I am not going to lie, I have been thinking about my post from last Friday all week. It was extremely hard to write, let alone publish, as there are so many people in my life today, that had (maybe still have) no idea what I have been through with my eating disorder. I am sure that by coming out about my own struggles has brought light to some of my weird food quirks and reactions around some foods, or my anxiety over not working out in a couple of days, but it is still strange to feel so bare and open about this.
If a Dr. asked me my medical history even a year or two ago, I would have either left out the ED or whispered that I had "gone through an eating disorder briefly...but I am doing really well today" - the only truth of that statement is that I am doing really well today. As I mentioned in my story, an eating disorder, whether diagnosed or not, is a life-long mental battle. Yes there are resources and support to help you through the worst of it, the life-threatening part, but the triggers and addictive behaviors need to be monitored for life. I am not saying you can't live a normal, happy life - I am living a very happy and fairly normal life, healthy life - but I still have backward steps and I still need to be mindful of my reactions to food, comments, and negative self conscious thoughts. I am hyper-sensitive of women or men that look like they might have an ED, or if I see tendencies in another person, that I had struggled with myself - it is painful to see this and know what they might be going through, it is painful to not be able to help or to reach out.
Those who knew me throughout my struggle, or who have battled through their own, help me to remember how lonely and depressing that place was. If they see me get nervous around certain foods or notice I haven't taken a rest day from the gym, they let me know, gently, how far I have come and to chill out, take a breath, and accept the good life I have now.
There are still fear foods- there are many foods, I limit, and in a way restrict, myself from eating and enjoying. There are also some foods I just can't tolerate anymore, because I have messed up my bodies systems so much - I experience acid re-flux easily, I get stomach craps a lot, and my bone density decreased. I have a hard time eating some of the yummiest foods, like full flavor ice creams, actually cream in general, and red meat for a very long time. I know a lot of the food I can't handle aren't that great for my body anyways, but it's the mental game that goes along with them that makes them a fear food, and it is the friends or family that I make uncomfortable because I avoid certain foods or make certain comments about the food/ingredients that makes my fear of them even worse. I am still waiting for the day that I can go to a party and not neurotically evaluate everything in front of me for calories, fat, sodium, etc..that I can just be a normal 24 (almost 25) year old and sit on the couch and guiltlessly snack on a bag of chips.
Don't get me wrong, I eat a large variety of foods now, including fear foods (french fries, fried food in general, red meat, nuts, cake/brownies, carbs in general) and my portions are not measly by any means (I mean some of my monthly goals have been to concentrate on more normal portion sizes because I have a tendency to go overboard) - it is the mental game that lingers, it is the judging I do to myself and the anxiety I feel after finishing a serving of french fries or ice cream. I am trying my best to get back to feeling good about what I eat, because 80% of the time I eat whole, clean foods and I should feel good about it and it shouldn't feel bad to enjoy a treat now and then, or spend an evening with friends not feeling totally bloated or negative about my body. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was finally letting in some help, was that you don't gain the weight over night - if you have a chicken finger, you aren't going to be 200 lbs tomorrow, you probably won't even gain a lb - it is about balance of quantity and quality.
Today my life is pretty full of positive reinforcement and support, I am stronger than I was mentally and physically because of what I have gone through. I have my competitive drive back, my personality is back to normal and I have amazing friends, new and old, in my life. I can run a marathon, I can dominate at boot camp, I can go out drinking with friends and have fun again, but I still have a lot of mental "baggage" to work through around the eating disorder, but I am getting there, and I am becoming more and more aware of the steps I take forward and back. Some of the things I am writing about where I was seem almost silly to me now, and probably to some of the people that know me now and didn't then, as I don't show a lot of angst outwardly, but it is real. If you saw me today, you would probably never know what I went through - and I hope that the people that continue to come into my life never have to see that.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to share this with you all, is that there are so many girls and guys alike, at younger and younger ages, that are going through their own mental battles, many alone, or are so far into the disorder that they don't know how to let you in....I want to let you know, it is so so hard to break into their cycle and rescue you them, they see it as their business only and think they are alone, but with some gentle support and perseverance, you could help them come up for air. I have been there, I have sat alone in my bed, in my college dorm-room and cried myself to sleep, until I finally opened the door and let my friends in to cry with me. I was getting help, albeit forced at first, for many months, before I let them in, before I let my own family in. They stuck out the worst of it with me (or for me I should say) and helped me see who I had been and who I could be.
For them I am eternally grateful. Thank you for helping my life get back to normal and for helping me get back to me.
If you know of anyone suffering, please reach out to them - they might refuse, they might get angry, but you cannot take it personally, you cannot give up on them.