7 (Real) Truths About Eating Disorder Recovery

7 (Real) Truths About Eating Disorder Recovery:

(Because there ain’t no sense lying about it)

recoveryis

1.) Pant Suit Is The New Black?:

Your style changes. Maybe not drastically- but it will.

Roll with it.

Go through phases; experiment.

I spent 8 years in over-sized t-shirts and sweatpants. I was like a walking groupie for Iggy Azalea.

Concert t-shirts, college sweatshirts, Fraternity function v-necks-

And the sweatpants. Oh, the pants. Victoria Secret black sweatpants that dragged at the feet. Seen here:

all black again

And here (CRINGE):

Spring Break
Spring Break

I loved those thigh-hiding safety nets. I wore them everywhere. Throw on a pair of Sheepskin Boots and at any given point, heat or snow, I had about 10 fingers visible on my whole body.

Hideous in retrospect. I don’t even quite know what I was trying to ”pull off” other than I can remember thinking to myself:

“Oh, you’re just chill- yo. You’re mad chill and you just don’t like dressing up.”

Truthfully, I don’t like dressing up. It doesn’t come naturally for me, but those sweatpants were not an attempt to prove my ”chill” factor, and my style has been a constant source of evolution the past year and a half.

Even when I first exited rehab, I wore leggings and big t-shirts everywhere.

“Hey,” I thought to myself. “At least I’m wearing form-fitting tights.”

That too, has since changed. My career, I imagine, has played a part; New York as well;

But so has just simply rolling with the current of recovery.

I’m still figuring out what I like; what feels flattering to my body. My friends joke, but I  feel like at 26 I’m a pubescent teen in terms of figuring out what my “style” actually is.

It often depends on the stage of recovery I’m in that day.

This summer, I’m attempting to wear shorts again and it’s a struggle. I’ve got cut-off, ratty denim shorts, black linen Gap shorts, knee-length cargo shorts- the options are endless and I still can’t decide.

I haven’t worn shorts since my anorexia days so I’m feeling around blindly in the dark.

On another hand, I banned dresses at the end of last year in an attempt to “define” my style, but as the days reach 90-degrees I’m finding that all I yearn for a bit of a breeze on the thighs.

Even in gym clothes- I no longer wear baggy t-shirts to work out in, but still sometimes find myself running in leggings when the weather calls for shorts.

One day, I’ll wear a bikini and rock my version of a ”screw it” attitude- but other days, I’ll feel more self-conscious and wear black-on-black-on-black.

It’s fluid- just as recovery is fluid- and I’m realizing no clothing is “off limits” as I once believed which has opened up doors and windows-

Your waist isn’t too short, your legs aren’t too chubby, your arms aren’t too skinny. Your chest isn’t too flat.

And, hey, if pant suits are what you enjoy, then rock ’em-

2.) Battlefield Wounds:

Consequences are consequences.

And straight up, my feet are foul.

feet
My thighs/feet featured as part of the #thighreading Twitter campaign by @princess_labia

Running ruined my feet. Not just because I’ve never been a fan of spending money on pedicures, but because I didn’t tend to them in the prime of my exercise addiction.

So wrapped up in clocking miles and burning calories, I ignored the hang nails, and the blood blisters. I scoffed at the calluses and the ingrown nail.

“The price you pay,” I reasoned.

Binge-eating, Bulimia, Starving- those choices affect your body outward and inward. Fluctuating weight over the years has left stretch-marks on my thighs (as seen above).

There’s a great social media campaigns going on right now over stretch-marks and thighs. #ThighReading on Twitter. Check it out; it’s comforting (and you can see my blistery little feet)

As I continue on this journey of self-love, I’m realizing even the nail beds of your feet are yours to protect.

I used to run on stress fractures and shin splints. At some point, I was told I had bones of a 70-year old.

What’s beautiful, however, is that often your body is resilient, and wants to fight for you.

I ran last night in Central Park and at some point it dawned on me how strong I felt- gliding up and down the path.

Nothing hurt- and as T-Swift “Bad Blood” kept me revved up,  I ran 3 miles appreciating what it feels like to be healthy.

Accept that you’ve put your body through hell- in whatever way ”hell” is to you- and be gentle in the recovery of it.

Continue reading “7 (Real) Truths About Eating Disorder Recovery”

Rehab Truth: The 20-Year Break Up

2nd grade

The first time we fought, I tell people we were in the 2nd grade.

Truth is, it might have been 3rd, but neither of us remember anymore so at some point we resigned ourselves to this story.

End of the day– walking out of class- you snuck up behind me and pulled on the tail of my backpack.

Your bag isn’t cool, you said, brushing past me.

It’s Lion King, I said– making a face.

No one wears those. You pointed at your back. We wear Jansport.

I don’t like Jansport, I said.

Then you’re not very cool, you said.

What follows next is hazy -we’d admit- but after telling the story for 20 years we’ve agreed that you were likely being obnoxious and at some point I turned, fist clenched, and socked you in the face.

