This week is NEDA (National Eating Disorders Awareness) week. A week where we can make everyone around us aware of how dangerous and more common than we think, eating disorders of all types really are. I have discussed with you all for the past three years the ins and outs of my eating disorder with my Side Notes entries; everything from the good, the bad and the ugly. There is no such thing as an easy journey when it comes to an eating disorder, I can vouch for that myself. It has taken me almost TEN YEARS to get to a place in myself where my eating disorder is no longer in control.
There are so many aspects to eating disorders. They’re dangerous. They’re deadly and will kill without notice (I have lost friends in the past to this, it sucks). They’re socially debilitating. They’re lonely. They’re controlling. They’re depressing. They’re hard.
I have gone through several stages throughout my eating disorder including anorexia nervosa, over exercising, body dysmorphic disorder, emotional eating and now, recovery. It is probably one of the hardest things I have every gone through and I hope to never have to go through any stages of it again. And I would never wish anyone else to have to go through it either.
I’m a little late into the week, but I will be writing a few posts focusing on different aspects of eating disorders and recovery. There is a limitless list of things I could talk about, but some will include acceptance, self esteem, whole body wellness, and the taboo of talking about having an eating disorder.
For now, I’ll start with how the biggest part for me and recovering from my eating disorder was learning to love myself; not just physically, but mentally also. Many people believe that having an eating disorder is a sort of narcissistic behavior, but it’s not. It is a DISEASE, and a very bad one at that.
Over the years I have been criticized for the way I live my life; flitting around from place to place, living paycheck to paycheck and to some people, living an unbalanced lifestyle. Being a biologist to some people seems like something you would do just in your free time as a hobby and that it’s not a real job; that you don’t need that much intelligence to be able to perform anything in that line of work. Having people think this about me for years has made it hard for me to accept that even though I have chosen to do what makes me happy, have I done the right thing? Should I have taken the huge money making desk job I was offered 5 years ago but in the long run not have experienced all the things I have with the field jobs I have taken since then?
I know and believe now that my decision to do the field jobs I have, has saved me from my eating disorder. Had I not been able to experience what I had in the states and abroad, I would not have matured in the same way. You all have read about how Peru literally changed everything for so much the better since October and I wonder if I had taken that other job, would I be as recovered as I am now? It means I would never have met my counselor, Whit, and various friends who have been rocks during my struggles.
I had to believe that what I chose was right. If it wasn’t, that’s ok because you know what, you can start over again and make a different decision! There is no ultimate this or that and that’s it; there is a go this route, and if it doesn’t work, go through another door to somewhere else.
But that’s just the mental part of everything. There is also the physical part. When you have body dysmorphic disorder, nothing looks as it seems. EVERYTHING on you looks FAT, ALL THE TIME. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how many calories you burn, or how little you eat; when you look in the mirror, all you see if a FAT person.
I know that everyone has their bad days. That sometimes, we just don’t feel right in our bodies, but we aren’t supposed to feel like this, to the extreme, every second of every single day. That is body dysmorphic disorder. And I used to feel like that. I used to spot check so many areas on my body every single day, sometimes more times than I can count, to make sure that one piece of bread I had at lunch hadn’t gone straight to my hips. Every time I could see my reflection I would look. Every time I had a chance to put down the way I looked, I would.
This part of an eating disorder, whether it be anorexia, bulimia, overeating or EDNOS, is one of the hardest things to overcome. Until you are able to look at yourself in the mirror and really love everything that’s there, recovery is still in the works. It was not until I came back from Peru 10 pounds heavier that I was finally able to see really how beautiful I was, no matter what the weight. I thought I always needed to be the definition of thin or I would be unaccepted and judged, as had happened to me when I was in college.
I sometimes still have a hard time with this. There are days when my body is having some sort of issue and it’s not fitting into any of my clothes comfortably and my brain starts to go back to that dark place…that this smidge of a difference is going to be noticeable to every person around me and they will think, “Gosh, look at that chick. She doesn’t have control of anything in her life; even something as simple as her body!”
But you just have to trust your body. You have to trust it to do the right thing; the thing that will bring it back to balance the way it should be to be healthy. Because it will. When I got back from Peru that was the one thing that got me through the weight gain: I had been sick for months so my body was lashing out and had gained some weight. I have given it the time it needs to adjust, aiding it along the way by giving it anything it wants when it wants it (and if that means having sweet potato fries several times a week, then so be it!) and it has done it’s job, slowly and surely. I have lost about 8 of those 10 pounds in the four and a half months since I’ve gotten home.
And even if the differences aren’t extremely noticeable, you can see it in my mentality, or personality. I am able to concentrate more on what I want to do, my love and adventure of a relationship with Whit, and whatever else might come my way.
So ultimately, when you are able to trust your body and mind, things will get better. I promise. I’m living proof if you ever doubted that this type of recovery couldn’t happen. It’ll come when you least expect it; when you allow yourself to let go and allow control to fly out the window; when you realize that all this restricting in various forms, will get you no where you thought you could go.