As some of you may have seen, I posted a very intimate photo on Instagram, earlier today. It is a candid photo captured by my husband, six years ago. At first glance, it appears to be quite ordinary. I am sitting between my two children, 23-months and 2.5 years old at the time, on the couch, snuggled in blankets and watching TV. Six years ago, this is exactly what I would have seen looking at this photo, but now, seeing it for the first time, I see so much more. Skin, bones and thinning hair. Hiding beneath my clothes… visible ribs, protruding hips and a distended abdomen. Low blood pressure, water-electrolyte imbalances and heart palpitations. Anxiety, depression and social isolation. I was sick, really sick.
On average I would consume ~300-600 calories per day and every single one was counted and recorded. I would run 4.2 miles at a pace of 7.5 mins/mile every evening. If it was hot, even better. I would use breaks, during my workday, to do push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks. I went to hot yoga classes as often as possible. Only standing was allowed; sitting was a weight gainer. Leg lifts while I read bedtime stories to my children. Rules, lots and lots of rules. If I broke one, I was a failure to myself, my family and my friends.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss; difficulties maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age and stature; and, in many individuals, distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat. Some people with the disorder also exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives, and/or binge eat. I have anorexia and at the time of this photo, it was killing me.
For the first time, today, on my journey with an eating disorder, I experienced anger towards the right thing… my eating disorder, not myself. Looking at that photo made me furious. My eating disorder took so much from me. I was unable to live in the moment with my children, because I was constantly ruminating about food and exercise. I experienced no enjoyment at social gatherings, because I spent the whole time planning how I was going to make it “appear” like I was drinking and eating. I was unable to partake in engaging conversation with my husband, because I couldn’t focus. It convinced me to lie, deceive and manipulate. It took my personality, my confidence, my empathy and my humor. It took it all and it gave me nothing but pain and suffering in return.
Well, I’m here to say “I’m done”. My eating disorder no longer defines me. I will not follow its rules. I will not let it take from me anymore. When it rears its ugly head, which it will, I will remind myself how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked to get here. I owe this to my family, my friends and my treatment team, but most importantly, I owe this to myself.
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