“SHUT UP,” I yelled, bearing down on your cheek.

You grinned in response.

I glared.

Perhaps, I should have known then.

Continue reading “Rehab Truth: The 20-Year Break Up”

The Eating Disorder No One Talks About

I’ve been trying to write this post for months but the truth is I detest writing about binge eating.

Anorexia? Bulimia? Drunkorexia? Sure thing. I’ll write about that till the cows come home ’cause a year and a half into recovery doesn’t change the surge of pride I still feel when I write about the lost days of thin.

Perhaps I’ll always have a twisted sense of validation when I write about the ”success” of anorexia. It’s like the boys baseball coach who’s still talking about his “1976 glory days” even though they’re long gone.

I worked hard at being thin; I spent hours feeling the bones in my shoulder as some sort of ritualistic celebration- so subconsciously I still have a tendency to talk about it with the same kind of nostalgia that Hemingway wrote about the Parisian Jazz Era.

As shameful as it “should be” to admit that I stuck my fingers down my throat, it’s actually far more vulnerable to publicly acknowledge the aspects of my eating disorder where I felt the opposite. Sure, I’ve made quips here and there. I’ve joked about binge-eating gallons of ice cream, but I’ve never talked about it in a way that mirrors honesty because it’s embarrassing to me.

And frankly, binge eating is not attractive… so we rarely talk about it. Face it: our culture LOVES looking at anorexics like they’re Madame Medusas with snakes for limbs.

medusa
Medusa- for reference

Yes, while of course we sit there and cluck about how thin and sad this said anorexic is, I’m willing to bet that 10 times to 1 people will take a double, triple, and quadruple look towards an emaciated thin person rather than a morbidly obese one.

We romanticize anorexia in this culture because starving seems like a more respectable act of ”will power” than overeating. No, we don’t technically condone either- but we do marvel it.

Mary Sterk body-posi art gallery opening in Chelsea. Check her out- she's amazing. www.justmarydesigns.com
Mary Sterk body-posi art gallery in Chelsea last week. Check her out- she’s amazing. http://www.justmarydesigns.com

Truthfully, as I delve into this subject, I don’t remember the first time I binged. I can remember the first time I restricted food, the first time I threw up, and the first time I ran 13.6 miles- But, I don’t remember the first time I ate to excess.

I only remember it started once all the other eating disorders were in full swing- and it was in the form of cereal and granola.

Special K and Honey Nut Cheerios.

There’s a vague memory of sneaking cereal into bed with me in high school, but these are spotty memories, and I don’t truthfully remember binging until after my best friend died in 2007.

The rug had been pulled out from under me – and that loneliness- the grief that comes with sudden, vulnerable tragedy sent me spiraling.

Bradley circa 2007
Bradley circa 2007

At 26, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I have a very innate ability to turn pain inward. You wanna hurt me? Throw daggers at my face?  That’s fine. I won’t attack you. I’ll swallow it- and stew.

I have a “fight or flight” response that shuts down when I’m in painful situations.

The morning my best friend passed, I picked up the phone to 76 missed phone calls and a screaming voice on the other end. My memories are blurry from that moment on, but what I did feel was the shift from safe to primal – and primal, to me, was shutting down.

I felt empty for two years after that tragedy. At first I’d talk about my best friend. I’d obsess. Once, I followed a kid with blonde hair to his class because he looked like him, but nothing felt whole. Not friends or family- not the alcohol or the frat parties. In fact, I felt lonelier around people then away from them so I ran and I worked out and I sat in the gym with my headphones deep in my ears and I read every book I could get my hands on.

Being in the gym for 3 hours meant I didn’t have to answer the phone. I could run and cry and feel tears pour out of my eyes and avoid the loneliness of laying in bed eyes wide open,  the binge “tick” revving its engine- and that same tick is still with me today-

As I imagine it always will be.

When explaining a binge, I always say it feels like waking up with swollen lymph nodes- you know that feeling right before you get strep throat or the flu? That’s it. You’re achy- feeling around on your nodes- but you can’t exactly place it. It sits there in the pit of your stomach.

The last time I binged was because my feelings were hurt by someone I was dating but I didn’t tell them. I could feel it flare, but ignored it. Just keep sipping the wine; “It’ll go away,” I thought.

Why do you do that, my therapist asks me repeatedly. Why do you feel like your feelings aren’t valid. That you’re not allowed to be hurt?

It’s vulnerable, I tell her. I fear the rejection of my feelings more than actually expressing them.

In this stage of a binge cycle, you’re in the “it could go either way” phase like a second Tinder date.

You have a choice to either deal with what’s bothering you, or not, and when I choose not to is when it segues.

I sat across from my date- I stared at their face- felt their hands on mine- and looked them in the eyes- daggers darting at my heart-

I smiled.

My defense mechanism. The perfect storm of a binge.

When I turn my emotions inward- letting my current anxiety gurgle on itself- something shifts. I want to stuff it. Fill it. There’s an emptiness when you shield your emotions. It’s lonely.

