NOT DOWN WITH THE SICKNESS: AN UNCHILL PERSONAL HISTORY OF MY EATING DISORDER THAT IS NOW KIND OF CHILL BECAUSE IN 2017 I'M FINALLY, BARELY, CATEGORICALLY KIND OF OKAY WITH MY BODY IMAGE

2015 and 2016 were highly productive years for me. I started my company, curated my first gallery show, went on two tours, traveled to Russia, released three albums, drove a Tesla. All important milestones in my life. However, the most important and most productive thing I've done these two years is almost completely exorcise my eating disorders.

 

***** I’m gonna preface this with a trigger warning 🔫 bang bang bang bang ******

~*~*this post is dark but there’s a few rays of sunshine here and there so it isn’t completely despairing. However if you’re easily triggered by ed/self-harm things then go look at cute animals or work on your chakras or something, don’t say I didn’t warn you~*~*~

 

There's already so much darkness and dark people out there trying to ruin my vibe that the last thing I need is to further torture myself. No one kill my vibe, For it is already deceased and resurrected and has been through seventeen reincarnations that I co-produce with a team of L’Oreal executives from outer space. My vibe is like strong enough to address my darkest and deepest fears, unafraid of the social consequences.

It’s taken me a year since writing this post to develop and edit it, and to muster up the courage to actually post it. I had to have enough distance from my eating disorder to talk about it.

 

This isn’t excruciatingly hard for me to talk about, by the way. I’ve been ~opening up 2 the convo~ about my body issues ever since I’ve had them. I have no trouble discussing these issues in conversation with people, but in writing, it becomes difficult to articulate. Writing about a mental illness is like trying to describe the perceptual feeling of an acid trip. Everyone’s is different, and opening up about it can make you nervous. I know the downside of posting this means people will probably scrutinize my body more, but I’ve made peace with it. This is important to me so I’m doing the best I can.

Alright.

Looking at me, one wouldn’t determine that I war as deeply as I do with body image issues. Eating disorders are unfortunately incredibly common in the world, and nearly every person in LA’s cross to bear. Certain people, however, eclipse this “wow, that person is totally anorexic/bulimic/whatever self-harming disease” assumption, and avoid categorization altogether. There are types of people who seem to have immunity from body dysmorphia and anorexia and bulimia and low self esteem.

I believe I am one of those girls: for one, I look normal (not rail-thin and not obese) and for two, I’m so obsessed and involved with lots of creative activities and quotidian melodramas that worrying about my weight and physicality should be nonexistent in my mind, where everything is busy and tacky and fabulous and beautiful and kaleidoscopic.

[To push this “beautiful and kaleidoscopic cerebral vibes alleviating any traumas” idea, I’m going to cover this post in pics of my collages and art, as well as cute animals, and spa things, and pictures of myself that I am hella feeling, instead of rudely and unlegitly triggering images of very slender humans that are present in many topical think-pieces. This is a think-piece, right? Also who said that humans have to be slender and beautiful? A body is a body. Come on. Bodies are gross and that’s chill.]

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Yeah, my mind should be a beautiful and pastoral and trippy and unaffected fortress… should be, but it isn’t. With a few exceptions (I recovered for a good couple of years in 2009-2010 with the aid of psychedelic drugs, which may be why I zealously champion them as a legitimate therapeutic method), I’ve spent a large part of every year since 2005 either heavily starving myself or making myself throw up, chasing the unrealistic ideal of ultimate thinness ingrained by my mother. Long story short, I matured very early in my life, was basically the size and curvature I am now by sixth grade, which worried my modelesque mother and spread to me, beyond just a “oh god I’m chubby I need to lose weight” but in a devastating “everything is wrong with me and my fatness is only a physical sign of my mental corruption and it can only be set right by alleviating my body of itself” personal battle. Reconciling with my mother did wonders for my recovery, but it still wasn't immediate. Now, I can literally actually literally finally say that I’m doing well for myself. 

