Tag Archives: mental health

This Isn’t About Robin Williams

“Many who try to bring joy to the world are often the same people who fight a great war within themselves. Every fight lost is a tragedy.”

The death of comic genius Robin Williams spawned thousands and thousands of (well-deserved) tributes and blog posts about not only his career and his life, but also his mental health struggles.

I don’t want to read them.

I don’t want to watch them.

I don’t want to hear about depression and opinions from people who just have no clue.

That’s selfish, but I don’t want to deal with it because I live it every day of my life, a life that I’ve questioned the value of more often than I care to admit. While I would like to think that I would never go to that extreme, I’ve thought about what the world would be like if I were no longer in it, if I could never get “better.”

Because of that, Robin Williams’ death wasn’t surprising to me. Tragic? Yes. Surprising? No. Addiction and depression are equal-opportunity destroyers, regardless of age, sex or class. And the thing about addictions are that they’re all just a slow suicide, no matter your weapon of choice.

So why do some people make it while others lose the fight? I don’t think anyone knows.

What I do know is that for me, it’s not about lack of resources, because if I want to get help there are a million places to get it.

It’s not about people not doing enough to help, because I know you have to want and accept that  support in order to pull yourself out.

It’s also not about attention. My dark thoughts aren’t about death but rather the fantasy of finding some peace—any peace—to quiet the storms in my head.

That probably doesn’t make sense, but I wrote a piece for Huffington Post about my OCD that I never shared on this blog because I didn’t want to be misunderstood. Plus, sometimes I just don’t want to deal with that reality.

But it is reality, and so are suicide and depression and all those things I don’t want to read, hear or talk about a lot of the time—all those things I am forced to think about all the time anyway.

Yet that’s probably part of the problem.

After Williams’ death I posted that quote above on Facebook and linked back to a post I wrote on depression.

The response was huge, both on that older post and to the simple quote. People sent me emails sharing their stories, and someone commented, “Thank you for things that you write. You have a medium where you can reach out to other people and truly help them with your own experiences.”

Whether he liked it or not, Robin Williams had a platform to talk about mental health, and maybe in some tiny miniscule way, so do I–whether through humor or sharing my struggles. If nothing else, I need the support myself on most days.

Of course, there’s no magic cure or easy answers. But what there is is support if you accept it, people who care and a dialogue about mental health that has been reopened up with another loss of life.

This time it wasn’t you.

It wasn’t me.

And if it was, it’s safe to say the whole world wouldn’t be mourning our passing. But somebody would. Somebody cares. And every fight lost is a tragedy.

Keep up the fight.

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The Third Group

If you missed my last post, read it here to catch up on the conversation.

Even though I didn’t initially mention it, I also believe that there is a group that falls somewhere in the middle. While they may not be as obsessive and compulsive about everything in their life as one group, they also aren’t solely driven by a desire to fit a physical ideal. From my perspective—slightly skewed, mind you— I think this is where a majority of those dealing with eating disorder issues fall.

This also reinforces the fact that although both science and society would like mental health to fit into neat and tidy categories with distinctive boundaries and guidelines, it ain’t gonna happen.

Anyway, I think a lot of attention is often given to the first group because it’s seems simpler to explain. If the disease can be looked at as coming from a place of self-loathing and a desire to be thin, avoid food, look a certain way, etc. then there is a tangible way to go about “fixing” the problem. In other words, we can go back to neat and tidy categories.

But for this group “in-between,”— a group I identify with 99 percent — it’s much more complicated.

While there are certainly elements of physical dissatisfaction, a majority of the thoughts and behaviors are motivated from a place of emotional/mental dissatisfaction, which is much more complicated to address. A majority of people in this group are mature, intelligent, seemingly knowledgeable people who basically have all the tools to save the world, but yet find it difficult to break out of the routines and save their own sanity.

Whereas they may appear to have it all figured out in other areas of their life—perfectionist tendencies, anyone?— they still find it hard to be satisfied with what they’ve done or what they’re doing. It’s just my personal opinion that a lot of people in this group are actually sensitive to the point of appearing callous at times. Although they are independent and seemingly indifferent to a lot of social pressures, they are actually extremely perceptive to the point of being slightly hypersensitive and prone to disappointment.

They may be much more introspective and self-aware, a line of thinking that doesn’t jive with what is commonly accepted and encouraged. They may begin to doubt themselves, feeling anxious that they aren’t doing whatever it is they’re “supposed” to be doing, and search for some way to regain a sense of control and order in an otherwise uncertain and undefined environment.

Numbers are real. Routines are ideal.

With this sense of “order” restored, this crutch put into place, the anxious energy can be harnessed into a seemingly endless and slightly mind-numbing project to keep everything neat, tidy and organized. If you eat this, you know how you will feel. If you exercise for that amount of time, you can go on with your day. As long as everything is done how you want it, when you want it, where you want it, a sense of control and (fleeting) calm can be restored. Obsessions over food, exercise, recipes, body checks, self-doubt, etc. can fill a void created by dissatisfaction with anything else you are trying not to think about.

For many seemingly logical individuals, illogical routines and beliefs begin to take precedence over the energy usually dedicated to more “traditional” forms of achievement. Obviously, this is not healthy, and thus, where I think a lot of people are today.

In the end — for any of us — it does come down to food.

Whether it’s looked at as an enemy to physical perfection or as a pawn in a psychological battle we’re waging, it does come down to the food. Taste is no longer important and often the pleasure associated with it is thrown to the wayside, replaced by a power that seems absolutely illogical to the sensibilities of those struggling to recover.

As much as we want to deny it’s a factor, it most certainly always is. How could it not be? I think the key is to change the perceived power of food, as it’s easy to forget that we are always in control of our actions. We can change the routines, we can use our food knowledge for good and not manipulation and we can expose ourselves to any fear and anxiety that is rooted in each and every bite.

