Cured

It happened last week-the most dramatic mental shift I’ve experienced since the day that Anorexia dug its sharp claws in to my then thirteen-year-old body and held me captive for almost a decade.

I’ve been weight-restored for several years now, and my disorder is no longer visible to the public. But my mind was a battleground, my thoughts plagued with calorie counting and clean eating and ketosis and carbohydrates, drowning any rational thoughts as it pertains to food intake.

I ate the same thing, at the same time, in the same quantity every day for years at a time without switching it up. I didn’t know what hunger was, because I was doing everything I could to prevent a binge, and, consequently, a purge and episode of debilitating guilt that would inevitably follow.

I would turn down dates and social outings that would involve food, and at a minimum would conduct extensive research to ensure that I could find something “clean” to eat that would fit into the latest diet plan that I was subjecting myself to. Because there was always a diet plan.

Some days, I’d look at my body and decide that I was too fat to engage with others. I was disgusted by what I saw, and would spend hours in front of the mirror, sniffling as tears dripped down my face and onto my chest as I poked and pulled mercilessly at the cage of flesh I was sentenced to live in.

Anorexia lost, so bulimia took a swung at me, and suddenly I’d find myself bingeing out of control, tearing through entire cereal boxes, eating full packages of Oreo’s and loaves of bread, in complete secrecy. I would then hide the evidence of my binge episode, shut myself up in my room, and cry until I felt able to purge it out through hours of cardio at the gym.

I’d sit in the break room at work, mouth watering, as I watched coworkers partake in catered lunches from the company, candy at halloween, and pie during the week of Thanksgiving. I never gave in once, and stuck dutifully to my low-calorie, sugar-free, low-carb lunch that I’d packed the night before.

But then, one day, I gave in.

Last week, my company catered Zupas for us, as we’d had a record day the day before. I had packed my own lunch the night before, as usual, and intended to eat the contents of my lunch tote and then chew gum for the remainder of my break to avoid any more “temptation.”

But I was exceptionally hungry that day, and I just so happen to really like Zupas. So, I took a deep breath and marched straight up to the table, and grabbed myself a sandwich and a chocolate-dipped cookie.

For the first time in probably a decade, I sat down and slowly enjoyed every bite of that half-sandwich and chocolate-dipped cookie that I allowed myself. I let myself taste it all, and savor every last calorie. And when I was through, I smiled. No feelings of guilt, no compensatory behavior, and honestly, not even a second thought about it. It was an effing cookie, after all.

But that’s the thing about eating disorders, they instill a completely irrational fear of things like cookies and sandwiches, things that a lot of people eat on a daily basis. Instead of feeling guilt-ridden and anxious, I felt at ease, comfortable, even.

Ever since that stupid little experience during my lunch break at work, my entire attitude toward food and my body has done a 180. I eat slowly now, without anxiety or agitation. I enjoy every last bit of it, and stop when I feel comfortably full. I go to the gym almost every day, and I do workouts that make me feel good about myself and confident in my body’s capabilities. I don’t purge, and I don’t poke at my stomach in bathroom mirrors in pubic restaurants anymore. I haven’t weighed myself in months, and people call me “Thicc” and it doesn’t offend me one bit. My “thicc” butt still fits in my size 0 jeans from high school, and has frankly become one of my favorite features about my physical self.

And I’m happy. Of course, I have a laundry list of things I’d change about my body if I had an unlimited budget for liposuction. But I don’t have an unlimited budget for liposuction. I do, however, have a life to live and I think that after ten years of limiting my experience as a human being due to the fear of weight gain, I’ve had a breakthrough.

I think I’m finally free.

M.

 

 

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Solicitude

Guess who’s back. Shady’s back.

Oh, and me.

It’s funny how I  attempt to maintain a blog during the school semester. Turns out, it simply cannot be done.

Today marks the conclusion of my first (and last) summer semester of college. That’s right-I voluntarily signed up to attend a 7:30 AM lecture twice a week at a school located 45 minutes from my apartment.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention I moved out?

I am now the resident of my state’s capital city. I have a “Maddie-sized” basement apartment in a cute, old-fashioned house near downtown. I live all by myself, though I had a beta fish named Brendon Urie for a time, but he died within two weeks. May he rest in peace.

Anyway, turns out moving out is really super duper fun. Nobody gets mad at you for listening to the same Twenty-One Pilots song on loop for three hours. Nobody makes you do the dishes or sweep the floor. Nobody tells you to put pants on. Or to do your laundry. Or to feed yourself.

Nobody except you.

