I’m anorexic. I may not look it anymore but anorexia doesn’t leave. It’s kind of like a leak in your house… at it’s peak, it was flooding my house. Now, it’s more of a moist stain. It has its ebbs and flows.
Thankfully, I have a much healthier relationship with food and my body image these days. Thankfully, despite the damage I did to my body as a teenager, I was able to get pregnant. That was one of my biggest fears as I got older. I don’t know how I would have been able to forgive myself if I had been the cause of my own infertility. I’m grateful I never had to deal with that.
I’m pregnant now, and in my fifth month. It’s been a rough ride for me, emotionally (physically too but that’s to be expected). It’s easier now that I’m visibly pregnant, but at the beginning, when it was just bloat, ideas of restriction flew through my mind. I had days where I cried about how I looked. Vain, I know. It was difficult to give up a workout I truly loved (CorePower – I’ll be back for you soon) and be pretty inactive my first trimester. It was hard to see my pants tighten, and my boobs get bigger.
What’s helped me cope? Obviously, knowing that I am growing and nourishing my baby helps. Being pregnant has made me think not just about how I look, but how I feel. If I eat well and exercise often, I know my baby will be better off. If I restrict and overexercise, I’ll be hurting not just me, but my lil babe.
Being active has helped tremendously. After my first trimester ended and I was feeling better, I was able to take daily walks or go to yoga classes. Going to pre-natal classes has allowed me to surround myself with women who are in the same boat. Moving has allowed me to truly connect with my changing body, and appreciate the craziness that is pregnancy. It’s mind blowing that my body is able to support not just me, but my little one.
Having a support system has been essential. My husband is my rock, and I am so grateful for him. I know it must be silly to see me cry because I’m getting more “pregnant” but he gets it. He reminds me often that my job right now is to grow our baby. My friends have been great too. If you don’t have a dope ass husband or amazing friends, I suggest you get some (easier said than done, obvi).
I have good days, and I have bad days. My anorexia will always be there, and I recognize that. In four months time, my daughter will be here and that is inspiring me to tackle my problems head on. I won’t deny that I have issues. They make me who I am. I will work every damn day to be a great example for my daughter though. I want her to grow up knowing that she is a strong, bad-ass woman. I want her to know that her worth is beyond the scale. In order for her to believe that, I have to believe that too.
I wish I could say I was the type of person who woke up every morning, sipped a nice cup of tea and wrote in a journal. I’m not. I try to be, sometimes – but that lasts for a week at most. Last night, I found an old journal of mine, from 2015. Only ten or so pages were written in.
I read this journal last night. Good lord, was I dramatic. Maybe I still am? But beyond it being dramatic, I couldn’t help but want to give 21 year old me a hug. Homegirl thought everything was her fault.
I apologized often in those ten pages. I’m not really sure what I was apologizing for (I wasn’t very good at details, clearly), but I often wrote things like “I am sorry for the way that I am.” I also wrote a lot about what I needed to change about myself.
It broke me to read this. I’m 24 now. I’ve been on this earth an extra 1,460 days and I think I’ve learned a decent amount since then. I’ve learned I don’t need to apologize for who I am. My personality – my humor, my quirks – they’re who I am. I’ve learned that my sensitivity isn’t always a detriment. I’ve learned that it’s not my fault all the time.
20 year old me felt ugly. I was not yet comfortable in my skin. I still yearned for what my body had been when I was sick, at times. I put so much of my worth into my appearance, and because I felt so terribly about how I looked, I valued myself at nothing. I recall 20 year old me was still showering in the dark at times, to avoid seeing myself.
While I was saddened to see the state of who I was at that time, it also made me proud of who I’ve become since then. My self esteem, for one, isn’t squashed anymore. I believe in myself, and shit man, that’s all that you need. I recognize my faults, but I also can recognize my strengths. I know my worth.
I wonder, if in five years, 29 year old me will read this blog and cringe. Will I recognize myself anymore? What will have changed? What will remain the same?
My question to you is: what would you tell 20 year old you? As for me, I would tell her to keep her head up and to truly, deeply, love herself.
This week is one that is heavy on my heart. When this week arrives, I spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness week, and it’s a week that reminds me of how damn lucky I am.
