**Trigger Warning** I talk about eating disorder thoughts and behaviors in this post.

One of the most dangerous misconceptions about eating disorders is that you can tell someone is sick just by looking at them. People expect someone suffering from a devastating eating disorder to be emaciated and dangerously thin. And sometimes they are.

But most times they’re not.

I took the picture above on February 15, 2015. I wish I had a picture of my entire body from that day but my eating disorder and intense self-loathing made it difficult for me to get in pictures back then.

While I don’t remember much about this day, I do remember liking this photo. The angle, the lighting.  I thought, “I look like I have it all together. I look happy, healthy, and confident.” What I really meant was, “Sweet! I made myself look thin in this picture.”

Four days later I wrote:

February 19, 2015.

I am so unhappy I can hardly stand it.   I don’t feel great and didn’t feel up to doing Gold’s Fit today.  I have no idea why this happens to me sometimes.  I just feel so upset and unhappy and I can’t seem to get it right.  I want to stuff myself and get drunk on food.  That is the only thing that seems to snap me out of it.  Not even my adorable boys can snap me out of my funk.  I love them so much and just feel like such a horrible mom when this happens. 

 I know that after I purge and get drunk on food I will feel numb and then the guilt will set in.  “Why do  sabotage myself yet again?”  I do this.  As  soon as I start getting under control,  my depression and anxiety come back and I feel like a crazy person and sabotage myself and all of my efforts.  I want to be better than this.  I so so so very much want to be better than this.  (This computer is driving me nuts because it keeps moving the cursor as type.)  I just want to feel even and level.  I feel like if I could just stay on an even keel I could be a better person.  The person I was always meant to be. 

Maybe I should take that writing class, maybe that will get me on track.   I think it may start this week.  That is a plan. I’m not sure how much it will help but it may help a bit.  Maybe writing will help me sort out my feelings and help me get through these episodes.  I just want to feel okay and be a better, more present mom for my boys.   

Okay I think I may be onto something because I am starting to feel a little better.  It almost feels like I loosened the valve on my feelings.   The pressure of all the uncomfortable feelings built up so much that I felt like I was going to explode.  It physically makes me very uncomfortable so I tend to turn to food to help change the way I feel physically.  This morning I tried to work out but that didn’t help either.  I felt nauseous and light-headed.  Writing was my last resort and it looks like it was the one I should have turned to in the first place. 

It isn’t surprising.  I think I have always known the key to my mental happiness is through writing.  Instead of binging and purging on food.  It is time to start purging all of those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings onto a piece of paper.  I just want to live my life.  I want to provide a life of fun and adventure for my boys but I am often paralyzed by my own fears, insecurity and, let’s face it, uncomfortable feelings.  I just don’t have healthy coping strategies in place. 

It took everything in me not to edit the crap out this journal entry. I’m posting it because I want people to see that you can’t always tell someone is sick by looking at them.

My smile and non-emaciated body masked a devastating truth: I was suffering.

February 19 wasn’t my worst day. Nor was it the day I committed to recovery. At my lowest, my darkest, I couldn’t write. I could barely move. Depression and anxiety are crippling on their own, add in a merciless eating disorder and the unforgiving darkness of self-loathing can become unbearable.

Eating disorders are incredibly hard to see. Which makes it easy to hide and pretend that everything is fine when it suits our illness.

Eating disorders affect people of all shapes and sizes, race, ethnicity, age and sex. They are devastating and complex mental and physical illnesses that must be treated by a professional (preferably someone who specializes in eating disorders).

April 5, 2015

This is me on April 5, 2015, about a month into recovery (I hit rock bottom in mid-march). My family knew I was working through eating disorder recovery and supported me. Being seen, loved and accepted for who I was (i.e. someone struggling with an eating disorder) made me feel safe. So even though I was nervous and self-conscious about my appearance, I got in the picture.

It is so important to look beyond the physical and pay attention to behavioral or emotional symptoms of suffering. Here are a some possible signs and symptoms of an eating disorder*:

How often do they talk about food (calories) and dieting? Do they bring them up at seemingly random times (when not eating)? How often do they talk about their body and/weight?

When I had an eating disorder I thought about food and dieting almost constantly. Which meant I was often distracted and forgetful. If I wasn’t thinking about food or dieting, I was thinking about my body. How it looked, how I wanted it to look, how my body was too big, too ugly, too…bad. I thought, “If I could only lose INSERT NUMBER my life would magically fall into place.”

How do they talk about themselves? Do they put themselves down a lot? Do they often seek reassurance from others that they look or act okay? Do they often compare themselves to others (and find themselves lacking)?

My eating disorder, compounded by my intense self-loathing, made it very difficult to ever think positively about myself. I put myself down a lot and could not accept a compliment. Anytime someone said something nice about me, I found a way to minimize or dismiss it entirely and put myself down.

Do they ever talk about feeling out of control around food or being afraid to eat certain foods? After they eat, do they berate themselves for what they ate? Do they often become moody and irritable after eating?

I often felt out of control around food. Not all food. Certain foods were trigger foods, meaning if I started eating it could lead to a binge. I would feel so much shame after binging that I would belittle and demean myself. Sometimes I would vent my frustrations of my “lack of control” out loud but I mostly keep them inside. Those negative feelings often manifested as moodiness and/or irritability.

Do they seem more moody and withdrawn than normal? Are they becoming less and less social? 

After a binge or purge all I wanted to do was hide. Go to bed and forget the rest of the day. I said no to most social invitations because I often felt ashamed of my body and what I’d eaten that day. If I’d eaten something “bad” or too much of something “good” I felt intense shame and guilt and didn’t want to leave the house.

*Just because you or a loved does one or some of these things doesn’t mean he or she has an eating disorder but these are some red flags to look out for.

November 2016

Here is a picture of me in November 2016, fully Recovered. Aside from make-up, a professional photographer and a different camera angle, I look a lot like I did back in February and April 2015. While I may look similar, the way I look at myself is completely different.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is suffering. Reach out. Treatment is available and a full and complete recovery from an eating disorder is possible.

If you would like more information or have questions, please check out my Helpful Resources page or email me at roadtorecovered2015@gmail.com.

 

1 Comment

  1. I have sooooo much to say about this, but I will surely get severely attacked.

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