“Do you remember much about the last time you were [really sick]?”
“Yes, I mean, I think so, why?”
“That is where you’re headed.”
One night in 2007, I had planned to go to dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. I was prepared for her to call to make dinner plans, and was ready to suggest Subway, or to convince her to just get coffee with me. However, never wanting to seem annoying, when she suggested a sports bar of all places I swallowed a big gulp of panic and told her I’d be there. There was nothing healthy to eat there and I don’t remember what I ended up ordering but I’m sure it was fried and I’m sure I felt like I was taking in calories just from breathing the same air the food was cooked in. What I do remember is what happened after we parted ways. I had a 35-minute drive home and made it about 2 minutes into the drive before dinner became the worst mistake ever. I didn’t feel like I had any other option except to get rid of what I had eaten as soon as humanly possible. I drove to the parking lot of my high school’s track, somewhere no one would be on a weekend night, and somewhere I was very familiar with. Praying the bathrooms would be open I came up with a plan B just in case. I hopped the fence and ran to the west bathrooms. Locked. Ran to the east bathrooms. Locked. Filled with so much panic and becoming increasingly worried that the calories were going to be more and more difficult to purge, I decided Plan B would have to suffice. Dinner merged with the desert ground and I felt triumphant. I was just being resourceful. Just thinking outside the box. It was better than a disgusting bathroom anyway.
But I had just ruined something sacred to me. I betrayed my body in the middle of mother nature and soiled otherwise good memories of a place I had spent many years growing, learning, laughing, and making friends. I felt sorry for myself and realized the lengths I would go to hide this issue but still hold on to it. I wasn’t really living, then. I was in a constant state of shame and guilt. I was paranoid everyone I came in contact with would find out somehow, and I was constantly sick. I landed myself in the ER twice because my body could not handle strep or the flu like a healthy 20-year-old body could have. I lost tooth enamel, my self esteem, and any bit of confidence I had. My nails, skin, and hair were a disaster.
I don’t want any of that.
I hadn’t truly grasped, pre-therapy, that maybe (almost certainly) I actually am an anxious person. That the anxiety comes first, and the ED is a coping mechanism. I am constantly worrying about the future, and when everything seems to be going well and there isn’t anything left to worry about (at least enough to cause the stomach-churning fear that resides in my throat and lungs and the irrational terror that lodges itself in my jaw, neck, and back muscles) I allow myself to place that anxiety on my body. I give myself a plan to fix the agonizing anxiety–focus on as many numbers as I can. And that plan, that focus, allows relief from ANXIETY.
I hate that I’m allowing myself to accept that I probably, most likely, surely do have anxiety. And that it has gotten exponentially worse over the last 7 or so years. And that each time it gets really bad, I can’t really tempt myself to use any other coping mechanism besides ED behaviors.
But I don’t want that.
I don’t–I promise–want anything to do with that, because it is taking my life away from me. It steals my time away and robs me of fun and happiness.
I want my life to be livable. And memorable. And not the kind of memories that involve a high school track and stomach acid. The kind of memories that warm your heart and spread laughter like wildfire at the dinner table.