Good Times, Bad Times, you know I’ve had my share….

Yesterday sucked.

I mean, the day itself didn’t suck too badly, but I sucked. I misbehaved. I was a bad, bad girl.

I’ve been carrying around a lot of anxiety lately. Anxiety about my unemployment, anxiety about the extra weight I’ve gained over the last month, anxiety about my upcoming (albeit temporary) move, and so on and so forth.

Anxiety is one of the primary emotions that gets me in a bind when it comes to food. I carry panic (like many people do) in my chest, and sometimes I feel the only way to calm that heart-racing, rib-cage-tightening, apprehensive-feeling of yuckiness is to eat, a lot, and instead, turn the focus of that inner conflict to another area of my body; namely, my stomach.

I’ve been really proud of the fact that I haven’t purged in nearly two months. And although I have been a bit indulgent lately, I mentioned before that I feel letting myself eat what I want, when I want (without thinking too much about what it is or how much I’m eating), is really the only way for me to start to come to terms with what it is my body is truly looking for as far as nourishment goes. I need to learn how to listen to the signs of “I am hungry”, “I am full”, etc, without judgement or criticism.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned two posts ago, this process means I’ve gained some weight recently. And although I am very, very aware that this is a means to an end and am generally taking it somewhat in stride, there is still a part of me that can’t help but want the weight to GET OFF ME NOW.

Like, NOW, NOW.

NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW!

Ugh.

Anyway, my usual reaction to that sort of frustration is to binge and purge (which of course, I’m trying not to do). Last night found me somewhere in a weird mix of new-Haley and old-Haley, as they battled about how to handle my fried nerves.

This is what happened:

I went to the store. I bought some ‘healthy’ food (eggs, beans, fruit, that sort of thing).

At some point on the drive home, I decided instead to go get one of those cheap $4.99 large pizzas they have at really shittty pizza places. This was a bad idea for many reasons: a) I should be pinching pennies, b) I already had food RIGHT NEXT TO ME, c) a large pizza in my house generally means a large pizza in my mouth, d) $4.99 pizza is really never worth it, is it?

For whatever reason, I talked myself into going. You’ll just have a few pieces and throw the rest away. $4.99 is pocket change. You deserve it, you barely ate anything today. Blah, blah, blah.

When I got home, I ate a few pieces before deciding it was underdone. So I put a few more pieces in the oven and ate them, too, after I got them to the crunchiness level I originally desired. At this point, some voice in my head (‘Cooler Than You’ll Ever Be’, to be specific. He/she is the one that thinks I’m so pathetic, I should just ‘go for it’ during a binge) told me since I already ate so much food, I should just eat the whole pizza. At least one of my voices was looking out for me, because I made a compromise with myself. I’d eat the rest of the pizza, but I wouldn’t chew it and swallow because that meant I would eventually end up throwing it all up.

So, I sat down with my pizza box and my trash can, took bite after bite and spit the chewed food into the garbage.

I know this is absolutely disgusting, but ultimately it really is the healthier option when compared to binging and purging. (As sad as that is).

I got down to two final pieces and had enough. Aren’t I supposed to be overcoming this? The remaining slices I doused with water and threw in the trash, just to make sure I wouldn’t go digging for them later.

This morning, I was so mad at myself (and felt so crappy), I slept in until 11am. That alone was enough to make me depressed for the rest of the day (I hate wasting all those useful morning hours), so I told myself that in order to redeem my actions from the previous night and my 12 hour snooze-fest, I would fast today. Just one day. And then not tell anyone. No one will ever know.

I did fast for breakfast and lunch, but by dinner time, I had talked myself back into eating a regular meal. I can not fix bad behavior with bad behavior. (By the way, by no means am I saying that cleanses or fasting is bad in general…just under my current circumstances).

I’m telling you all to hold myself accountable, and because I know that setbacks are natural. In the future, I need to work on writing these sort of posts while I’m going through the emotions instead of after, and then eventually, maybe I can write beforehand and avoid the mistakes all together.

One day at a time. One day at a time….

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Also. Today on Facebook, my friend Cara posted the following picture of me:

My initial rection was horror. Look at my hideous arms! Why did I think I could get away with a tank top! My huge cheeks! Man, I need a tan!  But then, I made myself look for the good instead. Oh, my eyes are striking, aren’t they? I sure like my new haircut. That color looks good on me. Then, I even went to the additional length of making it my profile picture (although I did crop out my arms.)

Hey. I’m not going to be cured overnight.

L.A. Woman

It occured to me that I should write a post while I’m having one of my bad days.

Of course, in those moments, the last thing I want to do is wax philosophical about my love/hate relationship with myself. I generally just want to eat chocolate and watch re-runs of Law and Order SVU. But for those of you following my journey as you simultaneously try to heal your own demons, I think it is unfair for me to present this as all easy-going positivity and light- mostly because that simply isn’t the case. I still have meals where I eat too much. I still have days where I’m tempted to only drink water with lemon and cayenne pepper. I still have moments where I have to talk myself out of spending the entire evening moping in my bed.

