I am a vegan with an eating disorder.
Today is the day I have waited for, for (almost) a decade. An eating disorders clinic gave a presentation to the staff at the ballet school. It was to raise their awareness of EDs and give them signs and symptoms to look for in students. Since I have worked there I have been appalled at how ignorant teachers in this professional ballet school are towards eating disorders. Their lack of concern considering the industry they are in and the outright denial has sickened me. They don’t know anything and they don’t care enough to educate themselves.
Perhaps because of my history of EDs, I am passionate about helping our students. Many times I have been irate because I have mentioned a student that I am concerned about and no one has taken me seriously. I would prefer our students didn’t have to suffer our collective ignorance. I think many of them have because we have not had the resources (knowledge, counselors etc) to help them. I am glad that so many of our staff have never suffered an ED, but I am angry that even though they don’t know what it is like to have one, they haven’t bothered to learn anything. Lately there has been an epidemic of EDs spreading through the school and residence which prompted this sudden action.
This long-awaited day finally arrived and we gathered in studio 5 (the one with the fat mirrors) to watch the presentation. Right before we went in, one of my co-workers who refused to come upset me (read my last post). She used to have bulimia, briefly and told me that she doesn’t have patience for EDs. “I don’t know how to deal with it. They must just get over it.”
I think there are a lot of unresolved issues on her part.
I was quite wound up by the time I went in. I knew I would have questions and answers, but I also didn’t want to give away how much information or knowledge I have because of my own ED. I was alarmed at how bad I felt sitting there and hiding the truth of the extent of my ED from the rest of the staff. When the facilitator described symptoms of Anorexia or Bulimia, I squirmed. She talked about looking for callouses or scraped knuckles (Russell’s sign) and I hid my hands underneath my notebook. A few of the staff know a very limited amount about my ED. I avoided eye contact and took notes. I wondered how many of them might put two and two together as she listed most of my behaviours out loud and on a power point while describing signs and symptoms to look out for in students.
Most of the time I listened to the staff ask their stupid questions and tried to keep my mouth shut so I wouldn’t shout at them which is what I felt like doing. A few times I had to interject with what I knew to be pertinent to ballet, dancers and ED in order to clear things up for the facilitators as the rest of the staff were clueless. I managed to avoid a few arguments where I would basically have to give myself away by saying “I know this because I do it…”
I didn’t learn anything that I hadn’t heard before, but I was glad to be reminded of a few things that I don’t always attribute to my ED. Anxiety disorder in bulimics can be as high as 75%. I suffer debilitating anxiety that has got a lot worse in the last three years and I never link it to my ED. She also said that the ED sufferer’s behaviour and reactions are complicit with their main form of ED. For example, bulimics are impulsive and over react. They explode in uncomfortable or negative emotional circumstances. I did find it ironic that this explanation was going on at work in front of my colleagues because I feel like this happens to me a lot. Daily sometimes. It actually upsets me that the size of my reaction is disproportionate to the situation.
I was also reminded that after five years of having an ED, the chance of a full recovery is almost nil no matter the age of onset. Imagine how I feel after 21 years?
I was most grateful for the moment when the facilitator explained that not everyone with an ED is excessively thin. Our staff are the kind of people who need to see a skeleton before they will react. In the past I have heard statements like these:
“She doesn’t look sick.”
“She isn’t thin enough to have an eating disorder.”
“Maybe she is just naturally that thin.”
“I saw her eating a sandwich/a pizza/an apple…”
“She is so fat she should get an eating disorder.”
The last one is always meant in a sarcastic, joking manner to be funny.
I thanked her for finally explaining that ED has its own logic and not to try to use logic on someone who has one. I hope the staff keep that in mind. If I have to hear “she should just eat something” in reference to my students ever again after today, I might just bite someone.
My 24 hours of madness spiraled into ten days instead. Who could have seen that coming?
For ten days I didn’t go to the gym, binged endlessly, purged unceasingly and drank too much. Why? There are many reasons: stress, anxiety, a third-life crisis, ballet, relationships, weight gain, pain… At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. I did it because it is what I do. I tell myself I am ‘in a funk’, ‘depressed’ or my favourite, ‘relapsing’ because it covers all manner of sins. My existence has become a joke.
“I want to know how you eat six plates of pasta and stay so thin,” my roommate says half jokingly, half seriously. She is a nurse. She knows my ‘history’ of ED. I have been wondering how long it will take her to figure out that my ‘bubble baths’ are a euphemism for puking sessions.
