What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s post is by Veronica from Run, Write, Repeat. She says, “after spending four months in intensive residential and outpatient treatment for anorexia and bulimia in 2010, I wanted people to know the ‘truth’ so to speak.”
I pulled my down comforter back over my head. Maybe if I went back to sleep, the previous six weeks would be found to have been all a dream.
“Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.” I muttered. I was. Life was. Food was.
It was my first morning back at home, after 38 days in residential and outpatient treatment for an eating disorder. I still had another two months at a facility closer to my house, in order to adjust to life in “the real world” before I returned to work.
My journey towards recovery was much more difficult than my dalliance into an eating disorder. The latter was merely a much longer road. Decades of perfectionism, poor body image, “yo yo” dieting, fear of failure, and episodes of both restricting food and binging led to the summer of 2009, when I lost a significant amount of weight on what I swore would be my last diet. So afraid of gaining an ounce, I vomited any food I deemed “bad”, and worked out more than ever. I continued to eat very little and purge what I did eat, and I lost more weight.
Eating disorders are not a diet gone wrong. Because of this fact, one cannot “just eat” or “just stop.” I tried. I hated the path I was on – the path that was getting me closer to being fired because I could not concentrate on anything but calorie counting. The malnutrition was causing me to be focused only on food, and though I cognitively knew I needed to eat, I became more fearful of food by the day. I went to therapy with an eating disorder specialist, and saw a registered dietician as well. Nothing seemed to work. I purged more, ate less, and ran more miles than ever.
Eating disorders are also not about vanity. Though they may start out with a diet, a desire to be a certain body type or size, they are truly a way to say something that the person does not yet have the power to verbalize. I was terrified of failing at my job. I felt rejected by a guy. I had a host of other stressors that many readers of this blog probably face every day and handle with grace. I wanted to run, and felt that if I restricted my caloric intake, focused on my body, and purged if I “failed” at restricting, then I could regain control of my life.
Instead, the eating disorder controlled me. It wanted me to itself. I kept it a secret from almost everyone, and slowly began to isolate. As my weight dropped, so did any amount of self esteem I had left. On May 13, 2010, the gig was up. I was all but forced to take a medical leave of absence, told my parents about my eating disorder and treatment in one sitting, and drove an hour to my treatment facility. I was forced to eat. Forced to eat bread. Cheese. Cake. “Normal food.” As my physical well-being was being cared for, the emotional wounds could finally be worked on. Questions like why do I have an eating disorder? How is this actually helping me to function? and What are more healthy coping mechanisms to use? were frequently addressed.
My friends rallied around me. Their support was everything to me. The fact that I could call on them through every turn and bump in the row, and every celebration (“I ate a hot dog!”) cannot be expressed in words. I don’t know a single person in recovery who did it alone, and I certainly never could have.
Today, I am at an ideal weight for me, and I am obsessed with music and writing, not an eating disorder. By the grace of God, the wisdom of my treatment team, and some blood, sweat, and tears, I am so disgustingly happy to be in recovery. Sure, it sends me a little off kilter when people ask if I’ve lost or gained weight, make comments about my body. And I do worry about relapse. But I can’t imagine going back to the hell I was in before. I now turn down the covers every morning, look around my room, and think, “Hell yes. This is my life. Now what’s for breakfast?”