J is for Jealousy

j abcalphabet-letter-jWarning!!! This post may be triggering for those with eating disorders and/or a mood disorder.

It’s finally happened. Guilt over not posting has won out over anxiety about writing about a particular subject. You see, I promised myself when I started this blog that I would write about whatever was going on with me at whatever time it happens, no flinching, no hiding. Sorry about the silence on the blog. Here goes, a post about jealousy…

I’ve been feeling really jealous lately and it’s been bothering me. Most of the time I’m okay with whatever pangs of jealousy come up because they’re really normal kinds of jealousy. What I mean by that is that most of the time I’m jealous of really normal, understandable, transitory things. When I feel a stab of jealousy over someone’s job, it’s perfectly understandable since I’m unemployed and desperate for a job. The same goes for when I get jealous over people with money, looks, children, and so forth. These are all things that I want in the future or things I know I’ll never be able to have. I can understand and forgive myself for them. I acknowledge that pang and move on.

However, recently I’ve found myself jealous over things that are kinda…well, icky. And it makes me think there’s something wrong with me (more than normal that is).

Here, in no particular order, are things I’ve been jealous over lately that I’ve got a problem with and/or can’t quite get past:

People with Bipolar Disorder. Now, I’ve got what they call Unipolar Disorder in the psych biz. That means my

Image from health.com

Image seen on health.com

moods just get really low. If you’ve got Bipolar Disorder, your moods would go from high (manic) to low (depression). As you might have guessed, this disorder used to be called Manic Depression. (If you want more info on this disorder, click here).

Why am I jealous of these people? Let me list the ways:

  1.   They get to feel good. At some point in their lives, people diagnosed with Bipolar have a manic period. Granted, that mania may be mild or extreme, but at least they get to feel something more than the horrific depression I get sometimes.
  2.   They get a lot of attention. I subscribe to the Facebook pages of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), their website is here, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, their website is here, and a website called HealthyPlace, their website is here. Sometimes it seems as if most of the posts/articles I see in Facebook are about Bipolar. Not plain old, I-only-get-really-really-down, Unipolar Depression.
  3.   A lot of celebrities have been “coming out” as Bipolar. It almost seems as if it’s the new “sexy” diagnosis. So it gets a lot of attention in the media.

The worst part of it is that I know that I’m blessed in a way to only have the boring diagnosis of Unipolar Depression. People who have Bipolar have a much harder time getting diagnosed and treated, have a much higher rate of suicide, and overall have the worst of the two diseases.

And yet, I’m jealous. It just makes me feel like I’m a selfish person because I’ve got the boring diagnosis. Ick.

People with Anorexia and/or Bulimia. You’d think the one thing I wouldn’t be jealous of would be someone withcat eating a worse eating disorder than I’ve got. For those new to my blog, I’ve got Binge Eating Disorder (for an overview of all three disorders, click here). I just eat…and eat…and eat. A lot. I don’t throw it up or over-exercise to compensate. Hence my lovely circus-lady-fat-physique.

So why am I jealous? Let me list the ways:

  1.   Just like people with Bipolar, those with anorexia and bulimia get a lot more attention than those who just binge. Think about it, how many times have you seen a movie of the week, or Lifetime movie, about someone with Binge Eating Disorder? Bet you can’t think of one. And yet, there are plenty of movies about anorexia and bulimia. Celebrities who have anorexia and/or bulimia are profiled all the time in the media. Very few celebrities even admit to binging without purging or dieting in some manner to off-set their binges. Yep, starving, throwing up, and over-exercising seem very sexy. Just eating until your stomach can’t take anymore, not so sexy.
  2.   Anorexia and, to some extent, bulimia, is very visible. And when people see them and understand what they’re doing, they (most of the time) react with some modicum of sympathy or respect. It’s pretty easy to understand that someone who is starving themselves or throwing up all the time is in need of some help. Not so much bingers. We’re often the butt (no pun intended) of jokes. We’re told that we just need to stop eating and get off the couch. Let me tell you, it is not that simple. If I could’ve done it, I would’ve done it twenty years ago.
  3.   Control. Anorexics, and to some extent, bulimics, have some modicum of control over their eating. All three
    Image seen on www.glogster.com/

