Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Eating Disorder Story

This entry was an answer to a Facebook interview someone asked me to do for a newspaper about my eating disorder. The questions she asked me were:

1. what specific eating disorder did you have?
2. when did it begin? how did it begin?
3. what went through your mind throughout? during it, what happened?
4. what snapped you out of it? did you have outside help?
5. what lasting impact has the experience left on you?

i had bulimia nervosa. i didn't throw up after i had eaten, instead i starved myself during the week and then binged on the weekend. it was easier to control myself not to eat during the week since my mother wasn't at home most of the day and we only ate dinner together. so, i would eat about a meal a day and because we usually don't eat a heavy dinner, it would be about 300 or 400 calories. later on, i would ration my dinner too and eat as little as i could get away with. during the weekends though, it was harder, so i just binged on what i could get my hands on.

it began my junior year, so about two years ago, in the fall when school started. the summer is usually a very bad time emotionally for me because of various reasons. one is that i'm the kind of person who if i don't have a regimented schedule i fall to pieces. school or work is when i'm happiest because i actually do something. that was a minor reason. the major reason was because of family and personal issues. i was going through a time of extreme confusion and doubt about a lot of things. and i don't really know how it exactly started, but i suppose i grew jealous. i wanted to be thin. intellectually, rationally, i knew i was thin. i usually weigh about 96 pounds and i'm 5 feet, so i'm already a bit underweight as it is. my usual calorie intake is about 800-1000 and i don't exercise. i'm not a health nut, but i don't eat fast food and i don't eat a lot of fat or sweets, nor fruit or vegetables and not much meat either. i'm mostly a carbohydrates girl.

anyway, my goal that i put for myself was 75 pounds. why 75? that was what i weighed when i started puberty, i think. i had weighed that in middle school and i suppose this perverse thought of going back to how i was physically, in middle school would make me...more attractive, perhaps? again, rationally, this weight would probably have killed me. i'll explain this in another point, but there's not that much logic when it comes to these things, unfortunately. i thought of it as a contest. i wanted to be thinner than everyone in my circle of friends (even though i already was). and i did want to be more attractive, even though rationally, i knew anorexic girls are extremely unattractive. 

 throughout, there was always a little voice that said 'hey...you're thin', but of course you push that little voice away and you keep doing it. there's not much rationalization when you're going through this even though there's a ton of obsession. i remember that every single day for about six months, food was all i'd think about. i'd think about when, what, how much i'd eat and if my plan a didn't work out, i'd make a plan b. as in, if someone made me eat this, i wouldn't eat that later on. and if i did eat it, i could compensate tomorrow by not eating this. it was pretty horrible. it was terrifying, actually. i started writing my calorie intake in a notebook. at one point, it dropped to about 100 or 200. my hair started falling out in clumps, i would faint and i ocassionally passed out. my birth control stopped working because my hormones got all screwed up. i lost about ten pounds, which for a lot of people is nothing, but at the weight i am, losing that much is like losing 100 for many. if i had lost 20, like i had planned to, i would probably be dead by now. 

what snapped me out of it was probably the trip to peru during winter break, more or less. i got explosive diarrhea because i drank the water there (mistake, don't do it, seriously) and for a week, i was on water and practically no food, while i was hiking the macchu picchu trail. it was beyond horrific. i binged a lot on that trip, but i still figured i had lost some weight, so when i got back home, i weighed myself, and realized i hadn't lost anything. at that time i was basically just like 'fuck this. i'm tired of doing this.' it takes a lot out of you, emotionally, physically, mentally. it takes a lot to curb your appetite, to refuse that food that you usually love, to not eat, to think all the time about what you're going to eat...and there's this point where you ask yourself 'why am i doing this? is this really helping me?' i decided that no, it wasn't.

