February 10, 2018. A day that I never wanted to happen to me again.
My anxiety and OCD had gotten out of control for the first time in a long time. I was sitting at work and it suddenly hit me like a truck. I felt as if there was no escape from it and no one that I could talk to.
"Not again," I told myself. I had beaten this before. But it was coming back, and I was afraid. Negative thoughts filled my brain about my past, if I had cancer/STDs, and things as if I felt that I had no control over. These thoughts were extremely distressing and I felt as if I could not talk to anyone about them.
I called my mom, crying my eyes out, the first time that I had cried in a long time.
I called the school counselors to set up an appointment to talk to someone.
I called my doctor who prescribed me anti-depressants, which seemed to help at first but the problem amplified.
I laid in bed for two weeks getting every shift taken that I possibly could, finding every excuse to not go out with my friends. I could hardly even drag myself out of bed for class. I only talked to a few friends about what was going on. They seemed to be the only ones who I thought would actually listen to what I was trying to explain to them.
Even though I had them, I felt very alone and if there was no way that I would ever escape this monster in my own head.
A few weeks went by and I started to catch on to a trend with the thoughts. They focused on the things that I thought that I could not tell anyone else. The less I focused on them, the less they bothered me. Now let me say one thing, not focusing on extremely distressing thoughts is a lot easier said than actually done. Counseling was helping, but the medicine that I was on seemed to be making me more depressed. Regardless, day by day it was getting better.
My thoughts switched from obsession to obsession, then in June, I was at work. An elderly man came in and said something about my body. One of the comments was extremely inappropriate, but the other comment that he made was about the size of my body. My coworker walked in and I immediately went into the back room, trying not to cry. I was shaking and so mad. I have had people make comments about my body before, positive and negative, but for some reason, this was bothering me.
The next few weeks all I was focused on was calories. I didn't think it was a big deal. I was just being healthy, right? I cut carbs dramatically and dropped eight pounds in two days. This was the moment that I realized that I might be heading down the same path that I was in 2014. I knew that I could not go there again, so I started eating more. Everything that I thought about was weight loss. I would go back and forth between not wanting to eat and working out too much to knowing that what I was doing was not good for me and trying to correct the problem.
The sad thing about eating disorders is sometimes you do not even realize that you have one. It isn't just about not eating or making yourself throw up, an eating disorder can be working out too much or eating too healthy, or a combination of any of them. Most eating disorders get undiagnosed until they end up going to the hospital.
It was starting to get bad and I knew it — but I could not admit it.
This was the one thing that I felt as if I could not tell anyone. I avoided going by mirrors because I was scared of finding flaws on my body. I was tortured by the mirrors at the gym. When I did look in a mirror, I had to go run. I remember one day I was at work and I looked in the mirror right after I ate and I paced around the store until it was time to leave, because all I could think about was running. I was embarrassed by it, and because of this, it was the only obsession that I completely kept to myself.
This is something that I knew was already taking place, but the moment that I knew something was wrong was when I went to the gym with my boyfriend at the time. My chest felt tight. He saw my heart rate on my Apple Watch and noticed that it was at 107. Keep in mind this was my resting heart rate because we had not even started working out yet. We thought that maybe it was a glitch or not accurate, but I could tell that something was wrong even if it was inaccurate. This was the second I knew that I may possibly be working out a little too much. I needed to change something and I didn't know what it was. I immediately got off of birth control, because I have always had back luck with hormones and anxiety.
Another day, I woke up. I was talking to my roommate and my chest tightened up again, but this time it felt as if I could not breathe. I ran over to the toilet and started dry-heaving. She asked if I was OK and I wanted to tell her what was going on, but I didn't.
I have come to the realization that the reason why I am so scared to talk about this is because of two things: guilt and the fear of being judged. Although I knew my boyfriend at the time would never judge me, I was terrified that he would. I was embarrassed because this is not something that people are typically proud of. I felt guilty because so many people had reached out to me and asked me for help and told me their story about how they are struggling. I felt strong and confident about being able to help them, and now I feel as if I have let them down. I feel guilty that my family and friends are now worried about me. I feel guilty that I wasn't strong enough to do this on my own.
