It speaks

During my second or third round of attempting to get into a full recovery, I began to get really frustrated. My mom was pretty much the only reason I was trying to get better. She would lay off me for a while, and then try to get me back into recovery mode full force. Today, I am thankful for her encouragement and forcefulness. Without her, who knows where I would be. But at the time, I would get so angry that she was trying to help me. She didn’t know what I was going through, who was she to try to make things better when all I wanted was for everything to slowly get worse and fall away? Sometimes I would say things that I really, truly felt and meant, but when I voiced them, she would respond “That’s just the eating disorder talking”.

I remember one time I was making spaghetti for all of us for dinner. Somehow we got on the topic of me and my issues, and I told my mom that I didn’t feel like I belonged in our family. “I never have, I feel like I’m not like the rest of you. Some thing’s wrong, I’ve always felt different. I don’t belong. I’m not the same as all of you.” She asked me if I really felt that way, if I had really always felt that way. “Yes!” I replied. “I think I’ve always known I’m different. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here.” I couldn’t place these feelings. I really felt them though. and I often still do. It’s like I’m on the outside looking in, but it is so much more than that. At times I used to feel like I should have never been born. I know that my mom meant well, that she was trying to help me identify my legitimate thoughts from the more illogical ones. But it really pissed me off when she said that kind of thing. My eating disorder did have a voice, but this one wasn’t it. This one was real, and I felt like she was just brushing it off as lunacy. Some of my ideas may have come from the depths of my depression, and the voices inside my head, but sometimes when I really think about it, I still feel sure of what I said that day. I have never fit in. I have never felt normal (well, ever since I became self-aware). Some days I feel all right about my differences, and others I worry that maybe my whole life is a lie.

I’m not trying to pick on my mother in this post. Far from it. Without her love and care and listening ear, I would be a mess. But I am trying to say this: if you are fortunate enough to be the one someone in crisis turns to for advice, or just to talk to, please, please hear them out. Love on them, listen to them, care for them if they will allow it (and maybe even if they won’t). They may not be ready to admit it, but they need it. They need you. We need you. My mom listened so many times. She hugged me even when I resisted. She prayed over me, even when I was audibly asking the devil to come and stay in my presence. And I don’t think she knows how much this meant, how much this means599a4e251b6623aa46e7409004b38f18

Losing her religion

She was brought up in a household where God was the creator of the universe. He was to be worshiped, thanked, praised. She  went to church on Sundays, and youth group on Wednesdays. One time she went to church camp (something she had always wanted to do.) God was her savior, and her best friend. He was to be feared, and loved. At night, she prayed to her God, and told him all of her fears, dreams, and plans. This relationship was something that was hers alone, and also those around her. She believed that reading her Bible every day was right, and lying was wrong. She prayed before most meals, and even made a point to do it when she was out to eat. She wanted people to quietly observe her faith, and admire it, like a shiny bobble on a chain. It was beautiful, priceless, and not to be touched. It was sacred.

Then something happened. She started to see things in a different light, but she wasn’t sure why. Death happened, life happened, loss, gain. She read and continued to learn. She was a good girl and went to church every week. Then the doubt crept in. It had always been there, but she had always pushed it to the darkest corners of her mind, not wanting to confront it. After all, wasn’t faith trusting in what you could not see? She wanted to be a good Christian, and believe that God was there even if she couldn’t see him or feel him. She held on to God, even when days were tough. She continued to study the Bible and pray, believing that if she just had enough faith, she would see through the smoke and ashes, and know for absolute sure, that God was her God. That the Holy Trinity was real and her saving grace.

One of the hardest things was observing her grandmother, a woman of such faith and yearning for God, being uncertain of her life after death. Her grandma stated that she wasn’t sure that she would go to Heaven, how could she be?  The girl feared for her loved ones, because she didn’t know where they stood with God. She wanted to be sure to see every one of them in the afterlife, and some of them didn’t always seem to be “saved”. The girl had asked Jesus into her heart at a young age, and was baptized. She was going to heaven. Were you?

