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There Are No More 'Good' and 'Bad' Days in My Eating Disorder Recovery

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Holden smiled at me when I got to the dining hall and hovered slightly behind while I selected nourishment. I’d appreciated he was so quick to answer my text about needing an eating buddy, but desired some alone time while picking the tools of my soon-to-be surrender. It was going to be a bad day. I was operating in a haze and when it became 11 a.m., my only concern was how many calories I could burn by pacing in my room. I knew texting Holden was my only option. We sat down and I carefully peeled open my yogurt, hoping it would render me hungry and I’d snap out of it. This didn’t happen, as each spoonful burned my throat on the way down and my stomach retched in shame because I just couldn’t give myself what I was needed to live: food. Holden asked no questions and I gave no answers, we ate in silence. The kindness I felt from him grounded me to the task at hand, but the funeral march continued in my head. One more bite, one more bite.

Recently a good friend remarked she was afraid of how easy it was to have an eating disorder in college and even more startled at the rate one might reemerge. Like it ever went away in the first place. Stuck between the good days and the bad days, the languishing effect of always feeling like “too much.” Do I take up too much room? Do they want me to take up less room? The start of college saw good days that slowly crawled out of what I thought was an impossibility of delight. We collaborated to vanquish the bad days into brief periods where leaving bed felt like giving up and my surroundings taunted me. Too fat, too much food, too much space. Though, I was feeling better than I had in years, this was frustrating. It felt like enough to completely heal, but wasn’t. Like all the time I had been screaming into the void had culminated in the void sending a microphone back and asking me to speak up.

In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you when I started existing between spaces of disordered eating. It happened years ago, in patterns of self demise — planned and unplanned — all with the goal of disappearing. Do I take up too much room? It worked, soon my jeans fit loosely around my hips, like I’d always wanted and people started to treat me differently. Heralding my terrorized accomplishment as someone who appeared to have beat laziness and actually “put the fork down.” I was the high school heroine, who finally shed the weight and now the rest of my life awaited me. How could I not love what disordered eating had done to me when they believed I was succeeding?

Things are not as hard for me now and the more I talk about my relationship with food, the easier moving on has become. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who do nothing but love and support me, along with the most wonderful parents. After some visits to the therapist, I’ve learned other ways to manage hurt and tie these emotions to the intangible instead of food. Now, whenever I am caught in thinking about my old ways, I see the love I am surrounded by and though it’s not enough to exist on love alone, it makes trusting in tomorrow and my ability to carry on worth it. After Holden said goodbye to me that day, he texted periodically to check in, ending with one final message before dinner. “Please eat Cozy, you deserve it.”

My life is no longer categorizable into dark and light as both have taken up residency in my being, for the better. With this came the confidence of recovery and the purpose of the nothingness that ignited the question of what else I would experience and carry with me. There are no more good days and bad days, with both having merged into a steady pace of existence. You deserve life Cozy, in all its complexities and emotions. Only lately have I realized this means living with an eating disorder. That’s OK, because I can conquer it and that battle is not something anyone should face alone. We can do anything and I am alive.

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This post originally appeared on The Forum.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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When Your Childhood Memories Are in a Pile of Doctor’s Notes

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As a child, I used to cut my own hair.

If you look at the photographs taken on my very first flip phone — amongst the chunks of too big pixels — you’ll see I embraced all the great beauty trends of the 2000s.

Chalky, sky blue eyeshadow, concealer-smothered lips and a thin sprinkling of eyebrows like little bird’s feet hopping above my eyes. I had glittery butterfly clips in my hair. Pink, green and orange. The kind you couldn’t lie down on because their wings would always snap and break. At bedtime, I would take off my makeup with cucumber cleanser pressed onto a cotton ball. It smelled like a medicine cupboard but made me feel like I was a real grown-up adult doing real grown-up adult things.

If you look at the photographs, you would think I looked like a normal girl. I did the things all other girls did. I went to school like them. I took exams like them. I wore the same hideous sky blue eyeshadow. I was “normal” for a while, I think.

I don’t know why it changed.

When I was a 12-year-old girl — with a Polly Pocket tucked neatly beneath my neckline — I started to meet people with jobs I couldn’t spell. My blue eyeshadow wore off, my pale lips were nibbled pink and I couldn’t grow out of my old clothes. I bit my fingers until they bled and stopped wearing light colors so that the stains wouldn’t show through. My eyes stopped wrinkling with laughter and started to fill with warm tears.

