Am I a Binge Eater?

Things on the new house are in process. It seems like a really long project, changing your life. Meanwhile, anxiety is a frequent visitor, even with the medications I take for the clinical aspects of it: phobia, panic, insomnia, migraine, IBS. I have been to the doctor three times since we got here a few months ago and I’m feeling more or less balanced. Food has been a problem because it soothes anxiety. Especially fast food and junk food are a problem. So my last visit to the doctor was with their dietician. She was going to set me up with an individualized Mediterranean diet that does not, except in very moderate portions, include sugar, dairy, red meat, alcohol, or wheat. No citrus, caffeine, crucirferious or raw veggies. It’s difficult. I just want someone to tell me what to eat and how much and then that’s all I’ll eat.

Things I know I can eat are oats, eggs, nuts, almond milk, almond yogurt, rice, quinoa, chicken, roasted vegetable, peanut butter and jelly plus some fruits. I do eat just these things for a while until I break down and have a donut. Or several. So I decided to call in the troops. I wanted to know why I eat so much when I fall off the healthy eating train. Is this binging or normal? I’m not changing my diet to lose weight, but to settle my tummy issues. I’ve read several books and articles and have many cookbooks too. Am I spoiled to think I need more variety? Or am I a binge eater? Maybe both? I had a feeling part of my problem would require a different kind of doctor, like a therapist of some sort. But I started with the diet doctor.

She came in and said “You’re obese but you are not morbidly obese.” Then she tried to soften the blow “after menopause it’s almost impossible to lose five pounds.” So I’m five pounds from NOT being obese? Before I could ask her, we went through food groups together, the things I can’t eat. Everything she said, I already knew. I was already trying to do. She did say it was fine to have “just a little” of everything. She was talking so fast I was again unable to ask a deeper question: What is “just a little?” I know I do eat more than just a little. I can’t stop once I start on a bag of chips. I could easy eat ten cookies. I really love sweets. Candy bars. For sure plural.

My life was like that for a long time, the stereotypical yo-yo dieter. Then gradually over maybe ten years, the next day I started to feel ill in ways I am not going to describe as I did that before. I know now if I eat bad shit in copious amounts I feel bad. It’s just been getting worse as the years go by. Not my eating but my gut biome. Some days I’m so bloated I cannot zip my jeans. Other days they feel too loose. I didn’t get a chance to tell the doctor that I can gain or lose five pounds in a day or two. The other binge type thing is if I start, I continue for days. Or I used too. Symptoms have gotten so bad I don’t get off the couch the next day. On the positive side, I’ve got some new prescription medication that helps. I really don’t drink much wine these days because wine and Prevalite do not mix well. Also wine causes insomnia. If I do have a little wine and then I’m just a little tired the next day.

Prevalite does not help me to process unhealthy (for me) foods. I was hoping it would. Finally at the end of the long lecture from the diet doc, I asked no questions, like am I am binge eater. Yes, I think I binge. Or binged. I haven’t overeaten since I saw the doctor. I did order a book on Diet and CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which is really the best type of therapy for changing any ingrained character trait). I’ve practiced CBT with my favorite therapist in Michigan for other issues not related to food. Being human sure is messy. But the other part is at 66 I know how to find help and I never stop trying to heal myself.

These days, most everything is right. Hope to have exciting house news soon, but as Al keeps telling me, it’s not a done deal until the deal is done.

Losing the Benzos

A couple of weeks ago, the battery in my bathroom scale died. I weigh myself almost every day, and record my weight in my morning pages, so this was a problem. If I don’t weigh myself I can gain a couple of pounds a day without noticing until my jeans and rings don’t fit. I knew things were a bit grim, but hey, it’s winter in Michigan, so I wasn’t too worried. (I’m not worrying about my weight anymore. I’m a granny.)

But then I got a new battery for the scale. Turns out I gained 7 pounds this month. And you know, we’re only 3 weeks in. I know it’s the carbs. And chinese food. And possibly chardonnay, although I haven’t been drinking very much because of my little benzo problem. Which is now over. With benzos gone, I can once again let go of the carbs.

