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Anorexia, or where I've been

Guys, I have to be honest with you that 2019 kicked my ass from start to finish. I had significant depressive episodes, and I was battling and losing to anorexia. It’s been a lot of therapy, and my medication is still being adjusted. There was also a lot of energy absorbed by the usual–chronic pain, parenting, etc.

I stopped posting here because I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t maintain the facade that everything was okay when my life was the farthest thing from okay. Not the lowest point of my life, but it’s among them.

I’ve decided to share my story in hopes that it might help someone else. I was not educated about how fat people can still be anorexic—in fact, I joked that I could be “anorexic” until I was actually anorexic. I thought of anorexia as something that happens to teenagers, not mothers in their forties.

I have a long history with hating my body, and I have been restricting since I was young, although never like this. Primarily my restricting has been the other component of my eating disorder–what’s called Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, or ARFID.

The restricting that turned into full blown anorexia started by accident in the summer of 2018—what a therapist called momorexia, because I was eating small bites on the go, stopping at the first hint of fullness because I was super busy. I lost weight, and since I was losing at a “safe” pace of 8-ish pounds a month, or 2-ish a week, I shrugged off my initial concerns that maybe the weight loss wasn’t such a good thing, or, more to the point, that it wasn’t happening safely. I kept restricting further and further, taking every less bite of food as a moral victory. After all, I’ve been in a body that has weighed 200+ pounds for the past twenty years, and every doctor I’ve talked to from my back surgeon to my pcps have urged me to lose weight. I’ve done dieting. I’ve done exercising until I hurt myself. But I never was able to move the needle much at all (because, as science tells us, our bodies tend to have a set point weight, and it’s really hard to move that needle when it’s possible at all) until restricting.

When I told my doctor that maybe I wasn’t being safe in late November (by which point I was eating less than I ever had, and my weight has never been about overeating). She told me to eat at least 1200 calories a day and it would be fine. AT LEAST. My fucked up brain said if 1200 is good, under 1200 is better. After all, it’s not like I’m losing weight too fast.

Then I began counting calories explicitly. Weighing food. Measuring food. Then my weight plateaued in February 2019. Then came the spreadsheet, and the game I played with myself, which was effectively “how few calories can Delilah eat without having dizzy spells?” In April I blew up at my therapist over eating—the first time she’d seen me fully lose my composure in nearly four years of weekly or bi-weekly therapy. I ended up confessing everything. She talked to a colleague who specializes in eating disorders. The colleague strongly urged me to seek evaluation and treatment. I made an appointment with Stanford’s eating disorder clinic for evaluation, but I also made an appointment with a plastic surgeon. I knew how many pounds I was away from “overweight” as opposed to “obese.” I was constantly getting positive feedback.

I shopped in straight sizes for the first time ever as an adult. Clothes became a way I compensated myself for all the awful shit I was putting myself through. But I was a pretty absent mom because I was so exhausted all the time because I wasn’t eating.

Then came the first week of June. I ended up in the ER for pain we thought was a kidney infection, but was actually a cyst on an ovary. But as they ran tests, they found that my potassium was extremely low–even dangerously so. I was given a mega dose, and told to follow up with my doctor. Then came the multi-day nausea (which I now suspect was a series of worsening panic attacks as there is a clear pattern between nausea and anxiety attacks for me) and dry heaving, during which I ate virtually nothing and threw up what I did eat and drink.

I got evaluated by the eating disorder team, and it didn’t go well.

But the real bottom of the barrel, and the reason I ended up getting help was that I collapsed at my older daughter’s fifth grade graduation. I felt like shit—I could barely pay attention because it felt like there was something on my chest and that I was struggling to breathe normally. I survived through it, although I remember nothing beyond what I was physically experiencing, which took over everything. When the room started telescoping, I told my husband that I needed to leave and go to the hospital. He agreed, and I went to the car while he went find our daughter and tell her what was happening and why we were leaving. At the car I started feeling really faint, and staggered to the front office where I asked them to call 911. I got taken away, dehydrated, mid massive panic attack (the source of the chest pains, most likely, based on tests), and on the verge of fainting in an ambulance. Instead of celebrating graduation with my daughter.

For what it’s worth, my daughter is so understanding of all of it–which almost makes it worse. She’s forgiven me. I have yet to forgive myself.

Inpatient treatment was recommended, but I was able to find what’s called a partial hospitalization program near me. Partial hospitalization was a six and a half hour a day commitment, but I could live at home. I’d go there, eat lunch (supervised), do two hours of therapy, eat a snack (supervised), two hours of therapy, dinner (supervised), then home. I was at that level of treatment for pretty much the entire summer, initially six days a week, although I moved to five pretty quickly.

I have mixed feelings about my treatment program, but I can’t deny that they saved me from a far worse fate–despite being 180 pounds, despite losing at a safe rate—I was courting heart damage and death with my actions. I developed and still have a problem with being orthostatic (blood pressure changes dramatically when moving from laying to standing, which can cause fainting among other things) because of it.

I went several months without treatment and began to backslide.

In late 2019 I was able to connect with an eating disorder specialist and dietician, and I am currently working with them to pursue recovery.

Were there any bright points? Lab Rats was 90% edited during 2019. I started leading my younger daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I had a short story in an anthology. I wrote the forward for an anthology put out by Jayhenge (again, I’ll highlight that in another post). But that’s about it.

So how to move forward when I’m not quite out of the woods yet either eating disorder or mental health meds-wise? Well, I started 2020 by putting Lab Rats up for pre-order (I’ll do a promotional post with an excerpt another day), so that feels significant.

Writing feels foreign to me as I’m really out of practice. I didn’t write much of anything new for 2019–editing Lab Rats was all I could manage. But I’m starting again, and even if it feels hard and stilted and sucky at least it’s happening.

One Response

  1. I loved reading this. Nobody talks about the hard times they are having, im glad you did. I had a similar thing happen in my teens when my mom went to the hospital i ate as little as possible, until the day i almost fainted while visiting her. Your a very strong woman and mom to get help! May 2020 be a blessed year for you💜

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