Today is the one year anniversary of the first full day the site was open to the public - so fucking awesome - something I never would have been able to say without the support of readers and everyone who believed in that old green blog and so, as I've been repeatedly told in preparation for this post which I will never be sure about having posted, the best way to thank and repay you guys for all you've let me do with your support is with a huge thank you in the form of stripped down honesty. Personal posts came to a halt a while back and are no longer my forte, though it is the middle of National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) week, something long-time readers know is a cause near and dear to this editor's heart and, with pushes and persuasions to do so, let's talk mental illness (can't fucking wait!). So, *cracks knuckles excessively to procrastinate* let's do this.
NEDA's 2015 theme is 'I had no idea' which is remarkably fitting. My favorite response, when I finally got around to talking to a trusted few people and seeking help and putting a name to the disease, has always been, "I had no idea". Like, thanks for not knowingly and willingly supporting a decade of severe self-abhorrence and starvation dude; if it makes you feel better, I had no idea either. Not eating fell into routine so quickly that I never saw it as an issue, then I got to high school and realized I loved working out, and I always placed my easy aversion to food as having come from a family of chefs and bakers where good food was in near constant excess. It wasn't even when I was too dizzy and weak and slow to continue with dance or softball or when I realized that I was twenty and wearing the same jeans I bought when I was thirteen that I thought something was wrong, it was when I was visiting family in Germany and overheard "I want to throw a steak at her", when I couldn't catch my breath after one flight of stairs, and when my mother's "you can't keep eating like that" turned to "when was the last time you ate" that I began to accept something was off.
Going off the myriads of pictures my parents have stored in cabinets of worn out memories, I never was fat as a kid; I had chubby cheeks and my fair share of baby fat and, when other kids got into sports and running around and losing all of their baby fat, I got really into Harry Potter and the piano and not running in a crazed pack of screaming children in a glorified game of keep away. I stood out and was, clearly, an easy target; always that ugly little fat kid. I was ten the first time I heard someone call me fat and it was the first time I had thought about weight, in any context, and I began to realize that I did wear a larger clothing size than my best friends and that they were thin and cool and pretty and had guys hanging on their every word and I wasn't and didn't.
I was twelve when I started rushing home from school to hide my packed lunches at the bottom of the trash can and offering to take everything out on trash day, perpetually terrified someone would find out. Not eating lunch felt natural after a while and easily spread to skipping out on breakfast most days. It was surprisingly easy to get away with not eating with working, travelling parents and busy siblings; the times we did sit down as a family for dinner, I only had to play with the food for ten to fifteen minutes before the table emptied and I could feed everything to my dog (who, for obvious reasons, loved me most). By the time I was heading to high school it was coffee in the morning, water at lunch, three baby carrots and four grapes after school and, if dinner was prepared by someone else or I needed my baby sister to eat, there'd be a few bites of that. It wasn't until I was fourteen that a friend asked if I was going to eat at lunch but, by that time, I was so great at brushing it off with a joke or story that I blotted over her question and it was never brought up again. My always stellar stats dropped and I watched my name move towards the bottom of the batting list, I couldn't hold my pirouettes for more than three rotations and found floor work exhausting, so I dropped those sports and went with my own workout routine that promised flat abs and a thin waist, all while mentally calculating the calories of everything I did eat, convincing myself that I could totally live off water and gum for weeks at a time, and always making sure I knew when a physical was scheduled so I could memorize height and weight charts and skirt around doctor's suspicions with a week of preparatory binging and zero exercise.
By the time my little sister was old enough to begin to notice and comment, I was heading to college and she was starting in on her own fight and the last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself; not a martyr move, just the acceptance that I was old enough to have to deal with it on my own, but if the youngest did not have everyone's full attention, she was not going to make it. So, I kept the same eating habits but upped my workouts by managing to miss the bus every morning and having to walk the mile and a half to my first building of the day and, when everyone else gained the freshman fifteen, I lost it - well, freshman seventeen, but apples and oranges. From an objective view point, this is so hard to write, because I know that I should want to shake that girl and tell her how fucking stupid it is and to just eat a goddamn meal, but it's not as simple as that when you're there, living in it, and going against that instinct is all still so relatively new that I'm still fighting the urge to agree with a lot of it. The thing was, it didn't matter how thin I got, because my perception was so damn distorted that anything that was not clearly muscle or bone was this grotesque fat that screamed failure and I couldn't handle seeing and dealing with it all.
NEDA puts an emphasis on early intervention, something important for any mental illness really, because it is so much easier to address and fight these things early on; the more years of self-hate you have stacked against you, the harder it is to find a healthy way out. It would have been terribly fantastic if someone had noticed early on, when I was eleven and sucking my cheeks in when looking in the mirror or thirteen and trying not to freak out because someone had suggested getting food before heading to the movies, or fourteen and writing in a bright pink composition book all the ways I could lose the fat, or even if I'd had a name to put to it so I could do my own research and recognize the patterns and consequences and look for a healthy alternative. If someone had warned me about the low recovery rates for people with anorexia; let me know how much harder it would become to concentrate or focus in class; told me the strain it would begin to put on my heart, that I would be able to tell when I moved too quickly or had worked out a few minutes longer than I should have; the depression and suicide rates among kids with anorexia would have been welcome knowledge, companionably at least; if someone had noticed and genuinely cared, that may have lessened it. Instead, I was met with compliments on my suddenly thinning figure; fourteen, the first time a guy called me pretty, without it being a cruel joke, and I started working out two to three hours a day; fifteen, when my grandmother told me I had 'finally lost all that baby fat and was starting to look like a model' and I started replacing food cravings with gum; sixteen, listening to snippets from family friends who said they had always thought I was going to be 'the ugly one' and they were glad I looked 'so much better now' and powering through hunger pains with memories of my aunts gathered around my sister, telling her she could be a model, while I sat fat and unimpressive in the corner of the couch; seventeen, when I thought I could get a handle on this and go back to eating at least two meals a day if I increased my workouts, but being met with the ever repeating in the back of my mind jeers from kids at school and my mother's never mal intended "if you keep eating like that you'll get fat" whenever I tried to bring food to my mouth. None of this is meant to place the blame, just, we really need to stop putting labels and descriptions on kids, good or bad, before they're even old enough to have formed their own identities.
