About a year ago, I was explaining to a friend why I was inspired to blog about my eating disorder. I told him how easily frustrated I am by people who don’t understand eating disorders and go around making them sound like a lifestyle choice, not an illness. My blog is meant to help others understand my past, but most importantly the complexity of ED.
After my explanation, this friend asked, “doesn’t the fact that it bothers you what people say about eating disorders mean you’re not really over yours?”
Mortified by his assumption, I immediately began to argue that it’s simply a passion of mine since I don’t want to see others judged or go through what I have. My response was 100% true, but what I didn’t want to admit at the time was just how right he was as well. Yes, I am recovered in a sense that I am eating, have finally stopped binging, and accept my body and self as I am. However, as recovered as I may be, I am not over my ED. The thing is, I may never be, and that is okay!
At the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Conference, a friend and I were speaking to a mother of a young girl who had recently come out of treatment for her eating disorder. As she questioned us about our recovery process, I eventually said, “My ED may be something I battle everyday the rest of my life.”
The mothers draw dropped open, and with horror in her eyes she asked, “everyday?”
I looked over at my friend and together we nodded ‘yes.’ We went on to explain how we obviously don’t know if it’s something that we will be battling twenty years from now, but it’s hard to imagine that there will be a day, especially in the near future, where I don’t battle some obstacle related to my ED.
It probably seems silly to many, but I often fear that the day I turn my back to it all, may just be the day I relapse. So instead of moving on and ignoring the thoughts and feelings I have from day to day, I embrace them and use them as a reminder of all I have overcome!
I am not what I have done, I am what I have become.
INSIDE THE HEAD OF A RECOVERED ANOREXIC & BINGE EATER:
- With my binge eating being my most recent struggle, it seems to be what i deal with the most. In my past, when I would binge eat, I would tell myself, “this is the last time you will eat unhealthy. Your diet starts tomorrow!”When I’m left alone at home or sneaking a midnight snack before bed, I have to remind myself that when I wake up, I will get to eat again so that I will stop when I am full. Binge eating crosses my mind all the time. I can’t imagine a person not dreaming of being able to eat whatever they want and as much as they want. The only difference between most people and me, is that most don’t do it, while I spent over two years doing just that most evenings. So I know, if I lose control just one night, it could easily turn into one year before i know it.
Luckily I’ve grown pretty comfortable with my body, so even on my most bloated days, I don’t consider that I may need to lose weight. Therefore the desire to be anorexic rarely crosses my mind. But like everyone, skipping meals does happen from time to time. While most adults would applaud themselves for skipping a meal, I often get a rush from it which later turns into a minor panic attack.
Sometimes if I go long enough without eating (usually happens because I get busy or distracted), my hunger turns into adrenaline; I suddenly would rather go for a jog than listen to my growling stomach and make a sandwich. While not eating for a day would not kill me, if I let myself go down that path, it could kill me a year from now. Therefore, I never let myself get to that point. If I skipped lunch due to work or school, I ignore my urge to keep working through the evening and run to food the minute I have the opportunity.
- When I work out in a gym or go for a jog, the ED in my head often returns; luckily it doesn’t take over my mind like it used to. A few years ago the ED in my head would scream at me and convince me that I shouldn’t stop running until my legs were shaking and my head was dizzy from exhaustion. Even then, if I hadn’t lost a good sum of weight according to the scale by the end of my workout, I would head to my bedroom for push ups, crunches, and yoga.A year ago when I would be jogging or working up a sweat on the treadmill, the Ed in my head would begin screaming at me, saying I haven’t burned enough calories to stop. Back then, I would have stopped immediately and left the gym with tears in my eyes. I hated that I couldn’t get ED out of my head! However, today I’m strong enough to fight back. I repeat to myself, “I will stop when I feel like it. I am fine as I am; I don’t need you to change or challenge me. I have defeated you! Go away!” Eventually, my mind stops fighting, and I can continue on with my work out ED free.
- While battling both anorexia and binge eating, the thoughts, “how will I ever work all this off” haunted me with every bite I ate. Basically I have lived the past six years of my life worried about burning off the food I eat. However, for the first time in a long time I sat down at a cafe just the other day, with a chocolate muffin in front of me and enjoyed every bite without a worry of how I will work it off. I couldn’t stop the thought from popping in my head, but when it did, I simply took a deep breath and reminded myself that I am young and healthy. Jogging every bite off is not healthy. Enjoying good, even sweet and sugary foods from time to time is healthy!
- Anxiety plays a major role in the reason I had both my eating disorders. To this day I struggle with high anxiety problems that I wish I could make go away. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an off switch on my back that could help me control the stress and anxiety I deal with from time to time. But since there is no off switch, I have to deal with it as it comes.One of the main reasons I began binge eating was because I used food to deal with my anxiety. Instead of coping or dealing with my it…I used food to numb the sharp pains that stress would send through me. When I was anorexic, I did the exact opposite. Instead of eating the pain away though, I would starve myself so I could feel in control of something since I seemed to have no control over my anxiety.
Today I am still at a loss on how to ease the pain or sudden outburst that I get when I’m overwhelmed. However, I have learned what triggers my anxiety most, and I do all I can to avoid putting myself in a situation where my anxiety will get the best of me. Unfortunately, anxiety does sneak up on me from time to time, and when it does I put up a mighty struggle with myself NOT to use food as medicine to make the pain go away. I would be lying if I said I have not come close to losing control time and time again when I find myself stressed or overwhelmed; luckily, I know that when I wake up tomorrow the pain will only be worse if I go through with a binge.
- My biggest ED challenge that I face today is the scale. When a nurse weighs me, I have to remember to jump on the scale backwards so I cannot see the number. When I see a scale in a friends bathroom, I have to fight the urge to sneak a peek at how much I weigh. The scale was once my obsession and honestly it could easily be again. Standing on a scale seems so harmless until you let it define your worth. I don’t need to know my BMI to know if i’m healthy, and the last thing I need is for a scale to give me a number that I will see in the mirror next time I take a good look at myself. The number on the scale came really close to destroying me once; the last thing I need is for it to ever take over my mind again. Even if that means ignoring the strange looks from the nurses when I ask them to keep my weight and BMI to themselves. I would much rather go through life not knowing my weight, than let weight take my life away.
You may read this and simply think I’m obviously still obsessed with food and working out and that is the reason I battle with my ED everyday. Well…what can i say, you are right! But I’ve decided that it is okay. I’ve been told, again and again, ED is a life long battle; so I know my daily struggle with ED is nothing I should be ashamed of. I’m okay with considering a binge, as long as I don’t do it. And I do not mind if I skip a meal here or there, as long as I eat at the next one.
Recovered alcoholics face alcohol everyday when they see it at a restaurant or on the television. No one judges them when they are still playing it safe several years down the road by avoiding alcohol as much as possible. Why should someone who has recovered from an ED be magically okay every time they see food? We face food not only once a day, but several times a day. We cannot just avoid it, because we need it to survive. That’s what makes eating disorders the most fatal mental illness there is. Not only can we not survive when we are not eating or using food to abuse our body, but we can’t avoid or escape our biggest fear when we are trying to recover.
The ED in my head is still there! I can pray and wish him away all I want, but he doesn’t seem ready to go. I have finally come to terms with the fact that there is nothing I can do about it. I have had to learn how to fight him and how to talk myself out of listening to him. It takes a strong, motivated person to starve themselves, but it takes and an even stronger person to stand up to the ED in their head that has had control of them for years. I’m thankful God blessed me with that kind of strength! Most importantly, I’m ready to battle the ED in my head for as long as it takes.