My boyfriend and I decided to break up on good terms. This was the moment that I knew that I had a chance to recover. I felt the weight lift off my chest, which was the fear of being judged for what I was going through and I finally gained enough courage to tell my mom, my sister, and my friends.
In July I made a post about beating this form of obsession that I had in 2014, but then I took it down a few hours later. Why did I make it? It was because I knew a storm was coming and I was trying to remind myself how far I had come. Sometimes, though, you get tired of fighting it and give in, and I finally gave in.
A little over a week ago, I stopped taking my anti-depressant. I know you are supposed to slowly taper off of it, but I just stopped completely. I felt relieved and motivated to beat this on my own and I felt a new energy inside me that I had not felt in months. Right now, I am suffering the side effects of quitting cold turkey, but I know that this will pass. I went to the Rascal Flatts concert with my friends and I had to sit down because I felt light headed and dizzy. It is incredibly hard to make good decisions when your brain and body are not getting enough fuel to power it. I found myself zoning out a lot during the concert. When I would zone out, it was as if I was a zombie. I felt somewhat calm and relaxed, but when I got home that night, I remember taking off my clothes and feeling as if my body was ice. I physically felt like I was shaking, but I wasn't. I woke up the morning after a great night out with my friends, and the first and only thing that I wanted to do was run off the calories from the night before.
With all of the stuff going on about Demi Lovato in the news, I think that it is important to realize that sometimes a relapse is part of recovery. In my case, I did everything that you are supposed to do. I saw a counselor, got prescribed medication, and opened up to some of the people I was close to. Sometimes you have to fall more than once to get back up stronger. When you constantly have to fight a battle in your head, it can get pretty exhausting, no matter if it is drugs, alcohol, exercising, eating healthy, anxiety, OCD, or depression.
However, there is one common reason why these issues get so bad and that is because of the fear of being judged because of it. If I felt comfortable to talk about all of this eight months ago, I probably wouldn't have run 26 miles in the past five days, plus going to the gym on top of that.
Sometimes I wonder, "Why me?" I see people who do not have to go through issues like this and I get jealous. However, because of this, I have really grown to feel for everyone, because you truly never know what someone is going through. Every single person on this earth has flaws and every single person on this earth has done stuff that they regret. Just don't be a judgmental person. Because of this, I really do believe I have begun to find the good in everyone.
If you think that you have a friend who might be suffering, help them, be there for them, try to understand them. If you hear someone talking bad about anyone that you know who has mental health issues, stand up for them, educate these people. There doesn't have to be a stigma. This is not something that I wanted to write or something that is easy for me to write or talk about, but if it can help out one person who is struggling, it will all be worth it. I have been on the recovery side of this OCD and anxiety, and just know if you are struggling that recover is 100% possible.
I asked some of my friends if they noticed any signs that I wasn't doing good. If any of your friends are showing these signs, it might be a good idea to talk to them.
My roommate said,
"Honestly, Christina, I have known since the beginning of the first year that we lived together that your eating habits, your weight, and the way that you work out were not OK. I noticed you would eat a spoonful of cheese or peanut butter and call it a meal, and I noticed that you would work out an obscene amount each day. You were so happy and fun out in public but I could tell deep down that you were not OK with yourself. You would go into your own room and have a breakdown even if you never told me or anyone else."
My big said,
"No, I never noticed. You seemed and acted the same although you would ask questions or talk about what was going on."
One of my good friends said,
"I never really noticed the eating thing because honestly, I did not pay much attention to your eating. I remember you going through spurts of working out a lot and lifting and now you run all of the time. I noticed that you always got paranoid about the way that you acted and were questioning if you did things wrong and such. That part seems like it is much better. Now you're back to your free spirit of not caring what other people think which is nice."
Watch out for your friends.
Don't count on them to admit to themselves that they have a problem. Sometimes all it takes is a simple text to turn someone's life around.
If you or somebody you know is fighting an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorder Association at 1 (800) 931-2237