Life

A Holiday Just for Me

I did it. I survived the holidays. And I don’t have to listen to Christmas music for 10 more months! Hooray!

As I’m sure you’ve already suspected, I’m not usually big on the holidays. Except for Halloween. Halloween is the most joyous of all occasions. Those other holidays though? No thanks. Due to the societal expectations, financial burden, family obligations, etc., I find most major holidays to be not only disappointing, but incredibly stressful. Can’t afford to fly all over the country to visit family/friends for Christmas? There’s a guilt trip for that. Can’t spend a fortune on presents? There’s a guilt trip for that. Aren’t feeling quite as merry as you should during “the most wonderful time of the year?” You’re doing it wrong, obviously. You’d rather work than use up your PTO? You’re a terrible person….And so on and so on.

I hate the pressure that comes with the holidays. Pressure that society and family slaps on us, making you feel like no matter what you do, it’s not enough. Last year, when I was still in therapy, I expressed similar sentiments to my therapist. And you know what she told me? She told me that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. And holy moley, she was right.

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Despite the expectations laid on us during the holidays, none of us are under any obligation to fulfill them. There is never any reason to feel guilty for doing what’s best for you.

That being said, I had a lovely Christmas this year. This was probably the first I’ve had in a long time that I didn’t feel depressed. I enjoyed the time spent with Boyfriend and his daughter. Even more so, I enjoyed the time we spent by ourselves on Christmas Eve. I cooked dinner for us and we just hung out, doing what we wanted to do. He played video games, while I watched Doctor Who (a tradition of mine) and snuggled with Merlin. Christmas morning I got up and slaved over this beauty:

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I made my first ever Buche de Noel (or Yule log), including some tiny little meringue mushrooms. Did I have to do it? No. Did I want to? Hell yes. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud or excited about a dessert I’ve made before. And I didn’t do it for anyone else, I did it just for me. It was totally worth it.

This post is a little late, but the holidays aren’t totally over yet. Don’t forget to make some of it about you.

Life · mental health

Funky Town

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I feel like I’ve been failing, or perhaps “slacking” is a better word, at the whole blogging thing lately. For some reason, since I got back from my Portland trip I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Some of it is most likely due to the weather. I’m finding it harder to go outside and get exercise, as it’s already dark by the time I get home in the evening. (Stupid daylight savings!) On top of that I’m just feeling incredibly bored and a bit sad. Usually at this time of year, when all the holiday fervor starts, I start feeling quite lonely. I find myself wanting to do more things, but I keep running into the issue that a.) there aren’t many things in Charlotte that excite me anymore, or b.) I don’t have anyone to do them with.

I’m already finding myself wanting to book another trip somewhere, just to get out of my own head for a  bit and to give myself something to look forward to. But is going away somewhere by myself really going to make me feel any less lonely? I don’t know.

One positive thing I have to share is that I’m still making good progress on the book. I have about a quarter of the book left to finish before I am done with my first draft. As I already have the rest of the story outlined and planned out, it shouldn’t (hopefully) take too long for me to finish. 🙂

I apologize for my lack of comments and posts lately. I’ve been reading plenty, but realize that I’ve been somewhat lazy with comments and writing reviews. Blergh. I really need to snap out of this funk soon before it starts spiraling back into a full-blown episode of depression.

I hope you’re all doing well and had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Life · Uncategorized

…And to All a Good Night

Greetings! I hope you all had a merry and most enjoyable holiday. Or at least a generic, non-shitty Monday. After all my griping and worrying, I am happy to report that I not only survived Christmas, but I actually managed to have a good time.

I survived both dinners with the boyfriend’s family. Fortunately, no meat was flung in anger, which means that I will probably be invited back next year. (Disclaimer: I call this “fortunate,” but I feel like the only ones who are benefiting here are my boyfriend’s family. Just imagine the story I could have shared with you all if I actually had thrown a rib roast or ham across the room. *sigh* I’ll do better for you guys next time, I promise.)

We opened presents with my boyfriend’s daughter on Christmas Eve. Lots of books and Harry Potter-themed gifts were exchanged at out house. The animals also received presents and lots of treats.

