The Challenges Only Make You Stronger

3 Oct

I’ve been hesitant to put this post up because for the most part, I would like to keep this blog as positive as possible even though somedays, it’s hard to do. My life isn’t always happy or perfect and for the most part, I find a lot of days incredibly challenging to deal with largely because of my eating disorder. I also planned on keeping most of my eating disorder talks away from this blog but for some people, it may in fact help people understand the situation I am in or why some of my workouts are so intense. After trying to think of a way to talk about my eating without having it seem like word vomit, I came across this list which seemed like a good way to talk about the issues with guiding questions. Originally, the list is from Tumblr and although it’s a thirty question list, I am going to answer ones that I think are the most important so here goes nothing.

What eating disorder are/have you struggled with?

I have struggled with both bulimia and anorexia but by far, the first is the worst of the two and has been the most detrimental to my body in the past nine years that I have dealt with these problems. The restricting that goes with anorexia comes and goes but the need to purge in some form, whether it be excessive exercise, laxatives or vomiting is always in the back of my mind following a meal.

What are factors that contributed in your choice to recover? 

I was very reluctant to enter treatment in the first place because for most of the time that I have had these problems, they have gone unnoticed by close friends and family, at least up until last September when the restricting and purging caught up with me, forcing me to put school on the back burner and take a year off from college to address the issues. At first, treatment was the appease everyone around me. I half-assed the process and didn’t care if I lied to my therapists about how I was doing because at the end of the day, my eating disorders were my comfort and I needed them, or so I thought. The change finally came when I had others genuinely show concern for my wellbeing and remind me about all the goals that I have in life and how they would be unattainable is I continued on the path I was on. I used that as my motivator as well as reading stories about other people’s recovery. Specifically, I read Amanda Beard’s biography In The Water They Can’t See You Cry which really hit me hard and made me realize I wasn’t the only person who had the problem (as it sometimes feels) and that things can get better.

Create a list of all the negative things your eating disorder has given you.

Loss of friends, injuries, headaches, stomachaches, zero confidence, stress, failing grades (on occasion), exhaustion, depression, uncontrolled weight loss/gain, bad skin, ruined relationships…I could continue for days.

Do you believe you can ever fully recover from an eating disorder? Explain.

No. I believe that having an eating disorder is like being an alcoholic. You are always in recovery no matter how hard you try. You don’t forget about your habits or your urges even when you learn how to better maintain them or avoid them. They are always there. There is always the chance that you could slip up and there are days that are going to be incredibly difficult when you look in the mirror. I truly believe that in order to be healthy and happy, recovery needs to continue beyond the point where you are “cured.” Just like most other mental illnesses, there is no magic cure or easy way out. You can’t take medicine and get rid of the problem but you can continue to work towards you goal or maintain all of the hard work you have done.

How do your friends and family feel about your eating disorder?

For my family, it scares them to know how out of control it can get, especially when they realize that for the majority of the year, I live 1,600 miles away where they can’t actually see the changes in my weight. Phone calls do little to comfort them as I’ve become good at hiding how my eating is affecting me and lying about my eating habits, neither of which I am proud of. However, regardless of how much it scares them, they have been there the whole way with me tackling the issue head on which is the extra help that I think I’ve always needed to really start my recovery. As for friends, I feel as though most of them aren’t sure how to deal with that information. It’s not a comfortable topic to talk about as I can get very confrontational and protective about my habits so I find that most friends walk on eggshells around me or avoid the topic entirely unless I bring it up.

Has your eating disorder ever held you back from something? If so, explain.

Being happy is a big one for me. For the most part, my eating disorder has led me in the past to self-sabotage relationships and friendships. It has held me back from getting spectacular grades all the time as it’s impossible to even get out of bed some mornings. Running races has become a hard goal to attain because the lack of food in my system makes long runs on the verge of impossible. It makes me incredibly self-conscious in crowds and I’m constantly uncomfortable about my looks. On the other side of this, there are plenty of things that I have done despite my eating disorder. For example, I moved 1,600 miles away from home to go to college and made new friends who are incredible people inside and out. I’ve opened up and been honest with a lot of people in the past who I use to shut out but now eagerly let into my personal bubble.

