Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Something you might not know

I have struggled with an eating disorder for a long time now. Some people know about it, but a lot of people do not. It's not something I really talk about. But, maybe I should. I find it embarrassing and humiliating, but maybe others do too, and they are afraid to talk to someone about it and get the help that they need. The truth is, I didn't go to a therapist or doctor to get well. In fact, I don't think I am completely over it. It's still there, like a dark secret locked away in the corners of my mind, but every once in a while it rears its ugly head and makes me feel like a worthless human being. It tells me that I am not good enough. That I am weak. That I am disgusting and that I don't deserve to be happy. It tells me to eat mass quantities, and then tells me to purge or starve myself to make up for my weakness.

It started in 5th grade. I was very unhappy. Our school started year round, and my friends and I were split up between the different tracks, and I started eating. A lot. I ate and ate and ate.

Then in junior high school, my friends from sixth grade were no longer my friends anymore in what happens a lot at that age... people start to think about being "cool" or popular. I wasn't either. I wasn't a rich kid. I wasn't a thin girl, and suddenly became very aware of my looks and when I would look in the mirror I would see a very ugly girl. An ugly girl who would never be loved. An ugly girl who thought about dying a lot. It got worse in 8th grade. I felt worthless. I felt so insecure in every way. I ate. I ate so much that I gained 100 pounds in a year. This, as you might guess did nothing to help my social status or my feelings of inadequacy. I maintained my fat stature until I decided I wasn't going to eat anymore.

My senior year was a time of big change for me. I decided to take control of my life. I had lost some weight from my 8th grade days, and I had made a lot of friends, but I decided to make a lot of changes. I decided to be more positive and to try to make every day the best day. I wanted to be kind to everyone. Perhaps I was finally seeing that I could be a kind, sunny interaction to someone who had been as miserable as I had been for so long. And you know something? It did make me happier. I felt better about being a good person, but I still was overweight and hated that aspect of myself. I took control of that too. Half way through my senior year I stopped eating one day. I had lost my appetite. I didn't want to eat. Then it became a challenge, and I faced it head on. I no longer wanted to eat because I wanted to take control of my weight once and for all. I decided to starve the monster that I had created all those years before, in the hopes that it would go away, and I could emerge different, and somehow better. There were days that I would break down and eat. I would eat an apple or drink a soda... I know. I know. Then there were moments of weakness when the monster would win, and I would binge. And then the guilt would come and I would starve myself again. This time swearing to be stronger... And it got easier. I didn't feel faint anymore. I began to love that empty feeling at the end of the day when I would lie down to sleep. It got to the point where I was unhappy unless I felt that emptiness. It was a hunger of sorts. A hunger to be strong and control something that at times was so out of control... my appetite. The weird thing is, that I felt better and better about myself the longer I would go without eating. That sense of control gave me empowerment. I had a secret that no one knew, and I loved it. No one questioned me about it because I was still overweight. I was losing weight fairly quickly, but instead of the looks of concern, I got praise. I got so much praise, and that only fueled my motivation to continue. I was finally getting attention from boys. I was finally feeling like I was pretty. My confidence soared, but all the while the monster lay in wait. Waiting to pounce. I would go through long bouts (they got longer every time) of starvation, and then binge for an entire weekend, and then the guilt would take over and the feelings of self worth diminished and I would be left a shell again, and my resolve would get stronger to stop eating and deprive myself. And when I would, I felt like I could conquer the world.

By the time I had graduated, it had been about 2 months since I had started this starvation, and I had lost 35 pounds. Over the next 6 months I would lose 35 more. But that feeling of conquering the world didn't last. Instead, depression crept in and my immune system tanked and I got very sick. But all the while people kept praising me for how good I looked. Guys flirted with my constantly, and I loved it, but I always felt like I was covered in a shadow. I had this continual cloud over me, no matter how happy I tried to be on the outside, I was crying on the inside. Worried constantly that I would be found out, and feeling like a failure all the way around the board. I was becoming weak again. I wanted out. I had a room mate who knew my secret, without my telling her, and I was terrified that it would get out to others. I was ashamed.

