Thursday, February 21, 2008

some in-hospital artwork.

the following are some drawings i did during my time in residential treatment back in sept-oct 2006. the first is in pen and colored pencil, the second in crayon.
(i'll admit, the second was originally in pencil and i redid it specifically for the purpose of web appearance.)

a lot of people don't always see this one right off the bat. it's sort of an "eat or be eaten" type view of the eating disorder. and it's the painful truth.

© emily rubenstein 2006
(both of these are watermarked, but just in case.
please do not use without permission.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

and little cancerous tumors turn me on.

here's a little chunk of elle magazine, as reported by jezebel and found on rachel's blog:

You know that whole thing about how being superskinny is an ideal originated by the fashion industry and perpetuated by female competitiveness and like, totally NOT AT ALL what men are interested in etc. etc.? Well that's bullshit, says a story in the March Elle by Amanda Fortini, a 5'6 woman who dropped to 100 pounds a few years back. "Many men, I quickly learned, really do like frighteningly lean women, whatever they may claim to the controversy. As an average, medium-size young woman, I was unremarkable, innocuous. As a skinny slip of a thing, I was something of a sensation. In restaurants and at parties, men flirted at me extravagantly." Men in media and literary circles hit on her frequently and audaciously, (one of them with the awesome line, "You remind me of a heroine from a Joan Didion novel." (You know, "all bones and big eyes.") "As a male friend once put it to me, semifacetiously," she writes, 'A little anorexia is hot.'"

you know, a little cancer in a man was always more my thing. but what do i know?
if a man said that, a woman would probably run for the hills. what a sick fuck, she'd tell her girlfriends, as she repeated the must absurd and disturbing thing she'd ever heard. but she hears that a man gets a little hot for just a little anorexia and the refrigerator goes out with the trash on sunday night. and then, of course, the friends follow suit; it's a competition and a constant comparison party.
here's a newsflash for you, women: there's no such thing as a "little anorexia". you can't just pick it up like atkins and drop it. it's not about stopping when you hit your goal. this is not a lifestyle choice. it's a disease. a real one! and hellish, and cruel, and unstoppable. it's merciless.

there is nothing in this life worth dying for. we're born, we work and create a living (keyword: living), we raise children and teach them how to create a living for themselves, and we pass. and we make weight a factor that determines our worth during our short time? we cut our time short, and risk our ability to reproduce, and to create that living to look like skeletons because we think people will like us more if there's nothing to us. well, anyone who thinks that is no prize. and let me tell you, that's a relationship that's heading downhill from the start.

how did this start. why is the self-worth of our society based on how low the number on a piece of metal is? does anyone else realize how ridiculous this all is? i just keep wondering if there's a time in the future where weight isn't something we so willingly kill ourselves over and the diet industry isn't worth about as much as the porn industry. (that's not a supported fact, by the way...don't quote me on that.)

i highly recommend reading rachel's take on it @ she's a phenomenal writer.
oh, and by the way, the woman from the quote... it turns out she wasn't anorexic. she had a parasite. that's pretty hot, too. mm. as one of jezebel's regulars said, looks like we're all just a tapeworm away from beauty.

sidenote to elle magazine: congrats. you've made your way onto pro-ana site lists of "great magazines to subscribe to for 'thinspiration'." i hope you guys are basking in your thriving publication. just be careful with your models... they're fragile.

Monday, February 18, 2008

update on polly: cause of death.

i couldn't have written it better, so here's the entry rachel wrote:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

what it's all about.

tonight, i received a message from a girl on facebook that i don't know. she's currently in treatment at walden and found me through a group about our home away from home. she wrote me to tell me that she had read over my blog and found it to be very inspirational. then, she continued on to explain that things were going great for her in treatment "until tonight".
that first slip hits us all and there's no way to prepare for the guilt that comes with that. she wasn't sure who to talk to about that, so she came to me.

and now... well, now i feel like i'm starting to have an effect. that's all i've wanted is to inspire people and to help make the hardest battle to fight just a little bit easier for someone else to bare. and now that i'm starting to see the way that people respond to my writing, i realize things can only go up from here. i just...need to know how i can do more.

speaking of doing more, i have 1 week to figure out what i can do to get involved in NEDAW. you should all do the same. patients, recovered fighters, family, friends... it doesn't matter what your connection is. if you're connected through an eating disorder by 6 degrees (and, if you're human, i can guarantee you are), i strongly encourage you to find a way to have an effect.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

nut [my story] shell.

