TW: eating disorders

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Hi all, sorry my posts are usually heavy. I did state in my request for authorship that I’d be writing about living with mental illness - I guess that was 100% honest! So here goes...

I lived with disordered eating from 12-18, at least. At that time I was anorexic, but in my 20s I struggled with over eating and a smidge of bulimia. I gained a lot of weight because of my anti-psychotic and drinking, and I’ve tried many diets to lose the weight without actually changing my poor relationship with food.

Due to my father’s illness and death, I lost about 30 pounds in three months. I took that as a positive, even though it was a reaction to grief and a desire for control. After all, I ended up in the healthy weight range for my height for the first time in years.

Slowly, over the past eight months, I’ve lost another 25 pounds. A lot of counting calories, still allowing myself to indulge in rich foods. Weight loss the healthy way, right?

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Today I am eight pounds away from my weight my senior year of high school. Everyone says I look great. But I struggle a lot with body dysmorphia - and with the addictive nature of weight loss. It consumes me - I’m basically always thinking about it - and it feels so good to see the number go down on the scale. I like that my hip bones and collar bones are showing. And yet I cannot see myself in the mirror. I have no idea what I look like.

I wrote in a public blog about this topic, and the responses were kind but lacked real understanding. Family members commented that I was beautiful but that “the outside doesn’t matter” and “it’s what’s inside that counts.” I know that, but at the same time I wish I could see myself, and I know that the outside is what other people see; it’s my vessel and my advertisement. I get treated better wherever I go, now that I’m 144 and not (at my highest) 205.

I can’t explain to people who have never gone through this what it feels like to be both obsessed with and detached from my body. I haven’t been able to effectively communicate what it feels like to lose weight as an anorexic in remission. I keep telling myself and my husband that I’m happy at my current weight, but I’ve been saying that since I hit 158 pounds (ie a “healthy” weight). And I keep going, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to stop. How do you say that to people who have (thank goodness for them!) never had an eating disorder?

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I think that many people believe that eating disorders are about vanity. That if I appreciate my insides I won’t have this problem. But that’s not what’s going on with me. I have never, ever been able to see my true body. I’ve always felt overweight, even when I was 118 pounds and starving. And I have been lucky - I never needed inpatient treatment, never gone below a “healthy” weight, so I think my friends and family have never really taken this seriously. And I carry weight well, so when I was 205 I was a “thick” woman. The only person aware of my struggle is me.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this - I feel lonely. Eating disorders are isolating. And in some ways they can be a cry for attention; when I was a teenager I was living through neglect, food insecurity, and abuse, and I just wanted someone to notice my suffering. And I thought that if I stopped eating it wouldn’t hurt so much that I wasn’t being adequately cared for and fed.

Anyway, long post. I’m struggling. My family life is out of control and I know in my heart that I am attempting to control it with weight loss. I appreciate all of you for reading and hope I haven’t triggered anyone who has gone through this, too.

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Eating disorders are a real bitch.