay attention to that! Even if you don’t write down how things have changed, spend some time thinking about how far you’ve come in the last year, what changes you’ve made, what you’ve done. I’ll bet if you think about all of it you’ll feel pretty darn accomplished.

 

5.Avoid the comparison game. Your accomplishments are yours, and they don’t lose importance because someone else did more or better or different.

 

I’ve been trying to keep these things in mind when I get things done each day. While it still doesn’t make me feel like master of the universe, I have felt less of that anxious bug that tells me do more, do more, do more! When you stop feeling as if every second of the day needs to be spent accomplishing something, anxiety and exhaustion really disappear. So today I’m patting myself on the back for writing this post, for getting up and taking care of all the animals, for finishing my Lumosity workout, for reading all my regular bogs, for writing a blog for work, and for checking all of my work email even though I am sick. And it’s not even noon! I think I should reward myself with a nap.

Eating Disorder Pet Peeves

I’m not feeling very well today. I think I’m sick and I’ve just had a fairly emotional week thus far. Because of that, and because this is my blog and I do what I want, I’m going to write about being cranky. Specifically I’m going to talk about those things that drive me and my eating disorder CRAZY. I assume they drive other people with eating disorders crazy too, but I’m not really sure. So here they are, my eating disorder pet peeves, aka things not to do around someone with an eating disorder:

1. When I say that I ate something, this is not an invitation to comment on my weight.
I mean really actually nothing is an invitation to comment on my weight unless I actively invite you to comment on my weight or unless you’re my doctor or dietician. Otherwise you can piss the fuck off because when you ask me how I’m “so skinny when I eat ice cream” I feel both like a fraud, and like I’m completely crazy. I also want to yell at you “BECAUSE I NEVER EAT”, so please just don’t do it.

2.Don’t talk about how many calories are in things or how bad they are for you or how sugary or fatty things are.
Again, just WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? I’ve had a near stranger come up and comment on how many calories are in my food. Why? All you’re doing is making people feel guilty and drawing attention to something unnecessary. Counting calories is a really unhealthy way of controlling your diet, it’s incredibly triggering, and it’s really just not helpful to anyone to talk about calories. If you’re a calorie counter, then count your calories! Hooray! Just don’t tell me about it.

3.I don’t need to know about your workouts. I really, really don’t. I am competitive and exercise is a trigger. Please just don’t tell me. I come up with enough overzealous workouts all on my own.

4.Don’t give me that special look. You know the one. The one that says “is she going to blow up today?” or “did I break her?”. I’m not a doll, I’m not fragile, I’m not on the edge. You can talk to me. Use your words if you think I’m having a bad day, don’t just give me the concerned face. Don’t tiptoe around. You can say words to me.

5.If you expect me to take care of myself, I sure as hell expect you to take care of yourself. Don’t act all worried and terrified if I don’t eat and then turn around and skip meals. In particular, your workaholic nature and your negative self-comments affect me.  They normalize treating myself like crap. It’s important that you understand this.

6.DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT use the words “depression” or “anorexic” in casual conversation as vague descriptors of things. It trivializes hell to me. Just don’t.

7.Pretty please ask before physical contact. You don’t necessarily have to use your words but like…instead of a sudden glomp you can open your arms and wait for reciprocation. That’s cool. I am a tad sensitive about my body and sudden contact freaks me the heck out.

8.Please don’t make fun of me for being physically incapable of things that seem easy to you. These include things like running a mile, staying awake for more than about 15 hours at a time, or having enough energy to go out and socialize. My body is tired. Respect that. If you can be aware of it, that helps oodles too. I will push myself to keep up with others, and if someone doesn’t notice that I can’t keep up it’s fairly miserable.

Most of these things seem self-explanatory to me. Generally avoiding topics like weight, appearance, and exercise are a good idea because those are stressful and triggering to me. In general, those are also things that you have no business butting into other people’s lives about, so overall I don’t know why we have to have this conversation. Just don’t do it.