… Alright, so my Star War/eating disorder puns are lame (although I did get a good smirk imagining Han Solo with a scale obsession.)
Anyway, so the other day I had one of those social media Timehop moments. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s like you’re all well and good with the past – SAYANORA to the prom pics – the frat parties – SEE YA MOPPY-HAIRED EX – you’ve come to terms with the bad style choices – and then BAM.
A picture resurfaces.
Hello Linds, Timehop sings with its do-gooding dinosaur logo – DO YOU REMEMBER THAT 3 YEARS AGO YOU LOOKED LIKE THIS? Come linger nostalgically in my visual.
…Cause literally Eating Disorders and Body Dysmorphia are a daze – ammirite? You walk around trying to exist; put on your work face; your social face; your public face – and inside you just feel all this guilt and shame for being so self-absorbed.
Now, don’t jump down my throat. You’re not necessarily self-absorbed. But, BDD and EDs do make you seem that way. When you can’t be present in a conversation, when you’re flaky as hell on all social engagements, or when you realize you can’t pass a glass window on a New York street without turning to observe whether or not your ass grew from the block before – it just gets exhausting. And honestly, embarrassing.
“You’re lookin fine, gorgeous,” he said sarcastically as he bristled past me.
I wanted to be like ”I DON’T THINK I’M HOT A-HOLE. I THINK MY THIGHS ARE BIGGER IN THIS REFLECTION THAN THEY WERE IN THE DUANE REEDE REFLECTION- DON’T YOU GET IT?!”
2 years into recovery, you can still catch me doing that it’s true- but in treatment, my team and I developed coping mechanisms for dealing with the bad days. Some are helpful; some might be cornier than others. It just kinda depends on what type of person you are in terms of what will work for you.
A couple days ago, I was asked to submit a “before” and “after” pic for an interview I did about eating disorders.
Spent about an hour scrolling through old pictures trying to determine where I “looked sicker” vs now.
“Dude I never even looked that thin- people are gonna say mean comments about how I didn’t have an ED,” I complained to my best friend, to which she immediately backhanded me (👊) over gchat and said “Yo- Why do you give a shit about that!? You’re the one always writing that weight doesn’t define an eating disorder so no offense but like practice what you preach Linds.”
Thought about it for awhile… And realized she was right- ED got the best of me. I wasn’t being authentic at all. In the picture to the left I am about 11 pounds less than my weight in recovery on the right. 11 measly pounds guys.
Spent 8 years to look like that. Missed life for 8 years so that I could get my clavicle to stick out a lil more than it should- 8 years with stress fractures and binges and purging over a toilet trying to feel good- and yet I still remember taking that picture on the left and wearing shorts with that bikini because I was horrified by my legs.
A reminder that eating disorders are NOT about who can look “more sick” than another, or about what your weight is when you’re suffering.
I weigh 11lbs (sometimes 12-13-14) more than I did 2 years ago, and frankly I don’t look all that different- but I FEEL different. I eat different- and I live different. And no one gets to tell me otherwise 💛
Eh okay- I kinda lied. I’m not THATterrified of public speaking… but I am a lot better at expressing myself via the written word in my humble opinion.
Couldn’t help but see the flyer today and giggle to myself. Here I am going to be speaking beside Dietitians, Doctors, and Entrepreneurs and all I got is “I Haven’t Shaved in Six Weeks.”
LOL- just makes me realize I’m luckier than I comprehend sometimes to have ANY opportunities to speak on eating disorders and recovery.
At the end of the day, I’m just another girl with an ED story to share.There are plenty of people like me out there who could probably do 10x the job I’m doing when talking about recovery and struggle, so it’s a nice reminder to look at that flyer and remember that 2 years ago I was also just another girl who wasn’t allowed to shave her legs for 6 weeks.
Thankful for everything in my life- every chance to talk about it, because it’s truly what keeps me in recovery (hence, the panel discussion topic!)
I’ve been a drunkorexic for as long as I can remember, and owning up to it makes me cringe. If you haven’t heard of it, don’t be surprised. Not yet classified as an eating disorder, researchers are finally noting this ED trend that combines the worst of drinking and dieting.
The colloquialism for skipping meals or exercising heavily to “save” or burn calories, making room for drinking at night. (Basically every college girl you know.)
I ask myself this often: Just WHY aren’t we talking about this more?
