If the eating disorders don’t kill you, the loneliness will. As I stood there looking in the mirror, facing the truth of my bulimarexic reflection I realized that I hated what I saw. As long as I could remember, I had never liked what I saw staring back at me in the mirror. Sure, if I tried really hard I could find one thing that was tolerable. One thing that was passable as average, but mostly I disgusted myself. The eating disorders had taken hold of me and now I was down the rabbit hole and sinking faster and faster into some alternative universe where nothing made sense and everything was upside down.
Logically, I knew that the khaki’s that I wore to work were so big that I had started wearing long johns under my uniform just to appear larger than I was which was ironic because I was severely restricting what I ate in order to lose weight.
I KNEW I had eating disorders. I knew that.
On some level, I knew that I was severely underweight but I wasn’t going to admit it, not even to myself. Admitting that I was at an acceptable weight or below without feeling happy, complete with myself, meant failure; failure at keeping control of my life. I knew that if I lost the tiniest bit of control of the run away train that was my life, the entire thing would derail.
It’s hard to go full on all the time. I was going to university full time, working full time, living in a large city away from all of my family and friends. I had bit off more than I could chew but I wasn’t ready to admit that I had eating disorders. I’d rather die than admit failure. Funny how I never knew what that statement truly meant before that very moment.
I’d left behind my entire life; my family, my friends, my boyfriend. I did all of this to run away from my life. I thought that if I got far enough away from it all, everything would work itself out but it didn’t. I felt out of control and overwhelmed. Nothing was working out the way I had planned it to be. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it all back on track so I restricted and micromanaged in the only place I still had complete control; my food. I clung to my eating disorders for dear life, ironic since they were killing me.
I had started restricting a couple years prior but I had been caught. I was embarrassed and I promised to stop but I never did. I couldn’t. If I would have let the chaos in for a second, my entire world have unraveled and it was pretty much held together by a stick of bubblegum and a prayer as it was so for 8 years, I hid what I was doing. I felt like a fraud.
It was the one secret that I couldn’t share with anyone because they’d try to save me from myself. I didn’t want to be saved. Or maybe I did but I wasn’t willing to turn my life over to someone else to save. I thought I had it under control. I didn’t.
I spent my days hiding the real me from everyone who cared about me. This made me bitter and angry. Why couldn’t they just accept me as I was? Why would they try to change me? Why must they try to stop me? Didn’t they realize that this was the only thing that had gotten me through?
I needed to restrict to feel normal and the threat that someone would try to make me stop sent me into a personal seclusion. I became prone to crying inexplicably and blowing up for no apparent reason. I straddled between the reality of my disease and the delusion that it would all end up fine. I held on to that delusion like I was drowning and it was my flotation salvation.
To let reality in, to let anyone in, meant to face the fact that I had already lost all control. Then one day, when I was at my bottom, the delusion was sweeping me away and drowning me but reality kept whispering in my ear, “This will be the last time. This is your last chance to save yourself.” That’s when I knew the eating disorders had to end.
I relinquished control. It wasn’t taken from me. I gave it up. I had to give myself over to something bigger than myself to be honest and start fresh. Eating disorders are lonely and isolating. I just wanted to be free of the shackles of the lies. I wanted to live and love and grow old and that was not going to happen if I didn’t give up control of my runaway life. I had to embrace the chaos. None of that was going to happen if I was dead.
If you know someone who has eating disorders or suspect that your child might be headed down that road, I’ve written a checklist of warning signs that you might not have otherwise known to look for. Eating disorders no matter how inconsequential they may seem at first can quickly spiral out of control. Never ignore the signs because if you do, it may be too late to save your child.