Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bite-size pieces

Sometimes I wonder what my readers think of me. What sort of person do they imagine I am, if indeed they imagine me at all. What do they think my days are like based on the facet of self that I display here, if indeed they think about how I spend my days at all.

There are several reasons why I wonder about this. One is that, through other blogs, I have been maliciously and tenaciously stalked by people who construct an imaginary life for me based on the facets shown on that blog. They cherry pick details from what I say in order to fill in huge gaping holes in their knowledge of me and paint the ugliest picture possible and ignore the information that does not conform to their highly fanciful work of art that they have entitled "me" (meaning, me, not them).

Since I have experience with people imagining my life based on one set of writing, I have at least some sense that others may be doing it based on other writing. It may sound egotistical and narcissistic to believe people spend their time ruminating on the person behind the blog, but it isn't something I conjured up in my imagination (unlike the impressions my stalkers have of me).

Beyond that, I think it is natural for us to feel that we "know" a person after following their words for some time. In some sense, we do know them, though in a very limited fashion. So, you don't have to be a weird stalker to feel well-acquainted with an individual who shares their life in the manner that I do. In fact, readers of this blog see the real me in the most intimate psychological sense than the readers of my other blogs. You really may know me in a true sense, though still from a certain perspective.

I was thinking about this today because I'm having a bad day and wondering if I make it clear often enough that I have such days. I spend so much time talking about how I cope with my problems that I wonder if I mislead people into thinking I am able to process them efficiently and merrily move on with my daily life. That's not so. It's an ongoing battle. If I haven't made that clear before, I want it to be clear now.

Today, I'm having intermittent depression and persistent fatigue. Though I am trying to remain positive about adjusting to my new life, it does cumulatively weigh me down. There are days when I would rather just sit around and do nothing but read, watch T.V. or, yes, eat junk food. The "sitting around" part is especially challenge to overcome and, if I were physically ill, I'd just stay in bed when I wanted to until I felt better. However, when I'm mentally "ill" (meaning blue, sad, depressed, etc.), then I think that I can't indulge my desires without paying a price. Lying around only makes the bad feelings worse.

When I have days like this, I try to deal with it in bite-size pieces rather than push myself to go at things wholesale. Emotionally, I can't bear the thought of going outside for a 40-minute walk today. The idea of even leaving the house is too much for me, but I know that movement and exercise help with depression and that I'll feel terrible if I just sit around and indulge my sadness. The answer to this is not to chastise myself and berate myself into doing something I don't want to do, but to manage in bite-size pieces of activity.

For each person, this sort of thing would be different depending on how physically and mentally capable they feel. For me, this means planned pacing around the small space of the cabin I'm in. Every time I feel up to it, about two or three times an hour, I will get up and pace the length of the cabin ten times. I also will do my regular back, knee, and arm/upper body exercises as normal as part of these short bursts of activity.

This exercise is not to make up for any notion of "sloth" or to burn calories, but a deliberate attempt to work with my feelings of depression. It may not make them go away, but it will stop me from sinking any lower. It will also help me focus on something other than my negative feelings (boredom about where I am, stress about adjustments and decisions to be made, fear about uncertainty, and fatigue from both physical and mental problems). And, frankly, it decreases the chances that I will turn to the easiest and most attractive of answers, food. I'm am  just as prone to the sense of not feeling hungry, but just wanting to eat because it's easy pleasure as anyone else.

Focusing on intermittent physical activity reduces the amount of time that I have to say, "no", to the impulse to eat because it provides positive focus, but it does more than that. It allows me to set up miniature goals that can be accomplished regularly and provides a sense of accomplishment. Pacing the room 30 times an hour won't do much for my health, but it will do a lot for my sense that something positive is being done instead of simply feeling tired and sad.

Of course, this isn't just about movement, though that is one piece of it. I am also pushing myself to do qualitative things between like reading a book that I need to get read (for a review), writing blog posts, reading meaningful content (as opposed to light entertaining content), doing small cleaning tasks, and preparing nutritious food for later. Thinking about doing all of these things at once is far too much for me given how I feel, but intermittent tackling of successive ones is something I can handle. I can't ponder cleaning the whole house, but I can sweep the floor in the next half hour. I can't think about putting lunch together, but I can wash and spin the lettuce dry in the next 15 minutes.