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I must have posted previously about how 2015 was the worst year of my life. I’d experienced my first adult tragedies, ripped into the veil of shocking postgrad reality, survived a manipulative relationship, a car accident, and a millennial freelance/unemployed artist vortex. On top of that my doctors were worried about my physical health and my eating disorder. Do you know how much it sucks having medical professionals talk to you like you’re a twelve-year-old when you’re almost twenty-five?

"Don't you know that dieting is bad for you?"

"Don't you know that I've literally never been on a diet?"

Note: doctors should recognize the distinction between a diet and an eating disorder. I realized that I had no choice but to stop. I’m an adult woman or something. If I gained weight, thats not the worst that could happen, even though oh my god it was, but reality had kicked my ass so much that I didn’t even really care. I’ll be big, so be it. Existence won’t stop. Things will keep happening. Life, at large, pun intended obviously, will be okay.

That year I made myself throw up less than ten times, which as someone who used to do this sometimes five times per day since I was fourteen, is a huge measure of progress that closes a decade of consistent (but also wildly oscillating) hurting, shame and crippling self-doubt. In 2016, I only threw up from food poisoning and my stomach’s natural unsettled-ness, not bulimia. Thank heavens. It feels really nice to not want to do that anymore and I hope I don't vomit at all in 2017. There are many things about the state of the world now that make me physically nauseous but that's a conversation for another time. But it’s ok. I’m proud of the little victories. I feel ok. 

Literally. Physically. Conceptually. Actually. Seriously. I can look at myself in the mirror or in my selfie cam without wanting to cry or slap my chubby cheeks out of the frame. One of the reasons I post so many selfies is like, **finally** I’m feeling my look! I look good, holy shit, this is really dank! Is it actually me? Everyone look, I have a vibe and I feel good and I look good! This is fucking revelatory! Wow, I think everyone should post selfies as much as possible when they’re feeling good about their appearance. It’s motivating and empowering. I love looking at selfies of my friends and famous / internet people I admire. 

 

That said, I still feel inadequate as fuck on a mostly daily basis. Do I remember being skinny? No, I suffer and succeed just the same when I am fat. Sadness, anxiety, anger, euphoria, desire, it's still the same type of feels. I do miss when my clothes used to fit better. I don’t think it will ever ever go away for me, the psychological part of my eating disorder. I may have a chill BMI and eat normally and exercise normally and sleep normally and date normally and go to work normally, but mentally I don’t behave normally. And I guess I use the term “normally” loosely, but considering the technicalities, it’s, I don’t know, whatever, normalcy doesn’t exist, but you know, whatever.

This is fucked up. People, enjoy being alive, thin or thick or whatever. Kiss your friends and loved ones and animals. Love. Be loved. Allow yourself kindness and self-care. You deserve it. Be compassionate to everyone, because anyone could be suffering.

I should be happy that right now my body actually feels nice on a daily basis instead of wanting to spontaneously combust. I should be thanking goddess that I can eat whatever I want and not feel eating disorder-related body pains. That I can enjoy food and exercise from a personal and scientific perspective, because without my eating disorder I don’t think I’d have that ability. I deserve to feel like a healthy, fabulous queen. She will rule with an iron will and an enlightened brilliance and a perfect body, not because of the way that it’s constructed but because it is purely hers.

Honestly, it's not my body that's always been sick, it's my mind. I should feel healthy, but I don't, I feel guilty. It's extremely hard to take myself seriously as a heavier person. This is the heaviest but also mentally healthiest I’ve ever been in my life and it’s very weird.

In the grander scope of eating disorder dialogue, too much emphasis is placed on the rail-thin tall white blonde blue-eyed model-y white female cliché. Eating disorders are so far beyond that and are not limited to affecting one type of demographic. It’s a disease, comparable to cancer and arterial fibrillation, with high mortality rates and spheres of influence, and should be treated as such. When a person has a disease, it destroys them from the inside and affects their family members, friends, and environment. Don’t even get me started on the medical issues arising from eating disorders. Once the first wave of psychological recovery crests, there’s body problems, then mental problems again, then physical issues again, again and again like a Russian doll.  

