“At least I’m not Steven Assanti.”
I remember telling that to my best friend, Carlos, during my most recent period of unemployment. I had gone back to watch the “star” of My 600 lb Life saga from episode one after seeing a few clips on TikTok as more people became aware of general Assanti madness. It’s a spectacle, it’s easy to see why people would get caught up in the drama and insanity of the Assanti family.
We’ve discussed my feelings on the show that features people that are morbidly obese and enabled by family and abandoned by society and the incredibly blunt Dr. Now. These people are filmed as grotesque social outcasts, languishing in food, abusing their families and their bodies are subjected to a leering camera and production crew that seems to take sick pleasure in making these individuals bathe and be nude on camera.
But recently, my feelings on the show have changed. I have not watched entire seasons, mostly empathetically and occasionally repulsed and disgusted. No, now I’m watching only a few key episodes all with patients that are objectively failures. James King, Cindy Vela and anything Assanti. I don’t want to admit how many times I’ve replayed each of these episodes, sneering with smug glee at these people whine, cry and complain about how much their bodies hurt and how bad hospital food tastes.
I relished in my superiority over these people struggling with trauma, food addiction, mental health issues and more all the while being at my heaviest, still suffering from depression and anxiety and eating like absolute trash. The emperor had no clothes and yet, he felt superior. This felt particularly cruel considering that I was unemployed at the time and while a job and income do not define a person, I had no high ground to stand on morally or physically if I wanted to try and place my candle anywhere near the participants of this show.
And yet I felt superior enough to savor watching these individuals fail. I felt better about myself knowing that despite my weight, I could still fit in my shower and that despite my mental health issues I could still podcast and write and do all the things that I thought defined me in the place of gainful employment. I could tie my shoes and pick up my own fast food and at my lowest points, that made me feel superior.
Morbid cringe: a nearly terminal spiral of watching cringe content and taking intense relish in it. ContraPoints talked about it during her video on the topic of cringe and I always thought I was too good for morbid cringe. I wasn’t a Christorian, I wasn’t an anti-SJW; surely, I cannot be someone who takes such pleasure in watching people at their absolute worst. I’ve watched hours of car crashes, Karen videos and even previously My 600 lb Life and felt compassionate cringe or even empathy, lamenting for the othering the morbidly obese face as my own mother was morbidly obese. But there’s been something about this recent layoff that turned my heart from kindness and optimism turned cold and cruel. I’ve always relished in schadenfreude, the savoring of other people’s demise or misfortune, but this; this has been entirely different, entirely new. I have become a worse version of myself: someone actively throwing tomatoes at the person in the stocks rather than simply being in the crowd.
And I hate that person I have become.
Unplugging has helped. Not sinking back into those circles where I’ll sit and binge this media for hours at a time. Realization helps as well; there’s nothing like looking in the mirror to see that you are in fact no longer Jekyll but Hyde. And having the humility to admit I’m wrong does not come easy; it’s bitter work but needed to save whatever is left of me. Because I should be aware of how precariously I dangle towards being a person others are mocking.
It’s my birthday! You can celebrate with me by buying me a coffee!
The past few weeks have been a lot. I won’t go into detail because despite this being a personal blog, the events of the past few weeks are simply a little too personal and too close to home to want to share in their full detail. Needless to say, I have been stressed and likely more so than I have in years. At times, it’s easy to forget that stress is a biological response not just a psychic phantom. The body responds to stress poorly and I think we tend to forget that when we ache and feel rundown while being under constant pressure.
I wanted to explore what was feeling and I hope that in sharing and being vulnerable that you all take a moment to think about the stress in your life and how it’s affecting you. With that being said, here is where I felt my stress the most.
Nausea, loss of appetite, increased appetite, food being unappealing
I won’t go into gruesome details here but when people say that you “trust your gut” part of that is because your stomach is a vital part of the system that stress can impact. The past few weeks have been marred with upset stomachs, wanting to eat everything in sight, wanting to eat nothing at all and just generally not feeling well. I remember feeling similarly when my mother passed away and being shocked because I simply hadn’t correlated the shock and trauma of losing my mother as a contributing factor to my then deteriorating health. I’ve been able to feel better by eating when I’m hungry, drinking water and the occasional ginger candy but I’m still working hard to handle my messed up gut biome.
Headaches, dizziness, vertigo
I’m not usually a headache sufferer, only when my blood pressure is too high. So with the recent swaths of severe light-sensitive headaches that can’t be linked to high blood pressure I had to assume that of course, it was the stress. I would get dizzy if I stood too quickly and had to bury under the blankets to avoid light (a perfect place for a depressed person) and I exhausted almost all of my cold compresses just to keep the feeling of blood rushing in between my ears at bay.
Back pain, stiffness
When I’m stressed out I don’t tend to move. I’ll post up in one place and remain there until a biological function usually forces me to move. I stay in that one uncomfortable place for so long that my already ailing back typically grows sore from having to keep me either hunched over, sitting in some kind of impossible twist or laying down in the most inelegant position humanly possible.
Insomnia, fatigue, racing thoughts, obsessive thoughts, negative self-talk
The brain is a cruel hunk of tissue sometimes. The worst part about having mental health issues is knowing that you’d never let your friends talk to themselves the way you talk to yourself. I’m fortunate that I’ve had a network of friends and family propping me up and motivating me and reminding me that I am not a sad miserable slug who doesn’t deserve happiness and I’d truly be lost without them. It was the fatigue I couldn’t deal with at first then the fact that once I tried to sleep that I just couldn’t. Fortunately, I’m on medicine for that now and my nights can be somewhat restful albeit very artificially but I can sleep even if it is often dreamless and rarely restful.
The last few weeks have been hard. The state of the world is…well, it is, my personal life is not what it was and I am nostalgic for a version of my home, my family and myself that likely truly never existed. But in thinking about all the ways stress impacts me and my choices and my body I’ve been working hard to be more mindful and intentional about the choices I make. And in that mindfulness, I have been able to get much more done: like finishing up this blog post.
Here is a piece I wrote while working at Leadhub covering Google’s Vicinity Update
This video is much better enjoyed having watched the Stromae music video first: