Lets be real: No one really understands the pain and damage of an eating disorder
Hey, I had one and I still struggle to understand it, explain it, and comprehend it. It’s probably something that is completely different for every single person so don’t take this as the eating disorder Bible. My Ed (yes, I call him Ed and he was an abusive lover in my life) changed with the years and morphed so that he would always find a way to fit into my life. I never had plans for this blog to be about him (asshole), but I can’t help it. His damage is heavy on my heart and if maybe I can help someone get some sort of glimpse into the mind of a victim, this post was worth writing.
First, misconceptions about eating disorder. Because the fact is so many people are confused about what really goes one.
1. Being physically, sexually, emotionally abused is a pre-requisite for getting an ED.
False. In fact, I had never been abused in my life; I was hardly ever even punished. I was the apple of my parents eye and was loved each and every day of my life. Each time I had a new therapist (and there was 5 so I’m pretty experienced) there was non-stop questions concerning whether my parents hurt me, neglected me, or paid attention to me. Despite how well my parents raised me, nurtured me, provided for me, ED still found his way into our family. I let him in. I had this unrelenting need to be perfect. I didn’t love myself enough to stop him. So, while in some cases parents may carry some of the blame, many (and most of the people I know who suffered) found ED despite their parents.
2. Being superficial is not the root of an eating disorder.
When I looked at people who were heavier than me, I can honestly say I never ever judged them and thought I was better off. I was jealous of them. I couldn’t imagine myself ever loving the body I was in enough to be able to enjoy life and not worry. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to eat enough food without a panic attack. I would have given anything to not be “skinny” or “thin” but I felt chained in the prison of anorexia.
3. You are only anorexic if you never eat.
False. I ate every single day of my life and usually had three meals a day with one or two snacks. However, I was critically anal to make sure I ate an amount of calories each day that I deemed safe (At my worst it was at a meer 800 calories). For a long time, I could fool my friends and family that I was trying to get better because I ate. But if you took a closer look at my meals, the 1.5 ounce of dry chicken and half cup of dry rice with plain vegetables was anything but “normal”. I wind up losing close to 15 pounds even though I ate 3 meals a day and snacks as directed by a certified dietitian. It wasn’t a fast metabolism. It was ED, fooling everyone.
4. Those with eating disorder’s don’t think about food or like food.
False. First off, all people like food (um, hello survival). That would be ridiculous otherwise and anorexic are no different. I was obsessed, anxious, hateful, and longing for food at the same time ALL the time. I constantly counted calories, planned future eats, and doubted and regretted everything I ate. I would find myself using the excuse “I forgot” to eat or bring a snack but in reality those were calculated moves that I had planned. I spent all my times in class thinking of food and would even tune out during conversations to long for food. I began to even dream of food each and every night. I knew my life would never be fulfilling when I was tutoring a boy one day and had to have reread a whole story because I had stopped paying attention to think of my lunch. What kind of teacher, friend, daughter, or even acquaintance could I be if I couldn’t participate in conversation because I was thinking of a food?
5. The worst physical manifestation is ribs sticking out.
False. My ribs did stick out, even the ones in my back, but that was the least of my problems. My reproductive system was the first to shut down before anything else. Let’s not even get into the dangers of that and the ramifications that has on my future family plans. Here are the cold hard facts about what a starving body goes through: My hair turned dull and fell out in clumps. In fact, it still has not returned to its prior fullness. I normally would lose feeling in my fingers and toes. My mouth had sores in it. I began to grow “fur” on my face, stomach, and thighs. My toenails and nails were so thin, it hurt to push on them. The white of my eyes were turning yellow and my skin was grayish. I had permanent dark circles under my eyes even though I slept like a newborn. I was light-headed most the time. My butt bones were sticking out so far they were causing sores on my skin. However, even if a person isn’t below body weight, they may still show all of these symptoms. some or none. Everyone’s body reacts differently to it.
—> I could go on and on about but for now, those are my top misconceptions that may make people believe they don’t date ED or know someone who does when really they are in deep relationship. The reason I think talking about what really goes on with an ED is because so many people try to fit ED’s into a mold. “She isn’t thin enough” “She eats at times” “She’s too smart to do that”. No. Don’t believe that. Believe me, a survivor… Ed comes in all shapes and sizes.
Let me state this now, ED is an asshole. I probably shouldn’t curse, maybe it looks unprofessional, but it’s true and calling him a “butthead” just wouldn’t do. He is a manipulative, tricky asshole. He can easily control your life and ruin it when given the chance. And like anyone other jerk-off ex-boyfriend, when you try to get rid of him, he makes you believe you need me. He got me good. Real good.
–The following will have pictures of me from when I was sick and if you are suffering with ED still I know these may become a trigger. Please read with discretion. Do not believe by my account with ED that you should be sicker, aren’t sick, or that I wasn’t sick.–
It would be incredibly tough for me to state all the ways ED effected, tortured and ruined my life when I let him in. It was endless. His power somehow extended everywhere. The list is endless but to prove his distraction, I narrowed down the 5 worst things that came with having an eating disorder and went into details.