A mixture of things must have changed her view over time. She started to become lax in her prayers, she lost faith and raged at God. She didn’t know if she actually had a savior, after all, someone was surely not watching over this young girl and seeing the pain she was going through, and not doing anything to stop it. She tried to go back to her roots, and read the Bible. She made a habit of praying more and going to church. But she was living a lie. Or at least, she felt that way. Who was she to know for certain that she would go to paradise? Who was she to claim to be loved by a supreme being that had created the universe? She couldn’t even love her own family the way one was supposed to, how was she supposed to love God enough to earn his approval? She knew that her teenage years were ones where she would be tried and tested. That these questions were normal. But she felt like her doubt was too big, that she would never overcome it. So, she started to back off a little bit on the whole religion thing. She opened her mind, it seemed, and let all of what she had been taught fly out, and new ideas fill their place. She didn’t renounce her faith, she still believed, just not in the same fervent way she had before.

She knows she is loved. She knows that she was created and put here for a reason. But she doesn’t necessarily think that you must attend church on Sundays to be a “good” Christian. She doesn’t think that one sin is greater than another. She won’t try to persuade you to change your view points, and she doesn’t hate a person because of their sexual orientation, or because they had an abortion. She likes to think she is freer now, not held down by some of the constraints that Baptist beliefs tied her down with. She loves God, and wants to bestow happiness upon others. She doesn’t like labels, and would rather not have them. She likes to think she didn’t lose her religion, but she found it. She is at peace right now, and though there are still uncertainties and issues of faithfulness and right from wrong, she is making her own way, and finding herself. Some day it will all work out and at the end of this path she will find who she has known was there all along. Her savior.14592913446_2629c03939_b

The only time

She made an agreement with herself, from the very beginning. She would never, ever purge. She would never ruin her teeth and esophagus, never allow herself to be put in such a position that the only way out was from vomiting up her food (and her emotions). She knows that this is what anorexics do. What bulimics do. It feels dirty and low. She would never hurt herself in such a way. Never! She can promise herself that she will never ever do this, because she has control. She has the power to say yes, and to say no. She imagines what it might be like; even goes so far as sticking her index finger down her throat in an attempt to cause her natural reflexes to constrict and push. But she only gags. And after all, that’s all she wants, isn’t it? The gag reflex that will always be there. The reassurance that if all should go wrong, she still holds the power. But, never would she ever act on that power. Never.

Until. Until one day after she has moved to her own little apartment a few blocks from her childhood home, the home where her family still lives, she is invited out to dinner. On this day she is feeling particularly yucky. She has been slowly restricting to the point that she will wake up in the morning, and still feel exhausted. She will go to work, and act like all is well. She will go home for lunch, and lie down, only for a minute. That minute will turn into ten, and when she opens her eyes to rouse herself, she will sigh and look at the clock and see the time, which is dangerously close to the time when she should go back to work, but she is so tired that she closes her eyes again for just one more minute. Which turns into a half an hour. And then she has to get up, because what would her excuse be, if she were late to work? She would never allow herself to be late. On this day she allows a little lunch, which is a hotdog on a bun, and a small dish of slow-churned ice cream. She only has to get through until 3:30, and then she will come home and read until her parents pick her up to go to dinner.

That night, her parents arrive to pick her up, and she gathers her purse and her book and hops into their van. They announce they have decided to visit a restaurant in a small town that is fifteen minutes away. It is a sports bar, and she has never been there. Immediately her anxiety kicks in. “What will I order?” she wonders “A burger? Pizza? What will be on the menu?” She has no idea, and consoles herself with the thought that she will at least order a drink, and will go from there. They arrive at the restaurant, and are seated. She quickly peruses the menu, and sees that all of their burgers seem to be at least 1/4 lb. She knows she will never allow herself to eat that much, and all of the sandwiches come with fries too. Except for the items on the kids menu. Those burgers don’t say anything about how big they are, but she knows they must be smaller. She will order one of those. She orders a Diet Coke, and this is where things start to take a turn for the worse. Their waitress brings their drinks out, and she can tell from the first sip that her Coke is not Diet. Her heart begins to beat faster as she stealthily spits the bubbling drink back into the clear glass. How many calories were in the few little drips that went down her throat? How many bites of her burger will she have to give up, because of those calories?! When the waitress comes back to take their meal orders, the girl asks for a fresh drink, as she is sure she got a regular Coke, and not the Diet Coke she had requested. The waitress returns with the drink and places it in front of the girl, and then proceeds to take the meals orders. The girls orders a burger and fries, though she isn’t sure how she will manage to eat anything. She has done what no good anorexic ever would. She has drunk something with calories, and without knowing it! She peers suspiciously at her new soda. Is it Diet? She sniffs it, as if that will give away whether or not the drink is really Diet Coke, or actually regular Coke in disguise.

