“Disordered” by Dominique Blakely
A psycho physiological disorder usually occurring in young women that is characterized by an abnormal fear of becoming obese, a distorted self-image, a persistent unwillingness to eat, and severe weight loss. Self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, malnutrition, amenorrhea, and other physiological changes often accompany it. That’s basically it. Well actually no, it isn’t. There are many contributing factors to anorexia nervosa that most overlook. I have struggled with my eating disorder for a little more than two years. I have anorexia nervosa binge purge type and severe depression. I entered a hospital in Westchester as an inpatient as a surprise. I came home from school and was taken there to be evaluated and admitted; no goodbyes, no excuses. It was a wing for those with acute disorders. I was there for a bit more than two weeks and following that I went to a day program for eating disorders for about three weeks. I am now an outpatient with two hours of therapy and one doctor and nutritionist appointment a week. I know I have a problem. I know it the way alcoholics know in their subconscious that they have a problem. We know, but we don’t believe it’s out of control. The irony of having an eating disorder is that you know, by definition that your eating disorder cannot get out of control because it is control.
My view of myself is extremely disordered. Ever since before I was in 3rd grade I thought I was “fat.” I hit puberty earlier than everyone and I got my period at 10 years old. I don’t remember having a time when I was prepubescent and unconcerned with my shape, weight, or body. When my mom told me to eat healthier a couple years ago all the time I would break down into tears thinking she was calling me fat. I look at pictures of myself and realize that I wasn’t fat after all. I still a bit out of place around my girlfriends. I feel excluded even though I know I am not. I am aware that the way I look at myself is disordered. I wear a size zero to two but I still cannot see me. People always tell me I am beautiful but no matter how many times I hear it, I don’t believe it. I hope for a day in the future when I can look at myself in the mirror and see what I truly look like, not what my eating disorder manipulates my eyes to see.
My life at home has been a struggle. My mother is extremely repressed and shuts all her feelings inside, thinking she can deal with them alone. I followed her example. My father is severely depressed and has suffered with alcoholism and smoked marijuana. He was abusive towards my family and me. I have two younger siblings and I always have felt pressured to do everything perfectly. People felt everything was easy for me. I felt I had to live up to others expectations. There are many issues such that can lead to eating disorders. For example a family that pressures a child to get good grades, a child who is prone to excessive self-pressure, and a child who shows above average intelligence and academic ability. I am a perfectionist. I am extremely competitive, highly self-critical, and driven.
My eating disorder was a way of coping with something. Something deep inside of me that tore me apart and that I couldn’t control. The truth is I need to find out what has been torturing me inside and destroy it rather than repress my feelings and erase them from my mind for the moment, only to later have it build up and become so powerful that I don’t understand it nor can I control it. I cannot identify my own feelings. I have repressed my emotions and used unhealthy coping mechanisms for so long that now I cannot even distinguish anger from sadness. My emotion had a great snowball effect, getting bigger and stronger as I rolled downhill. I dealt with all my feelings the same way for so long that they are considered the same to me. Once this skill was taken from me, anorexia hit the gas petal and I was hit by the car at full speed, maiming my body and damaging my mind.
Another aspect of my disease is hunger. Not hunger for food but hunger for something, anything to fill the emptiness in myself. I often found myself with a pain in my chest yearning for someone or something to make me feel whole. I turned to anorexia and tried to fight off my yearning. I fought against what I needed to survive, food. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need anyone and that I was independent. Sometimes this feeling of emptiness led me to believe that I wasn’t really there. I had to test people to see if they would notice me; for me to see if I existed or if I had wasted away. I didn’t feel whole. I wanted to prove that I was in control. I know now that I was not. There were times when I just sat down in the bath with my arms wrapped around myself to assure myself that I was there. Any presence of emotion would have been adequate to my needs, even unpleasant emotions such as pain from cutting and starving. The pain felt so good because I could feel.
People say, “I wish I could be anorexic for a week,” because they want to lose a couple pounds. If you ever thought that, forget it. It is not possible. It is an addiction just like drugs or alcohol, and just as, if not more damaging to your body. You cannot control it. People should not have to live like this and I know that. I know from experience, you see the results and you want more. We as humans are never completely satisfied. We get one thing and want another. It is human nature so naturally after losing one pound; I wanted to lose another, and another. I was living on such a high from losing weight and not having that full feeling. I liked to have my stomach empty. If it was empty, concave, and my ribs and pelvis bones stuck out, I felt accomplished and powerful. It was and still is sickening.
Those that are uneducated about eating disorders anger me. They make comments that are shallow and flat out wrong. For example in a school health class discussion of anorexia and bulimia one girl said, “Well I think every girl has an eating disorder to some extent because we all care what our bodies look like and everything.” An eating disorder is not just about looks. It is based on another problem or struggle that the person copes with by transferring their worries to their body. People tend to think we are superficial and shallow because we seem to only care about how we look. They ask questions like, “Why can’t you just eat?” Anorexics aren’t scared of food. They seem to have a strong fear of gaining weight but in reality they are scared of something else and transfer that fear to food.
I want to educate people. Ignorance kills me. It horrifies me that schools do not even educate students properly about this illness. Some teachers don’t even seem to take it seriously. Most people do not realize how common it is. Did you that one out of every four college aged women is eating disordered? That’s what I thought. Most think that there are only two types of eating disorders. There are more such as anorexia nervosa restricting type, anorexia nervosa binge purge type, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Do teachers tell their students that? The answer is no.
I just wish that I had known I was going to live with this for the rest of my life. What I was getting into. It probably wouldn’t have stopped me because I was too damn stubborn to see I was slowly killing myself. There are so many things going on at once. In reality an eating disorder is full of contradictions so if you find that some things I say are contradicting, deal with it. I hope you understand this.
Anorexia is strong but so am I and I am willing to fight for my health. I look forward to the day when I can eat ice cream or a Snickers without throwing it up or when I can enjoy a slice of pizza with my friends, instead of sitting and watching them eat making up excuses. I have found many cues or triggers that caused my disordered behavior such as separation anxiety, people making cruel remarks, and people focusing on me. I tried to be more invisible. I have come a long way and I am proud of myself. I know it takes courage and strength to take something this controlling and powerful head on. I want to see myself through someone else’s eyes; someone who isn’t disordered and really sees me. It will take me my entire life and though I may get those feelings of hopelessness and lose faith in myself, with the support of my friends and family, I know I can do it. I’m scared but I have always been a brave girl.