I once heard someone say that they envied the will power of the anorexic. I wish someone would have told them that it is not will power that motivates the anorexic. It is fear.
It is the fear of a lot of things. Fear of being overweight, sure, but also fear of being lonely, fear of being judged, fear of never feeling the happiness you see in others.
It started as just a little thought. I wonder if I would feel better if I were thinner? Then it became a nagging thought. We have all felt it at some point of another. I started to feel it at seventeen. My world was slowly deteriorating around me. I had no control over the horrible things that were happening in my family, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I need something to control. I thought, if I can just lose five pounds, then I’ll be happy. But after the high of the five pound loss comes, the nagging thoughts return.
Hmm … maybe five more pounds, then I’ll be happy! But once again, the happiness faded. The only thing I can think to compare it to is the high shoppers get from a big purchase. A new television, that new purse, those expensive shoes. At first you gush about how much you love them, you feel thrilled to look at them, but soon you are flipping through catalogs and window shopping.
It is an addiction. If you have felt what I have felt then you know that. It is an addiction motivated by fear.
The pounds came off, but the happiness was still just out of reach. The harder I tried the less I was satisfied with what I felt and what I saw. I used to read books about overcoming eating disorders, not to overcome mine, but to glean from them how they lost weight. How sick is that?
For months and years I felt like I was falling just short of the happiness that I so craved. What I didn’t see was the damage I was doing. Not just to my body, which was deteriorating rapidly, but also to my spirit.
Who was this sad girl who refused to do anything outside of her set schedule? What happened to the carefree girl who used to change her mind at the drop of a hat? I could not break from my routine or something bad might happen. If I wasn’t home at 7:00p.m. to eat my bowl of grapes(i.e. dinner), then I might accidentally slip and eat something else and then where would I be? What would happen if I exceeded my limit of 500 calories a day? Who would love me then? Who could love me then?
The breaking point came almost two years later, my joints and stomach were wracked with pain. Every move hurt. I remember exercising while crying from the pain it caused, but there was no way I could stop. Bad things would happen to me if I stopped. My mother finally took it upon herself to set up an appointment with my doctor. I guess I could have said no (I was over 18 by this point), but I hurt so bad. And I hated so much about myself. I still refused to admit that I was anorexic.
I told the doctor that I was just fine, she told me that I was not. Not getting your period because your body refuses to let anything go isn’t healthy, she said. I told her I was just an athlete. Some athlete’s don’t get their periods I said. I cannot believe I actually argued this with my doctor. Ninety-eight pounds is not a healthy weight for a woman that is 5’8” so she said. I still denied that there was anything wrong, because I was afraid of what would happen. Anyone could have looked at my gaunt face and known something was very wrong inside of me.
It has taken me almost five years to get to the point where I can look back on that day and feel grateful. Thank God my mother had the courage to confront me. Thank God my doctor had the knowledge to help me. Thank God he gave me the strength to get through it, because there were a lot of times I didn’t want to try anymore.
I can't say that I am "cured." I think that this is something that I will be susceptible to for the rest of my life. I know that when things start to slip out of my control, the first thing I will try to seize control of will be my eating habits. I think half the battle is won with that knowledge though. I don't know any mystical secret to happiness or fulfillment, but I know that it does not lie in the things we are afraid of.
I have gained over 30 lbs. of my former weight back, and I've kept it on for three years. I'm happier than I ever was at 98 lbs. I still struggle with my reflection, but I can say, without reservation, my body does not define my soul.
Don’t succumb to your fear, whatever it may be. Before you know it, your fear can take over your life. It can drive you to the brink of disaster, and if you are lucky someone will be there to pull you back. I got lucky. I am not proud of the decisions I made, or the horrible things I did to my body, but if telling my story helps keep someone else from succumbing to the fear that way I did, I will tell it gladly.
It is so scary to look at the "publish" button, I have had this in my saved drafts since July. But since this is all about conquering my fears...here goes.