Over the course of the following two years, I started eating more regularly, but counted calories like crazy, and would only eat once a day. I started gaining weight little by little, and it freaked me out. I had set backs, and would go on starvation binges now and then, but my resolve was thinning. I was tired of fighting the monster.

My battles with weight continue, and even now, sitting here, very overweight, the monster whispers in my ear to eat away my feelings, or just starve myself... just for a little while. I feel my stomach growl and I find myself smiling, but loathing myself at the same time. I realize that I have a food addiction. It all started back in 5th grade when I ate to feel better, and the more I ate the better I felt temporarily. So as long as I stuffed my face full of fattening foods I was happy... until I was made fun of at school... and then it would perpetuate and it became a vicious cycle, culminating in a 130+ weight gain in the span of 3 years.

But my addiction goes deeper. When I starved myself, I was still addicted. There was not a moment where food wasn't on my mind. What I should eat, what I shouldn't, when I would eat, when I wouldn't, bet you I won't eat that even though I want to... Guilt, elation, satisfaction, guilt, elation, satisfaction... over and over and over... until one day, I couldn't do it any more. But food never left my thoughts. It is still very much there even now. I don't think it will ever go away.

I do not starve myself. I don't suffer with anorexia anymore. I don't binge like I did before, though there are times when I do give in even now-to an extent. But I feel like I am winning this battle, even though it doesn't appear to be so from an outsider looking in. I know to others I am just another obese person. Someone who has no self control. Someone who is somehow less. Someone to look at and say, "I'm glad I'm not that big." But, that's okay. Because I have to love myself right? I have to work on me, right? I can't be concerned about what others think about me. Because, I struggle with a very internal, very secret (until now) disorder/addiction. One that has caused me no end of pain and suffering. One that might have caused my infertility issues and my hormone problems. One that still haunts me. I may never be what others think I should be, but that's okay. I need to worry about being healthy, and I am trying, heaven knows I am trying. There are days I win and days I lose, but I have to wake up every morning and keep trying. To hell with the people who look down on me. To hell with those who say I am not good enough. To hell with my own low self esteem. I have to be better. I have to get through this. And I know that if I keep trying as hard as I can, that I CAN beat this. I pray that I beat this.

What's the point in writing this now after all these years? Why now on this blog? I wanted to get it off my chest. I wanted to maybe help someone else out there. You are not alone. So many people battle with this, and it is very hard, and very isolating. Some people, (like me) may not look like they are sick on the outside, because her collarbone doesn't show, and her clothes aren't falling off her body, but she is aching inside. She might not want to be found out, but secretly, maybe she does. Life can be so hard. Why make it harder on someone? I was bullied a lot. A LOT. To the point where I thought about ending my life many times. And I still think about those times and cry. If only someone had known. If only I could have told someone and not felt like a horrible human being. People didn't know how hurt I was on the inside. They didn't know how hard it was to wake up every morning and try to love myself enough not to take 100 ibuprofen just to stop the pain I felt inside. They didn't know. I would like to think that if we could see inside someone else, that we would treat others with more dignity and respect and kindness.

There have been a lot of stories about bullying in the news in the last few months, and I guess this is my own anti-bully plea. Please be careful. Please don't hurt others. Please be kind, even if you hurt inside. Life isn't fair. Life is hard... for everyone. Not everyone is abused in the same way, but everyone needs compassion and love. Everyone needs to feel that they are worth more than what they feel they are worth. You never know what your words will mean to another person, how they can haunt that person for the rest of their life.

Get help if you need it. You don't want to end up a thirty-something adult who still struggles with the demons of her past, and has a hard time some days getting through the muck. Please, if you have an eating disorder, no matter what size you are, get help.

Get help.

With Love,