22 years of ED hell
Hi, my name is Kristen, and I've had an eating disorder (aka ED) since I was 12. I'm 34 now, so I'll do the math for you: That's 22 years of living in ED hell. You don't have to be 80 pounds and on a feeding tube, or 400 pounds and getting a triple by-pass to have an ED. You can be somewhere in between, and even look perfectly healthy on the outside. This post is meant to help those living with eating disorders, to let them know that they are not alone; and it's also a list of things that many struggling do. Look out for these things. You might save a life. They are more common than you think.(Disclaimer: If you are easily triggered by ED talk and what goes on, please take caution when reading further.)This post is NOT a cry for help.That ship sailed long ago.That ship sailed after someone I trusted projected their own insecurities and sadness onto me. (Calling a 12 year "tubby" is NOT OK. I don't give a shit what you're dealing with in life. Do not destroy another's while in your own path of healing.)That ship sailed after no one defended me when I needed it most.That ship sailed after I cried in the open and behind closed doors unbeknownst to anyone.That ship sailed after my tears dried up and I reserved all emotions moving forward.That ship sailed after I skipped my first, of many (many many), meals.That ship sailed after I only drank orange juice to prevent myself from fainting in class, dance, theatre, whatever.That ship sailed after I thought Slimfast was a good idea, at the age of 13. No one stopped me.That ship sailed after I ate again because I missed flavors and chewing, but I threw up my food on the daily to keep up with "my goals".That ship sailed when I switched from chocolate laxatives to the pills, because I thought the calories in the chocolate would make me fat.That ship sailed after I spit my food out into napkins at the table because throwing up and shitting liquid got too gross, and not eating was too obvious.That ship sailed after I fed animals the food on my plate since the napkins weren't hiding it well enough.That ship sailed after I started taking diet and caffeine pills religiously.That ship sailed after I lost a ton of weight and was told I "looked great," even though the way I lost it was dangerous! But yay, according to marketing and beauty standards I fit "the mold."That ship sailed after I acted like everything was ok. (Key word: Acted. I got real good at that!)That ship sailed after I gained the weight back plus 30+ pounds because the pills and the restriction just wasn't sustainable.That ship sailed after I counted every gram of carbs I put in my body to lose the weight again, and piled on animal protein.That ship sailed after I lost the weight again, and once again was told I looked great even though I was feasting on heart disease, constipation, explosive diarrhea, and animal cruelty.That ship sailed after I ate carbs again (like they were going out of style), since I restricted them, and then gained all of the weight back plus 40+.That ship sailed after I converted food into a points system and counted every point that went in my mouth to lose the weight again.That ship sailed after I was in the gym morning and night. (Gotta get those activity points!)That ship sailed after I lost the weight yet again, via yet another obsessive diet, and yet again "looked great" according to diet culture.That ship sailed after I got sick and tired of seeing points every time I looked at or thought about food (and that was all the time because I was starving), so I gained back the weight I lost plus another 50++.That ship sailed after every time I was asked "what diet are you on now" at the dinner table. In front of everyone. Because that's a great topic of discussion.That ship sailed after I was "victim-shamed" into thinking all of my problems were my 12 year old self's doing. You read that right... I was told it was my 12 year old self's fault for developing a mental disorder.That ship sailed after I saw a nutritionist weekly, who told me to eat as much animal protein as I wanted (here we go again), but limit my fruit, and sold me shakes and pills. Plus the added anxiety of weighing me weekly. I wouldn't eat all day long to get the lowest number possible. Not even water. And somehow I managed advancing in my career. (Take note of that... people who seem like they have it together may not. Check in on them).That ship sailed after I overheard yet another person I trusted saying I was in "just another diet phase." Add another 10 pounds to that scale.That ship sailed after every fucking time I messed with restriction, obsession, and addiction, and no one noticed.That ship sailed after every time I ate so much, I stuffed my pain to the point of actually being in pain, which hid the real pain. That's a disorder.That ship sailed after I disguised my food addiction with a "love for cooking" (I still like to cook, but it's a trigger that I need to figure out).That ship sailed after instead of battling my own demons, I offered to help others with theirs (Those who can't do, teach...)That ship has been sailing for 22 years.For 22 years I've been distracted and pressured by food.For 22 years food has been consuming me.For 22 years I've been dealing with a mental disorder.That ship, MY ship (of ED fools), is one of many. There's a growing fleet out there of individual battles with food addiction, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, etc. This post, and the description of my ship, is meant to shine a light on EDs that aren't so obvious (which is the majority of them in the beginning, we all started somewhere). You may not know someone that's living with an eating disorder, but that might be because you never noticed the signs. And that's ok, it's not your fault. "Diet Culture" has a hold on this dialogue, telling us what to say, know, and think. "Dieting", according to "diet culture", is a good thing, and that may be true for some, but for others it takes complete control of the brain. It's not about the food or weight, it's about the mind.We don't know that constant "dieting" can be a disorder for some, because it's normal to diet!We don't know that body shaming ourselves, or talking about calories, fat, and weight can seriously trigger someone with an actual disorder.We don't know that someone who has a binge eating problem (hi) should NEVER restrict food or go on "diets." Our issues are deep, and we literally bury them with food and diet talk because dealing with the actual issue is far more painful than any stomach grumbling or indigestion could ever be.We don't know that it's not someone's fault for developing an eating disorder.We don't know that our words can change the course of someone's mental health and life forever.So, what's the take away?If you think you have an ED get some help NOW.If you think someone you know might have an ED, helping them will be tough. We are addicts, so we really need to be the ones that help ourselves in the end. But one thing you can do is listen, watch, and nurture. Be there for them. Chances are no one was when they went down the wrong path. Stop someone's negative body talk, don't encourage dieting, watch your own self talk about weight and food in front of impressionable souls, and just be a good example and person that will always be there.This is my contract to myself, to let that ship sail into the unknown. Wait no, even better... I'm setting this ship on fire. May it's ashes sink to the bottom and disappear into the muck. I'm too old for this ship!