I Realized That Instead Of Willpower, I Was Stuck With A Whole Bunch Of Won't Power!
I used to think that my eating disorder began right before I started high school when I was 13 years old. I had been overweight all throughout middle school and was constantly made fun of to the point of paralyzing fear of going to school and having to hear the word "fat". So it suddenly came to me as if an epiphany, a concept or thought that I had never thought of before for some odd reason... 'why don't I just not eat!' So I started dieting and became more and more compulsive about it. My mother encouraged it, thought it was a great idea! So the summer between middle school and high school I dropped about 15-20 pounds or so and I had just happened to have grown at least 3 inches.
So I went back to school that year and all of the sudden I was suddenly beautiful and loved and admired! My mom even paid more attention to me and in a different way than she had before. She was always commenting on how good I looked, bragging to her friends and coworkers about me, and offering to go shopping more. Now, she never told me when I was younger that I looked bad or that I wasn't as good of a person because I looked the way I had or that overweight people were disgusting. However, by suddenly giving me all of this attention and making me feel beautiful and confident because I had become thin... she basically might as well have.
So once you not only stop being tortured for being fat, but are complimented left and right on how you look... you get high on it! It's a rush that I had never felt before and I never wanted it to end. I never wanted to go back to being that fat, scared and insecure girl again. So those thoughts kept me going... kept me not eating... kept me becoming more and more obsessed with my weight and what people thought of me, because that's all that mattered. What other people thought about how I looked defined me as a person. Forget the awesome sense of humor, the immense creativity and talent that I had, or the straight A's that I always got... it meant nothing if I wasn't pretty.
But, being the same girl that I had been in middle school, just a grown-up and thinner version of her, eventually all I wanted to do again was eat! It became, 'screw this, I've been 'good' for this long, I deserve to eat like everyone else gets to, like my friends do.' So I started indulging in my vice again, making excuses after excuses to myself that it was ok, I wasn't gaining weight, my jeans were just tight from the dryer... and on and on. And eventually, I gained a lot of the weight back. (Of course I was about four inches taller than I was in middle school so I carried my weight a little differently, but it still had come back.) Suddenly there was this horrible, petrifying, slap-in-the-face moment when I realized that I had been kidding myself for however many months, and I had let myself get fat again.
Now to everyone else I probably just looked a little thicker or more curvy, but to me I looked like that awful, scared, fat little girl from middle school. I felt disgusting in my own skin. 'How could I have let myself get this way again, I'm such an idiot!?' Then I think it was somewhere in my junior year of high school that I had another epiphany... I could eat anything I wanted if I just threw it up afterwards! "Duh, why hadn't I thought of this before!?"
At first it was hard and I physically couldn't make myself do it (it's not as easy as some people think). But after alot of practicing and getting my little tips from tv and magazine articles, I became a pro. I knew exactly what it took to make me able to throw up, and that was making myself so full to the point where I felt like I was going to throw up anyway. So this lead to bingeing, which made me happy again like I was pulling the wool over everyone's eyes because I could eat all of the "horrible foods" that I loved without actually having to digest them. What a friggin' miracle!
So I started losing weight again and getting my beloved compliments again and got my confidence back. I even got invited to the senior prom which led to a new and older boyfriend. But then after awhile of this lifestyle of bingeing and purging, it really started to affect and interfere with everything. The whole process took a long time in itself. And I always had to worry about hiding it from everyone. Then it became a problem getting enough food to fill me up (because my stomach had stretched so much), which eventually led to stealing. Eventually I got sick of making myself throw up (no pun intended). It was a process for me. I would take me minutes of siking myself up to do it. Then minutes turned into a half hour, and then an hour and sometimes I would even procrastinate so long that I would fall asleep and wake up in a panic that I had poisoned my body by digesting all of the food that I had just eaten. So as my ability to be able to stand making myself throw up diminished, again my weight would come back.
At one point just before going off to college, I stopped bingeing and purging all together and started exercising. But it just became another excuse to eat what I wanted, what I felt I deserved because I had had it so much harder than the other girls my age who could eat whatever they wanted and it never interfered with their lives. So at that point it wasn't really about being healthy, it was ,"how many calories do I have to burn off to eat THAT?" I gained even more weight.
