I realized I haven’t been talking a lot about my ED and my recovery experience, probably because I’m not sure exactly what to talk about and also because I’m not sure what my boundaries are or should be when it comes to talk about my eating disorder. I’ve written about my experiences with eating disorders in some previous posts, though they’re but brief snippets of the entire experience. I admit, as much as I would want to raise awareness about the perils and dangers of eating disorders, there is a part of me that is afraid to tell others exactly what are the disordered eating patterns I have gone through and/or am going through. As of now, only 2 or 3 friends, my therapist, psychiatrist and dietician know the nuts and bolts of my eating habits. I’ve actually also submitted an essay to a project on raising awareness of marginalized eating disorders in which I talk about a particular eating habit that I was, and I admit, still am a little
embarrassed afraid shy (something) to talk about.
Anyway, I’m following an Instagram account called “@webiteback” and they are currently hosting this online campaign called “We Bite Back 30 Day Recovery Challenge” in which the @webiteback posts a “challenge” or question for each day related to eating disorders/recovery and have IG users leave their answers with #wbbchallenge to facilitate interaction among the users and read each other’s responses. I’ve responded to quite a few on IG but I thought I could also share some of the challenges here on my blog to raise awareness on EDs as well.
So the challenge, or rather challenges – since I wanted to talk about them both and found them both to be related – I picked out for this post is this:
I picked this out because I think a lot of people assume that people going through eating disorders are scared about these few things: weight, body size and food. These 5 are I suppose, the ones that impact me most, though of course there are many other things I experience in my struggle that I’m afraid of but I thought I’d share the first few that really bothered me since Day 1. My answers don’t speak for others because as I always emphasize, each journey and circumstances is different, but I merely wanted to highlight that there are other types of fears that go deeper than just eating and physical appearances in an eating disorder.
That if I have children in the future, they might develop an eating disorder as well. Especially if I have daughters. There’s empirical evidence that eating disorders can be genetically inherited from family members, yet genes don’t always account for the incidence of disordered eating. Mothers are role models for their daughters and when they themselves disordered and/or unhealthy eating patterns (e.g. picking at food / skipping meals / unhealthy eating), daughters can unwittingly pick up these patterns, especially when they are at a young age. Of course I hope that 10 years from now my disordered eating patterns would have been suppressed to the bare minimum and no longer control my life, but the fear of one day going through an unexpected relapse going back to starving, bingeing and throwing up my food might affect my children’s relationship with food. I may not be a mother, but I definetely don’t know my own children to go through the same struggles I did because I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of physical and emotional pain I went through, and am still going through fighting my eating disorder. I don’t want my boys and girls growing up obsessively counting calories, cutting out entire food groups and think that if they should overeat one day, they will become fat the next day
Infertility. According to amount of research and reports I’ve read, there seems to be a link between eating disorders and a woman’s menstrual cycle. There isn’t a clear cut explanation but one speculation I’ve read is that dysfunctional eating wrecks your body’s metabolism and this results in suppression of normal functioning in the brain that releases hormones. Release of estrogen, needed for ovulation, therefore also becomes suppressed and therefore a women doesn’t ovulate and have her period. My own periods were oh-so incredibly irregular during the height of my eating disorder. I’d miss a period for 4 months, and after that miss it again for another 5 or 6 months. I always hear girls telling me how uncomfortable they feel when they were on their periods and I remember always sympathizing with them whenever they relay they discomfort and annoyance but the truth was, I wanted them to shut the hell up. I wanted to tell them that yes, your uterus is bleeding a crimson tide and yes, you get cramps but I sincerely hope you know that this means that your body is functioning normally and that your body is capable of releasing and egg and holding a baby. My period was irregular for 3 years and when my period didn’t come each month, I got so frustrated and upset and this only added to my worries that I’d have fertility issues in the long run. Yes, I want to be skinny but I still want to have a normal functioning reproductive system capable of creating and sustaining life.