Sometimes my dishes pile up. Sometimes my lightbulb burns out in my bathroom and I shower in the dark for 6 days before doing anything about it. Sometimes a spider emerges from the corner of the room and I spray it with Raid until it ceases to move. Sometimes my fridge is empty so I eat peanut butter for dinner.

C’est la vie.

Initially, moving out had done wonders for my anxiety. I felt like I had much more control over my life. After all, I’m an adult with my own place and everything that happens here within my own place is entirely up to me. Liberating, yet terrifying.

It turns out that you can’t simply abandon your anxious, perfectionistic self. When I moved, she moved with me. As I mentioned before, I was enrolled in summer classes at my university, in addition to beginning a program to become a certified pharmacy technician. As the end of the semester neared, my body decided that we were exhausted, and before I knew it, I was having a panic attack at work.

I was “processing shipment”, a term in the retail world that means taking clothes out of bags, putting sensors on them, and hanging them on hangers. Anyway, as I was doing this, the room gradually began feeling hotter and hotter. I broke out in a sweat, and found it difficult to breathe. I fanned myself, gasped for air, and finally retreated to the break room in the back, doubled over, and hyperventilating.

I sat in a chair, cradling my head in my hands, and tried to force myself to breathe. The air kept getting thinner, and the temperature kept rising, and finally, I ran out of my workplace-tears and mascara streaming down my flushed cheeks-and was on my way to the doctor’s office.

That was rock bottom.

Since then, I’ve taken some serious therapeutic action. As advised by my doctor, I’ve been exercising regularly, getting proper nutrition, and removing stressors from my life. I quit my job (the one that housed my anxiety attack) and moved to a much more flexible, relaxed one. I’m taking the fall semester off at the Uni (a concept that initially gave me much more anxiety than any school semester ever could) and now I basically get to work when I want to and attend Pharmacy Tech school.

Things finally feel manageable. Things feel comfortable. Suspiciously comfortable.

I’ve noticed over the past few days that just when I feel like I’m allowing myself to enjoy life, I am overcome with guilt. My brain buzzes with constant, self-shaming thoughts: “I shouldn’t be this happy, I shouldn’t have this much free time, I shouldn’t sit still or relax.”

And so I don’t.

The best way I can describe chronic anxiety is when your mind races so fast that it forces your body to attempt to keep up with it-an impossible task. From the moment I open my eyes to the time I close them for the night, my entire body is buzzing. That’s the best word for it.

Then you combine that with eating disordered thoughts, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s been seven years since I’ve been weight-restored, and I still can’t eat a soft pretzel (one of my ABSOLUTE favorite foods) without mulling over it for the next three days, not resting nor sleeping until I perceive that I’ve adequately purged the calories from my system by means of vigorous cardiovascular exercise.

I want so badly to let myself be happy, but the truth is, I’m afraid of what that entails.

 

M.

 

 

 

Truant

Among my extensive list of obsessive-compulsive behaviors is that of impeccable punctuality and spotless attendance, whether it be school, the dentist, work, a sushi date, my therapist-the point is, I may be a lot of things, but a no-show is not one of them. This may be due in part to my short-lived exposure to reception work, in which I found extreme irritability in people who were either late for or completely missed their appointments without the courtesy of prior notification.

I am excruciatingly punctual to literally everything, but additionally, I will have woken up at an obscenely early hour that morning to allow time for my thorough daily “get ready to conquer the world” routine. And by obscenely early, I mean like 5:00 AM.

Upon awakening, my little brain goes immediately into hyper drive, and it remains in hyper drive for the duration of my waking hours. I immediately spring out of bed (not once in my almost 21 years of life have I ever hit the snooze button) and prepare coffee, as I couldn’t possibly generate enough energy naturally to remain alert for even a moment. Then, I shower, put on a full face of makeup, curl my hair (which is what keeps my biceps sculpted), and finally put on the outfit, complete with jewelry and accessories, that I’d spent a half an hour the previous night assembling.

Every. Damn. Morning.

I am the first to arrive to my 7:30 AM Research Methods and Design lecture, having consumed the exact same, low-calorie, perfectly balanced breakfast and ANOTHER K-cup of coffee beforehand. At this point, I’ve already been awake for two and a half hours, and require more espresso.

I attend to the rest of my responsibilities throughout the day with the same level of rigor, to the extent that I panic if things don’t go perfectly as planned.

Months and months of maintaining such a rigid lifestyle cause periodic wall-hitting. I hit one of those walls today.