And here’s the answer:
Because it’s culturally accepted, that’s why- and because ‘drunkorexia’ sounds like a term some sorority girl came up with to ”tee-hee” with her ”p-sisters” over.
It’s an epidemic that’s ignored because it’s an offspring of the far more concerning prevalence of binge-drinking culture, and as I’m about to admit (begrudgingly), I still have a tendency to hide behind said culture as I realized this weekend running back from brunch.
Ah brunch, the staple of a weekend- gathering with your friends at around 2-3pm at a restaurant offering half-priced alcohol with a meal.
My participation in this culture drives my therapist up the wall.
‘How’d you eat this weekend?’ she asks- to which I always perk up and say ‘Oh, fine!’
‘Did you eat three meals both days?’
Ummm, no. (Again, one octave higher) I brunched on Saturday so you know how that goes. (justifying, justifying, justifying)
Therapist (unamused): So, you ate one meal, and then got drunk?
….Cue the daily Monday night therapy squabble. And this is where I go into my tired explanation of how it only happens ‘on weekends’ and how on Sundays I usually don’t even drink that much at brunch.
The truth though- is that while I typically don’t drink more than one drink on a Sunday, I still found myself at brunch last weekend eating only half of a sandwich- and when I thought about it on my run back- the sole reason I did that was because I had a half-drank Bloody Mary sitting precociously beside my plate.
In short, I still tend to use alcohol as a sneaky means of compensating my eating disorder. I medicate my ED anxieties with it – and I justify not eating properly because of it as well. Though I felt like I wanted to eat more of that Grilled Cheese the other day, I turned to the Bloody Mary instead- sipping it lightly in place of food.
This ‘drunkorexic’ side of me started long before I was 21. When I first began college at 18, I remember hearing about the “freshman 15,” and seeing kids older than me coming home for Christmas break after their first semester looking completely different than the scrawny person that had left 5 months prior.
It absolutely terrified me. Already in the midst of a full-blown eating disorder, drinking alcohol further fueled the anxiety of gaining weight- yet everyone around me was doing it. Hell, I was no stranger to it. I got drunk for the first time at my ex-boyfriend’s prom when I was 16. (I think I’d had like the “fruit punch” and didn’t realize Everclear was the liquor that will put you flat on your ass) I’d drank quite casually on the weekends throughout all of high school, though never on a regular, binging basis as I was suddenly realizing college was all about.
Alcohol was everywhere- and binge-drinking was the culture. Drinking for no reason was available any day of the week. Thursdays? Thirsty Thursdays at Grubs. Wednesdays? Wine Wednesdays with the roomies. And don’t even get me started on the football tailgates. The mid-week frat parties. The Saturday Keggers. Sneaking into bars underage.
I was very much part of this culture on the outside, but on the inside it gave me a daily amount of anxiety in terms of my eating disorder. While I was obsessive about getting my exercise, I’d read enough to know that an hour long elliptical session wasn’t going to compensate 400 calories of wine and sugar.
I felt torn by my love for socializing and my weight/eating disorder- so I did what so many other people in this country tend to do as well. I cut the food- because food was not as fun as wine.
Admittedly, I’ve always been a lightweight. I’ve never needed more than 2 glasses of wine in order to ”feel the effect” of my alcohol intake, which is both a blessing and a complete curse because the moment I put a glass of wine to my lips, I can nearly feel it soothing my anxieties of the day. Everything feels lighter, dulled and subdued.
And this includes my hunger cues.
You give me one glass of wine- and I feel “full.” Whether or not it’s real is up for debate, but the moment I have a glass of wine, I tend to purposely, or unpurposely, forget about eating. I can be famished walking into a meal with my friends but drinking a glass of wine before the main entree dulls my desire to eat as much as I should.
Frankly, I love the feeling of being tipsy, and this drunorexia pattern has been my way of living for as long as I can remember. I have never had a balanced relationship between alcohol and food together. If you put a drink or food in front of me, I will want the alcohol. It’s a soother for the food.
I don’t binge-drink however. Shots? Not interested. Liquor? Eh. So I can’t really relate to the girls that skip meals and then binge-drink to the point of blacking out- although I witnessed it in numerous friends in college.
I just tend to drink my 2 glasses of wine and if I start in on a third, then I’m usually borderline drunk and I’ve never enjoyed being drunk because intoxication- for me- opens up the gates to binge eating later so I avoid it like the plague now that I’m in recovery. If I am drunk, I try to wait until I’m more rational to go home and so this usually means I end up walking miles on the streets of NY sobering up with a water bottle from Duane Reede.
