I’m trying to be transparent and vulnerable on this blog. I don’t want to sugarcoat what having an eating disorder or recovering from one is like. Being vulnerable is terrifying and it would be so much easier to lie to all of you, to tell you that I love recovery, that eating is fun, that I never panic about food, and that I love my body. But that is not my reality right now and I’m learning to be okay with that. I want to be honest and open not because I want pity, but because I want people to understand. So I’m writing this from the heart and posting it. Talking about my struggle means that I’m not living in secrecy, that I don’t have to suffer alone, that people know how to support me, and that maybe, I can help someone else who is struggling to get the help they need. I want to live in a world where people don’t call themselves anorexic for skipping a meal, or wish for an eating disorder, or tell people struggling to just eat. So I’m using this post to be real and truthful- this is my experience. It’s written in present tense, because recovery and treatment and therapy are not cure-alls. These are still daily battles, but thankfully, after the past two months of treatment, things have improved majorly from where they were two months ago.
This is what it’s like to have an eating disorder in college:
- I go to bed at every night 10pm, because I can’t stay awake much longer. I wake up almost every hour on the dot. 2am, 3am, 4. It never ends. I haven’t slept through the night in over a year because when you don’t eat enough, your body doesn’t trust you to survive in your sleep for long. I wake up every morning exhausted, achy, and weak. I wake up anxious, feeling like there is a weight on my chest, knowing I have to live another day consumed by the thoughts- “you’re not good enough” | “you need to go work out” | “if you restrict you will feel better.”
- I stand up first thing in the morning and I weigh myself right away, but it doesn’t matter. The number is never ever low enough. My eating disorder is never satisfied. Seeing the number, regardless of what it is, is my reset button- starting off the exercise/restrict cycle for the day. I go to class- sometimes. If I have enough energy to walk 0.8 miles there and back. I chug coffee during class, willing myself to stay awake. I think about how angry I am at myself, my weight, at this disease. I feel trapped.
- My friend asks me to go get a meal with her. I say no to almost every invitation because the thought of food and being social and pretending I’m okay is enough to make me fall apart. Just holding a conversation feels like being forced to walk, submerged in water, with 500-lb weights on each foot- almost impossible. I am always social, always an extrovert, but eating disorders thrive on secrecy and isolation, and you cannot have both an eating disorder and friends, because the eating disorder is your only friend.
- Everyone goes out to the social or the bars to celebrate the weekend. I’m too weak to get out of bed. I am so lonely and scared and I know that logically, eating food would give me energy. But the mere idea of a calorie sends my mind spinning. My logical brain and the eating disorder are constantly fighting back and forth: “if I just eat this, I can focus on my work.” “If I eat exactly ___ calories, I will feel safe.” “If I can hit ___ lbs, I am in control.”
- I sit in bed all night doing homework, because at least I’ll feel productive then. I try to focus, but the thoughts are swirling. I write a paragraph of a paper, and give up.
- I think about how much I’ve eaten and exercised. I think about how, no matter what, I will always feel like a failure to my eating disorder. I think about how badly I want out of this hell, and how powerless I feel to this disorder. I think about how trying to eat feels like my controlled world will come crashing down on me. I think about how that feeling is so real that I cannot for any reason eat any more. I think about how it was never about the food, it was about being good enough, about control, about feeling safe, about handling everything I’m given. I think about how angry I am that this disease is portrayed as a vain, rich girl illness, a disease solely about being thin.
I was looking through my journal the other day:
On April 3, 2016, I wrote “I am not even good at losing weight anymore, all I’m good at is ruining my life with nothing to show for it.” Helpless.
On May 7, 2016: “I weighed myself this morning and I am at the weight that I always thought would make things perfect and happy and would make me in control yet things are worse and more out of control than ever before.” No matter the number, it was never enough. I never felt deserving of treatment.
On January 2, 2016, I wrote “There has got to be something out there besides the constant thoughts about food and calories, besides the self hatred, besides the obsessive need for control, besides the constant fear that I am not enough and will never be.” I hoped there was.
On May 3, 2016: “it wasn’t about the weight it never was and I would do anything to have my life back. It wasn’t ever worth losing the weight.” I knew it yet I couldn’t stop.
And on April 29, 2016: “I used to be so motivated and so excited about my future- about my degree and working for a nonprofit and interning. and now I have no motivation or even interest and it’s shocking I even care how little I care. I want my life back but more than that, I want my spark back.”
This is, I hope, a glimpse into the desperation of having an eating disorder. This disease is not a diet, not a temporary, pick-and-choose mentality. This disease is a lifeline for many, a rope to hold onto when everything else seems fleeting and out of control. It is not “I didn’t eat for three days so I could be lovely” and it is not doing everything in your will to be thin. This is a disease that takes the lives of some of the most caring and thoughtful people to ever grace this world. This disease is not a joke.
This blog is much much longer than I intended, but I hope that after reading it, you understand a little more. I am so thankful for those of you willing to care and understand.