Recovery Reassurance--For When You're In Doubt
Have you ever been terrified of your own hunger? I mean really, truly just unnerved by the fact that you are a human and you need to consume calories in order to survive.
I used to hide food. Big bags of almonds, jars of peanut butter, hunks of chocolate, packs and packs of protein bars. I never took a bite of any of it—I just needed it there. Just in case the shit really hit the fan.
I went to the mall almost every day. I had to—going to the mall meant walking around, which meant burning calories. It also meant trying on clothes, which meant checking whether or not I’d gotten skinny enough (spoiler alert: I never quite did). I would bring a book, a huge bottle of water, and maybe a bag of celery sticks if I was feeling judicious with myself. I’d try on the tiniest clothes in each store and practically have a breakdown if the shorts with the 23-inch waist were a little too snug. I’d throw out my celery sticks and sit down to read my book, my head spinning. Sounds were muddy, people were scary, and I was wearing thick pants and a large winter coat in 70-degree weather.
When I wasn’t at the mall, I was doing homework. I would get all of my assignments at the beginning of the semester and force myself through them as quickly as possible. I got straight A’s, I never missed a class, I asked questions, I knew my shit. I was the perfect student. It’s strange how hyper-focused you can be when you’re denying your body its daily essentials.
When I wasn’t doing homework, I was working out. Climbing the stairs at the gym for hours at a time, going on hour-long walks around my neighborhood, doing yoga, crunches, jumping jacks—you name it. Anything to constantly be moving, constantly be burning.
When I wasn’t working out, I was sleeping. No—I was catatonic. A lot of anorexics talk about how difficult it was for them to fall asleep at night because of the hunger. For me, I never had any trouble falling asleep. I was already half dead. I would lay down around 6:30 p.m. and either watch Netflix or read while my stomach went through hell. Almost every single night, without fail, my stomach went to hell and back. Unused to any food at all (I always made sure to have my biggest meal at the end of the day—my version of big was never more than about 300 calories), my stomach would be in knots trying to digest the few nutrients it was being allowed. I was glued to my bed, guzzling down water to help the process and writhing in pain. This resulted in falling asleep by 7:30 or 8 most nights. I couldn’t bear the agony of being conscious.
When I wasn’t sleeping, working out, doing homework, trying on clothes, working, or at school…I was with friends. I can probably count the number of times I actually went out with friends and enjoyed myself on one hand, but it did happen occasionally. Each time was a mind game, a battle inside my head that left me paralyzed with anxiety/fear. All I thought about was whether or not the friend I was with would want to eat somewhere. How could I get out of that? How could I order nothing without looking weird? What if they make a comment about my size? Otherwise, I was too cold and/or tired to do anything fun. Everything sounded like an exhausting feat that I just wasn’t ready for. Besides, it would cut into my gym time and I couldn’t handle that.
In between all of this “life” I was experiencing, I was body checking. Always, I was body checking. I’m sure most people thought of me as conceited when they caught me looking in car door reflections, mirrors in passing, or wearing the skimpiest little outfits to show off my twig legs and stomach flat as a pancake. In reality, conceited was the last thing I was. I wasn’t checking myself out—I was checking myself. Period. Checking to make sure I hadn’t blinked and morphed into a giant pig. Checking to make sure that cucumber slice I had three hours ago hadn’t rendered me obese. Wearing tiny outfits to make sure that I still looked skinny at every angle/seated position, no matter what. Checking to make sure my body was still waif-thin, weak, fragile, pale, sad.
Have you ever been terrified of your own hunger? I still am more often than not. I still feel panicked when I eat a meal and thirty minutes later I feel like I can eat more. I still feel like I failure when I take a bite. But the best thing for me to do is to talk about what happened, what I went through. The looks on people’s faces when I describe the pain makes me realize it wasn’t worth it, not for one second.
I’m an actual person—something I haven’t been since I was 18 years old. I wasted a good amount of my life, but it’s not too late to make up for it, which is exactly what I’ve been doing. I still struggle with my demons, but the life I’m living is a real one, a lovely one.
If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to make a change. Don’t waste another second trapped in this hell. You created it for yourself, so remember that when you wonder if it’s possible to overcome it. My inbox is always open to those who need to talk.