Author: Alex K.
To be completely honest, my story – from what I can remember – basically feels like a big puzzle with chunks of missing pieces; however, what I can remember is not what I would consider a story about me but rather a story about ED. I liked to refer to my eating disorder as ED, a name, as opposed to an eating disorder, because that is what it was. It was a different person taking over the person I once was.
From as early as I can remember, I was always worried about my weight and my body. At to young ages of 7 or 8, I would stand in front of the mirror, picking out my flaws, between the still lingering baby fat that sat around my abdomen and the excess fat I had piled up in my thighs. I would complain to my mom every night while picking out an outfit for school, telling her that I was too fat and could not wear anything I wanted. I can vividly remember signing up for some nickelodeon workout/staying-active website that I saw advertised and following it religiously. When I stopped following it, I gained back whatever weight I had lost, and at multiple doctor’s appointments, I was told that I was at risk of being overweight and that I should start practicing healthier exercise and eating habits. When 8th grade had started, I began to date my ex boyfriend of four years and would compare myself to EVERY girl around me. I had an insecurity that was built solely around the way my body looked and how I could never compare to the girls he was looking at. I would cry myself to sleep and burry myself in my insecurities, forcing multiple fights and arguments on him for what I now realize was absolutely for no reason. Although all of this had started at a young age, I would say my story really began during my sophomore year. I began experimenting with purging because of hearing the media and people around me saying that vomiting after consuming food would prevent weight gain. It wasn’t a frequent, post-meal occurrence, but it was always an option that my mind would take a while to filter over before making a final decision of whether or not to shove my fingers down my throat to the point of a satisfying sickness. I began to exercise with my friends for pure joy and health, and I would eat a LOT, but a LOT of healthy foods which allowed me to slowly begin to lose some weight. It was a diet that could have had potentially, healthy results if I had not gotten compliments that drove ED to gradually become stronger.
The moment that I think actually marked the true beginning of my eating disorder was when I decided to download my fitness pal – the FUEL to help me drive ED. I started out counting calories normally just to see how much I ate per day and then decided, since I was beginning to look good, why not lower the calories to see how much more I could lose? I began to run more and eat less. Although I was occasionally purging and eating very clean, ED didn’t let me skip a day of working out, especially with my fitness pal in the picture. ED didn’t allow me to eat pizza or hot dogs or anything dense in calories when I wanted.
I can remember a few vivid memories of restriction and purging that really proved how much an eating disorder could manipulate the person as well as their loved ones even in an early stage. Going to the “bathroom” after Chinese food on new years with the family, pretending I had dinner plans with my cousin one night so I wouldn’t have to eat all day while college visiting with my boyfriend at the time, leaving multiple times from a barbeque to go home and rid myself of the guilt, pretending I didn’t like ice cream so I wouldn’t have to have any after a day on the boat, even telling people I HAD to eat super slow because my stomach would get too full If I didn’t were all of Ed’s doings. It was a mind game that I played with myself and those around me just to hold off on being forced to eat more than I wanted.
Summer before senior year was basically when I hit the point of no return. I had entered a routine that I would use all my power to maintain: with any sort of change, came mass amounts of unbearable anxiety; however, change is exactly what had happened. I was so underweight that I had passed out behind the wheel on my way to my daily gym session, after a breakfast with 50 calories or less. I had hurt my knee – right before vacation, might I add – and was told I could not workout until it was fully healed. I went to Greece, the most beautiful place on earth, and restricted myself of EVERYTHING I loved. I fought with my family almost hourly and before every single meal, ruining not only my vacation, but also everyone else’s. We couldn’t go to a restaurant that didn’t have the foods that ED allowed me to eat. We couldn’t go to the beach that we would always go to because I didn’t have the energy to interact with the family that I would see there. Every aspect of the vacation was manipulated by the desires of the eating disorder. When it came time to go home, the small amount of my healthy brain did not want to go. I wanted to stay in Greece because, although I was restricting a lot, I was also eating many things I couldn’t eat at home. Home was ED’s shelter, where most of its power came from.
