My Eating Disorder Is Controlling My Life

My Eating Disorder Is Controlling My Life

Part one.
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The name Anna will be used to keep the subject of this article anonymous.

After writing about body trends a while ago, Anna had some criticisms (as usual) and told me that there was a bigger story there. She suggested people with anorexia and bulimia should have been supported more in the article. My sister suggested I interview her for an article -- suddenly, my idea became clear. I wanted to write about our stories of my family's eating disorders. This article is part one of two articles that describe our relationships with food.

Most people believe that anorexia comes from body-image issues, but this is not necessarily the case. It is an issue that has much deeper roots than mere dissatisfaction with what the person sees in the mirror. A lot of people that suffer from eating disorders control their food because it is used as a sedative and stress reliever for everyday life. It is used to confer the mental battle that occurs throughout their day-to-day lives onto something more easily manipulated and controlled, such as food or their weight. Body-image issues are mostly how your body deals with trauma. To cope, you have to look a certain way, so you can be a certain way. To conquer this ongoing battle to be a certain way—an overwhelming concept with many different aspects and struggles, involving your personal achievements, social and family live, and general worth as a human being—this battled is simplified, allowing a person to lump their entire worth into one single, achievable goal: manipulating their body. You can’t control everything in your life, but you can control your body. When this need for control becomes powerful enough, mental illness will surely arise. People with anorexia simplify their lives because they have too much stress. That means only doing small things to get by.

Anna had struggled with anorexia and bulimia for several years. This was due to her undiagnosed ADD, combined with genetic and environmental influences. In high school, Anna had a lot going on. She was in a lot of AP or advanced classes, and played soccer. The necessity of perfection and control in every aspect of your life makes these perceived hills into mountains, and any degree of failure would compare to total personal failure. It also didn’t help that she didn’t feel like she had a secure group of friends to support her. With her ADD, it had almost become unbearable. She felt out of control of her life, but she knew she could control one thing: food.

It all started about four years ago. Anna got hurt playing soccer and had to get knee surgery. This was extremely stressful for her, because she used soccer as a way to become healthier and lose “pre-teen awkward stage” fat. After her surgery, friends and family were sending her get-well gifts, containing mostly chocolates and unhealthy food. Because she just had surgery, she could not exercise to get the weight off. So she decided not to eat the food, so she wouldn’t gain the weight. Anna gradually increased in “off-limit” foods; certain foods grew to embody personal failure. As this list of off-limits food grew, her anorexia grew. The avoidance of personal failure eventually became avoidance of food. She couldn’t eat what she wanted to, which caused her to downward spiral into her eating disorder.

In high school, Anna would go anywhere her friends went to confirm her self worth. One night, she went to a Friday night football game with her friends. There is one time that she remembers as being a successful anorexia day. She had stayed in bed all day because she didn’t want to see the kitchen. To distract herself, she decided to stay on Pinterest all day. Throughout the course of the day, she managed to eat one apple. When riding in the car with her friends to the football game, she was almost on a high. No one could tell her that she was less successful that day because she didn’t eat that day. One of her friends asked her about her eating disorder on the way over to the game. She thought it was nice that someone cared to ask. Anna wasn’t looking to be a model; she just wanted to look like someone worth caring for.

Body checking became very important for her. I remember being in the bathroom with her and she would just stare at herself her hours. She was comparing herself to other people to see if she looked skinny, and made sure nothing jiggled. She would feel her bones every night to check if they were still there. She wanted to look at reflective surfaces to see if she approved of what she saw, but she always disapproved. She looked disappointingly human; she wanted to look like someone who needed to be asked if they were O.K. or if she was about to collapse. Anna wanted to be carried into the hospital, and she wanted people to just look at her and be concerned.

A normal day for Anna started by waking up and checking herself, then she would do crunches if she didn’t like what she saw. After that, she then created a plan for the day and how to treat all the imperfections she saw in the mirror. She would do what needed to be done, but she would constantly think about when her next meal is and how to avoid it. Anna also had to think of ways to justify herself to people as to why she wasn’t eating. After consulting with our mother, she became on outpatient, where she saw a doctor and a dietitian three times a week. To make it seem like she was doing better and gaining weight, she would modulate water consumption and tell people what they wanted to hear. She also didn’t talk to the therapist about her eating disorders. Anna manipulated a lot of people to think she was OK. She thought, “Who cares that I'm about to die? Let's see if I matter enough.”

Anna considered a failed day when she ate normal things. This is when she had to eat in situations to look normal in public. When she would go to bed without hunger pains. Hunger pains had becoming comforting, and she had denied herself that. Holidays were bad because of the amount of food offered at every meal. For Thanksgiving one year, she had calculated all the calories that she was going to eat that day and ran eight miles in the morning to compensate. When she started to have more failed days than successful days, the desire to compensate for these failures led her spiraling into bulimia.

