Am I Healthy?

Just a warning in advance, this post talks a lot about birth control and all that fun girl stuff, so any guy readers out there–you can skip this one! I know this is just what you want to read the day before Thanksgiving, but I thought it was an important topic that a lot of women out there can relate to!

I’m not sure I’ve ever shared my full birth control story on here but I’ll just give you all a quick rundown so you have a little background as to where I’m coming from. After I was diagnosed with anorexia in the spring of 2009, I started seeing a dietitian and therapist. I stopped seeing the dietitian after a few months but I kept going to therapy appointment regularly until I graduated from high school in May 2010. One thing that both my doctor and therapist recommended a few months into recovery was that I take birth control to jump start my periods. Before this point, I had NEVER had my period before, ever. I was 17 at the time this was suggested to me, and I always felt so awkward at school when girls would talk about their ‘time of the month’ because I had literally never had one, and I was almost out of high school! But at the same time, I was scared out of my mind to take BC. I had heard all the horror stories, mostly of weight gain, and in the early stages of ED recovery, weight gain was the last thing on my mind. So I put off taking it for various reasons until January of 2010. My first period felt like a blessing and a curse–I knew that meant that I was at least capable of having one, but the potential side effects still scared me.

After high school graduation, and early on in my BC experience.

After high school graduation, and early on in my BC experience.

Fast forward 3 years. I had been on low dose BC since early 2010 without many side effects. I liked that it regulated my period and how I always knew exactly when it was coming. BC also kept my moderate acne at bay for the most part, which I also loved. But earlier this year, I started getting headaches more frequently with my period, and my acne was coming back more often. I started toying with the idea of getting off BC, at least for a few months, to see if my body could get it back on its own. Part of me was definitely hoping that I wouldn’t get it back, and that would help me justify to myself that I was still too thin.

Well, I got my wish. I got off BC in May of this year, and as of now (late November) I still haven’t gotten my period back. It’s been a full six months since I’ve had one, and while I love not having to deal with all that crap, I’m also worried. My doctor said to come back and see her if in six months I hadn’t had a period. Back in May, I was so sure that wouldn’t happen. But it did.

I’m kind of scared to go back to the doctor, because I really don’t want to be put back on BC. I’m not so sure how I feel about hormones being pumped into my body, and even though the kind I was using was pretty symptom-free, it did create some problems for me a few years after I started taking it. A lot of people say BC is also a crutch–it doesn’t solve the underlying issue of amenorrhea.

I won’t lie–missing my period kind of helps me validate that I might not be at my healthiest weight. I struggle with this a lot, because even though I haven’t weighed myself since this summer, I’m pretty sure I’m at my highest weight ever. I may still be technically underweight or on the low end of the healthy spectrum, but I don’t have the most positive body image still and having a more physical manifestation of my ED struggles helps me cope with it.

Not going to lie, I don't feel comfortable with how my body looks in this photo.

Not going to lie, I don’t feel comfortable with how my body looks in this photo.

The question is, am I healthy? I’ve been worried that my lack of a period might be due to a more serious issue, like PCOS (it is fairly common in women who aren’t overweight), but I do know that missing a period for even a few months isn’t healthy. As much as I’ve enjoyed spending half of this year without one, I know I need to be more proactive and take control of my health. So I plan on going back to my doctor in December or January to check in on this and hopefully get to the bottom of this issue.

I promise I’ll be back after Thanksgiving to share some less awkward stuff (like fun recipes, etc.) but I would appreciate any and all advice you guys have about this topic!

Have you ever had a similar experience?

Things I Love

My lovely mom is in town for the weekend, so I’m gonna make this post short and sweet in order to spend the most time I can with her. So let’s get to it!

I’m basically just filling out the Lovely 14–Things I Love survey that I’ve seen floating around. It still counts if it’s right after Valentines Day, right? 😛

1. Valentines Candy I Love: 

Gotta be honest with you, not a big fan of candy. The closest I get is fair trade, vegan dark chocolate made with natural ingredients. #sorryimnotsorry But really, I love Theo and Alter Eco’s chocolate, particularly their mint varieties.

