“Overweight”

Happiness Scales

I am overweight.

That’s what the color-coded table on the wall behind the scale says. That’s what the nurse wrote down on my chart. That must be true.

After all, these are the experts. The doctors, the graphs, the numbers. They know.

I’ve never seen them do it before, maybe I never noticed. I’ve been the same weight for about a year now, give or take. After my body hoarded fat for a while as it tried to rebalance after 15 years of an eating disorder, it’s finally calmed down. It’s landed and settled. It’s a lovely place to be, because I feel happy for my body. Like it finally trusts me again.

Like it knows I’m not going to starve it anymore.

I feel amazing. But I’m overweight. That’s the word. For my height, if I weigh this number, I go into an “orange zone.” It’s not the “normal” zone. It’s over the line. I’ve gone too far. Medically, I set off an alarm.

There is no category for “underweight.” Not on the chart behind the scale. I looked. My old weight, the weight range I was before I got healthy, it isn’t even listed. It’s not worth the effort of assigning a color. I weighed myself obsessively every single day for years, and I know all the numbers. Not one of them was on that scale. Continue reading

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Why Sharing Our Mental Health Stories is SO Important

I’m writing this blog from the side of the road. Seriously. I was listening to NPR, a piece about a shortage of psychologists. Turns out the baby boomers need mental health care just like they need regular health care, and the increased population means there aren’t enough psychiatrists and psychologists to go around at the moment.

Side note- if you’re looking into these fields, apparently you will find yourself quite employable!

I was sort of half listening when the guest said something that caught my ear. (Definitely half listening, or I would have some name or title more specific than “the guest” to share with you….) He mentioned how mental health discussions are so often buried under the rug, explaining that if you have a surgery, as an example, people bring flowers and you post updates on social media and everyone is very supportive.

If you have a panic attack, however, we don’t share or handle it the same way, and we don’t expect people to react with unbridled support, either.

This kills me, and goes back to a point I’ve reiterated so many times on the blog you may be sick of hearing it, but it is worth repeating:

We HAVE to share our mental health stories in order to slowly chip away at the stigma surrounding these issues.

After all, doesn’t someone suffering a severe bout of depression deserve just as much support as someone who broke their leg? Might it even go further with the person struggling with the point of life in general? Continue reading

When Someone You Love Can’t Accept Your New “Imperfect” Body

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I’ve been on this journey of recovery from my eating disorder for about three years now. I purposely have taken it slow, going step by step. Once I realized I could stop feeling the way I felt my entire life, I wanted to be sure I did everything in my power to put an end to it for good.

That’s not to say I really ever think I’ll be totally “cured,” for lack of a better word. Everyone’s journey is different, and most people I’ve connected with or read about feel that an eating disorder is something that never quite goes away. My therapist compared my disorder most closely to my anxiety and depression, as an imbalance that manifests itself in a specific way. Indeed, as I’ve let go of my regimented eating and workout habits, I’ve felt OCD coming back in certain ways pretty strongly, so she’s onto something.

However, I’ve always mentally compared it to alcoholism, which is a tactic that’s helped me a lot. Since my dad is an alcoholic and I’ve spent years in Al-Anon, I know a whole lot about it. I’ve watched him go in and out (mostly out) of recovery over and over, and am practically an expert in this category, as one becomes out of necessity. I know for a fact that an alcoholic has to admit they are powerless over alcohol completely, and to succeed in recovery they have to accept they can never have another drink.

For me, this was a natural transfer. At some point early in my recovery, I learned that people with disordered eating are really at risk if they venture into any regimented diet or exercise plan, even the “healthy” ones. (Whether there is any truly “healthy” way to restrict and control what we put into our bodies is a topic for another blog.) Right away I admitted to myself that I was powerless over the need to control my body and that I had to give it up altogether.

This may not work for everyone. It helped me a lot. I backslid a few times- more than a few times- but my goal was to get to a place where I ate and exercised only to feel good. I had to let go of all calorie counting, all instances of forcing myself to work out if I felt it was for the wrong reasons, all restrictions of this food or that, basically let my body eat and do what it wanted for a while to learn about its needs, what made me feel good or bad, etc.

Naturally, I’ve gained weight. I try to stay away from numbers and sizes in this blog because I think comparisons are very dangerous. Every body is different. For me, I’ve gone up several sizes over these three years, and that’s how I know how much I’ve changed. Of course, this is common, and since I’ve stopped starving and purging, it’s naturally going to happen. There is the added element that I denied my body enough food for so long, it’s holding onto fats for dear life. Continue reading

On the Death of a Man Who Didn’t Know He Inspired Me

This morning I woke to the news, shared all over Facebook, that a man named Nathan had been battling depression for years, and now he is gone.

