The Back Story10:12 AM
Thank you again, so much, for all your support about my eating disorder. I fully intend to tell my story in more detail, but to be honest, I'm still processing it and figuring it out, and I also can't think in depth about it every day. It's exhausting! Writing about it is not only therapeutic for me, but hopefully a way I can help reach others who are struggling. This is something nobody should go through alone, and I still need to talk it out on a regular basis. I had a "fat day" a couple days ago and my siblings remedied it with sending pictures of their double chins and their kids making double chins... you get the picture. Healing takes a lot of time and effort, and it doesn't happen overnight.
Also a disclaimer: Please remember as I tell my story that this is not normal thinking or behavior. My anxiety about weight continues, but my idea of health is becoming gradually less warped with every day that passes. I wouldn't trade the 20 pounds I've put on since my darkest days for that life ever again. I'm healthy and normal and it is worth it!
It's hard to specify an exact point in life that I started having disordered eating patterns. It started to a smaller degree when I was young, because as I've mentioned before, I was never a "little" girl. It ebbed and flowed. There are specific times (late elementary/early junior high) that I remember feeling complete despair about how huge I felt, and other phases where I was eating basically whatever I wanted, not working out beyond dance team practice, and didn't worry much about my weight. As a freshman/sophomore in high school, I was finally reaching my grand final height of 5'1", going through puberty (I am basically the definition of a late bloomer), and thinning out without too much effort. I was on the track team, but when I think back on it, our 2-4 mile workouts probably weren't burning much over 200-300 calories, so that alone can't have accounted for everything. I remember feeling confident and having people comment that I looked good. And I did! I was healthy, and I was happy. My weight hovered at a comfortable place for me. I started finally getting noticed by boys which was something I had never had happen before.
I was also 15 years old and did you know that the body you have when you're 15 isn't the body you're supposed to have the rest of your life?
Right around the time I turned 17, I wasn't dancing anymore and started gaining weight. I was done growing and it was finally starting to catch up with me. I started running some, but nothing significant. I would fluctuate up and down every year, but I was always conscious of what I looked like. Right before I left for college, I went through a few months of really restrictive eating and lost about 10 pounds. I remember nights going to bed so hungry, and just hoping I could fall asleep so I wouldn't eat anything. I was working at the YMCA at the time and would weigh myself every day. My mom sat me down one night and said that she had noticed I'd been losing weight, and I specifically remember her saying "we will have no eating disorders". It freaked me out! This was the first time the idea of having an actual eating disorder sparked in my head. I still ate restrictively, but I left for college soon after and living on my own was a whole different story.
I also started taking ADHD medication around this time, which I had prescribed to me. I took it because I needed to focus in school, but the real reason I pushed to be on it was that it was an appetite suppressant. And I used that to my advantage. I'm going to just say it: I don't have ADHD. I think, like any other normal human being, my attention wanders and it's important for me to stay organized. But it was never debilitating like it is for those who actually do struggle with ADHD. I just knew that I wanted to be skinny, and if I could be on medication that helped, then why not? I stayed on this for about a year and realized that, although it helped me skip breakfast easily (bad! So bad!), it was also messing with my personality. I would be super talkative and focused in the morning, and completely closed off by afternoon. I got off it the summer after my first semester of college and never went back.
My first semester of college was fantastic. I was still trying to keep my weight down. I ran intermittently, walked all the time, and remember at least feeling like I was eating relatively normally. I've always been cyclical with my eating. I restrict, then gradually allow more things into my diet, and then realize I've gained a few pounds, and reevaluate. The part about reevaluating eating habits is important. This is a good skill. The part about restricting, however, is not a good thing. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that restricting anything is a recipe for disaster. But more on that later.
That summer I went to Hawaii, and in Hawaii, everyone feeds you, all day, every day. I got to my heaviest weight ever that summer and couldn't wait to lose it. I felt awful about myself and none of my clothes fit well. I had to buy new jeans because all my others were too tight. (Tangent: Another thing I've learned about balance is that there's obsession with weight loss which feels terrible, and there's also not taking care of yourself, which is also terrible. Gaining a few pounds never killed anyone- I'm still trying to accept this as truth. But a sedentary lifestyle accompanied with poor eating habits will do nothing for self confidence, health, mood, happiness, family... this I know. There's a common theme here: moderation).
The next year and a half, I steadily found myself hovering around what had become a pretty normal, easily maintained weight for me. I wasn't skinny, but I wasn't overly chunky. I always wanted to lose a few pounds, but wasn't doing anything extreme to make it happen. I was also really in a fabulous mood because I was engaged and getting married :). Life was good and I felt pretty normal. Up to this point, my issues with weight had always been lingering, coming and going, but never extremely pronounced.
Right before I got married, I got on birth control (which I will neverevereverever do again. Anyone who followed my pregnancy with Milo knows that hormones + Danielle = BAD). My biggest concern with the doctor was that I get on a medication that would not make me gain weight. He prescribed me a mostly-progesterone option and I was on my way. The only problem was that this stuff made me SICK. I would be nauseous all night and it made me a cranky, constantly PMSing basket case. It was during this time that I first learned how to make myself throw up. I remember specifically feeling so ill just a couple of weeks after we got married. My mother in law was in town and we went to Cafe Rio, one of my all time favorites. That night I was writhing in nausea and miserable. I went to bed hoping it would be better in the morning, but it got pretty unbearable, and I felt like I would puke, only it wasn't going to happen on its own. So I stuck my finger down my throat and it was done. Now, this was a legitimate puke, but I also learned a new thing that day. I figured out that I was capable of vomiting on command.
Fast forward. I got off birth control that May. It was terrible. And suddenly the clouds parted and I was normal. But ever since I learned that I could throw up, I would occasionally let myself if I felt too full and didn't want to be full anymore. It was pretty seldom at that point. I also started running every day right after getting married. I realized I needed a hobby to do while Trevor studied (he has always been more studious than me!) and I knew I didn't want to get fat as soon as I got married. So I ran. And ran, and ran. By that fall, I was running 5-6 miles a day, 6 days a week, obsessively. I could not miss days. And I was losing weight, too! The scale was creeping down, and I felt amazing. Then I thought, why not go for 5 more pounds? And I did. And once I hit that point, it was like a floodgate had opened. I knew I could lose weight. I figured out how. I had the exercise part down, and now I just needed to get the food part in line.
Except that I went about it in all the wrong ways, and that is when everything started spinning out of control.