on baking + sense of self

on baking + sense of self

hello my dear friends and a happy bandcamp friday to all who celebrate. i bought several things today. mostly merch and physical music. today we’re talking about something only tangentially related to music, but if you want to check out some things i’ve bought you can look at my bandcamp profile. you can’t see my merch purchases, but i got one of the ganser prints and a gladie shirt and zine today which i’m excited about. if you check out anything based on this newsletter i’d like it to be the ganser album from last year, the jungheim album from this year, and the new spring silver song. here they are:

from here forward i’m gonna talk about my eating disorder and how my relationship with food especially lately has informed my relationship with media consumption. it’s also about my complex relationship with talking about personal stuff online, including but not limited to the way i do within this newsletter. if talking about food and an eating disorder will trigger you, please take care of yourself and maybe skip this one.

when i was a kid i was obsessed with baking and alton brown. i was also extremely picky and would never eat the things i baked. i say this in the past tense, but i am present tense extremely picky and don’t eat the things i bake.

i’m a certain kind of narcissistic in that i spend a lot of time thinking about why i do everything and why i like the things i like or do the things i do. to me, it’s obvious why i’ve always liked baking and don’t like cooking.

baking is a process of right and wrong. if you’re precise and follow the instructions there’s no way to get it wrong. i think i liked alton brown because his show made it seem like cooking was the same way, but it’s not. cooking is certainly a science, of sorts, but the goal is mostly adjusting things to make it taste as good as possible where baking always has the added goal of a rise or the perfect sort of crust. it’s methodical and temperamental and i loved it. i love the control and the satisfaction of seeing what ingredients do without ever having to actually eat it. why i didn’t want to eat it can come from a few places, but the simplest one is that i don’t like dessert much and the walgreens close enough to walk to never had yeast.

but it was comforting to bake anyway because it felt like control and something i could do on my own when i was an unbearably anxious child and preteen. it’s familiar ritual in the same way i find the physical aspect of making zines soothing. it’s familiar like listening to a favorite album or watching a favorite movie. the familiarity feels like autopilot. everything hits the beats i need it to.

unfortunately, all of these things are also why i developed an eating disorder and lost even an enjoyment for the systematic process of baking. i never liked food the way some people do, but there’s pain in losing something that worked to alleviate some anxiety to a fear of food.

now being depressed usually ends with folding myself into familiarity because it’s all a symptom of feeling out of control, but coping mechanisms work until they don’t.

the last few weeks have been particularly difficult for me both in terms of feeling totally out of sync with my entire life. i’m so depressed i’m in physical pain. i don’t care about anything. i can’t even look at myself in a mirror.

so i’ve hidden inside things that feel familiar.

i watched my teenage favorite movie, richard ayoade’s submarine, and listened to its alex turner soundtrack.

i’ve watched all the john mulaney specials.

i spent too much money buying 52 weeks by into it. over it. then proceeded to obsessively listen to “a song about your party” like i’m 17 again.

i started eating oatmeal again.

i walked around for 3 hours alone until every finger, toe, and joint in my body hurt hoping to turn off the autopilot blank stare that pushed me back to kneeling on my bathroom floor for the first time in a year.

walking didn’t help, so i just keep floating through. everything new, even when it’s good and i can tell i’ll enjoy it later, feels like biting down on tin foil so i just listen to evan weiss sing and john mulaney tell jokes and fill the oatmeal bowl with water measured in the empty paper packaging.

there is so much pain in regression and these things i fall back into are all haunted by the depth of the thing that defined and consumed years of my life. there is no comfort in my younger self’s favorite albums or movies or foods anymore, just familiarity. it doesn’t feel good, it just doesn’t feel bad the way the other stuff does. and that’s scarier than the almost omnipresent impulse to engage ED thoughts.

usually i’d write these things when i’m feeling better so maybe it’s an act of self sabotage to write now, but i think it’s a regulating exercise to write about how i’m feeling. if i can articulate how i feel then i can cope and come out of it. or that’s the idea, at least.

i’ve always shared too much of my interior self online. tumblr didn’t create my eating disorder, but it for sure helped it along. being able to write how i was feeling relatively anonymously online always felt cathartic and helpful even while i was viewing images that purposefully put me in a constant triggered state. because of it i’ve never felt afraid to say when i’m dealing with something heavy and part of me believes that to be good.

the other part of me worries about the amount i disclose online and how that impacts my sense of self. i’ve been told since i was 16 that i am not my eating disorder or my depression and it’s a message i’ve taken to heart, but if i don’t acknowledge those things as a part of my everyday life i lose control of them.

i think that’s where a huge struggle during the pandemic has come from for me. there’s this constant message that everyone is having a hard time and everyone is depressed and maybe you’re not mentally ill, it’s actually just that we’re all living through a pandemic under capitalism. while it’s true to a degree, isolation and loss of job and mass death are absolutely impactful, i still find that difficult messaging to reconcile within myself.

it’s hard enough to ask for help or sometimes even realize you’re having a more severe downturn, much less if you have to be like, “okay well everybody feels like shit even worse than usual, too. is this is just how it is or is something else going on?” somehow that feels worse than the regular guilt of knowing i could be in a much worse position while like i’m drowning in this version of myself i can’t seem to get away from.

my online experience is also here on this newsletter which lately (with all due thanks to a very kind shout out from steven hyden, mostly) has enough people signed up for it that i’ve begun to feel nervous. this is just a post about me and my feelings lately and i’m fully aware this isn’t what a lot of you signed up for. a friend of mine asked me if i felt more pressure with this thing as reach grows and i don’t think there’s a clear answer there. of course i want people to like it and read it, but i realize different people react to different things and nobody is making you read these things just because you signed up.

writing this newsletter has been strange because i didn’t really consider myself a writer before doing it. i made zines and would write in those, but i still didn’t consider myself A Writer which is so arbitrary. giving myself a bar of “enough” to validate it in my head is something i struggle with— i guess that’s kind of the through line of this newsletter. feeling a loss of sense of self and comfort in what i know myself to be as i’ve changed and gotten older while still being bogged down by the worst parts of being young has left me in a spot i’m unsure how to cope with.

nobody thinks about you as much as you think about yourself, but i guess that doesn’t mean you’re right about how you view yourself.

i sincerely hope you’re all doing well. i’m sure i’ll find my way back to music and tech opinion pieces soon, those opinions never stop, or maybe i’ll review a record or make someone let me interview them. something. i don’t know. the newsletter lives on with a caveat of feeling like it’s okay for me to use it however it serves me best.

thanks for reading.

Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, and law student based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter @mirandareinert.