In fact, I recently had a date in Bryant Park- I hadn’t eaten enough and I had 3 glasses of wine so naturally, I was feeling the effect. When we left for home, this person asked if they could walk me to the subway and much to their confusion, I waved them away and said I’d walk.
TO BROOKLYN? This person said, their eyes bugging.
No, I grinned, purple-lipped as always. Don’t worry about it I’ll jump on the subway at some point.
Please just get on the subway now, they begged. You shouldn’t walk alone.
No no, I said. I do this all the time I swear. I’m fine. I’ll let you know when I’m home.
In retrospect, it probably is odd to the naked eye, but I’m still too new in recovery that I don’t always trust myself to go home drunk and alone. I find that if I walk it out for awhile, I can get a grip on myself and stop at a deli somewhere and buy a granola bar to compensate for what I replaced with wine.
Some might ask: Why do you still drink then, Linds, if it allows you this much room for manipulating?
If you’re wondering that, you have every right to- but I don’t pretend to have answers.
There are many times I avoid going out with my friends for the exact reason of recovery, but I implore you to remember that I’m also 25 years old in the most ‘alive’ city in the world and sometimes all I want in the entire world is to sit at a Sushi restaurant on a Wednesday night splitting a bottle of red wine with three of my girlfriends- giggling to ourselves about how HBO ”Girls”our lives can be.
There are many nights that I’m quite fine to do this too. There are nights that I know I need to eat regardless of what the wine dulls in my stomach, and I eat anyway. There are times I eat too much pasta and push away the wine because I’m too full to finish it- and during the weekdays I almost always regularly eat 3 meals a day because I eat both breakfast and lunch with the same person and it keeps me accountable.
So why’s this really such an “issue” in our society?
Need I even point out the obvious? The alcohol industry has increasingly targeted young people with weight-conscious marketing, tapping straight into teen and twenty-something’s body anxiety — while courting new consumers. And it’s working on a wider basis every day- encouraging the behaviors of drunkorexia.
Drinking on an empty stomach leads to more rapid absorption of alcohol, and higher levels of impairment and intoxication. So every time people purposely do it, they incur increased risks of things like sexual assault and DUIs, and, in the long run, gastritis, ulcer, and malnutrition….. etc., etc., etc.
The other reason it’s an issue is that drunkorexia tendencies lead to the same path of deception and manipulation that you find in standard eating disorders. There’s no denying that in my own experience and as I write this tonight, I’m aware that I don’t want to live my days by glasses of wine just as I don’t want to live my life calorie by calorie because I remember that I don’t find happiness or “peace” manipulating myself and those around me.
It’s exhausting to starve, and filling your body with a wasteland of alcohol non-nutrients inevitably just leaves you feeling like shit. Easier said than done though right? Obviously I still have the tendency to trick myself into thinking otherwise. That’s the hard part of recovery – you take a lazy “mental” day and it creeps back up on you the first couple years.
I go days at a time where my eating is the most normal it can be for me, and those are days that I remember a lot more about my life. Days where I eat three meals with pleasure make my life a lot more whole because it gives me the opportunity to live in the present and not be constantly focused on food. Being tipsy (or blackout) to avoid a meal isn’t any way to live- and I know that. Being drunk and making choices you’d otherwise think twice about opens up the floodgates to anxiety, depression, and isolation. It opens up the doors to larger eating disorder deceptions.
When you live your life constantly thinking about how to manipulate your weight, you start to lose control over your priorities. Throw in alcohol and WOO- those babies are thrown right out the door.
So much of a balanced life (recovery) is changing the way you think- and accepting the truths of what you do. I’m getting there, but this is just one of those truths for me:
So hey world- I am a drunkorexic, and I’m trying to learn how to be a sociable 25-year old in spite of it.
First of all, may I have a round of applause for how clever that title was? I’m never punny so I had to give myself a little shout out.
Recently, I was a bridesmaid in New Orleans:
Beautiful wedding, beautiful friendship- I knew I really wanted to “be there” for this wedding. And not just “be there” like when you show up to class/work hungover with your hair lookin’ like Lady Gaga with the beehive and the “smoky eyeliner” smudged under your eyes- I really wanted to be present and available- and frankly, as unself-involved as one can be when you’re recovering from an 8+ year eating disorder.