Here’s a shot of Beaker, all worn out from playing with his new toys, and Ash, trying to disguise himself as a present:

One of my favorite gifts I received was from my mother. She took several years worth of home movies and had them converted from VHS tapes onto DVDs for my siblings and I. I watched a few of them last night and really enjoyed myself. It’s nice to be reminded of forgotten times and relive happy childhood memories. There were some nice scenes of me sleeping/farting, taking a bath, and attempting to eat a plastic bag out of the garbage can. I was so much more sophisticated back then. I also learned that when I was 3-4 my voice sounded like that of an 80 year old woman with emphysema. I’m really glad I grew out of that phase. Or maybe I didn’t and everybody has been shielding me from the truth for all these years? (This is bothering me. I feel like I need to investigate further.)

There’s another exciting present that I received from my boyfriend that I can’t wait to share with you guys, but it’s not quite time yet. Anyone want to guess what it is? Hint: No, I didn’t get engaged and I don’t have a bun in the oven. There are brownies in the oven at the moment though, which, to me, is even better than having a bun in your oven.

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Speculations on Speculoos 

I’m playing in the kitchen this evening in preparation for tomorrow’s festivities. Actually, I would have been making these this weekend regardless of whether Christmas was approaching or not, as I am currently obsessed with speculoos butter (aka “cookie butter”).

Let me back up for a moment. Have you ever heard of this magical sustenance? I imagine if you are European or shop at Trader Joe’s regularly you are already privy to the heavenly-ness of cookie butter. If you happen to be living under a rock and haven’t heard of it yet, let’s discuss:

Speculoos cookies are crispy little treats of Belgian origin. They have a subtle sweetness with notes of caramel. They’re spiced with warm spices, like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, which gives them a similarity to gingerbread, but aren’t quite as in-your-face. They’re quite tasty on their own, but then some brilliant person came along and said “You know what would be even more delicious? If we ground up these cookies until they have the consistency of peanut butter and then we can spread them on everything.” It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Spreading cookies on things? But oh, it’s fucking glorious. I wish I knew who was responsible for this act of genius because that person deserves a lap dance.

So, know that you know about cookie butter, let me tell you about tonight’s creation. I took some semi-sweet and dark chocolate and heated it over a double boiler with heavy cream. Once the chocolate was completely melted I stirred in some cookie butter and finely chopped speculoos cookies. After chilling the ganache for about an hour I rolled them into tiny balls and coated them with cocoa powder.

25660272_10103845737323795_4264643661580695977_nErrr, I may have gotten a little carried away.
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Holidays and Eating Disorders (“The Rib Roast Conundrum”)

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The holidays can be one of the worst times of the year if you’re someone with an eating disorder or any kind of food issues. With Thanksgiving, there’s usually an abundance of food, but at least it’s only one meal. Christmas, however, is a horse of a different color. For whatever reason, people have decided that Christmas basically starts the day after Thanksgiving. That means we get to celebrate and be surrounded by holiday “treats” for practically an entire month before the holiday even gets here. YAY.

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After a few months of working on myself and working on my food issues I’m starting to feel like I am making some progress. It’s not like I climbed a mountain or anything, but there have been enough baby steps that I’m at least able to see a way out of the forest. (That terrible metaphor is giving me flashbacks to my trip to Banff for some reason. *shudders*)

Even with the progress I’ve made the holidays are starting to stress me out. If you could see the break room in my office right now you would see approximately 5 gift baskets, plates of assorted cookies and pastries, boxes of chocolate covered everything, and a really ugly cake that someone paid a lot of money for. (I’m embarrassed for them.) There have been holiday get-togethers, special lunches, etc. In an attempt to maintain the slightest bit of my sanity, I’ve declined offers to a few social gatherings lately. Too much forced socialization makes my social anxiety skyrocket, so I’ve been trying to avoid doing too much this year. I’ve been trying to stick with my normal routine as much as possible – going to dance class and keeping up with exercise, reading and spending time at the book store, and cooking healthy meals for myself at home. Still, I can’t run away from everything.

