National Eating Disorders Association

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ralymo
Recovery?

When I was 17, I started dating a boy who was naturally very thin, and not very tall. I felt like an elephant next to him, and was convinced that a girl needed to be smaller than her boyfriend. I wasn't huge, but I felt like I had a fairly significant amount to lose. So, I decided I would try to lose weight. I stopped eating as much as I had been, and eventually worked my way down to eating only a bowl of cereal and a small glass of orange juice every day. It became a sort of ritual. I loved the feeling of waking up in the morning feeling empty, and I became addicted to that feeling. The scale became my best friend and my worst enemy, depending on the day. I lost a lot of weight and people commented on my weight loss. Some complimented me on how I looked, and some expressed concern at how thin I was getting. People in school gossiped about me in class because I had lost weight. I didn't care, and was happy they were talking about how thin I was. That is the goal right? To be so thin that people take notice.

My boyfriend and I broke up after I graduated from high school. I started dating someone that was much taller than me and bigger, but I loved feeling small next to him, and wanted to get smaller. I started purging at some point, feeling deprived by my spotty eating and scared I would gain weight when I started eating on the unhealthy side because of my boyfriend's larger stature. I didn't like purging, and I didn't do it often, but I can remember two instances that are still vivid in my mind where I did purge after overeating and feeling disgusted with myself. I had actually made myself physically sick by the disgusting inner-monologue that was screaming in my head, full of negative thoughts that made me feel like purging would give me some control back and that I'd feel better when it's over. I have no idea how many times I did it, but it definitely wasn't daily, maybe not even weekly.

Eventually, I started to have a more normal relationship with food, and I naturally started to gain weight. I had moved in with my boyfriend, who had gotten so upset with me in earlier months for starving myself, and claimed he worried about my health, even going so far as talking to my mom about it. Once I started to gain weight, the criticism turned into something ugly, and he made fun of me for gaining weight, smiling at me and calling me his "tub of love." That is another sickeningly vivid memory from that chapter of my life. My relationship with my parents had been virtually destroyed because they didn't approve of him, and I clung to him as the one thing I had left, and this is what it had turned into.

I guess I began to take back control when I kicked him out the apartment. He had been staying out late for weeks, or not coming home at all, without even texting or calling to say he wasn't coming home. His nights consisted mainly of smoking copious amounts of weed and being an a**hole. He wasn't always a nightmare, but once his drug use increased, he allowed it to change him completely. I began spending more time with my friends, rediscovering myself away from my ex and realizing my friends meant the world to me. They were and are everything.

When I went away to college, I gained weight like crazy, as a lot of college students do, up to my junior year. I didn't realize how big I was until I saw pictures of myself. I started eating better and doing yoga. I ended up losing some of the weight and I felt pretty good about it. But I didn't maintain it. Feeling more comfortable with myself, I figured I had enough room to stray a little from my diet, and that led to total abandonment of my improved lifestyle. I gained again. My self esteem was non-existent and I began to self-destruct, sleeping with multiple guys in my college town, waking up feeling like I would be privately ridiculed by these guys' buddies, teasing them for being with a fat girl. After college I moved in with my mom and I sort of established a certain amount of normalcy, as I bounced around from one bad relationship to another, always feeling like boyfriends were just being nice when they called me beautiful. After all, they lied about everything else.

I'm 24 now, in an amazing relationship for almost a year and a half, going to graduate school and loving it, but still trying to figure out what to do with my body. I don't ever consider myself a former anorexic-bulimic. After all, I ate (even if it wasn't that much) and I didn't purge (too often). When I think of anorexia, I think of a skeleton covered in a thin veil of skin. Someone whose hair is falling out and hasn't had her period in months or years. That wasn't me. I was just limiting my diet right?

The past year or two have been all about me trying to simply not hate myself. I am terrified to get my picture taken, and I laugh when my boyfriend tells me I'm hot. I try not to, but I do absolutely and unequivocally hate my body. I am trapped in it and only see pieces of my body that I am unhappy with and constantly self-ridicule with negative thoughts and shaming. I am not a body--I am pieces. But put together, those pieces make a body I hate, whose ugliness can't be redeemed by my eyebrows, which are pretty much the only thing I like about my appearance.

My sister is getting married in September and I want to be happy on that day, smiling in pictures, not worried if my pot belly will draw attention to me instead of my dress, or if my chins will make an appearance. These days, it's all mental destruction--anxiety and worrying. Feeling pretty for a half of a second when I get dressed up, only to be crushed again when I realize how tight my pants are, or when I spot my reflection in a window, or if someone takes a picture of me.

I don't know if I'm in recovery. I am still constantly at the mercy of this cyclical self-loathing. Sure, I don't starve myself anymore, and I don't purge. But do normalized eating habits alone mean I've recovered? Did I even have anything to recover from? I don't have a healthy relationship with my body, and food still carries with it a hefty side of guilt. I don't love my body. At this point, I would settle for acceptance. I would be okay with feeling okay.

nanzhu
You CAN beat this!

Hi ralymo,
Thanks so much for sharing your story! I'm sorry to hear you've have such a rocky journey for the past few years with your relationship with food, but it sounds like you have have a good sense of self-awareness about the types of struggles you've had, so I think you are at a good place to continue working on your recovery in more long-lasting way!

Eating disorders can definitely be difficult to understand, making true recovery seem just as ambiguous, but I think you've acknowledged an important point: there is both a physical side to EDs and an emotional/mental side. Even when eating habits disappear, there can still be negative thoughts about food and body image that linger on. This was definitely something I struggled with myself when I was first recovering. Even though I no longer had the same habits and changes in my weight, I still had low self-esteem which made my ED still feel like it had some control over me.

Have you ever gotten help from a professional, such as a psychiatrist, therapist, or just your regular primary care physician? I think to deal with the "guilt" that you describe, receiving help from someone with professional training and experience could be really helpful! Sometimes getting an objective perspective from someone else can be refreshing and help lift some of the burden off your shoulders. Does this sound like something you'd be willing to do? My therapist has helped me a lot in my own recovery journey, and also in maintaining it for the past 4 years and preventing relapse.

Below are some links with information you might find helpful, and the NEDA Helpline is another great resource where you can learn about other options as well: 1-800-931-2237, M-R 9-9, F 9-5 EST.
Treatment: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/treatment
Sharing with ease: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sharing-eeease
Recovery and relapse prevention: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/recovery-and-relapse-prevention
Positive body image: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/developing-and-maintaining-positi...
Seeking and securing treatment: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/seeking-and-securing-treatment

I hope this helps!
Nan

_admin_moderator
Hi ralymo,

Hi ralymo,
Thank you for posting on the forums!
Just wanted to let you know that in keeping with the NEDA Forum policies of maintaining a safe positive environment, we had to edit out a few specific potentially triggering descriptions of behaviors and numbers from your post, but we appreciate you sharing your story here. We hope that this space can provide you with hope and encouragement!
-NEDA Forum Moderators