Eating. It’s not that easy. To eat. At least not for me. I have determined that I really don’t have any idea how to eat normally.
This probably sounds crazy to most people. I mean, how hard is it, right? We learn how to eat when we’re BABIES. It comes naturally. We HAVE to do it to survive. It’s primal. But then life happens and the wiring in our brain gets all messed up and confused and all kinds of other factors come into play and suddenly, it’s not so simple. In fact, it’s complex. Very, very complicated and bewildering.
I guess there was a point somewhere in my life when eating wasn’t a big problem. Maybe. I remember as a child being required to clean my plate before I could leave the table. My brother would fall asleep in his leftover food rather than give in and eat more than he wanted. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to have to sit still any longer than was absolutely necessary. I ate it, want it or not, so I could go run and play. My brother was stick skinny. I was…fluffy.
My mother was morbidly obese. By the time I was 16, I was a size 16 and following in her footsteps. I’m a little on the short side. But I weighed 173 lbs. when I graduated from high school. I weighed 194 lbs. a couple of years later.
Back then, I ate. A lot. It was an emotional thing and very comforting. I would sometimes hit 3 different drive throughs and buy that many different complete meals for my dinner. And I would go to a couple of different grocery stores to buy desserts that I would wolf down in one setting. I didn’t know how to stop myself. It didn’t feel as if I had any control, no matter how hard I tried to assert myself. I HAD to binge. I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t stop.
I joined Weight Watchers when I hit 194 lbs. I didn’t want to break 200 lbs. I was horrified at how huge I had gotten and I knew I had to do something differently or die trying. And Weight Watchers worked. Slowly, a few pounds at a time, I lost the extra pounds, hit my goal weight and then lost a little more just for the heck of it. Back then, I could eat. I could consume food like a normal person and I was able to see the cause and effect between eating too much, eating a little less than normal and eating normally. I gained, lost or maintained in relation to my calorie intake and activity level.
When I was 26, my (then) husband told me that, not only did he not love me, he didn’t want to deal with me. He didn’t want to hear about any of the “stuff” that was inside me. I was too much. A problem. A pain in the butt. Not worth the trouble. An embarrassment. A mess. He wanted me to keep things nice and easy and smooth and keep my crap to myself. It did something to me. Something inside of me shut down and something else reared up. I started severely restricting my food intake and began to exercise. I wasn’t overweight at the time…a size 7. But as I restricted more and ran further and further, the weight melted off. Before I knew it, I weighed 84 lbs. and was still losing. And I felt SO GOOD! I ran 13 to 15 miles a day, did an hour of floor exercises and walked for 30 to 45 minutes every single day. I felt strong and unstoppable. I stopped having a period, but, hey, that was NOT a bad thing! I loved it. LOVED being in control and skinny and free!
Not sure where it would have ended if I hadn’t broken my hip in a couple of places from all the running. But I did. Break it. And not only could I not run, I couldn’t sit, stand, walk, lift my leg…I was in intense pain and nearly incapacitated. Turns out, when the hip broke, it caused my pelvis to tilt and cut off the nerves in my leg. I had extensive nerve damage by the time the doctor figured it out. It took years to get to a point where I could walk without a limp and get into a car without having to grab my leg and lift it in the car. Suddenly I wasn’t in control any more. And I wasn’t strong or free.
To make the nightmare even more unbearable, I couldn’t eat. I had been restricting, consuming a maximum of 1000 to 1200 calories when I was exercising constantly. I cut back to 500 calories every other day and I was STILL gaining weight at an alarming rate. I couldn’t do anything to stop it and I was so miserable, I wanted to die.
The weight gain slowed, but never stopped. I continued…for years and years and years…to count calories and restrict. But there was no longer any cause and effect. Eating less didn’t equate to weight loss. Eating more, however, caused accelerated weight gain. So I ate very little and watched in horror as my body continued to expand. I couldn’t exercise anymore because of the hip injury. I could walk, but that wasn’t enough. Running put too much pressure on my compromised hip structure. Couldn’t do it. And that kind of intense exercise seemed to be the only thing that helped slow the gain. Exercise I could no longer do. I felt more and more worthless with every pound gained. My ex recoiled in horror at my expanding body. He was embarrassed by me. The rejection was palpable. Not that it hadn’t been before, but now there was an outward reason to push me away. He didn’t touch me unless he wanted sex. I began to feel like a prostitute. Used. Then tossed away.
By the time he left me, I deserved to be left. I weighed 230 lbs. I was a monster. And it got worse after he left because I turned to food for comfort. Gained another 26 lbs.
At the point where I attempted suicide, I weight 256 lbs. I had lost all hope, hated myself, felt completely worthless, as if I was a monster to be shunned and avoided at all costs. I gave up. I took 300 20 mg. Adderall, sure that it would kill me…and lived. Angry much? Yeah, for sure. I should have died. I still don’t know why I didn’t.
I was in intensive care for days…it all runs together in my brain, so I’m not sure how many, but for 3 or 4 days at least. When I started becoming more aware of my surroundings and was able to get out of bed on my own, the hospital transferred me to the mental hospital. Horrible experience. Like being trapped in a bad movie. Every 15 minutes, they find you and account for you. You can’t have a phone or blow dryer or makeup. There were some seriously mentally ill people in there. Not in touch with reality in any way. Scary. Very few activities, so nothing to distract you. Nothing to help you pass the endless hours. An the 15 minutes of therapy a day was a total joke. I was confined for a full week. It was one of the longest weeks of my life.
But something happened while I was in there. I had a bulimic roommate. And my eating disorder flared into being again. Just. Like. That.
At first, the purging was mainly because my stomach was a bit of a mess after the trauma of the suicide attempt and resulting pumping of my stomach and having charcoal forced down me. But at some point, it became something I did on purpose. I was restricting because I was angry and my stomach was queasy, but I was also, over time, purposely throwing up whatever I ate. And, miracle of miracles, the weight was coming off.
By the time I was able to get a job (a few months after I got out of the psych hospital), I had lost 20 to 30 pounds. My size 22 jeans were falling off of me. Most of my clothes were getting seriously loose. I pulled out some old things I had packed away hoping to be able to wear them again someday. And found someday had arrived. Before I knew it, I was wearing a size 18. Then I was back to a size 16, which was the size I had worn when I graduated from high school. But I didn’t stop there! I passed quickly through size 16 to 14 to 12. One year later, by the time I had to have an emergency hysterectomy, I had lost over 100 lbs. I weighed 145 the day I had surgery.
And I didn’t stop there either.
Now, I wear a size 0 or 00. I don’t weigh myself any more. If I’m careful, the binge & purge trick works well enough that I can maintain. But if my clothes get a little tight, it throws me into a tizzy and I start restricting along with B&P. And I haven’t a clue how to go about actually eating. Like a normal person. Even having a salad is difficult. If I get too much in my stomach, I panic, even if it’s low calorie “good for you” food. Mostly, I eat a bunch and then throw up and throw up and throw up until I can’t feel anything in my stomach and can’t get another drop out.
This is my life. This is what happens when you live with ED. If you can call this living.