my name is emily. i'm a 21-year-old who is just now learning how to take care of herself. according to my mother, i've shown signs of disordered eating as early as 3 to 5-years-old. i was always very small for my age and it was constantly brought to my attention how scrawny i was in school.

high school is when everything started to show up. the anxiety attacks i had experienced my whole life began to elevate to the point where i was missing classes and even leaving school early. i was perpetually miserable. my sophomore year, i began resorting to self-injury in a desperate attempt to distract from the emotional pain with physical pain. i would isolate for weeks on end and the only communication with my parents was expressed in screaming matches that could have made cats in heat cringe.
my junior year, i stayed home from school for 2 weeks because i felt too dejected to go anywhere near my high school. senior year, i started skipping lunches and would go hang out in the auditorium for the hour. three of my teachers began to catch on and expressed, on multiple occasions, their concern for the weight i was beginning to drop.

everything went downhill from there in college. i binged my way up to the "freshman 15", then fasted my way down, far past the weight i entered school at. i eventually dropped out and went into treatment, despite not being ready. (just before dropping out, however, i did finally quit my self-injurious behavior.)

my treatment repertoire consists of 3 iop programs, 2 day programs, 2 residential stays, and 1 inpatient a pear tree. it wasn't until this final go-around (inpatient to day to iop) that i finally felt it. it being that "click" that i've heard doctors talk about fully recovered patients experiencing. i couldn't do it anymore. i was 21 and while my friends were out partying and working on BAs and experiencing life... i.... well, i was waking up each morning to a thermometer in my ear and a BP cuff around my upper arm. i was asking nurses to check my toilet, before i was allowed to flush, so they would know i hadn't thrown up. i was writhing in pain each night while my body desperately tried to remember how to digest food. this was not how i wanted to live and i refused to do it any longer.

i was discharged from walden behavioral care the week of january 'o8. now, i am the happiest i have been since i was a child. i have beyond come to accept myself and am becoming the person that i really want to be; the person that family and friends have lately been describing as funny, especially caring, and fun to be around. for the first time in as long as i can remember, i am completely in love with my life.

now, spreading awareness and helping others through this hell has become a passion of mine. i feel like i can't do enough to help the eating disorder community, but i'm determined to do everything i'm capable of. i refuse to keep everything i have learned to myself.

as jenni schaefer declares in the introduction of her book, Life Without Ed, "i have never been married, but i am happily divorced."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

how you can help.

whether you're a patient, a friend or family member of a patient, or even if you have no personal ties to eating disorders at all, there are simple things you can do to help.

1. spread awareness. eating disorders are a serious disease. it is not a lifestyle choice that people choose, and it's all too common for them to be seen as such. there is so much ignorance around eating disorders and one of my biggest goals is to stop it. there are far too many jokes and we can either let them slide, or make people aware of what they're talking about. say something.

2. don't be so quick to judge. be careful what you say to people you don't know so well. you never know what is going on in someone else's life. it always made me angry when people would make comments like, "oh my god, how do you stay so thin?!" if only they knew.

3. educate yourself. if you know someone with an eating disorder, the best thing you can do is read up. from what i have heard (soon to know for myself) is that life without Ed is one of the best books for loved ones to read to help them understand the relationship between patient and eating disorder. talk to NEDA. go to MEDA's "hope&inspiration" meetings, or any of the many support groups created specifically for family and friends. visit the links down the sides and educate yourself on the facts. then go back and read #1.

4. make a donation. you can donate to either NEDA or MEDA quickly and easily. your donations go towards medical research and fighting for the insurance coverage that so many patients get kicked out of treatment for not having.

here is a great list of things to do, say, and - most importantly - not to say when someone you love has an eating disorder or is reflecting symptoms of possibly having one. if you click on the screenshot, it will bring you to the original page for better legibility.

[the above was taken from the MEDA website.]

if you have any questions, feel free to contact me or to check out the N/MEDA websites for more information.