Couple of tricks you have to learn to successfully eat very low carb. One is that winter without carbs can be rough. Our cavewoman genes really want to bulk up for hibernation and food shortages. And it’s hard to fight a cavewoman. But it can be done. Example: me in January. So the other thing that can mess up the low carb life is drug withdrawal. As mentioned, I recently got off the benzos.

It took me six months to taper off Xanax, and to do that without a ton of anxiety and insomnia, and also some flu-like symptoms, and I mean a bad flu, like the worst flu ever, my doctor put me on Prozac and sleeping pills that had a little benzo in them. Just to help me taper. So yes, to get off one drug, I had to take three, in ever-diminishing doses, for what seemed like a really long time.

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At first I balked at the Prozac, because I thought only depressives or bipolar people needed Prozac. Also because I heard Prozac will pack on the pounds faster than estrogen cream. But at first, Prozac did not put weight on me. Not until I was completely off Xanax. Even then, it wasn’t so bad, because I was still taking the benzo sleeping pill. So my body was getting a little bit of benzo. And it was happy.

Then I tapered off the sleeping pill. I never wanted to take sleeping pills to begin with, so I was very happy to finally go down from those. Plus the low dose of the sleeping pill cost $600 so instead I halved the capsules. You have to very carefully twist the capsule apart and make sure only half the powder goes in each side of the capsule. Then you mix a half capsule with  a teaspoon of applesauce, eat it and put a piece of tape over the other half capsule for the next night. After two weeks, you take a half cap every other night. It’s tedious. So yes, I was thrilled to be off the benzos.

Meanwhile, with every micro-milligram I went down, I got some withdrawal symptoms. Not the bad ones like I had before my doctor stepped in, but a bit of anxiety and iffy stomach. I decided to ease those withdrawals by allowing sugar and carbs in, just for a while. And really, they do help. Then my scale broke. Then I tapered off Prozac, which wasn’t as difficult as the benzos because I had only been on it for maybe 2 or 3 months. I was on 4 mg Xanax for about 5 years, and used it casually (not that there is anything casual about panic attacks, I just didn’t have one every day) for maybe 20 years.

I didn’t know this until my new doctor told me (as opposed to the old doctor who prescribed the benzos and said they were perfectly harmless to take for the rest of my life) but 25 years is a really long time to take Xanax.

Now I only take one pill a day, one that has no noticeable effect other than eliminating acid reflux. You won’t hear of anyone on Nurse Jackie rocking the Prilosec. But people (who knew?) love benzos. I honestly didn’t know people used them recreationally. I used them to control panic attacks. And insomnia. And migraines. But then I did a past life regression that cured my panic attacks and the Xanax stopped working for insomnia. I also started using hormone therapy which stopped the migraine almost totally. So I thought, wow, I should just give these up. Ha! Way easier said than done. But eventually I did.

And I have the 7 extra pounds to prove it!

You know what? I’m so happy to be off all those pills (My energy is back! I thought it was gone forever!) that I don’t even mind having gained this weight. And now that I am not experiencing any withdrawal symptoms I can drop the carb crutch. Because really, I’d like to wear rings on my fingers and zip up my jeans.

Paint It Black

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Not sure when things started going dark. Knew it was the medication for almost daily migraines since the accident. Knew I didn’t have clinical depression, knew I was lucky, knew I had some stuff to sort out but felt up to the task. It was just … I felt sad. Every day. For maybe a week. The routine became familiar. Mornings, if I slept more than a few hours, I’d wake up hopeful. Start the day feeling serene. But, slowly the slide into sadness would begin and then, more often than not, migraine pain would beat its drum on my head. So, medication, then meditation. If I’d only slept a few hours, I’d nap and wake up feeling better.

Same thing next day. According to Hara Estroff Marano, “the human brain has a negativity bias” — it takes five positive experiences to offset one negative experience. I have always been a positive person, maybe too positive. I’m all about bright sides and silver linings. So I didn’t enjoy my descent into hell, but I knew if I could generate some positive experiences and fit them into my days, my mood would lift. Just a day without a migraine is a win for me. A night when I sleep more than four or five hours is a win. If I exercise, yay me. If I eat right, happiness ensues. If I write that day, and I write every day, I’m good. If class goes well, and it has been, although early days yet, I’m thrilled.

