In part 1, I left off with my first day in recovery from anorexia. Part 2 is my recovery journey up til today!
From March until mid-May, my parents were pretty much the only ones in charge of my eating. I had a few checkup appointments to make sure my weight wasn’t slipping drastically. Those first couple of months were so hard for me, physically and emotionally. For the first several weeks, I was uncomfortably full after every meal and snack. I had never had to eat portions that large, especially not during the depths of my ED. I don’t know the exact number of calories I was eating during my early recovery, but it was a far cry from the maybe 500-600 I had had a month or two prior. My parents were pretty good at enforcing the eating rules–if I refused to eat something at dinner, they would sit there with me until I ate a sufficient amount. They didn’t push me way too far out of my comfort zone by making me eat really high-calorie things; they tried to work with me to find things I’d like, but they couldn’t be clearly disordered choices, and I had to eat enough of them to meet my needs. However, I can remember several times that I sneakily slipped some food into the trash when they weren’t looking–and they never noticed. I actually did this quite a lot over the first several months of my recovery, and I regret that I did that, but it happened. I was still struggling a lot with the disordered thoughts, and still occasionally had outbursts concerning my food and my body.
A week or so before school got out in May, I started seeing a dietician. I really hated her from the very beginning, and looking back, she didn’t help me very much. See, I knew a lot about nutrition, I had just taken it to the extreme–I didn’t need someone who was mostly specialized in helping people with diabetes telling me that I needed to get in a certain number of servings of grains or whatever. She just basically gave me the same rough meal plan every time I saw her, and she got super-pissed when I dropped a few pounds a couple of times. That just made me feel like crap, because I was honestly trying to eat more–it’s just that when you’ve been eating so little and suddenly you start eating a lot more, your metabolism speeds up like crazy and you can lose weight even when you’re eating a lot. At the end of the summer, I stopped seeing her for good.
In June, I was scheduled to go on a mission trip with my church’s other high schoolers to San Francisco. I was so excited, but my mom said if I didn’t keep my weight up, I couldn’t go. That really made me push harder and resolve to eat more. I ended up being able to go, and I can honestly say it was an amazing experience. Okay, so I was still only making “safe” food choices and I know I probably did not eat enough on the trip because I didn’t feel comfortable with a lot of the food, but I didn’t use the trip as an excuse to purposely restrict and try to lose weight, and I’m proud of myself for that. Working with impoverished people in the Bay Area (specifically little kids) taught me that others have it so much worse than I do, and I should be thankful for what I have.
Right after I got back from the mission trip, my family flew out to Wisconsin to visit my grandparents, and then soon after that we had our yearly trip to Estes Park and then I went to yearbook camp. So it was a crazy busy summer! My eating was pretty good in Estes Park–I was surprisingly mostly okay with eating out for dinner every night–and also at yearbook camp, since I was just there for the day and had most of my meals at home. Wisconsin was, well, a different story, kind of. My dad’s side of my family are all really big into red meat and stuff, and even though I wasn’t veg at the time, I still hated red meat and any milk that isn’t skim and that was a lot of what we had there. We ended up going to the store and getting a bunch of stuff I like, but I still felt like my choices were being judged by everyone. Luckily, when we stayed with my mom’s parents, they were way more understanding of my healthy food preferences, because my grandpa has had heart problems and now eats really healthy. It was a fun trip, but exhausting for my ED.
My senior year started, and I also started seeing a therapist. The first few sessions, I didn’t talk much, and I almost always ended the session in tears. But as the months went on, I opened up more and tried to share my feelings and struggles. I also made a lot of strides with my eating. I had a “partial” every other day, which basically meant no class, so every other day after my 3rd period class, I’d drive home for lunch and the rest of the day. I could have used that as an opportunity to restrict, because no one was at home, but I didn’t. I kept eating a substantial amount. I’m not quite sure where my weight was at that time, but I’m thinking it was around my original 85 pounds. I was fairly comfortable at that weight…but my “goal weight”, as determined by my therapist, was 90 pounds. That was (and still is, somewhat) such a scary weight for me, because I had literally NEVER been over 85 pounds. But I’m a naturally petite girl, so I think the 90 pound goal weight was taking that into account. And really, it’s only 5 pounds over my original weight, but the number was so scary to me. Okay, I know that 90 pounds is technically underweight for my height, but that was the weight my doctor and therapist suggested. Maybe it was meant as just a starting point, but unfortunately, I have held tight to that number throughout my recovery.
Also, I had NEVER gotten my period…ever! Not even before my anorexia. I think it has to do somewhat with being a late bloomer, and then when my intake was restricted, I had no chance to start my period. So my therapist started pushing my parents into making me take birth control to jump-start my periods, and build up my bone strength. I was so dead set against this, basically because I was terrified of the weight gain I’ve heard goes along with taking it. So I didn’t start taking it until January 2010.
