Author: Alex K.
Eating disorders are serious mental disorders that affect not only the individual, but also every single person around him or her. When I was ill, my family basically had three kids: my brother, me, and my eating disorder. Not I but my eating disorder hurt not only me but also my family and friends – if not almost as much as it hurt me, then far more than it hurt me. If you’ve ever called someone “manipulative” or secretive, you haven’t even seen the most of it. Anorexia is the most sly “person” you’ll ever meet. I learned how to lie, and lie well. It was part of my job. Those lies to others eventually became lies to myself. What first started off as me only saying that I wasn’t hungry, turned into me not even feeling hungry. Honestly, I think the only way to really express how schematic and rude an eating disorder can be is to tell you some things it did to those around me.
One thing that will always stick out to me is how I – or, more so, my eating disorder – treated my mother. My dad got it bad too, but my mother, who was at all my meals, got the brunt of it. One time specifically I remember going to the mall after feeling bad for being rude and buying my parents picture frames with our pictures in them. I got home in a better mood, until I saw the meal in front of me. That second, “anorexia” took over and threw the picture frame at my mother, shattering it everywhere. Never would I have thought I could do that to someone I love so much. How could she try and make me so fat?
Before recovery, I used to make my mom measure out a certain ounce of chicken (very low amount at that) and take a photo of it because “anorexia” didn’t believe she would give me the right amount. Rather, “anorexia” made me believe that she was trying to make me fat. During recovery, “anorexia” knew how to hide foods right in front of people without them even knowing. My mother, who had been trying so hard to make me healthy again, was being tricked before her eyes by the disorder. I would hide trail-mix in my socks, my bra, anywhere, just to avoid an extra cashew or two. I would silently flip over toast to rid even a small amount of peanut butter on it.
Before recovery, when I was too sick for emotions, I lost my relationship of 4 years with my boyfriend. I couldn’t feel the heartbreak because “anorexia” didn’t let me feel anything. At this time, my grandmother also had a stroke and went into a coma, not to wake up. It wasn’t until I started gaining weight that I could feel any emotions associated with these events. It wasn’t until I was being forced to put on weight – forced to adhere to my biggest fear – that I started to feel all of this at once. One night, I came out to dinner from hiding in my room, and the disorder took over, as per usual, and I hit my mom. I hit her hard. And I will never forgive myself for that. I couldn’t eat a single bite; all I could do was sit in my room and cry, and cry until I couldn’t cry any more.
I would wake up extra early before going into treatment and drive around for hours pretending to go out to breakfast, to avoid eating and convince my parents I had eaten already.
When trying to recover on my own, each night I sat down with my mom making plans for what I should eat each day to get healthy, only to eat less the next day. “Did you eat your lunch?” “Yes”, I said, as I remember throwing it out before class that day. I would pretend to eat a granola bar before bed, only to hide half of it in my socks to throw away the next day. This is just how “anorexia” worked. Anorexia knew any and every way of reducing calories.
At homecoming, one of the most fun nights of senior year, I was crying and fighting with my boyfriend, trying to convince him I was going to get better. That’s what i told everyone: I could get better.
It was a convincing game. Trying to convince everyone and lie any way I could to make them think I was trying to get better. At lunch in school, I would bring oatmeal and eat it, yes, but through a 5 hr period, little by little in each class. People asked why I ate so slow, and I told them it was because I got too full. I wasn’t full. I was starving. So I needed to make the calories last as long as possible.
Everything i put in my mouth tasted like the best thing I’ve ever eaten, while at the same time tasting like nothing at all. To this day, it breaks my heart that I drove my brother to school each day, when I shouldn’t have been driving at all. My mind was almost 100% shut down and my body was too weak to even turn the wheel. Thinking back to it now, i cant even remember what classes I took my senior year. I was too sick to even form new memories. I don’t remember how I ended up in the hospital or how I switched to a different hospital. All I remember is wiping my yogurt off into napkins before taking a spoonful in front of my aunt and uncle in the waiting room. Almost two years of my memories were filled with lies of what I ate or didn’t eat.
