There Is No Tidy Ending to My Eating Disorder
I can’t stuff over 30 years of an eating disorder into a neat package.
Posted Jan 23, 2021
Trigger warning: This post contains weights and calories.
I’ve been struggling with my eating disorder. I haven’t gained the pandemic 15, not even the pandemic 10. The pandemic four is more like it and sometimes my weight does go back down to what I weighed when this whole thing started.
I was tolerating it better then, but there was a lot less chaos in my life, so I wasn’t seeking that feeling of control. Now I feel like I want to reach into my life with my fist and squeeze, holding everything tight in my five fingers. So many aspects of my life feel so out of control and the one thing I can control is what I put in my mouth.
So much has changed and so much hasn’t. I still focus on numbers on the scale and sizes on a pair of pants. The woman who leads my monthly eating disorder support group (who is the director and owner of an eating disorder treatment center and a recovered anorexic) suggested I put away my scale, but I can’t. I’m terrified that if I put it away for six months or a year and then bring it back out, I will have gained two-hundred pounds. I need constant monitoring, or is that reassurance?
I’ve screwed up my body so badly — my bones, my stomach, my migraines, my teeth — that my brain is telling me if I even try to restrict, my body couldn’t take it. Missing a meal or a snack is my #2 trigger for my migraines (in case you’re wondering, #1 is when the barometric pressure drops, like when it rains and this is something I have no control over).
I’m not 30 anymore, not even 50. I will be 60 next month. The last time I severely restricted, I was 52 and had just gained 20 pounds from being in menopause. I got on the scale one morning and hit the 150 lb. mark. I said, whoa! That’s way over my upper limit. I began restricting the next meal and cut down to 300 calories a day. I lost 20 pounds in less than two months and went to the outpatient ED treatment program where I now attend the alumni recovery support group once a month.
The pandemic is wreaking havoc on the psyches of so many people with eating disorders, both diagnosed and also those who might have a disordered relationship with food, but might never have received a formal diagnosis. A lockdown creates isolation which feeds the secrecy that those of us with eating disorders thrive on.
I waste time and procrastinate. I wake up in the middle of the night. Instead of working or going back to bed, I watch one YouTube video after the other with the title “My Anorexia Story.” Part of me envies the girl as she drops weight to skeletal proportions and part of me remembers what that was like and how miserable I was. I vow I'll start restricting in the morning.
I have to constantly remind myself how much I have to lose, how far I’ve come, how hard I’ve worked for everything I’ve accomplished and part of me just wants to be thin – to have a concave stomach. I think I feel fatter than I actually am. I feel as though I could be pregnant, maybe five, six months. That’s how distended my stomach feels. I stopped looking at myself in the mirror.
This past week I tried cutting back, eating mainly (non-dairy) yogurt. I hadn’t been eating a lot anyway, as I have a dilated common bile duct and anything but bland foods make me nauseous. I cut back even more. Besides the yogurt, sometimes I’d have cereal with soy milk or a plain baked sweet potato. I didn’t lose any weight and I also didn’t go to the bathroom for like five days.
I’ve always wondered about the debate between “in recovery” and “recovered.” Is there another term for being in-between “in recovery” and “not in recovery?” What does “in recovery” mean? I always thought it meant you could still have the ED thoughts but not engage in the behaviors. But now that I have actually engaged in some behaviors, kind of like seesawing between engaging and not engaging, I have no idea.
At least I know where I stand with body positivity. I always knew I could never love my body. I mean, yes, I loved it when I was down around 110 lbs, but I also knew that wasn’t sustainable, especially when like, four people were throwing me in the hospital.
Now, it’s all about body neutrality, especially after my stroke. I’m trying to accept my body for what it’s capable of doing instead of its appearance. Rather than focusing on loving how my body looks, body neutrality shifts the focus.
Sometimes I feel I should respect my body more. No, make that always. I don’t eat well, even when I’m not trying to lose weight. I don’t know how to cook and I don’t make any semblance of trying. I’m exhausted after work and hungry so I grab what’s quick. After some bloodwork revealed I had anemia last fall, one of my doctors sent me a sample Fresh Direct meal kit and I tried but I burnt the pan and didn’t know what the term mince meant (please don’t laugh.)
I’m not exercising right now due to my asthma which has been really difficult to control. I saw a new pulmonologist and she agreed with my prior one that if my everyday breathing doesn’t get better soon, I may have to go on a continuous low dose of steroids. Risk versus benefits: Steroids are not good for bones, weight gain and emotional health. Steroids are good for breathing. I might have to make an informed, calculated decision.
I’m having dinner now. Cereal with soy milk and coffee.
I’m taking a writing class now via Zoom with a pretty well-known writer (who shall remain nameless). I happen to have been following her work for about 10 years now, so I was especially excited when she offered this master class. Each student (there are six of us) had to send in 20 pages of writing and be accepted. This writer said it’s fine if the ending isn’t tied neatly into a tidy bow or doesn’t circle back to the beginning. So, this is the end.
Thanks for reading.