I had an eating disorder. If you know me, or have read any of my previous blog posts, this is nothing new. And, while I’m not perfect (is anyone?), my 6 years of recovery have built a sturdy and mostly reliable floor upon which to build this post-ED life. I still have those days…the ones where all my clothes seem to maliciously pinch or the ones where I feel incessantly on the brink of crying or the ones where I can’t seem to stop noticing how round my face is. And, sometimes, there exists a string upon which beads and beads and beads of ‘those days’ are laced, clicking and clacking against one another until the noise is so so loud and I fear that string will never end but, rather, stretch into infinity’s unknown. And, truthfully, recovery does not lessen the weight of ‘those days.’ They’re still awful.
Recovery has provided the slightest room to breathe. To acknowledge that This Too Shall Pass. I am still worthy. Still fighting for all that is good in my life and all the good that is to come. Recovery is the work I undertake to get closer and closer to the best, cleanest, purest version of my Self. Sometimes I succeed in stepping just that little bit closer…More often I don’t (I’m only human) and I recognize I’ll probably never reach my unadulterated and perfect Self. In one lifespan alone there are limitless ways in which I might better myself…but Infinity cannot stop me from trying.
And so. Recovery has been an essential form of reparation.
Today, I want to talk about something a little different. It’s something I don’t often feature on my blog or social media channels. Because I spent many years in the dark, I now choose mostly to speak about the light…the ways in which I finally ‘won.’ I stay positive and hope, through my positivity, I might reach others who are hurting and persuade them that, not only is there another way, they are also not alone.
In this blog, though, I want to speak to the ways in which recovery was too late…about the damage my ED wrought before I finally, finally, broke the parasitic relationship. This is a list dedicated to both Mariah circa 2010-2014 and those currently suffering. When I first planned this blog, I’d thought to say “I don’t want to scare you but…”
And yet that’s a lie.
To a certain extent, I DO want to scare…and I want to warn.
- I have osteoporosis at the age of 27. Growing up I swam competitively and swimming, as you might guess, is not a weight bearing exercise…it does nothing to strengthen growing female bones. When I quit swimming, I stumbled directly into anorexia’s chill embrace. Thus, during my peak bone mass accrual years, I basically did everything possible (unknowingly or not), to stymy bone mass production. TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE…for my first 4ish years of recovery I was still intaking alarming amounts of Diet Coke/artificial sweetener. My endocrinologist informed me that, in excess, these ‘zero calorie’ drinks leach calcium from bones and further compound bone mass issues. This is a health issue I will have for the rest of my life…I must be careful with what I eat (no more fake sugar!!!), I have to ensure I get my cycle every month (and contact my doctor when this is not the case), and I’ve been recommended a weekly weight bearing exercise regimen to ensure I don’t lose what I little I have. With bone mass several standard deviations below the mean for my age/gender/activity level, I’m also more susceptible to breaks and stress fractures.
- My teeth enamel is shot. Years of bathing in stomach acid weakened my teeth and an aggressive dental hygiene routine is now something to which I vehemently adhere…Doing my best to put off inevitable cavities/tooth complications.
- During my last few ED months, my potassium levels were so incredibly off balance that I was having seizures. I was passing out in the shower. I was DAMN lucky I did not hit my head during one of these episodes. I’m not sure of the long-term repercussions.
When you abuse your body, damage is done. Undeniably. BUT. The AMOUNT can be mitigated. ‘Giving up and in’ to recovery (because that’s what it takes- giving up on the self-hatred/the need for control and accepting whatever recovery brings) is the first step. You have the power. You have the strength. You just have to find the will.
I was lucky. My recovery happened amidst a cosmic ‘perfect storm.’ My loving roommates, my encouraging master’s swim team, and a family that refused to give up on me (as well as a sister who called out my shit when I allowed the ED free reign) created a necessary bastion of support. If these things had not all simultaneously existed…would I still be in recovery 6 years later? Would I have made it to my current perch, able to look down and through the years that led me here? I don’t know. I really don’t. After all, I started and stopped ‘recovery’ many times before it finally held.
But, queries aside, I am here today. And now I’m using my perched position to beg those still struggling to keep fighting. It is not easy. Nothing truly beautiful or worthwhile ever is. Some days in recovery might even feel worse than some of your pre-recovery days. But you have to keep moving, keep progressing. Do not let the eating disorder win.
As an aside, I know this is a more aggressive ED post than what I normally produce and I would like to iterate that I am always available to talk to/support those in need or who have decided enough is enough. I’m human and sometimes I might have to take care of myself first…and I can’t say my answer is your answer…or even that I have an answer at all. But I have been there. And I am also here. And I want you to join me.
(And, as always, #blacklivesmatter today and every day- part of my journey to “better myself” is through education. Currently reading Ta Nehisi-Oates’ Between the World and Me and will update my GoodReads account with thoughts.)