This past week has been one of many ups and downs. The constant, though- even in the throws of PMS or mid self-insult- is that I do truly feel a shift happening in my consciousness. My therapist told me to equate where I am right now in my journey with food to where I was when I was only one-to-two months sober. Comparing the shaky hold I had on my sobriety back then to where I am now serves as an easy gage for measuring just how important it is to be patient with the process. I am the type of person who wants to be in control RIGHT NOW, so this is as lot of work in of itself. But I think the major difference is: even in my weaker moments, there is a hope (even a knowing) that truly wasn’t there before.  And that is what matters.

I was offered a chance to play Maria in Twelfth Night, in a production some of my Los Angeles friends are doing in the North Hollywood/Studio City area.  When I got the call, the only thing I could think was, “why the hell not?”, so I said yes. I will be there for the month of September and the first two weekends of October. Part of me is very excited to have the opportunity to hang out with my old Kingsmen and college friends for a few weeks, but there is another part of me that is extremely nervous about the arrangement. When I think back to the girl I was when I was living in LA in my early-to-mid twenties, I picture a total stranger. That girl was so unhappy- so defensive and paranoid and sensitive- I really don’t want to cross paths with her again.

There is a part of me that will always love Los Angeles. Some of my dearest friends live there, some of my favorite restaurants and dive bars and theaters and coffee shops and thrift stores are there. But there is also a darker side to LA that exists in my mind. LA for me is the epitome of yin and yang. It is a town of outright, repeated rejection but also a town of constant, eager hope and anticipation. It is the place where I first lived completely on my own (I heap my Thousand Oaks days into my L.A. days, by the way), and also where I first learned how to drink when no one else was watching. It was nights full of laughter, stimulating intellectual conversation, and some of the best theatre and museums I’ve yet to see in my life, as well as nights of cocaine and booze-filled one night stands and threesomes with total, disgusting, unattractive strangers whose faces to me are now (and maybe even then) a total blur. It is the place I first acknowledged that, yes, I was attracted to women as much as I was attracted to men and therefore could act on those feelings (if only while intoxicated). It is also the place I kicked one of my dearest girlfriends out of my life because I couldn’t handle my confusing feelings for her. It is the place where I spent five months living out of my car…but had enough friends to find places to regularly shower, get warm meals and couch-surf.

To me, Los Angeles can be summed up by that one moment that happens when you’re driving north on the 405 at night, and just before you get to the 101 intersection, you come up over a hill where you can see the entire San Fernando Valley lit up like stars…only to then notice the endless stretch of red brake lights from the path of highway in front of where your car sits.

I went to my first rehearsal last week. I was already down south because I had sold my crepe irons to a pair of sisters in Huntington Beach. The transaction was bittersweet for me, but I am somewhat happy to put that dream to rest, as I ‘trade up” for other ones. Plus, the sisters seemed really excited, so it was cool to be a part of helping someone else begin their crepe-making venture. I stayed down there for a few hours, teaching them how to make batter and use the irons, then they took me to the Farmers Market and showed me where they want to set up their booth. Judging by the size and location of the market, I think they are going to have a much more profitable business than I did.

Anyway, rehearsal came afterwards. I fussed and fidgeted over what to wear. One of my crueler voices was telling me that if Brett and Jason saw my upper arms, they would immediately renege on their casting offer. I ended up deciding on a baggy, 3/4 length sleeve blouse that, in hindsight, probably added an additional ten pounds to my appearance. After the rehearsal, I spent a good hour or two worrying that I had performed terribly and that they were probably having a conversation about how to get out of offering me the part. I then decided that, even though I love acting, I do not like the neurotic crazy person it makes me become, so after I get through this show, I will stop acting and just focus on directing and writing. (How neurotic is that by itself?!). My  sister then pointed out that if I see this ‘conquering’ thing through, perhaps I won’t be as neurotic in real life and therefore not as neurotic as an actor, either. In any case, my nice inner voice was like, “Why don’t you just refrain from making any decisions at all when you’re feeling vulnerable and antsy?” My sister was like, “Um. yeah. That’s what I just said.”

I did have a nice vegan dinner with my friend Elizabeth while I was down there. She has been one of the many rays of sunshine during this process- a constant cheerleader, who has been open and upfront about her own past struggles with food. I am comforted to know that while I am down in LA, I do have a nice network of people who “get it” that I can turn to when needed. And others, though they may not ‘get it’, who still want to uplift me in anyway they can.

In any case, it will be an adventure, to be sure. I have a feeling it will be a good test for me (to stay grounded in uncertain situations) and I know it will feed my creative spirit to work with these artists that I have so-long respected.

For those of you in LA, look me up while I’m down there! I’d love to see as many of you as I can. I am off to Seattle for a wedding this next week, and then will be hitting the city of Angels right after Labor Day. Much thanks to my long-time friend Fred (he’s really family at this point), who is letting me stay in his spare bedroom.

Twelfth Night opens the last weekend of September and runs through the second weekend of October. Shows are Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. More info to come.