Their food arrives. The girl begins to pick at her fries, and chats a bit absent-mindedly with her mom and dad. She decides to eat a third of the fries, and then moves on to her burger. She sees, much to her disdain, that despite her request for only mustard and pickles, a tomato and lettuce have also been added. Is there mayo hiding in there too? She hopes not. After the first bite, her dad says “Huh, I think they got my burger wrong. There’s only mustard and pickle on mine.” Oh no! The waitress had accidentally given her dad her burger. This means that her dad is eating her little regular hamburger, the one that would come with a kid’s meal, and she has been eating his 1/4 lb. burger! She is already more than halfway through her sandwich. How much extra meat has she consumed? Are the buns bigger on the regular sized burgers? Was there mayo on hers?! He dad tells her it’s no big deal, as she apologizes for not noticing earlier that she had the wrong burger. But it is a big deal. She is already wondering how this could have happened. How she will ever forgive herself.

After dinner her parents drive her back to her apartment. She is relieved to get home. Her mind has been racing ever since she realized her Coke was regular. (She didn’t dare take a sip of the fresh glass, what if it too were regular? She would be punishing herself for eternity if she made that mistake again.) She felt her distended belly rumbling as it digested more food than it had seen in weeks. She unlocked her door and shut it behind her, rushing to put her purse and book down on her way to the tiny bathroom. The toilet kind of disgusted her, so she bent over the bathtub. Tentatively, she stuck her finger into her mouth, slowly pushing her hand back further, until she could almost feel her gag reflex kick in. She moved her finger that critical half an inch, and readied herself for the outpouring of food that was sure to come up.

Nothing.

She tried again. She took her toothbrush out of the cupboard and stuck the handle n her mouth. Still nothing. Who was such a failure that they couldn’t barf when they needed to? Shouldn’t her body know how to do this? All anorexics seemed to be hardwired for this, at least in the books. But no. She couldn’t make it happen. She bent over further, and repeated the motions. There! She could feel her stomach constricting. It was working…now just a little bit more. Acid began to burn her throat, and she could feel her dinner begin to make its way back the way it had come. She did it. She was not a failure. She was a champion. But, something was wrong. Yes, there was the guilt. Her parents had bought her this meal, and here she was throwing it away. And also, she couldn’t do more than that little bit. That was all that came up. She began to cry in frustration. She didn’t want those calories. She had been tricked. It wasn’t fair. She began to undress. Maybe a shower would make her feel better. She turned the water on and stepped into the tub, closing the curtain behind her. She wouldn’t give up so easily. She knew the walls of her apartment were fairly thin, and she didn’t want her neighbors to hear her retching. All of a sudden she remembered the promise she had made to herself so long ago. The promise of never forcing herself to be sick. But she had to. She had to! There was no other way to feel OK about what she had put into her body tonight. And so, she continued her attempts to rid herself of the food that was her medicine, and her poison.ade8cedd68afa7c4f0c78a43bc1e7e7b

Ponder, observe, wonder

I’ve been reading some good books lately about women who have had eating disorders. Actually, they’re by women who have had eating disorders. The fact that I’m saying “have had” is astounding in itself. That they were able to overcome this disease gives me hope that one day, I too, might be free. As I have been reading, I have made several mental notes about topics they wrote about that I would like to explore further. One of them being the point/cause of an eating disorder.

I am not sure exactly what circumstances caused my anorexic habits to fester and explode. I have my theories, some of which I have shared before. So I think my problems began when I lost my sense of control around puberty. But from there…things got even weirder. What started out as something that seemed innocent, and maybe even slightly healthy, turned into a nightmare. And that nightmare ate away at me until I could hardly even recognize myself. I can remember being so miserable that I would chant “I want to die, I want to die” over and over in my head. I’m sure I said this out loud several times around my mom too. The thing is, I did want to die. And my anorexia was slowly killing me. I was getting what I wanted, but not fast enough. I started to see my eating disorder as a way to kill myself slowly and softly. I would slip away bit by bit, until one day shush I was gone.

