Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Anorexia and Eating Disorders...sigh

I might have mentioned I suffered from anorexia and compulsive exercise while in college and a bit afterwards for 4 or 5 years.  I have been recovered (at least in actions and sometimes in thoughts) for going on 8 years or more now, but some of the ED thoughts just don't go peacefully, like guilt after eating a high calorie food, feeling down on myself for gaining weight (even if it's likely water weight) a need to exercise most days (but not a fraction of what I used to do).  I do have some hard times coming to grips with the body I get with weight lifting--broader shoulders and quads hence pants and shirts don't fit and I do feel "fat".  At my worst, I weighed around 80 lb. (I'm 5'4" tall) and was exercising (mostly running) 4-5 HOURS a day.  It's a wonder I didn't kill myself though I did eventually confess to my mom I was having problems via email.  I so wished I could unsend that message the minute I sent it but it did start me at least going to see people would could help (it was awhile before I actually did decide to recover and not just pretend to be recovering--I found the prospect of change & gaining weight just overwhelming). 

I didn't mean for this post to go into my past.  I used to post on several ED boards (both pro-ED and later pro-recovery boards and still do from time to time post on We Bite Back as livingtx thought it's been awhile since I've been there.  Sometimes even good boards can be triggering and other times I'm doing so well ED wise I really have no need of the boards.  I'll try to write out more of my ED story later and maybe get some pictures uploaded.  (This is a new laptop and my photos are all on my old desktop computer.)

Anyway, there are times I'll be going along in life just fine then suddenly--BAM! out of the blue I get jolted back to those memories and that period of my life (for me, recovery from the ED was the hardest thing I've done so far--harder than getting my master's degree in Cell & Molecular Biology harder than giving birth, harder than breastfeeding my daughter for 2 years, harder than being a mom, even--at least as yet I have no doubt things will get more challenging with Tessa in the future).  Usually, the trigger for me is seeing someone with an obvious ED.  Sometimes I can just look at a person and know they have an ED (especially with anorexia, as was the case today).  I was in Barnes & Noble (we go there to the Kid's section to read books and for Tessa to play with the Thomas the Train table) and one of the employees near us had an obvious ED.  Well, I'm about 99% certain she did.  I suppose there's the slight chance it could be something else but she had all the signs--painfully thin, a hollow gaunt face (this I find is the most telling sign), bad front teeth (often a result of insufficient nutrition & acid damage from purging) and was chewing gum (even now I find myself struggling to break free of the constant gum chewing that went with my ED, a way to try to "trick" yourself into thinking you're eating).  I couldn't place her age exactly but I'd guess she was probably somewhere in her 20s.  The awful thinness makes people look so much older in the face than they actually are.  In pictures when I was in my early twenties, I could have easily been in my 40s looking at my face.  As always when I come upon these people by chance, I wish I could help, say something to them, tell them I understand what it's like.  But I never do.  There is always the small chance I could have misjudged (though I doubt it) and anyway it would be an intrusion and not something they would want to hear unless they are open to help.  I felt pity for her, unlike in my past where I would see a person with an ED and just wish I were as thin as she.  After I leave, I always feel some guilt for not just saying "Here's my number.  Here's my email. Call me if you want to talk.  I know what you are going through."  ED's are very isolating and friends and family tend to get pushed away.  I never felt so lonely as I did at that stage of my life and it would have been nice to have someone who really understood to talk too and who was far enough into recovery that it wouldn't set them back or turn into a competition as to who is the best anorexic (nearly all ED sufferers wish to be anorexic, I've found, very few wish to be bulimic or perceived as bulimic).  I know I talked to many therapists and shrinks but I didn't truly connect with anyone until I met up with a group of dieticians in Houston (The Healthy Weigh), run by Caryn Honig who had recovered from an ED herself and the dietician I worked with said she'd never been diagnosed as an ED patient but had many of the signs and was just this side of it before she turned things around.  Then, I felt like I was finally talking to people who helped and really understood.  By the way, Caryn was great and negotiated a pay what I could afford plan since I was in graduate school at the time and didn't have much in the way of income.

That's some of my ED story, I guess, more another time but thought I would write on the subject since it was revelant to what happened today.


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