I stopped using my cucumber cleanser.

Instead of playing with my friends and making up games, I met with psychiatrists and was told exactly how to think. I didn’t go to birthday parties and blow out candles. Instead I met with dietitians in my bedroom and was told if I didn’t eat I would be admitted to the hospital. Instead of sucking sticky lollipops and blowing bubbles in wads of chewed-up gum, I had little pills popped under my tongue and viscous liquids prickling through my veins.

At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

Over the years, I have tried to erase my childhood from my memories. Instead of memories, I have a pile of doctor’s notes to fill in the empty years. I didn’t scribble them into a “top-secret” Groovy Chick diary with scented gel pens at 9 p.m. under the covers. Instead my childhood is dictated back to me by someone I don’t know. Someone I don’t remember anything about. I don’t even know her name.

But the notes do.

It was Kate.

And Kate knew me. “Her height was 156 cm,” but I don’t remember her ever looking at me. “It’s clear Lucy has not yet started her periods.” I don’t remember her face. “Lucy was unable to describe her difficulties articulately as she was tearful at the beginning of the session and hid her face throughout,” so it’s not surprising I can’t even place the room, the colors or town I was in. I remember struggling to swallow. “Lucy denied feeling concerned regarding her weight” and I remember the thick milkshakes they sent me home with that felt like sand in my mouth

Even though I can see the words on the pages and see my name repeated 34 times, it still feels like someone else’s story.

Sometimes I wish it was someone else’s story.

Kate wasn’t a friend. She was a stranger. She was employed to find the holes in my head and fill them up with therapy. She was brought in to “mend” me, like I was a torn pair of jeans that needed a new patch and some stitching. She was my clinical psychologist.

I don’t remember much, but I know at the time I absolutely hated her.

I hated her for exposing me. I didn’t want to tell her anything. I thought by talking about my fears and her writing them down on her glossy notepad every single one would come true. She didn’t understand what was happening inside my mind. She couldn’t. No one did. It was mine and I wanted to keep it that way, even though I think I knew deep down each thought was quietly killing me.

I know the 12-year-old Lucy thought her obsessive thoughts controlled what happened in the world. That if she didn’t check something, something bad would happen. If she didn’t touch something in a particular way, something bad would happen. That she couldn’t let anyone else know what she was thinking, because something bad would happen.

I didn’t realize it at the time. But by doing everything I thought protected me, something bad was already happening. Except it wasn’t to the world. It was to me.

I was literally destroying myself.

A lot has happened between then and now.

I’m no longer the little girl with the blue eyeshadow, bitten fingers and fears in my mind that make me sick the moment an idea floods my mind. I have some parts of my life under control and some parts I’m still working on. I still have panic attacks. They are something I can’t fix, medication can’t fix and doctors can’t stop. I have accepted them as a part of me. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about them. I’m not embarrassed for myself anymore.

I still cut my hair myself. I still wear blue eyeshadow, but have learned concealer doesn’t belong on my lips. I threw away the cucumber cleanser that smells like medicine. I don’t hide anymore. I let people know how I feel, what’s going on inside and that I’m not afraid to talk about the irrational fears I still get from time to time.

I know nothing bad will happen if I talk.

I will never be free from fear or worry, but I can stop my thoughts from controlling me. I respect Kate for what she did, for what she maybe still does. She broke me, but helped to rebuild me too. I spoke to her about my obsessive thoughts for the first time and without this, I don’t think I would have made it this far.

We are all still learning, still growing, still adjusting to the world we live in. Our thoughts will ebb and flow. They can panic us and make us scared, but we can talk about them and rationalize every single one. None of these thoughts are worth losing years of my life. I wish I could tell the 12-year-old me that my worrying was absolutely superfluous. I wish I could tell myself  I wasn’t crazy. I wish I could have told myself I would get better.

Most of all, I wish I could live those childhood years again without fear.

I know thoughts can seem as real as anything, as natural as a heartbeat. But they aren’t. We can’t let obsessive thoughts win. We can’t let them take months, days or even minutes of our lives away. Time is precious. Too precious to spend it worrying about things that aren’t real.

Talk. Stop being afraid. It’s OK to ask for help.

Someone will always be ready to listen as soon as you are ready to speak.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Please Don't Mistake My Eating Disorder for Not Wanting Help

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This time, my eating disorder relapse was worse than last time. This time my eating disorder is competing with itself.

