Mirror, Mirror

Monday, January 5, 2009

I have a list of about 20 topics in my head that I've filed under the I-will-never-write-about category. I won't tell you what they are because then you'll just want to know more about them, and since I'm not going to write about them, there's no reason to tease you. But recent events in my life have forced me to come face to face with one of those topics and it's occupying so much of my mind that today, I need to let it occupy my cyber-space as well

When I was very young I was a normal child. By about 3rd grade I was overweight. Not obese, not horribly heavier than what I should've been, but I was larger than my peers and I was tormented for it. For literally 2 years, I left school in tears each day because of the things that people said to me, because I was called things like "tub of lard" and "heifer." Because kids on the school bus would dramatically lean to the side when I stood up to get off the bus, as if the weight of my little 4th grade body was actually shifting the bus to the side.

In 5th grade, I switched schools and the teasing stopped. I continued to be overweight until around 9th grade when I went on a diet with my family. I succeeded in losing a lot of weight, but I was never thin. When I moved away to college I weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 pounds (I'm very nearly 5'5"). I was average sized and healthy.

And then I started college, and hated it with a deep, burning passion. I hated every moment of my first few months, I fell into a disastrously deep pit of despair that I could not find a way out of. I cried constantly, I called and drove home all the time and I wanted nothing more than to withdraw and move back into my safety zone.

When my emotional state didn't improve, my mom forced me to go see a doctor, who prescribed Zoloft. Initially it made me horribly ill. I remember the first night I took it, I passed out in the hallway of my dorm after several horrendous bouts of diarrhea and dry heaving. It was awful. But somehow, in comparison with the rest of the misery of my life, the side effects were tolerable and a few weeks later, I was a new-ish person. I cried less often, I called home less often and I actually enjoyed college some.

My mom had suggested early on that I exercise at school because endorphins were a natural mood enhancer, and I did. I began going to the gym in the mornings and I grew to enjoy it. I grew to be obsessed with it.

In the moment that I began the Zoloft, something within my mind shut down or shut off or something. I could not stand the fact that I couldn't control my own emotions and I bottled up all the energy I had set aside for my emotions and put it towards controlling my weight.

I ran multiple miles around a track every single day, rain or shine. I lifted weights and did a routine in the exercise room every afternoon/evening. I stopped eating all the things that my dining hall had to offer and instead restricted myself to salads and bagels. Some days my calorie total for the day would be just slightly more than 100. And I knew it, because I kept track. Recording every bite of every meal that went past my lips.

And the weight melted off. Before I even realized it, I was down below 125 pounds. Then down below 120 pounds. I don't know what my exact lowest weight was. I know it was below 105 pounds, but I somehow erased that from my memory, which is probably for the best. I can tell you that it was about 25 pounds too thin for my body.

As a result of my weight dropping rapidly and to such a low number, I stopped having a period, I lost big clumps of hair and all my friends. I wouldn't buy new clothes so my tiny body swam in my old ones. And I was firmly in a state of denial about my problems. I told everyone, and believed truly, that I was just trying to eat more healthily. I was just exercising to be healthier. In reality, I was just killing myself.

I starved myself for almost a full year.

Since 2002 when I finally acknowledged and sought treatment for my anorexia, I have battled with it on a very small scale. But the reason this is in the forefront of my mind is because since October, I have gained nearly 10 pounds. I'm not going to tell you how much I weigh, because it's not important and because what I weigh now is a perfectly acceptable weight.

But, I'm miserable. I feel horrible about myself. I can't stand to look in the mirror. I don't like the way my body has swelled and how my once small stomach has become bloated and full.

I hate that none of my work pants fit loosely, that some of them barely button. I hate that I did this to myself. And I hate that all I can seem to do is think about my weight and how I can possibly lose it the fastest. I hate that I'd gladly stop eating again this very second, if I could go back to what I weighed in September.