Monday, February 11, 2008

sometimes, Ed wins.

in 2006, Lauren Greenfield's HBO documentary "THIN" came out. the film focused in on 4 women struggling with anorexia, one of which was Polly Williams.

unfortunately, no matter how much of a fighter a person may be, sometimes it can be too much for one to handle. this past friday, february 8, polly passed away. below is the obituary. no one seems to know the cause of her death. however, i can tell you it was anything but deserved.

i didn't know her personally, but i know some girls who did and i can tell you she is greatly missed.

her family asks that any contributions made in honor of Polly go to NEDA.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

why "frozen oranges"?

all forms of self-harm serve a purpose to the people who do them, whether it's restriction, purging, self-mutilation, smoking, drugs, drinking, etc. the purpose is that these behaviors bring a sense of relief; they're coping mechanisms. they are commonly resorted to when a person is feeling emotions they don't want to deal with, and these behaviors are a way of escaping feelings.

part of treatment from addictions is to find replacements for these coping mechanisms so that when we feel overwhelmed by an emotion, we can get through it without hurting ourselves. there are hundreds of tricks people use to practice healthier ways of dealing, it just depends on focusing in on what it is that's calming about the self-harming habits.
for example, people who cut may be doing it for the feeling of physical pain to distract from the emotional pain. a common way for them to replace the behavior is to snap a rubber band on their wrist so they can still feel the sting, but it's not putting them at the risks for severe injury or infection.

when i was in the walden partial program, they would keep frozen oranges in the freezer. when patients were feeling unbearably anxious or overwhelmed, the first thing we were offered was a frozen orange to squeeze until we felt calmed down. it would burn after a few seconds, but our thoughts would stop racing because the brain had no choice but to focus on the physical pain of holding the orange.
despite no longer needing them, i now associate frozen oranges with the idea of healthier coping skills and a sense of relief, which is exactly what writing this blog is for me. hopefully it can be for others as well.

ed terms to know.



.order of treatment.

Friday, February 8, 2008

through the looking glass, part 2.

i finished washing my hands, reached for the hand towel, and instinctively looked up into the bathroom mirror. i would typically have one of two reactions to my face's reflection: 1) who is that?? that doesn't look like me at all... 2) that. is. repulsive. my face is too blotchy, my eyebrows need to be waxes, my hair looks like shit, my mouth is too big, etcetera etcetera...
this time was different. i was looking my reflection without judgement, and all i saw was... me. it was a foreign feeling for me, but there was nothing to judge. the signals my eyes were sending to my brain were so literal, so objective. a long face, hazel eyes, light skin... colors and shapes. this was one of the infinite possibilities of faces that could be created and it was mine.
i was lucky to have all of those features. some children are born without ears, some people are in accidents leaving them with faces that are hardly even recognizable as a human form. everything was in perfect working order; i could see my reflection (despite my minor astigmatism), i could smell, i could taste. how is it possible that we deny ourselves enjoyment of these sensations because of what these taken-for-granted features may look like?

i pulled back my hair and, all alone in the bathroom, smiled at myself in the mirror. this is who i am and there's nothing there i could imagine feeling such hatred towards. i was done letting myself believe that i was anything but beautiful.

* * * * *

as a photographer, i can tell you that you will never be able to see yourself the way that others do - it's impossible. there are a few reasons for this:

1) our eyes have lenses just like cameras do. the way the light forms an image is all about the angle at which we look at it. looking down over our bodies is like taking a picture of ourselves with a wide-angle lense, and portraits with a wide-angle lense are very rarely attractive. it's nothing to judge ourselves on.

2) looking down isn't accurate? okay, so we'll look at ourselves straight-on in the mirror: a reflective surface, now typically of glass, coated with a metal amalgam that reflects an image. yes, women base their self-worth by the reflection off a piece of glass coated with metal, which i can guarentee (according to the law of life that says "there is no such thing as perfect") has flaws, itself. dents, uneven coating, scratches, perhaps it's slightly off angle... are we noticing how ridiculous this is all sounding, yet?

3) when i sit down to retouch a shoot, i usually end up staring at the same shot(s) for up to 3 hours. usually, after about an hour or so, i need to turn visual opinion rights over to someone who hasn't seen it, yet. when you look at an image for too long, you're able to see every diminutive, insignificant pixel and it becomes nearly impossible to see the frame as a whole and without judgement. think about the last time you looked at a simple, elementary word for too long and it started to look absolutely absurd. you've known how to spell that word since you were 6, but it just doesn't look right anymore. this is what happens to the image of ourselves after years of staring at our reflection.

