I’m pretty sure none of the people who are reading my blog would have ever thought they’d end up on a page like this. These are the kinds of links in Google Search that we normally tend to avoid, for obvious reasons: they make us feel queasy and uncomfortable and guilty about pitying or not pitying the people that run them… Anyway. The point is that articles and pages about disorders, and I’m talking disorders in general, are mostly avoided because of the social and psychological awkwardness they cause.
See, I was one of those people. I was worse, actually, because not only did I avoid forums about illnesses like these, I also lived under the assumption that these so-called patients had gotten what had been coming to them. It was their fault, in my mind, and I laughed at the people who’d done awful things to themselves, just deeming them unstable, idiotic, and simply batshit crazy.
My name is M and I am in recovery from an eating disorder.
The irony of that sentence just gets to me every time, first off because I actually do have an ED, which is something a perfectionist such as myself never thought she would have gotten in the first place; but also because I am teetering on a very sharp edge and can’t quite exactly tell where self-destruction starts and recovery begins.
For the past few weeks, I have moved into a new reality, a reality that has always been normal to some extent but has now become extremely stressful. See, when people say, oh, just go back to eating normally, you smile forcedly and give them a nod when on the inside, dread is coating your shrunken stomach because you just don’t remember what it’s like to eat normally.
I am not a special case. In reality, I have always thought of myself as intriguing or unique but when it came to getting an ED, I was as standard as a textbook Jane Doe. Long story short, moved out of my parents’ house, came to college in a different country, to an American university, no less, and gained my Freshman Fifteen in a semester. Well, it was more like Freshman Eleven, but when my jeans stopped buttoning up around my hips, I knew something else was up. When I came home that winter, the first thing my mom said to me as I walked out of the arrivals gate was: oh, gosh, your face is so round! That was when I knew I was in trouble. Not only did I not feel up-to-par physically, I felt horrible about my body: I was just as plump as my plumpest friends and that killed me because I had never, ever been “the fat girl.”
When Spring semester rolled around, I decided to change my life and become what I always wanted to be. Yeah, take a load of that irony. I signed up for the swimming pool and went on a very low-calorie diet – something that I now, of course, regret deeply, – and I was amazed at how easy it was to do it all: study, work out, not eat. My self-control, which was my pride at the time, is now my worst enemy. I would eat a dash of cereal for breakfast, spinach for lunch and something light for dinner. I started drinking 2-3 liters of water a day, which boosted my metabolism. I was on top of the world when by May I dropped down to my original weight and even a little bit further towards the zero on the scale. During this whole time, I had the support of my family and friends, who marveled at my self-control. They knew perfectly well I was having trouble with my intestines, I was constantly reliant on natural and unnatural laxatives, and that I hadn’t had my period for months.
As you can probably tell, that’s when I started going off the deep end – all the while with the support and encouragement of people, myself, euphorically drunk on my own success, and the numbers on that bathroom scale that just kept going down, down, down, lower and lower into depths I’d never dreamed off.
Summer was pretty slow to begin with, so as I got bored, my hunger for fitness got worse. I started going to the pool when I came back home in May, three times a week, then four, then every day. It was easy to slip out of bed at 6 a.m. and go on a six-kilometer stroll to the fitness center, spend an hour there on intensive training and walk back uphill before breakfast. Of course, it was sunny and warm, so I got pretty parched, therefore I drank water. More and more until I felt like the day wasn’t complete if I hadn’t consumed at least 3 liters before breakfast, and then some throughout the rest of the time. The funny thing was that I didn’t feel weak at all, instead, I was powerful, beautiful, amazing in the eyes of those who’d known the lazy couch-potato I’d been all my life. Not to say I was “fat” or anything, but before that I’d had as little to do with fitness as possible. My mom had to drag me to the pool on the weekends and I used every possible excuse to stay at home – even homework.
But now, “health” took over my life. It was all I wanted to be, all I wanted to do, and, consequentially, all I ended up thinking about during the day, from the moment I woke and until I collapsed onto my bedsheets. My life became a long stream of obsessions, including, but not limited to:
- posting my weight online along with Instagram photos of scales and how my pants are loose around my waist;
- drinking a certain amount of water before a certain time;
- eating at specific hours (it became ridiculous, I waited for seconds to pass until 9, for example);
- reducing my portions and calorie value of said portions. I ended up eating matsoh bread for dinner;
- counting calories, buying fat-free products, sugar-free stuff;
- chewing gum (at first to stave off the hunger, then… well, it was an obsession, wasn’t it? Not really counting on rationality here): I chewed 2-3 packs a day at my worst;
- walking 15K+ steps a day (I had a pedometer);
- going to the gym;
- the list just goes on and on from there.
Even though now is my lowest point in weight, I believe that was my lowest point in life: not realizing I was destroying myself, my body, my psyche, and my social connections, and just patting myself on the back for making the worst mistake I’d ever made.
My mom and I went to Thailand to scuba dive in July, something we do on a regular basis, and that trip was chock-full of warning signs that we either were blind to, or simply chose to ignore. I froze in two wetsuits even though the water was 29° Celsius (84° Fahrenheit), nearly threw a fit when I realized the hotel breakfast buffet didn’t offer fat-free yoghurt options, gave my mom ultimatums: If you won’t eat that, neither will I, and so on. All the while the scales at the local pharmacy told me I was gaining weight, but let’s face it: I was chugging down so much water I practically grew gills, because I had the excuse of dehydration, the worst thing that could happen to a diver (I’d actually experienced it before, it was awful).
That was when it set in completely – the obsession with if I don’t do X every single day, Y will not work. Water was no longer life-sustaining, it was the hinge of my sanity. Chewing gum was a routine. Not eating was that X that I needed to survive every day within the comfort zone of my eating disorder.
That comfort came crashing down when a week before I was supposed to go to college, my mom saw what the scales read. She’d seen it before but, just like me, had been blinded by my “happiness” and ignored it for the sake of her brilliant child. And when she became terrified, suddenly so was I. After two days of crying and persuading her not to pull me out of school, a consultation with a specialist, two blood tests and a lot of nervous breakdowns, I am back to university, living in my own apartment, and trying to balance my way through college and food.
I didn’t want to be the girl that gave up, the one that everyone would talk about, that she dropped out of school because she had anorexia (yes, I said it). I turned into the girl that everyone was concerned about: everyone who knew me before the summer, including my boyfriend (who has been amazingly supportive and sane throughout this whole thing, although I realize how taxing it must be for him as well), my professors, random people I saw at the hall gates… Suddenly everyone became so concerned. I’m the center of attention and I hate it. I hate the questions and the whispers, and the remarks, and the glances and… Ugh. I just want to stand at the top of the world and scream: I don’t want your f*cking concern now, where were before, when I was sane enough to accept it? The answer is, they weren’t. Because nothing made me stand out like my jutting bones do now. And that is the reality I live in.
I started eating only to realize how much my stomach volume has reduced: a sandwich for lunch makes me feel full and delirious, I can’t concentrate on classes and everything is a daze. So I am forced to resort to supplements and protein shakes.
I stopped walking so much and took off my pedometer. Not having the numbers there helps a lot, but it’s hard because numbers were another ledge I hung on to in my ED comfort zone.
I stopped drinking water so much only to realize I was so addicted to it I didn’t even think about the amount of liquid I was consuming. The same goes for the chewing gum. The same goes for everything.
I am trying to find the balance between gorging on high-calorie small portions and low-calorie big portions.
This is my story.