1. The pain.
Not the emotional and spiritual pain but the physical pain. Yes, I dealt with hunger pains on a daily basis as well as horrible headaches but the pain was much deeper than that. It hurt to sit. It hurt to walk. It hurt to lay down. It hurt to stand. My every bone was rubbing; I had no way of protecting my body. If someone tried to tease my by pushing me or poking me, I would immediately get tears in my eyes due to the shooting pains. Did I mention I was 20 years old?? But the worse was, it hurt to be hugged. No one would even try. I went at least 8 months without a real hug from my family or friends because I was skinny. Let me tell you now, everyone needs a hug.
Mine was with my father but ED has been known to ruin many others. All the relationships suffered in my life, not one was saved from his terror, but with my father it was amplified. The summer I spent home under the watchful eye of my parents, ED systematically demolished my relationship with father. While I can sit here and say it was because he doesn’t accept or understand mental illness, lets look at it from his point of view. I was his baby, the angel girl who never put a foot wrong. He was my daddy, the man who was suppose to be able to save me from anything. I came home physically and mentally starving and refused to eat anything more than ED told me too. He wanted me better yesterday. He couldn’t understand how I couldn’t love myself enough to nourish my body and mind. He couldn’t save me from myself. He was useless. I was sick and depressed with no energy to try to even try to salvage our relationship or explain ED’s control. For months, we lived in the same house never talking. While the relationship has changed since ED is no longer welcomed in my life, nothing will change the summer ED turned his little girl into a monster.
3. Always being cold.
I was cold everywhere. I was cold in the stores,I was cold in class, I was freezing in my own home. Being cold ruled my life. I would drink cups and cups of teas just to be able to hold something warm. I slept each night with a heating pad so that I could fall asleep without shivering. My toes, fingers, and toes would turn blue the minute I took my clothes off to get in the shower. This was living in FLORIDA!!!! I spent a day in the Bahama’s shivering uncontrollably because I was wearing a bathing suit. In the below picture, I hope you don’t just notice the bones all over my body sticking out but the odd color my lips are.
I lost my spontaneity once I decided that working out and consuming the least amount of calories a day possible was more important than anything. From then on, going out, eating with friends, and pretty much all other aspects of my life were controlled by ED. I woke up at 6:30 in the morning to run each day and from that moment one, everything was revolved around burning and eating calories. It didn’t get any better once I was put on a food plan and restricted from running. If it said to eat one cup of cereal at 8 a.m., it was going to happen without fail. I ate the same foods everyday. Boyfriend wanted to take me out to dinner? No way, I had plans with ED! Friends wanted to grab ice cream? Sorry, me and ED had plans to meticulously plan out the next days menu instead. Yes, I was finally the thinnest I had ever imagined I could be but I also missed out on at least a year and half of college. Do you know how much money was wasted? How many memories I missed out on? Who I could have met? Try to imagine this and NOT be bitter.
5. Wanting to plan a future.
When I lost my period, I knew things would be hard in the future. My body was telling me I wasn’t right to have children. I agreed because I knew I wanted to be thinner. At first I thought that maybe being thinner would make me feel like I could somehow prove (to I don’t know who) I was strong enough to bring life into this world. I quickly realized I couldn’t bring anybody else into the hell I was living and I would never be able to teach a child how to love their bodies and be healthy. (I still have trouble imagining bringing a girl into this world since I never know how far away ED is.) Then I realized I couldn’t be married. It was bad enough I was dragging my amazing boyfriend of three years into this dark life, but to make it permanent? No one deserved that. Not to mention that then somebody would always be around, see me eat, and expect to eat with them. I couldn’t make meals for someone else: I would never allow someone I love to eat as I ate. It was not possible to live with ED and a partner, just not enough room. Didn’t even dream of it. The last straw was when I doubted being a teacher. My life long dream. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to stand in front of a classroom, plan a lesson, let alone convince a principal to hire me, who looked as if a gust of wind would take me away. Below is a picture from teaching and I remember this whole day I was feeling FAT and planning on how to eat only 150 calories till dinner. I was miserable and couldn’t concentrate on the crafts with the kids. It was pathetic. When I realized I may have to eat lunch with my students or be prompted to partake in class parties, I threw in the towel. My future would be plagued with ED.
But I am proud to say I am a survivor of this war.
And I have the tattoo to prove it. That’s my ED recovery symbol that reminds me each and everyday of what I went through, where I was, and where I am going. I wear it with confidence and would proudly tell anyone who asked me what it was and meant. Mostly, it is for me though. To help keep ED out. You can’t exactly become anorexic when you have that on your wrist!
What saved me? The boyfriend? Who stood by my side, let my cry on his shoulder, pushed me to test boundaries and most importantly loved me when I couldn’t love myself. My mom? Who sat hours with me, helping to separate ED from Alaina. My best friend? The girl who suffered from the same horror day in and out and still always knew the exact right thing to say to bring my down from an ED high. My soon-to-be-born nephew who was going to need a role model, an Aunt, and I needed to be around? The therapists, dietitians, teachers, friends, family who all tried to help me in their own way each and every day? I could honestly not narrow it done to just five but so many things contributed to it. My road to recovery wasn’t easy but living with ED was a nightmare.
After writing this post it reminds me just of the pain I went through. I would hope that in my life I could save someone from suffering or succumbing. No one can fight ED alone. So here I am, ready to knock that f’er out for anyone who needs me to.