I tick; go into overdrive. My responses become automated to the situation around me.

I can be talking to you- smiling even- but inside have a hammer to my head, panicking.

Absolute panic. Deafening panic.

Panic that I’m getting to that point, panic that I don’t trust myself enough to stop it. Panic that people will notice.

Panic that I’m losing control.

The truth is-  You’re already out of control when you don’t trust yourself.

It becomes an out of body experience from there.

What food you want.

Where is it. Where will you go.

I’ve committed, you think, I’ve committed to this. It’ll never change- you will NEVER change. You will always be this.

You’re getting high off the anxiety-

You’re hurt, and you’re floating- you know reality is becoming a pin point.

I could stop, you think as you open up a wrapper, but you don’t believe yourself.

Your heart starts racing- bumping inside you.

You wonder when you’ll stop. How you’ll stop. Will you be able to get it out easily.

Sometimes it’s hard- your fingers don’t work- your food doesn’t want to come back up.

You wonder what is around you. Where you can go. You shift through a pantry, you don’t care whose.

You’ll go to the grocery store, you’ll look in the freezer.

You prefer certain foods. The ones easy to throw up after.

Sugar free cookies.

Doritos- not so much. They’re hard to get up. You passed out once- hit your head on the toilet.

The worst binge I ever had was while I lived in Spain. I was homesick and I wouldn’t deal with it.

Here I was in some beautiful country and I was so angry at myself that I missed my home.

I was lonely and I was hungry.

I had run 10 miles earlier that day. My host family was out of town. I was completely alone on a Friday night. My friends were taking it easy-

No one was on Skype.

It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had with food. To this day, I remember the loss of consciousness and I think sometimes, certain events carry with you forever.

They redefine what you’re capable of as a human.

I ate more than I thought was feasibly capable. I sat cross-legged on the floor with food laid out around me. Donuts, Gallettas (Spanish cookies), box of cereal, white chocolate bar, ham and cheese by the bulk, crackers.

I had no intention of eating all of it- you never do- but I was lonely and frantic to get rid of the loneliness.

Binging is frantic. You start with a bite and it’s like taking the plunge and jumping off the high dive.

My fingers move faster than my brain can keep up.

While you technically are aware that you’re binging, you begin to shut down all train of thought leading you from it.

You’ve given up. You’re resigned. You don’t trust or respect yourself enough to leave it.

You are your own abuser.

Every time I’ve binged there comes a point that I think to myself ”If you stop now maybe you’ll save yourself from it”- but rarely do I.

It happens so fast you can’t even believe it was you inside your body. You’re barely human. You don’t look at the mirror.

It’s humiliating.

If someone were to walk in on me binging- I’d rip their head off. I’m fierce.

You don’t feel yourself getting full, you blaze past it. There is complete disconnect between body and mind.

By the end you don’t even know what you’re eating only that your mouth is hurting; your teeth are chomping.

You’re high.

You’re forgetting what hurt in the first place. It’s becoming a dot on the spectrum.

You’re focused, determined, angry, and mostly vulnerable. 

And vulnerability is mankind’s most acute sense. 

When a human feels vulnerability, they can feel nothing else but that.

You don’t think about anything when you binge. You don’t pick up the phone.

Minutes tick.

The TV in the background mutes itself.

You’re on the ground- food on your fingers.

You don’t know what you’re putting in your mouth- you just do.

Donuts with cheese- crackers with white chocolate. Nothing tastes- it melds into your mouth like chalk but you don’t notice.

You’re thirsty but too frantic to stop.

Tears pour down your cheek; you wipe them off.

When you’re done, you look in the mirror and you have food in your hair.

You eat it.

You feel a lurch in your stomach; stare at your face in the mirror

And then you’re done-

You come back to earth as though you never left.

Reality hits.

It’s horrifying.

You spend the next hour of your life making it come back up. Slowly, methodically-

It’s painful- blood on your fingers- you’re tired.

People say anorexia is tiring. You’re not fueling yourself and your energy wavers.

But binging is entirely exhausting in a way that knocks you flat on your back.

Your body feels like you just walked out from a boxing match. You can’t swallow right for days.

You’ve made yourself sick.

You are sick.

And you feel so very, very alone.

It’s been a year and a half since I last felt that completely out of control, but the memories of it are with me always.

You don’t forget what it’s like to feel that completely helpless.

Humans are wired to protect themselves, so we shield ourselves to things that rip us apart.

But what do you do when it’s you that has ripped you apart?

Truth is, I can forget what it feels like to be consistently hungry.

I forget what the calories are in a Coke can-

I even forget how many grams of sugar is in a KIND bar.

But the pain of binge eating is always a consistent reminder of what I was capable of all those years; what we’re all capable of doing to ourselves at the end of the day.

And I’m thankful every day that I was afforded the help so many are unable to obtain.

Go easy on people; be watchful. Obesity is not a lazy person’s excuse just as Anorexia is not a pretty girl disease.

And both are equally devastating.

spain
Spain Days- 2012