Today is Tuesday, which means that I had an appointment with my therapist after my 7:30 AM lecture, followed by a 3-hour class at my local community college.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs previous, I hit a wall today. After my appointment, my brain flipped a switch from its anxiety-ridden normalcy to a state of zen. I made the impulsive decision to not submit to my rigid, perfect schedule today. I breathed in some of that Serenity Essential Oil stuff that I keep in my backpack as a preventative tool for anxiety attacks, and instead of speeding to make it to my pharmacy tech class on time, I drove home.

That was two hours ago.

Now, I am laying in my bed without pants on, messy hair, and no guilt or anxious, racing heart. I feel pretty damn liberated.

The thing about living with anxiety (and perfectionism)  is that every little mistake, shortcoming, or thing that didn’t go as planned feels damning and the guilt that follows is impossible to escape from.

I get trapped in my own head. I try and fail to keep up with the pace of my eternally racing thoughts. My heart races, my palms sweat, and my breathing turns shallow.

But not today.

Today, I took a personal day from myself.

M.

Aficionado

I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote yesterday’s post, and I want to thank everyone who reached out to me. You guys are #1, I genuinely appreciate your willingness to help me re-center, find my strength, and resort back to my default mode, which is complete badassery. Additionally, I didn’t expect the content I share here to be received so positively. So thank you guys.

My Anorexic Mind would claim that what happened yesterday as a “binge episode.” However, my Logical Mind recalls that a binge episode is classified by the consumption of a large amount of food (8,000-10,000 CALORIES) within a short amount of time (less than 2 hours). Since today I’m in a place where I am primarily employing my Logical Mind, I can give a more objective post-hoc analysis of my experience.

Realistically speaking, I probably consumed 300-500 extra calories, or two servings of really grainy cereal, my favorite thing to binge on. We eating-disordered people, we tend to memorize nutrition facts. I could accurately report to you the nutritional content of virtually any food with a label; I spend an obscene amount of time researching foods before they even enter my mouth. Annoying, right?

Anyway, it seems that I had what physicians are calling a “Subjective Binge Episode.” dun dun DUN.

Basically, a subjective binge episode varies from an objective one in the amount of food consumed (objective binge episodes involving the consumption 5-15,000 calories, which exceeds daily recommended intake for both males and females). However, both types have the commonality of feelings of lack of control during the binge, which I completely identify with.

My weight has significantly increased since yesterday (I’ve weighed myself thrice), so that’s something I’ve got to cope with today, in addition to beginning research for a literature review on the pharmacological treatments of eating disorders.

Let’s get to the point of today’s post: Pro-Anorexic content.

I spent a couple of hours browsing through the world of blogging last night, eagerly searching for the most effective way to compensate for the extra calories I had had (I hate that had had makes sense in the English language-another topic for another time), and I was appalled by the myriad #thinspo, self-starvation content that I found.

It was addicting. I couldn’t stop reading pro-Ana blogs, looking at “thinspo” images of thigh gaps, rib cages, and hollow cheeks. These images were often accompanied by slogans such as “Skinny girls don’t eat” or “Starve, bitch, Starve.”

Before I knew it, I was researching diet pills. I was contemplating self-induced vomiting. I was eagerly perusing blog after blog of anorexics sharing their foolproof tricks to keep themselves from eating. I told myself that I could do that, too. I could live off black coffee and water. I could run six miles tomorrow. I could do it, I WOULD do it, and I certainly would not allow myself to binge ever again. I was right back where I started seven years ago, when I opened the door for Anorexia, took her coat, and invited her to stay a while.

I am PLEADING with those who propagate pro-Anorexia content, please cease. Get help. See a therapist. The content you post is triggering the delicate-willed like myself, and undoing all of the progress I have made toward living a normal life without disordered eating and body dysmorphia. More importantly, you are hurting yourself. Not only are you catalyzing eating disordered behavior in others with this content, you are empowering yourself to continue down a road that leads to one sole destination; self-destruction. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of ANY psychiatric disease, and damn it, being thin at the cost of your life is. not. worth. it.

Then again, I was a pro-anorexia girl once.

I am making myself crazy with all of this. I am so distressed and so anguished that eating disorders are so damn prevalent and that I keep relapsing, falling prisoner to this disease that causes so much cognitive dissonance, anxiety, and significant decrease in self-worth. I would give anything to be cured, if such a thing is even possible.

On the other side of the coin, I am so distressed and so anguished by any sign of weight gain, no matter how small. I am so anxious about food, and I feel as though I am unable to direct my thoughts to where I want them. I am not the sole pilot of my brain. I need to feel in control.

It’s as if there’s a throw down between my Anorexic Mind and my Logical Mind, but my Anorexic Mind has a mean left-jab, and my Logical Mind lacks the ability to defend itself from invasion.