“I am not sharing my dirty secrets with you,” I laugh and hope she gets the hint.
Later that night we share a bottle of wine while a bad Jennifer Aniston movie plays on Netflix in the background. She brings up eating disorders again and now she is referencing herself.
“You need to admit to the eating disorder you have, but don’t acknowledge,” I insist.
She has talked about how she doesn’t starve or purge but how she does restrict on purpose or binge from time to time, eats in secret and over-exercises. I educate her on Orthorexia, EDNOS, Binge Eating Disorder, Night Eating Syndrome and Compulsive Exercise. Her eyes get wider.
“I don’t think you can ever really recover from an eating disorder,” she muses. “What do you think?”
“I think God can heal you, but that doesn’t mean he will. How many people do you know who have prayed for healing from cancer and never got it? Some people just get sicker and sicker and die no matter what they do.” I respond. “But I do believe you can be totally free even though I never used to believe it. I just don’t know that it will be me.”
This week she is on the cabbage-soup-and-run-excessively diet. I am on the eat-everything-I-can-see-and-barf diet.
“We should be studied,” I declare as we eat our Dairy Queen Blizzards and sip wine together.
She laughs. I laugh. Tomorrow is another day.
I don’t know if this is the best idea I have ever had, especially as I am in “recovery”. I have been gaining weight at an alarming rate and this is what always sends me sprinting back to ED. I cannot cope. No matter how healthy I eat and how much exercise I do, I just keep getting bigger. My clothes don’t fit. My reflection disgusts me.
My girlfriend tried this detox/cleanse and raved about it. She told me she had so much energy, felt amazing and had lost 8lbs in six days (taking her down to 110lbs). I figured it would be a good way to distract myself from relapsing entirely. Guess what? I have done it for 4 full days – it lasts for 12 days – and I feel nothing. Actually, scratch that, I feel exceptionally angry today. I do not feel amazing and I have most certainly not lost even 1lb. Of course the weight loss was my motivation to give this a try. I hit a low on the weekend when actually took a pregnancy test because I didn’t believe I was actually this fat without another valid reason.
The detox is called “WIld Rose”. The diet that goes along with the pills and liquid is easy to follow: no dairy, no wheat or gluten, no booze, no processed foods and nothing that is high in sugar or fermented allowed. Twenty percent of your diet comes from meat, fish, eggs or tofu (I’m vegan), and the other eighty percent is made up from a decent list of fruits and vegetables as well as grains like quinoa, oats, freekah etc. You can have unsweetened almond milk and can even drink coffee on this program. I have, as evidenced by my blog, gone on way more extreme “diets” before so I find this one easy to follow.
I have, however, noticed that today the urge to binge is significantly higher than it has been in a while. Whenever I am restricting in some way, I compensate by bingeing. So, I will see if I can last another 8 days on this detox but something has got to give. More than ever, I feel like I am about to pack in this recovery lark and just relapse. It is what I do. It is what I know. It works (for the most part) and I can actually tolerate myself when I am thinner. At this point in recovery, I have never loathed the sight of my humongous body more. It is grotesque and revolting and offensive.
In the last few days I have been trying to bump up my (vegetarian) protein intake. I feel like my poor muscle tone and lack of energy might be related to not having enough protein. I think it goes without saying that ED affects both those things anyway. I had hoped that having more protein in my diet might prevent my extreme hunger which leads to deadly binges.
Here is what I ate today:
Breakfast: vegan protein powder in quinoa milk, grapes
Snack: carrots and cottage cheese
Lunch: quinoa with tomato, cucumber, onion and avocado
Snack: tempeh, savi seeds
Dinner: Steel cut oats, cinnamon, peanut butter, honey
This was a lot of food/calories for me for a day because lately I have been restricting and purging or abusing laxatives. Who knows what caused the sudden health kick….I am too tired to question ED. I did do three hours of ballet class (dancing not teaching), but the time in front of the mirror did not help my hatred of my body.
Work was stressful. There was more drama in a long line of many dramatic episodes. I did the best thing I could and left although I was almost certain I was going to go home and binge, but today turned out to be a kind of orthorexic day instead. I went to the health food store and dropped an obscene amount of money on some healthy foods.