Relapse. Perhaps nothing frightens me more than the possibility that I might go back to the days of starving and bingeing and purging after my efforts and trying to recover. Now that I’m recovering and finding a life from my eating disorder, and also knowing what kind of a horrible life I had when I was struggling with my eating, I know that I definfelty don’t want to go back to the latter. I don’t want to lead a life of intense insecurity and fear where I count calories, cutting out carbohydrates, binge and then purge in shame, crying whenever I overate, surviving on liquid meals and once, even taking diet pills because I hated my body so much I resorted to doing that. I was normal on the outside, but on the inside, it was a disgusting chaos. I’m frightened that I will experience a situation that may cause me to relapse.
Changing my eating habits but still hating myself, especially my looks. I afraid that even though I’m eating better by not restricting and engaging in mindful eating, my mind will not accept my current body size and that I will still exhibit disordered thoughts about my body. Eating disorders and poor body image are not independent of each other mind you. For me, it was because I was disgusted at my body that I developed an eating disorder. I hated being a big girl and wanted to be as skinny as possible. I once went through 2 weeks of eating nothing but an apple and a ham sandwich 3 times a day. I lost so much weight but it came with terrible consequences. I lost muscle mass, my concentration was so affected that I couldn’t focus on my schoolwork and my hair was falling out. I remember being so frightened of combing my hair because I didn’t want to see how much hair I was losing. Thinking about this still makes my heart beat very fast because it was a traumatizing moment for me. Anyway, even now as I’m learning to engage in mindful eating, to not restrict myself and also not freak out when I overeat, I still have problems with accepting my body because I’m not skinny. As much as I preach about body diversity and acceptance, there is a part of me that is still fighting to embrace my current physical appearance and not succumb to the pressures of being thin. To recover from an ED is one thing. To fight body image demons is another thing as well, and til this day even though I am practicing mindful eating & reminding myself of the health consequences of restricting and bingeing, I still ook at some girls and think that I need to go and eat less and become thinner so I can have a better body (I’ll talk about this next time). The struggle is intense and I get so tired after it all. This is probably why I love sleep. Sometimes. You forget about struggles and problems after you wake up, or rather, it becomes minimized and it takes up less space in your mind and for some reason it doesn’t seem so bad after that 3 hour nap. So in a way this relates to relapse. I’m afraid that my disordered eating patterns will go away, but that my negative thinking patterns about my body and what is considered beautiful might lull me back to a “get-thin” induced disordered eating patterns again
That I will never get better and will live the rest of my life thinking about food and fearing weight gain. As much as I’m eating better now, I still have slips every now and then. And that sucks. Recovery doesn’t happen in a snap and you need time to alter eating habits that have taken years to develop, but sometimes I wonder how long I will need to come to the day when I no longer worry about food or whether eating this will make me gain weight or how much I should eat at a given point. I don’t want to be 30 years old and still getting anxious about little things, especially things like food when its supposed to bring joy and not worry and panic. I thought about this point for a long time and finally, I decided that I won’t worry too much about the future, because what’s more important is the effort I’m making to eat properly. Every positive action I take towards recovery minimizes the potential long-term effects in the future. Just like quitting smoking. Stop smoking for a week and your life expectancy increases by this much. Stop smoking for a month and it increases even more. Same with my own eating disorder. The more I engage in positive eating habits, the more I minimize the urge to engage in disordered eating. Sure, right now its still there, but its much less than before and occurs in times of really bad stress or when I really just didn’t eat enough during the day (oops). Focus on reovery on the present and spend less time worrying about what could go wrong is what I tell myself. And also, focus on the awesome kick-ass things I can do when disordered eating doesn’t rule my head and my life.
What are your fears with regards to your eating disorder and/or recovery?
I’d want to end this post on a nicer note, but I’m too exhausted. So if you spotted any spelling or grammatical errors, sorry (not sorry). I had 3 hours of dance rehearsal today and yesterday and I am aching. One of the moves was so fast that my fingers smashed into my partner’s hand and the pain was so bad I thought I was going to pass out. The joint of my fourth finger hurts. Don’t be all “its only a finger” ERM. It is not JUST a finger. I can’t bend or straighten it fast without it aching which might be a problem because I need to use my hands a lot for salsa and bachata styling. Please please please let it be better by tomorrow morning because I still have rehearsals tomorrow please kay thanks.