Did ED destroy relationships? I’d say yes. ED manipulated me and everyone around me. I learned more tricks the sicker I got. Starting my senior year, after leaving a vacation that felt like a safe spot for my healthy mind, my 1000 calories a day became 300 at most. I would lie about when and what I ate. I would be driven crazy for hours on end after eating just ONE bad bite of something. There would be hours when I knew that I had a problem and hours when I’d want that 80 pounds on the scale to continue dropping. I’d tell myself I would eat better the next day but end up shoving half of my quest bar, the only thing I ate all day, in my dresser to dispose of later. I went from running 13 miles to feeling like jello after just one mile, still, however, pushing the 500 calories consumed during the week to fuel another 5. I had to quit the things I used to love. I had to leave the cross country team that I once, absolutely loved. I could barely walk up the stairs. My ears would lose hearing while singing. I would nearly freeze to death everyday in class and have to wear at least two pairs of pants and four shirts. It would take me over 7 hours to finish 100 calories worth of oatmeal. I would chew gum religiously and drink tea to hold me over until my water-dense, low-calorie dinner. I would lie in bed each night, promising those around me that I’d get better the next day and make a change. Yet, nothing changed. The thinner I got, the stronger ED got. Division of child protection and the school got involved because they thought I was not being fed at home. At that point, I would do anything to not eat. I would sleep till 1 to avoid meals. I would drink diet soda and use hot sauce to fill me up as much as I could.
Now that I am healthy again, I cannot believe that I allowed myself to get to that point. Then, however, I realize that I really had no control. I was so sick that I started to lose my ability to even form new memories. Many events that occurred during the worst of my illness are just a blur to me. Many meals that I was given during recovery, I cannot exactly remember. I can, however, vividly remember each cold morning, dragging my frail body to school, feeling like a zombie, and not having energy to communicate with anyone or to learn anything new. I felt like every conversation and moment in my life was a fog. My entire life during the ED was a FOG. I went through days, counting down hours until I could sleep and not feel my hunger. I missed out on so much because my mind was gone. I had no capability of living. I counted every single thing that went into my body and made sure I could work it off in the gym the next day. As I began to get healthier, I started living.
ED completely took over my body and landed me in the hospital, on my death bed. The night before my parents brought me to get a checkup at the hospital, I was losing my hearing and couldn’t remember things that happened just days before. My school would not allow me to return until I went to get my vitals reviewed at the hospital, which led to the discovery that it was highly likely that I would not make it to the next day if I didn’t begin treatment immediately. I was one of the sickest patients my doctor had ever seen.
The first bite of food that they gave me is one that I will never forget. The first bite of food was the first kick at ED. With each bite, ED got smaller. Although I was getting “bigger”, so was my health. My smile wasn’t held back by protruding cheek bones, my laugh didn’t take painful energy to produce, and, for the first time in a long time, it didn’t hurt to try and stand up after sitting down.
In the end, It was really my decision to feed and destroy ED. It was all the girls’ in the program decisions to feed and destroy their eating disorders as well. Although I wasn’t strong enough to seek treatment myself, I did take that first bite of food. I myself wanted to get better, even though ED did not. When suffering from an eating disorder, it is hard to tell what you want and what the disorder wants. ED’s voice is so loud that it becomes hard to tell if that voice is your own or not. But, when your healthy mind accepts that you have an eating disorder, that’s the first step to recovery. My first event back out in the real world was a Red Bulls game with my close friends. I drank, I laughed, I ran around, and, most importantly, I VOLUNTARILY ate a hot dog – something I could never even imagine doing during the depths of my disorder. It was little moments like those that allowed me to realize recovery WAS possible, and it was beautiful. Summer of my freshman year of college, I binge ate at a lot, and I drank a lot – both of which followed me throughout my first year at school. Without noticing, I put on a large amount of weight, quickly enough before I could really notice and do something about it. Although I am nowhere near where I want to be, health- and body- wise, I am beyond thankful that I made it to college and got to experience the best year of my life. I cannot say ED doesn’t follow me still to each meal and to the gym and just during everyday life. But, my mind is getting stronger, and I am learning to silence the voices and live my life like I really want to. Eating disorders really never fully go away, but with the proper treatment and support, learning how to manage them can allow a person to live a healthy and happy life, as I am blessed enough to do now.
– Alex K.