I get down sometimes, more recently than ever, and it's hard, but I have learned that you can improve things by taking it in bite-size pieces. It helps not to think you have to take too many bites at once and to not think too far ahead about the next one. I just do what I can at a pace that I can between the sense that I can't do anything. On the whole, it starts to add up and propels me slowly away from the depression, lethargy and fatigue. I think it's a good way to be, and a lot better than pushing too hard to be some ideal and then failing and hating yourself for it. Instead of feeling like I "lost" a day to depression, I can feel like I survived it as well as possible and achieved a lot under the circumstances.


phelpsvj said...

I have been following for a while & have commented once long ago. I have often printed out one of your blog posts and kept it around the house to ruminate on for a while. I have always looked forward to your writing & have always thought you had a better understanding of yourself. So I come here to reflect and learn. If I felt that I could articulate these feelings of "weight-loss & maintenance strife)as well as you, I would be blogging too. Your right- depression subsides with forced small steps that lead to bigger natural ones.

screaming fatgirl said...

Thank you for your comment and for making me feel that my voice has value. I really do appreciate it! :-)

Escape Pod said...

Maybe this is strange, but I take some comfort in knowing it's still a challenge for you, because it means it's "ok" that it's still a challenge for me as well, that I don't have to declare the battle over and lost because the progress isn't always forwards. That seems obvious in retrospect, but when you're in the midst of backsliding, it's hard to maintain perspective and confidence in progress.
Even more valuable, though, is the way that you lay out your approach to getting through the bad days, and your thought process behind approaching them that way. It gives me a practical mental framework for thinking about my own issues and trying out strategies and solutions for myself. I think it's really a gift to be able to know yourself so well, and also to be able to express that knowledge in ways that translate the experience for others. Thank you for sharing that gift!

Anonymous said...

What an interesting post. I suffer from depression and anxiety, sometimes very severely. Your idea of taking some actions in very small pieces at a time is a good one and I will try it next time I find myself mired in depression.

I would also add that I have actually found relief in staying in bed all day at times, but this is mostly due to severe anxiety than to depression. I think of it not so much as a form of self indulgence as a "treatment" that I need that day. When I am absolutely paralyzed by anxiety I find that ignoring it can have dire consequences, sometimes in eating or other times in just poor decision making in other areas. A day in bed with some escapist literature, giving myself permission to "feel what I am feeling without self pity", maybe a phone call to a friend....all of these can help stop the galloping horse of anxiety that is running over me with pounding hooves. Then I am sometimes able to put the anxiety aside and deal with the issues underlying it. I just thought I would mention this because it was many years before I would give myself permission to do something that seemed so decadent.

I enjoy your blog very much and you always give me a lot of things to think about. My only preconceived notion of you is as someone with a keen mind, good ideas and the generosity to share them.

The Paris Chronicles said...

I am fairly cognizant that what one read's on a blog is only a one-sided snapshot of the blogger. If it is say, a literary blog, you'll only be privy to that person's reading habits. If it is a weight-loss blog, you'll only see that side of a person's life, whereas everybody has masses of "sides" which could not possibly be highlighted in the space of a blog. (Unless you are Georges Perrec, or Nicholson Bakker, who write eloquently about all the minutia which makes up one's day!)

I've kept an active, life-centric blog on LiveJournal (one of the early--and now arcane--blogging platforms) since 2001. Over the years I've met a handful of fellow bloggers from that platform IRL and I am always surprised upon meeting a blogger at how different they are in person vs. on their blog. I have not once met a blogger whose real life personality shared much with their online personality. Bloggers who were extroverts online, sharing intimate details about everything, turned out to be shy and timid IRL. And quiet, retrospective writers whose blogs seems so closed and discreet turned about to be the polar opposite IRL.

