When I took over this eating disorder blog, I did so with two purposes in mind. First, to offer support to those who are also in recovery from their own eating disorders and educate them on how to make their recovery stronger. Second, to help the friends and family of those with eating disorders better understand what their loved one is going through. I think to this point, I have done a decent job on the first purpose. However, my own fear of “too much” self-disclosure has kept me from accomplishing the second.
To be honest, it’s hard to put into words just what kind of hell living with an eating disorder is. Especially in the midst of it, when your head is spinning and words seem difficult to grasp. As a result, most of my writings from my worst days of my eating disorder seem to ramble and go off on tangents and almost always ended with the conclusion that I wasn’t really sick, I was just crazy and I should just kill myself for being such an attention-seeker.
So today, and perhaps more often on this blog, I want to give my readers who don’t have eating disorders a glimpse into the life of someone who does. I do so with the hope that it better enables you to help your loved one, to have some idea of what is going on in their head, to have some clue about the constant battle they face.
As a matter of safety, when I post these things, I will block out numbers and other specifics that might trigger my readers who do struggle. Your recovery is important, too.
A Day With An Eating Disorder
I had to choke down most of my food today. Breakfast was fine, if not boring. I set the meal up in stages, a behavior I’ve noticed is becoming more common. I think perhaps I am hoping that if I get a meal out slowly, take long enough, Armageddon will occur, Jesus will return, and I won’t have to eat. It hasn’t happened yet, for the record.
7:15. Breakfast. Measure the cereal. Heat water for tea. Measure the milk. Tidy the kitchen. Cut the banana. Check on steeping tea. Add spices. Fold laundry. Finally, after 10 minutes, it is all together and I have no choice but to eat. I eat half of it, look down, worry about the fact that I both have no desire to finish the cereal and have every desire to eat the rest of the box. I walk to the end of the driveway, get the paper. Return to the table. Sort through the paper. Read Parade magazine as I eat the last of my cereal. Clean up. Try not to think about how many calories I just ate.
9:30. Snack time. I have been looking at the clock every two minutes for 20 minutes, dreading this moment. I wonder if I would be justified in pushing it back. Decide this will be okay, that if I don’t wait a little longer than I’ll have to eat a second snack in order to make it to lunch, which will be far later than usual today. My nutritionist wants me to have two snacks in the morning. When she suggested this last week, my entire body posture changed. I became immediately tense, shoulders at my ears, breathing halted momentarily. “Put your shoulders down”, she said. “Breathe.” Two snacks in the morning is utterly unacceptable. I will wait until 10:00 for snack, eat it as slowly as possible.
1:45. Lunch. Church is long, then I wait for a friend to get out of a meeting. We agreed last week to have lunch together, get something from the food court at the mall where our church makes its home. Originally we said we would split a free meal (coupon!) to save on the cost. I tell her I brought a lunch instead – that I didn’t want her to have to base her meal based on what I would eat. She seems disappointed, asks a few more times if we couldn’t split something, but finally relents. We eat lunch in a park. She is a tenacious friend. We talk about my race this weekend, about my running in general, then the topic turns to food, body, disorder. She asks questions, wanting to understand. She asks how she can help. She tells me what she sees, but acknowledges that I don’t see it at all. She asks how we continue from here – tells me that she wants to be sensitive, but feels that if we never talk about it, it’s like her being eight months pregnant and my never mentioning it. Reminds me that just because I ignore it, it won’t go away. We talk about God, about the power He has to protect and heal and save. I see tears in her eyes as she talks about this in regards to me, now.
4:00. Snack time. I am hungry. I am terrified by this hunger, this wanting. I am grocery shopping. I have written a list before going into the store, terrified that in a moment of weakness I might buy something unsafe. I’ll eat my snack when I get back in the car, I tell myself. Back in the car, I look at this snack, think, But it is so close to dinner time. I have a mint instead. This same argument takes place in my head another three times over the next hour. I get home, put away groceries.
5:30. Dinner. I cook, plate my dinner, clean up. I sit down at the table. My father is watching golf. I am reading the paper, trying to distract myself from the food on my plate. Rules about what to eat first, how fast to eat, how much to drink. Rules I forget I have until I try to break them. I finally finish dinner, put away the leftovers for another night. I sit at the table with my glass of water and the paper. I am still hungry. I want to run upstairs and count how many calories I’ve had today, dosomething to alleviate this anxiety. I stay at the table instead, aware that bolting after I eat would probably give the impression of my going upstairs to puke. And while that’s not the case today, it’s not always not the case, so I’d rather not arouse suspicion. Stay in the kitchen, prepare lunch and snack for tomorrow, tidy pile in the refrigerator. Offer to cook part of my parents’ dinner just to have the satisfaction of being around food, but not eating it.
7:00. Upstairs counting calories. And recounting. And trying desperately to figure out how the count is this high when I skipped a snack. Had considered moving the snack to after dinner, but that is out of the question now. Wonder how in the world I will be able to do this again tomorrow, knowing as I do that my afternoon snack is just too much. Plan tomorrow’s meals, snacks, count calories. Re-count.
That was my life every day for years. At times, it still threatens to be my life.
Fellow eating disorder recovery warriors: Can you relate?
Loved ones: How do you feel about what you’ve read and how might it change your approach in how you deal with your eating disordered loved one?
Also, I’ll do shorter excerpts in the future — but this seemed like a good place to start.