Tag Archives: ANXIETY

The (un)happy days: eating disorders in college

Happy November! How is it this late in the year? How is it already 4 weeks from Thanksgiving? This is madness!

Anyways, I hope this post finds you well, wherever you may be as you read it. As much as I love October, I am excited about November and the opportunity to have a more peaceful and less hectic month- I don’t know about you but my October was a little busier than I would have preferred. I had a lot going on at work, in my after-work hours, in my personal life in general. I love this time of year- I love fall, I love Thanksgiving, I love chilly weather that requires cozy sweaters and LL Bean slippers. I love cuddling into my bed under all my blankets at night. I love the crispness in the air. I love it.

I’m going to be honest with you, friends. I have started and stopped approximately eight blog posts over the last few weeks and every time, they come to a crashing halt. It’s not that I’m uninspired. It’s that I’m so inspired I can’t pull down all my thoughts into one coherent sentence, let alone one post.

I’m going to tell a story because I like storytelling and this one popped into my head this afternoon. It made me pause and be grateful for this place that I’m in. And I wanted to share it.

During my 4 years of college, I went to a lot of doctor/therapist/psychiatrist appointments, especially during my last two years when things were really bad. My senior year, I was going to all three in three separate appointments every week. I was always running off to “meetings” or mysterious “appointments” when I was with my classmates (my good friends knew, but most probably didn’t know I was even suffering until this blog) and I was always finding excuses to leave work for an hour so I could go have a near nervous breakdown in my therapist’s office.

These were terrible times.

I went to my therapist every week, although all we did at the time was talk in circles because I wasn’t willing to make any changes to help myself. More accurately, my eating disorder wouldn’t let me make any changes that would possibly hinder his ability to function and control my body. I think about all the suggestions she made during those years and how unwilling I was to listen. I would leave her office and walk straight to the gym, where I would spend 75 minutes in sheer agony. I just wasn’t ready yet. I forgive myself for that.

I went to my psychiatrist every week because after years of refusing, I finally started on an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant. And I went to a doctor to monitor my weight, my heart and so he could beg me to stop exercising so much. He would tell me I was at risk of a stress fracture, of permanent damage of my joints. I would just ignore it and pretend it wasn’t as bad as it was.

The first time I saw him and he did a full intake and evaluation, he told me that I needed to cut back my running and fast. I so distinctly remember him saying “I’m not going to take running away from you but…” and my usual calm, peaceful, non-confrontational self snapped and told him he wasn’t because he couldn’t because it was mine. I went to my therapist the next day in a rage because she was the one who had referred me to him. (Break in the story here to say that I was so lucky to be on a campus where I had these services available to me free of charge. I may not have liked all this appointments or wanted to go. I may have cried all the way through and hated what they had to say but things would have been a HELLA lot worse without them. Shoutout to the Counseling Center and Health Services at University of Rhode Island. If you are in college and are having similar or different issues, please please look into the resources available to you. It’s pretty rad, man.)

Eventually, things got so bad that I was referred to an eating disorder clinic. Well technically, I was referred months and months before but towards the end of my senior year, I finally agreed to go to an intake appointment. In preparation for that, my doctor had to gather all sorts of information about me. He was blind weighing me every week (even though I was consistently weighing myself at home so it didn’t matter) but he had to get another weight for the clinic paperwork. Per usual, he weighed me without me knowing and I sat back down in my hard plastic seat. And then, being the curious and self-sabotaging person that I am, I leaned over and tried to read my weight off his computer.

I saw my weight.

And I freaked the fuck out.

Because it was more than I had weighed in months, probably years. Like I said before, I was still weighing myself every day at this point (when I creeped upstairs before my roommates woke up so I could use their scale, then ran back down to my room). The weight I saw was at least 10 pounds over what I expected, maybe more. I started spinning out of control.

It couldn’t possibly be true.

It couldn’t be right.

…it wasn’t. I read the computer wrong.

You know how I know? Because after 24 hours of sheer panic, shame and anxiety, I emailed the doctor in a frenzy. I said that I saw my weight, it can’t possibly be true, I’ve weighed myself on multiple scales, that can’t be right, it can’t be right! And he responded gently and told me that I had seen it wrong, that my weight was actually X pounds and that he would make sure it was accurate in the paperwork.

It was humiliating- to care that much, to send that email, to admit how much my weight actually mattered to me, how terrified I was at the idea of weight gain. Against my better judgement, I went back and read those emails tonight and I cried a little bit for that girl and I shed a few tears of gratitude that I am not her anymore.

That girl who panicked when she read her weight wrong? She is now at least twenty five pounds over that weight she mistakenly saw. She is now at least a few sizes bigger. She has rolls, she hasn’t run in 10 months, every single part of her body has gotten bigger including her feet. Her old jeans from college wouldn’t fit over her knees  and her old bras are so small they would be deemed societally inappropriate had I not finally sprung for new ones. She has cellulite. She gets bloated sometimes. She is wonderfully squishy.

And you know what?

She is really fucking happy.

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When you’re a little off center…

It took me awhile but after twenty-three years, I’ve finally found my center. You know, the place everyone is referring to when they describe themselves “centered”. The place where peace emanates from, the place where I feel grounded and whole. I am centered when I have a low (but not too low) stress level. I am centered when I am doing work and activities that fulfill me. I am centered when I am making time for myself. I am centered when I am eating regularly and enough. It’s in this place that I can think clearly, laugh loudly and feel good, despite what thoughts pop up.

I am very off-center.