I know that it is unhealthy, I know it is unwise, but anorexia doesn't have a handbook. There's no chapter on how to deal with gaining weight. There's no manual for how to deal with feeling disgusting when you're what other people consider a normal weight.

I don't know what happens next. I don't know how to mediate the two sides of my mind, the side that wants to lose this weight quickly and at all costs, and the side that knows better.

All I know is that right now, I really really hate the figure staring back at me in the mirror and would give anything to undo it.


Anonymous said...

First, it's great that you are acknowledging that this could be dangerous. Second, I am bulimic, so I can relate. An antidepressant is the only thing that has helped me stop. If you are still taking Zoloft, you may need to up the dose or switch to another med. If you aren't taking an antidepressant now, then you might consider going back on one. You have so much on your plate now... I will help in any way I can.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion is that you buy a couple outfits that fit you now and that you really like, so you will be able to dress in those when you need to feel better about your shape and size. Badly fitting clothes can make anyone feel insecure of their image. You aren't giving yourself a fair chance to feel good about yourself unless you do this.

Unknown said...

This is great that you're putting it out there. I think it would be good to talk to your doctor about this, but I also think that as long as there is a battle, and the anorexic side is not winning, you're doing pretty good. I'm no health professional, and I don't play one on tv, but it sounds like you're maintaining a healthy attitude. I gained 20 pounds while redoing my house, I had successfully removed 15 of them, and then November and December happened, and some of it came back on. I see an obese woman in the mirror with giant jowls, even though my bmi is still normal....I think most women struggle with body issues, some more than others...thanks for putting this out there...and do talk to your doctor, even if it does mean an extra appointment this month :)

the queen said...

Isn't anorexia more a strategy for coping with your emotions and less a way to lose weight? I thought that's what I read. As you said, you can't control your emotions but you can control one thing: your weight. Plus it probably changes your brain chemistry just enough. (I know they say cutting and bulemia do. )

I think that in the years at a healthy weight you have developed healthy strategies for coping since you couldn't rely on anoerexia. (She wrote, as she stuffed Ritz garlic/mozzarella toasted chips in her mouth).

Maybe if you work with a therapist as you diet that would be safe?

Flea said...

So glad you're sharing this with us. I wish I knew how to better help. I work in an ED program, just a lowly tech, and I know that depression can play a role. Carolyn might be right on target with that. I also know that spending time volunteering or focusing on other people helps. But having hung out here enough, you seem to do quite a bit of that, with school and coaching. Did those drop off the last month with the holidays?

It might help you to go back to last January and read through this virtual diary, see where you were then, where you are now, what changes (I know they're myriad) have occurred. Even if it's just a list of bullet points if you go see someone about this. And I'm guessing that Dr. Slappy is already well aware of what's going on with you, so strategize there, too, eh?

Like the Queen says, you've already puts coping mechanisms in place. Breathe a little and recapture some of that. We're pulling for you!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Katie. I've been down a similar enough road, and empathize with the fine balance you're trying to achieve. Use the advice that serves your needs, allow us in the blogosphere to support you in a positive manner, and keep those doctors and Slappy in the loop of what's going on with both your body and mind.

Hang in there, kiddo! (Am I allowed to call you kiddo if we're approximately the same age?)

Becs said...

It's hard. And while you know you have to change, change can be dangerous. And scary. If it's any comfort, know that there is a community around you that cares and wants you to love what you see in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

Katie, I have been reading your site(s) for a few years now - back when you used to post a fact about anorexia a day. I often wondered why you were not talking about it anymore. I am glad that you are letting it out again and maybe the dialog it starts will help you get through this. I have nothing else to offer because I have never felt that way, but I wish you the best.

Lipstick Jungle said...

I have no great words of wisdom, nor do I know at all what you are dealing with. I have been overweight since giving birth the first time in 1988. I used it as a crutch for years. But the truth is I do not take care of myself.

I am so happy you are willing to be open about this. I hope that the other comments have helped you some.

Hang tight lady!