KateNap Is Coming To A Close

Lovely readers,

Some of you have been reading my haphazard words since June 21, 2009. Some of you have been around for less time, but I love you all the same for sticking around, or just sticking your head in once. I started KateNap with a post called “Reasons I Shouldn’t Blog.” I suppose I could call this post “Reasons I Wouldn’t Blog” but I’d like to think that I am less pessimistic now than I was at age 17. (Isn’t it funny? I could have sworn I was 15 when I started blogging. I can’t decide if that makes my old posts more or less embarrassing.)

I have learned so much blogging here over the years. Writing for an audience (no matter how big or small) made me articulate my thoughts in a way that I needed to do and would not have done for myself. It acted as a record of every milestone of my recovery and it allowed  me to vent when things got rough. From time to time, it even alerted family members to when I was going through a particularly volatile period and gave them a chance to step in when I wouldn’t ask for help directly. In 520 posts I documented a quarter of my life. And I am so glad that I did it.

But time keeps moving. I am entering my final year of college after numerous chops and changes. I have less time and energy than I did back in 2009 thanks to a greater workload and a greater appreciation for self care. I have less things to say, I think, or maybe I just feel like others say them with more clarity and more authority. WordPress (and KateNap) are no longer the best platform for me.

I am no longer the person I was when I started KateNap. Everything here explains me: a hardcore Leaving Cert year, dropping out of med school, various failed relationships, recovering from an eating disorder, starting nursing school, leaving nursing school, singing songs, surviving an assault, surviving my own impulses, being diagnosed with a chronic illness – all these things make up little parts of me, but alone do not describe the whole. Which is why I have decided to move on and start anew. KateNap will remain as a record of my life thus far. The rest of the story will be written elsewhere.

If you want to continue to monitor my epiphanies and exploits, I will be blogging (and re-blogging) about all things body (illness and fatness and fashion) over on Tumblr at Shirts, Skirts & a Hapless Flirt. Whether that’s your wheelhouse or not, I thank you for taking an interest in my ramblings until now.

I love you all,

Kate

x

On Feeling Fat

Content note: The following post contains descriptions of weight (specific numbers), eating disorder behaviours, depression, and fat shaming. Please proceed with caution if you are triggered by any of the above. 

Over the last five years, I have read countless times that it is impossible to feel fat. I am almost certain that I have written a post somewhere along the line called Fat is Not a Feeling. But then I look at myself in my sisters’ full-length mirror and I feel Fat. I go shopping and try on clothes that are never consistent sizes between shops and I feel Fat. I pinch my stomach and I feel Fat. I weigh myself and I realise that not only am I 160 lbs, I am actually 163 lbs and two weeks of running around after tiny children have not counteracted all those sweets you ate alongside the tiny children. Activities that have nothing to do with weight – singing, writing, working, socialising – may contain tiny mistakes and inconsequential unpleasantness and I blame it on being Fat.

It’s possible that I will never be confident in my ability to regulate my own eating. I don’t trust my hunger signals. I don’t trust my university-acquired nutritional knowledge. I forget about the peer-reviewed research that states that it is ridiculous to assume that someone is unhealthy on the sole basis of their weight. I convince myself I deserve a treat and then hate myself for it and then hate myself for hating myself and continue to eat more. The constant question: is this healthful behaviour or is this bulimia’s pesky way of creeping back in? Last October, I was extremely confident that I had cracked this conundrum. By November, I was purging after more meals than not.

When does it start?

When does it end?

I try to fake it til I make it:

“Life doesn’t start 10 lbs from now”

“You are exercising as best as fibromyalgia will allow”

“Your bloods and vital signs are better than ever”

It feels like a lie. Each line is overlaid with “163 lbs”, “27 BMI” and “fat fat fat fat fat.”

To be so obsessed with my own weight feels egotistical and selfish. To ignore it feels shameful. This element of recovery is already five years old and there are days which are like those at the very start.

Motivation is a pain. Chronic fatigue is a pain. Early-20s-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-life-existential-angst is a pain.

This current breakthrough of food-related distress will fade into the background once again and something new will occupy my attention. It might not go away but it will not be as blatantly obvious and I will muddle along just like I always do. After five years on this journey, I accept that this is what recovery is. Coping rather than curing. Living with rather than hoping it will all disappear. Making room because there is no going back to before. You live in the after or you die. I’ll take the former.

A Ramble on the Struggles of Self Care

Self care gets mentioned a lot. By my mom, by the members of my various online support groups, by my therapist, by me to other people. I have a lot of feelings about the concept, which include but are not limited to:

1. What is this vague concept? Am I doing it right? Where do I even start?

2. Isn’t it selfish and narcissistic to put myself above others?

3. You SHOULD be doing this, you MUST do that (ad nauseum).

I find self care difficult. I’ve been running on a workaholic/burnout cycle for most of my adult life, going from one extreme to the other with precious little in between. It’s unsustainable. Balance, I am told, is key. I’ve been trying to get balanced for the last 23 years, can’t seem to get off the seesaw.