Before anyone gets worried (ahem, mom), I am fine. I am just a normal person who sometimes has bad days and who sometimes doesn’t sleep well at night. Most importantly for myself, I am eating enough (although I do believe I could stand to eat more because I’m a bit more draggy than usual, even for this kind of mood. Oh, the wonders of recovery. Never know when your body suddenly wants to make more repairs).

I started moving away from my center this weekend. I spent my weekend in Rhode Island, which is where I went to college and where a lot of my friends still live. Let’s get two things out of the way first: I’ve had my panties in a bunch because my October weekends are getting eaten alive by life. I just want to slow down, enjoy my favorite time of year, go for a hike in these beautiful NH mountains by myself. I want to go to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning and get a cookie butter coffee while I’m over there. I want to write and read and bask in the beauty of the Earth. I regret to inform you all that I am selfish when it comes to my weekends. I love seeing people and spending time with my friends but I also love two whole days where I have no plans, no obligations, just me doing my own thang. And I have not a single weekend in October to myself which makes me (again, selfishly) grumpasaurus rex. Second, the full moon was this weekend so this moon child was feeling all sorts of nutty.

Also before everyone I’ve spent an October weekend with feels bad/mad/sad: HI GUYS I love you all so much it’s stupid, I am just being a greedy wench who wants it both ways. 

That being said…I went to Rhode Island this weekend. Which is a place where I spent four long, unhappy years trapped by my eating disorder and unbearable anxiety. It’s a place where I spent many nights crying, feeling unwanted, feeling bad about myself, feeling different, feeling every emotion under the sun. I had some very dark days there. And it’s a place I have not been back to since recovery.So basically, my weekend brought up some unexpected things. And for the most part, thatI spent most of my weekend with four of my friends, all of whom except one had not seen me since recovery (it is worth noting here that I was not worried at all about them seeing me and thinking of me differently. That’s just a thought I had now like hey, they might have noticed you gained 50 pounds but it’s totally not anything I thought of beforehand because they are all good and loving and funny people who don’t judge people based on the way they look. These are the kind of people everyone should hang out with). Anywho. I just wasn’t used to being my recovered self with them. Even when we went out to meals, I started having thoughts about who I used to be when I was with them and how I used to eat and who I am now and what I eat. It’s like looking at a picture from your childhood; suddenly, you are sucked back into the past and you forget where you are or what you’re doing or how you’ve grown.

didn’t stop me from enjoying the weekend. I had a swell time. I laughed harder than I have in awhile and loved up on people who I haven’t seen in awhile and ate delicious breakfast foods. But those thoughts sat in the back of mind, lingering there like smoke after you blow out the flame. And then I continued to let it smolder for a few more hours while I drove home. And then I decided that I didn’t feel like journaling (which I do every night, especially after a weekend of not writing) and I didn’t feel like reading and all I wanted to do was watch mindless TV and get mad over silly things and then walk by the river with a podcast in to distract myself from it all. Note: this is not helpful.

Yesterday, I was trying to be kind to myself but my tummy hurt and work was dragging by and I didn’t like my swollen belly and my hair was driving me crazy and my knee was bothering me more than usual and I went to bed later than I wanted to and I didn’t sleep hardly at all and this morning when I woke up, it was cloudy and colder than it was supposed to be and I didn’t feel like going to work and I had a headache and an ingrown hair and it was raining on me during my outreach stops and they gave me the wrong thing for lunch and I forgot my seltzer water home and how could anyone possibly happy when so many catastrophic things are happening to her?!?!?!

Yes, I am being a baby. But even still, this whole combination of things plus exhaustion brought up some very real depression/anxiety/body image thoughts for me. As I drove home from work today, I just thought to myself: what are you doing? Why are you making yourself miserable? Why aren’t you writing when you know it will help? Why aren’t you reading when you know you would rather do that than watch that episode of Friends for the 27th time (not that there’s anything wrong with that)? Why are you letting those body image thoughts take hold in your brain?

I’m not saying that depression or anxiety or eating disorders are decisions; they aren’t. They are very real, very scary, very distressing and unpleasant. But after seven years of dealing with these things, there are things I know I can do to make myself feel better. It’s easier, yes, to be enveloped by the bad thoughts and curl up in them like a blanket. That is a place I once took great comfort. But that’s not where I want to live anymore. That blanket that once felt warm and cozy now feels scratchy and harsh, like it’s been used too many times. That warm feeling comes when I’m at my center, when I’m honoring my truth in my little bubble of authentic life.

So I need to move back towards that space, back to to the place where I feel like I am serving a greater purpose and am fulfilled, happy, whole.It’s not easy. But it’s easier than getting sucked into that dark place, where the light gets so dim it eventually goes out. Fighting back against that by doing things I love to a place where I feel like I am beaming light? Yes please. That is where I want to be. That is where I’m going. We all have that center, the place where we emulate light and love, to the place where we’re all just feelin’ really good, man. It’s our job to find that place, figure out how to get there and then do everything in our power to stay in that sliver of life where joy and fulfillment and contentment and passion live. We all have that place. And we can all get there. Tomorrow is a new day.

Now I want you to tell me…
If you’ve had an ED, has going back to places/people you associate with that thing brought difficult thoughts up?
Does this post resonate with people who have dealt with mental illness in general? Do you feel like there are times when you are off-balance and can feel yourself being pulled in the opposite direction?
How do you find your center?
What’s the best thing that happened to you today? (In case anyone is wondering, mine would be writing this blog post in my sweatpants under this cozy blanket.)

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