 

My mind and body are still getting used to this influx of health. The possibilities of heart arrhythmia and painful vocal lacerations are too fucking real, especially as the repercussions of the disease catch up. Don’t even get me started on how expensive treatment is for eating disorders directly and how messed up the clinical treatment culture is. 

I have a panic attack every time I go to the cardiologist. I am having a panic attack now thinking that I have to go to a cardiologist at all. That I have to wear a heart monitor or get a chest ultrasound (which by the way is an amazing experience—I had a heart ultrasound last week and when I heard my heartbeat and saw that living thing in my chest rhythmically pulsate in black and white on the screen I almost cried, it was so cool and beautiful—it’s so cool and beautiful to be alive).

I love to sing and I have my side music project Saint Valentine -- I’m finally at a place where I’m no longer insecure about my singing voice, but my vocal cords are so damaged that there are some vocal techniques that I literally actually literally can not perform.  On days I wake up without blood spittle or throat pains or chest pains I feel #blessed. 

 

Stupidly perhaps, I wish that my struggle had been gratified! At least a “wow ur so skinny” would have sufficed. I hate that I never got to hear that. Like literally even now it’s so petty but it drives me up the wall, I was skinny and nobody told me! What the hell. Shame on me for thinking I was fat — if only I could be that “fat” now! 

Also, more significantly, if only I could have a "fat" wallet... then I would have a mansion and some Teslas. I would drive around and think about how much life rules. 

 

I hope to get to a place where my nasty body no longer bothers me. It knows that I hated it and hated me back. What turned our relationship around was altering my self-talk. Ok, I admit, I still call myself fat all the time, but it’s a lot more positive and kind than it was before! In between the “ew, thighs” and “god I wish I was thinner” I make sure to inject “exquisite curves” and “million dollar baby” and “you’re doing fantastic” and “you’re gonna be fine, better than fine, you’re gonna be exquisite, you’re a ray of sunshine and everyone loves you”. Small things, but it helps. I have to remember to be grateful and kind to myself. 

 

When I was fifteen I had dreams of being 100 pounds, then less, then fitting into 0 clothes, then 00 clothes, and then not much else really. I started making art and playing music  to distract myself, and as cliché as it sounds, it saved me. Ten years later (can’t believe it’s been ten fucking years) , my aspirations and goals evolved from being skinny to being an artist to being a businesswoman to existing peacefully and quietly working on my shit and helping people like myself. Self-control is a quality that I stubbornly pride myself on. Anything I want to accomplish, I will. I just have to make sure I keep rerouting my goals onto a positive path.

 

Small self talk is a different sort of self-control than starving yourself. It’s stronger, because instead of spiraling into self-destruction, you’re pulling yourself up by the hair out of the swamp. I’ve effectively been able to sublimate that self-control to get practical and useful shit done, like job applications and client shoots and daily hustles. This is coming from a place where I used to hold 12+ hour conferences with myself about my weight and body.

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Speaking of conferences, I’m trying to run a business here as Valentine Enterprises, one that is predicated on a message of helping young artists, especially women, become empowered in their work and careers and selves. Doing this with heavy baggage is dangerous… it’s hypocritical. If there’s anything I should be focusing on, it’s sharing the story of my recovery and staying as supportive as possible to myself and to anyone that may seek help. Body image distortion is dangerous and no one deserves to go through it. Seriously, I am here to talk if you need it. I’ve gotten to be really good at that.

It’s tough to maintain a sense of humor about it. I’m usually pretty composed and resistant to criticism, and can find a way make fun of myself and my life’s dramas, but not with this. I draw the line at making my eating disorder a joke. A coworker recently made a comment in jest that I should go on a Victoria’s Secret diet --I had to cheese it to the bathroom to sob for a good twenty minutes and then yell at him.   

My first ~big recovery moment~ happened in 2009 when I took LSD and stared at myself in the mirror and realized that my edges and curves and valleys and whatever the fuck were all just ME, neither bad nor good, lacking connotation and just totally scientific. I deeply relaxed my body image insecurities then. The next year when I took psilocybin mushrooms I had an amazing epiphany about how important food is and how much of an idiot I am to waste it, and stopped making myself throw up for a while.

