What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
When someone comments on my healthy-seeming ways, it’s difficult for me to not scoff and say something disturbingly self-deprecating and too morbid for everyday banter. Something along the lines of, “Well, I’ve eaten contents of entire medicine cabinets many, many nights, so I think my body deserves a break.”
I usually just say, “I eat shit, too.”
The truth is, I don’t give a shit about “shit.” (That was too easy, I know, VOMIT.) Cake is the greatest thing in the entire universe, aside from good guys with hot man faces who make me laugh until I pee, and puppies. Cake is NOT shit!
Neither is chocolate cake shakes, or Chicago-style hotdogs from Portillo’s, or strawberry donuts with sprinkles from Dunkin Donuts, or In-N-Out (Animal Style) Burgers, with (Animal Style) fries. These foodstuffs are simply delicious.
I haven’t developed good-for-me rituals like meticulously planning my meals at the start of the week -- portioning out kale and carrots in tiny Tupperware containers -- scheduling Pilates classes and daily cardio in my Google calendar, and taking a buttload of vitamins every night to balance out all the “bad” food I sometimes splurge on.
They are -- to get back to that blunt, aforementioned response always on the tip of my tongue -- directly related to how horrible I’ve been to my body, with only a few scars to show for it (thankfully). Now, I just feel scared.
Have you seen the movie "Final Destination"?
Were you one of those dumb kids who also said, “Pssh, I’ll never make it past the age of 21”?
I can clearly recall the first time I knew I wanted to live: I was on the back of a motorcycle, winding through the rainforests in Northern Australia. I’m like a baby in a stroller on some bikes -- the hum of the vehicle sometimes lulls me into this Zen-like state. I started nodding off.
I snapped up, with my brain screaming, I take it all back! Starving myself and cutting and washing down mouthfuls of pills with alcohol and cough medicine and sleeping with knots tied around my neck! I want to feel more things and see more things! I was 19.
A couple weeks after I had turned 22, I went to my friend’s funeral. The autopsy hadn’t come back at that time and nothing was official, but the word “overdose” was thrown around. I couldn’t stop wondering why it wasn’t me.
I still got high and drunk at his parents’ house the night of the service, and, exactly a year later, snorted Oxy (the alleged killer) while piss-drunk and stared up at a pipe that ran across the ceiling of my loft. I was mapping out the logistics of hanging myself when I passed out. I woke up two days later with cottonmouth.
It’s taken a lot of work to accept why maybe I made it and he didn’t. (But I still won’t delete his number from my phone.) It’s also taken a lot of work for me to give up self medicating and get professional treatment for bipolar disorder, a mental illness that has an extremely high rate of drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts.
Like an ex-convict who’s found God, I’ve found obsessing over all things that might make my organs squeal with delight (or, stay very, very quiet and not cause me any issues whatsoever) compensates for that lingering guilt and shame from those past, near-lethal actions.
Some may call “getting healthy” just another addiction. Especially after getting surgery, though, I don’t care what it’s called -- I want to make it clear to my insides that we no longer believe in the motto, “Live Fast, Die Young.” Here are a few better-for-me things I’ve taken up as of late:
DRINKING HOT LEMON WATER EVERY MORNING
I remember Allure did a feature many issues ago that detailed a few top-nutritionists’ food diaries, and nearly every single one of them started their days with hot lemon water. I meant to look into it, but after reading how one ate 1,200 calories in macarons on a typical night, I decided it might not be reliable advice.
One of my friends hasn’t shut up about how I should do it recently, and rehab made it easy to kick off a slew of healthy habits, so I got on it and read about the benefits of hot lemon water later: It flushes out your digestive system, helps your body absorb nutrients, boosts your immune system and your metabolism, and gives you a ton of Vitamin C and natural energy. It also curbs your appetite, if you care about that sort of thing.
I boil water like I’m making tea, squeeze the juice from half a lemon into it, and sip it every a.m. when I’m doing my makeup and getting ready for work. It’s easy.
EXERCISING EVERY DAMN DAY NO MATTER WHAT
This one’s difficult for me at the moment, since my doctor made me freeze my gym membership while my ovary’s healing. I’ve taken to walking myself around the block like a dog at different points of the day. A workout that isn’t rigorous still helps my brain.
MEDITATING -- EVEN THOUGH I STILL SUCK AT IT
Not only does this make me feel calmer, but it helps me “check in” with my body, which apparently is important for someone like me who forgets to grasp that I have a body.
The only meditation technique I’ve ever learned that’s worked for me is to count how many seconds it takes you to inhale, and then add two seconds more onto that for your exhale. So if my breath in is a 4-count, my breath out would be a 6-count. I then scan my body, starting with my toes, for any aches or stiffness.
After that, I try to visualize one specific pretty place I’ve been in until a timer I set beeps on my phone. Otherwise, my mind jumps around all creepy-like, similar to the Ring video.
Oh, no, I’m definitely addicted to these. (BluePrint’s my favorite!) I love the feeling of cleaning out my organs for a few days. And I KNOW they’re pricey. Subscribe to their newsletters for deals.
I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism and veganism for ethical reasons. (And if you do it, props.) But now I’m choosing to not eat meat most days of the week –- for my insides. I know Meatless Monday’s like this whole THING, so I think if you’re new to cutting out meat that would be a good start.
My new meal that I can seriously eat every day (ahem, for now) is a whole-grain pita filled with almond butter and apple slices with a million carrots or a cup of kale cooked in coconut oil on the side.
FLOSSING EVERY DAY
I’m only flossing every day ‘cause I know it increases blood circulation to my gums, and I’m afraid of getting gum cancer, and this is how serious this has gotten, you guys.
STOP WORKING WHEN I NEED TO STOP WORKING
Perhaps this is a different topic for a different time, but I have an extremely hard time not working. My favorite past-hobby was to work until I was so stressed and manic, I felt that I could only stop working if I got fucked up and forgot what I was working on, and also, that I was a human being.
Since I know work stress is one of my “triggers,” and that it also correlates to some fun-sounding heart diseases, I now schedule “Free Time” in my Google calendar, which I feel like is the saddest thing to admit as a 24-year-old, but there you have it. During “Free Time,” I’m supposed to do things like read a magazine, see a movie, listen to music, or another activity that’s not work-related.
HAVING GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
I truly believed I had good sleep hygiene before. But I was also smoking myself to sleep every night. So.
My new bedtime necessities: Earplugs, my Chococat eye mask (I need a better one, probably), lavender oil on my wrists, and the same breathing technique I use whilst trying to meditate. It knocks me OUT.
Wow, I feel like my parents would be relieved to read this. Or disturbed, a little. (Hi Mom.) (She loves xoJane.)
I know there are some ex-cokeheads who are now on microbiotic diets in here. Have you been scared into healthy ways? Also, if you have advice for deleting my friend’s number out of my phone, I would appreciate it.
Follow me on Twitter: @caitlinthornton.