Warning: In this post, I share my eating disorder story. I am sharing my story during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in the hopes that it will bring hope to someone going through it, because my story has a happy ending. But if this will be a trigger for you, please do not read. This post particularly deals with the dark moments of my journey to find healing.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when it happened; but over months of dietary restrictions and excessive exercise, my entire mindset changed. What had started as a teen’s innocent excitement over being healthy, mutated into bondage. Food controlled every part of my life, from the moment I woke up to the time I went to bed.
My parents knew that something was wrong, and my mom says she really started to worry when she noticed that my smile was becoming too big for my face. But this was happening long before there was the awareness, support, and information that there is today. She and my dad didn’t know how to handle it, because just telling me to eat wasn’t working.
In my mind, I was keeping all that was bad (fat and calories) out of my body. When someone – out of concern – tried to force me to partake of ‘harmful’ foods, I shut them out. This was about control, and the risk of gaining even one pound was to lose that control. I found myself lying more and more. I’d make a show of packing a big lunch for work, and then I’d toss the majority of it into the trash. I hid behind a busy schedule; always running to work, to driving school, to church, and to hang out with friends. Avoiding food was shockingly easy, and I often pretended to eat but wouldn’t.
I felt powerful when my stomach grumbled, and I could feel the outline of my pelvic bones. I was controlling food intake and therefore controlling my body. It was about fear of losing that control, and I lived in constant anxiety over eating unapproved foods.
But what I didn’t want to admit to myself was that I had lost control months ago… My cheeks were starting to look sunken, and I had passed the image of strength and fitness (which I had so craved) and was instead beginning to look sick. I hadn’t menstruated for almost a year, and the skin on my arms was flaky like dandruff. My hair was brittle, dry, and falling out in clumps.
It was during a family vacation to Canada, however, that I finally admitted to myself that something was wrong. It was a particularly hot week during the month of July, and my family was driving back to our campsite after swimming. The windows of our mini-van were rolled down to let in the dry breeze… and I began to shiver uncontrollably. I knew that I shouldn’t be, but I was beyond cold. Once we arrived at the campground, I pretended to be sick; and I hurried into the tent to lie down. A rush of heat hit my face when I unzipped the tent, and it almost took my breath away. Still, even when I pulled two sleeping bags on top of me, I couldn’t warm my body. The chills started deep in my bones…
I crawled out of the tent later that day and started the camping stove to boil myself some carrots and veggies for my dinner. My dad handed me a notebook and told me to start keeping track of how many calories I was eating every day. I had convinced my parents for months that I was just being healthy, because I was sure of that myself. And when they noticed me losing too much weight, they started to push me to eat things like pizza or icecream; but – well – let’s just say that it didn’t go over well. I was a teenager, after all. And so we fought, a lot.
But I agreed to start the food journal, and the numbers were startling. I was eating 800 calories every day. Consuming four to eight grams of fat. And running 3-5 miles.
It scared me.
I decided to be honest with my parents, and they promptly made appointments for me to see doctors and a nutritionist. (...to be continued)