2. Current Workout Jam I Love:

Pound the Alarm by Nicki Minaj, I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor by the Arctic Monkeys and Houdini by Foster the People. Yes, all completely random but they really pump me up to pump some iron or blast out some ab exercises.

3. Article of Clothing I Love:

The boyfriend-fit chambray shirt my mom got me for Valentines Day from American Eagle. We actually just stopped by there today and I love literally almost everything in the store right now. Not an issue at all…nope, except for my wallet!

4. Something Red I Love:

Microwaved raspberries on my waffles

This was my very appropriate V-Day waffle.

This was my very appropriate V-Day waffle.

And my mommy (she’s a red-head, it totally counts!)

5. Month I Love:

July because it’s my birthday month, the height of summer (my fave season) and I love Independence Day! Oh, and I also like May because it kinda marks the beginning of summer for me, what with getting out of school, Memorial Day weekend and the weather warming up. Can you tell I like summer…and much warmer weather than we’ve been having?!

6. Piece of Advice I Love: 

Just do you. I have a bad habit of falling into comparison traps all.the.time so reminding myself that I need to do what works for me and not worry about anyone else is vital.

7. New (or Old) Blog I Love:

Amanda’s blog is pretty much bangin’–love her more personal posts as well as her fun thoughtful ones. And Alex’s blog always keeps me second-guessing myself and my recovery in a really good and helpful way.

8. Current Reading Material I Love:

I honestly like never read books other than required readings for classes (school has ruined me haha) so I’m actually kinda liking my advertising textbooks. Nerd alert! But actually, they have really cool ad examples from a long time ago and even recently so it’s an entertaining read.

9. A Memory I Love:

The summer between my junior and senior years of HS when I went on a church mission trip to San Francisco. Not only was the work we did really humbling and eye-opening, but the city itself is really cool and I’m itching to go back.

A gorgeous city, even from afar!

A gorgeous city, even from afar!

10. “Chick Flick” I Love:

I’m not sure if this counts as a chick flick, but I love love LOVE The Devil Wears Prada. Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep are amazing (when are they ever not?) and the fashion story behind it is totally my thing.

11. A Special Place in the World I Love:

My hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. I was born there and lived there for the first 2 years of my life, and have only been back once for a spring break trip, so I don’t know all its ins and outs but I do know that I have a special connection to it, it’s really beautiful (I love deserts) and I want to go back someday (hopefully immediately post-college) to live and work. I know the summers are brutal (hey, I was born there in the middle of summer!) but I think it would be worth putting up with to live there amongst the cacti.

You can't tell me this doesn't look beautiful.

You can’t tell me this doesn’t look beautiful.

12. Beauty Product I Love:

Bath and Body Works white citrus scented body lotion. The smell reminds me of summer, just what this summer-lovin’ girl needs right about now!

13. Nifty Website I Love:

Not exactly a site, but these hilarious and so-true Shit Vegans Say videos were found on the SFWeekly website…another reason to love San Fran!

14. A Beautiful Blog Post I Love:

Gah so many! Really, I just love all your blogs #cheesybuttrue

Answer any of the above…and enjoy your weekend!

My Story: Part 2

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.

Summer 2009. Working on recovery.

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.

Golden Gate Bridge!

This awesome huge cross we saw on a hike (San Fran was very cloudy when we went).

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.

At the pool in Estes Park.

 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.

My favorite senior picture 😀

 

September 2009. Getting ready for talent show my high school put on every year. My senior year, I was in 5 acts!

 

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.

Being crazy on New Years Eve.

 

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.

Spring break 2010. With my sissy by a hot tub.

 

My favorite picture I took on the trip. This makes me want to move back there.

 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!

 

Class of 2010 baby!

 

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.

Can you spot me (haha)?

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.

Despite my roommate issues, I was still usually pretty happy.

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.

Happy and health(ier) in 2011.

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 😉