Describe your goals for your future.

I think, like most other people who suffer from eating disorders, I would like to be happy in my own skin and be comfortable eating any food item without having to cancel it out later. I would like to stop spending money on multiple gym memberships and laxatives. I would like to be able to go out and eat with friends without feeling guilty after. I’d like to enjoy eating instead of viewing it as a chore. I’d like to stop comparing myself to every girl that I walk by or see at the gym and appreciate the fact that every size is beautiful in its own way. I’d like to have a healthy relationship where my eating doesn’t turn me into a saboteur. I’d like to have children and be able to deal with my post-baby body in a healthy way instead of resorting to bad habits. I’d like to become a doctor (hopefully a surgeon) but take time on the side to do more research into the causes of these all-consuming diseases that so many men and women suffer from.

Where were you in terms of your eating disorder 6 months ago?

I was completely against any form of treatment. Although I was seeing a therapist weekly, I would often cancel appointments and tell her that I needed to work or that something came up and I wouldn’t be able to make my session. My parents were still largely in the dark about my problem and the nuances of it. Although they would ask me daily about what I had eaten, people were so rarely around when I ate that it was easy to lie to them about my daily nutrition. I was on a roller coaster when it came to managing my feelings about my eatings with my relationship and would often take out bad days with my eating on my then boyfriend, breaking up with him or arguing with him over some trivial issue. I felt even though I had done little to change where I was with my disorder, I was ready to come back to LSU which I am now seeing was far from true. I was getting to a point where I was either going to continue to slowly kill myself or make a change which fortunately came after working at camp this summer where people convinced me to, for once, take care of myself and my health.

Eating disorders often come hand in hand with social anxiety and or depression. Explain how you feel in these situations.

I hate social settings with a passion whether it be with a few friends, sitting in a class or hanging out at the Student Union. For the most part, I get so preoccupied with looking at others and comparing myself to them that I have a hard time enjoying the people I am with or focusing on the work that I am doing. Eating in public is one of the worst as I feel like the people who know about my eating analyze every bite I take and notice whether I look at my food with disgust, while I feel jealous of people who don’t deal with these issues and look as though they can eat whatever they want. I also feel like people always know before I even tell them or sometimes even before I meet people. I feel like I have it stamped into my forehead that I deal with this problem constantly and people, before they know me or about my problem, judge me for it. As for depression, I have felt so low at points that I have just wanted to lock myself away in my room and never come out. I have gone weeks without speaking to people who were only trying to help me or, other times, hid the fact that I would go back to my apartment and just lay in bed. Depression got so intense for me last year that I went three days without getting out of bed except to go to the bathroom and missed two tests which I didn’t even have enough energy to care about. I have scared myself at times with how dark my thoughts can get but try to remind myself, even in those times, that it gets better. It may not be soon and it may not be ideal but it will be better.

What kind of treatment are you currently in and what others have you tried?

In the past I have tried therapists which have failed largely because I would go to sessions and lie about my situation. Now, I am currently in an eating disorder program that is run by the LSU Health Center in which I meet with a therapist and dietician once a week and an RN every few weeks. Each person that I meet with helps to address a part of the eating disorder such as my internal health, the emotions and feelings associated with the disease or the actual food and as a whole, begin to chisel away at the negative self-image and thoughts. So far, treatment has had its ups and downs but unlike times in the past, I am sticking with it as much as I can and not backing down no matter how hard it gets.

If you’ve made it this far then thank you for hanging in there. I think that having answered these questions, I have even reminded myself why I continue to go to treatment every week and why I am working so hard to deal with these issues that have plagued my life for the past nine years. At the end of this journey, I would like to be able to say that I didn’t end up as a bad statistic and that I instead had a successful, although challenging trip navigating this disease. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty and it’s far from over but at least I am headed in the right direction which is more than I can say of myself a year ago and for that, I am more proud of myself than I have ever been before.

One Response to “The Challenges Only Make You Stronger”

  1. alaine66 October 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Good job seeking help! I hope you find peace within the stress of your disordered eating soon. It is harder to deal with than alcohol or other substances because everyone has to eat and we are constantly surrounded by food. Keep your head up 🙂

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