"alright, so every time i see myself, it's inaccurate. how do i know what i really look like?" the point is, it doesn't matter. whether or not you like what you see in the mirror, it's who you are and who you always will be to yourself. you have a body, just like everybody else. you have a head and facial features, just like everybody else (we can only hope). the point is to learn to appreciate what your body does for you rather than how it appears, visually.
if you hate what you're looking at, stop looking at it. get rid of your full-length mirrors. there is no reason your self-esteem should be lowered by a piece of glass on the wall.

[the above event occured under 2 years after that of part 1.]

Thursday, February 7, 2008

through the looking glass, part 1.

i stood, looking myself up and down in the full-length dorm mirror. while analyzing my frame, i held a spoon of fat-infested peanut butter in my right hand and slowly licked it. every taste brought a feeling of relief and pure hatred towards myself. go ahead, em. finish the whole jar, you fat fuck. you've already failed yourself so you might as well finish it off right. i wanted to cry, but i couldn't. i just sat there, eating spoonful after spoonful of oil and fat and glaring at my mocking reflection. i must be the fattest ninety-eight pound girl, ever.
i lifted my spaghetti-strap dance tank to reveal a stomach that could pass for my second trimester. my fingers played over my ribs like piano keys. i clasped my hand around the opposite wrist, wrapped both hands around my thighs, pinched at the grotesque skin around my hips and stomach. the urge to crawl out of my body was unbearable. it was awkward, paunchy, and overall intolerable to be in my skin. it tingled and itched, as if it wasn't a huge fan of being in contact with the rest of my body, either.
i turned and walked back to my desk, put up some emo lyrics for an away message, and sat down to review everything i had contaminated my body with for the day. after about four items (three bowls of cereal, eleven cookies, endless handfuls of crackers), i good as lost control over my hand and scrawled the words "FAT WHORE" across the page. failure, i scold myself. you disgusting, worthless piece of shit. i wrote everything i could think of to show myself what an awful, disgraceful thing it was that i had done. these were the beginnings of the most abusive relationship i would ever be in.

* * * * *

i spoke with a friend the other day that had moved across the country last year and is rather behind on what's been going on in my life. we found ourselves on the topic of thought distortion, one of the hardest concepts for those without eating disorders to understand. how can a person so fragile-looking honestly declare "i'm fat!"? it's just a plea for attention, right? we're just looking for validation; for someone to yell, "no you're not, you're beautiful! i wish i was that skinny," right?
it's nearly impossible to describe how these disappearing men and women do not see what we do. when they look at their reflection, they see obesity. they see a person who is unhealthily overweight, and they believe it with everything they've got. the thought distortion worsens with deprivation of nourishment, meaning there is no such thing as thin enough. and the more one can convince their mind that they are, in fact, "fat", the more the mind will believe it. it only knows what we tell it, and the disease takes it from there.
one of the hardest parts of recovery is being told that the reflection staring back from the mirror isn't real. how do you convince someone that what they're seeing isn't what is actually there? well, you feed them and counsel them until their brain is nourished and informed enough to see themselves for what they really are. they just have to be ready to see it on their own.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

her definition's have been wrong.

i went back to my account that i haven't contributed to since i was 18. i came across a poem that i wrote 5 years ago and - like most all of my work on that site - was never shared with anyone who didn't have that username. i found it interesting that it was originally written about my experiences with self-injury (a behavior extremely common to go hand-in-hand with eating disorders), but reeks to hell of a recipe for anorexia. how i never saw the symptoms sooner blows my mind.
now, let's just remember i was 16 when i wrote this - it's not about the lack of writing ability. we don't judge here :P

Beauty's On the Inside

Beauty's on the inside
She's eating me alive
I've heard once that beauty brings pain
From what has this derived?

Beauty's on the inside
She's playing with my soul
Pulling, pushing, clawing hard
Begging for control

Beauty's on the inside
Her definitions have been wrong
She's a tortured personality
Failing to be strong

Beauty's on the inside
Tearing at my mind
She's pulling me down with her
Pain and pleasure half combined

Beauty's on the inside
But I want to bring her out
Find out what all the pain looks like
Perhaps remove some doubt

Beauty's on the outside
A blissful cerise shade
Beading at an open wound
I'd opened unafraid

© eliptical*****18 2003