The Aftermath of Anorexia

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you start your week of with clarity, energy and peace. Linking up with Julia over at Drops of Jules for this post- finally! I’ve been meaning to do it for months now and I’m just getting around to writing a relevant post. Cheers to quiet evenings!

For most of my readers, you know that I struggled with anorexia and excessive exercise for over 6 years. About 6 and a half months ago, I started my path to recovery and it’s made all the difference in the world. But anorexia refuses to forgotten so quickly and has left her mark all over my life and all around my body. There’s many, many physical effects from anorexia and there’s just as many in recovery- digestive issues, night sweats, swelling. I could go on for days (and maybe I will in a future blog post. Because there’s SO many strange things that happen to your body when you start treating it well after years of abuse).

About a month into my recovery, I started having terrible knee and hip pain. A couple weeks after that, my feet started aching so bad I had to hold myself up on the railings when I went down the stairs in the morning. I’ve recently started adding exercise slowly back into my life in small ways; mostly walks and a little bit of yoga. The one day I did try to run, my knee pain was so intense I had to stop after doing less than a tenth of what I used to do.

I recently had a physical to ensure that my health was improving as I recovered. I asked my doctor about my knee and hip pain and was referred to an orthopedic doctor. I was diagnosed with bursitis in my hips, femoral patella syndrome and told my knee caps were out of alignment. The results of six years of running several miles every single day, only taking a day off every other week or so. The results of abusing my body in the same way for days on end. I was told that in order to run again, I would have to avoid stairs and bending my knees, wear a brace, and complete 6 months of physical therapy. It hit me hard hearing that I may not ever be able to run the way I used to. I don’t mean in the obsessive, exhausting way that I used to. I mean in the days before the disorder- the days when running meant anxiety relief and freedom. When running was just a way to connect to the Earth and clear my mind. Knowing that I might not ever be a runner again struck me in a way I can’t quite explain. And then again a few weeks later, I got more news.

Last week, I got the results from a bone density scan that I had done late in July. My doctor told me what I had been half expecting but fully dreading: I have severe bone loss and am right on the border of osteoporosis. At 23 years old, I have the bones of a 70-year-old woman. Needless to say, the news shocked and devastated me. My first reaction to think about what this could mean long term. All I could picture was myself at 40 years old, hunched over and going through life with an unnecessary amount of pain. I thought about how hard it is to get pregnant with such serious nutrient deficiencies and how my body likely isn’t healthy enough to get pregnant anyways. I’m certainly not trying to have kids right now but my goal in life has always been to be a mother. I know I’ve already put any future pregnancies at risk and made conceiving harder for me; this news just added fuel to the fire. I thought about the back pain I’ve had for years and how I could have avoided all of it. And I thought about all the things I could have done to avoid this whole situation altogether.

It’s hard not be mad at myself when I hear things like that. I mean, how could I not be? I’m in such a good place- I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. And to have all the years of my eating disorder and exercise obsession coming back to haunt me six months into recovery…well, it just wasn’t the news I wanted. Luckily, there’s ways to reverse some of the bone loss. Women typically build bone until age 30, although it slows down after your teens and early 20s. It’s so, so important to eat enough to give my body enough  energy to rebuild bone and of course, there’s foods that contain some of the nutrients needed to restart that bone growth. I’m seeing a specialist and am committed to doing everything in my power to reverse what I can. And even though there is a chance it will never be reversed, I’ve decided that the best strategy is to pick myself up from here and keep going; there is no point on reflecting what I could have done differently. It is what it is. My only option is to keep going and do everything I can to help myself.

I share all this for a few reasons. First, for awareness. It’s easy to live in your eating disorder and think that you’re not “sick enough” to have any of the long term side effects. I certainly felt that way and from what I’ve heard from other people in recovery, feeling “not sick enough” is a pretty common trend. But here’s the thing: “not sick enough” doesn’t exist. If you’re engaging in eating disorder behaviors, then you are sick enough. End of story. There’s the very wrong perception that only skeletal woman can have side effects like that and it’s simply not true. I was underweight but not wildly during my eating disorder days. I never felt like I was really “anorexic” (and I denied it vehemently when my therapist and doctor called it anorexia). I never felt like I was that sick. And yet- the proof is all around me. I did serious damage to my body during that time without ever thinking it would happen to me.

Second, to say to anyone with an eating disorder or anyone engaging in behaviors: SEEK HELP. It’s so dangerous. You are sick enough and you are worthy of help. And if you’re in recovery or even recovered: see a doctor and make sure that you’re healthy! Ask questions. I almost didn’t even ask for a bone density scan; I figured that the doctor would order one if he was concerned. But because I have a nutrition background and knew the risks, I asked for one and even though I didn’t get the results I wanted, I’m glad I asked. Everyone deserves help.

This post isn’t meant to discourage anyone but to shout out into my tiny corner of the universe about how IMPORTANT it is to seek recovery. Anyone with disordered eating deserves a healthy relationship with food and a healthy, fully-functioning body. And everyone, no matter who you are or what you’re history, deserves a healthy and happy life. Seeking help, no matter what for, can only help us achieve that goal.

I’m so thankful for the recovery community that has encouraged me and reassured me during the last few weeks. If you’re not already following my Instagram, check it out HERE and sign up for my email list on the sidebar! You’ll only ever get emails when I post new things. And if you’re in recovery or seeking body positivity or just a good conversation about life, I am available always at [email protected]  Enjoy the upcoming week all!