Thursday, June 5, 2008

Remembering the Realization

This blog has a point and a purpose. Not only that, it has a message. I have a goal. It's here to give people hope. My goal is to be an example—to cause people to say, "If that's what recovery looks like, sign me up!"

That's it, plain and simple. From the beginning—from the start of my descent into an eating disordered life—I've always known I wanted to stop. I didn't want to have an eating disorder any more than one wants to have any other disease. I knew it was unhealthy and I knew I needed help. Before I told anyone about my struggles, before I was confronted, and before I had even come to terms with my issues, I went to see a counselor. I remember making the appointment; it all seemed so surreal.

I was your average girl who watched TV and saw anorexic girls on talk shows, skin and bones, crying their eyes out in front of the camera. I never thought I would relate to the girls on those couches, talking about their fears of food and their distressing disease. But suddenly, almost before I knew what was happening, I was on my way to anorexia myself…and it wasn't long before I was diagnosed with the very same disorder I had often heard about on television.

At my consultation appointment at my college campus's counseling center, I recall explaining my daily habits, my calorie counting obsession, and my way of fasting for days. I could hear myself saying the words, knowing full well I had a serious problem or at least the beginnings of one. From that point, even though I sought help, was confronted by my best friend, and told my parents, I ended up getting worse before I got better. Sometimes I even got better only to get worse again.

Things weren't clicking in my head. The constant struggle became so normal to me and so strangely comforting. I used anorexia to cope with stress, to deal with change, to help me feel special. All the while, I still hated it. I'd get angry every time I went to see a doctor who told me I should be weighing about xxx pounds. Not only did the very thought seem ridiculous to me, it also agitated me—because I always wondered how I'd look at a higher weight, always somehow knew deep down that a grown woman should be weighing much more than I did…and well, should look more like a woman.

Even when I got better and better and I managed to eat enough to be considered "okay," I was still constantly struggling with mental aspects of anorexia. Sometimes I was even annoyed because I thought everyone around me assumed I was fine again simply because I weighed xxx pounds. It was so untrue and so hard to explain. At times, I was the furthest thing from fine.

I have always been one of those people who can put on a happy face—who can smile even when they are hurting and joke around, consistently concealing the emotions at battle inside. In a way, it sometimes helped not to talk about it. I liked trying to forget, be able to have a good time with friends, if only for a few fleeting hours.

It was sad, because something always seemed to fall. I always seemed to fall. I wanted to enjoy myself, to be happy with my friends, to let my mind free itself of numbers and perfection, but I could never enjoy myself completely.

It was like I was at a party, having a blast with a big smile on my face, but there was someone in the corner, wearing dark clothes and looking at me with a scary expression. My eating disorder, my inside pain and dissatisfaction, was that dark, scary someone in the corner. I could still have a great time, could still make great memories, but I was always being watched by something that wanted to take it all away.

When I think of times like this, I am reminded particularly of a few nights out with my college friends when we'd drink and have a good time dancing and laughing…and on the way home, when the alcohol had loosened the strings around my turbulent emotions, I'd start to cry relentlessly. It's kind of embarrassing even now, but I was much more of a mess than I let myself or anyone else believe. Tears typically accompany a mess.

Whether I cried walking home from a bar—feeling as though I was completely ruining the carefree mood—or later in the night back at my old apartment to my best friend, everything seemed to come crashing down after having fun. It took me a while to learn that I'd never really be able to be happy again unless I fixed myself first. Until I took care of what was making me hurt, any fun or happiness was temporary.

I knew I didn't want to live like that. After all, who does?

Looking back, nights like that feel like a turning point, or several of them. I knew my entire life was going to be like that if I didn't change something. If I hadn't had the friends I do, I would have fallen into a sad little hole and lied there 'til something drastic finally pulled me out…if anything pulled me out at all.

This realization came after years of unhappiness and what can only be described as shit. This realization came after a freshman year of college that makes me cringe to this day. After days and nights of worrying my friends, of sleeping in the daytime for hours at a time, of letting my past of a being a straight A student fall into the trash as I used all my effort to even make it to—and through—classes. After tedious meals in the dining hall, whole Biology classes spent incessantly tallying my food intake, and one distinctly frightening night when I attempted to measure my dwindling waist by fastening a belt around it—then trying to measure the belt with a ruler—only to be stopped by my freshman room mate and my best friend, who both had to hold me down on my bed while I thrashed around and essentially freaked out. After counseling and eating again only to make my sophomore year a near repeat of my freshman year. After group therapy and fainting spells. After screaming matches with my parents. After actually seeing the number 89 on the scale at one point and hating the sick euphoria that attended it. After obsessive term papers on eating disorders in an attempt to teach myself to stop what I was doing.

After all this came those fun college nights that ended in tears.

And after that came the realization.

That. I. Didn't. And. Couldn't. Do. It. Anymore.

So I set out to learn myself and discovered a lot. It has to start with you.

It has to start with YOU.

But most of all, it has to start.


MrsMenopausal said...

{{{{{{Arielle}}}}}}} You have an amazingly powerful way with words and such an honest expression of your emotions and experiences that it's almost impossible not to relate to the things you talk about, ED or not.
Great post.
My blog: Weighing The Facts

Arielle said...

Thank you so much, Mrs. M.

I greatly appreciate that coming from you.

Sia Jane said...

Adore you xxxxx