Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Prescribe Escapism (aka I'm Not Emotionally Intelligent Enough to Deal With This.)

I am an escape artist. An escapist, for short. And, no, I'm not talking about physical Houdini feats. I'm not great at magically freeing myself from a tank of water. Nor do I want to try to get out of a straight jacket.
Better yet - how DO you reach the food!? 
I'm talking about mental escapism. Fantastical, creative escapism with which I'm guessing most writers are familiar. My life within this phenomenon began when I was very young, although I didn't realize it at the time. It started with a lot of reading. When I discovered fantasy novels, I would sink myself into the trials and tribulations of characters dealing with situations that could never exist in this world. It was magical, and fascinating, and so much more enticing than my life. And, at a certain point, being able to venture into worlds like that of Harry Potter wasn't enough. I had to create my own. Become other characters. Bring myself out of the stunted frustration of being a young, awkward kid by dreaming up angels and demons in my developing brain. So, I started to write. And, as you know, I never stopped.

To reiterate, at a young age, I was able to live through my fantasies. Whenever the world got to be too frustrating, or unfair, or terrifying, or boring for me, I would sink into my thoughts and try to transfer them to the page in large, loopy letters. And, sure, this kind of imagination is characteristic to growing bookworms like myself. But, here's the secret - I never grew out of it.

The older I've grown, the more escapism has become a part of my daily life. I find myself sinking into my thoughts often, crafting unrealistic scenarios and putting myself in the bodies of my characters as they wind their ways through different worlds - the worlds I have created.

This constant bordering on the edge of reality makes sense with my routine. For example, I'm a distance runner, and I do most of my running on a treadmill. The only thing that keeps me from passing out from sheer boredom during daily seven mile runs is the fact that my eyes glaze over and I'm suddenly somewhere else. I'm no longer in the gym - I am instead dancing in a nightclub, or being followed by a mythical beast, or exploring the deep underground of New York City, careful not to wake the creatures that lurk.

And, being fully in the present on the subway? Forget it. I turn on my music and I'm dashing through the woods as a teenage warrior, with an assault rifle strapped to my back. Or I'm watching Expressive Kitty flit across a notebook page as a comic character, giving life and acting advice.

And, I'll admit, sometimes my escapism gets intense. Sometimes I'll escape too far and get lost. End up somewhere in real life and not quite remember how I got there, because I was too lost in my fantasies. I retreat into my mind without realizing how deep I'll end up.

But that's what escapism is for me. That's what writing does. It shields me from boredom. It protects me from pain. And, I've recently realized, it has helped me build up walls. Large, brick walls within which lies a maze of stories and characters. I'm supposedly somewhere in the center.

This is what people close to me have to understand. I've been using the escapist method for so long that different pieces of me are scattered in my convoluted maze of storylines and plots and subplots. My writing has been my means of escape since it began, when I was around 5 or 6 years old. As a result, key pieces of me are stuck within my stories. My wants, secrets, desires, even rationality, are all locked up in different crevices in the many worlds and characters that exist in my brain. My true thoughts about one thing may have been woven into a tapestry in Eleanoria years ago, in a message that even I cannot yet decode.

And maybe my confidence about another aspect of myself or my life has been stolen by a shadow in the underrealm (see? These words mean nothing to you, but they make perfect sense to me. That's how interaction with me gets tricky.) And maybe that's why I'm so hesitant to let people read my writing. Because it contains so much of me. So much of my thoughts and fears and hopes and beliefs about myself and my life and the world. A lot of which I haven't even realized.

So, when I don't communicate things, it's not that I don't care. Nor is it that I don't want to. At this point, I've been too caught up in burying pieces of myself in other worlds, other people that I dream up in my head, to be able to know exactly what I think. Exactly what I want. Exactly who that person at the center of the maze is. Or if there even is a person at the center of the maze.

I mean, let's face it, the only real, nonfiction, story I've ever written - a piece solely about me - is tucked away in a Microsoft Word document on my computer labeled 'How to Make Meringues.'