I grew up watching this tall, powerful looking man, then just a boy but never seeming so, performing on various stages around my hometown. I had the bug so bad. I wanted to be amazing like the people in Varsity Singers, our town’s show choir. Whenever I was cast in a local show, the leads were my heroes. I was a total fangirl to those near me with talent. Just by being close to them, I felt more empowered to follow my dreams.

I imagined myself singing duets with the guys, me in a short sequined dress, belting my heart out, while fog rolled in around us. It was the only glamorous thing to hold on to in that little town in Indiana, and I clung to that like my life depended on it.

It did depend on it. My early hormones threw my yet undiagnosed depression into a whirlwind. My home life was rocky, to say the least. I swung between mania and deep pits of despair, often surviving on adrenaline alone.

I wanted to kill myself so many times. I fantasized about it. I wrote suicide notes in my journal. I got so close on more than one occasion, I terrified myself. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. There was no support system that I knew of, no one that I thought would understand. I didn’t know how to put into words pain that was so crushing I just wanted it to end.

I had my dreams, though. I had my younger siblings watching me, too. They needed me. So I needed my dreams. I had to believe there was a shiny, beautiful future waiting for me if only I could survive and make it out.

Nathan was one of those performers that lifted me out of the pit and into a place of hope. When he lifted his voice to sing, you felt it in your very core. His voice was full of beauty and power. You couldn’t help but watch him onstage, somehow magically moving his large frame so gracefully around with the other dancers.

He was older than me by a few years. I was too starstruck to ever speak to him, though we had many friends in common. I thought maybe, years later, we would both be on Broadway, and I would walk up to him and sort of casually say, “Oh, remember me? I used to be such a fan of yours!” But of course now we would both be big stars, so he would laugh and be flattered.

That would be extra amazing because his laugh was so amazing. Authentic and true and loud and lovely. His smile was so shiny and joyful. He seemed so happy to me.

And now he’s gone. He’s gone.

I wanted to share this today because I’ve had mental health issues on my mind in a big way lately. Earlier this week, a young family friend was stabbed while she and my cousin were providing volunteer health services to the homeless. She was rushed to the hospital and made it through, thankfully, but the man who stabbed her explained all. He is schizophrenic, and off his meds, and the voices in his head told him to kill one of the girls.

He could have killed her. Or my cousin. Because of a very real mental health issue. Just like that, all of our lives could change. Just like everyone’s life is changed that knew and loved Nathan. Just like so many, many more.

Recently, a woman shared a video about how “depression is all in your head.” I’m not sharing it here because it’s disgusting and I don’t want to give it more clicks. She shares a lot of controversial videos, but this one was particularly reckless. Her advice for beating depression ranged from somewhat true (“Just work out!”) to completely ridiculous (“Compliment people more!”) She has clearly never battled actual depression, so speaking about it as if she has some type of authority on the matter is beyond irresponsible.

Being sad is not being depressed. Your depression can’t be compared to the depression of others. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I hate meds for myself, but some people truly need them.

If we don’t truly shift and start working together in this country (and all over the world) for real, true, effective mental health support, we are going to experience more heartbreak and more loss, not to mention a huge amount of suffering that could be eased or prevented. We are all human beings, just doing our best on this planet. Let’s love each other. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s be there and fight for each other.

We have to stop dismissing the need for better and better mental health care. Today, I’m recommitting myself to supporting legislation, organizations, and information that can create real change. I’m doubling down on my mission to get rid of mental health stigmas that create shame and make people afraid to ask for help.

Nathan never knew how much he helped me on my darkest days. He had no idea. Probably very few of those people in my hometown did. Still, all these years later, he’s inspiring me to do better and be my best self, to use my voice in a powerful way.

Even if I’ll never have the power in my voice that he had in his.

My Husband & I Live in Separate States- All Your Questions Answered

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The heart isn’t in the right place…but our hearts are…. #cheesy

When you’re in a long-distance relationship, people really feel for you. You get a lot of “Oooo that’s so hard.” Loads of sympathy. It’s great!

When you’re in a long-distance marriage, the questions and comments change. They range from much more curious (“How on Earth does that work?”) all the way to completely judgmental (“Do you not like being around each other?”). (Although couples who have been married for a long time often remark that a long-distance marriage is brilliant, which I love!)

So, in the spirit of sharing, and possibly saving myself some future explanations, I thought I would make a little FAQ.

Spoiler alert: YES, we really like being around each other. A whole lot. Maybe too much.

The “My Husband and I Live in Two Different States Official FAQ”!

Q: Wait, you and your husband live in two different states?!

A: Yeah.

Q: Really?

A: Well, it depends on how you look at it. I often say we both live in both places. Technically, his residence is in Michigan, and mine is in California. He spends more time in Detroit, I spend a lot more time in Los Angeles.

Q: But…why?

A: The basic reason is that we have three awesome kids from Steve’s first marriage. They are in Michigan, so we need to be in Michigan as well. His job is also mostly in Detroit, though he does work out of the LA office at times.

