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—-> Note: This is a free write… sorry if it is jumbled.. not in order… a bit “messsy”… i just needed to let it out…. <——

Dear ED

I rarely use the word hate. I do not like that word. But in your case. I hate you from the depths of my soul. With everything inside of me. With vehemence beyond all things.
You stole my teenage years. You stole my college years. You kept me inside counting calories and crying in my bed while others my age tested their limits and did things teenagers do. You kept me running on that treadmill, watching the minutes turn to hours, as others passed time playing hackey sack and going on adventures and playing spin the bottle. I feared weed because it made you hungry and that was the last thing I wanted to be…. so I lost touch with those friends that went that direction. I feared alcohol for its calories… so I lost touch with those friends who delighted in the feeling of being intoxicated for the first time(or second or third or whatnot.) I feared going out with friends because it was inevitable that they would go out for food and I would have to make an excuse as to why I couldn’t eat.  I had already eaten… even though all I had that day was 10 grapes and half an orange. I wasn’t hungry…. even though my stomach was whirling about in anger and emptiness. And I would have to sit there sipping my water, gazing in wonder and awe at how my friends could eat so much and stay so fit while if I so much as ate a piece of bread I wold gain two pounds. I wanted so bad to fool around with my friends. To make memories. To be happy. To laugh over simple things. But I lived in a shroud of sadness, terror, suffocating depression… I never went to any keggers. I never went on any spring break adventures to get plastered with friends and laugh about it for years to come. I was vacant. I was an empty balloon. I have no happy memories of late high school. My prom date never showed up because he only asked me as a joke. I have no happy memories of parties or falling in love or late nights talking to friends or clubbing in college. I so desperately wanted to be part of it all… to have someone fall in love with me… but how in the world would that be ever possible? I was grotesque, fat, annoying, unlovable… or at least that’s what you, my ED, told me. I wanted so badly to have heads turn in my direction when I walked into the room.. “The only reason they would turn is because they saw the ugliest person they’ve ever seen walk into the room”, you, my ED said. I wanted so desperately to go out with my friends and laugh with them and not have a care… “Why would they WANT you along? You know the only reason they would ever invite you is because they felt OBLIGATED… you’re such a burden, a bore”, you, my ED said.

I used to be ok. I was always a good child. Perfect, as they said. “My rock”, my mom called me. My older brother was a bit of a sociopath. His friends adored him. They had nothing but good to say about him. But with the family. I was terrified of him. Many memories of running away from him horror with tears streaming down my face. Locking myself in the bathroom. Huddling in a ball, watching the wooden door strain as he pounded on it. Saying the most horrible things one could say.  I had perfect grades. I did no wrong. I strived to be the kid that my parents would be proud of.

I had the liver transplant at age 3. It saved my life. But left me with a giant scar across my belly. It is still there today. It is still a big indent. It poufs out below and above.  I hated it. I did sit up after sit up. Crunch after crunch. For hours. Days. I lived for the scale. For the reflection in the mirror. What I saw in that mirror was a grotesque monster. Forever growing monster. But looking back at the pictures from that time, I was skin and bones. It hurt to sit down. I could feel my heart beat, pumping my chest up and down as it strived to keep my body alive. My hair came out in chunks. My brother joked that I looked like I was an Auschwitz victim. That I belonged in Ethiopia. Which made me feel even more disgusting. I had people ask me, “Why don’t you just eat?” all those normal questions people ask someone who has an eating disorder. The answer is never simple. It is not about the food. I remember going to a church once with my grandma and someone in their was convinced I had the devil inside of me and tried to get my grandma to consent to let me be exorcized to let the devil out. It’s not about the food.  For me it was a combination of things. Always… these voices in my head… the things my brother shouted at me in spite… the sneers from the kids at school… the giant scar on my belly… insecurity.. fear of growing up… fear of being “normal”… fear of never finding anyone to like me…
So I hid away… restricted my food intake more and more.. became obsessed… It sounds so selfish and vain…

I got so crazy at times that I got this idea in my head that if I cut myself, maybe that would be better than the hurricane of terrible things that my mind was shouting at me. It was relief from the ever present, “You will never be loved..”  “You are such a disgusting creature…” “You don’t have a woman’s body, you have an alien’s body,.. just look at that scar…” “You will never look like all those people at the beach in their bikinis… NEVER”  “Why would any boy ever find you attractive…” “Face it… you’ll never be anyones ‘one’…”  And every time I passed up a meal.. a dessert… a snack.. Especially when the smell was so delicious and overpowering and my stomach did somersaults in anticipation… and I walked away..I felt powerful. So powerful. So light. So free. But… yet.. so empty…

