My ED Story
I used to play these games with myself. “Don’t step on any cracks or you’ll fail your test tomorrow,” “Run to that mailbox by the end of the song or you’ll never get married,” “Walk around the hanging tennis ball in the garage 3 times on each side or you’ll eat too many calories today whether you plan to or not.”
My life was controlled by these games. They made me feel like I had control. Sometimes even now a scenario like this will pop up in my head. My OCD/ anxiety brain will try to come out and beat my rational brain, but I know now how to push it down.
Control. Numbers. 1200 150 180 x 6 700 500 210 170 x 3 / 4 1200 1200 1200 1200 1200 1200. 1200. Numbers made me feel safe. They made me feel like I knew what I was doing. If I could manipulate numbers, I could manipulate life. I wished life could be as simple as just numbers.
I wanted to stay a kid forever. I wanted to disappear.
I held everything in. No emotions because control. If I could control my emotions then I could control my life.
I remember how good it felt to eat “within my limits” and wake up the next day thinking I accomplished something. Another day of containment, another day of control.
It wasn’t about size. It was never about size. The DSM and the misconception that anorexia is always about size and “fatphobia” is false. I wasn’t scared of fat, I was scared of things that I didn’t have any power over.
I struggled silently for about a year and a half before anybody said anything about it. Anorexia was my own thing. Something I was really good at, and something nobody could take away from me.
Until the day that my mom had me step on the scale. She’d noticed finally (once summer clothes came out, spring of 2011- my sophomore year of high school) how emaciated I was. I immediately started defending myself. “I just pooped! It’s going to say a low number that’s not real! I haven’t had any water since last night! Don’t weigh me!” 106. 5’8. My mom’s tears. My horrifying satisfaction.
That summer was all about “recovery.” Every day a new doctor, therapist, nutritionist, etc. I wasn’t in it at all though. I gained the weight- I complied. But only because I knew that once everyone was off my back I could get back to my secret escape. My new form of games played with myself.
Junior and senior year my weight was stable. My mind was not. My struggle with anorexia was still present, but it didn’t show on the outside, and so nobody thought it was of any concern. Another misconception about anorexia.
It didn’t show again until my sophomore year of college. This time around exercise (particularly running) had come into the picture. I ran 5 miles each day. The amount I was eating seemed normal from an outside perspective. I ate peanut m&ms everyday. I drank on the weekends. It was a new level of tricking others.
On the inside though, I could feel my heart struggling to beat from the amount of stress I was putting on it. I could FEEL it hitting my hollow chest. I got a strange thrill from not knowing if just one more day of not eating enough would be enough to do something really bad. Something like a heart attack.
Déjà vu. Back on the scale. More tears, more satisfaction. Another summer of “healing.” A threat. “if you don’t gain x amount of pounds by the end of summer, you can’t study abroad in Australia.” A play on my own games, given to me by someone else. I knew the way around it though, I was smart. Water load. Sodium. Alcohol.
I weighed in okay. I went to Australia.
Australia is where I really decided that I wanted to heal for myself. I opened up to people and formed the deepest relationships with people I ever had. I told friends about my struggles. I was now on anxiety meds. I chose life over isolation. I chose friendship over loneliness. I chose travel and adventure and food and (maybe a little too much) drink.
Healing is a process, and one you have to choose for yourself. Nobody else can force you to recover. It’s a choice you have to make every morning when you wake up. Choose to treat yourself with respect and kindness. Choose to celebrate what your body can do and honor it when it needs rest. Choose to nourish your body with healthful foods but also your soul with ice cream and treats. Treat yourself like you would someone you love.
It’s crazy how many doors recovery opens up. It’s crazy that every day still (2 years later) I feel like I get better and better. Maybe that feeling will never end.
There was nothing magical that clicked in my brain to make me want to get better. I guess what I can gather is that I saw there was so much more to life than getting smaller and controlling everything. Sometimes the things you can’t control are the things that end up being the greatest. Vulnerability can bring pain and suffering, but also is the source of true joy.
Life is not as simple as numbers. It will never be, so there’s no use in trying to make the world fit into your own perfectly organized box. Let go of numbers and live.