Puberty was not very kind to me. Maybe the more honest thing to say was that I was not very kind to me and did not move a whole heck of a lot when I hit puberty. My diet also consisted of takeout and potato chips. Regardless, I was overweight from the age of 13 to 16. Coming from a household where my mother was a stick thin woman who could eat anything her heart desired, it hit hard. Why was I like this?
Eventually, I decided to take control of it. I got a gym membership when I turned 16 and got to work. I had no clue what I was doing so I would hop on an elliptical and stay on for twenty minutes. I continued to eat as I always had at home, and the weight started to melt off of me. My goal was to be “in shape” by the time my family went on spring break. I was not really sure what that meant for me, but I knew that I wanted to lose some weight, and I did.
When we got home from vacation, I recall looking at photos and being disappointed. I knew I had lost some weight, but I was upset with how I looked still. I decided that I was going to keep working, and that what I really needed was to change how I ate. So I did. I started weighing my food and counting calories. Guess what guys? It worked. That, coupled with extended time on the elliptical gave me some great results. By that summer, I had slimmed down further. I started getting compliments from people on how pretty I was. As much as I hate to admit it, it felt good. To go from someone who was a wallflower to someone who was noticed was such a thrill for me. I saw myself as a healthy person.
Looking back, I should have stopped and just maintained. The weight I was at was ideal for my frame and height. But… as the story goes, it went on. I became obsessed. I couldn’t eat in public anymore because I couldn’t weigh the oil that the cooks used. I became obscenely upset if I couldn’t go to the gym. My workouts were getting longer, and were still just cardio. My meals were getting smaller.
I was the girl who knew calories. You know that scene in To The Bone where the girl looks at a plate and can call out the calories of each item perfectly? That was me. I was still loosing weight. It began to be painful to do yoga, because my back bones were sticking out so much. I was tired all the time. What should have been a big signal to me that this was going downhill was when my period stopped.
The thing is… I didn’t care. I wanted more. I don’t know how to explain it. There was a euphoric feeling I would get from stepping on the scale and seeing it go down. Running my hands down my stomach and feeling nothing brought me joy. Sometimes, I would have realizations that it may have been too much, but the voice in my head told me to shut up and get back to work.
I don’t have photos from my thinnest. I bottomed out at 57 pounds. To put that into perspective, my BMI was 11.5. 18.5-25 is a “normal range”, and I was points below. I am not an advocate for using BMI for most cases, but it just reinforces how absurdly underweight I was.
My hair started to come out in clumps. I had to get a bob cut so I could wear beanies at all times. I was wearing parkas in warm weather. For every hour I was awake, I needed to sleep for three. My body was not happy, and I did not recognize any of the signs.
I ended up in the hospital. My organs were beginning to shut down. I would have what felt like heart attacks regularly. Laying there in that hospital bed, I told myself I needed to do better. I realized I was going to die if I didn’t. In that moment, I promised myself that if I survived, I would help others in similar situations.
I worked hard. I cried and cried for months. I wanted to heal myself, but the voice in my head was so strong at this point. Anytime I ate, the voice screamed at me to stop being such a fat ass. I was working on me, but there was a part of me that didn’t want my own help.
My parents and my siblings were my support system and I am eternally grateful to have had them through that. I had to go to school for half days only, because of how exhausted my body was. I couldn’t drive because of fainting spells. I lost a whole lot of friends because what 17 year old can handle someone with issues like that?
It got better though. It took years. I was in therapy and treatment for a long time. To this day, I still have trouble with my own self image. Anorexia is something that will never leave who I am. It played such a pivotal role for me in my teenage years, and continues to play a role into my twenties. I am at a point where I can eat well and exercise in moderation and feel good about myself, but it takes effort every damn day.
Work needs to be done to prevent stories like this from happening. My thought is that if I had been educated at a younger age about what healthy eating was and what healthy exercise looked like, I could have prevented myself from going down this dark road. I teach high school now, and I hear girls in the bathroom talking about how if only they were skinny, they’d be so much happier. I want to shake them and tell them my story. I hold back. Maybe I shouldn’t though? Maybe more people should hear these stories. These gross, sad stories so that they don’t have to have their own to share.
This week is hard for me. This week is also a reminder of my own strength and my process. I am so grateful to be here, today. I am so grateful for my health and my family and my loved ones. I am so grateful to be able to share my story. Eating disorders, and anorexia specifically, have a mortality rate of 10%. Many women (and men) will never be able to share their stories. I can share mine.