I went to three different Eating Disorder Treatment centers for months at a time, only to be kicked out after the health insurance ran out.  I was hospitalized a few times. I wasn’t ready. I felt safe in those treatment centers. Even though some of them made me gain half a pound a day. If you didn’t make weight, you had to be wheeled around in a wheel chair the next day to conserve your energy. Or they made you drink Ensure Plus if you didn’t eat everything on your plate…. and if you refused that, they stuck the tube down your throat to force those calories in. They stood by the door to the bathrooms and flushed them for you so that you couldn’t vomit up the food they made you eat. They weighed you in the mornings and made you wear a hospital gown so that you couldn’t stuff any pockets with rocks to add the weight you hoped you didn’t gain. I remember some pretty crazy things going on in those places… But I also remember some gentle friends… and some people that were in there just to prove they could still lose weight even in a treatment center and went to get tips on how to take their ED to another level when they went out into the real world again. We were allowed to do gentle yoga. We had a movie night sometimes where we would order in.. usually a binge food… I remember there being pizza some nights, McFlurries some nights, Snickers bars some nights… You were allowed to eat as much as you wanted… it was there… but we could never focus on the movie because we knew the food was right there and we knew everyone was watching everyone else to see how much everyone else ate so that they could eat the least amount… if that makes any sense at all… The nutritionist was my worst enemy… always upping my food intake. To this day I still fear bagels. Bagels and peanut butter were what you ate if they felt you weren’t gaining enough. They took you to a restaurant and made you order a normal meal. Those were the worst days. In public. Forced to eat a whole meal, when all the years before I would eat a salad or lie about all the things I ate earlier in the day. But everyone was in it together. We all were terrified of gaining, but more terrified of going back out into the real world.

Recovering from an eating disorder… getting out of treatment from an eating disorder is the hardest thing I have ever had to do…  And I failed many times. I relapsed many times.
Food was everywhere. It was something that one had to deal with on a daily basis. One had to eat to survive. But how much to eat? How little could you get away with eating? In treatment you learned that if you ate too little it messed up your metabolism and it would mess with your body. If you ate too much, obviously you gained. You had to eat just enough. With alcohol and drugs, you could abstain.  With an eating disorder you still had to eat. Every day. In order to live. In fact, soon after I got out, I got into a relationship with a guy that treated me the same way my brother treated me… because in my own messed up mind, I knew my brother loved me… and thats one way he showed love… so I accepted the fact that to love someone was to use and abuse them… and continued on with mini eating disordered habits and a dependency on alcohol and a dabble in drugs… for 5 more years I lived a sheltered, naive, mini-life….

To this day my heart is still dealing with the effects of 8 years stuck in this mindset. I have heart arrhythmia. Sometimes I am laying in bed and my heart starts going crazy and I fear going to sleep that I will not wake up The years of not eating and nourishing my body weakened my heart and it will never be normal. My bones have suffered. I have low bone density and osteopenia due to the lack of calcium and other nutrients when my body needed it. Years of purging what little food I did eat wreaked havoc on my teeth as well.  And still… to this day… I fear food. I keep track of everything I eat.  Every exercise I do. I always take the long route. I always make work harder than it has to be just because it would burn that much more calories. I still want to cry inside when I go to a restaurant and have to order a real meal and eat it with others… most times I suck it up and do it.. Other times I give in.. just a little… order a simple soup.. or salad.. or appetizer and toss aside peoples suggestions saying, “Oh, I promise I am not that hungry..” and then go home and fill the rest of the emptiness of my belly with water or grapes or grapefruits..

And now. It is getting worse. And it is terrifying how strong the thoughts are these days. I have been sticking to a diet of coffee and a banana or grapefruit or low fat yogurt for breakfast and then one of those powdered chicken noodle soups for dinner (less than 100 calories) and sometimes rice cakes with a little triangle of that smearable cheese… And I look in the mirror. And I put on my clothes. And I feel no different. I feel bigger. I look at pictures and I look so much bigger than everyone else. I want to feel my hip bones jutting out when I lay down. I want to see my collar bones as I look in the mirror. I want to be able to wrap my hands around my upper thighs and have my fingers touch. Is that messed up thinking? Yes….

How does one like oneself?

It is very unfortunate that the death of my older brother was what shook my world to the point that I finally saw through my eating disorder. I never got to say I loved him. He finally started being nice to me the last year of his 4 year battle with cancer. I think he knew he was dying and was trying to make up for all the things he did.  It messed with my head. I wanted to live a life for both him and me. And from then on, my attitude changed. My life changed. Now people look at me… get to know me… as a happy, optimistic, charming, etc. etc. girl. And yes, I am. I truly am. But that doesn’t mean that I still don’t struggle with ED thoughts. Terrible words he said to me when I looked up to him most still echo through my head.

And now, I am happy to say that I LOVE life. I do not depend on alcohol. I relinquished myself from drugs. I love food (most of the time) and am in a very healthy relationship. I relish in the little things of life. I ADORE adventure. I greet people with the thought that everyone is good and great. I know that everyday is not good, but there is good in everyday. And I am happy to be alive.. and there have been times I have sucked it up and worn a bikini and proudly shown off my scar… because that is part of who I am…. and I am alive because of it…….. And I am not afraid to talk about it to anyone who needs help… has questions.. anything…
Because most of all… I do not wish that kind of life on anyone… going through life with an eating disorder is not living….

Hakuna Matata

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