So I never assume to "know" a person based on what they write in a blog. I do, however, sense from a person's writing or choice of subject matter, if I will wish to continue to read that person. Your blog is one of those reads for me. But do I have a sense of who you are IRL? No, but that doesn't have any bearing on the pleasure I get from your words. In that sense, I take a very Derrida approach to blog-reading, discounting what is outside the blog and assuming that has little merit on the content.

Arwenn said...

For what it's worth I usually think of bloggers as casual acquaintances - I know what I see and what I've been told and I don't really think too much beyond that. Of course it is human nature to play guessing games and try to fill in the blanks but for me it's the same kind of thing I do on the bus with people I see frequently. I think there is something seriously wrong with folks who don't have anything better to do than to be malicious and attack people that they've mostly imagined. I see this a fair bit in weight loss blogs, someone calling out another blogger for a particular post and it really angers me - it's just rude and ugly but all too common.

As for getting mired in depression, of course everyone is very different but for myself I have found a lot of comfort in coloring books. When I'm sad tv doesn't help, I'm usually too distracted to read or do needlework and certainly not about to leave the house so I've got these Dover coloring books that I use with colored pencils. They are on good paper and I use ones that have mandalas or decorative tiles or celtic symbols. For some reason the focus required takes me out of my head a bit and then taking a black/white image and adding color seems somewhat productive and it isn't a huge time-consuming project so I usually do finish them. I'm sure knitting or a lot of other crafts would have the same effect. Depression is an ugly beast and over the years I have just continued to throw things at it until I find things that make it back off for a while.

As I have said before, your writing and willingness to open up is incredibly helpful and appreciated and I'm sorry you've had to pay a price by having to deal with the stalkers.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog a few weeks ago and did lots and lots of reading.
I have lost 85lbs and still need to lose another 60. Because you have such a real way of explaining behavior and how to try and work wiht it and to have a new mind set that today, for the 1st time in 5 months, ate a snickers bar. I ate it slow. Took about 15 min but I tell you, I enjoyed every bite. I was worried that I would not be able to stop, but you know what? I am stronger then that snickers! Thanks for your help.

screaming fatgirl said...

Escape Pod: I'm glad you said that because that is one of the reasons why I make posts where I talk about my struggles. I don't want people to ever think that I have this licked and am going about my life blithely because it's not that easy. Some days are better than others, but it continues to be a struggle, much more so since I left my stable situation and came back to the U.S. I'm glad that talking about how I deal with it helps!

LHA: I think that it is very good to give yourself permission to check out in a healthy way (like just staying in bed). I don't see it as indulgence at all so much as recognizing your needs and fulfilling them. Mental health should be given the same "treatment" as physical. If I felt I needed to just hang around all day and stay in bed, I would. I've had those days, but thankfully not many.

Paris Chronicles: I would love to meet some people who read this blog to see how well or poorly I conform to expectations. I don't think that'll ever happen, but it would be interesting. I will say that I'm not shy or timid, but I'm also not the sort of person who speaks incessantly. ;-)

Arwenn: I think conceptualizing people as casual acquaintances is really a good way. We are like people who meet under limited circumstances and share only a particular side.

aunt kirssy: I'm really glad to hear that you are getting something from my blog, and I think it's amazing that you have had such an experience with a Snickers bar. I think that is a lot of how we get over our bad relationship with food - learning how to enjoy it and not abuse it.

And thanks to everyone for the kind words about what I write. I really, really appreciate it. It validates my continuing to write this blog when sometimes I feel like I have precious free time to write it. However, I think it's more important than the other things I write, for me more than anyone else.

screaming fatgirl said...

This is a comment from Jan which I had to edit and repost under my own Google I.D. (sorry, Jan, but you accidentally used my real name, so I had to repost instead of post under your name!) :-) ):

"Love this. It is so where I am lately. Must go I am going to get up and shuffle around. Might even go outside the house too. Heck, looks like I'm going for a drive as well. :) Your words are always meaningful to me. I get you. Thanks"

Jan: Shuffling around is a good thing. You do so much though with your quilting that I can never see you as anything other than moving in a positive direction. I envy your beautiful work. :-) My best to you, as always!

dlamb said...