    Image seen on glogster.com

    disorders are constantly thinking about food, but at least anorexics/bulimics have enough discipline to stop or compensate. I can’t seem to stop or even attempt to off-set it in the way they do. Granted, I don’t want to throw up or abuse laxatives (not that abusing laxatives actually works, more on that here) but at least bulimics are making an attempt to control their weight. And anorexics have the ultimate in control. They starve themselves. The exact opposite of how I deal with food and my emotions. Often I wish I had that control. But I don’t.

  4.   Believe it or not, there are actual websites out there that are all about helping those with anorexia and bulimia to continue their eating disorder behaviors. Often called pro-ana (ana=anorexia) and pro-mia (mia=bulimia) websites, they’re all about getting deeper and deeper into these awful diseases. Are there any pro-binge websites? Not that I’ve ever heard of.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not advocating anyone, including myself, try to become anorexic or bulimic. Both

anorexics and bulimics have a much harder time recovering than bingers. Both are much more likely to die from their diseases than a binger. They are awful, horrific, terrifying diseases.

And yet, I’m jealous of them. Ick.

How sick am I that I’m jealous of people with these diseases/disorders that are so much worse than what I’ve got? Why can’t I just be glad that I don’t have it as bad as those sufferers?

Maybe it’s because those people have illnesses/disorders that are often much more visible. And they get more sympathy. If you see a person going through a manic phase, you can tell they’ve got an illness. An anorexic is obviously sick. My illnesses seem invisible. With enough effort, I can smile through my depression. I eat alone. People out on the street are much more likely to yell the name of a famous weight-loss company at me than to think I might need to be hospitalized. My size is out there for everyone to see, but most just think I’m an undisciplined, lazy, person not worth their respect.

And sometimes I feel that way about myself. If I had a disease that would kill me quicker (anorexia) or was more fun (bipolar), would I respect myself more? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t think much of myself for being jealous of those people who have those diseases/disorders. I know it’s wrong. Those people suffer so much, have a much harder time, are in so much more danger than I am. And everytime I feel jealous of them, despite the fact that I remind myself of this, I still can’t make that jealousy go away.

How icky is that?


 

image from DBSA

image from DBSA

If you need help with any of the above mentioned diseases/disorders, please don’t wait. The sooner you

get help the better. Here are some hotlines (all for the USA):

National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): (800) 826-3632

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: (800) 950-6264

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) Helpline: 630-577-1330 (Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-5:00 pm, Central Time)

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): 1-800-931-2237 (Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Eastern Time)


 

Blessings to all of you.

Be well.

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S is for Sibling

s goldI have one sibling, an older brother. Growing up, our parents compared us to each other, often to his detriment. When he was born, there were complications. When I was born (three years later), everything happened perfectly. My brother was a fussy baby. I was quiet and slept right through the night immediately. My brother threw temper tantrums and ran away from home, repeatedly. I didn’t. My parents often said that I was the “perfect” child, the “good” one. My brother was rebellious, “bad.”

I still feel guilty about these comparisons and not just because they made my brother feel bad about himself. You see the instances that my parents claimed were proof of my “goodness” were really just proof that I kept my mouth shut. My brother wasn’t rebellious; he was just willing to say what he thought. Yes he was loud and occasionally violent about it. But he usually had good reason. When it comes right down to it, my brother got the short end of the proverbial stick. And then had that stick used upside his ass.

My brother was our paternal grandparents’ first grandchild. They lived about a half hour away and insisted that my brother spend as much time as possible with them. As a male child, he was a perfect way for my grandparents to try to fix whatever mistakes they thought they made with their only male child. By the time I came along, my brother was more their child then our parents’. I don’t remember a time when he didn’t spend most of his weekends at their house.

I was jealous of his relationship with our grandparents. I thought they loved him more than me. They never said anything, but I may have been right.

