Quiet has been my M.O. for the last 2 years of my life. In the spring of 2014 I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I thought I was hiding it fairly well and before that I was in denial that it was even a problem. But I am sure for most everyone who knows me knew that something was wrong. My family knew what was going on with me but I refused to tell my husband’s family for a long time. Outside of both of our families, there is still only a select few people who know what is going on with me. I have been scared to open up about my struggles. Already seeing myself as weak and a failure, I didn’t want others to see or think that as well. In short, I have been ashamed of the disorder I have been suffering. My life for the last couple of years has been a series of wars. Battles hidden inside and battles on the outside of me that led me down a path I thought was safe. But this path ultimately was a path to destruction of me and my happy life, but also all those involved in my life.
Off and on through my life I have struggled with my weight or what I perceived as weight issues. When I was in junior high I experienced my first diet which led to a bout of anorexia. Thankfully that phase was short lived; however from that time on I would be concerned about weight, body image, and confidence…basically a complete lack of self-esteem. Even when I met and married my husband who compliments me daily on who I am or tells me he loves me and thinks I am beautiful, I don’t believe it. I have grown into a woman who is in a constant state of comparison and not measuring up, OCD and perfectionism, criticism, guilt, shame, disgust, self-loathing, and a need for control over my life. These battles finally caught up with me a couple of years ago. What started off as a simple change in eating habits to lose a couple of pounds led into a downward spiral resulting in very controlled behaviors. Everything became very black or white. Either I “had it” or I didn’t have it at all. There were no short cuts, no skipping, and no slips. All of my rules came first. Food was restricted in portions, variety not to mention joy in eating. Exercise was done routinely with no short changing or variances except in increase. If there was a slip, guilt became my friend for the next few days. Food or the lack thereof and exercise became the only thing that was on my mind. I never had a number in mind to reach as far as weight went. I just knew that I could never go back up once I hit a number. So the scale number went down and what I thought would be a fix for body image, confidence and self-esteem never went up. The only thing that went up was my temper, lack of energy, anxiety, depression, guilt and fear.
What I had was an eating disorder…an eating disorder that will be heretofore named ED. But what I didn’t know I had…was an eating disorder. I thought this was just me. This was just who I was and what I did. Even when others were telling me I was too skinny and showing concern I took it as a compliment and an encouragement to keep going. When it became harder to keep up with my rules, my restrictions and my behaviors, I added more behaviors…like laxatives. But I surely didn’t have an eating disorder because I “ate”, I didn’t “abuse” exercise and I certainly didn’t throw up! But in actuality I had a love affair with ED. ED was slowly creating and cultivating me into an affair with him. He became my priority over my husband and my girls. He became a priority over any joy that I had in my life.
ED would serve as a mask to numb out and cover up any deeper issues that I was not facing let alone dealing with. My affair with ED was not a choice I made. It was not out of vanity, pride, self-importance or narcissism. In my journey of healing what I have come to discover is that ED was masking all of my inner issues making me believe all was right with me.
ED has no parameters. His victims are not always clearly identifiable. His approach and pick up lines are always different. He victimizes male and female, old or young, big or small. ED snuggles in with people pleasers, perfectionists, people who are in-tuned to others thoughts and feelings and who carry those thoughts and feelings along with their own. He holds hands with people who have trauma in past events no matter how significant only that it is significant to that person. He loves self-sacrificers and care takers and those who physically harm themselves. Often times ED will put his hands in the pockets of your “genes” and run away with you. ED made you believe he was helping you to cope. He made you feel safe, secure and loved in his “way” and on his “terms”. If you tried to break free from him he would form walls around you. He would be loving and kind when he got his way or he would be verbally and physically abusive if he didn’t. He was enticing and coaxing one moment and lying to you the next moment to make you stay. He would tell you how “good” you are doing or when you were weak and a failure. He would tell you that you would suck at life if you left him or didn’t follow his counsel. And the worst of it… you believe him! ED doesn’t care if you were born to have him in your life or whether you were brought together by circumstances, he only cares if he gets to hold you tight throughout your day.