Who will win?

Oh, and to the asshole who told me last year that eating disorders aren’t ‘real disorders,’ please reevaluate your claim, or at least back it up empirically.  

M. 

 

Eupepsia

It has acutely come to my attention that there is a subdivision of psychology devoted entirely to food and peoples’ relationship with it. They (the governing body of all things psychological, I suppose) have creatively named it “Food Psychology.”

I’ve been desperately searching for tried and true tricks to intervene before I subject myself to a situation like the episode I had last week, and the psychodynamic side of me feels that searching for the origins of my peculiar relationship with food would be helpful in selecting an effective treatment, because, frankly, I’m done being the kind of weirdo whose biggest concern is what she is going to eat today and lives in constant fear of losing control of the abundance of food around her. It’s time to be a different kind of weirdo.

In the beginning, I was a chubby kid. I loved KFC and pasta with parmesan cheese, sue me. It just so happened to deposit itself right on my abdomen. I was a hopelessly picky eater, and refused to eat all things produce and lean protein. Though my parents never said anything, I could sense their concern-even from a young age. I was NOT a happy camper. Ever. Still to this day, you can see the sadness in my eyes in the sparse stack of photographs from my youth. I didn’t like me, and lived in a constant state of self-consciousness, always trying to make myself disappear, though not through starvation means quite yet, which would account for the sparse stack of photographs from my youth.

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In the interest of time, let’s jump forward to adolescence; everyone’s favorite life stage. Moderate body dysmorphia is relatively common among young teenage girls, but what I experienced fell far outside of the bell curve. I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t self-conscious, but my early teenage years were certainly the most severe in this regard. It was at this time in my life that I had finally gained the motivation to transform myself into the only thing that I thought could make me happy-skinny.

As soon as I turned 13, I signed myself up for a calorie counter account, and began logging every bite. Anorexia had reduced my calorie intake to a mere 250 calories per day, and my diet consisted mostly of baby carrots and a fourth of a cup of Multigrain Cheerios.I weighed myself seven, eight, nine times per day. The rapid weight loss was energizing-I was above hunger, above the need for food. I was strong and I was beautiful. And people were noticing. I was 5’2, and 72 pounds.

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My eyes had sunken in, my hair had thinned, I had constant goosebumps, and every vertebrae on my back was both visible and palpable. I remember making my own mom cry one day when she accidentally walked in on me changing my shirt.

The folks dragged me to therapy, but my therapist left a bad taste in all of our mouths, so I was only forced to attend the initial session. While all of this was going on, my parents had begun seeing a personal trainer and nutrition coach, so food and exercise dominated a lot of household conversation, which reinforced my preoccupation with “healthy” eating.

I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I’d bake sweets for my family on almost a nightly basis, the aroma of the baked goods forcing me to salivate, but I was strong. I never gave in. I ate the exact same food every single day, at the exact same time, and in the exact same quantity.

Sleep was hard to come by, initially due to the audible pleading of my stomach for sustenance, but later due to hunger pains that only increased in severity as the night wore on.

I wish I knew what exactly made me “snap out of it,” but eventually (and thankfully), my body took over my prefrontal cortex, and forced me to slowly restore my weight to a sustainable range. Strangely, I don’t remember much of the weight restoration process, but I can imagine that it was excruciatingly devastating to watch myself gain the weight that I had worked so hard to starve off.

My level of self-consciousness has remained fairly constant throughout my development into adulthood. Today, I am right smack in the middle of the “healthy weight range” according to the BMI chart. But my relationship with food is nowhere near healthy.

Last semester, I took a 20 credit hour course load. (Full-time is 12.) However, I couldn’t bring myself to focus on anything school-related until I had a Maddie-approved meal plan prepared for the day. I’d spend upwards of an hour per night just packing food for the next day, because my anxiety would be far too severe for me to cope with if I didn’t.

Every time I visit the ladies room, I will spend 2-3 minutes examining myself, pinching various areas of my body in disgust, regardless of who might see. I have to forcibly pull myself away from the mirror before I burst into tears. I visit the scale multiple times per day, and threaten myself with starvation if I don’t like the number I see.

Sometimes, when my anxiety is unleashed, I hide in the pantry and scarf down entire boxes of cereal. After which, I go to the gym and attempt to purge it all with hours of cardiovascular exercise.

Weight gain is by far my greatest fear, and I structure my entire life around avoiding it. I have isolated myself in order to ensure that I don’t slip up. I am prisoner to my obsession with food.

I am ready for a life without this, but unfortunately, I won’t let me let it go.