This is Escapism. This is what it brought me. Do I apologize profusely for not being able to voice all of my opinions? Thoughts? Wants? Secrets? Of course. But do I regret my constant exploration of fantastical regions? Of the lives of gifted people, or even just people in the wrong place in the wrong time, that exist in my head? Do I regret spending a lot of time in my thoughts, and even more time struggling to get these thoughts down on paper?

Absolutely not.

Because that's asking me if I regret being a writer. And, yeah, it's frustrating. It's crazy and emotional and probably even futile. It has probably stunted my emotional intelligence in more ways than one, and made getting close to people much more difficult than it would have been otherwise. But there is no question in my mind when I say that I wouldn't trade writing for the world.

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Time in the CATskills (HAH! Get it?...Just me, huh..)

A day after I'd returned from the open, snow-kissed upstate to my half-a-room in New York City, my clothing still smelled like the crackling fireplace in the luxury cabin. Tinder and sparks filled my nostrils with every deep breath in.
I didn't have time to clean my clothes right away, and, to be honest, I didn't want to.
Oh, shutup 
The smell made me close to that ethereal upstate experience. It was like the spirits in the Catskills had followed me home, but would retreat the second the smell dissipated. And I didn't want them to go away. I didn't want to be awoken from the feeling of perfect stillness. Perfect calm.
So I gripped the satisfying, sensational perfection that came with getting away. There was a calmness that cleansed me as the snowflakes floated to my face in the mountains. A calmness that disappeared when I got back in the city. I felt further away from the people, every person, I'd spent that weekend with. From the people with whom I'd been drinking and dancing and talking and floating around in a hot tub not 24 hours earlier.

Once my body settled back into the city life, my doubts returned. My regimen resurfaced. But, the smell remained and the spirits held fast.

And I didn't know how I could possible fall back into routine.
How does one go back to normal after being touched by magic?

I was expected to go from trailing up an icy hill to look out at the night-clad mountains, mushroom-shaped light held tightly in my fist, to bustling past strangers by the Hudson River on my way to work. To go from nighttime conversations and sleeping a mere few feet away from someone to not knowing when I'd see, when I'd truly SEE, that person again (although, they're probably okay with it.)

To go from dancing to guilty pleasure songs in a wide open cabin living room to sitting on a chair at home, watching Netflix alone. To sink back into technology from a realm that didn't have cell phone service. From looking straight into someone's eyes and showing that person a deep, vulnerable, emotional wound, to interacting with that person mainly through text message.

It was jarring how quickly things were supposed to return to normal. It made me question the entire weekend. It made me wonder what of it was real, and what I was romanticizing from select memories.

It sent me reeling into uncertainty. Into instability. Into a mental battle, pitting my New York City state of mind brain against what I felt in the mountains.

But then I remembered. I'm a writer. I write things down. I carry around four separate notebooks for business, freewriting, book writing, and baking. A lot of what my pen produces is complete drivel, but maybe this time...

I pulled out my freewrite notebook. I flipped to the most recent entry, labeled 'It Was Real.' My eyes skimmed the small, looped pencil letters trailing down the lines, onto the next page. I had written it at the cabin, the morning of the day we left, almost as if I knew I'd be experiencing uncertainty upon my return. The entry detailed something about my thought processes that I learned the night before. Something important. It realized the fears I struggled with concerning personal relationships, and how those fears intensify. And how I cope. It described the peace I felt among the trees and snow. How I wanted to turn the whole experience into a fantastical, magical story. And, then, how I realized that the experience itself was that story. And it ends - "The person who brought me here is perfect. These people surrounding me, trailing around the cabin in an effort to retrieve all our things, are perfect. I am perfect."

So, I washed my clothes.

