Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Eating Disorder

My best friend of six years was unintentionally killing me.

That's a strong opening sentence, but now that I reread it, it's not entirely true. My best friend of six years was causing me a lot of stress, and anxiety. It wasn't her fault at all, she didn't mean it or know it, but the stress our friendship was inflicting on me was killing me.

I always had problems with stress, anxiety and a bit of depression. Whenever I would feel anxious or depressed, eating would become a very difficult task. (My post on anxiety goes into a little more depth about problems anxiety can cause.)

Anxiety is a fight or flight response, and whenever I got anxious, it would take over and I would throw up. It wasn't intentional, but it would happen all the time. First, it would happen only when it came to really big things.

My best friend, I'll call her Olivia for the sake of anonymity, would have breakdowns a lot and consider suicide. This was extremely stressful, but over some time I was able to recover a bit. But then, it started happening when things didn't even matter.

Olivia and some other friends would want me to go to a football game. I would be excited and happy, but I couldn't keep food down. In fact, on days when I knew I was going to be busy, I would eat as little as possible so that I would have nothing to actually throw up when it was time to leave.

According to Anxiety Centre:

"Part of the stress [anxiety] response includes suppressing digestion so that the majority of the body's resources are made available for emergency action. When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly and easily from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi-emergency readiness state. This semi-emergency readiness state can adversely affect normal stomach and digestive system function, which can cause all sorts of stomach and digestive related maladies, such as nausea and even vomiting."

At the time, I didn't know this science-y part about anxiety and nausea and vomiting, but the effects it had on me were drastic. Basically, my body was stuck in a semi-emergency state, which caused a lot of digestive problems and of course, not eating made things worse.

One grey January morning in 2015, I stepped on the scale and I read the horrifying number.

I was 18 years old, 5 feet and 4 inches, and 79 pounds.

I was rushed to the doctor and two weeks later I was admitted into a day treatment center for eating disorders.

(PC: Photobucket)
I was diagnosed with an eating disorder called ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder). I had no idea what it was, or even what it meant really. I didn't like the name ARFID either, it sounded like the name of a rabid dog. Besides my weight, I didn't feel like anything was wrong with me.

As it turns out, my body was eating itself.

I spent four months in treatment, and a few more months in an out-patient program. The basic treatment plan was just to make me, and everyone in my group eat.

The first few days were the loneliest, but I don't think I could name a day that wasn't as hard. I was so alone, no one else in my group was suffering from ARFID, not that I knew of. Everyone else was suffering from bulimia or anorexia.

I regret to say that I was ignorantly opinionated about the suffering of everyone else in my group at first. Because my eating disorder had nothing to do with body image, eating disorders like anorexia were confusing to me. I would see the girls in my groups, and they were all so beautiful. I couldn't help but thinking, why can't they just get it in their head that they're beautiful? Can't they see they're destroying their body? Why can't they just stop…?

The answers to those questions are a lot more complicated than a simple yes or no.

The reason I'm talking about this is because I never was close to someone who had an eating disorder before I went through treatment. But some of you might know people who have eating disorders, or you might have one yourself.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to have an eating disorder. Before getting to know such wonderful people in treatment, I thought being anorexic was a choice. That someone would wake up one day, and think, I think I'm fat so I should starve myself. But that isn't the case at all.

The mirror lies.

For the people with body-image related eating disorders, the reflection that stares back is a lie. And with every purge or every skipped meal, that distorted image in the mirror only gets worse.

For everyone struggling, don't struggle in silence. You're not alone.

Love you all <3


#SpreadTheLove #Awareness #MUGTE


Kathryn McKendry said...

Beautiful post Jess! It's so hard for people to understand everything that is involved.

Elisabeth Kauffman said...

Brave post, Jess. Thanks for sharing. As an anxiety sufferer myself, I deeply appreciate people who are open about what they're going through. It's the path to healing.

Margaretta Cloutier said...

Good post. There are a lot of misconceptions about eating disorders, it is NOT a choice. I have a friend who suffered from anorexia in the past. She has recovered and is now a counselor helping people with anxiety and other eating disorders. By talking about these issues openly, we can help remove the stigma surrounding these diseases and get more people on the path to recovery.