Ten years ago, I had been starving for 4 or 5 years. I had lost 1/3 of my body weight, my hair had started to fall out, and I had grown a coat of fine white fur. I could control when my periods started by how many calories I ingested. I was only 20 pounds lighter than I am now at my skinniest and, because I’d halted my growth, I was a couple inches shorter. My BMI was still in the normal range, so, had I been put in treatment, I would not have been classified as having anorexia nervosa. I have no gag reflex, so, despite my best efforts with a toothbrush, I never was bulemic. I would be classified in that murky area of Eating Disordered Not Otherwise Specified. The problem with the EDNOS grey area is that it makes it sound like I had, or have, a mild eating disorder. A little problem with food. A rough adolescent stage. I was dying. When I started starving, I was just restricting. Then, I was eating only a meal a day, and then a meal every other day. By the end, I was binging once every 4 days, and trying desperately to purge it when I binged. I wanted to eat, but I loved to starve. It made me feel powerful, and high, and I loved the feeling of being hungry. I felt as much of a physical drive to starve as I did to eat. I was ruining my relationships with my family (and my loved ones — it heavily contributed to my first breakup, the effects of which I was still reeling from on May 1st of 1999). I was miserable in my own skin.
Ten years ago today, I admitted that my anorexia was a problem, that it was ruining my life, and that I couldn’t handle it by myself. I haven’t starved a day since. I have done many other harmful things to my body in those 10 years: Eaten 4 meals every day, eaten sugar for all 4 meals, lived off caffiene and cheese, steadfastly refused to exercise (even though I love to), slept with kind of sketchy people, didn’t sleep at all, etc. Most painfully, I told it, maybe not every day but most days, that it was ugly, malformed, disgusting, unworthy, unlovable, wrong. I was not freed from anorexia on May 1st, 1999. I was merely freed from the physical compulsion to starve.
It has taken me ten years to get to a place where I am willing to work on recovering from the emotional and spiritual aspects of my disease. I could feel like I wasted that 10 years, but they were important. They taught me every day that I can’t do this alone and my disease is going to kill me. I will have an eating disorder for a lifetime, so if the journey to recovery takes a lifetime, so be it.
I’m not celebrating 10 years of freedom from my eating disorder today, but I am celebrating that my life was saved. If I hadn’t stopped starving I would have died. Because a lot of people loved me more than I loved myself, I didn’t die. Love won. Love wins. I celebrate.
Be careful out there,