Because I'm a writer, because I'm a creator, I know now that the spirits from the mountains cannot leave. They've inserted themselves into my bloodstream, as pieces of my heart, and they're there to stay.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

In Honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

As many people don't know, the past week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. In fact, I didn't know until the fact popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. Now that I do know, however, I want to help spread the awareness by sharing an Expressive story. It's pretty long. It's not super fun. But, it's my experience. So, here goes:

Okay, imagine this - 
Let's say, here's my normal form: 

Well, for the longest time, I wanted to look like this: 

That's right. I had an eating disorder. I mean, I still have Anorexia Nervosa. It's not something of which you can ever truly rid yourself once it's in your system. But, I'm in recovery, and doing really well. 
Getting to this point, of course, wasn't easy. How did it start? Good question. One of my earliest memories of disordered thinking is from second grade. 
Every student in my class had their weight taken. And, once off the scale, my peers ran around sharing their poundage. 

While the Kitty would have been totally unconcerned, I didn't want to tell anyone. My weight was higher than that of one of my friends and I felt shame. At 7 years old, I was ashamed of my weight. That's pretty messed up, and it didn't end there. 
I'd never liked how I looked. From elementary school through high school, I was bookish and awkward. I didn't wear makeup. I never felt particularly pretty. What I failed to notice was that I was awesome, social, charismatic, and gorgeous. However, at a certain point, all I managed to be was unhappy about my appearance. 

As work piled up and college applications, rejection letters, AP classes, and an intense extracurricular activity schedule consumed my life, I became more and more unhappy. As many do, I turned my unhappiness on myself. I started exercising. Watching what I ate. I did it all under the guise of being fit and healthy, but my real goal was to get skinny

Looking back, I realize how very silly the words 'skinny' and 'fat' are. Their significance lies in the perspective of the thinker, and therefore they have no set significance. Currently, I'm fit. I'm healthy. I'm working on getting healthier. But I'm not skinny. I feel I was 'skinny' when I was first admitted to a hospital as severely underweight. To me, 'skinny' is bad

When I went away for college, everything spiraled. I was depressed. Clinically depressed. And the only thing that motivated me to get out of bed in the morning was the gym. I had to go so I wouldn't gain weight, a prospect that terrified me more than death. So, I stopped eating. I pushed myself insanely hard in school. I went to the gym for over 2 hours a day, everyday. I cried. A lot. But I tried to convince myself that I was fine. 
But, then, my hair started falling out. My chest pains got worse. My fingernails became brittle. Fine hair started sprouting on my body, to keep me warm. My body was deteriorating; it was shutting down all unnecessary functions, to keep me alive. 

I wasn't scared, though. I was depressed. I was dull. I was dying, and I couldn't feel. 

My first admittance to the hospital happened the week before Halloween. I wasn't even 3 months into my college career. I thought that was the worst of it. 

Okay, let's stop here and take a breath. 

Scary stuff, right? People who meet me now would never know unless told. And, I won't lie, some people I have told have used it against me. Others haven't listened. Others have treated me differently. I've been judged and stigmatized and, funny thing, I used to care

I didn't tell many people about this part of my life for a long time. I didn't want it to affect how I was treated. I wanted to separate myself from my experience. Then it occurred to me - I shouldn't care. I'm not ashamed of having had Anorexia. I'm not ashamed I'm in recovery, and on depression medication. These things are part of how I am who I am today. And, if anything, my experiences prove my strength. 
Needless to say, going away for school didn't last long. After my first hospital visit, I rediscovered chocolate. I binged on it for an entire semester. I ate almost nothing else. Then I relapsed that summer and lost all of the sugar weight I'd put on. I returned to school and wasn't healthy, but I wasn't in a danger zone for a while. Then Christmas break happened and, when I went into Spring semester, I gave up. I relapsed again. I left five weeks into the second semester of my sophomore year. And, once home, I relapsed again. 

It was bad. It was so bad, as always, and the depression and cutting did not help. I was struggling for a long time against demons I didn't quite understand, and I know I'm not the only one. 

And then, something amazing happened - my recovery began. 

I spent the summer after I left school working as a cook on Pier 25. I was seeing a therapist and a nutritionist, and eventually also a psychologist, but not much was changing. And then there was a day. A random day, like any other. I was sitting in front of a fan near the grill. The heat was sweltering and the day was slow, and I was scribbling random thoughts in one of my several freewrite notebooks. I took a deep breath and opened to a new page. Stared down at it with my pen poised at the top line...