I never made a conscious decision to not eat, I just wasn't hungry, I couldn't distinguish hunger from nausea, I couldn't physically make myself eat food when I tried, one look in the mirror and any actual hunger I felt would be instantly sated. It's not conscious or purposeful and, logically, it's not an illness that makes any sense, which is the most infuriating part about the whole thing when trying to explain to others. How do you tell someone how stressful eating in public is, how everyone else's jovial mood in restaurants only highlights the fact that you're so not calm and you do not want the waiter to come back and ask if you're ready to order; how grocery shopping is overwhelming because you're literally surrounded by the enemy, worse even, admitting you need it; that you cannot stand taking pictures or goddamn selfies because it just sucks having to look at yourself; that comments on your appearance, even positive ones, make you sweat and feel guilty? It's so easy for people to classify you as a picky eater or to make a quip about how you must be watching your weight and just smile and roll with those jokes. It took me ten years, from the first time I threw out my school lunch, to start talking to the few people I fully trust, because it's so impossible to explain to people that, when it's all laid out on the table, so to speak, it's hard to not be embarrassed by the facts.
After so many years of fighting this dick of a disease, I can assure you that there is nothing beautiful about anorexia, or any other eating disorder/mental illness; it's just a lot of frustration and desperation and wishing and losing faith all in one breath. There is nothing pretty about your hair falling out, lips cracking, cuticles breaking and bleeding, skin drying, circles under your eyes, looking in the mirror and realizing you're only ever going to see that ugly little fat kid who was just never enough. Mental illnesses aren't cute quirks or hipster trends with catchy songs, they're messy pillowcases and holding it together in public so you can fall apart in private and sleepless nights and numb days and false smiles. It's crying on the shower floor; looking for help and finding nothing and steadily losing hope for your perpetually promised 'better'; standing in a room full of people and knowing not one of them knows that you're broken; being so constantly exhausted; pacing your room, running shaky fingers through your hair and swiping at hot tears, taking deep breaths to steady yourself because you can't get a grip this time. There is zero beauty, quirkiness, trendiness in that moment you're standing there, watching from somewhere else, as a line of burgundy runs and builds into a ball and rolls off your fourth finger and hits that crack in the grout where it's just never going to wash out completely and you're still frustratingly unfazed. There is nothing glamorous or endearing about your always unflappable sister breaking down and telling you with a shaky voice that they 'love you, so much, and cannot stand to watch you end up in a hospital bed'.
Crisis text line Text 'Start' to 741-741
National Eating Disorders Association 800-931-2237 http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 630-577-1330 http://www.anad.org/
Depression/Bipolar/Suicide Prevention 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) 800-442-HOPE (4673) 800-273-TALK (8255) 800-826-3632
Eating Disorders Center 1-888-236-1188
There is a stigma surrounding mental illnesses, especially eating disorders which are so commonly misunderstood and misdiagnosed (I once listed my symptoms to a doctor and he tested me for mono and leukemia then sent me on my way), and you're told to reach out for help and are too often met with awkward silences and averted gazes and the always perfect "it's all in your head"; no shit you pretentious whore did you lift that one from Webster Kids? Straight talk now, there are people who love you and will do anything to make sure you survive, so talk to someone you trust, there are numbers listed here to the side, books at your library, music that just fucking gets it (Watsky, Fall Out Boy, The Wombats, Mary Lambert, Ingrid Michaelson, Nicki Minaj - they all made it and they're kind of really awesome); the brain's an organ, and if it's fucked it's fucked, so get help. If you are stuck in that interminable insurmountable insignificance and 'it gets better' is a cruel taunt because you are just so damn tired of fighting day after day after day, give it time, because there is nothing like that first moment you realize you're genuinely happy to still be around. It does take a long time and a hell of a lot of work, but it is worth everything, because the great thing about coming back to life after all of this is that now everything is so much brighter and fuller and just much mucher; just because you can't see your worth yet does not mean it's not there.
As far as reasons to stick around: there are new friends and old friends and drunken nights and broken bones and repeated until they're tired then revived again stories and inside jokes and orgasms and road trips and dark chocolate and discovering new places and falling in love and puppies and kittens and beach days and family traditions and new music and lazy days and breaking the rules and tattoos and sleeping in and giggles and warm hugs and bass in your chest concerts and festivals and laughing at yourself and close kept stories and dancing and slow kisses and shared smiles and driving with the windows down and being in a room filled with people that you know love you more than you ever thought you would deserve. So stay.
Deep breaths kiddos, because everything will be alright. The old blog started with the purpose to just share awesome music and this site will stay around as long as you guys continue to find music you love (just don't pull that 'you can only be a true fan if you've listened to them since the beginning' bullshit; I wasn't alive when Joel wrote "Vienna" but I still know it's one of the best) and we will always put an emphasis on featuring the best music from the artists you can look to as just good people (seriously, we won't post the interview if the person sucked; check those awesome people on the interviews page out). You're loved, you'll be fantastic and, throwback to the old days, there is a cheesily matching playlist below with some hella fine artists and tracks you'll want to check out (I swear, I left out "Fuckin' Perfect" this time. New site, new leaf, all that jazz. Except that Lady Danville and Watsky are still excessively featured, because they're perfection).