Truth is, I’d been agonizing over this wedding for months – the dress. While this isn’t the first nor the last wedding I’m lucky enough to be included in, this was a wedding that I knew I’d be stepping out of my comfort zone and wearing a dress that I’d never choose to wear, and that admittedly “hugs” the wrong places on me (i.e. my extremely short waist- and badonka-donk.)
I hated the way the lavender-grey dress looked on me from the moment my roommate brought it home (she, too, was in the wedding) Standing in the mirror comparing ourselves in it, I thought to myself “Well this is over. I’ll just be standing up there fretting and having minor anxiety attacks as all of Fort Worth judges me with their eyes.”
Did I know this day wasn’t about me? Sure. I am in recovery. I’m able to differentiate when things are (sigh) not all about me and my eating disorder. I am able to understand people won’t be paying attention to me on the Bride’s big day. But it doesn’t, however, keep me from having that same tick in my head that tells me ”Hey Dumbass, your fault for letting yourself go. This is the consequence for being happy… never feeling comfortable in anything you wear ever again except black, grey, and the occasional white.”
Presently, I can go weeks in my “normal” day-to-day life without fretting consistently over my body and how it looks in what it’s wearing. I don’t think about my ass anymore in my black jeans- I don’t think about my thighs as often or if my arms are splattering out against my body. In my daily life, I can get by because I know how to dress to ease the tension of my recovering eating disorder. And no, I don’t wear XXL sweaters when I should be in a Small- I wear what fits and is looser-ish. That makes me happy. I made an agreement with myself to not force my body into dresses if I don’t want to – I hate dresses frankly so I’ve given them up. And that made me happy. To assert my needs for myself and my recovery.
But situations like this are still very hard and complex for me because I must do them. Typically, my go-to move at weddings has always been to drink too much to numb out the tick in my head. I succeeded at my best friend’s wedding last June in not drinking too much but I also had a partner there with me holding my hand- and my best friend was extremely kind and considerate to me when we picked out bridesmaid dresses. Generally speaking, however, I fail at weddings with my eating disorder. I almost always drink too much – end up feeling stressed, judged, and angry – and then spend the next week either partially relapsing, relapsing once, or being pensive, irritable, and self-loathing.
Fun cycle, eh? Can’t fix everything in a year. I’ve made tremendous strides but up until now, this has not been one of them.
Moping to an ex the other day – I complained about how hard these events are for me, and how so very much I wish I could find a way to keep me distracted and out of my head.
“Make it a game,” this person suggested. “Have you thought of that?”
“Yeah- I mean maybe you should just think of it like the dress and the ED are the dragons you have to slay and then if you do it you get a reward.”
“What’s my reward?”
“I dunno, TREAT YO’SELF!”
And alas, so derived The Hunger Games: Wedding Edition. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? To just picture a big stress-event like a game, but hear me out.
The more I thought and mulled over it – the more it began to resonate. OK, I decided. I’ll revert back to the days of Donkey Kong levels on Gameboy… and if I win, I’ll reward myself. And not just reward myself with a Facebook status- but actually reward myself like a mother does with their child when he’s first potty trained.
Here’s what I came up with:
Me- clearly being the “Princess Peach” of the whole game would have to take on three ED dragons in order to ‘win’ the wedding games.
Dragon 1 – Eating
Dragon 2 – Self-Preoccupation
Dragon 3 – Alcohol
What did it take for me in order to ‘slay’ the ED dragons?
Dragon 1 – In order to beat this dragon, I had to force myself to eat both breakfast and lunch before the wedding. And also, all three the day before as well. No starving, no restricting, no trying to ‘slender’ down 24 hours before the event. I had to eat like everyone around me was doing…. even if it was only winning by a mini amount. (hey, no one said anything about blowing it out of the ballpark)
Dragon 2 – In order to beat this one, I could only have 2-3 “moments” (because they are inevitable) where I stared at myself in front of a mirror and thought of how different I wish I looked, how everyone is probably secretly glad I look bigger, how short my waist is, how long ago my attractiveness faded. I could have those ”moments” but only 2-3 of them where I actually sat and stared for 3-5 minutes. After that, I’d have to force myself to look away and refocus on the task at hand – getting my friend married.