So, my eating disorder not only was an escape from adulthood, it was an escape from life. It was also a way to run from my emotions. When a body is starving, the least of its worries are whether you’re happy or not. My emotions took a vacation, and most of the time I just felt really depressed, or cried endlessly. But I couldn’t cry for the right reasons. I couldn’t smile at someone with genuine happiness, and I couldn’t laugh at jokes I would have previously found funny. I was broken. Utterly and completely broken.

I also became an expert at lying to myself and others. Mostly about food. I was brought up to believe that lying was a sin. But the rules had changed, and now I was lying left and right. Tiny white lies (I poured whole milk, not 1%), bigger lies (I didn’t pull the cheese off of my sandwich, I swear!) and the mother of all lies, claiming I ate dinner at work, when I had skipped it all together. I lied to my family about food, and I also lied to myself. Obviously, because, hello! This whole thing was a lie. Deceit and lies became close friends, and I became adept at keeping them company. Oh, and I have to tell you guys this…one of my cleverest tricks. When my mom made me drink juice, I usually liked to have her buy the purple or red kinds. Then, once the concentrate had been dumped from the plastic canister into a pitcher, and the frozen high-fructose corn syrupy pulp was all stirred into the appropriate amount of water, I would pour a glass into one of the tiny purple cups we had. When my mom turned her back, I would quickly draw some water from the tap, and drop some red food coloring into my water cup. Voila…juice! I know this kind of thing was a huge setback, every calorie counted here. But to me, well, every calorie counted. But not in a good way. So I cut and cropped here and there. And I stayed as skinny as ever. But the thing is, I liked food. It was all I could think about. But I also hated it. I don’t know how this even happens, and I am still this way today. What part of my brain thinks of as my worst enemy, is the one thing I desire the most. The one thing I need the most. Nourishment. I need to be filled to the brim, and just keep that level of sustenance going for a while. If only I could turn my brain off. But no, instead I need to train it, just like I did before. I have to figure out how to get back to my natural instincts. Obviously, it can be done. If those women who wrote about their recovery can get there, so can I.5ac9f449cfb9d7dd75f2bfb61e5519d3

Scout and I

Guess what? I discovered something pretty amazing today, that really ties in to some of my recent posts. Scout Finch (yes, that Scout Finch) and I have something in common. And what is that you might ask? Well, if the new release by Harper Lee is to be believed as a legitimate account of Jean Louise, aka “Scout” Finch’s life years after To Kill A Mockingbird was written, then she and I are both quite naive. Or should I say were. I was really shocked when I came to a part in Go Set a Watchman where Scout has just started her monthly “curse” and is told by a group of girls at school that in order to get pregnant, several things must occur. First, you must have your “curse”, then a boy must kiss you and stick his tongue in your mouth. Thus: pregnancy. Scout believes this group of gossipy girls, and is struck with panic. After all, not one day ago, a boy stuck his tongue out at her. After doing some quick research (by way of reading a dictionary), Scout comes to the conclusion that she is indeed pregnant and should expect to birth her baby in October. She can’t live with herself. she sulks around, and finally plans to kill herself on September 30th, so as not to bring shame to herself and to her family.

Surely I was never that stupid. I mean, who would believe such a notion? Well, I’m somewhat proud to say I didn’t have such fantastical ideas involving boys and tongues, but I somehow became convinced (through my own mind and it’s tricks) that I had become pregnant by immaculate conception of some sort. I imagined a little fetus floating about inside my uterus, and how the hands and feet would begin to kick some day soon. I began to worry about how I would get rid of it. Ok, let me just stop here for a minute and tell you…I was not sexually active at all at this point. I don’t know how the hell I thought I had become pregnant, but in my mind, I was. A baby was growing inside me, and I didn’t want it. I remember punching my belly and hoping that had killed the imagined baby growing inside me. Obviously, I must have known I wasn’t pregnant on some level…but one thing that may have helped to convince my rational side that I really might be pregnant was that my legs, that had always been slim and smooth, now had some slight stretch marks on the thighs. I was growing and my skin was stretching. Well, my younger sister asked my mom why her older sisters legs had those weird lines on them. My mom replied that it was like when a woman gets stretch marks on her belly from pregnancy. Then, my sister asked “Is she pregnant?!”