So I cycled like this for years, all throughout my early twenties. And I was miserable during the years when you're supposed to be having the most fun you'll ever have in your life. I actually tried getting hooked on cigarettes so that I could have a different, more socially acceptable vice... didn't work! As many times as I've tried throughout my life, luckily I can't get addicted to nicotine for some reason. I had the alcoholism gene coming at me from every side of my family. Don't get me wrong, I could get hammered with the best of them and party on the weekends, but alcoholism never got me either. I did smoke pot everyday or every other day for a couple of years (I had never had a rebellious period during my high school days, so I thought I'd try to have one in college)... but eventually one night I had just smoked with my friend and then I went onto the computer to do some work. After staring at the screen for awhile and not being able to remember what I was supposed to be doing, I realized...'I'M STUPID! Pot makes me stupid!' I never did it again. I so desperately tried to find another vice, one to replace the one that I didn't want to admit I already had. I was addicted to food!
Finally, I had another epiphany, but this time it was a good one, a life altering one... I was a compulsive eater. I was a compulsive eater that was trying to cover it up and make up for it weight-wise in every and any way that I could by compulsively dieting or bingeing and purging but when it came down to it, I was addicted to food. I was so desperate to never go back to being that overweight girl in middle school that got made fun of all the time, went home crying, never voiced any of her opinions or drew any unnecessary attention to herself because she didn't want anyone to notice and point out her horrible, disgusting body.
So, it wasn't until I was 26, after a suicide attempt, being in and out of therapy, being on and off of all different kinds of antidepressants that I finally got proactive. I asked my doctor to switch me from my current medication (which was kind of making me less depressed, but not suppressing that need to eat all the time and was making me gain more weight than I ever had before in my life.) I asked him to put me on a medication that I had read up on that was actually prescribed to people who were trying to quit smoking and other compulsive behaviors.
Within the first week or two I felt different. I realized that I really didn't have the urge to eat when I wasn't hungry. I actually new for the first time what it felt like to be actually hungry, and not because I was starving myself but just because it was time for my next meal (what a concept)! I actually learned what it meant to just eat when I was hungry... which is something most of the world knows, but guess what, I DIDN'T! I had been so obsessed over controlling my weight and over food and how to eat without gaining weight that I just hadn't been listening to my body. I was so preoccupied with having the willpower to not eat or to binge and purge that I hadn't realized it had all turned into a big stockpile of "won'tpower". I had trained myself not to listen to my body because I didn't trust myself to know anything on its own. I had let myself trick myself into thinking so many destructive thoughts that had no more 'will' at all.
So I started to think back to when I was really young. I went through a lot of crap when I was a kid but I tried to think, 'when did i start being obsessed with food?, when did I start being that overweight kid?' And I found it! It was during my mother's second, very violent and very nasty divorce which left us living in one room of the house for months with locks installed all the way up the door to keep my mom's soon-to-be ex-husband out. I was only 6 or 7 at the time. I guess I didn't know how to deal with this horror that was happening around me, and I remember becoming obsessed with sweets. And it wasn't in a cute, out in the open kind of way... I started hiding it right away. I was immediately ashamed of it because somehow I thought it was wrong. And as the years went on and we were poor and living in horrible apartments, my mom would always yell at me for eating all of the food, but I couldn't help it. It had become my way of coping with our horrible situation. And from then on it became my problem... a problem that almost killed me... a problem that made people distrust me because I was stealing for it... a problem that kept me from being myself... a problem that I tried to kill myself over because I couldn't stand living life with that problem anymore.
Of course we can all blame it one our moms, or on society, or on the models on the covers of Glamour or Seventeen magazine, or on the measurements of our Barbie dolls. But the truth is, is that everybody has their own combination of things that make them the way they are. And it applies to everyone; drug addicts, alcoholics, obsessive-compulsives, your neat-freak mother, and any other label you can think of. In the end you just have to figure out what made you the way you are or made you have the problems that you are having. And not so you have something to blame everything on, but so you know it didn't just come out of thin air, you just weren't born this way, you aren't just different from everyone else. And once you know that you feel a little less helpless against it, against your obsession, against your eating disorder.
It took me over twenty years to realize what I had to figure out... it took me about 5 minutes to actually figure it out. So once you know your problem, you can deal with it. I'm not saying its easy from there on. It's not something you can look up in a book like these doctors and therapists and writers who have never experienced anything even close to a life consuming obsession like an eating disorder. It's something specific to you, and with some help you can learn how to work with your newfound knowledge and make your life livable... and actual life... one that isn't overridden with your obsession because you think that it is more important than your actual self... because it's not. Life couldn't have been created so that we could torture ourselves. If it was, the whole human race would have killed itself off a long time ago! So, as I always say... give yourself a friggin' break, because no one else is gonna give ya one for you!
Related Tags: anorexia, eating disorders, compulsive eating, bullimia, help with eating disorders, people with eating d
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