Hopelessness. That’s all I could feel.
After losing friendships and relationships with my family, my place to live, failing classes in school, and almost losing my life 6 times, I admitted myself into treatment for anorexia. I had exhausted my options, and been told by a specialist that I was at a point where she couldn’t help me.
How had things gotten this bad?
Despite what the majority of people think, eating disorders are not solely about being skinny. Very few girls look in the mirror one day and say “I’m going to starve myself just to be skinny.” I know, that contradicts every perception of anorexia that you have.
You see, eating disorders are a lot like alcoholism. Alcoholics don’t wake up and think “I love the way beer tastes so I’m going to consume mass amounts of it.” Instead, they turn to alcohol because it numbs the emotional pain they are dealing with, and then ultimately it becomes an addiction and coping mechanism. The same goes for eating disorders.
Physiologically, a lot happens when you’re starving. Your body begins to feed off of your organs and muscles for energy, causing them to shrink and deteriorate. As this is happening, your personality changes, you lose the ability to focus, and your body physically aches. For eating disorder patients, these physical issues work as a distraction from the emotional distress they are facing. It’s incredibly hard to think about a break up or failing grades while you’re curled up in fetal position with stomach pangs.
People with eating disorders go about their “diets” in different ways. I was a calorie counter- I could spend hours counting calories in foods, planning what to eat, and figuring out how much I needed to exercise to burn it all off. I can still, to this day, tell you how many calories are in the majority of foods that I eat; it became so ingrained in me. Thankfully, I don’t care anymore. Mainly because red velvet cake and peanut butter are a lot more satisfying than a number on a scale ever will be.
Aside from starving myself, I also used exercise to cope. Working out can be a great way to relieve stress; it catalyzes the production of endorphins, which aid in pain reduction. However, I took things to the extreme. I ran a minimum of 60 miles a week, and it was normal for me to run 10 miles and only eat 200 calories for the day.
Recovery looks different for everyone. For me, it meant covering up my mirrors, seeing a nutritionist (ugh), going to therapy, staying on my medication, cutting back on exercise, and finally dealing with the things in my past that drove me to starve myself. I’ll be honest- it sucked. Seriously. I spent Christmas at a treatment facility on the whole other side of the US than my family. The good news is, while I will always be in recovery, it does get better and easier over time.
The past three years have not been perfect for me. I went a little over two years without any behaviors, which is a huge accomplishment for any eating disorder patient, but last winter I had a minor slip up. It’s hard to admit that because I’m a perfectionist, but I’ve learned that vulnerability and honesty are vital in recovery. Anorexia, like alcoholism, is an addiction that has to be fought every single day. Some days are easier than others, but I know that every time I choose recovery over relapse, I’m avoiding that dark, lonely feeling of hopelessness that I lived with for so long.
December 16th is now a day for me to celebrate and reflect on how far I have come. And eat cake. Lots of cake.
As always- if you or someone you know has questions or wants to talk, feel free to comment. I’m always available!