One of my goals this week is to blog about my fluctuating self esteem. There are a few facets to this, just as everyone might have problems ranging from negative body image to feeling socially awkward. This is something I've been working on for the last few years, but I still have significant challenges to conquer. There are a lot of things that I disliked about myself in the past. My debilitating shyness when I was younger, my social anxiety and my appearance were the big ones. The latter issue is what became the most intense and debilitating. Even now, I feel emotionally crippled after enduring years of injustice and wrongdoing. I came to believe that I did not deserve anything good and my only way of coping was by hurting myself. When I was younger, I would cut myself. Never anything serious but enough so that my parents eventually noticed. It wasn't long before I found another way to punish myself without anyone ever knowing.
This is about my eating disorder.
I breathe a huge sigh right now, as my body tenses up but also tries to release the stress I feel about speaking openly of this. Eating disorders are often the subject of jokes and ridicule, but they are anything but funny. They are a taboo subject and even more so when the person suffering has become a mother. But it's something that needs to be talked about. Not only for my sake in healing, but for others who may suffer in silence, so they know they are not alone.
There are many aspects that went into the creation of my eating disorder, and there is really no way to tell when it began to surface but I do remember the first day I decided not to eat. By that evening my arms were shaking violently from lack of nutrients. I was thrilled at how not eating gave me a 'high' feeling but also hurt me at the same time. It soon became an addiction which I still feel the desire to indulge. I never quite got to the point of anorexia, a diagnosis which requires a body weight of 85% or less of the expected weight. Nor was I clinically considered bulimic, which requires episodes of binge eating and purging at least twice a week for at least three months. I am what is called ED-NOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). It is just as serious a disorder, but is generally unheard of because we don't look as severely malnourished or run to the bathroom after every meal. We still do serious damage to our bodies and we suffer from a devastating psychological disorder.
I starved myself to the point of physical collapse. I starved myself to the point of when standing up, my vision would go black. I starved until all my ribs showed, my hipbones stood out and I prided myself on being able to see every vertebrae in my back when I bent over. Sometimes, it would take me two hours to eat one granola bar. When I got to college, I went entire weeks at a time without eating anything at all. Yet still, my legs were massive trunks, my arms were bags of fat and my face was round and unsightly. My stomach was a pouch of lard and I had a double chin. I did not see myself as thin, I saw myself as disgusting because I would also binge eat and purge. I once ate an entire loaf of bread. I ate an entire pan of brownies. Whole boxes of cereal. I would cave often and devour large portions of food as my body screamed for nourishment. I didn't purge often, instead I used the full feeling to impress more hatred onto myself.
The psychological aspect is very difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced the feelings associated with complete and utter loathing of your self not only physically but mentally. I wanted to destroy myself. I wanted everyone to see my body as a representation of how I felt inside. Broken, wasted and utterly tormented by my demons. I felt hopeless and alone. My eating disorder consumed me and every day, every moment of my life for years became only that hatred and obsession.
A year and a half ago, I hit my lowest weight and after a night out with not much in my stomach, I had a serious scare. I woke up in the early morning and started vomiting uncontrollably. Marius sat with me, supporting me because I could barely hold myself up I was so weak. I felt like I was having a heartattack. He thought I was dying. And I was, I was killing myself and there was nothing I could do to stop it. This is a paragraph from a journal entry I wrote a few weeks afterwards:
I know that night should have scared me and woken me up to the realities of eating disorders, but it actually... made me sort of proud. That I had the strength, that I'd lost so much in so little time. I felt confident of my weight, for the most part. I looked in the mirror and actually liked my reflection a little bit. I was happy with my doubtless success. My ED was "real" and apparent to everyone. I was starting to look like how my ED makes me feel. And I liked it - it was a power rush. My mother called me 'tiny' for the first time in my life and I grinned like a fool. But what if Love is right, and this disease really is killing me slowly? Which it is. I just don't want to admit it to myself.
Not long after this entry, I became pregnant and I began having to force myself to eat. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. The little life inside me, innocent and perfect, had no chance for survival if I continued to allow my eating disorder to control me. The voices in my head telling me that I was worthless, pathetic and undeserving of love, they were slowly drowned out by my little girl whispering inside "it's okay, I'm here and I need you."
After she was born, I slipped a bit but the drive to feed my baby from my own body as she was meant to do was enough to save me. She depends on my ability to eat. And it is an ability I've gained back. Eating normally does not come naturally to me anymore. There are still days when I try on 10 different outfits, but I'm too fat for all of them. Every morning when I wake, there is a voice saying "you don't need breakfast." It takes all my strength to silence it. I recently started clearing some of the 00 sizes out of my closet and it was harder to do than I imagined. I used to identify myself with how I fit or didn't fit into those clothes. I miss the high, I miss the challenge, I miss the power I felt at being able to hide it from the world.
The recovery of my body has been quick, but I still have a long journey ahead. Though pregnancy and birthing my baby has empowered me more than I could ever have hoped, my mind is still broken. I realize that I am strong and I can overcome. But the siren song is also strong. I can only hope that with my newfound courage and the support of my husband who has always done everything he can to help me, I can keep my head above water. The look in my little girl's eyes and the desire to give her everything good in the world will keep me on the path of recovery.
I will prevail.