people tried to help me. my friends obviously noticed that i was refusing to eat. my mother noticed, though she used the yelling and threatening tactic which i don't recommend, because it doesn't help much. one of my friends even sent me to the counselor, which also didn't help at all. the thing is, that it doesn't matter how much someone tells you you're not fat or that you're beautiful or that they love you...it doesn't matter until you start believing it. it's really great that you have support in those times, but i'm sorry to say this...it usually doesn't help until afterward, in retrospect. at the time, you're extremely selfish and you don't listen really to anybody. you know they mean you well, but it's a very personal experience that only you can get through. i'm not saying that supporting and trying to help someone who is anorexic or bulimic is bad...you should do it. but you should also know that it's their decision to stop and get better and not much you can say will change their minds unless they decide to listen to you and that's /their/ decision. 

i'm not sure about institutions where this type of behaviour is corrected. it may help, for all i know. i know that a lot of people who go through this are extremely stubborn and don't want to be helped at all. i know i am. i'm the kind of person who wants to do everything by myself and i don't want or need anyone's help. there's this point where someone realizes that they're extremely close to dying and only they can get themselves out of that, or they suck it up and get help. 

all people are different obviously, and support is very much needed for this. however, it would also help if american society and societies in general curbed their love for skinny. skinny is great as long as you're healthy and healthy is not anorexic/bulimic. positive body image is needed, not only in young girls/women, but also in men. there's this new fad going on called thinspo, where on blog sites girls who are anorexic/bulimic post encouragement in the form of pictures of extremely thin girls. they egg each other on to eat less, to look like those girls...it's really quite depressing and heartbreaking, and i don't think this would be as frequent if the above issues were solved. another thing is the way you've been raised. a lot of people turn to anorexia because of family or personal issues, like i did, either as a form of control, or a reaction to an event. 

so it's helpful if parents don't criticize their child's weight. suggest. it's not healthy to be overweight either (not the bmi way, that's inaccurate). it's good to be in between. genetics and bone structure are also another consideration. if you're a curvy latina chick, you are not going to be able to fit in a negative size of pants, okay? it just won't happen. 

it's also helpful to realize that if you do get into this kind of behaviour, that you can always get out. always. there's always support for you and you are always the captain of your own ship (cheesy i know but it's completely true). skinnier does not mean hotter, in fact it's probably the other way around. if you see a woman who's all skin and bones, i guarantee you that is not hot. that is scary. 

lasting impact? well, the positive thing is empathizing with people who have this problem. the other positive thing is knowing that i need to be healthy. normally, as i said before, i don't eat much. i don't need that much to keep me going. i've started drinking more water (i usually drink about one tenth of what's recommended), i'm decreasing my consumption of meat and increasing my consumption of fruit. i've also painfully and slowly started exercising more. i've been swimming a bit more and i've decided i'm going to start running once the fall semester starts. even start badminton again. either way, it's extremely important to be hydrated, eat a balanced diet, exercise, all that good stuff. because truly, if you are healthy, you will be happier in yourself. there are urges to go back to that kind of eating, but it's important to remember that it won't help you at all. i know a lot of people personally who struggle with this and who also struggle with cutting additionally. usually, eating disorders come from a very deep issue and it's not the problem, it's the symptom. so only because you've stopped puking or stopped starving yourself doesn't mean the issue isn't still there. you have to do some introspection and realize why you did it in the first place, why you're continuing, why you stopped, and figure out and solve the problem. that's easier said than done, i know, but it can definitely be done if you're determined to do it. it's damn hard to do it, but it's really worth it in the end. 

this really goes for all problems, whether it's cutting, eating disorders, depression, jealousy...it's only a symptom of the problem (okay, maybe not depression, that's a different discussion in itself), and only because you've stopped doesn't mean it won't come back again or that you've killed the beast. you haven't. you've just cut off its tail. 

the last and most important thing to remember is that we as humans are fragile and strong at the same time. we can be stronger than we think and at the same time, more fragile than we think. but usually, as human instinct, we like to think ourselves stronger than we think, which is a good thing because it's an optimistic quality that we need for human survival. sometimes, we have to remember we're fragile, usually when we're doing dangerous things like drugs or driving at 120 mph through a wall. we're not immortal, we die.

but in times like these where we think we're beaten, we truly aren't, unless we think we are. our minds and our determinations and wills play more important parts in our lives than we think. we can change, if we want to. we can do this, if we want to. if we think we can. we are fully capable.

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