But that’s just my experience. Take it to heart or take it with a grain of salt.

I in no way, shape or form have any of this figured out—trust me. But I do believe that a combination of challenging our illogical beliefs and proving to ourselves that we have the strength to overcome self-imposed barriers to health—whatever those may be for you—is more than a small first step, but rather a giant leap of faith.

I’m working on this.


FYI: I think I’ll make these a regular feature for purely selfish reasons in that a) I have many random thoughts  and b) I love your additions in the comments. They make my day.

Anyway, here is where I turn off all those readers. I need to ramble incoherently, so buckle up.

I’ve recently become obsessed with “Obsessed,” and the irony of that fact isn’t lost on me. While I in no way deny that I have food issues, I also acknowledge the fact that I’ve had OCD long before it turned into an eating disorder (I would say as early as six or seven years old.)

Anyway, I was “professionally” diagnosed with OCD about five years ago, but was always sent to ED treatment centers due to the fact that my obsessions and compulsions manifest in food and exercise. I’m underweight, and my behaviors, compulsions are rather maladaptive ways to deal with anxiety.

Simple as that, except it isn’t.

If you’ve ever watched the show, you have an idea of how seemingly illogical routines, rituals and compulsions are the only ways some people can even touch on any semblance of normality. Most of the time they’re so deeply ingrained that being a productive member of society and carrying on personal and professional obligations becomes impossible, as anything and everything revolves around the obsessions and compulsions. It’s a mental illness with biological roots, but it’s also often developed as a defense mechanism in response to a traumatic event or situation. It’s not a choice, as the thoughts take over and you feel there are no options or defense against your thoughts.

It’s a mental illness, and it stinks.

“Talk” therapy doesn’t work for me. I know what my issues are, I have a pretty clear picture of how I feel, I have no self-love/body issues and I don’t think that I’m fat. When I feel the need to exercise, it’s not to lose weight. When I feel the need to restrict, it’s not to drop a dress size. Talking about things doesn’t really help, as I need to expose myself to the anxiety-inducing experiences and challenge the thoughts that tell me these routines have to be followed, that I have to do them to feel calm.

Why am I bringing this up?

Good question, (and I’m not sure), but I think it’s in part because lately it seems to me that my indifference towards so many blogs has to do with the fact that I am kind of viewing them through a splintered lens. To be honest, I think there are  different factions of people with eating disorders. Just like OCD, eating disorders are a mental illness, something that I think many people are hesitant to admit.

There obviously is no right or wrong, there is just different, so don’t bite my head off yet.


One group’s actions are truly motivated by a desire to fulfill some idea physical image they feel they need to attain for happiness or acceptance. For some people, I think it really is about the food on some basic level. Yes, they use it as a tool to manipulate their figure and their thoughts, but once they eat and restore the weight, they are seemingly “fine” over time. I’m not making light of it at all, but it’s almost as if it’s a deadly phase they eventually pass through.

All the focus goes towards food, because if it is about the food and looks, then eating more is the simple answer. There is less of a stigma. It’s a tangible act they can engage in to change their physical appearance, with a side of therapy to build self-love.


For the other group, I think the development of the disorder is more deeply biologically rooted and motivated from a genuine place of anxiety over things completely unrelated to food, weight and body image. They acknowledge that the disease has everything to do with control, routines, etc. and that the mental aspect of it is the be-all and end-all of the issue.

It has nothing to do with looks or physical beauty, but everything to do with feeling restricted in their choices for no other reason than they are obsessed with finding some sort of contentment, some sort of peace from their racing thoughts. Simply put, it’s an entirely internal struggle that’s often revealed externally. The food becomes directly involved because it is one of the only things that can be completely controlled and predictable. Numbers are tangible, numbers and routines can be used to neatly classify things into tidy groups of solid evidence.

The food and/or exercise are simply one way to try and regain control, as many of these people also have other areas in their lives where they are either restrictive, impulsive or obsessive.

On “Obsessed, the patients logically know that what they’re doing is illogical, but they feel powerless against their thoughts. I can relate to this 100 times more than any ED group, book, blog or video. For me, I feel I HAVE to exercise at times, I HAVE to eat a certain way, etc. or else things go nuts in my mind and I can’t focus on anything else. I know the world won’t end, but I don’t want the discomfort–physical and mental–and I don’t want to be stuck feeling I made the wrong decision.

No, it’s not a worry about my weight or looks, but rather a worry about discomfort and chaos in my head. I want to feel clean, neat and tidy. Even though I know an extra snack here or there won’t “taint” me, it still feels unnatural in the same way that I feel anxiety when someone walks in my house with their shoes on, the toilet paper roll is put on wrong or I can’t do the dishes right away.


My point is that there is so much chatter out there about what constitutes health and what constitutes disorder, when in all actuality, we all deal with our issues in different ways. I can in no way relate to those people that see food as the enemy, that are driven by a desire to look a certain way. I know there are people out there than can in no way relate to my issues, and I don’t expect them to.

Regardless of why or how you struggle from any mental illness, I do think that relative “recovery” is entirely possible. However, I believe that in most instances, it’s  impossible to just eat and think that any deeper mental issue is fed and has now disappeared.

Eating disorders are real. OCD is real. Depression is real. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes there’s no connection.

While food/body image may be the root of the evil for some, for others it’s simply a branch on a very tangled tree. Only by exposing themselves to the anxiety head-on and learning to sit with the discomfort—learning that there are alternative actions to take without their world falling apart—can they begin to recover.

Like I said, there is no right, no wrong, but only where you are right now—and we’re all in different places. Now I just need to figure out how to get on “Obsessed” for my own hour…

We will return to lighter topics in the next post…