There will be not one, but two Christmas dinners with my boyfriend’s family this week that I feel obligated to attend. One of these dinners will take place this evening. I’ve been doing my best to prepare myself for the occasion, but, to be honest, I am stressing over it a bit. For starters, I am not always super comfortable around his family. This is no fault of theirs, as I am uncomfortable around the vast majority of people I encounter. Most of the family dinners I’ve been to involve me sitting in the corner, being quiet and trying to focus on not saying something stupid (which I always fail at). On top of the general feelings of awkwardness, there’s the food situation. We’ve already been informed that dinner will consist of a fancy (and probably expensive) rib roast. For most “normal” people, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a lovely thing to serve for Christmas dinner. But for me, with all my eating issues and my general anxiety surrounding food this time of year, this is not happy news.

My eating disorder manifests in the form of excessively healthy eating, sometimes to the point that I don’t get enough calories. There are a number of foods that my warped brain has deemed “unhealthy” or “bad” and I do everything in my power to avoid those foods. One of those foods is red meat. I don’t believe I’ve eaten red meat since I relapsed, 6+ months ago. Even with all the baby steps I’ve taken towards recovery and the slow progress I’ve made, I’ve still been avoiding red meat. Now, this evening, we will be presented with a lovely piece of slightly bloody animal carcass and I will be expected to eat it. (I don’t even know what else we’ll be having, but I expect that some of it will involve other foods that I actively avoid.)

Do you see the conundrum?

Obviously, I can’t go and avoid eating altogether because that would be rude and draw attention to my already weird behavior. (Also, this is exactly what my eating disorder wants me to do, which is why I shouldn’t do it.) This means that I will have to go and eat food that will make me anxious and most likely bring up feelings of guilt and/or self-loathing later. I envy those in recovery that can handle these situations graciously. I am ungracious as fuck when it comes to these situations. On the outside I will try to act “normal” and pretend to be enjoying myself, but on the inside I will be panicky, angry, and envisioning myself picking up said rib roast and throwing it at the host’s head.

…and this scenario just pertains to one dinner. One holiday function of the several I have been invited to. This situation will play out over and over again for the better part of a month, with every dinner/party I am presented with, compounded by dozens of holiday gift baskets and ugly cakes with baby Jesus on them.

This is why the holidays are so challenging for people with eating disorders, even those of us in recovery. Even if you have other things to try to distract yourself with, like decorating, charitable work, or religious traditions, there’s still usually a lot of food around. Unless you refuse to leave your house for a month, there’s no way to avoid it all. *sighs*

Sorry for my long-winded rant today. I may or may not be under the influence of a lot of cold medicine.

Now, excuse me while I go warm up my rib throwing arm.<<
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Christmas Traditions

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I haven’t been into Christmas the last couple of years. I used to be, many moons ago. There was a time when I loved Christmas. As I’ve gotten older and things have gotten more difficult in my personal life, however, it’s gotten more challenging to be excited about the holidays.

Once my ex and I got separated all of the holiday traditions that I used to look forward to went away. We used to decorate the tree…or, I mostly decorated it, but he and the cats liked to help. I really enjoyed decorating the tree. I even hand-made some ornaments for it. Now I don’t even have a tree or any Christmas decorations. I let him keep all that stuff. I don’t even have any of the ornaments that I made.

Even more exciting than the tree was the holiday food! I used to bake a ton of stuff around the holidays, for both my profession and just for fun. Sometimes it would be tedious, but for the most part I enjoyed it. Even when it was “work,” baking holiday goodies was still a fun activity for me. Now, I don’t really feel like I have much reason to do it. There are no clients looking for my treats and my friends/family aren’t asking for it either. So why bother? It seems silly to bake hundreds of Christmas cookies when nobody wants them. I used to make a big Italian dinner for Christmas Eve, similar to what my family did when I was growing up. We spent most of these holidays with a group of friends that felt more like family to me than my actual family. I’d cook practically the whole day and we’d be drinking wine the whole time. It was fun. Now, those people we spent the holidays with no longer live here, which makes me sad. Some of us barely even talk anymore. I can, of course, keep up with the Italian tradition, but it’s definitely not the same if nobody is around to help you cook/eat all the food.