Progress and Voices

“There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.”- Pink Floyd

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I’ve been a busy little bee this past month, but I’ve been meaning to check in and tell you all something very important:

This is working.

Granted, I have gained a good ten pounds since starting all of this, but I am able to rationally attribute it to being a logical first leg of my journey. I have been making myself get in some exercise every day (which tends to always make me gain weight in the initial stages), I have not once allowed myself to purge this past month, and I have been allowing myself to eat whatever it is I feel like eating without feeling guilty afterwards. The weight gain, therefore, is no big mystery.

Normally, the packing on of ten pounds (TEN WHOLE POUNDS!) would send me into a depressive tail-spin that would only beget more binging and purging, more self-loathing and judgement, and so on and so forth. This time I’m doing my best to shrug it off as part of the deal. This time, I noticed the weight gain, looked around and realized: no one has dropped out of my life, most of my clothing still fits, I still have the use of my arms and legs…and the sky did not fall. Life is ooooo-kay.

Other recent triumphs include:

-getting myself to go a full day wearing a shirt that exposes both my back and arms…in front of people!

-acting in a short film where two other actors had to carry me! (Oh my goodness, that was hard).

-seeing my reflection in the mirror after getting out of the shower one morning and the first inner voice I heard said, “You’re not looking half bad, Haley” (I know that isn’t the most generous compliment in the world, but for a semi-positive voice to beat out one of my many Haley-bashing inner voices is progress).

-forcing myself take my morning walk/jog around Fresno High, where the football and volleyball teams were outside practicing (no small feat).

-hearing a dear friend tell me, “I feel like you only see 25% of your capabilities,” and instead of feeling that usual ache in the pit of my stomach that, if verbalized, would sound something like, “You’re wrong. I’m only worth 25% of the average person. You don’t know my dark secrets,” my inner voice was instead like, “I know! I’m damn sick and tired of it! Get ready because I am coming out!”

Now. Hopefully, you were able to take more from those bullet points than just the fact that I have voices in my head who talk to one another.  They are fascinating, if I do say so myself. Each voice has it’s own fully developed personality and an area or two of my life in which it prefers to interject. For instance,”The Mother Load”- the worst of them all- is a distinctly female voice who likes to employ guilt and shame tactics to make me feel bad about almost all of my life choices, whereas “High School Mean Girl” really only cares about what other women think of me. She is the main one who likes to see me purge after binging. “Cooler than You’ll Ever Be” is asexual, and is the voice who thinks I’ll never have any real friends and is shocked anyone has ever been desperate enough to sleep with me. “Religious Guilt” is a booming male voice; he is still pissed I didn’t save myself for marriage and is certain if I went to church once a week, I wouldn’t be having any of these problems to begin with. I may need to get better nicknames for these guys at some point; at least that’s what “Cooler Than You’ll Ever be” tells me.

There is another voice rambling around up there in that brain of mine. She is meek and mild, probably due to years of being bullied by the other voices. I picture her sitting in the corner, long arms wrapped around her legs,chin on her knees. Every time she lifts her head to quietly speak her mind, the other voices laugh and ridicule her.  “The Mother Load” does so from the vantage point of a chaise lounge in the dead center of this figurative room. She drinks a martini and wears a 1940’s formal gown with pearls. Her hair and make-up are pristine. Her figure is that of an old Hollywood film star.

“Cooler Than You’ll Ever Be” smokes a clove- because he/she is too damn cool for a regular cigarette- and keeps an eye on everyone else while gazing at his/her own reflection in a large bejeweled mirror. He/she wears suspenders and has a large tattoo across his/her chest- it’s a quote by Nietzsche, probably, or someone with an equally cynical world view.

“High School Mean Girl” sits cross-legged on the floor, wearing a cheerleading uniform and low, braided pig-tails tied with shiny ribbon. She smacks bubble-gum while thumbing through old picture albums of me, cackling after viewing every.single.picture. Every once in a while she adds a pitying, “Oh. My. Gawd,” while shaking her head in disgust.

“Religious Guilt” paces back and forth across the room, silently judging all the other voices. He thinks he is far superior and should be the only voice there, with the exception of “The Mother Load”. The two of them tend to agree on most issues.

But the quiet, meek little girl in the corner is getting fed up. She has started to voice her opinion more often, and is learning how to talk back, too. In fact, the other day when she told me, “You’re not looking half bad, Haley,” another voice (I’m pretty sure it was “High School Mean Girl”) immediately chimed in “except for that huge pimple on your right cheek and even bigger age spot on your left one”.  Usually that’s where the conversation might end, but on this particular day, the quiet little girl snapped back “both of those could be covered up easily with foundation, and neither of them have nothing on those bright, shining eyes of yours.”  I think the other voices were shocked into submission, because no one else said anything, and I cried for a good minute straight. Happy tears, of course- a minor victory won against my bathroom mirror and my cruel, antagonizing voices.

I haven’t named the quiet meek girl voice yet.

But I think I’m gonna call her “Haley”.

A friend posted this on Facebook the other day. I thought it was worth sharing 🙂

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