It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness week! (Feb 24-March 1)
This year’s theme is Come As You Are: Hindsight is 2020, so it felt especially fitting that I would share about my battle with an eating disorder (ED) and recovery process.
Trigger warning: I will be very candid about my life with ED up to this point including familial history, my first time purging, and my relationship with “Ed.”
By recovery process I want to first and foremost share: I am IN RECOVERY. I am not “sober.” I am not “recovered.” I haven’t beat it yet. The book I’m currently reading, Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer, describes recovery from an eating disorder as a process of separating from and divorcing “Ed,” the abusive husband/partner who controls your life. But it’s not domestic abuse I’m trying to beat.
What is it that I haven’t beat?
Bulimia, with a side of anorexia, if we’re being 100% truthful.
I can’t remember the first time I had the thought that I was fat and that fat was bad. I have lots of vague memories of being called chubby, whether by cousins, my babysitter’s son, or kids on the playground at school. I don’t have memories of anyone telling me exactly what was an “okay” amount of food to eat, but I do have memories of feeling I needed to hide what I ate or needed to eat less to be more like a thin friend.
I remember my dad buying me one of those chocolate balls that had candy and a toy inside, and I ate it on the way home from the store when I “knew” it was “supposed” to be for after dinner. I hid behind the dog so my dad couldn’t see me do it.
I remember looking at a friend and thinking, “if I do the same sports and spend all my time with her and eat exactly what she eats, maybe I’ll look like her.”
I remember needing to wear boy’s “husky” jeans and not finding any cute clothing for girls my age that fit me and needing to wear sports bras in 5th grade when all the other girls wore cute training bras. I “knew“ there was something wrong with me.
I remember being told my grandmother died from making herself throw up and thinking, “why would anyone do that?”
I remember the first time I threw up was after a sports event (downhill ski racing meet) where I had eaten “too much” and my stomach hurt and it was so easy and thinking “but I’m not bulimic; this was just a one time thing.”
I remember reading a book about going vegan with the premise of it helping you get skinny, and being attracted to it because it sounded like a sure thing. It was; I lost weight, and thus began my flirtation with restriction alongside bingeing and purging.
I remember a friend sharing her diet pills with me freshman year of college and when they didn’t work I started throwing up regularly in the private bathrooms in the dorms. I had no accountability, no one who knew it was a problem.
I remember the first time I told anyone, a friend from church, and feeling like I couldn’t share much or they’d think I was crazy or too lazy to lose weight the “right way” or undisciplined.
Even my husband, when we met, didn’t understand how someone “as pretty” as me could struggle this much with the way I looked/felt. We’ve grown a lot in our communication of what my ED means, looks like, feels like… but there have been times I’ve lied about whether I was struggling.
I don’t remember when it became a daily thing. But it did. Eventually it became a more than daily thing.
For a while it was an – after every meal – thing, not even just after binges.
I remember trying to do sit ups on the floor and getting bruises on my tailbone and spine because I didn’t have any fat or muscle tone to cover them anymore. Those bruises turned into scabs.
I remember telling my husband I was struggling after a long time of hiding the problem. I was so scared. Scared he wouldn’t want me anymore when he found out what I was doing. Scared I’d gain weight. Scared I’d have lifelong health issues because of this.
I remember the first time I strung four days together without a binge or purging. It started to feel so easy. Then I slipped, and even then I remember finally feeling positive, that I could and would beat this.
I am still in the middle of this recovery. I am still fighting every day. I am still fighting against the urges that come up to binge and purge, or just to purge after a regular meal. I am still fighting to re-learn what my body needs. I am fighting to give God control.
So if I am awkward when you compliment me on my looks, know it’s because it’s a fight every day to treat my body the way it should be treated instead of treating it like it needs to be perfect for your viewing pleasure.
If I stay quiet when you talk about “eating healthy” or needing to go on a diet or anything about weight or food, it’s because I’m trying not to allow our culture’s obsession with restriction and dieting to re-infiltrate my brain.
And if you’re struggling, know you’re not alone. I’m in this fight with you.
I’m here if you need another person to remind you that you are important regardless of your size, that you are beautiful no matter what you eat, and that your weight doesn’t define you or how healthy you are.
Take it from me, I was healthier when I had an “overweight” BMI than I am now at an “average” one. I’m learning how to be healthy again, but that involves therapy, a nutritionist, a primary care physician who has experience with ED, my support group of friends and family who know my story and on whom I can call when I’m struggling or slipping. And it involves reminding myself every day of my “why:”
Today, I will choose not to binge or purge. Today, I will fuel my body with what it needs to nurse a 1 year old, sustain me for my very physical job, allow me to move in exercise that I enjoy, and do the work God has for me.
Today, I will not allow my life to be dictated by my ED so that I can focus on my beautiful daughter and rest with her and play with her without the distraction of disordered thoughts about food.