The lies continued… when the department of family services came to my school, worried my parents weren’t feeding me. I lied. I said that I was trying to get better and that I was doing everything the nutritionists told me to do.
The only time i really felt “safe” eating was at my program because my healthy mind knew that, at home, “anorexia” would sneak away and hide food behind my mom’s back. It couldn’t do that at the program. And, I knew deep down how badly I wanted and needed the food.
Through this whole mind game, anorexia had convinced me that I wasn’t sick. I couldn’t even feel sick. I only felt numb and cold. That’s all I felt. If I hadn’t gone to the hospital the exact day that I did, I would have died days after. I was the sickest patient the doctors had ever seen. But, anorexia, so powerful, convinced me, and more importantly, those around me, that I was okay. How was I okay when I couldn’t even walk up the stairs? Or, when I had to sleep in gloves? Or, when l couldn’t hear out of my one ear? I was okay… as long as i wasn’t eating. I was “mentally” okay, according to anorexia.
I also remember lying to friends, not even close ones, but everyone, when I had to go to the bathroom, only to remove everything I had just eaten – even if it was one, single bite of salad.
It was as if when I saw food, something came over me, and I felt absolutely nothing but anger. I said things to my parents that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy. But, for some reason (probably because it’s what my healthy mind knew I needed), the second I got to the hospital and was given food, I ate it. I didn’t refuse. It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do, but I did it.
A way I can remotely compare the fear that eating brings to someone with an eating disorder would be like being on an airplane – with your biggest fear being heights – and being forced, or more so pushed, off the plane. Every. Single. Meal. Felt like I was being shoved off a plane without a parachute. And, at the same time, while falling, you need to gain the weight you worked so hard and so long to lose.
Its hard to be happy during recovery because anorexia shows you someone in the mirror that may not actually be there. If I gained a pound, I saw 10. One thing all the girls with me in the program said was that every time they ate, they felt the fat on their bodies. Eating disorders can literally convince you that you feel the fat coming onto your body, even after one meal.
One of the worst things I did, something that kept me in the hospital longer than I needed to be there, was quickly pour out my 45-calorie gatorade in the sink when no one was around or looking. I literally dumped out 45 calories, absolutely nothing, that I needed to balance my electrolytes – the one thing still keeping me in the hospital – just for the fear of intaking a few more calories. I risked my life to avoid one, low-calorie drink. This is what anorexia does to you.
My dad was dealing with both my grandmother and me in hospitals at the same time, and I gave him all the attitude I had in me when it came to meal time. Two chicken fingers turned me into the worst enemy.
One thing that i’ll never forget was when my dad told me he hadn’t heard me sing in far too long. Singing, my favorite thing to do, was taken by anorexia.
Honestly, this post is not intended to make anyone “feel bad”. It is to just show a few of the many examples of how eating disorders are not jokes. They hurt everyone. They take a toll on families and friends. My friends would text me every single day, out of worry, begging me to get help. My doctor told me that if I didn’t gain weight in a week, I’d be sent to the program. I got on my knees and begged and promised I’d gain weight, only to lose another 5 lbs in a night. If you know someone with an eating disorder, you are a big part of their recovery. Without my family and friends, I would have never been able to head towards recovery. Eating disorders are a roller coaster. But looking back, I got through the hardest time of my entire life, and if i can do that, anyone can.
I could go on for days about what I did and how my eating disorder affected everyone, but I don’t find that necessary. What I find necessary is letting everyone know that eating disorders are so, so serious and that it is important to get help. It is important to NEVER comment on someone’s appearance because you don’t know how far they will take it. Like i always say, every body is beautiful. And, someone with an eating disorder CAN and WILL get better with the help of those around them. People with these disorders do not lie and hurt you because that’s who they are; they are not who they are when they are so ill. They are who the disorder is making them be. Believe in yourself. You are beautiful .