Boom. My “baby” was conceived. Even though I would laugh about this conversation with my friend less than a week later, I guess it still had a really big impact on me. Somewhere along the line I stopped thinking I was pregnant. But anyway, I thought this coincidence between my thought process and Scouts was a little jarring. I hope you got a laugh. I don’t mind if it is at my 13 year old self expenseegna.

Saying no to exercise

For years I was addicted to exercise. Not because I enjoyed it, or it made my body feel stronger. It did make me feel better mentally, simply because I felt this compulsion to walk, run, or ride my bike so as to feel OK about what I ate. But nothing was ever good enough. I always felt like I could have walked farther, could have fit in a few more minutes of sit ups. If I went a day without exercise, I felt so anxious and gross inside. If I knew I wouldn’t be able to do my regular routine the day before, I would double my “workout” so I could at least have something to try to console myself with. I could never exercise enough, I could never eat too little. I was an expert at resisting at restricting.

Once my weight loss was evident to my mom, she began to try to stop my excessive walking. She spoke to my doctor about it, and somehow he thought that it would be o if I still did a short session of walking each day. If I began to gain weight, I could then add more time onto my exercise sessions. Now, on the one hand I liked this idea, that I would still be allowed a little time to try to get rid of extra calories. On the other, I was so tired of forcing myself to walk endlessly. I really didn’t enjoy exercise at this point. It had become a chore, not a hobby or something I did to better myself. It was a punishment. Looking back, it is fortunate I had such a hard time gaining weight. If it were easy for me to put on a few pounds here and there, I would have been “rewarded” with more freedom in my obsession with walking, and I obviously shouldn’t have been doing any extra moving around at all.

I guess the typical inpatient program puts eating disorder patients on a strict calorie dense diet and bed rest. At times, doctors would almost threaten me with the inpatient option. If I didn’t gain weight, I would have t think really hard about being allowed to stay home. “If you were in the hospital, you would have to eat so many calories each day” “If you were in the hospital, you wouldn’t be able to exercise at all” “You know, if a patient in the hospital program refuses to eat, they are fitted with a feeding tube”. These statements were thrown at me left and right, but I never really felt like they were a threat. Until one day, almost seven years after my first trip to the doctor with an eating disorder as my diagnosis, when a new doctor I was seeing tried to force me into inpatient treatment.

For much of my time dealing with anorexia, I’ve never felt like I was on the brink of death, For some reason I have always felt like that’s just a joke, or that I am invincible. I know these things aren’t true, and that in reality, my heart might be permanently damaged. I’m not stupid, just in a tad bit of denial. One winter I was insistent that I walk to and from work every day. My mom was worried and told me so, saying that my body was under a lot of pressure anyway, and putting more stress on it by walking in freezing temps was just asking for trouble. I tried to ignore her. But one day, I’m not sure what happened…I told my mom I was terrified. For the first time, death seemed like a likely possibility. When I walked to and from work, I would pay close attention to what my heart was doing. I never noticed it skipping a beat or acting funky, but I would imagine collapsing in the snow on the side of the cement sidewalk, and how the heart attack would feel. Would I be in pain? Was dying scary? Or would it happen so quickly I didn’t even know I was gone? Though it was hard, I stopped walking outside in the cold. For once I kind of listened to my body and heeded its warnings.

So, like I said, for years I would exercise for punishment, not pleasure. And though I knew it was only making things worse, it made my brain feel better. I was able to justify the few calories I ate when I exercised. Even as current as last year, I was still caught up in the tangled web of compulsive exercise. I rode my bike to work one day, and decided I could do this every day. I had the hardest time giving it up and feeling OK about it, but last fall before the weather got nasty, I ceased my daily bike rides. I drive my car the handful of blocks to work now. And I am happy to say that a few days ago, my husband and I went on a short bike ride around town. The next day we did it again. But when he asked me the next day if I wanted to go on a bike ride, and I honestly didn’t feel like it, I told him the truth. I was tired, and wanted to stay home and relax. Guys, that was the first time in years that I have turned down a given opportunity to exercise. One small step for me, one giant leap for my brain. Exercise is a trigger for me. If I do it one day, I figure I should do it the next. Soon I’m up to half an hour of activity a day. And while I’m at it, I might as well eat less, right?7033ae7c750884a0283649c6b179fff4

Tripping the trigger- part 4

I promise this string of posts will end. But I have to see it through first, and I don’t want to bore you to death all at once. I like to draw misery out, didn’t you already figure me for that?

