The Anorexia Reality: My Eating Disorder Saga Part 1
I'm writing this in different segments because trying to cram the whole story into one post would be difficult for the both of us! Plus, I want to break it up according to the stage of my journey, so each stage gets the attention it deserves and nothing goes unanswered...for your sake :)
Below is a set up for what turned into a 4 year battle with anorexia nervosa. I made this its own separate post because I think it's important to relay the idea that eating disorders don't just "start" one day. There is a history & that's why they are so difficult to battle. Knowing and understanding that can be unbelievably helpful for both the person going through an eating disorder and anyone attempting to help. But in saying that, I will say, my story has a happy & beautiful ending. Here's the set-up ...
First off, ask me why it's taken so long for me to tell my story & I'll give you a seemingly selfish answer--I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready because when I did recover and gain my life back, the last thing I wanted to do was give the thing that could have ruined my life any more attention. Feel me? It was so traumatic. I felt a sort of PTSD reaction anytime the word "anorexia" or "eating disorder" was said aloud--I needed time to get strong. So hi, here I am 8 years (post-diagnosis) later giving you the low dow, debunking the BS, and hopefully, giving anyone out there struggling a new, empowered spark of hope.
How it began:
People do not "choose" to be anorexic or bulimic... it sneaks up on them and takes them into a false-hostage guarded by a sick manipulation of their own mind. This was exactly the case for me, as it is for so many.
I grew up an overweight child (yes yes it's true) with an emotional relationship with food for as long as I could remember. I would eat for happiness...it was the dopamine release I could always count on. Food never failed me...when school, friendships and home life did.
School: I went to a Catholic school from the second through the eigthth grade that was starved of diversity and straight out of a Catholic School meme...except it was real life and their were 30 kids to a grade level...aka SAME 30 kids for 7 years. Primarily Caucasian & Asian, all the other little girls were tini tiny. Me? I was not. So, I loathed my body the moment I transferred into that school. Couple that with a stressed home life, no real outlet for expression, no consistent hobbies and you get the perfect platform to fixate on your flaws.
The Bomb: The real turning point happened when I was in the thick of puberty, at my horridly harsh Catholic school, very overweight, with very few friends and mounting anxiety from home and some boy, a "cool boy", told me I was fat...to my face.
I already knew it. It didn't come as a surprise. But it was the cherry on top.
To hear it aloud from another person was like hearing nails on a chalk board--donnnn't sayyy it! AHHHHH I already know!!! I felt out of control...it more than my mind could handle. Not because this particular person said that particular thing, but simply because it was the first time I had gotten the verbal confirmation of what was in my head--I sucked. Everything about me sucked! I wasn't smart enough, wasn't sporty enough, wasn't cool enough, wasn't a perfect daughter, wasn't wasn't wasn't--my brain felt sick.
I was DONE feeling less than enough and felt that one way I could achieve that enough-ness quality everyone else seemed to have was by attaining a body I was proud of. I thought, "I'll just loose my "beer belly," get thinner thighs, and then I'll gain some much needed confidence and no one will be able to call me fat again! HA! I can control that!"
Soooo that's what I set out to do--To loose some weight and gain control in the name of “fixing things” that I had the power to fix.
*Note, nowhere did I say I wanted to be the thinnest, or anorexic by any means--that's not a "choice." This is how it starts.
Not Being Enough:
I don't think I ever consciously thought, "I am not enough" but rather, in hindsight, it's clear that was the theme of my this terrible real-life movie. In every facet of my life, it seemed like things were not working the way they should. Home was stressful, and I couldn't fix it. School expectations were unreasonable and faculty were demeaning-and there was nothing I could do to fix that. Friendships were stressful because with 30 people to a class & cliques encouraged by the parents, fitting in had a narrow list of requirements. My body was gross is my opinion--It didn't look like everyone else's.
What I was longing for was validation.
Lack of Identity:
Along side all that was the fact that I lacked any real identity outside being the fat girl in class. I didn't play any sports, I didn't play an instrument, my grades were extremely average, and I certainly wasn't "pretty." So what was I?? We don't think much of this at age 12 or even at agev30. We only think of our identity when it is in question, which then forces us to either 1) recognize it or 2) realize we don't resonate with one. So long story short, I was subconsciously on the hunt for an identity other than being the average fat girl.
Seeking Control & Self-Improvement:
Again, nobody wants to be anorexic. It's not a mental state that one can sustain forever (hello #1 deadliest mental illness). It starts with just one little desire backed by a storage unit filled with deep rooted issues. So, that desire can be seen as a means to self-improve at first, though that self-improvement trail is not straight & narrow.
The Mental Hell:
As you can imagine, I had no ideas what the hell I was getting myself into. I didn't want to fear food, I loved food! I didn't want to think about my thighs and stomach all day in class, but that's where my mind would end up going. I didn't intend to isolate myself in my own head at age 12--but it was like stepping into quick sand. I didn't connect the dots myself as to what was going on because that's just not how it goes...everything is whirlwind and before you know it, your body's appearance and other people's perception of it rank number one on your list of priorities.
It was something to focus on...something all mine that no one could take from me. I could control it (or so I thought).
What I Wish I Knew:
It's so much easier to look back at circumstances and think "Omg, I should have totally done, thought, said x,y, & z" but that's pointless & doesn't lead to anything positive. Still, now that I'm recovered, there are so many things I would tell the girl who was just about to to slip in the hell of numbers, calories, and anxiety.
1) You are enough
2) Go ahead and self-improve. But do it for you & you only.
So if you are at this stage—the stage where you are feeling vulnerable and already have a poor relation ship with your body, read & sit with this:
Your feelings are valid. You are heard. You are enough today--because other people's opinions, good or bad, at the end of the day, will not make you feel better about yourself. You have to create that for yourself with self love.
What are you upset/anxious/frustrated/angry about?
It may take some time, but if you are at this stage, you’ll know and when you do, write it down. Get it out. Tell your mom or best friend or dog! Or even better, God. That’s your first step. Had someone connected the dots, which yes, is a lot to ask, between home stress, school stress, lack of an identity outside of school and a poor relationship with food, I MIGHT HAVE be able to stop it here❣️
Pt. 2 coming soon...
***As always feel free to ask questions & suggest anything for part two that you would like to hear/read!