Saturday, December 29, 2012

Anorexia as the Enemy

For a really long time, I never wanted to get better. Sure, it was no fun obsessing about calories and freaking out over restaurants and working out ritualistically. Being hungry sucks. Being tired and weak sucks. Lying to your parents sucks. Shutting out friends sucks. BUT you deal with it. Why? Because being skinny is more important. So for a really long time, I saw my eating disorder as the solution—the one thing that proved I was worthy and capable. I took sick pride in being the skinniest of my friends. I brushed off my parents' worrying and the EKG results because I had the solution. 

And then my body started to fall apart. Last winter, I started getting sharp stabbing pains in my pelvis, hips, and back. I couldn't sit. I couldn't walk. I couldn't sleep, but I also couldn't stand to be awake because of how uncomfortable I was. I saw at least twenty different doctors—orthopedists, endocrinologists, gynecologists,  gastroenterologists, pain specialists—and they all told me something different. No one had any idea what was causing my pain and what I could do to alleviate it. On top of it, my eyes started deteriorating as well. I'd had dry-ish eyes for the year or so prior, but they got infinitely worse about a year ago to the point where I was barely functioning. I couldn't look at a computer screen for longer than about twenty minutes at a time. I had to stop driving for a while. I saw five different ophthalmologists and nothing worked. I couldn't imagine the rest of my life that way. I cried all the time.

Meanwhile, my weight hovered in the underweight-but-not-scary-underweight realm for about two years. I restricted my intake to a low-but-not-scary-low amount. I was not having periods. Only until this past spring when I got food poisoning and inadvertently lost a few pounds did I go back to hardcore restricting because I figured, what the fuck does it matter? I'm going to be miserable anyway, so I might as well be skinny too.

It was hard to see myself as sick for most of the past two years, because my weight and intake were both well above my rock bottom point in late 2010. But I started having all these crazy symptoms—the nerve pain, the dry eyes, and some GI issues. I had a gut feeling that it was all related, but I guess I was just in denial and thought, like I always had, that being skinny was the answer. It was only until I saw Dr. A last week, and heard him say that of course the anorexia, the longterm amenorrhea, and the associated ongoing stress on my body caused the problems, that it really started to sink in. It wasn't a freak thing or a random gene mutation that caused my pain; it was months and years of accumulated damage.

I have much more hope now than I have in a long time, but I'm also sad. I did this to myself. I essentially wasted a year of my life being hurt and sick and so depressed I wanted to die. Dr. A assures me that the damage is reversible, and that the pain will eventually subside, which makes me happier than anything has in a long, long time. But I am also scared, because I don't know how to shed this part of myself, the anorexia, that has been my solution for so long. Forgive me if this seems dense, but it has taken this long for me to realize: anorexia makes me sick. It hurts me. I've never seen it as the enemy before, but now I do. I cannot have anorexia and be okay. My body can't take it.

Ultimately, I think recovery is going to stick for me this time. I simply can't go through this again. And I don't mean the hunger and the weakness and the ED obsessions—I can handle all that. But I can't go through the pain again. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about whether or not it was a blessing in disguise to have this happen to me, since I seem to have found the ultimate motivation for maintaining my weight. And you know what? It wasn't. I am not grateful for anything that happened. This experience didn't make me a better or stronger person or anything like that; it made me a worse person for a long time. It made me angry and bitter. I was a terrible daughter and a terrible friend. And I've only been hurt for a year. I don't know how people with true chronic pain—like with fibromyalgia or vulvodynia or sciatica—ever learn to cope. When I found myself facing a future of incurable pain, life wasn't worth living.

I've tried so goddamn hard to stay positive throughout all this and be my usual happy silly self, but there's only so much you can fake. Pain changes you; it makes you cranky and ugly and mean. I'm angry that millions of girls have anorexia without suffering through the horrible physical consequences that I have. That millions of girls can get through anorexia with nothing more than a low heart rate and some body image woes. And I'm angry that an otherwise healthy person might wake up one morning with head-to-toe pain and have his/her life changed forever. I know that it's incredibly unfair of me to be so resentful over something that none of us can control know. It's my blog, right? And life isn't fair. And I am so angry. 

I wouldn't wish the past year of my life on my worst enemy. But if nothing else, at least now I have full confidence that I will never relapse with my anorexia again, because I can finally see that it will only continue to hurt me.


  1. It's not fair for you to have endured so much pain, of all aspects. Some people never find that one thing that keeps them from slipping, and even though yours is/was brutal to me it seems worth it. Would it have been if it was any less?
    Finding beauty and purpose from suffering is one amazing life saver.
    There are great things ahead of you for this next year without an ed. Much love xx

  2. I truly believe that the road to full recovery begins when you get PISSED at your eating disorder. Sounds like you're there.

    I hate the route you had to take to get there, but I'm glad you've arrived. I love the hope and determination in your writing.


  3. I think it's important to get your thoughts out like this, because it focuses on gratitude. You are essentially saying you are pissed about all the pain and weakness but you're grateful that you don't have to live with unwavering pain forever as some people do. You are ready for recovery to stick. You are upset, disappointed, sad about some of your physical ailments, but grateful for things nonetheless. I'm sorry you have to deal with some nasty effects and the emotional turmoil that goes with it. Truly. I hope you have a beautiful 2013 filled with hope and less physical symptoms. :-)

  4. This is so true, we really have to want to get well
    I swear if I put as much time and effort into recovery as I did in to my eating disorder I would be well on my way
    I'm not at the point of wanting to get well
    But I want to want to get well if that makes sense

    I'm glad you are at a place where you are moving forward
    Being angry at your illness is great motivation
    For me I still place a lot of importance in being thin
    And the number on the scale still affects me alot

    I wish you all the best with your recovery x

  5. I'm so sorry you've experienced so much pain and misery through all of this. But there's such a strength in this writing--such a resolution to really make recovery stick. I really believe you can do it, and it will get brighter from here. You deserve a full, happy, pain-free, and healthy life, and you seem to be sticking steadfastly to the path that will bring you there. Keep hanging in there; your strength and resilience are very inspiring :)