Rebekah Wilson

@rebekah-wilson | contributor
I’m Rebekah and life has been a whirlwind. I battle an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD and sensory processing disorder; writing allows me navigate through the madness and leave a trail behind me for others to follow.
Rebekah Wilson

Goodbye Letter to Anorexia

Ana, I’m writing this to be real with you — with me. I sat with my counselor as we planned my next session for nine weeks out. Nine weeks. We joked about me doing the “best” out of all her clients. It seems I’ve almost completely beaten you, which seemed impossible only months ago. You don’t control me anymore. I rarely feel the anxiety and depression you used to radiate through my being. I’m allowed to look at the number on the scale when my dietitian weighs me, and I can shrug it off. I now have an internal shredder that destroys each and every note you pass my way, no matter how strong. It’s not always easy, though. I win every battle with you these days, yes, but some are devastatingly exhausting. I’m fighting my own body to “lose weight,” all while not letting it trigger a relapse. You tell me I’m not losing fast enough — that I’m not eating the perfect foods to reach my goal when and how I should. I shred those lies to pieces, but sometimes that shredder gets jammed. Too many notes passed and I start to break. You take my truths and twist them: “When you’re at your body’s ideal weight, you’ll finally be able to relapse and get that ‘anorexic’ look before people — or your body — can stop you.” You tell me my patience with weight loss will pay off when I can watch the weight drop between sessions, gaining enough to fool my team, then losing it all again. You try to give me “hope” for a future with you, as if we’re simply taking a little break for right now. This letter is to tell you that this is not a break. We’re done. I may get stuck at times, but I’ll unclog my shredder to demolish every last note you send my way. I am in control of my mind, not you. I don’t need you to survive, but you need me for your survival. I’m glad to watch you wither away. I’m finally happy, finally free. You will never take that from me again. Goodbye forever, Rebekah Image via Thinkstock. 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.

Rebekah Wilson

Comparing Atypical Anorexia to 'Typical' Anorexia

Throughout my childhood, I dealt with various traumas by chronically over-eating. By college, I had gained enough weight to be considered medically obese. At 19, I decided to diet, but my perfectionism took over; it turned to restriction. Whenever my body couldn’t handle restriction, I’d go back to overeating for a few days (not enough to be considered a binge), using exercise as a means to purge. Guilt would inevitably set in after a few days and I would resort to restriction. Eventually, it progressed to exercising in the mornings so that I could restrict all day, being able to put my weight-loss at maximum speed. If I could’t get both in, I was sure to purge by any means possible. I got down to a “normal” weight within three months — which, to most, was an achievement. However, professionals and people with eating disorder in my life knew how dangerous it was and I finally decided to get help. Fast forward three years: I have been through an intensive outpatient program and have not been back since I discharged. Now, once a week, I sit in a room with women talking about struggling to maintain their almost-underweight bodies, scared of all the foods I love to eat and worried they won’t be able to eat enough by the end of the day. My eating disorder loves to tell me how terrible I am at having an eating disorder; that these women are what I am supposed to be — I am weak for eating things like donuts, ice cream and cake so easily and regularly. I am a phony for not being as thin as them. I worry about struggling not to over-eat rather than under-eat. I make it up because I seem to improve in areas of my eating disorder quicker than most. I am underserving of an eating disorder diagnosis because I am a restricter who actually still needs to lose weight. I’m not even a proper “bulimic” because I never went too extreme with any of the binging/purging behaviors. I have atypical anorexia. Despite my eating disorder (as well as misinformed people in my life) telling me my eating disorder isn’t “bad,” my thoughts are what are severe. My eating disorder is always there, always lying. I never get a break. I went into treatment when the thoughts took over my life and I could’t function normally anymore. But I belonged there. I “deserve” my diagnosis. I am not supposed to be a certain way to know my eating disorder is valid. Before I could start recovering, I had to accept this. To keep going, I have to accept that my eating disorder is what it is; my body is where it is at. One day my body may be different, but it is all a process; it doesn’t make me any lesser than the thinner eating disorder warriors that surround me every Thursday evening — we’re all fighting for our best lives. 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.

Rebekah Wilson

When an Invitation to Lunch Makes a Person With Mental Illness Anxious

As I sit here writing this, my brain is flooded with the music playing in the background, reminding me of a beautiful young woman I met in treatment, who recently lost her battle with anorexia. An anxious thought pops up because a portion of the lyrics don’t really relate to the situation, and I had shared this song with some other mourners. What if they listen and hate me for recommending this song? Simultaneously, my stomach is growling and a friend is coming over, who I don’t necessarily feel totally comfortable with. How many calories have I eaten? I need to eat. Crap! Is she bringing food? I need to know what she might be bringing. What are we going to do? It’s always slightly awkward with her. I wish I could just be alone. Wait, I’m going to have to eat in front of her. Should I eat now? Would that be rude? More songs play and with each song change, I lose focus. My phone keeps going off and my eyes start to lose focus and blur. My fingers can’t seem to type the words I’m struggling to process because the lyrics are interrupting my thoughts. The anxiety of what the texts may say is overcrowding my brain. Anxiety wins and I check the message. Unfortunately, I was totally right to be anxious. She wants to go to a restaurant I’ve never been to. What if I get overwhelmed with food choices there? She’s not a safe person. What if I can’t count the calories? I have to eat in front of her and a room of people. “Sure,” I reply. I’m losing feeling in my arms and my stomach is churning and not from hunger. The fact that I’m hungry makes it worse. It isn’t an unpleasant feeling, but I fear I’ll lose control because of it. Not only will I be eating at a new place, but I might overeat too. I start to rub my hands around parts of my body I am uncomfortable with. I’m body checking. Am I too fat today to be eating out?  Maybe I shouldn’t have had that extra diet soda. What if I don’t like their water? What if it’s too cold? And while we’re at it, what if the restaurant is too loud? Or the lights too bright or too dim? My cats keep watching cars drive by in the rain, their little heads turning back and forth. I am distracted by the sounds of the cars’ engines and tires in water colliding with the music, set at a seven of 100 (which is the most I can bear if I’m in the room). Then, I get another text and it distracts me. Then, the music changes and…agh! I’m already overwhelmed from all of this. I’m kneading my hands and wringing my fingers between sentences, pounding the keys on the keyboard way to hard and flexing muscles in my body normal people don’t flex. If I stop, then my anxiety will increase. What if the people who read this think I’m just too sensitive? What if they don’t believe me? Crap, I’m going to be late if I don’t leave soon. I pull at my lip and crack my ankles, as they spin in circles with my toes flexed to their max. I really don’t want to eat. But I must. Because I can’t die from this eating disorder. OK, three minutes to finish up. Maybe this is too long. My legs are literally at a 90 degree angle because I’m too anxious to let them relax on the floor. I realize I’ve been clenching my jaw this whole time. I wanted to write about a day living with my mental illnesses, but instead I’ve come up with a mere 30 minutes. I didn’t get to talk about the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. What if people think I’m making all this up? I bite the skin around my finger. Feet rubbing together and legs sore from still not relaxing, and now I’m late. Breathe. You can do this. You’re strong, brave and awesome. Crap! It’s freezing and I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I have to change and now I’m really going to be late. She’ll be waiting for me. Dang it! I just chuckled and smiled. I wanted to end this with an encouraging, “Look, I can cope and do the things,” but remembering the thing I forgot to do, change my clothes, just threw that all off. But hey, that’s life with mental illness. I’m going to be just fine — and also very late.