I’m in my therapist’s office and she’s telling me if I continue down the road I’m going I will land myself in residential again. I know she’s serious but I can’t help but nervously laugh because this is what I do when I’m uncomfortable. I don’t want to go back to residential but the thought of eating “normally” also scares me.

I want to get better, I truly do, but it’s hard because my eating disorder has taken complete hold of me. It’s like I want to get better and be able to eat the foods I did when I was in recovery, but I can’t. My brain is screaming at every inch of me if I do eat or do whatever I want instead of what ED wants then I’m in trouble. This means exercising or feeling miserable or crying over the fact I tried to eat a regular meal.

I can’t do this alone, I need your help, but please don’t mistake my eating disorder for not wanting help. I may get mad at you for noticing or even asking if I ate but that’s not me, that’s my eating disorder. There’s still a part of me somewhere that wants to recover so badly I need you to stay and ask me those tough questions. I need you to ask the questions I’m too scared to say aloud. Those answers are the ones that tell the truth the most. I will probably cry and yell and get so angry at you, but I know you care and I’m happy you are asking. At the moment it probably won’t seem like I care, but later in my recovery I will be so happy you asked.

Please don’t push away from me like I’m doing to you. My recovery means my life, no matter what size or how I seem like I’m doing, please care enough to ask. Looks can be deceiving just like my eating disorder. I wish I had someone to ask me sooner how I was. It could have helped prevent the relapse I’m in now. I’m getting help for it now but I could have struggled with it less. Just know I love you and I know you care and you worry. I am grateful for you and what you’ve been through with my eating disorder. I know it can’t be easy and I love you. Because of my friends and family I will survive.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Why I'm Petitioning Khloe Kardashian’s Latest Show as Someone With an Eating Disorder

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I believe Khloe Kardashian’s newest venture, a TV show called “Revenge Body,” is the most potentially damaging move of hers. Everyone has seen weight loss shows like “The Biggest Loser,” but in my opinion, this show sends the worst message about weight/body image.

For those who don’t know, the premise of the show is your typical makeover style show. Person comes in, talks about how this person or that person did them wrong and how now they are out to create a new version of themselves.

Fine. I’m all for that. If you feel the need to recreate yourself after losing your job or a bad breakup, that can be a fine way to clean the slate and move forward. But Khloe recommends the best way to move on is to lose loads of weight and then show their “revenge body” off to the people who did them wrong.

The first two contestants are Will and Stephanie. Will’s boyfriend broke up with him because of recent weight gain and Stephanie’s friends have designated her as the “DUFF” or the “designated ugly fat friend.” Just reading that, I think it’s safe to say that what both Will and Stephanie are in need of some different people in their lives, not weight loss. By Khloe creating this show, she is sending the message to millions of people watching that the way to deal with a difficult life situation is losing weight.

Nope.

That’s the kind of mindset that can develop into an eating disorder. Losing weight can get highly addictive and does not at all point at the root of the problem in Stephanie and Will’s life. At the end of the episode, the idea is that they stand up for themselves in their “new and improved” body because for some reason, losing weight means they are suddenly capable of having the power to vocalize how awful their friends/significant other made them feel. News flash: You always had the power to stand up for yourself because you’re a person, not because you’re thin. The more episodes of this show run, the more people will think they should deal with their problems by losing weight. This cannot happen. In the United States, 20 million woman and 10 million men struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life, and nobody needs Khloe Kardashian perpetuating this unhealthy mindset.

Please help get the attention of E! by signing this petition.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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17 People Describe What It's Like to Have an Eating Disorder

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Unfortunately because of diet culture and bogus beauty standards, many people know what it’s like to look in the mirror and not like what they see. More than half of Americans say they want to lose weight. And while this disordered relationship with our food and self-image does affect people greatly, unless you have an eating disorder, it’s hard to imagine what it’s really like. Because an eating disorder is not solely about food or a pursuit to “look beautiful.” For those who have the mental illness, it can be so much more than that.

To find out what it’s really like to have an eating disorder, we teamed up with the National Eating Disorder Association and asked people to describe their experiences and hopefully spread a greater understanding of EDs.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “It’s like being in an abusive relationship where one minute it’s spewing hateful thoughts about you and the next it’s apologetically promising that if you listen to what it says you will achieve happiness.” — Bethany R.

