Tag Archives: diet

Two years ago, a doctor in an emergency room officially diagnosed me with depression. For me, it was hard to say at what point the usual negative feelings we feel all at times slid into what could fairly be characterized as clinically depressed. I was in my mid-forties and I had long before been diagnosed with anxiety, although I didn’t take that too seriously. I had seen psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals for what had been, for most of my life, mild symptoms. I was an underachiever, easy to anger, low self-esteem… these things were comparatively mild, but I did feel that they were enough beyond average imperfections to hamper me in life. There were days when I wondered if there was really nothing wrong with me but living in an environment where an individual’s self-worth was almost entirely based on achievement. Then again, I had difficulty maintaining relationships. So, I sought professional help. We explored various possibilities, all of which were eventually eliminated except for anxiety and episodes of anhedonia. Although the possibility of clinical depression was raised on several occasions, my symptoms always seem to fall short of being diagnosed with that.

Flash forward a few years…

As some point that’s hard to identify, I began sliding into a depression. Now, I wonder whether or not I have always had a proclivity, but I can confidently state that my recent depression is qualitatively different that previous times when I felt unmotivated. In the past, when I’ve felt myself sliding into a funk, I’d kick myself in the ass, as people like to say. I’d exert my willpower to eat better and exercise more and make sure that I got good quality sleep, some time out in the sun during the day, I would do some meditating, and in general engage in all those good, healthy habits intended to make you feel better. Since I already had a lifestyle most people would consider healthy, during a period like this I’d be a veritable model of clean living. Usually, after a few day, my funk would lift. Was it what I did or just the passage of time? I don’t know.

This time it was different. No amount of kicking myself in the ass was making me feel better. This time, seeking professional help, I knew something was seriously wrong. However, since I had moved, I had to seek out a new therapist. I had a hard time finding one. Once I did, I found I had a hard time convincing him just how serious my problem was. I felt like I wanted to die. I didn’t have a plan to kill myself, but I really, really wanted to somehow just fade from existence. I could barely do the dishes. Always an untidy person, my apartment became shockingly messy and disorganized to the point that I had more and more problems just functioning. I continued to apply my usually de-funking habits, especially the dieting and exercise because now I was beginning to put on weight. I exercised for an hour and a half a day instead of my usual hour. I kept a diary of everything I ate with a goal of twelve hundred calories a day, which I most succeeded in doing, and I never broke down and “binged.” That just isn’t a habit of mine. I was using the same nutrition reference I had used for a number of years. My weight stayed stubborn, my lack of motivation continued, and I still felt like I wanted to lie down and be swallowed by the earth never to be seen again.

If I can judge by what other people have told me about themselves, my normal diet is a bit healthier than the average. Since I was not athletic as a teenager, I started exercising for health at a young age and as an adult I continued, and added to, that routine. In terms of drug use, I tried cocaine once and didn’t like it. I’ve probably smoked pot a good twenty or thirty times. I didn’t drink in high school, nor did I drink regularly in college, but I do recall getting drunk at parties a few times, falling-down drunk only once, usually just thoroughly tipsy. In my twenties, I was something of a weekend drinker, having several beers while listening to bands. Around the time of my depression, I had long since settled into a habit of drinking wine with dinner a couple of nights a week and my social life no longer contained weekends with lots of alcohol. In short, I think my use of mind altering substances has been rather minimal. Alcohol would be the only one I’ve used regularly, and that was never out of control and have never even briefly wondered if I had a problem. If I feel that I’ve been drinking too much, usually due to the calories not the inebriation, I just cut back. It’s never even felt like an effort.

For much of my life, I’ve had people compliment me for my willpower, for my ability to say no to unhealthy foods that taste good, for the regularity with which I exercised, for the fact that I was self-employed and could arrange my own schedule and stick to it without anyone reminding me. So, when I first started seeking help for my depression, which wasn’t yet diagnosed, when I found therapists telling me to exercise, eat well and try to work harder, I was flabbergasted at first. Then I became frustrated when I realized that that was about all the help that was on offer.

What I was feeling was that I had done all the “right” things my whole life, and there I was in my mid-forties, single, back in school for the fourth or fifth time trying to make myself employable, with no social life, and just finding little to enjoy in life. I had already experienced in my attempts at online dating that a failure like me is examined for what I’ve done “wrong.” Now, obviously I’ve made mistakes or I wouldn’t be in this situation, but I haven’t made any of the big, obvious mistakes. Suddenly, I found that I was under suspicion of possible drug use, excessive drinking, loafing, a lack of self-discipline and so on. After all, we live in a meritocracy so I must somehow have been lacking in merit. Throughout my late thirties and early forties, I’d been in a cycle of trying harder and continuing to fail. As I expressed it at the time, “I feel like my wheels are spinning and I’m going nowhere.”