For Anna, anorexia was a gateway to bulimia. It became hard for her to stop. It started after she first took her antidepressant. With the pill, she had less motivation and became less strict with her food intake. Food was the only thing that made her feel anything, causing her to become more bulimic. In her view, bulimia is when you finally are losing control of your life. The stresses of life are getting to be too much and you can’t even seem to control your food intake. Like Anna, bulimics know a lot about food and develop extensive knowledge about some of the more unconventional aspects of food, such as which ones are easier to regurgitate. A successful day as bulimic meant to eat everything and leave nothing out. Bulimia meant that on days when she failed at anorexia, she could be successful in her bulimia. She wanted to feel empty at the end of her purge. She would do a lot of tricks to make herself purge, including drinking so much water that the water forces involuntary regurgitation. After a while, feeling like there was food in Anna's stomach became a horrible feeling. She became very controlled about how and where she purged. She didn’t want it to interfere with her life. This meant avoidance in social behaviors, as opposed to an avoidance of disorderly behaviors. The eating disorder became the gauge that judged Anna's entire worth and life.

Treatment is very important for recovery. Anna wishes that she went to a rehab facility, because it would have quickened the process. Eliminating extraneous stress allows the patient to focus on their eating disorder, to learn what is wrong and why the disorder affects them the way it does, and how to conquer the invasive thoughts. She now goes to a group therapy, where she meets with girls who still have eating disorders and other girls who are in recovery to discuss their experiences. Anna is now in recovery, and is still getting better every single day.

Finally, I asked her what she wanted to tell people with an eating disorder. She said to go and get a job and make you go outside everyday. Make sure to do things that make you feel good about yourself. Think about what you’re missing out on, and it’s important to deal with your real life problems. Relationships do matter; talk to people you know and ask for help. Instead of looking at a day as successful, what other things could make it successful? The only thing that can fix you is making the decision to take that first step: not being afraid to ask for help.

Cover Image Credit: http://images.christianpost.com/full/58177/the-distorted-mirror-of-anorexia.jpg

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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How To Avoid Getting Sick Your  Freshman Year

It's going to take a little more than an apple a day.

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College is the prime time and place to catch a cold... or worse. Although, somehow I managed to crack the code to health and not get sick my whole first year of college. This is surprising considering I was living in the close (and very unsanitary) quarters of a dorm room.

1. Keep your diet somewhat healthy

https://picjumbo.com/healthy-fruits-and-vegetables/

I know how hard it is to eat healthy in college, especially on a low budget. But with the dining hall foods, you can at least include some vegetables and fruits into your everyday consumption. The vitamins in these foods will help keep your immune system up and it will be worth the effort.

2. Try to exercise a few times per week

https://picjumbo.com/fitness-girl-jogging-morning-run/

Even if you're just getting out of the dorm for a thirty minute walk, it will benefit your body. If you decide to up your routine from that, even better! The more endorphins, the more you will feel better inside and out.

3. Cut back on the drinking if you feel a cold coming on

https://pixabay.com/photos/glasses-toasting-cheers-alcohol-919071/

Surprisingly, many college students don't seem to know that alcohol lowers your immune system. Of course, for some people theres no way of avoiding drinking. But if you can at least give your body rest days, it will be extremely beneficial.

4. Invest in a dehumidifier for your dorm room

https://icdn2.digitaltrends.com/image/dehumidifier_hero_1-2-720x720.jpg

I believe this was a very big player in helping me not get sick. The dehumidifier helps reduce dust and other particles in the air. This will help not agitate your allergies and you will feel more clear headed.

5. Try not to share personal products

https://picjumbo.com/makeup-brushes/

Sharing things like towels, makeup, unwashed cups, etc. can all be causes of a sickness being passed around you and your friends. Of course sharing is caring, just make sure it's sanitary.

6. Be conscientious of who you kiss!

https://www.pexels.com/photo/love-people-kissing-romance-18397/

Make sure that your girlfriend, boyfriend, or "its complicated" person is not sick before you're getting cozy with them.

7. Drink lots of green tea!

https://libreshot.com/green-tea/

Personally, I credit green tea and its anti-oxidants for keeping the flu away and even getting rid of bugs that might be forming in your system. So if you feel like you might be developing a cold, chug that tea!

I know how annoying these tips may be. But I promise, if you implement at least a few it could reduce your chances of feeling horrible during midterms in the winter, and sneezing all over your finals in the fall.

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