What an interesting topic! I have a tendency to limit my thoughts to the aspects of a blogger's life that she writes about. I say she because I am somewhat new to blog reading (since last September) and I've been reading four blogs, until recently, when I've found Ms. Paris' :).
To my shame, I have to admit that I tend to read only if I like the blogger's writing style. How incredibly shallow of me, I know. In any event, like most people, I relate to some, more than to others. I tend to be very analytical and introspective and a bit of a loner. For this reason, I probably feel that a blogger who ruminates is more familiar to me, from that one perspective, than one who does not. It makes me smile when I see some commenters writing things like "we must be twins" because I wonder how often the blogger has heard that. I don't assume I know anyone fully, let alone an internet "buddy". I do, however, think that some experiences mentioned in some posts feel familiar or relatable.

I imagine that there is also some sort of etiquette, that I violate on a regular basis. Before starting to comment, I should probably have read up on that. I comment quite a bit for a variety of reasons. The main one is that I am so appreciative of somebody who does something from which others benefit in some manner. I do not do that and I think that those who do, deserve to be acknowledged. The second reason is that, clearly, I read blogs written by people whose writing and topics I enjoy or interest me, therefore their subjects almost automatically elicit some sort of response.
Occasionally think of the "stalker" aspect of someone like me, who tends to read one person's entire archive in a few days. Clearly that results in my making several comments in one day, day after day, until I finish. Perhaps that may be odd to the reader of the comments and maybe even unnerving but it is the process of my focusing on the information because that is the blog I am reading at that time.

If I sense that I am irritating the person, I stop.
I often wonder the same thing you do, but from the perspective of the commenter. I wonder how alienating some comments might be to the blogger and how she manages such situations. I imagine that the most elegant and non-confruntational manner is to refrain from engaging; simply ignoring the commenter. Others are more direct. I feel fortunate to have encountered only the former, so far.
Thank you for raising another thought provoking issue and also for reassuring those of us who continue to struggle daily, if not with depression but with the battle for food choices and amounts, that it can be done. Not always easily, but definitely doable. I am enjoying your blog very much and I relate to the in depth analysis of...well, the in depth analysis :)

screaming fatgirl said...

dlamb: I think it is perfectly reasonable to pick and choose blogs that you can relate to written by people whose style you enjoy. There's far too much content out there not to discriminate. In fact, sometimes, I really believe I need to be choosier sometimes.

I hope you won't worry about breaking any rules (there really aren't any, though generally speaking reading the archives of a blogger before commenting on current content is seen as a good thing to do... and you're reading the archives, so that's something you're definitely doing "right"). You should also not worry about appearing "stalkerish". Stalking isn't following or commenting on a person's blog. It's when you start hounding them in various ways like e-mailing them, tracking their web identity to other sites that they read/comment on and responding to them at those sites, etc. My stalkers (on other blogs, not this one) track me down to every other blog I take part in to deride me on those blogs as well as send me abusive e-mail and try to post nasty comments on my blogs. That's stalking.

Human In Progress said...

I'm late to the party here, but I also wanted to thank you for sharing a snapshot of a difficult day. Bits of manageable action really are the best thing during a depressive episode. Unfortunately, I still fall into the trap of just sitting and ruminating all too often.

It concerns me that I find a given post from you more helpful than multiple 45-minute sessions with my therapist, who I initially sought out for help with depression and binge eating. I take that as a sign it's definitely time for me to wrap up therapy with her. At the risk of sounding stalkerish myself...I have sometimes thought "wouldn't it be great if SFG offered coaching?" :)

Anyway, hope you are well--that things are getting easier in your new home.

screaming fatgirl said...

Human in Progress: Thank you for your comment. I really, really appreciate it. I would love to professionally coach people. In fact, I have considered such a thing as my future vocation, though I do wonder what limits would be placed on me. As someone who can say what she thinks and feels here, my ability to express myself has no boundaries. Coaches and counselors often have rules they have to follow based on who employs them. Still, I do want to help people. It sounds trite, but it remains the truth!

I hope you are well!