The inherent unfairness in life is not great, but I could live with it and alone it wouldn’t make me depressed. However, the general attitude that if you’re not a success it’s because there’s something wrong with you and the chilling effect that had on my social life was a problem. I began dreading social situations that involved meeting new people because of the question, “What do you do for a living?” It’s a bit old-fashioned these days, but growing up I was told that that was an impolite question. I can understand why it was once seen as rude. Worse yet, I started feeling that I didn’t know what to do. You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results… Well, that was the place I was at. I wanted to improve my social life, my work life, my love life, but I didn’t know how. All the recommendations from other people were things I’d been doing my whole life and which had failed to get results. This is when my lack of motivation started. I had gone back to school, yet again, in hopes of getting something of a career going while I still had enough years left in my life to enjoy it. I found that I no longer had any confidence that this would yield any results. I was doing more of the same and I started to ask myself why I was expecting different results this time.

So when I started to see a therapist and he suggested that I exercise, diet and get myself back in school, it felt like a slap in the face. It felt like an insult to my entire life as a good, clean-living, disciplined person who had done all the right things. Worse yet, I felt as if he wasn’t listening to me. I felt as if I had wasted my entire life doing things I hated in order to please other people, in order to be seen as worthy in this society.

A few months later I would ask some police to take me to the hospital, which they did and where my symptoms were finally taken seriously. (Much thanks to all the helpful people in the emergency room at Bergen Pines.)

Well, all that is the necessary preface to understand what I have to say. A few days ago, in the wake of my more recent crisis, I found myself saying to someone that I hadn’t learned coping skills for living with depression. After I wrote that in an email, I started searching for information on the internet. What I found reminded me that I had done this search two years ago after I got out of the hospital with my diagnosis and I remembered why I abandoned the effort. The advice was mostly diet, exercise, meditate, don’t drink too much, don’t take drugs, get out and socialize, do some creative work, all the damn things I’ve spent my entire life doing from adolescence onwards, and most of which I fucking hate. I’m going on fucking fifty and I feel like I’ve spent my entire life doing what other people have told me I should do. I hate exercising, truly hate it. For much of my adult life I’ve exercised an hour daily, assuming the occasional missed day, realistically that’s about five hours a week or two hundred and sixty hours a year. I spend two hundred and sixty hours a year doing something I truly hate. One of the bit of evidence contributing to my “anhedonia” was when my doctor asked if I enjoy food. Of course I don’t enjoy my food. I’m on a fucking diet. I’ve been on a diet since I was twelve. I could enjoy food, but I don’t eat anything that’s enjoyable to eat. I’ve never not enjoyed a pile of quality french fries, but I almost never ate them. They’re fattening. I don’t actually enjoy meditating either. I can’t say I hate it, but I’ve only ever done it out of a sense of obligation, the idea that meditating might make me a better person. Maybe, but then again who knows. Remember that anxiety I mentioned earlier, well a lot of that is social anxiety. I find socializing with strangers to be very draining. It’s difficult and not enjoyable. As far as the creative work, what can I say, may I laugh in the face of people of the good people who make that suggestion. Not only was I doing all these things during my slide into a depression, I swear that these were the behaviors that made me depressed. When I hear these suggestions, I get a crazy thought in my head I that I want to take an exacto knife and carve into my flesh little hatch marks for each day I spend living someone else’s idea of a good life, like a prisoner in a medieval dungeon. Then I remember that the only person I would be hurting would be myself.

I wish all those well-intentioned people with their good advice would just acknowledge that they don’t have a fucking clue. One thing that irks me is realizing that I could diet and exercise and get thin, find a guy who I don’t really like that much but would be willing to play the role of boyfriend, find a job that still wasn’t a career but at least satisfied other people that I was “trying,” and be not one iota happier, still be wishing that I could die, but if I did all those things no matter what kind of internal pain I was in a therapist would think we were making progress.

Anyway, I’m going to publish this and then put on my sneakers and go for a jog, not because I like jogging but because I desperately don’t want to feel depressed anymore and despite the fact that I believe it doesn’t work I can’t quite bring myself to stop doing it because who am I to disagree with all the supposed experts. That will be about an hour and twenty minutes wasted doing something I hate on the off-chance it will help.

Also, I would like to kindly ask that no one comment unless you feel that you can relate to where I’m coming from, as they used to say back in the seventies.