2. “Like fighting in an invisible argument every single second of every single day. Like having a little bully sitting on your shoulder all day, every day, criticizing every single thing you say, do, eat and think.” — Emily A.

3. “Living with an eating disorder feels like you’re constantly at war. Like your best friend who has helped you cope in the past is trying to kill you. Living with an eating disorder is not really living. It is like trying to take a breath in a smog-filled room, each breath feels like it is killing you.” — Denise J.

4. “Imagine someone living in your house who doesn’t have permission to be there and won’t leave. They sounded kind of helpful at first, but eventually started taking over. They tell you what you’re doing tonight, they tell you if you’re pretty enough to wear that dress or go out on that date, they take your debit card and shop for dinner and you don’t like what you’re now having. Imagine you try to get that person to leave and they bunker down. You, your family, your doctors tell them to leave and they don’t. They control you more. Those things you could do with their permission stop — you do nothing now. You’re alone with them. Eventually, they threaten you and brainwash you, and by the time you’re done, they have you convinced you can’t live without them. You defend them to your friends and family. You pick them over other real people. At some point, you have a brief moment of clarity and you let someone begin the long process of eviction. You learn to disagree with and disobey that person living in your house. You force them into a closet or a basement, and even though you hear them screaming, you can walk out your door for a while. Eventually, you realize they have gone, but the damage they left doesn’t disappear. You clean up what you can and cover up with paint and plaster. You move on and try to forget about that person who lived in your home, but they invade most of your memories, because they were so present for those important moments. You make new memories and you meet new people, but every time you hear a bump in the night, you secretly wonder if they’ve finally come back.” — Kaitlin H.

5. “It’s like when you’re watching a scary movie and that girl decides to go into the dark spooky room alone and it’s making you angry just watching it happen… ‘Stop! Don’t go in there! Why is she going in there?’…Except you are the girl and you’re watching yourself, but you still don’t feel like there is anything you can do about it.” — Amanda A.

6. “There is a voice in the back of my head every day. Some days, this voice is louder than others. It tells me everything around me is falling apart and I am not worth it, but if I can control what I put in my mouth, everything will be easier. It tells me what to see when I look in the mirror. And even though I know the voice is a lie, I still wonder, ‘Is it?’ It is exhausting, it is an uphill battle, but there is still hope I cling on to when I take three steps forward and one step back.” — Catherine Z.

7. “An eating disorder is being trapped in a room with an angry tiger. Recovery is learning how to lock the tiger in a cage, then taking him out three to five times a day, walking him around the block, and locking him up again.” — Jen R.

8. “My eating disorder was like a faulty parachute. I would strap it on for safety, trust it and I would jump from the plane… a brief moment of bliss would be followed by a crash landing and feelings of shame, regret and remorse. I would stand up, brush myself off, put on a smile, say ‘I am fine!’ and strap on the parachute again. I thought is was my safety.” — Brooke H.

9. “It is your secret shame and your greatest accomplishment all in one. It is like Stockholm syndrome where you have fallen irrevocably in love with the terrorist holding you prisoner — the need to please them outweighs all common sense.” — Tami B.

10. “Living with an eating disorder is like constantly walking around with a cement bag on your shoulders. Feeling constant anxiety to try to hide the shameful weight on your shoulders. Feeling like a failure because you can not seem to do a simple act of feeding yourself. Constantly disappointing family and friends around you (as well as yourself) because going to gatherings or spending time with people always involves food. The feeling of being trapped with a plate of food and people commenting on what is on your plate or how much you did or did not eat is not enjoyable and causes more anxiety than anything. Lying to avoid conversations or being attacked brings on a huge amount of guilt as dishonesty is not a quality we wish to practice.” — Suz E.

11. “I always explain it by saying it’s like when you write a word down, but the spelling looks wrong… but it’s not. That’s what happens to me when I look at myself or think about myself. I know it is perfect the way it is, but I hate it and want to change it and it won’t stop bothering me until I relapse and restrict or start purging again.” — Dani V.

12. “It’s watching life go by without participating in it because of the constant tug of war you are having with your thoughts.” — Joseph L.

13. “It’s like living with a drill sergeant in your head. Even after you get to a place where it’s under control, what you have being through will always be in your head, even if it’s far back.” — Madison K.