Dragon 3 – Oh alcohol, my favorite enemy. In order to beat this final dragon, I could only ”cheers” with one glass of champagne in the bridal room beforehand, and I couldn’t have more than 2 drinks at the reception. Does that sound like too many? Well, this is “beginner level” so gimme a break. Usually at weddings I have about 6-7 glasses of wine and am hammered walking out. 2-3 over 5 hours keeps me from losing myself in the drunk realm of my ED. 2-3 over 5 hours keeps me from binging later. 2-3 keeps me from doing weird things like keeping my winter coat on all night, or talking a mile a minute while my head is off in ED Never-Neverland. 2-3 keeps me from waking up already feeling like I’ve relapsed.
In return for dominating all three dragons, I’m doing something I hardly have the money (or time) to do, and that is to treat myself.
Congratulate myself for trying to fix the problem.
Reward myself for being human and getting through another multi-faceted part of recovery.
For me, a reward comes in doing something I’d never do on my own normal time.
So, drumroll please, I’m gonna go to a fancy-schmancy dinner on a Tuesday, and then go see a play.
Haven’t decided which Tuesday yet- or which play- but that’s what I’m doing. A restaurant with a view overlooking Manhattan, music playing, a friend for company, and play with a plot I like.
So often, I spend my life in NYC being poor and merely walking through Times Square- and frankly, every now and then I’d love to have a taste of the Broadway life. The tourist life of Times Square. I get to see it occasionally with my family, but this one’s for me.
I’m going to bring a friend- and I’m going to go to have me some nice fish.
And go see a play that I want to see.
Alladin? Rock of Ages? Phantom? I don’t know yet, but the anticipation is mounting.
Truth is, I “won” this weekend because the excitement of allowing myself to do something “New Yorky” propelled me to keep in line. The excitement of writing this post kept me in line. The excitement of realizing that maybe I’d found an actual way to get through one avenue of the hardships that I endure trying to recover from this blasted ED.
It’s all felt very good – very confident.
No, I didn’t love how I looked this weekend. That has not changed. But I found a way to live in spite of it- even if I am reverting back to a baby being potty-trained.
Maybe that’s all I really am right now with my ED truthfully- a baby being potty-trained.
I forget to be gentle on myself sometimes. I expect perfection. But, tonight, I’m proud of this “game” and I’m proud that I have the memories of her wedding stored safely in a vault in my brain and not mixed in with an eating disorder that has taken so many life memories away from me and replaced them with mush.
Recovery is hard. Finding “tips” that work is harder. And they won’t always work when you want them to- but sometimes they do.
And this one worked for me. So maybe it can work for you at some point.
One year ago, I made a statement on Facebook that would change my life.
Tired of sneaking around my hometown, I was fed up. Status box open, fingers on the keyboard, I got about that far before deliberating how bad of an idea this was.
What am I doing? I asked myself. Did I forget my Prozac today?
I thought immediately of my parents; imagining them at a party with women staring at my mom wondering whether or not I “got” my eating disorder from her. Would my exes read this status and smirk to themselves thinking how glad they were that they got out while they could? Would my friends roll their eyes and think about how I always have to be the center of attention?
All these thoughts skipped through my mind when I thought of the prospect of being forthright about my eating disorder; when I thought of all the years I’d spent building (and ultimately defacing) so much of who I wanted to be. Would I ever get a job if I did this? Would I be labeled only by an eating disorder? I didn’t really know anything that night except that lying and omitting were still keeping me sick, and I was exhausted.
For 8 years, my life had revolved around a mosh-posh of sneakiness. 8 years of scanning, scoping, mutilating, and twisting in order to maintain an image. 2 months into rehab, I was still struggling with letting go of the games of my eating disorder. Transitioning from in-patient to out, I’d been rapidly finding myself falling backwards instead of forwards.
It’s ridiculous how much they make us eat, I thought one day, hiding pieces of a bagel in my sweatshirt. Just lay off the carbs, I wanted to scream when the counselor passed by. Don’t you know the glycemic index of bread? Sulking until breakfast was over, I carefully disposed of the bagel before group therapy started. Feeling guilty, I took my place on the couch but when the counselor asked me how breakfast went, I smiled and said ”Great!”