It would be an exaggeration to say my mother and I nearly came to blows over dinner tonight, but we definitely exchanged harsh words. At the end of the meal, I said that I was still hungry and that we hadn’t eaten nearly enough. She balked. Now, we’re not “counting calories,” but I do find looking at the calories can be something of a reality check. So far today, we’ve had yoghurt with berries, an omelette with some peppers and a green salad with some crabmeat. At one fifty for the yoghurt, another one fifty for the eggs and eighty for the crabmeat, I’d be surprised if we topped eight hundred calories today. She nearly went ballistic when I helped myself to half a matzoh and a handful of nuts. I had to remind her that she asked me to help her, not the other way around. I told her that this is exactly her problem. She’s been bellyaching all day about how she hasn’t lost any weight yet, although we’ve only been on the damn diet for a week. I explained that what she does is deprive herself and then binge. I find myself saying stupid motivational things like, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” We went to the gym earlier today and I increased the weight I’ve been using. I don’t think three balanced meals is excessive.

I’ve made references several times to my “beauty strike” which I gave up last fall but had lasted a couple of years. People in general, but especially women get really fucked up notions about their bodies, food, weight, beauty. I find that every so often I literally have to deprogram myself. These things start seeping into your mind whether you want them to or not. While I know that I am no longer what people would call “thin” I also know that what I see when I look in the mirror is not realistic. More accurately, I should say that what I think a normal, healthy person looks like is not realistic.

My mother, who considers herself a feminist, is and has always been obsessed with other women’s appearances. She would say constantly when I was growing up, “You look so much better with make-up on.” Despite being a die-hard feminist myself, I wore make-up every day of my life from the age of thirteen until about three or four years ago, with the exception of the years I was in college. I started shaving my legs at ten. I went on a diet for the first time at eleven or twelve. I’ve been working really hard for the past few years to divorce my self-esteem from my appearance, above all my weight. Intellectually, I know this is bad, but it’s so deeply embedded in my subconscious.

The other day, we were standing in the grocery store aisle. She took out one of those celebrity rags. It had pictures of movie stars in their bathing suits on the cover. She quickly thumbed to the article. “Look at that! Oh, my! Who’s that? She looks awful.” And so on. A long monologue critiquing other women’s bodies. Even if she didn’t say anything about me directly, I would still get the message.

All my mother wants to talk about is how other women look. Barbara, a woman with whom my mother used to work, has “legs like a racehorse,” the sort of legs my mother tells me she wishes she had. I have better legs than she does and my sister had better legs than either of us. I don’t, as she observed earlier today, have a “fat back.” Her former boss has a flat ass. “That’s terrible. I hate flat asses.” “Did you see the really fat women at the gym?”

Anyway, I just needed to look at this in a conscious fashion because if I don’t it is more likely to seep into my subconscious and simply start making me feel bad about myself. Actually, I should say worse. I’ve never felt good about myself. I’ve always felt ugly and since the only value I feel I have is in my appearance… ech, well it all just goes around in a circle. I’ve come to realize I’ll never be happy. Every day of my life is misery. I’m just garbage taking up space. I wish no one would look at me. I just want to go in my room and hide.

Damn. I hoped writing about this would make me feel better. It seems to have made me feel worse.

In some of my memories, I’ve mentioned a friend I call “Luscious.” When we first met, I was like my mother. I didn’t even realize it, but I also often critiqued women’s bodies. She would point it out to me and sometimes she’d get mad. She really broke me of the habit of judging other women by their appearances. Unfortunately, it never had a rebound effect on myself. I’ve tried to talk to therapsists about this, but they’re just not interested.

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. and quite a few other countries, so I feel like I should put up a nice, light post. A photo of flowers would seem to be just the thing, or perhaps birds, but I am, unsurprisingly, at my mother’s and I have left the cord to connect my camera to my laptop at my place. As I mentioned the other day, we’ve been on a diet and exercise kick, so I just thought that maybe I’d report how that is going.

So, now we’ve exercised regularly for about two weeks and I’ve made most of the meals we’ve eaten for about one week. Part of the reason we started with this is because I realized that my mother seems to not know what’s in the food she eats. This became evident the other day when she suggested we have avocados as a snack. I said, “Let’s share one.” It turned out that she didn’t know that avocados are high in calories. She said, “I thought they were healthy.” This is a great example of the confusion between healthy and thin. I don’t think it is useful to talk about “good foods” and “bad foods” the way many people, including my mother, do. Avocados are certainly not “unhealthy”, however, they are high in calories.

Other things we’ve eaten lately:

Crab Salad Louis – This is one of my favorite meals. It’s something of an old-fashioned dish, and I don’t understand why it isn’t eaten more often. It’s a nice change of pace if you eat a lot of things like Salade Niçoise. I have a cookbook with a version of the Louis dressing which isn’t made with mayonnaise and is the version I prefer. It’s white wine vinegar or lemon juice, a small amount of chili sauce, mustard powder, salt and pepper, chives, olive oil and whatever other herbs you like. Obviously, if you’re on a reduction diet, go easy on the dressing.

As I mentioned the other day, I made Fish Veracruz style.

