So You Feel Like Relapsing Into Your ED
I hate hijacking my own fashion blog (say a prayer to Anna Wintour) to talk about eating disorders, but it’s something that’s had a huge effect on my life and I can’t live with myself if someone else is suffering and I could have helped but didn’t. This post is for anyone who’s considering ED recovery/already in recovery and ready to give up. I can’t tell you how many times I considered relapse during recovery.
Sadly, relapse is incredibly common for people with EDs. I have talked to dozens of people who suffer/have suffered and it’s a lifestyle. It’s 20, 30, even 40 years of going up and down in weight, recovering for a few years and then relapsing.
I could be delightfully cliché and say things like “Keep fighting” and “It gets better” and “Your best day in recovery is better than your worst day sick” or (my personal favorite) “Trust the process, it’s different for everyone!”
Shut the fuck up.
Let’s be honest: If you’re someone with an eating disorder and you decide to recover, only about 10% of you makes that choice. The other 90% is still begging you to be thinner.
I have been in recovery for a little over 8 months and I refuse to sugarcoat what I’ve been through: It has been the HARDEST 8 months of my life. However, I’m finally in a great place. I finally feel like Taylor again—the Taylor that I’ve known since March 17, 1995. For those who know me closely, you know I’m not really the type of person to change. Anorexia (and the entire personality that came along with the misery) aside, I haven’t changed much in my 22 years. I’ve been writing stories and sketching fashion designs for as long as I can remember. The walls of my childhood were covered with magazine covers and quotes from my favorite authors. I’ve always liked to make people laugh, I’ve always been honest. I’ve always danced. I’ve always loved myself—it’s who I am. To lose that for three years is tremendously sad.
Don’t get me wrong, anorexia was hell. Being underweight, constantly bloated, constantly weak and dizzy, and looking in the mirror and seeing nothing but flaws is terrible. But to not be Taylor anymore was the biggest loss for me. I looked in the mirror and didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t have any fun, I didn’t enjoy life. Again, anyone who’s known me for years knows that isn’t me at all.
So yeah, recovery is a complete bitch, but it DOES get better and I AM feeling more like myself than I have since I was 15 and too hot for my leggings. But I’ve deviated a bit from the point of this post. While I’ve been recovering, I have spent countless hours researching what to expect. Someone who has no experience with eating disorders can’t fathom how hard it is to recover. “It can’t be so bad, all you have to do is eat!”
Again, shut the fuck up.
For the men/women out there who believe they can change their lives, you can, but it’s terrifying. The difficulty of recovery is the reason so many people relapse, so I’m going to discuss all of my symptoms and how they’ve changed/disappeared/improved over the past 8 months. Every article I read was extremely vague about symptoms and timelines, which is understandable as it is dependent on the individual, the starting weight, the need to gain or lose, the genetic makeup, the possibility of permanent damage, etc. However, I believe that if at least a few recovered/recovering people talked more openly about their symptoms, maybe it can be less terrifying and maybe less people will relapse.
Wild changes in heart rate. This was one of the first symptoms I experienced and it’s something that still occurs to this day (SO DON’T STARVE YOURSELF LOL). From research/talking to a doctor, I learned this happens because your body is confused that you’re giving it food again and the blood sugar levels are all over the place (obviously this doesn’t read very medically sound so please do your own research if you have this, it’s scary). There was one time it was so bad I actually thought I was going to die that night. My friend drove me to a park to get my mind off my heart rate and I had to sit down on the grass and try not to think about the fact that I was almost certainly going to die. This occurred maybe 5-8 times a day, every single day for about a month or two. Now it only happens if I go a long time without eating, which is incentive to never go a long time without eating.
Extreme hunger. The hardest part of my recovery has been coming to terms with the fact that some people need more food than others, and I am one of those people. I’ve always been in sports or dance, which means I’ve always had a huge appetite. I have almost always eaten more than people around me, even guys, but I’ve never been overweight. I can just put away a lot of food. My ED loves to tell me I can’t, but I definitely can, and in order to be healthy, I have finally accepted it. Many people get extreme hunger at first and then it evens out. I can still eat more than you. I don’t care who you are—I can. And that’s okay.
Thicker hair and stronger nails. Not much more to say about that, except recovery isn’t all bad.
PREGNANT STOMACH. Okay, THE WORST. I cannot tell you how many people asked me if I was pregnant this summer. I really can’t count them all. This was really awful to experience. Imagine trying to recover from an illness where you believe you’re huge and the ONLY cure is to gain weight. “Are you pregnant?” No, but I sort of want to stab you.
Inability to digest certain foods. When you’ve deprived yourself of things like bread, sweets, sugar, salt, etc. for so many years, your body goes into shock. Remember the first day I posted about my anorexia? That night, I went to bed at 6 p.m. because I was in so much pain from eating a fucking tablespoon of mashed potatoes. You can ask my dad because he was next to me on the couch. The only thing that got me through that night was the beautiful, uplifting comments and a determination to be better.
Anxiety. All revolving around eating. I’ve had to smoke weed before countless meals to even be able to bring myself to pick up the fork without crying/hyperventilating.
Constant exhaustion. I mean like, practically falling asleep at the wheel.
Depression. What did I do to myself?
Loss of “identity,” which is really your ED identity and the best thing you can lose.
None of your clothes fit. And you turn into that girl with the big boobs (well, big for you because they’ve been literally nonexistent for three years) who doesn’t wear a bra because you can’t afford one that fits because you’ve had to buy new pants, shorts, skirts, shirts, underwear, jackets, shoes (yes, if you’re tiny enough, even your feet grow back) and you figure if you only have a certain amount of spending money and it’s between literally just covering your body with any fabric that fits and supporting your boobs, you’re going with the clothes.
You hate everything because you have to wear the same thing constantly. It takes a long time to build up a new wardrobe. When fashion is life, this is especially sad.
Randomly feeling like you’re going to die. This is dramatic, but there are times in recovery (even now, although it is very rare) where I just feel…horrible. Fogginess, forgetfulness, weakness, exhaustion, etc.
How I Feel Now:
Recovery has been somewhat slow for me because I am stubborn and I continued to restrict slightly (not enough to halt my weight gain but enough to stall the recovery process a bit) for quite a few months. However, for the past month or so, I can honestly say I have not been restricting. I’ve somehow been able to let go of that ED voice. I don’t know if the voice is going to come back, but this is the longest it’s been gone and I am not complaining.
For all the symptoms I listed above, the ONLY thing that has helped cure/ease them at all: eating. That’s it.
Believe it or not, I’ve been eating completely intuitively and regularly with NO disordered thoughts or subconscious habits for about two weeks now and I have actually slimmed down. This is because my metabolism is working properly again, my weight is distributing, and the bloating is going down a lot.
I’ve gained so much muscle and energy, my heart rate is practically normalized, I’m nowhere near under/overweight, and I feel like myself.
I can’t really share numbers because I’m not weighing myself and I’m no longer counting calories. I am eating intuitively and healthily and I’m working out 5 days a week for about an hour a day.
Sorry for the length of this post, but I wish something a little more extensive had been out there when I started recovering. At the very least, I can be that person for someone else.
That being said, I might be missing a symptom or two here that I may have forgotten about, or maybe I STILL didn’t go into enough detail for you. If that is the case, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me for more. I do NOT mind sharing every single detail of my anorexia and/or my recovery. It’s hard to talk about at times, but I am really dedicated to helping others get through it because I have had so many beautiful people touch my lives throughout the process, and it makes it so much more bearable.
KEEP FIGHTING. DO NOT FUCKING LOOK BACK.