The process of healing and breaking free from ED involves re-training the mind in regards to food, body and self-esteem image, but it also involves confronting and dealing with the underlying issues, events or circumstances that the individual experienced(s). Enter The Center for Change. June 1, 2015 I was admitted to the CFC in their Intensive Day Outpatient Treatment Program. I came to the center very reluctantly. My decision ultimately was based on the fact that I didn’t want to drive my husband and my kids away from me but also that I needed to set a different example for my girls to see. What was my example setting them up for in the future? My first couple of weeks there was challenging to say the least. With my ED affair still hanging on and the fact that I compared myself to the girls at the center…I still didn’t really think I had an eating disorder. How quickly those thoughts would change to reality in a few short weeks. Being at CFC I learned a lot about myself and how I had gotten myself into an alliance with ED. After being in the outpatient program for 2 weeks I was admitted as an inpatient because my QT’s on my EKG (an acquired heart condition in which delayed repolarization of the heart following a heartbeat increases the risk of episodes of torsade’s de pointes (TdP, a form of irregular heartbeat that originates from the ventricles)) grew even more prolonged and in conjunction with my electrolytes being out of whack and a very low pulse the medical staff felt I was at risk for my heart stopping. Being admitted to inpatient treatment was so the staff could monitor me 24/7, literally, to make sure I was still breathing. They routinely did checks on you to see that you were still breathing every 15 minutes. In short my body and my heart had been affected by ED. I would stay as an inpatient for 2 weeks before being released back to outpatient treatment. My treatment at that center was a 3 month journey through which re-feeding and receiving better nutrition and rest the medical staff hoped all would be reversed in time. Eating disorders affect hormonal changes, heart problems, electrolyte imbalances, fertility, bone density loss, anemia, neurological problems and a host of other complications which if continued could lead to death.
My healing is still in the works. I receive therapy and speak with a dietician once a week. I have medical staff following up with me. I have to follow a meal plan to keep me on track to not let ED slip back in. ED and my OCD are hooking up and throwing big parties on my behalf which has made healing tricky. The best article I have read about what it looks like during recovery is this attached article. http://middlegroundmusings.com/what-an-eating-disorder-in-recovery-sounds-like/. This is exactly what my recovery has looked like right down to the very last period. I currently am dealing with a setback. I don’t believe it is a full re-lapse, but behaviors have crept back in which has resulted in weight loss. New behaviors have developed which has resulted in not being able to function during meals unless everything is measured out in measuring cups. Fear that “giving a little” will lead down a road to weight gain makes me restrict and try to hold onto a very tight rope of what I perceive of as control. I watch people eat and feel so jealous of how freely they eat that I am miserable. I am currently battling a relationship with ED again. I have one foot in and one foot out of the boat. I am currently battling with being “fine” with my eating disorder or thinking I don’t have one. My dietician, therapist and my husband want me to enter back into the center for a “tune-up” and to re-learn appropriate portion sizing and to function without measuring cups. This I am refusing to do because I don’t want to up-root my kids, my husband and his job and our extended family who would need to change their lives to help out with my kids when my husband has to go to work. I am refusing because of the financial burden it is to my family to be at the center. My recovery has been a long and complicated journey. Despite the setback and the ups and downs of recovery, it has been a journey that has been informative and life changing. I am learning a better way to eat and enjoy eating without dieting ever again. I am learning to live and embrace life and to love, self-care, forgive and be gentle with myself. I am learning to find new and healthier coping skills and to find my passion. During the times that I am fully living my recovery, I am enjoying my girls and my husband and feeling that connection I have missed for the last couple of years. I have felt truly loved, supported and blessed and watched out for through it all.
I am writing this as a way to help me be accountable and get myself back on the wagon of recovery. I am also writing this in the hopes that it might help someone else who is suffering from this mental disease. It is a disease not a choice. I am writing to prove to myself and to others that there is no reason to be ashamed of this disorder and to keep quiet about it. We need help and there is no reason to not seek it out. We are worth getting better. We deserve to be happy and to love ourselves. Just like a person who has cancer and needs to see a doctor, take medicine and receive treatment to beat the disease, eating disorders, and any mental illness for that matter, needs the same attention and treatment for it. I need to remind myself daily as I face my fears at least 6 times a day that food is my medicine and I deserve to have it.
Attached are some links if you would like to learn more about ED and kick him out of your life or the life of someone you love.