As 2013 is coming to a close I, like many people, have been thinking a lot about the past year and what it has meant for me. I have grown a lot as a runner, and as a person this year. I have referenced in many posts how I have become more confident, mostly because of running and the running family I have found. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin and abilities, and am not afraid to say this is me. When I wrote that very first post in March, in this attempt at blogging, I'm not sure I believed everything I typed. I wanted to believe it. I wanted so badly to be the confident person I felt was inside of me somewhere. Now, as I type this last post of 2013, I can honestly say I am me…and I am very much ok with that.
With all of that being said, a large part of why I started this blog was to try to be more open and honest with myself and with others. There is one pretty big secret that I have wanted to share since my first post. I have hinted at it a few times, I have though about writing about it, but could never find the motivation, or the strength to fully let it out. A few recent doctor appointments, a new confidence, and my desire to help others has lead me to feel as though this is the right time. Some details may be left out, some I may not remember, some will be very difficult to share, and equally as difficult to read, but I'll do my best.
For a long time, this was me...
I don't really remember a time when I was comfortable with my body. I remember being probably 9 or 10 at gymnastics camp, comparing my body to my teammate's. Growing up in a leotard, you become very aware of every imperfection. I don't know where these thoughts came from initially. I don't remember ever being told I needed to lose weight. I can't pinpoint exactly where or when it all began. But I do remember that day at camp, and I do know since then it's been an ongoing battle. Twenty plus years of putting yourself and your body down is exhausting.
Through high school I had periods of gaining weight and losing weight. Going in to my senior year, I lost a fair amount of weight by restricting what I ate and counting calories. After many years of believing I was too heavy, I had my first taste of restricting calories and seeing results because of it. I went through most of my senior year this way, until the stress of going to college caused me to forget about counting calories, and instead doing quite the opposite. I ate what I wanted, I drank what I wanted, and as a result, I gained weight. During the first 2 years of college I remember hating what I saw, but not really doing anything about it. I was desperately trying to fit in, and meet friends, while hating myself and my appearance. I didn't want to be away at school, I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I began to withdraw a little more each day. I felt like I didn't belong.
After returning home from my second year of college in 2003, I started to run, workout, and attempted to lose weight. As I began to lose weight, I also became more strict with what I was eating. I returned to school to live in a house with three other girls, one of which had joined weight watchers over the summer. She was successful with her weight loss, and was counting points for all the food she ate. Looking back now, I realize this was not a good environment for me to be in, because it only added fuel to my fire. I remember being complimented by many about how great I looked after loosing weight over the summer. While I agreed I looked better, the voice in my head would tell me I'd look even better after loosing a few more pounds. I began spending more time in my room, and reading message boards for "thinspiration". I only allowed myself to eat certain foods, I counted every calorie, I went to the gym early in the morning to avoid as many people as possible, and I began to lose interest in the things that I once enjoyed. I grew increasingly moody due to the lack of food and always feeling hungry. All I could focus on was what I was going to eat that day and how much. At the time I didn't see anything wrong with this.
When I returned home for Christmas break, I continued to follow my new eating habits, counting calories, and spending a lot of time on the treadmill. The thought of returning to school in January gave me a lot of anxiety. I became depressed. Nothing felt right anymore. I didn't want to see my friends. I didn't want to be around anyone. I spent most of my time in my room, on my computer, reading about people with eating disorders, looking at pictures of thin actresses, and believing being thin like them would make me happy. I spoke to my mom and told her that I didn't want to return to school in January, and I didn't. I got a job working at a (not so busy) tanning salon 5 hours a day M-F. A good day for me was waking up, eating a few bites of food, or none at all, going to work, coming home around 2:30, eating a very planned out "lunch" of 200 or so calories, going for a run to burn them all off, staying in my room until "dinner" and going to bed having consumed 800-850 calories that day. Anything more than that and I was upset. I lost a lot of weight.
Two of my friends grew increasingly concerned and decided to call my mom to inform her of what was going on. My mom had noticed I was losing weight, but I think maybe she was in denial of what was going on. The three of them confronted me and urged me to get help. At the time I was angry. I reluctantly agreed to see a therapist to keep everyone quiet. (I have tremendous guilt now for the hurt that I caused to the people I love the most from my selfish behavior, and inability to see anything else but my disorder. Many people tried to help me, and I would not accept it.)
Over the next few months I saw a therapist weekly, I was put on antidepressants, and I began gaining weight. I was constantly watched. I felt like a prisoner in my home and my body. I didn't know what to do. And then I did something that I will forever regret. I made myself throw up after feeling as though I had eaten too much. I don't remember exactly when it occurred, or where I was. I do know it took a couple of tries before I was "successful" for the first time. This began what I consider to be the darkest years of my life. It's very difficult for me to talk about. It's disgusting, shameful, and embarrassing. I wish it had never happened that first time.
I thought this was my way out. This was my way to eat when I needed to in front of people, and then get rid of it after. Well, it didn't take long before I was making myself vomit multiple times a day, some days up to 5 or 6 times. I would stuff myself with large amounts of food, vomit, and repeat. It was awful. This went on for a couple of years, until I was confronted by my mom once again. I had never felt so ashamed in my entire life. However, I couldn't stop. I realize that sounds ridiculous, and it is probably hard to imagine if you've never experienced anything like this. Eating disorders grab a hold of you and don't ever let go. It is a constant battle quieting the voices that tell you you're not good enough and you need to lose weight. At the time, it is difficult to imagine the potential for lifelong effects. All your mind can focus on is food and weight. Nothing else matters. It's an addiction, just like drinking or smoking. The difficult part about eating disorders is that you can't avoid food completely to brake the addiction.
I never really felt the effects of what I was doing until recently. Over the years, the self-induced vomiting became less frequent, but would still occur from time to time. I wanted to be healthy, but after years of being extremely unhealthy, I didn't really know how. August 17, 2013 was the last time I made myself vomit. Admitting that fact is one of the hardest things I have ever done. My secret is out. The following day (Sunday), I ran a terrible race and am lucky that nothing bad happened to me due to being extremely dehydrated. After many many years of restricting calories and eating then purging, I finally felt the effect of the damage I was doing to my body. After that race I made a promise to myself that I would NEVER force myself to vomit again. I have not done so since.
About a month ago, I went to a GI doctor try to figure out a cause of the stomach and digestion issues I have been experiencing for years. I had blood drawn, a colonoscopy, and upper endoscopy. What they found was inflammation in my esophagus from stomach acid, as well as inflammation in my intestines. I was diagnosed with IBS, and given two different prescriptions to take. One every day in the morning, and one before each meal. I am very certain that this is due to the years and years of abuse I put my GI system through. Now, I have to deal with the lifelong consequences, and the daily stomach discomfort.
Why am I sharing all this? Mostly for myself as a final attempt to close the door on a rough chapter of my life, and look towards a better, healthier, more confident future. The other reason is for the hope that I could help even just one person to see how horrible and dangerous eating disorders are. They absolutely are not worth it. They do not help anyone in any way. I gave away too many years of my life and the only things I got in return are a damaged GI tract, scars on my knuckles from making myself vomit, way too many unpleasant memories, embarrassment, shame, and guilt. Eating disorders are very real and very dangerous. They are difficult to talk about, but I think awareness is very important.
I know that the bad thoughts will return from time to time, but I feel fully ready and willing to put up a fight and tell them to go away. It's been a very long road, but I finally feel like I have won.
If you have any questions, please ask, I will do my best to answer them.