The truth is I was adjusting back to reality, and I was scared. Despite having gone through 6 weeks of 24-hour care with Nurse Betty telling me that I couldn’t leave the table till I licked the spoon, I was still extremely uncomfortable with the vulnerable parts of recovery. I knew sitting there on that couch that day that I was free to carry on in the way that I’d always found comfortable. Manipulating, twisting, shamed– running into people at the store and telling them I was home “for a few days,” or telling my parents I was ”fine” every night they asked how rehab went that day.
2 months in I was still struggling to understand that eating disorders crave an instant self-validation, and that allowing myself to be honest and vulnerable didn’t exactly mesh. Self-deprecation had always been my charming way of being honest about myself because it meant that I was in control of my own “vulnerabilities”. It meant I got to draw a picture of what sucks about myself in whichever light I wished to paint.
Honesty, however, equated to vulnerability because it meant being forced to stay on a path of accountability and of letting others help keep me accountable; neither of which appealed to my sickness. I’d always equated honesty as something you fine-tune with every situation– bending and stretching the parts of you to fit into the situation at hand.
Going on a date? Be the “alluring” you. Self-aware and witty. My friends have joked for years that I have the ”girlfriend 8-week game,” and while we’re all a better ”version” of ourselves at times, I’ve regularly sought self-confidence through the validation of others.
Why be completely honest when I have the ability to do what I do? I’d wonder. I got social butterfly tattooed on my forehead. Admitting that I was “struggling” with something seemed like a one-way ticket out of the little web of protection I spun. I was so sure that the moment I admitted I was flawed- and not ha-he-ho flawed in that self-deprecating nonchalance I’ve always had- really f****** flawed- I’d lose the bubble I’d shielded myself with for years.
Sitting there, writing out that status on what we think of as the ”news source” of our peers I wondered how my life would change if I posted. Would all the cards suddenly fall?
You’re fun, my therapist said once. You walk into a room and it lights up with your energy, but that’s not what you’re here to do, she said. You’re here because you’ve got to deal with you, and you’re never going to be free of this until you allow yourself to exist as a real person– a flawed one, she said. You have to work at being in touch with yourself. Allow yourself to be honest about what’s hard. Your emotions? She paused. They’re valid- you don’t have to hide them. You don’t have to feel bad for feeling bad.
It’s hard for me to let go of that visage, I told her then– admitting my bagel heist from the morning, but the truth is, I knew she was right. 2 months into this stint, I had been slowly growing used to the idea of imperfection. Hell, I had to. 24 hours a day under supervision will do it to a person. Not being able to shave your legs for 6 weeks- that’ll do it. Stripped of all dignities, I’d spent over 2 months standing naked in front of various nurses. 2 months sitting in family therapy telling my parents about “that one time,” and 2 months in AA meetings working steps and making lists of things I’d done wrong.
I’d cried, snotted and snapped at every fellow patient around me thinking to myself ”well this is it- I lost that person as a friend ” only to have them come around a few hours later and give me a hug. 2 months in, my family was still my family-–smiling when I walked in the door, and my best friends were still my best friends– unyielding.
Is it worth it? I’d been asking myself. Is living this way worth it? Here I was, 24 years old, still living some days bagel by bagel- still opening the door to deception, and guilt, and shame. Sitting there that night, the answer felt like no. If it’s out there, I thought, typing the next word– and the next– well, then it’s out there and perhaps I won’t always feel like I have to put on a show. Perhaps if I just ”own” it- well- then I really do OWN it.
In all honesty, I’ll never really know what drove me to write that Facebook status, but I posted it anyway to the open arms of nearly 2,500 “friends” and family; to people that had met me once at a bar– or on a seat in a plane. Having lived so long behind a smoke screen, exposing my struggle so publicly meant that I could finally walk around it– like all the walls I’d built suddenly caved– leaving me bare, yes, but able to fully start from scratch and reconstruct my life.
Messages poured in from every “phase” in my life. The outpouring support was overwhelming, but more than that, a reality check. So often, we think we hide our demons in spaces that no one can find, but the truth is that many people for many years knew I was struggling but lacked the words to say.
Before I knew it, I was receiving mail from people all over the world asking for my insight into eating disorder recovery. ME? I thought– baffled. They want to trust what I have to say after so many years of manipulating? It was then that I knew that I’d never again be able to go back to what was before; that I now had the eyes of many keeping me accountable.