And something clicked

For some reason, at that moment, my frustration with what I was doing to myself boiled over. It was a stunted feeling, of course, considering everything I felt was muted by depression. However, realizations about my life flew through my head one after the other. I wasn't living. I was alive. I was surviving. But my energy levels were always low. I always thought about food. I was constantly unsatisfied, with myself and everything around me. And I'd been that way since I'd started restricting. I had a vague memory of a happy, bright, hyper girl bouncing around with story ideas zooming through her head and a laugh loud enough to fill a building. 

I hadn't seen that girl for a long time and, at that moment, sitting in the heat and grease on Pier 25, it struck me how much I missed her. 

So, I started a list. It was a list of things I'd be able to eat if I recovered. It included items as simple as pasta. It included things I'd been craving. The list grew throughout the day, and during the night. And that short, complex moment was the catalyst for me allowing myself quality of life. 

After that, I pushed myself to eat more and exercise less. I made the decision to go on medication, despite the stigma that surrounds being on any medication. 

Of course, getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it was still a process. It's difficult even now, almost 3 years after I started truly recovering, to keep myself in a healthy mindset surrounding food and exercise. But I'm working on it, and I will continue to work on it so I can keep myself. Maintain my happiness. My goofy, happy, hyper self returned in force, and I'm determined to hold onto it more tightly than ever before. 

So, that's me. That's my experience. I'm currently working on eating substantial meals and snacks on a regular, set schedule, and cutting down my intense exercise regimen, which is a decision that happened when I chose a workout over a Super Bowl party, and realized I need to give myself leeway to be social. To have fun. Because, what is life without fun? 

Starting a business, writing books, baking everything, teaching kids - all these things take energy. Energy that I wouldn't have if I didn't eat enough, which I remind myself constantly. 

But, putting all of my aspirations aside, I've come to the conclusion that I deserve to be healthy. I am a good enough human being, a creative and smart and wonderful enough human being, to eat the foods I want, to allow myself relaxation time, and to focus on health and fitness instead of a meaningless 'skinny' ideal. I am, finally, enough for myself. And being enough for myself has changed my life. 

And, that's why a part of what my business is built upon is self love. I promote it so much because I have experienced one of the many terrible things that can happen when it is absent. So, call me fickle, 

but I do truly, strongly believe that YOU, reader, are wonderful. You are talented. You are smart. You deserve to be loved unconditionally by the one person that can always make you happy - yourself. Be adventurous. Love your passions. Love your body. Love your mind. Love your quirks. Love your entire personality. Be yourself. And always always, always, wake up in the morning, look over in the mirror and say: 
You wonderful, incredible person, you! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Technical Difficulties

So, I wrote a blog post just to discover that the images I drew, for some reason, refuse to be put in it. So, until I figure out why, is experiencing some technical difficulties. Expect another post soon! 
The Kitty

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sick Kitty + Valentines Day 2015

I'm weird when it comes to being sick.

When I feel a tickle in my throat - even the slightest indication that I could potentially be starting to get sick - I go into beast wellness mode.

Yeah...I have this weird anxiety around getting sick, most likely because last winter I had a cold for three months.

However, when, inevitably, the tickle in my throat turns into a full-blown phlegm fest, something in my brain changes. Of course, being sick is no fun. However, I manage to find perks in the strangest things.

For example, my most recent sickness (from which I am now recovering) gave me a nasty cough. It sounds like I'm trying to expel satan from my lungs.'s me:

At which point I realize...

Also, being on medicine such as Sudafed has its advantages.

Also, it gives me an excuse to spend my day off in bed without feeling bad for not moving.

Weirdly enough, I additionally operate under the illusion that I am impervious to germs.

All in all, it helps to be able to find the bright side in being sick. Just like, and I must mention this because it was yesterday, finding the bright side in Valentines Day whilst not being in a relationship.

Many people:
Other People:


Basically, EVERYONE was my valentine this year. And these were the result of my labor:
That's me! 

Much love from me and the Kitty, readers. Until next week.