So it was much to my surprise that when I chose a new car, I picked black. Just returning to the dealer only a few months after picking up the Jeepster felt–not good. Telling the salesman what happened was hard. Explaining why I didn’t want to just go ahead and get another Cashmere Pearl Jeepster made me a little defensive. “I feel safe in a smaller car. One that fits my body.” But sitting there, I wavered. It would be easy to say, order me another one, just like the other one.

But I’d thought about it and after ten days of driving a car more my size I still felt, deep inside, more comfortable in something like the 200M my guy showed me. It doesn’t come in Cashmere Pearl, which at first bummed me out as I loved that color. I loved the NAME of that color more than the actual color. So I set about looking for a color that said YES to me. And it was not Red Velvet. It was not Bright Eye Blue. It was not Blinding White. It was Glossy, Shiny, Sinful Black. With buttery leather interior in a light linen color. The car had everything my Jeepster did, plus a panoramic sunroof. Something new!

It might be black on the outside, but there is plenty of light inside. And that’s sort of how I feel about my life right now. Yes, I’m having some dark and shiny issues. But inside I’m filled with light and I know I’m gonna be okay.

Steps

new.house3A recent day found me at the top of the staircase and before I could even get used to the heady air up there, I came crashing right back down. Metaphorically speaking. (Because I’ve written about this literally happening once before.) I got great news in the  morning email. I’d been assigned a new editor! I was asked about signing a series contract! I’d always planned this series, but writing everything down made it real.

And then a strange person came into my house and set me off. I knew he was coming, so technically, I had already been wound up. Am I mixing metaphors? Sorry. I’m still flustered. I don’t like strangers in my house. Especially male strangers. Especially big hairy strangers who can’t fix what’s broken. Especially if they insist on engaging in long conversations that keep them in my house way too long and seem very friendly. I like the curt, competent type of repair guy. Okay, I don’t like him, but he’s incrementally better than the too-friendly sort.

I’m not sure why this is so, maybe I have a stranger phobia, but anyway, by the time he left, I was stressed. I disinfected every square inch of the space he might have touched. (His fingerprints were smuged big and ugly all over everything. It was creepy, I tell you!) I washed all the towels in the powder room, even though from my office I had not heard a toilet flush.

So he was gone and still I found it impossible to leave my house even though I had to grocery shop. I had planned to grocery shop. I couldn’t make dinner. I always make dinner. I had planned to make dinner. But I was frozen. I realize that it’s a high-class problem, this being frozen business. In a war zone, that would get me killed.

I gave myself a stern talking to. “You are not some neurotic mess. You have handled far worse than this, which by the way was nothing, what is wrong with you?” Then I called my husband Al to bring pizza and watched television for three hours. I took a pill to ward off the migraine that had begun the minute my stress spiked. But other than that, I didn’t move until the pizza got home.

Since this person who had invaded my home was a repairman, I had to go over events with Al. He is really the one who should handle these things, but it’s hard for him to arrange with work. So I am his poor substitute. I had to listen to a few “why didn’t you” and “what the hell” sort of things. My nerves started to shred again, so I tried to explain how I felt inside. I love Al but he’s not good with panic and nerves and so forth.

I know it’s irrational to not file a complaint because I think the repairman might get angry, become homicidal and come after me. I understand this is unlikely to happen. I understand repairmen are nice people and very few if any are murderers. And yet. I forced a promise from Al that he would not call and complain. Then Al lost it. Well, as far as he can lose it. Al is the king of cool. He simply looked at me with complete disdain, which, of course, made me feel worse.

Al insists on complaining about shoddy work and here I was tying his hands. He was not a happy man. We decided to table the entire discussion. I shoved two slices of pizza down my throat, not even tasting them, and opened a bottle of wine. As I savored a glass, I thought about how days can go like that, from good to bad, from bad to worse. And those days are the ones when what is needed is a good mattress at the foot of the staircase.