Back to the details then…So, I found a way to make it stop. I prayed first. Bargaining with God, I suppose. I asked him to just make me stop bleeding, like the woman in the Bible. Didn’t he see how much pain I was in? How hard life was getting to be? It seemed like the pain and bleeding would end, and less than two weeks later it was back again. I felt pale, weak, and exhausted. I wanted to be running and jumping and swimming and climbing. Why was my body betraying me in this way?

It started with an innocent bike ride. I flipped solemnly through the virtual card catalog in my brain until I came to information I had culled from the internet. The one that mentioned how some women find relief in cramping if they exercised during their period. I was willing to try this, after all, it was late summer and still beautiful outside. I hopped on my bike, and hoped to see results. But after a few weeks of this, nothing changed. Well, not bodily. Mentally? Perhaps. You see, right behind the filing card mentioning exercise as a remedy for pain, I had the one that told of the runners who didn’t have periods because of the strain they put on their body. I could do that, couldn’t I? It couldn’t be that hard. So instead of riding my bike, I began to run on my mom’s treadmill. I started out with a mile. The next day a mile seemed too easy. I bumped it up two half a mile more. And then all of a sudden, within a week, I decided my eating should match my  exercise. I selected yogurt and fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. I ate wheat bread instead of white. My breakfast rarely ever consisted of sugary cereal anymore, instead I chose puffed rice, or toast slathered with peanut butter. Look at me! I was being healthy!

I can almost see myself tripping the trigger now. I can see me taking tentative steps in the direction that would begin as something innocent, and turn into something destructive. I think some chemical in my brain wasn’t high enough, or wires were crossed. I don’t know specifics, because I am not an expert, but something went wrong, that’s for sure. One day I began to pay attention to the little screen on the treadmill that recorded how many calories had been burned. I told myself I had to burn 300. The next day it was 350. My period was still sticking around. Persistent thing. I obviously wasn’t exercising enough. Is this where the depression kicked in? Even though I was walking and running which should have naturally raised my level of happiness (thanks, endorphins!)?

I don’t remember when my period stopped. I’m sure I journaled about it, I could probably look it up. But the point is, eventually what I wanted, happened. Though instead of exercising to become stronger and healthier, I had run myself into a state of weakness. I didn’t have a name for what  I felt right away. I just knew I wasn’t willing to eat much, and I had to run and walk every day, usually on the treadmill so I could mark calories lost. I began to record what I ate in my journal, congratulating myself when I refrained from dessert or an extra pizza slice. It was like a game, seeing how little I could eat each day. It turns out, I could get by on next to nothing. Soon enough, I was a skeleton with skin hanging off of it. And if I didn’t exercise each day, I couldn’t sleep at night. My brain was constantly monitoring when I was “good” (skipping lunch) and “bad” (giving in to my desire to eat a piece of dessert).

I literally did not know what was wrong with me. I knew I was sad. And that I never wanted to do anything but write, read, sleep, and exercise. But I didn’t know this was an actual disease, with a name. I even wrote in my journal, on the day my mom talked to a doctor about me, that I “finally knew what was wrong” and that mom found out its “called anorexia”. I was so scared. So confused. So young. And yet so cunning and sly. My brain was already making plans for me. Plans to destroy me from within.55d26eab0d7412a7c3f3d2b9158cbd1d

Tripping the trigger- part 3

You thought maybe this was over didn’t you? Or at least you hoped so. It’s okay, I did too. Looking back, I cringe for that naive little girl. The one who glamorized puberty, in order to survive it. That girl would one day pick up a copy of Girl’s Life magazine at the library, and read an article about how one girl realized that if you drink water (cup after cup) before you eat, you might not be as hungry as you thought. Your body can disguise dehydration as hunger. Huh. She filed that away in her memory quite neatly. The same with an area of a book that told of how a competitive runner ran so much that she no longer had her period. That was filed under a different call number, but tucked away just as safely in her mental card catalog.

