(I’ve had quite a few of these said to me, which is why I’ve kept my struggles a secret for so long…perhaps even I was guilty of accusing myself of a few of these.)
I’m going to start this off by saying that NONE of this is healthy by any means. Please please PLEASE don’t take it as such! This is my blog, and my place to be honest and open (in the hopes that it helps someone else out there perhaps not feel so alone, if they are experiencing anything similar…which I hope not, but I do receive private messages here and there, so… )
So, I had an anxiety attack over my breakfast this morning (tea, egg whites, a slice of reduced-fat whole wheat toast, and a little portion of beans). This isn’t anything new to me, but the severity of it was something I hadn’t experienced in quite a long time. I weighed myself and looked into a full-length mirror beforehand, and it all went to hell after that. I ended up tossing everything in the bin except for my cup of tea, and then I felt guilty because there are starving families out there who would have given anything for that meal that I so ungratefully discarded.
Food is the Enemy
I’ve had anxiety wrapped around food for the longest time, since I was a child. ( I was diagnosed as a child with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which (loosely put) is a disorder in which I perceive myself as though I were looking into a funhouse mirror. I look distorted and deformed to myself, always heavier than I am (even if my clothes are becoming looser on me), and presently I only look at my reflection to apply makeup because I appear unrecognisable to myself. Something changed after my mom passed, and I no longer see ‘me’ when I look at myself. I don’t know how to explain it…it’s as if there is a stranger in my reflection, or the ghost of my former self…a near echo of who I used to be…but it’s unnerving and terrifying and enraging. ) I was in therapy for a number of years from childhood to my teenage years, but never really made progress. I also knew that my issues with food were not right, and I was afraid that I would be deemed “bad” for having them. So I never mentioned them. I had severe digestive issues growing up, and I think my anxiety played a part. I always felt better when I was “empty.”
When I entered high school (and had quit therapy), I began purging. I’d feel anxious and would break down into tears after eating (not even binge-eating, just regular meals), and realised that forcing myself to throw up would ease the anxiety attacks. When I had the strength, I would restrict for as long as possible and just not eat. I would go for a day or two with nothing more than a carrot or two, water, maybe a piece of fruit. But sometimes that gnawing anxiety would kick in, even with just that. If I couldn’t purge, I would resort to self-harm to ease the anxiety. ( I’ve quite a few nasty scars on my thigh that I really want to cover up with a Day of the Dead tattoo, or something along that theme, but I just haven’t brought myself to do it yet. I don’t want to explain what the lines along my thigh are to the artist. ) I was an active member on a few pro-ED online community boards, which are no longer running (I actually looked them up a short while ago, just to see how the people I used to chat with are getting on…sadly, a couple of them have taken their own lives, I’ve come to learn). A good majority have recovered from their eating disorders. I’m beyond happy for them!
I purged and restricted on-and-off for nearly twenty years, and I absolutely feel the effects of my actions on my health now. Again, this is NOT healthy behaviour…do not do this!
I’m the first person to say to someone that there are no set standards for health or beauty, and there is no one perfect body weight, but I’m the last person to actually listen to myself.
I have hypothyroidism (”hippo-thyroidism” as I call it). This makes losing weight extremely difficult for me, causes me to have a lack of energy (but also not eating properly is not helping matters), slow metabolism, insomnia, poor attention span, etc. I’ve been on medication for over ten years now, but the medication has not regulated my weight. In fact, I swear the pills have slowly and gradually put weight on me. I stopped taking them abruptly a year ago, and lost nearly 20lbs! (Again, DO NOT DO THIS….not healthy!) My TSH levels in my most recent blood test were horrendous, and I began to feel as though I were having hot flashes, so I had to go back on the pills, but I don’t take them the way that I’m supposed to. I’m terrified. I’ve already gained a couple of pounds back that I’d lost by going off of them.
I do work out at the gym, but I can only do so much before I start to feel light-headed or before a migraine begins to set in (again, from poor diet…will discuss in next portion). I tone up from the cardio and weights that I do, but I can never seem to get below a certain weight. I hover. It’s not a horrible weight, but I could be 10-15lbs lighter. I will always hold that over my head as a failure, even if it’s medically beyond my control. Realistically, though, if I were to get myself down to 100lbs, I could see myself still feeling the same way. I will never feel content.
My current relationship with food is a complicated one. There is still that anxiety of having lost control of myself at times (even if I’ve only eaten a salad, after two days of not eating or two days of consuming no more than 600-700 calories). I try to not use calorie counting apps because I tend to use them for negative reasons…instead of aiming to eat at least 1000 calories per day, I’d feel like a failure if I went over 800. The app warning me that this behaviour is unhealthy and that I might have an eating disorder became a fucked up form of comfort.
But then I have some days where I pay my intake no mind and just enjoy myself. A slice of pizza with no guilt, or some pasta, or a nice bowl of veggies with brown rice.
Then I have my moments like this morning, where I have a panic attack before I’ve even eaten and just looking at a plate of food brings on a gag reflex. (I didn’t eat dinner last night, had a small plate of salad for lunch, and indulged in a Pot Noodle for breakfast…the Pot Noodle warranted my not needing to eat dinner).
Which brings me to the pic that I started this entry with…if anyone were to just look at me, they would never guess that this is going on! I (to me) am overweight, and could definitely stand to lose 20-30lbs. I’d go 50lbs, but I’d be dead. I range from a size 8-12 in pants (UK & USA sizes…USA sizes are tricky, depending on where you shop). When I stand next to a dear friend of mine, whom I view as stunningly beautiful, I swear that we are the same body size and shape. She is 54lbs heavier than I am (she weighed herself with me to prove a point to me). She looks at me as though I am utterly insane and tries to understand, but I’m ecstatic that she doesn’t.
This is Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
**A note on the USA Mental Healthcare System**
I have acknowledged that I should attempt therapy for this again, since the anxiety attacks and distorted/unrecognisable reflection seem to have amplified 20x since my mother’s death.
After calling around to seven centers…five are not accepting new patients, and the other two have wait lists of up to 3-5 months for the intake and enrollment process. Not to mention the cost…my copayments, not including medication, if they wanted to start me on any, would be upwards of $300 per month.
As I’ve said, this country treats mental healthcare as if it were a luxury item. And that is disgusting.
So here is my online confessional. I might be damned to my own personal hell, but perhaps my words will help someone else? You are not alone, there is nothing fucked up or wrong or ugly about you. Please get help, if it is available to you!
Don’t end up like me. Don’t cry over a plate of egg whites & beans because you gained a pound.