My Life With ED
“We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia
The topic of eating disorders is one that can cripple me to my knees. The thought of having to discuss the topic with someone is like knocking the wind out of me. If just the thought of this bothers me this bad then I would caution anyone with an active eating disorder or early recovery from one about very triggering information about my disordered past and present. This post will probably be done over a couple of days due to how much it will stir internally.
If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that the age of 13 was a very difficult year and was emotionally abusive by a teacher. This was the year that several behaviors started for me such as: cutting, eating disorder, drug addiction and very early alcohol abuse. At the time, I didn’t understand that the behavior was called an eating disorder. I just knew that I was about to start playing high school sports the following fall and I had to be faster and stronger.
The time I remember the first “dieting” type behavior was soon after the eighth grade ended. I went on a crash diet and within about two weeks lost 20 lbs. I had, in that short time, taught myself to dislike certain foods. I had been using the drug Mini-Thins which was marketed as a bronchodilator at many truck stops that had both ephedrine and caffeine in its makeup. This was well before ephedrine was taken off the market because of so many sports related deaths. I clearly remember there being 100 tabs for $7.99. Any allowance money went straight to those little pills. Now you’re wondering exactly what purpose they served for me, eh? This drug while containing a precursor for methamphetamine, completely knocked out my appetite while decreasing all water weight and supplying me the energy to play two sports without eating.
I was completely wrapped up in a big ole ball of addiction already and had no idea. I’ve always said that addiction was the best friend that cut my throat. It served its alleged purpose while wrapping me up in a killing machine of codependency of both behaviors and substances. All it took for my eating disorder to continue was one compliment or another pound lost. I soon found myself becoming a quicker ballplayer with greater stamina and explosive power. Unfortunately, this never worked well with the aggressiveness that also developed this year.
When I went to high school, and thank goodness they weren’t drug testing athletes at that time, I was a full blown addict already out of control within only about 3 months. My eating disorder had now progressed to weighing 12-15 times a day. I slept in teachers rooms during lunch so I wouldn’t have to be around food. I was now both anorexic and bulimic. My bulimia purging was through laxative use. I was getting drunk to the point of passing out and/or vomiting anytime I went to a “party.” The mind bending part was that I was really climbing in my athletic play. I was a starting freshman on both the softball and basketball teams. I thought and felt like I was on top of the world. I seemingly ‘had my cake and got to eat it too.’
The next couple of years I continued to lose weight but my playing slowly started on a downward spiral. By my senior year, I was a sickly 83 lbs on a 5’7″ frame. I had resorted to stealing diet pills and would frequently have mini seizures or some type of severe jerking movements and saw spots in the mornings. I was constantly weighing myself. I was constantly tired and cold. I would eat one small salad a week and would cry if I had to eat in public. The questions had started long before about “why aren’t you eating?” “Are you losing weight?” Most of the time I would just tell people that I wasn’t hungry. I had already eaten or my stomach hurt. I would explain the weight loss off as just training harder and having a higher metabolism as a teenager. My dreams of playing college basketball and/or softball were disappearing and I didn’t even care. I was also now taking 25 pills a day just to maintain my habit.
People began to tell me how sickly I looked. My eyes were dark and sunken. My face was sunken and my ribs and backbone were unhealthily showing. My digestive system was completely messed up. Mentally I didn’t know whether to ‘scratch my watch or wind my butt.’ And my body had begun to feed on itself. As a result, I was unable to be in top notch shape as an athlete because I always had pulled muscles in my back. I had just watched myself as a beloved player of the game of basketball go from being able to play hard and fast the entire game to having to come out of the game shortly after tip off because of lack of energy or injuries.
When I moved from my teen years into my years of domestic abuse, I was required to weigh for my husband and to stay in a certain weight range. I had finally started to recover minimally, I thought, pull out of my life of an eating disorder. However, it seemed that I was being forced back into those behaviors again. I was soon being told what I could and could not eat. How and what I ate were criticized constantly. I was made to take pictures of myself in bathing suits or naked and put them on the refrigerator as a reminder what I looked like when I got hungry. And when I went to work and food establishments were nearby, I was dared to eat when it wasn’t the food I was allotted. Sometimes I would look up from where I worked and my husband would be out in the parking lot watching me from his vehicle. I became terrified to eat again and I was starving. Most of the time, I would wait for him to go to bed and I would sneak food hoping to God he didn’t hear me. Still, he would inevitably start pinching at my body and making comments about how I looked and dressed. He would tell me, “You want to see something disgusting? Just look in the mirror.”
Skip ahead to today and I still have a lot of hang ups around food, eating and body image. This is probably one of the topics that haunt me the most. I still cannot eat in public without wearing sunshades, headphones and trying to hide behind menus. We have fears of being recognized and being talk about concerning whatever we might order or how we eat. I’m scared to death about trying new foods. I’m scared to make food selections. I’m very uncomfortable with eating around people especially those that I know. I prefer to eat privately. These days it’s not about getting the high from the endorphins. Now it’s strictly about fear of judgment. Yes, I still have an eating disorder. No, I’m not an anorexic weight. Let me get stressed out and the first thing I do is start restricting. There I said it. I have a really long way to go on this recovery. And with DID, as you may or may not can imagine, things can be extremely stressful for extended periods of time.
As my dear Sarah would tell me if I asked her advice on this one, she would say, “Dana, start at step #1. This is a marathon not a sprint.” Again, I can smile.