My grandfather often planned activities with by brother in mind. I was never invited. Never even asked if I was interested. My grandfather’s big hobby was model trains. I wasn’t allowed to touch them. My brother was allowed to touch, rearrange, and play with the trains. I have distinct memories of my grandfather driving away from our grandparents’ house with my brother in the car, leaving me behind in an empty house (my grandmother was at work). I was eight.

siblings

No this isn’t us.

My revenge was that our maternal grandmother liked me better. She said so. Out loud. With my brother in the room.

We always went to visit our maternal grandparents during our school’s spring break, which usually fell on or near his birthday. They lived on a farm seven hours away from us and talked with a southern accent. My brother complained about these visits every year. He hated that we had to visit on his birthday, that it took so long to get there, that there were strange smells and stranger people. Everyone always commented on how well behaved I was, how I was such a “good girl” for helping out our parents, how much I looked like my mother. I loved our visits.

The older we got, the less our parents compared us. It wasn’t necessary. My brother and I were stuck with the labels of “bad” and “good” child. Each year, our various resentments grew. He resented having to spend weekdays with our parents. I resented our paternal grandparents love for him. He misbehaved and was spanked for it. I kept my mouth shut and nothing happened to me.

He ran away from home at least once a year. Usually in the summer, which he wanted to spend entirely at our paternal grandparents’ house. He had to be bribed into going to our maternal grandparents’ house. I crept into the persona of “good girl” and rarely allowed myself to act otherwise. The shell of goodness felt safe, comfortable, even if it wasn’t always genuine.

Then my brother became a teenager. Our paternal grandmother bought him his first car and we rarely saw him. When he was seventeen, he moved out of our parents’ house and into our paternal grandmother’s apartment (our grandfather had died years before). I watched our parents endlessly discuss my brother’s rebellion. And I wished I was anyone other than what I was: a boiling mass of jealousy and anger within the façade of a “good girl.”

Then my brother became a father and a husband. An adult. Seemingly all of a sudden he stopped rebelling and became “good.” He got a job, provided for his family and treated our parents with respect. He didn’t go out of his way to spend time with them, but he no longer argued with them, no longer picked fights with them. Our parents began to spend hours discussing how much he’d changed. I was still angry, still jealous and still hiding behind my “good girl” façade. But now, no one noticed.

Years later, my brother and I discussed a little about how we were compared. He told me he had hated them. He said that he had always felt as if our paternal grandparents were his real parents. That our parents were just these people he was required to live with. I told him that I thought our paternal grandparents loved him and not me. I also told him how sorry I was that our paternal grandparents and parents used him as a way to work out their problems. And that I had grown up angry that everyone, our parents included, loved him for who he was, not for what he let them think he was.

You see, by allowing myself to crawl inside that “good girl” shell, I had prevented anyone from knowing the real me. I stayed silent whenever anyone said or did anything that I didn’t like or didn’t agree with. I rarely said or did anything troublesome because a “good girl” didn’t do that. But I wasn’t a “good girl” inside. And no one really knew me.

Looking back at all this, I also can see the seeds for what became my arrogance. Our parents called me their “good girl,” their “perfect” child. People, both related and unrelated, praised me for being there for our parents, for my polite behavior, for my “goodness,” even for my intelligence (long before I showed any signs of being anything other than an average student). Growing up I was constantly thinking I deserved things just because I was there. As an adult, I fight against the bitterness of not having my “goodness” acknowledged. I fight resentment every time I hear about special programs for people with kids or for veterans. Not because I think they don’t deserve it, but because I think “what about me? I deserve those things too!” I think I deserve them without working for them. Why? Because I’m me.

I’m me and I’m not a “good girl.” I don’t deserve to be handed things just because I’m alive. But I also don’t deserve to be labeled as any one thing. I’m not just a woman. Not just mentally ill. Not just fat. I’m all of those things and none of those.

I am a human being. A human. Being. And somehow my sibling learned those things long before I did. And without my shell of “goodness.”