I’m going to use a cliché now because this is how it was explained to me – you can’t help people evacuate the plane before you put on your own oxygen mask first. I like to help others out if I can. I spent three quarters of my college career training to be a nurse. I’m obsessed with mothering my beautiful queer babies. I take the second of Christ’s commandments very seriously (“Love your neighbour as yourself”). Sometimes it’s altruism. Sometimes it’s avoiding my own brain by focusing on other people’s stuff.

When I got sick a few months ago, I had a lot of talks with my various healthcare providers about coping skills. Did I have any? What were they? How often did I use them? (Of course, I know them. Sure haven’t I been in and out of therapy since I was 18.) I know a lot. As it turns out, knowing and doing are very different things. My therapist had me make a list of five things that I could do every day (or most days) to maintain myself. Not improve or cheer up or anything. Just prevent anything getting worse. I came up with these.

1. Yoga

2. Leave the house and interact with others

3. Mindfulness/relaxation

4. Prayer/devotional time

5. Journalling

I try and do them. In spite of their simplicity, it’s a rare day I’ll do all five. Most days I get at least three. Motivation is a barrier. Why would I put in effort when I can just watch Netflix in my pjs? Some days are Netflix and pjs days. Most days aren’t. Most days are days that I have to shower and leave the house and move and write and pray if I want to feel normal. And that’s just keeping it at neutral. Bringing my mood up is an even bigger endeavor and one for which I am often unprepared.

When you Google ideas for self-care, the most common suggestions I find are a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercise. Which can be difficult when you’re chronically ill. I can’t exercise every day. I sometimes won’t sleep or will sleep way too much. I am exhausted and impulsive which makes a healthy diet an every day challenge of will. I feel like a failure at self care, which is a ridiculous premise for something that is literally minding yourself. Besides, the volatile cocktail of physical and psychological symptoms that I experience means that even if I think I’m a failure, I have to do it anyway.

Self care is a habit that I am not very good at. But it is something that I think I am getting better at. I am learning to sit with myself through mindfulness meditation. I am trying to move for the sake of moving and to loosen up my aching joints rather than for weight loss, which is only going to lead to disappointment and an unwanted ED spiral. I am explicitly including God in my day which is helping me deal with the anxiety I have around the future. I am becoming reacquainted with myself. Alone, rather than as one half of a couple. Maybe the greatest act of self care is taking the chronic illness, mental health problems and weight issues and making space for them. Accepting that they are a pretty permanent part of my life now and trucking on anyway. There is a peace to be found in knowing you’ll be “sick” forever. It means I’ve stopped wasting energy worrying about when I’ll be “healthy” and started using it to make this life more doable.

It is scary.

But I am doing it.

Writer’s Block

Sometimes I feel like my brain is split in two, with one side compelled to be perfect in the eyes of academia and society and the other side wholly enamoured with the creation of art. And mostly art is writing, and mostly that writing is songwriting. I journalled through my crisis recovery at the start of 2015 and then I stopped. I stopped because college got busy and, as always, I chose academia. I stopped writing songs, I stopped writing blogs, because I ran out of time and I ran out of words. I told myself when I had time the words would come back.

I have no words. I’m sitting at my piano. I smash the keys because the notes sound wrong or derivative or boring. And the words sound cliched or too simple or too complex. You sit at the piano and you convince yourself that because you have so many feelings, you the capabilities required to turn this overwhelming web of emotion into something productive. To explain what it feels like to wash dishes and feel like this could be done in a better way, in a better place. To somehow illustrate the small piece of you that has been chipped away and stolen. To process the equally forceful desires for isolation and engagement. I have so many thoughts and not a notion as to how I can resolve them.

Won’t Someone Please Think Of The Children?! A Response To Mothers and Fathers Matter

I haven’t posted in a while. It’s been busy. I have a 3000 word paper to write. But I’ve decided to take a moment from academia because this went up on a lamppost near my house.

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As part of the No campaign for the upcoming Marriage Equality Referendum, Mothers and Fathers Matter (and a number of other groups) have taken the time to remind us that children deserve a mother and a father. Let’s ignore that this is a huge insult to single parents who have raised fantastic families. Let’s ignore the fact that there are a huge number of children in a less than perfect care system in this country and apparently this is a preferable option than being adopted into a loving family who want nothing more than to raise kids. Let’s ignore that the majority of the family issues that are being brought up with the referendum are addressed in the recent Child and Family Relationships Bill. I want to talk about what children deserve.

Children deserve to have the security of a family that won’t be ripped apart if one of their parents is trans. For those who didn’t know, in order to medically transition in this country, one must divorce their spouse in order to prevent a de facto same sex union.

Children deserve to have the security of a family that won’t be ripped apart if their biological parent dies. Previous to the Child and Family Relationships Bill, a civil partner had no legal rights to their partner’s biological children.