My home and my career are in Los Angeles, so that’s where I need to be.

Q: Oh yeah- how does that work with your jobs? Continue reading

AFI Fest, Hostiles, and the “LA Party”

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Ah, LA parties. If you want to see a bunch of people packed into a small space with little to no food, all sort of talking to each other but mostly looking around the room to see if there’s anyone more exciting nearby, get yourself to any industry related party in Los Angeles.

And “industry related” really just means there are actors there, I think.

Tonight I went to one such party. AFI Fest is happening now, and I want to do a huge shoutout because, at least for now, it’s my second favorite film festival in LA. The American Film Institute appreciates and celebrates the art of film in an important way, and their festival reflects that. If you get a chance, get your tickets now. (They have a Robert Altman career retrospective this year. What else do you need?)

Tonight my girl Kristine and I went to a screening of Scott Cooper’s new film Hostiles. It’s an epic western starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and a generally incredible cast, and I definitely recommend seeing it. It isn’t a perfect film by any means, but I like to judge art based on how it moves you and what it makes you look at inside yourself or out in the world. I was definitely moved, and I think the types of conversations this movie sparks are important to have. Continue reading

Eating Disorders, Anxiety, and Facing Ourselves Honestly

I’m taking a class on Anxiety Disorders right now, and it’s absolutely fascinating. It’s an online class from Universal Class. If you like to learn, I highly recommend checking out that site. Some libraries offer free tuition to cardholders, as I know the LA library system does, and there are hundreds of classes on a variety of topics.

Tip of the day, I guess? 🙂

Anyway, I’ve noticed that “eating disorders” is actually listed as a form of anxiety, which I would have balked at before I started recovery, but it’s amazing how true it is! Whenever I’m in a high-pressure situation for a sustained amount of time, I either want to binge or starve, depending on where my mind is at that time. Thinking of it this way, as anxiety, minimizes the problem to me in a good way.

This might not speak to everyone, but for me, it’s helping.

If I can think of my eating disorder as being in the same category as my OCD or social anxiety, then it just feels like another little annoying thing that I can overcome. It feels like something I can take a few deep breaths through, something that will wane after a few days of yoga and good sleep.  Continue reading

Los Angeles Triggers My Eating Disorder, and It Sucks So Hard

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I got back to LA a little more than three weeks ago. I was so excited to be home! I have loved this city since the minute my plane landed at LAX the very first time. I love the ocean, the palm trees, the people, the nightlife, the history, the mountains, and god I love the film and television industry.

I love being an actor. I love it so much. I love making movies and TV shows. I love booking the role, being on set, promoting the film. I love meeting other creative people on the job. I love telling stories, stepping into another person’s shoes. I love making people laugh, or making them think, or giving them a break from thinking too hard. I love doing 20 takes and discovering something new on the 21st. I love knowing I’m in the same union as Meryl Streep and George Clooney. I love this business with all my heart.

I’ve been acting for 25 years. I’ve never wanted to do or be anything else. I knew when I was 7 years old I wanted to do this for a living. My career is what drives me. My dreams gave me the strength to survive a rocky childhood, to get out of my small town, to press on when I could barely see one speck of light at the end of a long, dark, scary tunnel. I owe my life to discovering a passion for performing. I really believe that.

So here I am, finally, back where all my dreams come true. Hollywood. A place my heart feels at home, where I truly belong. Where I’ve always been happiest and most alive.  Continue reading

Great Podcast: Finding Comedy in Tragedy and Mental Illness

Marc Maron

I had to take a second to share this amazing podcast I just finished! As someone who has navigated depression (even back when it was called MMD), anxiety, and an eating disorder most of my life, I consider myself pretty well educated on the subject, if only by necessity. One topic I’m just starting to learn more about is Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as BPD.

If you’ve never listened to the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast, it’s worth checking out even if you don’t care about this stuff. He interviews a diverse group of incredibly interesting people, and I always find myself laughing and learning a lot. It’s the kind of podcast where you start to drive home more slowly just to be sure you have time to finish it, stopping at yellow lights, that kind of thing.

Continue reading

Back in the City of Angels

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I’m home. I’m HOME! I’m so happy to be back, I can’t even begin to tell you. My heart is here in LA…. and now the rest of me is, too.

I watched La La Land (finally!) on the plane ride here. My husband and I watched it together, and we were equally teary by the end. I’m not a particularly critical person- I like to like things for what they are, not tear them apart for what I want them to be, generally- but I above and beyond loved that film. Obsessed. Amazed.

 

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That lighting is the reason we all moved here. Magic.

 

 

A love letter to the city I love? An offering of hope and joy to the “ones who dream”? A story of artistic soul mates without a cheesy romanticized ending, where they learn some crap like “love matters more than everything you ever wanted”?  Continue reading