M.

 

Disconsolate

It’s 8:00 AM, and i’ve already had my optimism toward the world crumpled into a ball and thrown out the window of a high-speed train for the day.

I’ve already scrolled upon multiple problematic, and frankly, triggering posts and memes that devalue women, gays, and pretty much any other marginalized group you could possibly think of.

One of the most maddening memes of the morning was a pro-bulimia post that was shared by an individual whom I once thought was at least not contributing to the oppression of women. The post was a picture of a woman leaning over a toilet, and the caption said something to the effect of “Call your woman fat because you enjoy the gagging noises.” I wish I could find the original meme, but as of 15 minutes ago, I am no longer friends with this individual on Facebook, which restricts my access to his timeline.

Typically, I do my very best to be a saintly member of society, especially on the internet, but I took this particular post a little personally, as eating disorders just so happen to be one of the battles I have to face, so my impulsivity got the best of me.

“This is pretty offensive.” I commented on the photo.

Now, I know that the individual that posted this admires me visually, so he is typically pretty nice to me. Give or take five minutes after I commented, he sent me a personal message, apologizing for offending me. I explained to him that the content of his posts were harmful and actually pretty triggering to some individuals. His response was that not only does he understand that when he posts it, but that he knows that it will offend people, and that he will continue to do so.

I hit the “unfriend” button faster than you could say “misogynistic jerk.”

I am not sensitive. I completely understand the whole concept of “nobody can offend you without your consent.” I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart. But guys, if you KNOW that you’re hurting people, why would you deliberately continue to do so? I was under the impression that a lot of the marginalization and sexism in our society is ingrained and therefore, somewhat subconscious, but perhaps I was being a little too optimistic.

Am I naive and over-sensitive for being so disheartened by this? That somebody would intentionally be trying to hurt somebody else? Maybe.

A Perhaps Too Sensitive M.

Englut

I’m in an abnormal psychology class this semester, and let me tell you, Psych majors are a lot like Med students in that we tend to diagnose ourselves with whatever disorder we are currently discussing in class. I am guilty as charged.

Except for when i’m not, and I really do qualify for the diagnosis of discussion.

I make no secret of my eating disorder. Don’t believe me? Check out my About page. I am a recovered Anorexic, according to my BMI. However, in regards to my mental health, my eating disorder is thriving as well as it was when I was in junior high some five or so years ago. Those self-destructive thoughts you have when you’re eating 300 calories a day and running every last one of them off still linger, even after you’ve managed to eat yourself into the “Healthy Weight” category.

I always love the unit on disordered eating in psychology courses. Out of everything I learn in school, ED is one topic that I know like the back of my hand. I can give you symptoms, treatment plans, multi-dimensional risk factors, you name it! But more than that, I can give you a monologue for an ED victim, because, of course, that would simply require me to write down my day-to-day thought processes.

The most fascinating thing i’ve learned about my own disorder is that recovered anorexics can often morph into binge eaters. As an anorexic, I didn’t even consider this as a possibility. My 78-pound self couldn’t fathom ever eating more than 7 carrots in one day!

And yet, here I am. Five years later, still obsessed with food. Still obsessed with my weight. Body image. Calories. Carbohydrates. Refined sugars. GMO’s. I’d be willing to say that a good 65% of my inner monologue includes words from this type of vocabulary set.

I binge. Maybe once a week. I did today, and now i’m sitting here, writing about how I screwed up my no-carb, high protein diet, just like yesterday. Okay, so maybe Aunt Flo can take credit for this binge episode, but regardless, I probably would have done it tonight, period or not.

For someone who suffers from anorexic tendencies, a binge piles on more anxiety to an already overwhelmingly high amount of anxiety over weight gain, and it just keeps snowballing into more and more anxiety.

Y’know how long it’s been since I went to a restaurant without researching its nutritional facts, premeditating my order so that I was assured to get the lowest calorie meal? I do this for dates, birthdays, vacations, and any other reason you can possibly think of to go out to eat. Other nineteen-year-olds roll up to the drive-thru like it ain’t no thang and they order whatever they want AND a frosty! And don’t even think twice about it. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, to eat something I wanted and suffer no remorse whatsoever!

I can’t seem to shake this obsession with food and weight. I’ve tried the counselor thing. I’ve asked the advice of my mom, to which she said, “You’ve just got to have more willpower.” I can’t seem to find a plausible solution here, folks. So I guess i’m asking you guys, what methods have you tried to cope with disordered eating, specifically binging, and how have they been successful?

If you can’t think of anything, that’s cool too. I still find writing therapeutic.

M.