Growing Up Alex – A 7-Part Series on Growing Up With and Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Eating Disorders have become so common and are even more so now with the many social media network’s out there. Hashtags such as #thinspo, #thinspiration, #thighgap, #ana and #mia are everywhere. Social Media networks like Instagram and Tumblr, and the group Project HEAL, are working to educate and help those who are in the midst of ED’s and educating those who want to learn more.

One of my good friends, Alex, has suffered from an eating disorder since her pre-teen years. We’ve know each other since we were 8. We’ve grown up together. And I am so honored to tell her story here. This started as an idea for a ‘Friendly Feature’ and now, I’m turning it into a series of posts; around 7 to be exact.

It’s honest, it’s hard to read, but it’s true life. It’s 100% Alex, and captures what she went through to a level that many of us could never relate to.

What is goal of these posts? Simple – to tell Alex’s story; her story of growing up and developing an eating disorder, how she masked it, decided to go to treatment, and finally her recovery. These posts will be long, longer than I normally write, but it’s important to tell this story properly. Most important, these are her words. She wrote every single post. These will be posted over a few week time-span.

The main goal: awareness. If we are able to reach and help just one person, then we succeeded. And onto part 1.

Meet Me: Alex

My name is Alexandra, but that’s mainly just for my grandparents and the government.  Most everyone else calls me Alex. Or Al, if you’ve known me forever. Or ‘Woo’, if you’re my mom.  I’m 28 and this is my story.

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Food and I haven’t always gotten along. It wasn’t really even about the food. It wasn’t the food’s fault. It also wasn’t my fault. To be up front; it wasn’t really anyone’s fault. Food and I have just had a rocky relationship for most of my life.

Let’s rewind to 2002, at age 16, as I was sitting on one of those sticky exam room tables, swinging my legs back and forth anxiously, hugging a paper gown to my freezing body. My doctor was talking about me, in front of me, to my mother and my ears perked up when she casually said, ‘…and due to Alexandra’s Anorexia, I’d like to perform an EKG’. I didn’t know what an EKG was but I knew what anorexia was. I also knew that the reason I had been sent to the doctor was because my therapist had recommended it.

However, at 16, I “knew” well enough that I did NOT have anorexia because I “did not look like a skeleton”. I ate. What was this doctor talking about? Clearly, she knew nothing and I, at 16, was the expert.

While the nurse hooked up those freezing cold stickers across my bare and underdeveloped chest, rather than be embarrassed, I was lost in thought. The doctor had said words like ‘nutritionist’ and ‘try to get soup with beans’ and something about talking further with my therapist. I had had a frappucino the prior weekend and that had lots of calories! I did NOT have anorexia. At this point I didn’t understand that the media portrayal of anorexia only showed the most extreme side of it, probably for shock value and exploitation of very sick and very, very sad individuals. To this day, I worry that the media’s portrayal of only terribly emaciated individuals plays a great deal in to why many women and men avoid treatment to begin with.

It would be a few more years before I would accept this diagnosis, and many more years before I could even utter the word ‘anorexia’. I would just say “eating disorder”. Let’s backtrack.

Growing Up Alex: Childhood and Middle School will be posted on Monday 3/24/2014. Make sure to follow the blog to receive an e-mail for when it’s posted or follow it on Bloglovin‘!

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