It feels a little ridiculous to be back on this topic. But alas, here we are.
I struggled with disordered eating and body image, in various capacities, from the time I was 10 until I got pregnant with my daughter at 24; while I’d say I’ve been “recovered” for the past 7 years, in the physical sense – mentally, I’ve continued to struggle on and off with body image…though that is not something I want to pass down to my children, so like it or not, I’d made it a priority to be an example of health for them. To take care of my body. And to feed it.
But after suffering those severe anxiety attacks back in June, spending practically the entire month nauseous and/or without an appetite, and losing so much weight that I slipped back into the “underweight” category…I’m finding it hard to get myself back to a place of health.
It’s tempting, to have something I can have that level of control over again. And it feels good, to deprive myself. It feels good to be empty. It’s familiar. “Safe”.
I still remember the lengths I took to gain that control – that’s where it started, seeded in control over what went into my body (or rather, what didn’t). I don’t remember being concerned with my actual body/weight at all the first few years (which makes sense as I was prepubescent, the transition to concern over body image took hold during puberty). Skipping breakfast was easy enough, my dad left for work well before I even got up every morning and my mom worked night shift so she was always sleeping. I “packed” an empty lunchbox, with empty containers – and if my dad left lunch money out, I’d just slip it back into his coin jar. Sometimes I even went and sat in the bathroom during lunch, to avoid anyone noticing that I wasn’t actually eating. At home I was just “a picky eater”. And I “ate like a bird”. Those are the excuses my parents made for me, at least.
It evolved quickly, the obsession. I started counting calories. If I couldn’t calculate the exact calorie content, I wouldn’t eat it. I had safe foods I was comfortable with and unsafe foods that were just too much. I started pretending to eat – I’d sit and do my homework with a bag of chips or a box of crackers next to me, but, never touch them…I did ridiculous things like pour a bowl of cereal and then pour it back into the box after my parents had seen me “eating” it, or leave the peanut butter out on the counter after “making a sandwich”. We had this stationary bike, the calorie counter on it only went up to 999 before starting over – and I had this rule that I had to work off twice as many calories as I ate, unless it was less than 999…I still had to do at least 999; I would spend hours, every night, on that bike – I can’t tell you how many books I read, sitting there obsessively cycling.
And to this day, I still remember the first time I threw away food after pretending to eat it in my room. I still remember how ashamed I felt. But how I just couldn’t bear to put it in my body.
I remember my attempts at forcing myself to throw up – I wasn’t good at it though, so it was a short lived phase.
I obviously knew very well to be deceptive – so I must have, on some level, known that what I was doing was wrong from the very beginning…but I was too young to know that what I was doing was actually an eating disorder. It wasn’t until high school that I really fully understood what I was doing to my body, and it began to scare me. So it would come and go in waves, as I attempted to find balance between tides of control. And it continued in that way until I graduated.
I remember the first time I blacked out – I was in my high school dorm room, alone; I still remember waking up on the concrete floor, and how hard I cried, because I hated what I was doing to myself…yet I continued to find myself on the floor many more times over the years. In college, I didn’t even bother keeping food at home; I was working 10-12 hour shifts/5 days a week at the restaurant, so if I ate anything at all, I’d just make something there. I woke up one morning and immediately blacked out as soon as I stood up – which at this point wasn’t a big deal – but then I tried to get up, and I blacked out again…I had to crawl through the house, laying down every few seconds as I felt myself start to fade, because I was so weak that I literally could not stand up without blacking up. And because I didn’t keep food in the house, I had to call a friend to bring me something to eat – talk about humiliating. I just laid on the floor of the living room while I waited, because I couldn’t even sit up for an extended amount of time without feeling myself drift. She brought me soup and bread from Panera and sat with me all morning while I tried to eat. Logic would tell you that a body that’s starving would be quite accepting of food, but you’d be wrong; feeding a starving body is a slow and nauseating process.
I spent years avoiding food, obsessively exercising, taking diet pills, and pushing my body to it’s absolute limits…at my lowest I was in the 80s – skinny, but not sickly enough to draw attention; starving, but functional. Miserable, but unable to stop. Full of excuses, but void inside.
I was 96 the other day when I weighed myself & I can feel the scales tipping, my mind slipping – compromising and calculating, controlling.
I keep telling myself it’s fine, I can let myself have this, I need it…I won’t let it turn into something more, I’ll quit before that happens, I just need it for a little bit. Just like the alcoholic needs one more drink.