The story of my experience with anorexia, an eating disorder.
I honestly don’t even know where to start on this one. To this point, I’ve shared a lot on the blog about my daily life, but I’ve only lightly skimmed the surface on any deeper issues or things that have happened in the past that have lead to where and who I am today.
Before now, I was honestly too afraid to get too personal because I had (have) no idea how people would (will) react. But I feel like a phoney when I’m not honest about a huge part of my past and how it affects who I am and what I go through today. There are so many things I want to share and write about, but it wouldn’t make sense without more context. So I hold my tongue (or keyboard in this case?)
(Warning: this post may be triggering, but I am leaving out exact numbers)
I think it’s fair to describe myself as an intense person. When an idea, a passion or a fear grabs hold of me it can often spiral into an obsession.
That’s what happened. I honestly can’t remember anyone calling me fat. Not to my face. I guess that’s what scared me. I heard the way guys would talk about other girls’ bodies and even worse, the way girls talked about other girls’ bodies.
It started as a simple goal to lose a couple pounds, to get “healthy,” my junior year of high school. I thought that if I felt a bit more comfortable in my clothes I would be happy. I knew the basics: eat less exercise more.
I wasn’t exactly athletic, so instead of facing the constant embarrassment that had characterized my adventures in organized sports, I decided to join the gym.
I educated myself about counting calories, portion sizes, meal tracking, nutrition facts, if it had to do with losing weight I was reading it. If I put it in my mouth, I wrote it down in my journal (these were pre-smart phone days). I became obsessed with every fitness magazine that claimed it had the “easiest way to lose 10 pounds in .2 seconds.” All I thought about and read about was food and the more I read the more I feared it.
I watched, as day after day, the number on the scale got a little bit smaller. I remember after losing my first 10 pounds my family commenting, “you look great but you really don’t need to lose more.” It felt good, but I wasn’t satisfied. I didn’t feel any happier, if anything I was less content with my body than before. I could only see flaws.
Somehow I convinced myself that if I lost enough weight people would finally notice me, either that or I could just disappear. Either seemed preferable to where I was.
It was addicting. Everything else in my life seemed to be getting harder. I was battling depression, and my obsession further isolated me from my friends (although I had always been a bit of a black sheep to begin with.) I felt awful refusing to eat the meals my family prepared, which were always healthy, but so many foods became black listed. Each week my mom became more frustrated by a new food that I refused to eat. I can remember being a constant stream of obnoxious food facts, “educating” my friends and family about how to be healthy.
Every day I was in competition with myself. Could I eat less than the day before? Could I lose weight faster? It didn’t even matter what I looked like anymore, I just became obsessed with the numbers. Food lost its taste. I was eating numbers. And I hated it. But I loved saying no, feeling hungry, watching other people eat. I can remember calculating exactly how long it would take for me to lose a certain number of pounds and exactly how many pounds I had to be in order to be “underweight” for my height. It was ridiculous.
It felt like power, but in reality, it was anything but. The numbers became a voice in my head. The kind that tells you you’re not good enough, you’re not skinny enough, you’re not smart enough, you’re not worth it. I thought if I could beat those numbers I could win back my happiness.
I can vividly remember having meltdowns about having to eat certain foods. Full on crying and hysteria. Obviously, it wasn’t really the food, but everything else I refused to deal with.
It got harder and harder to be around other people because all I could think about was food and how not to eat it. I was afraid that if I spent too much time with someone I would slip up. I felt like I had this huge weight, a secret, a full-blown obsession to hide and I was convinced no one knew.
Part of me wanted to scream out for help. But I didn’t know how. So I thought if I got sick enough someone else would have to rescue me. That, or I would just disappear.
But I was really good at lying, and smiling and hiding my disorder (or at least I thought I was). People started to notice that I’d lost weight and told me I looked great. Unfortunately, as well meaning as it may have been, it only made things a thousand times harder.
What do you say to someone who tells you that you look great because you lost weight? “Gee thanks, only I feel like I’m dying on the inside and I what I really want is help.” But instead, you just nod, smile and say “thanks, I’ve been eating healthier and going to the gym lately.”
And instead of compliments what I heard in my head was, “you were fat and unattractive before.” Before I craved the attention of people noticing, but as soon as they did, I hated it. My fear of gaining weight eclipsed everything else.
It makes me so upset to see how much joy and life this disorder has taken from me and from so many other people, too. It was a vicious cycle. The depression fed the starvation and the starvation fed the depression. It wasn’t like being sad, it was feeling nothing at all. It felt like lived in a thick grey fog all the time.
Nothing made me laugh, or smile or even upset. I just went through the motions. I couldn’t be around other people because the whole time I just wanted to be alone. And when I was alone I just wanted to feel anything.
But it got better.
As sick as I was, I knew I wanted my life back. I didn’t recognize who I saw in the mirror. My chubby cheeks began to disappear, I was desperately cold and my body had stopped quite a few important functions.
I had to be proactive. I couldn’t disappear and deep down, I knew I was too important to disappear. I didn’t want to waste my life focusing all my energy on trying not to eat. I was better than that. I was worth more than that. It was a catch 22. I felt selfish and guilty when I ate and I felt selfish and guilty when I didn’t, but I had to break the cycle.
I asked to go to a nutritionist, who told me what I already knew, that I had to eat more. Easier said than done, especially when your fear of eating isn’t logical. But it was a step in the right direction admitting that I had a serious problem.