Trigger Warning: The Increase in Behaviors in College and Potential Environmental Causes
In college, I was finally able to recognize that I was anorexic. I still wouldn’t say the word out loud, but I would go all day without eating, would drink one chai latte, and would consider myself a selfish pig for doing so. The majority of foods were not ‘safe’. I didn’t eat desserts or snacks for years.
I went through phases: the fruit salad phase, the rice cake phase, the salad no dressing phase, the pretzel phase, the apple phase. When I say these were phases, I mean that I literally would only eat the ‘phase’ food in a day. And only at night.
I had very strict rules about the caloric intake, protein, and fat grams that I consumed. The fewer, the better. The more consumed, the longer I would have to spend on the treadmill. The treadmill wasn’t just to burn off what little I had eaten. I had to make sure I had worked out for an amount of time that ended in a zero or a 5. I had to burn off calories that ended in a zero or a 5. And I had to have gone a distance that ended in a zero. So, even if I matched my calories consumed, I would keep going until all 3 numbers aligned to meet my ‘rules’.
I refused to eat in front of anyone. I locked myself in my room to eat my rice cakes, apple slices, or salad. If anyone interrupted me [this included my ex-boyfriend], I’d throw my food out the window and start crying because they had interrupted my only time I was allowed to eat and now I “would have to wait until the next day” to eat again. I was working and going to school and any time that I was not engaged in one of these activities I would sleep until 2pm. Then I would shower. Then I would work out. Then I would eat what I was ‘allowed’ to eat midday [usually apple slices and a cup of 25 calorie per packet hot chocolate. Then I would shower again. Later I would go for a walk. Then I would lock myself in my room for my ‘allowed’ dinner. Eventually, I’d stay up late with my ex-boyfriend because when one is not taking in proper nutrition, it can be very difficult to fall asleep. If my ex went out, I would stay locked in my room doing homework or perusing the internet until 4 or 5 in the morning only to repeat the process upon awakening.
In my early 20’s I realized that when I felt too full, or I ate one rice cake too many, purging was the best solution. I would feel high immediately after the purge and then terribly weak and dizzy. The purging eventually led to me being sent to the ER. I thought it was normal to be irritable ALL of the time. I thought it was normal to be completely overwhelmed by simple tasks. I thought it was normal for my hands to shake and for my heart to flutter. Oddly, I truly thought it was normal to stand up and have the room go black.
When I was 23 or 24, I began to acknowledge how miserable I was. I had graduated with a degree in Psychology from my college in NY. I had gotten in to graduate school for a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling. I was working as a nanny. And I was exhausted and isolated. I rarely went out with my friends because I feared eating around them or I was just plain too tired. I spent most of my time working, going to school, reading, writing papers, and sleeping. When I would nanny I would be so tired that I didn’t have the energy to play with the little boy I was watching. I’d be elated when there were rainy days and we’d have to stay inside and watch a movie or read a book. The biggest wake up call for me was when I realized that I felt I had to eat less than this sweet and innocent little 4 year-old boy did.
I made the decision to see a therapist and nutritionist because I didn’t want to feel so horrible but I didn’t know how to stop what I was doing. They were very supportive but they would continuously tell me how strong my eating disorder was. I didn’t believe them because I didn’t look like the women portrayed in the media…or because the number on the scale wasn’t below a number I deemed ‘anorexic’.
My nutritionist banned me from exercising and I listened enough to stop going to the gym, but I would still walk to that nutritionist appointment , which was 4 miles away. One day, after I was ordered to get blood drawn, I decided that riding my bike was a fine way to get to my appointment. 8 vials of blood and large bruising from where the needle had been did not sway me from riding my bike home. Sometimes I’d walk to Target or Barnes and Noble, 10 miles round trip. I won’t say what I was eating at this point because it is not necessary, nor is it helpful to anyone trying to recover.
At 24, I found myself sitting in a room with my mother, my father, my therapist, and my nutritionist [and notes from my doctor]. They had all decided that I had to go to residential treatment. I had been threatened with this before but I was over 18, so legally they could not make me. I always had an excuse: ‘I need to finish sophomore year of college,’ or ‘I just need to graduate college’. My therapist and nutritionist essentially gave me the ultimatum: go to treatment or we can no longer help you.
Growing Up Alex: Residential Treatment will be posted on Thursday 4/3/2014. Make sure to follow the blog to receive an e-mail for when it’s posted or follow it on Bloglovin‘!