But, was all of the feedback positive, you might be wondering? No. Since I started blogging and freelancing about my experience in rehab and recovery, I’ve heard everything from “she’s not big enough to write about recovery” to “she wasn’t that skinny in the first place.” People are people and the internet is the internet. We live in a world where we have to be weary over what is thrown on the web for our reading pleasure. However, while I don’t love criticism (who does?) I know that everything I write is true to what I’m doing now. It’s true to who I want to be. No masks. When I struggle at times, someone knows. They’ve read– and I know I’m not alone. When I go out to dinner and want to only drink wine, I’ve got someone around me who can now lean over and say “C’mon Linds, order something.”
My life changed the day after that status published, and while social media is not always the modem of choice for disclosing your personal life (although we all have a tendency to overshare) I’m thankful every day I pushed “post” for it meant that I could actually be free.
— As I pack tonight, I want to take a moment to appreciate everyone in my life who has supported and loved me through these past couple months. After years and years of life with an eating disorder, I am now presently at a point where existing is more simple than I ever once let it be. If I could go back, I’d have asked for help years ago but I suppose we live in a society that doesn’t always condone imperfection. I struggled with this secret for all these years thinking I’d one day “grow out of it,” thinking if maybe I just ran around the world I’d find myself, and I watched it take away my life and take away my hobbies, my friends, my faith, my health, my mind, and all the while I wondered if I’d ever really be free from the guilt that any kind of disorder brings. I wondered if maybe every human was destined to have obsessive thoughts and actions they could never be free of. I thought “hey, I’m not that thin, I just don’t eat and then I binge eat. I run 12 miles then I eat a box of cereal. It evens out.”- And am I ashamed of what I did? In some ways yes, I’m human after all. It took away my dignity. But the beauty of this experience is knowing that one can change when one becomes honest with themselves. One can fight to live a happier life. And I’m choosing to be open about this now because I don’t want to go through the rest of my life pretending I don’t struggle. This is life and sometimes we all need a reboot. I’m thankful for every card, letter, and word that have been sent to me while I’ve been away. I struggle to let go of a disorder that became such an identifying factor to my life, but I can sit here tonight and say I’m happier, healthier, and no, not a vegan eating leaves anymore- and I never thought life could be as magically simple as it is right now. Home is where the heart is my loves- and I love my friends- I love my faith- and I love my family- it just sometimes takes a dose of reality to remember what’s important in this tiny little life. And it truly is, a tiny short life. I have the best people in the world. Y’all some good folk ye is.-
So tonight, I ate a meal alone. Hate doing it, hate eating in public- but after meeting a friend for dinner, this person had an emergency and I had to sit at a table and decide whether on not I’d eat the meal I’d ordered.
Do I leave? I wondered- watching the tables nearby.
I should leave, I thought. If not, I’ll be that sad girl in the corner eating alone.
People will watch, I reckoned. They’ll watch and they’ll think to themselves “poor thing is just stuffing herself alone.”
I sipped my wine.
What would it be like to eat a meal alone? I’d never done it.
Sure, I’d gone to a movie in college alone (once)– but to be fair, I’d snuck out halfway through (I mean, Gulliver’s Travels, REALLY JACK BLACK… Not your finest choice)
But a meal?
I’d binge ate alone, definitely. I’d snuck food in the crevices of my armpits– sure.
But to actually eat a meal? No.
It was pressure I didn’t want.
But in a way, it was the pressure I knew I needed.
Why write about recovery if I’m not willing to push the limits of it?
And it wasn’t comfortable, sitting there letting the waiter tend to me. In fact, it felt unnatural (she left the table set on the other end)- but towards the end of it– once the pressure ceased- and I realized people around me were simply just living their lives unbeknownst to me (WAIT- I’m NOT the most important thing since sliced bread?)
I walked away knowing it’s possible- and life still keeps going. Sweet potato fries, wine, salad, and all.
Try it sometime- that’s my tip- you might be surprised.
Rehab Truth: A year ago I was given a yarn of string and asked to cut a calculated guess on how “big” I thought my waist was (buttocks included). The following image encases reality vs dysmorphia- the outer string- my guess, the inner string- reality.
Calculating at nearly twice the actual size of my waist, we were asked to again do this with our thighs and our chest. All of which every girl in that room measured with incredible inaccuracy.
RecoveryTip: I carry those strings in my purse everyday- not because I need to feel “thin” but because I need to be reminded of sane.
Body dysmorphia is real folks, and it’s a growing epidemic. Feel free to try- I bet you’ll be amazed.