CW: The following talks about eating disorders & restricting behaviors.
The first time I heard about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week was in college; I passed a sign in the dining hall that showed a picture of a girl probably around my age holding a piece of fruit. Across the poster, in big letters: “What does an eating disorder look like?” As I methodically put things on my plate, taking twice as long than everyone else because I was terrified to eat anything at this point, I remember thinking: This, it just looks like this.
There’s a special kind of nagging, annoying, feeling of guilt that is unique to motherhood. So much that there’s even a term for it; aptly, it’s called “Mom Guilt.”
For me, and so many others, it sneaks up a thousand times a day: if I take 30 seconds to answer an email instead of playing with my daughter, if I spend 25 minutes getting ready rather than 20, if I arrange a rare night out and leave her with anyone who isn’t me. Mom Guilt is always there to remind me I didn’t come up with a fun Pinterest’y craft that week, or that she’s eaten mac-n-cheese three times for dinner instead of whatever colorful nonsense I see on those toddler meal Instagrams. And Mom Guilt loves to have a party whenever I find myself missing my pre-mom life, or wanting to indulge parts of myself that isn’t wrapped up in the identity of being a mom.
Earlier this week, a friend told me that my life seemed “amazing” through Instagram, and my first instinct was to laugh. Hard.
I read her message after I had just finished cleaning a stack of dishes that had piled in the sink. Prior to that, I had picked up no less than thirty toys strewn across my living room floor, knowing full well that the room would once again be a mess just a few minutes later. My hair was unwashed, thrown up in a messy half-bun, and my eye makeup was rubbed off from crying earlier over a reason I can no longer recall. Untouched on my desk was a to-do list I’d written earlier in the day when I was feeling more motivated, when I thought I might actually accomplish something productive that afternoon.
But sure, on Instagram, everything looks different.
Growing up in the 90s, I experienced my fair share of schoolhouse and playground “politics.”
I was bookish and introverted – often asked by my more extroverted and raucous peers, “why don’t you talk?” (Spoiler: I did talk and still do, though I usually find comfort in being the quiet observer rather than the vocal center.)
I stood back, afraid to speak up, I suppose, when classmates
tied a less-popular boy to a tree with a jump rope (no physical harm done, although
I can’t speak on any emotional toll) for their own entertainment.
A few days ago, I enlisted the help of my 2-year-old while making a batch of brownies. (Actually, they were cookie-brownies: the kind from Annie’s that is essentially a brownie with a cookie on top — you’re welcome.) I helped her stir the mix, let her lick the spatula, and asked her to scoop the cookie dough with a little spoon. While it was baking, we turned the oven light on and she stood in front of the door, alternating between patient self-reminders of “they’re cooking!” and impatient exclamations of “wanna eat!” Once they were cooled, she tasted her very first cookie-brownie, somehow even more delicious I think, because she helped bake them.
There’s a lot I love about watching my daughter discover things about the world, but arguably one of the cutest is seeing her get excited about her favorite foods. A few weeks ago, I purchased a pack of muffins from the bakery, eliciting a squeal of “Ooooh a muffin!” She’ll announce everything on her plate at lunch — “PBJ! Cheese! Crackers!” — and she’s become inexplicably fascinated with one of my cookbooks, asking questions about everything she sees.
I have most of my “serious” conversations over text these days. As a mom of a 2-year-old, I only have a handful of quiet pockets of time each day, most of which are usually spent catching up on work, answering emails, doing laundry (or at least thinking about doing laundry), and some form of self-care, which typically entails lying on the couch and staring into space for as long as possible. Gone are the days when I could spend an hour (or more) on the phone with my best friends, or G-chat into oblivion during a lazy afternoon.
Getting into it over text isn’t ideal, in part because I overthink everything, particularly when I’m talking about something serious — or revealing something raw. A few months ago, I found myself in one of those ~serious~ group texts with my two best friends from college, trying to form words and sentences to articulate thoughts that had only existed, up until that point, in a foggy loop inside my brain. In typical fashion, I followed up a giant blue brick of text with a few emojis and “Sorry to unleash on you guys LOL.”
As customary for true friends, they responded immediately with “Don’t apologize” / “You have nothing to be sorry for.” And then, one of them added: “We’ll always hold space for your feelings. You can talk to us about anything.”
While I sat rocking my daughter in her nursery last night, trying yet another position to get her to go back to sleep, I closed my eyes and rested my lips on her head. I tried to remind myself to relish the time with her while she’s small. She turns 5 months tomorrow, and I lost my first two months with her to postpartum anxiety.
My anxiety robbed me of enjoying my first weeks with her. I honestly thought I was on top of my symptoms. I wasn’t. I finally admitted I needed more help after I acknowledged I was experiencing intrusive thoughts, and it took me 5 weeks before I could get in to a postpartum specialist.
I couldn’t call my daughter by her name. I didn’t want to look at her. I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts because I’d lose myself in a whirlwind of fears and anxieties that I knew weren’t rooted in reality, but I couldn’t pull myself out of them. I felt out of control, out of touch, and at a loss. I returned to a new job after 6 weeks at home, and I was a mess.
Without ever labeling it, I began struggling with anxiety in college. It was the first time in my life that I was overcome with a desire, which felt more like a need, to be perfect. I hit the gym at 6 am for the perfect body, and I studied like crazy for perfect grades. It became an almost addictive pattern. The more control I felt I had, the more control I craved.
And so, it didn’t stop with graduation. It only intensified. I had all the classic symptoms that came with it: excessive worry, trouble sleeping, stomach issues, and a lot of inexplicable sweaty panic. But I justified my anxiety as a good thing. Because as much as it destroyed me, I’d convinced myself that it simultaneously drove me to be my best. Until it didn’t. Continue reading →
The holiday season is one that brings images of togetherness, comfort and joy to mind…depending on whose mind you’re examining. For some of us, the seemingly immediate jump from Halloween to Christmas feels like someone stomped on the panic button in our brains. The transition is so quick it can feel subtly violent, like a month of your time has just been erased from your life. Why do we Eternal Sunshine the month of November? Not cool. Continue reading →
On today’s edition of Ask De and Kate, Thirty on Tap’s official advice column, we are talking about what to do when you move away from all of your friends — and even your significant other. One of our readers, who decided to go by the pseudonym “Stuck,” wrote in to get our advice after relocating for a new job. Here’s what we think! Continue reading →