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.