Everything was going pretty well–until Thanksgiving of 2009. My grandpa on my dad’s side came to visit, and he brought along his “girlfriend”. This already made us kinda uncomfortable, because his wife (my grandma) had passed away in 2007, and we all still really missed her. She was such a beautiful, compassionate, intelligent woman and no one could ever replace her in our hearts. But he brought this new woman just the same, and we tried to make the best of it. However, little did we know that she, um, likes to speak her mind…particularly when it comes to eating and bodies. Two of the things I was most uncomfortable about. She made several comments regarding people’s sizes and then one night after we had a nice dinner out, she said that we had all eaten so much and we should weigh ourselves to make sure we hadn’t gained. This comment really set me and my mom off. When we got home, I cried so hard and I was also screaming because I was so mad at her. My mom was also really mad but was trying to get me to calm down. But everyone had already heard everything, so they basically knew I had an eating disorder. I definitely did not want to tell them, especially her, but there was nothing I could do. The damage had been done. I felt even worse, because my dad was blaming me for upsetting them, but I think everyone was just upset and angry and confused.
Christmas and New Year’s came and went. I started taking birth control towards the end of January, at the prompting of my therapist and parents. At first, I wasn’t too thrilled to be taking it. I mean, I’d gone the full 17 and half years of my life without getting my period once! But once I got used to it, it wasn’t too bad. My periods were always on schedule, without too much pain or anything. They became routine and normal for the most part. When we went to Phoenix (my hometown!) for spring break, I unexpectedly got it (and for the next two weeks following!) but we assumed that was because I had attempted to skip it. I know that a lot of people disagree about using BC to jump-start periods, but I think it was a good thing for me, simply because I was so far behind in getting my period. If I hadn’t gone on it, I might have never gotten my period. I’m not sure if it helps with restoring bone density, but I plan on continuing to take it until I experience problems with it.
My senior year was winding down fast. Before I knew it, it was my senior luncheon. Around this time, I had started to restrict a little bit again. I thought it wasn’t noticeable, but apparently I dropped a little bit of weight and my parents started getting more strict about my eating again. It made me feel like I was a little kid again–here I was, a few months away from being a legal adult and going away to college, and my mom and dad were making sure I was eating plenty. I think it motivated me to keep going with my recovery–I didn’t want to be treated like a baby who had to constantly be monitored. I also stopped seeing my therapist around this time, because she wasn’t really helping me progress anymore. In fact, my parents thought she was giving up on helping me!
Graduation came and went, and my summer started. It was fun, but mostly uneventful. We went to Estes Park as usual, and my mom and I drove up to the college I was going to go to in the fall for a freshman preview. Towards the end of the summer, I started getting pretty anxious. I was worried about what I’d be eating, how I’d get along with my roommate, how hard classes would be, etc. I knew it would be so so hard leaving home for the first time, but I was pretty ready for it.
A lot of my worries were for nothing, though, which was good. While I didn’t really like the dining hall food, I’d found other options–sushi and frozen vegan burritos from a mini convenience-type store in the dining hall near me and getting groceries to prepare in my room every time I’d go home for the weekend. I still got to see my parents every other weekend when I’d go home. I made a few friends in classes and in my hall. Classes weren’t ridiculously hard. But…I did not get along AT ALL with my roommate. At first, we’d go to the dining hall together, but over time, I realized what a toxic person she was. I wasn’t vegetarian at the time, so she acted like she was superior because she was. She would make fun of me for my healthy choices (despite being veg, she mostly ate junk food). She was constantly in the room, but she would rarely talk to me, she was always on her computer. She went to bed super-late (like 1 am) even though she had morning classes, but would sleep in til noon on weekends so I couldn’t turn on the lights or anything. She was just an overall anti-social person who had awful hygiene habits. I really began to dread going back to my room, because chances are, she was in there. My roommate experience really kind of soured my freshman year of college, but luckily I had my family and friends to support me. I went out to eat with one of my new friends a lot, and we really bonded, plus I became more comfortable eating out with people I didn’t know really well. So overall, my freshman year was pretty good.
However, sophomore year so far has been so much better! I’m now in a single suite, and loving it! I love having a bathroom I only have to share with two other girls, and having a room all to myself. I can do whatever I want in here–sing out loud, take a nap, workout and even dance to Lady Gaga 😉 I do have to deal with a floor of loud freshman, but it’s not as bad as last year at all. I wish I had a car so I could be more independent and not have to rely on my parents to buy me groceries, and I feel a little weird for being one of the few upperclassmen still in the dorms, but the dorm I’m in is so nice–it’s like a hotel.
Recovery-wise, I have struggled a little bit more than I did last year. Without constant supervision, I’ve found it all too easy to slip back a little into restriction. It’s nowhere near what it was during the height of my anorexia, but it still isn’t good. I still have a long list of fear foods, but I’m gradually expanding my “safe” foods list. I’ve found that going vegetarian/mostly vegan has helped me discover and love new foods I’d probably never try if I was still eating meat. But I’ve found that I’ve been relying a lot on the groceries my parents buy. There’s nothing wrong with that, because I’m eating way better than most college kids and I’m pretty well-stocked, but the fact that I’m sort of scared to eat dining hall food (besides the salad bar) isn’t good. I’m working on trying to eat there more so I can face my fears of all the “fattening” food there. I know they have healthier choices, I just have to take a leap and check them out.
So that’s my story, in a (big) nutshell. I’m so appreciative of the comments you’ve all left, and while I wouldn’t wish an eating disorder on anyone, I’m glad so many of you can relate. It makes me feel less weird 😉