Although buying gifts for people stresses me me out sometimes, I’ve always loved buying presents for my fur babies every year. It’s so adorable, because they actually get excited on Christmas when they get their presents. I went to Petsmart this weekend to buy presents and my heart broke because Nooch won’t be here for Christmas anymore. It didn’t help that there were kittens up for adoption in the store that day. When I went over to say hello to the kitties the lady volunteering asked me if I had a cat…and I started to cry. 😦

I know that life changes all the time and that traditions change. I think I’ve felt extra sad and lonely these past few holidays because I haven’t made any new traditions to take place of the old ones. Sure, I get invited to parties and do some things with friends, but it’s not really the same. None of them feel like my traditions anymore or have given me something to get excited about.

I guess I need to start working on some new traditions,  but I don’t even know where to begin.

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Do you have holiday traditions? What are some of your favorites? 

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What is “Self-Care?”

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The holidays can be a hard time for people. Whether you’re someone who struggle with mental health issues, are experiencing some kind of major change or loss, or are buried in financial problems, the holidays can create an excessive amount of stress that make this “season of joy” anything but. As I mentioned earlier this week, I was already beginning to feel anxious over the approaching holiday social gatherings I will be expected to attend. Now, in addition to that, I’m trying to cope with the loss of my fur baby, Nooch. 😥

…Oh, have I mentioned that my therapist has been on vacation for 3 weeks now? Does anyone else smell a major mental breakdown in the air!? *Joker laugh*

I’ve seen countless reminders on the internet lately reminding those of us who struggle during this time of year to practice “self-care.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out. For the longest time I thought self-care was mostly about taking time to pamper yourself with soothing baths, massages, etc. For some reason, images of women lying in the bath tub, surrounded by candles and cucumber slices placed over their eyelids often accompanies articles on self-care, so I don’t think I’m entirely to blame for the confusion. (Side note: as a woman, I feel like a complete failure for never having the desire to buy produce and put it in my eye or smear it on my face. Maybe there are even more things wrong with me than I thought.)

On the surface, self-care is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about taking care of yourself and making sure your personal needs are being met. Taking care of your body through food, exercise, and regular sleep is a good place to start. But is it really that easy? If you’re someone like me than,  unfortunately, the answer is sometimes no. My eating disorder struggles can make eating a highly stressful, tantrum-inducing situation. My depression can make it hard to get motivated to even get up and shower, let alone exercise. My anxiety can keep my brain running at the wee hour of the morning, when I should be sound asleep.

What about other needs? Aside from the basics that we require to keep our bodies functioning, there’s your mental health to consider. Depending on who you are, your needs will be different. They might even change daily. Sometimes you’ll need more alone time, other times you’ll need more social time. Sometimes you need more “fun” in your life, other times you’ll need more quiet time on the couch with a book. For me, trying to figure out what I need to keep my mental health in check can be frustrating. When you’re being pulled in all directions, between work, holiday shopping, family obligations, etc., it can be hard to even figure out how to keep things balanced. If you decide that you do need more alone time, how do you ensure that you’ll get it? Does that mean neglecting some of your other obligations? If you do that, will it just make things more stressful later? What about the unexpected things that will inevitably pop up? How are you supposed to fit it all in?!

I don’t have a clue.

I do my best to practice self-care every day, but it doesn’t always happen. I try to reserve my lunch breaks for spending time at the bookstore, drinking coffee and reading a book. Even though it’s only 40 minutes or so, it helps keep me sane during my work day. I try to set aside time for blogging/writing, dance, and my crafty projects. I take baths periodically when my muscles are feeling tense and need to unwind a little. But is all of that enough? Am I doing it right? I truly don’t know.

Last night I forced myself to go walk around the bookstore for a little while. After spending the better part of the day laying in bed, sobbing over my cat, I knew I probably needed to get out of the house. Truthfully, it didn’t help as much as I needed it to, but I tried. At one point I found myself sitting on the floor of the dreaded self-help aisle, with tears in my eyes. I don’t even really know what I was looking for. Anything to make me feel better, I guess.

Did I do the right thing by forcing myself to go out and try to be “normal?” Is this what I’m supposed to do in the upcoming weeks, as the holiday stress starts to gnaw at me? Can I just skip all the holiday bullshit or is that just “hiding?” Do I need to put more cucumbers on my face?

Again, I don’t know. It’s all quite frustrating.

(Side Note: I really need to stay away from the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble.)