Here is a list of some of the things I bought:
And of course more of my new ‘safe’ foods (although peanut butter is bad because I like to binge on it):
I came home and stocked my cupboards with my hippie, vegetarian food; made a sensible meal; caught up on some work and most importantly didn’t binge. For some reason I was able to justify the calories.
Do any of you vacillate between extreme ED and “healthy” eating? Please share your thoughts or your favourite foods!
It’s a long weekend! We are off camping again which is frightening to me on many levels in regards to food consumption. Unlike last time, we are going with friends and each couple is responsible for 3 meals. I tried to fight this decision as the thought of surrendering control of 6 out of 9 meals to my friends is terrifying! My eating rules are so stringent even on my new ‘healthy’ plan and the idea of not being in control over what I consume this weekend is scaring me.
I have packed as many extra, healthy snacks as I can and a large salad to offer at meal times so that I can make a better decision if the food I’m fed is ‘bad’. I think my boyfriend is realizing how stressful it is for me to go through this and he alluded to my need for control last night. Poor man. He has no idea that I threw up before he got home and threw up our dinner an ice cream later on. It has really been a bad month for ‘recovery’.
I took my girlfriend (who is 57 and weighs 90lbs) out for her birthday at lunchtime. She is kind of like a surrogate mum to me considering mine is so far away. We talked about our love affairs with ketchup (too much sugar!) and mustard (barf!), during our starvation phases in our lives. She told me at lunch – as we shared a greasy, cheesy quesadilla – that I need to let go and indulge this weekend. She said at some point I need to stabilize my eating and enjoy a balanced lifestyle. I agree with her 100%. But……ED has a strong hold these days. We had2 glasses of wine and I am a bit too merry for a Friday afternoon at work (I’m not teaching, I’m just in the office!). I want to race home and get rid of the quesadilla because it is not sitting right. I haven’t eaten dairy in 2 weeks. I fight with myself not to go purge right away. I consider relaxing my eating rules and enjoying the weekend if it is going to be a write-off anyway. I have a huge bottle of Bailey’s to drink by the campfire, after all. Drunkorexia, anyone?!
Today I had to have brunch with my boyfriend’s extra-dysfunctional family, half of whom have been staying with us for a week. The week has been a disaster on the food front and I have been eaten alive by anxiety (see previous posts about his step mother’s cooking/force feeding). I come from a fairly dysfunctional family myself, (well mainly my dad), so I shouldn’t throw stones, but his take the biscuit. They are putting so much strain on our relationship that I don’t know how long I can hold on any more. I have gone from fighting with him over why we aren’t engaged to wondering if I actually want to marry him and if could tolerate his family for the rest of my life. I feel like I cannot.
This is not the place for me to go into details about them, but suffice to say brunch was a no go for me. Firstly, they chose a dive of a diner that I didn’t want to go to. Secondly, there was nothing remotely healthy on the menu for me to eat. Thirdly, they behaved rudely and spoke inappropriately for the whole meal. I perused the menu trying to think what might do the least damage to my body considering that my sanity was already shot. The waitress took everyone’s order and then looked at me expectantly. I ordered fruit – it wasn’t an option on the menu. By this point most people had downed a milkshake each and conversation was not improving. Our meal eventually arrived and the plates were drowning in cheesy scrambled eggs, greasy hash browns and butter laden toast. It made me feel ill. My little bowl of fruit arrived and I ignored the stares and eye rolling from my boyfriend’s sisters. If they thought fruit was awkward then they should try being a fly on the wall at their own family gatherings.
After brunch I had to endure a couple more hours of family time and then we got to say our goodbyes, at last. This week has felt like an eternity and these odd people have made me rethink whether I want to be with this man for the rest of my life or not. That to me is heartbreaking. Anxiety derived from our relationship has the most detrimental effect on my ED.
I asked my boyfriend to stop at the organic store on the way home and I picked up a tofu salad. I didn’t give him a chance to interject or comment on my inability to eat shitty food in an even shittier diner with his fucked up family. Earlier in the week I alluded to the fact that my eating was suffering and so was I. Today I don’t have the strength to have one more battle with him not over food, family or our (lack of) engagement. It is enough for me now to crawl into bed with Marya Hornbacker’s “Wasted”, and pray that I recover from this ordeal/relapse as soon as possible. This week was a major setback that I did not need at this point in time. I wish I had something more enlightened or inspiring to say for the weekend but that is how the cookie crumbles (no ED pun intended)!