As I said in yesterday’s post, this week is going to be a theme of personal posts. Some will be light-hearted while others will not be. As I sit here preparing myself to type of this post, I am ready to admit my struggles but it still is not an easy task. I often spend a lot of my time worrying that I am going to let someone down and disappoint others. And this post should (you know how I feel about that word) be read knowing that this is my personal point of view. I cannot speak of how others feel or what they thought. This will also be a bit of a lengthy post, so if I were you, I would grab your coffee and settle in.
This is a post about my struggles with eating disorders. While I have never been diagnosed or gone to treatment for eating disorders, I did seek help in the form of counseling my junior year of undergrad. I also come from a psych background so I have some elementary knowledge of the diagnosis. I will not go into detail about my weight and habits I had, because honestly that’s one of the ways I “learned” how to fuel my eating disorder. I will not go into detail at all.
I don’t ever recall a time in my life that I wasn’t worried about my weight. I grew up with a scale in the bathroom and being conscious of gaining weight. I was often the smallest one around partly just because of my genetics and partly because as a kid I was so active. I don’t remember the day of the time that I looked in the mirror and decided that I was fat, but because I journaled throughout high school, I can admit that the first time I documented my desire to lose weight in an unhealthy way was the summer before my freshman year. And while those first few years were simply just a “diet”, I was laying the ground work for a hell I could never have imagined.
My senior year of high school, I decided to do a paper on body image for my college writing class. Through “research” for this paper, I found myself on these pro-ED sites that would disgustingly give tips. I remembered these types of websites from an Ellen or View or some daytime talk show I had watched one summer that featured two girls also battling eating disorders. So I got on them and created an account and started diving into my Hell version 1. During this time, I restricted my calories to a ridiculously low amount while spending hours in the gym just walking. And with every step I just kept thinking, “walk off all the calories, get rid of them” among other destructive thoughts. I started dropping weight and started restricting more and more and more. I was aware of what I was doing and recognized how weak I was. I was coming up on my senior season of tennis and wanted to have a good season. So I pulled myself out of the hole I was in and got myself out of the physical aspect of restricting. Years later, I would tell my counselor this information and watch her jaw drop. I was able to pull myself out of the physical danger I was putting myself in, but struggled much more with getting myself out of the mental mess I had made.
One of the most misconstrued attributes of eating disorders is that it is a mental disease just as much as it can be a physical disease.
When I entered college, I entered at a healthy weight. By Thanksgiving I had put on the typical Freshman 15. It was the first and only time in my life I have ever lived without a scale. I asked my mom if I could bring one of our scales from home that was broken back to my dorm with me and she said that was fine. This is the same scale that I would weigh myself around 20 times a day on the year before. My roommates and friends after Christmas break were also wanting to hit the gym more and lose some weight, so I joined. When my boyfriend at the time finally got worried enough about me after seeing me break down multiple times about my body and my hatred for what I saw in the mirror, he suggested I start going to counseling (seeing as it was free for students on my campus). I made one of the toughest calls I have made (which is strange seeing as I have a background in psychology but I still conform to norms that crazy people go to counseling) and set up and intake appointment. After that, I received my counselor assignment and was placed with a wonderful counselor who I saw weekly for a semester and then monthly for another semester. I got to the point where my counselor felt that I was ready to stop session and that I was “recovered”. I did a number of exercises to combat negative thinking and made solid strides in being proud and thankful for having a body that helped me do so many things I loved (at the time dancing and climbing).
But I being a manipulator, had manipulated my counselor, and if I am being honest myself. Within a year of leaving my counselor, I started down the path I call “The Worst Hell of My Life.” I started binging and purging. From the first time I successfully tried it and I flushed the toilet and got up to wash my hands and face and I saw this look in my eyes that scared me…I knew…I knew I was in major trouble. But I had no idea how bad it would get.
I moved to Kentucky for grad school, to a place where no one knew me. I was hoping to have a fresh, clean start. But I battled so much with being alone all the time, that I turned to my comfort-food. I would binge and binge and binge. Eating enough food to easily feed a family of 4 and then purge it up. I got the point where I could hardly keep food down that I was actually trying to eat and keep down. My knuckles were scraped up. My eyes were bloodshot. My face was swollen. My teeth were getting more and more sensitive. I went from hating the reflection I saw in the mirror to hating the girl I saw in the mirror. But nothing stopped me. Until I got more and more involved in my Graduate Assistant position in Wellness. Again, I pulled myself out of the danger I was in and started getting my act together. I started running more and being more conscious of my decisions. But it didn’t stop me from being triggered and falling right back into either restricting or binging and purging. I moved in with a few girls my second year of grad school and was able to see what being healthy is really like.
I’m not “recovered” and I realistically don’t think I ever will be. There are triggers all over waiting to happen. But I can handle and deal with my triggers much better now. That year that I lived with my roommates in Kentucky did more than help me keep my sanity, they saved me from my own personal hell, and I will never be able to thank them enough. Those days, weeks, months, and years that I spent suffering were some of the hardest in my life. And learning how to deal with my problems head on rather than comfort them with my ED tendencies is an on going process. From the age of 14 I have been conscious and aware of the fact that yes I do struggle but that doesn’t mean I cannot prevail.