Anorexia Recovery: Feeling Sexy Again
There is a concept that is whispered about on ED forums and frantically inquired on by people whose weight is lower than their blood pressure number. This concept comes naturally to almost everyone on the planet, something that is as necessary and human as breathing oxygen or going to the DMV. It's something most people don't have to worry or wonder about, something that just is: sexuality.
When it comes to eating disorders, I've read almost everything there is to read on the topic. I follow the stories of other sufferers and empathize with their pain, but something that isn't typically discussed is one's sex drive. Of course, sex is stigmatized in our society and NEVER discussed in a healthy and normal way, but such a stigma does not exist in Engle's Brain! I'm here to talk about every facet of my eating disorder - not just the ones society deems acceptable to discuss. We're not hiding anymore, and time's up on everyone else covering their ears.
I began thinking about sex around the time everyone else did - in middle school/high school, when we were collectively going through puberty and wondering what the hell was going on down there. As I got older and started to have it, I never thought much about my sex drive. I'm a living organism and living organisms, for the most part, have sex.
Once I became anorexic, I stopped thinking about sex entirely. It didn't sound appealing and nothing ever turned me on. I had completely lost my drive. The skinnier I got, the worse it was. Nothing about sex sounded good - what was the point, other than to get pregnant? It just sounded like a lot of unnecessary exerted energy, and I didn't have much of that to give. Sweating? I did enough of that every morning during my three-hour (sometimes longer) gym excursions. Pleasure? Impossible. I couldn't even remember what it felt like.
It doesn't sound like such a big deal for a young woman not to have sex - maybe I just wasn't in that place in my life. Maybe I was being extra safe when it came to accidental pregnancy. Maybe I just hadn't met anyone special. But the thing is, none of those things would have mattered because I didn't even have the function to begin with. The skinnier I got, the weaker I got, the more my libido disappeared. Eventually, my vagina was unable to produce any sort of lubrication. I was so tiny, even the idea of being kissed with vigor made me cringe.
There are a few different ways an anorexic can handle this loss of sex drive: he/she can avoid sex at all costs, living an incredibly lonely life without ever experiencing "making love," one of the most important things a human can be lucky enough to find, or he/she can commit themselves to promiscuity, forcing themselves to have sex with anyone and everyone in hopes that they will finally FEEL something. Of course, it will never happen.
This didn't just happen to me - this happens to anorexics all over the world. Not all suffer from a loss of libido, but many do. It's truly something to mourn, something that affects your self-esteem and self-worth in ways you don't realize when you're going through it.
I was rarely hit on when I was skinny, but I liked it that way. I was sexualized a lot in high school, known as a slut simply because I wore short shorts and had a sociable, flirty personality. Just before I began losing weight, I had been slut-shamed so many times for reasons that didn't make sense and wouldn't have been anyone's business even if they were true. I've never understood society's obsession with putting down a woman for being a human.
This was one of the subconscious reasons I starved myself, something I didn't realize until I was recovering and in therapy. I didn't want to be regarded as a sexual being anymore. I was sick of men, sick of women, sick of everyone who thought they had a say in my life. I wanted to be a sexually-void stick.
I succeeded. When men looked at me, it wasn't to check me out. It was because my body scared them, and I loved it. I reveled in it. The few men who did ask me out anyway, I hated even more. What was mentally wrong with them that they were attracted to someone who looked 12 years old? How could they possibly see my skin and bones as something to be desired?
As much as I pushed it away, when I drew closer to recovery I realized sex was something I could never avoid. It was supposed to be a huge part of my life, as it should be for everyone. It's healthy, beautiful and a way to feel deeply connected to another person in a way you don't feel with just anyone. It's how we create mini versions of ourselves, and while that was something I convinced my anorexic self I never wanted, the fact is that nine-year-old Taylor used to dream about future baby names with her friends, and that little girl wasn't the illusion. My eating disorder was.
I wasn't getting my period and I didn't feel like a real woman, which is how I've always identified. The loss of both my menstrual cycle and my libido was a huge loss of my person. How we love is a major part of what makes us who we are, and to lose that is to lose part of your soul.
The first time I kissed someone again after I recovered, I felt my entire existence spur to life. It was life and it was love and it was real, and I couldn't believe I had gone so long without it. Tears ran down my cheeks. I cried so many times when recovering: I cried when my hair started growing again, when I got my period; I cried when I wanted to relapse, when I had to eat and just didn't want to anymore. But no tears felt as pure and surreal as the tears I cried when I connected with another human for the first time in years - the sort of connection that is never spoken, only felt.
I recovered for so many reasons, and this was one of them. I recovered because I knew that one day, I would thank myself for fighting for my own life back. When you're in the midst of it, you are completely unaware of all that your eating disorder has ripped from your hands. It takes time to process the magnitude of pain you have projected onto yourself, but as soon as you realize it, you cry tears of joy and relief for the amount of bullets you dodged just by recovering when you did. It is never to early to recover and it's never too late - it's just simply Your Time.
Once I started to get better, my period came back with a vengeance and so did my sex drive. I felt like a crazy horny teenager all over again, which was kind of ludicrous to experience at age 22, but I didn't care. I welcomed it with open arms. My biggest worry had been that it would be gone forever, but here was physical proof that it was possible to find myself again. No matter how far gone you think you are, you can and will always find your way back.