At least, until some things like bad relationships and family dramas in college pushed me to relapse, on and off, until senior year, when I was too busy to indulge in my eating disorder. And then after graduating I relapsed again and then recovered in 2015/2016. I am a freshly healthy pure new woman, this time without the aid of psychedelics, but I still remember those experiences fondly and think about them when I need motivation to recover.  

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Those psychedelic experiences were so enlightening, life changing, and inspirational to me, that I wanted to study them as a career. I used to have a 400-page document outlining my trips and studies, but in an unfortunate college event it was destroyed, so then I started studying art. Anyways... 

I still want to research psychedelics in the future. I want to open a spa. I want to be a motivation for girls and people who are struggling to transcend infuriating societal norms and overcome themselves. It’s really fucking hard. (Obviously, "transcending societal norms" goes beyond body things and appearances... the ontological, financial, and sexual aspects of being a young woman are excruciating).

This is why I love taking selfies and making work about self-reflection / internet ego / camera presence. It’s taken me this long to get to a place where I’m really feeling my look that when I take pictures of myself, it’s super empowering. Also I detest when people post unwarranted pictures of me online because I'm such a control freak about my image, but what are you gonna do?

I get more compliments on my body now than I did when I was diseased, which is understandable (cause like I’m hot and curvy and bombshell-like, a true venus on the half shell mixed with Marilyn Monroe mixed with sexy sexy Steve Jobs mixed with an actual hourglass because of my impeccable sense of time mixed with what a Tesla Model 3 would look like if it were a radiant human being) but embarrassing (because I also just hate having a body! it sucks having so much physical responsibility). Plus it feels disingenuous. Anytime people call attention to my spready flesh, even in a positive light, I feel like I want to retreat further and further into the darkness. At the same time I'd like to feel proud of what I am and what my body looks and feels like. I've gained 10~ish pounds since 2015 and I don't think it's made people think less of me. Ugh I’d rather just be a sunlit plant, or a piece of napkin, or a beam of light ULTRA LIGHT BEAMS lol

It's unbelievable how large a part of my life this is. 

So what’s the solution? In the past, the things that have worked for me aiding my recovery are drugs and happiness. Keeping myself rightfully distracted. I don’t do drugs anymore and my postgrad/professional life hasn’t exactly been a time of ease and sunshine. I’ve thought about making art about my eating disorder and 1. I’m not inspired enough out that I can do a #retrospective art piece and not be hella emotional about it, 2. I hate when people describe artwork as “bulimic” (even though so much of my work is already mimetic of the disease which is predicated upon chaos and oversaturation), 3. Personally I don’t like making large scale art about eating disorders; a collage or song or written piece if enough for me to focus on, but I admire people who can make a whole project out of their disease because I can not.

I stay on my good track with meditation, hanging out with my animals, having friends and family around, and copious self-care. Chakra alignment, Epsom salt baths, aromatherapy, yoga, swimming, music therapy, leisurely walks, online classes, art galleries, Valentine Enterprises work, face masks, manicures, bedazzling my items, sewing, drawing, lighting candles, whatever. Things that make me feel good and wholesome. Shopping stresses me out and sizes trip me out, but I do love going to the mall. Paying mindful attention to making each moment good.

I'm so sorry about all the mistakes I've made in the past that have real, very real, consequences on my current frame, but the best way to alleviate them is to move on and think about things I love. 

My body is a temple, and it’s being rebuilt. When the laying of the new foundations is done, that temple is going to be more beautiful and strong than ever before and I am going to be obsessed with every single exquisite sparkling cell in it. There's no way it can NOT be perfect. It will be the perfect body temple because it belongs to me, the essence of absolute perfection, whether that be super petite or super vast. 

I am beautiful and impenetrable. I was listening to Selena Gomez’s new album when I realized I stand for all that is fundamentally good and beautiful in the world, and if my empowering enterprise gets into an epic battle with any evil challengers I will win automatically because I am pure of heart. It’s chill.  May you be chill and happy with yourself.