I went public about my eating disorder on this site (and to many friends/family) during NEDAwareness week a year ago. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It was a hard decision, I often feel that it would be better received if I said that I was addicted to prescription pain killers or if I said I fell asleep every night cradling a recently drained bottle of wine. Eating disorders have such a stigma surrounding them and they are very misunderstood. They are joked about in the media, friends say they wish they could “be anorexic” for a day after they’ve “been bad”, and people often think it’s a “choice”.
Believe me… I would never have done this to myself as a conscious choice.
For me, the ED was a combination of nature & nurture… like a lot of things in life. (And by nurture, I don’t necessarily mean how I was brought up, but more about events in the world around me.) So over the course of this next week, I’m going to share a little more about my struggle and what triggered me. Plus I’d like to share some things about how I feel that everyone can help the problem… as eating disorders are fairly prevalent.
I am naturally a high-strung person. From the time I was an infant I had very particular ideas about things. If I was put in a dress I wouldn’t crawl because I hated the way it got caught under my knees, causing me to fall. The first time I walked, I just walked steadily for quite a ways. (I guess I came out of the womb a perfectionist?) I have stressed over homework and class assignments my whole life, even in preschool. It is hard for me to not care deeply about things, especially when it comes to other people. I’m the “champion of the underdog”… if someone else is wronged I will do what I can to help them. The kids that nobody else would befriend and were mocked I was their pal. Yet when I am treated with the same disrespect I brush it off because for some reason I look at everyone else as more important than myself.
When I was 10 I was in an accident that cut-off my nose, requiring pretty serious plastic surgery. That was kind of the beginning of my skewed perception of self. I was acutely affected by taunts of other kids. I was never mocked a lot by other kids either, but every single wrong-doing has cut me to the core and in some ways I carry those around with me to this day. When I was 17 my dad took a new job in another state, without consulting with the family. It wasn’t really an option of the family making a move, he was just leaving us to take a new job. Then he came back later on… that kind of messed with my head some. My mom is one of my best friends in the world, but that also means I’ve been the confidante on things that maybe I shouldn’t have had to shoulder. My parents divorce a year and a half ago was one of those things, it was a long time coming and I carried that stress around for years. Telecommuting for my job has not helped anything in my life, as it gives me long hours of solitude. Being alone can mess you up!
My diet-pill flirtation in college came around the time my dad left. And when I moved to Las Vegas and had to deal with being alone in a strange new city with no reason to leave the house to meet new people because I was working full-time in the house and dealing with my parents impending divorce, that’s the point that some of my smaller body image/disordered eating issues blew up.
I suspect my hypothyroid diagnosis played a part in all this… some of the big symptoms of hypothyroidism are depression and brain fog. Since I had an essential body chemical out of wack, my brain was not able to function as well and it was easier to use the ED as my coping mechanism when everything else felt out of control.
As my weight dropped lower and lower, I considered that I may have a problem but I always brushed it off by saying, “My period hasn’t stopped, that means I don’t have a problem.” But the only reason my period was still showing up, very lightly, was because of birth control pills. It was all a chemical reaction to a foreign substance I was taking as opposed to my body functioning as nature intended, giving me vital indications of health.
I did reach a number on the scale that scared me one day and decided that should probably be the end of it. But then I reached a couple more lower numbers, each time it scared me but it was also powerful and motivating.
When my mom and I decided to train for a marathon to celebrate her beating cancer for a second time, that’s when I finally started to feel more connected to living in Las Vegas. I was covering lots of miles and exploring the area I lived on foot, that deepened my understanding of where I lived and the surrounding community. But truthfully, I was in a fog. I don’t remember as many details of that first race as I wish I did… I just kind of moved through 26.2 miles in a trance. But I do remember the feeling as I crossed the finish… like I had accomplished something that was significant. And I knew I wanted to do it again!
That required that I take care of myself a little more, but in my mind it was only physical changes that needed to happen… i.e. I needed to eat more so I weighed more. And by “eating more” it was really a “scant bit more food”. I tried to gain weight, but my “goal” weight was still far below what is healthy, just an arbitrary number that the ED voice picked out for me. And by ignoring any of the emotional/mental battles associated with the ED, I wasn’t doing myself a lot of service.
The point where I spiraled back out of control was after my DNF. The gloom I felt was insurmountable. Yet I somehow had the strength to get help. (Not without the support of good people in my life: my husband, my mom and Alissa helped me so much with this.) I am glad that I got the help and made the call myself, my family was ready to send me to treatment and it makes a difference when you go in willingly as opposed to being forced. (I’ve seen the forced side in others and it’s harder.)
I’ve made a lot of progress… but I still have struggles. Every Sunday is a depression day for me, since I dread having to face my work week. Today I’m feeling kind of sad as this past week I’ve been reminded of just how fragile life can be. But I do have tools at my disposal to help me get past these feelings, several of these tools are people that I can reach out to. I’m getting better all the time. And I’m finally at a point where I’m FEELING all of my emotions and being much more in tune with my body. That is a huge accomplishment that I need to give myself credit for, since there is a large period of my life that was kind of a void.
I’m a work in progress, constantly evolving and figuring out the masterpiece that is me.