14. “It’s unrequited love. You become obsessed with this idea, this future, this picture in your head of your perfect life, and then you realize that person doesn’t love you back. You want to forget and move on, but every day you wake up and think ‘maybe today will be different, maybe today they will love me, this will be worth it.’ Your thoughts always come back them, no matter how hard you try to fight it, and it’s exhausting, embarrassing, overwhelming. You don’t want to talk to anyone about it and instead plot ways to make them love you, knowing it is terrible for you. You live inside your head, in this fantasy world, trying to forget that everything makes you think of them.” — Samantha D.

15. “It’s like you’ve been swimming and swimming for hours and every time you think you’re about to find the shore, it moves further away. You’re constantly exhausted and struggling for air. It doesn’t end, you’re drowning and until you decide to stop reaching for that impossible goal weight and start eating. It’s hell.” — Sara P.

16. “Having an eating disorder is like seeing a chair in front of you that is painted red. You know it’s painted red. All the people you love stand beside you and insist the chair is green. Your life depends on realizing it’s green, but you never see it. Eventually you may learn to trust your loved ones. The chair must be green. They love you and wouldn’t lie to you… right? But still, no matter how long you stare at it, the chair is clearly red. So your survival depends on trusting their judgment above your own in this particular case. And that is hard. As. Hell.” — Sarah G.

17. “Your body is a ship. Your mind is the captain. The captain plans a voyage to circumnavigate the world. He packs up the ship with only a few gallons of water, a little bit of food, about half a tank of fuel and no form of communication. This captain will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal of sailing around the entire world. He’d rather see his own ship disintegrate and sink to the bottom of the ocean than to stop the mission and take on more supplies or ask more experienced navigators to help him and his crew. Because to this captain, asking for help or refueling is weakness. Miraculously, the captain makes it around the world, but all that is left of his ship are a few planks of wood and a paddle he had to use to make it the last few miles. Surprisingly, the captain isn’t even happy he accomplished his mission. In fact, he thinks he made his initial goal too easy. He makes a new goal to sail back around the world, but this time with half as many supplies as he started with the last time.” — Bobby K.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.



17 People Describe What It's Like to Have an Eating Disorder
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When Your Eating Disorder Tells You It's Trying to Help You

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Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

You deserve this, can’t you see it? Look in the mirror, are you blind? Gross.

Why did she keep repeating these things to herself? Why didn’t she understand it never would get better if she kept thinking like this? Everyone has the right to live. Right?

Don’t you get it? If you don’t do something about yourself, no one will ever like you. Do you think you’re good enough? Didn’t think so. I think you understand why you have to do this. It will get better once you’ve reached your goal, everything will be perfect then. Forget about everything else, all your focus on this. ALL your focus.

If she worked day and night to reach her goal, it would get better. If she failed one day, she would be even more worthless. A punishment maybe, a little less food?

Yes, you will be just fine with less food. I promise you. So you’re saying you’re hungry? Ha ha! Go to the mirror and take a look at yourself. Still hungry?

The eating disorder just wanted to help her feel better. Because everything will get better soon, right? Later, when she wasn’t gross. Later, when she was pretty. Later, when she felt like she could live with herself. Because in this moment, it didn’t matter. What did she have to lose? Nothing. Because she was useless. Useless.

No one else understands like I do. Don’t listen to anyone.

Look! everyone is staring at you. Exactly, you know why. Yes, I promise it will get better soon.

Are you faintingDo you feel like your heart will stop beating soon? 

Are you afraid you’re going to die? Like I said, it will get better soon.

But it isn’t going to be better. It will never get better this way. The girl had already figured this out. She knew it. But she couldn’t get herself out of this. She knew deep inside this was not the way to happiness. This was a one-way ticket to hell. But it was already too late.

What the girl wanted most in the world was for someone to save her. But she could not say it out loud, because then she would have failed at one more thing. She knew she was a failure, but was she really so useless that she couldn’t even do this one thing she had been working on in the past few months? Without it she would be nothing.

She cried herself through the days. There was no hope left for her.

But the day came when she couldn’t make it anymore. The day she was so sick, there was nothing left to do but to save her. The day she got saved. The day she had been waiting for for so long without being able to say it out loud. After that day, it was time to try to live again. Very slowly life started to come back to her, even though she never thought it was possible.

A month after that day, she now feels life again. She knows there are things in life that have more value than the things that occupied her mind during the year from hell.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

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