One day I felt kind of constipated, which wasn’t abnormal for me at the time. So I didn’t think much of it, until I used the bathroom and saw a rusty stain in my underwear. What was this? Was this the moment I had been waiting for? Really? Today didn’t seem any different from any other day, but okay, this was really happening. Okay. Except…I didn’t know what to do. What if I wanted to swim? Would the bleeding be minimal, so that I’d hardly even notice? If it stayed like it was right now, I could handle that. What was all the fuss? The maximum absorbancy pads? The super plus tampons? Who needed those things?

Me, apparently. The next day, I told my mom that I had begun my period. She showed me where the pads and things were, and that was it. Done. Simple as could be. Except. Except next month, when my period showed up? It  wasn’t quite as gentle. I was cranky and crampy for a few days, and bled more than I had my first time. And then…something seemed to break within me. And I couldn’t walk without fear of bleeding so much I might die. I’m sure I’m being melodramatic here, but I wasn’t even a teenager. And I knew that none of the pads or tampons in the closet would contain my miserable bleeding. I can remember waking up in the morning and gathering everything I would need for the next few hours, books, school texts, pencils…and settling in on the couch until further notice, so as not to worry about having to get up and walk. The cramps killed, and though I took ibuprofen, the pain was only slightly dulled, not diminished. I was miserable. Was this what I had to look forward to? I decided then and there that I didn’t want to grow up. Just like Peter Pan, I was looking for a never-never land, where time stood still, or better yet; moved backward. For about a year, I blamed not myself, but my mom for some of the issues I had. I kept thinking, if only she had talked to me, if only we were closer…I swore that if I ever had a daughter, I would never leave her side. But I have come to realize that none of this was my mother’s fault. Instead, if I am going to play the “if only” game, I should be thinking “if only I had spoken my mind, if only I had asked her, if only I hadn’t been so afraid and sickened by my own body”. If only indeed.a3d329967dde185dc7c8318fc1e7d949

Tripping the trigger- part 2

So now I am going to bare my soul even more. On some level, it feels good to get all of my secrets out there, especially if it helps someone else in any way. It’s also really difficult though. Even though I know it’s not good for me to bottle things up, I naturally tend to do just that. I find some sick kind of comfort in my sorrows, I like to poke and prod at myself, hitting all of the tender places over and over again, just to be sure to feel the maximum amount of pain possible. I take my sharp criticism and blunt words, and I probe around for a while in one area, and when that place is split open to the point of utter anguish, I move on to a new region, leaving my wounds gaping and seeping behind me.

I never speak about my problems unless I am first asked about them. And even then, I find it hard to get my feelings across. I write much better than I speak. After all, when I write, I have the freedom to go backward and erase the bits I don’t like, before moving forward. So many times in the past I have had a conversation, and lain awake at night obsessing over what I spoke and how I said it. What I didn’t say and why. But today, today I come clean.

Over the years many people have asked me when and why my eating disorder began. For the longest time, I acted as if I had no idea. In reality, I had a pretty good timeline set down. I went back through my journals and used post-it notes to mark out a memory of counting calories here, inspecting a label there. When I began to exercise more than I had ever before. When I began to make a plan to insert more control in my life.

Oh, control. At first I was in denial. A psychiatrist asked me of I thought my problems stemmed from me feeling like I had a lack of control in my life. “No, I don’t think so” I answered furiously, as my mom shook her head beside me in agreement. Nope, I didn’t feel like I had no control. All good there. Or…maybe not. Looking back, I see so many signs pointing to control as an issue.

I was almost thirteen, and had finally started to shave my legs. I didn’t have a real bra yet, because I was too  shy to ask my mom if I could choose one from the slim pickings at Walmart. Every time I walked by those racks of candy sweet colors and soft cups with bows between, I swore to myself I would ask my mom if I could buy one. But I never did. Instead, I snatched two hand-me-downs from a bag of clothes a friend had given us, and hid them in my pillowcase (I’m pretty sure my mom found the a few weeks later when she washed my bedding, but she never said a word about it). One day I finally asked her if I could wear a bra, all my friends were wearing them, and lo and behold, the bras I had stuffed into my pillowcase made a re-appearance from a box in the basement.