Children deserve to have a family. No campaigners are very concerned with a child having parents with the correct set of genitals, but seem unconcerned with the state of the care system of Ireland. They are unconcerned with custody issues. They are unconcerned with children born to unwed parents. They are simply concerned with ensuring that LGBTQ couples cannot have children.

Children who have LGBTQ parents deserve not to have their family dragged through the mud. They deserve to not have to listen to how their home is considered a deficient environment. They deserve to not have to defend their families to adults.

LGBTQ children deserve to know that they have a right to as much dignity and respect as any other person. They deserve not to be second class citizens. They deserve to know they are not broken.

Othering of LGBTQ people has many real life consequences to children. Secondary school children who are LGBTQ are 7 times more likely to have suicidal ideation or attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts (Cannon et al 2013). 1 in 2 are subject to homophobic bullying (Minton et al 2008). 1 in 2 bisexual people will be raped in their lifetime (CDC 2010). Designation of LGBTQ people as deviant and different and less than straight people only serves to condone these actions as justifiable. These are the consequences of discrimination.

And children deserve better than that. Please vote yes on May 22.

The World Is Very Large And Filled With People

I am making my glorious return to college today. I went in for one lecture on Friday and had dinner with friends, but haven’t started into that good learning yet. Having been sick for most of January, I missed the first week and all my intro lectures, and have been flicking through course outlines and grimacing at the number of group projects that I have to do this semester (it’s four. UGH.) I should be preparing readings and forms and my bag for the day, but I am not. What I am trying (not very successfully) to do is to prepare myself for what college holds: space and people.

When you spend a month in the company of a handful of people, in a handful of places, the world becomes self-contained and finite and manageable. And then one goes back to a 13,000-strong campus to complete a degree that you are essentially making up as you go along, and the world and society and the sheer amount of other humans that share this same space with you becomes massive and overwhelming and terrifying.

I do not mean to claim this in any agoraphobic way (a condition which I do not have), but rather as a niggling underlying set of thoughts and feelings that poke away at the consciousness to reveal the chaotic shape of society. These instructions to focus on my own little bit of the world, coupled with my inability to put a pin in the larger injustices and marginalisations that surround us, leads to this overcoming awareness at the expounding volume of the population.

I have become quite adept, over the years, at maintaining a calm demeanour at all times. The occasional straw-breaking-the-camel’s-back meltdown pops up every now and then, but for the most part, I keep a good face, a haphazard balance between mother and mystique (or so I tell myself.) This allows me to go through the day and (to some extent) interact with strangers and acquaintances without revealing my increasing discomfort around anyone who does not fall into the categories of family or close friends.

Things are boring. Classes are boring. There are too many thoughts and hardly enough brain space to order them into a rational fashion. The world is very large and filled with people. Writing helps. Even when it’s an incoherent ramble.

 

Why We Write

So often in my life, I have gone through periods without writing a word. No blog posts, no songs, no articles, no essays, no journals, no nothings. Zero. Zilch. Although reading is always a joy, and assignments frequently a necessity, I sometimes see little point in engaging in such an elective activity, particularly when I am tumultuously busy. In the last fortnight, I have been fervently journalling and banging out chords on my piano, as well as tentatively recommenced with blog posts. What has changed? Primarily, I have nothing but time right now, but that’s hardly the point. I wonder, as evidenced by the plethora of blogs, books, ballads, and bands at our disposal, why it is that we are compelled to express, to create, to write?

We exist. We survive. We do what is necessary to withstand the world. We build high, thick walls, which emotions, cumbersome and loaded, are unable to break through. And so in this ineptitude of basic human expression, we turn to alternative means. The pages which fit through the cracks. The harmonies that float around the fortress. The rhymes and rhythms and rondos and ritenutos that explain the overwhelmed self far more clearly than our anxious, disorganised minds could ever articulate. Writing is catharsis. Art allows us to endure, even when the product is not particularly inspiring. The blank page wilfully takes the haphazard array of post-it notes on the board of my mind without judgement, and sits with me consolingly as I blindly try to make sense of them.

We write to inform, to impact, to interest and idealise and intimate. Even if it is only to ourselves. These songs, these musings, these diary pages, these blog posts; they are self conscious and meaningless and rarely see the light of day. But the simple act of articulating, asking yourself “What is happening? What am I doing? What in the world does any of this mean?” – these private moments guide us, presenting mini epiphanies and bursts of awareness in the most trying times in our lives.

In the last ten days, I have learnt so much from my scrawled musings. Simple things that are a given to so many have taken these twenty two years to hit home. I am starting to realise that I am not stuck with the choices I make now for the next forty years. I am trying to remember that plans change, and that’s okay. I am understanding that responsibility is the cost of freedom and choice, but that it is worth the undertaking. January has been a difficult, horrible, awful month, as months go. But writing has helped, and writing will continue to help, and in the face of emotion (blunted and painful and otherwise), I write.