We had leftover crabmeat from the Louis Salad, so I made a recipe I got off of the internet. A boyfriend I had used to like making zucchini by taking a vegetable peeler and slicing off thin strips until there was no more zucchini left. I made strips of carrot the same way. I skipped the linguine mentioned in the recipe. I tossed the zucchini and carrots with lime juice, because I already had that in the ‘fridge. I blended that with the crab meat, parsley, basil cut into strips, and pepper. I skipped the salt. I forgot the pine nuts just because I’m forgetful, but they would probably be good. I had a little leftover Louis dressing, so I threw in a couple of tablespoons of that instead of the olive oil. Tossed everything to blend it. After putting it on the plate, I topped it with the grated cheese. It was pretty good. My mother said it would make a good buffet dish.

I also made a somewhat boring saute with diced chicken and some vegetables seasoned with some rosemary and lemon. That’s a typical meal for me when I’m at home alone because it’s quick and I only dirty one pan.

As I think is pretty self-evident, there’s no  special “diet” food. However, my mother is complaining about the expense, so I’ll have to look for more budget items in the future.

As far as exercising goes, I’ve mainly had my mother do gentle stretching exercises. She’s in her seventies, and has arthritis, so we’re not doing anything too extreme. We’ve gone to the gym and while I work out with weights she pedals the bicycle slowly.

Oh, yes, and her computer is up and running and she’s pretty happy with it. She still can’t read my blog, though, because she’s a former English teacher and I don’t want her to know about all the grammar mistakes I make. Ah, in my late forties and still afraid of my mother scolding me.

This blog might take some unusual turns over the next few weeks.

About a week ago, my mother asked me about when I was thirteen and put myself on a diet for the first time and lost weight. After that, I was thin my entire life until I moved to Baltimore. My mother has gone up and down her whole life and, after a period of being anorexic in high school and college, she has been heavier more than not and has sometimes been quite obese. When I went on a diet in junior high school, as my mother noted, I told no one nor did anyone notice until I started to lose weight. She asked me a few questions about that.

First, I said, that one thing I’d come to realize about being thin was that that and two fifty would get you on the subway. Sure, there was a small increase in the number of men who were interested in dating me, but the sort of men who will only date you when you’re at the low end of the doctor’s recommended weight range rather than the upper end tend to not be men I care to date. However, despite the fact that I have tried to care less about being as thin as I can without fainting regularly from low blood pressure, I’ve still been concerned about keeping my weight from spiraling out of control because diabetes runs very heavily in my family. So even now that I’ve tried to suppress my concern for my appearance, I still make an effort on account of health. I joking said to my mother, “The one thing I know how to do is to be thin.”

I’m not sure exactly how the conversation flowed after that, but I said, “Do you want to be thin? I can make you thin.”

She said, “No one has ever said that to me before.”

I said, “I can, but you have to do everything I tell you.”

So, now I’m staying at my mother’s place several days a week and we’re going to the gym and exercising. I’m planning and cooking all the meals. After chowing down last night on some fish prepared Veracruz style, she asked, “Am I really going to lose weight like this?” I told her that her problem was a cycle of dieting and bingeing. I said, “The trick is that we never stop eating like this.” I altered the recipe slightly because she has to limit salt.

Last night, over dinner, she said to me, “My computer is so slow, I get frustrated trying to do anything these days.” Her computer is about nine years old. She said that she did know if she should get a laptop or a tablet. I happened to have with me my portable laptop which converts to a tablet. I had her try to write emails to friends using it in each mode. She said the laptop keyboard was very difficult because of her arthritis. In tablet mode, it was less painful to use the on-screen keyboard, but she didn’t like how slow it was.

She said, “Why can’t I just get one that sits on my desk like I have now?”

As it happened, a few months ago, my sister was complaining about how her neck was hurting. I saw her working on her laptop one day all hunched over and I said, “How is your neck now?”

She said, “It’s killing.”

I said, that’s because you’re working all hunched over. A few years ago, I got a laptop and I’ve since switched back to a desktop. I offered to put one together for her. We came up with a budget and, with the help of the kind people on the buildapc subreddit, I picked out and purchased all the parts. By the time all the parts arrived, my sister seemed to have lost her enthusiasm and every time I say, “How about we put together your computer this weekend,” she says, “Aww, I’d rather do something else.”

Although it was a pretty modest build because my sister didn’t need anything too powerful, that’s still a few hundred dollars of computer parts sitting in her spare room going to waste. So, I called my sister and asked if she still wanted the computer. Anticipating my reason for calling, she said, “If Mom wants it, let her have it.”

So, later today, we’re going to go to my sister’s, pick up the parts and assemble it either today or tomorrow. I’ll have fun. My mother will probably curse a lot.

I try to remember to take some pictures this time.