Though I finally had begun to shave and owned a bra and began to wear it, I didn’t feel comfortable with the changes that were happening here. My little buds of breasts astounded me, but they also scared me. The rate at which my leg hair grew back was SO annoying, and  it was so coarse and dark. Ew. The bras I had weren’t like the pretty kind I saw in the stores, instead, they were an off-white color, with a kind of undershirt look to them. I referred to them in my head as my “dumb bras”. It would be a year before I finally bought a brand new sports bra, and even though I adored it, it betrayed me by giving me a rash.

There is one other change that I as anticipating with wonder and horror. The beginning of my womanhood, apparently. My period. I had read books where the young girl starts menstruation, but nothing too horrible seemed to happen. If anything, I thought it might be cool to finally have a reason to buy the little sanitary pads and slender tampon tubes that looked so girly and fun on the boxes. They made bleeding every month seem less like  a curse, and more like something to celebrate. But of course, I didn’t speak to my mom about what it would be like, or when to expect it. I knew next to nothing, except for what I read about in books. I didn’t know about the debilitating cramps and the underwear that would become soaked through with blood. I didn’t think that my periods would last for a week or two on end, only to start again a week after they ceased. Obviously, I was out to a rough start.05fa6f925ab24b998e68b9bebe2a9b69

Fitting in

The other day I slipped into my usual pair of jeans and t-shirt and began my day. Ironically, this particular pair of jeans is a set of “skinny jeans”, a name I have always cringed just a tad at. I mean, for so long, “skinny” jeans were the pants that women wore when they met a weight loss goal. I don’t need to lose weight, so when I shop for jeans, I don’t want them to look or sound any tinier than they already are. Thus why I never shop for jeans. They just kind of appear in my clothes collection, and usually fit ok. I have a few drawers full.

Anyway, I had pulled my jeans on, just like everyone else, one leg at a time (no, I didn’t happen to be wearing a gold plated diaper) and as I pulled the jeans over my “hips” I noticed that they felt a little snug. All of a sudden an all too familiar feeling rushed in. “I’m gaining weight, is my butt getting fat? Am I getting fat? Oh no, my jeans don’t fit, do they look too tight?” my thoughts became erratic and illogical. At times throughout the day I caught glimpses of myself and tried not to grimace or look too closely at my legs or backside. I know I’m underweight. I know that any excess fat on my body is healthy. Well, I know that in my logical mind. In my anorexic mind, I think that every extra bite I take is potential fat on my body. I think I can become fat overnight.

I write about this not only to give an example of how my mind works, but also to pose the question to myself: how can I be so in tune with my body that I notice a half pound weight gain, but so out of tune that I can’t even recognize my own hunger cues? That is so messed up, just like everything about this disease. Of course my brain would allow me to notice something that I would define as negative and scary, and not notice something that would benefit me and help me succeed in life in general.

I have read many books about women who have struggled with an eating disorder, and almost all of them mention a point where they have to move up in a size of clothes. They no longer fit into their anorexia clothing, and have to start shopping for pants and tops that are in actual women’s sizes. I have always known this day might come, should come, but somehow I have avoided it. I slip back into my habits and lose weight before I gain too much. I notice the clothes I wear fitting differently, but I don’t buy new bottoms, so maybe the legs are a bit snug, maybe the waistband fits better, but it’s not like I have my sick clothes and my healthy clothes. And yet, I still feel like I have gone out and bought a pair of jeans that are a size or two bigger. I start to panic and my anxiety kicks things up a notch. And suddenly, I am in tune with my body. In the worst way. And then things start to slide in the wrong direction.

So what do I do when these feelings and thought start to creep in on me? I eat. I tell myself to ignore that voice in my head telling me that to eat is to be fat, and I eat because I know that eating is what I need. I need to fight my sick side and get stronger on my healthy side. And every bite I take gets me closer to the me I used to be.fa6168f700aae12eb8a17b7a3ad483a6