I, uh... I have an eating disorder... and you don't know how hard it is to admit that

TW: Weight and Body Issues; Discussion of Eating Disorders;
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, please skip this one. I don't want to trigger you, or set your recovery back. If you haven't already, please reach out for help! Here in Tucson, we have Mirasol, but other cities have other resources. Just google Eating Disorder Help and your city. Please! Get help! This is your life, and it's precious.

I can't tell you all how hard this is to write. To see it in black and white text on this blogger dashboard... it was hard enough to admit aloud to a couple friends and my partner when I reached out for help. I don't know when, if, this post will be published, I just need to get it out, and then I'll deal with the emotions it brings up... because goddamn, it's an emotional thing.

Please let me be vulnerable with you. Please accept this vulnerability for what it is: a gift. Please hold my feelings carefully, and with the compassion that I need-- that same compassion and care I have always held your feelings with... because I need it.

I've spoken in the past about the disordered eating I was raised around. I've talked about that "giraffe-opotomus" that I see when I look in the mirror, and the way I've worked to accept myself, or tried to, at least... my "not petite", not "feminine enough" self. The self who is never enough, that is too tall, too smart, too everything...

What I never talked about was my own eating disorder. Part of me was, and is, terrified of admitting it aloud. Part of me thought I'd beat it, that I had conquered that demon, finally shouted down that voice in the Peanut Gallery, finally succeeded! I was victorious, I thought, so why talk about the past. I was afraid I'd trigger someone who was fighting their own eating disorder, or that I'd impede their progress... I know how easy it is to be triggered, I would be devastated if I did that to another!

And part of me figured that no one cared. It's so common, disordered eating, why make a blog about it? Why draw attention to myself this way? Why go public, why out myself, so that others would know this deep, dark, embarrassing, mortifying, horrifying secret? Why put myself through it?

Besides, I was done with it, I'd beat it! 
See? Fucked up thinking there, I know... but that's how mental illness does, and when you have anxiety and depression, they already make shit hard to talk about. Throw in an eating disorder and you've got a fucking trifecta of FUCKED up Shit!!

So, let’s start AA style, and we’ll see how far I can go…

Hi, my name is Emma Crawford, and I have an eating disorder. I've struggled with it off and on since I can remember. I really fought it in my teens in high school, and again from my mid-20's until about 32. I have a form of anorexia, on the “restrictive food intake” side. 

I have never had what you could call “full blown anorexia”, in that my weight has never been low enough—thankfully. I do not binge and I don’t purge. I don’t exercise too much. 

I do avoid “bad” foods, and I do skip meals, even if I’m hungry, because “I ate too much yesterday” or “I had that cake/cookie/etc earlier the week”. I do this, often, without even realising that it's what I'm doing. It's like a tic, you don't realise you're chewing your nails until someone points it out-- same with eating disorders, you don't often realise that you've fallen back into that way of thinking, until something happens. For me, it was hopping on the scale and seeing the number consistently fall, as my jeans felt looser and looser.

When I get stressed out, my appetite goes first, which helps my eating disorder come to the fore! Hey, I can restrict and not argue with my body, because I’m not hungry… even when I know I’m passed hunger—when I need to eat… I often don’t.

I always eat dinner… but breakfast is more miss than hit, and lunch is only on the menu about 3-4 days of the week. I live on hot tea some days, and I know that isn’t healthy.

But knowing it is unhealthy doesn’t stop my brain from switching out the “Hunger” button with a huge "Pause This" button. “We’ll eat in a few”, I think to myself, knowing that few is probably another two hours. But I do it anyway.

I can’t control anything outside of myself, and even though my home life is great, my work life has been so stressful that I feel out of control—like I’m waiting for shit to explode.

[NB: In case you don’t remember, we’ve been in a temporary location while our home shelter is being renovated/rebuilt. If you’ve ever built a house, then you know the stress—everything’s in the air, constantly, things get rescheduled, and that pushes everything back, inspections take forever to schedule, the utility people are ALWAYS late! Now, imagine trying to work and help run a business that cares for live animals while this is going on…. It’s honestly a wonder we’re not all stress-bald and haven’t hanged ourselves.]

I don’t believe that my job is in jeopardy. That’s not that kind of stress. I don’t believe that my boss hates me or anything like that (she’s pretty wicked awesome, if I’m being blunt). It’s just like going to work in a tornado and waiting for the news that it’s passing…

There are other things, contributing to my disordered eating. There are always things that contribute to it. I don’t know if I know what is, but I’ve figured out some things that aren’t.

It’s not that I turned 40. That has been a pretty awesome milestone, and I was able to celebrate with some of the best friends a woman could have.

It’s not my marriage, which is rock solid, and we’re constantly working to keep it that way.

It’s not finances, because we’ve continued to be careful and plan since my partner’s job scare earlier this year.

I don’t think it’s my kids, but I have had long standing issues with my daughter, as many of you know. She is still my “trouble child”, and I don’t know if it will ever get better. I still don't think my kids have anything to do with it, and I've always hidden it from them.

It isn’t my depression, because I’ve only had a couple small episodes since my last big one in January (the inauguration from hell). These times passed relatively quickly and weren’t full on depressive episodes, more like speed bumps, which anyone with depression can explain.

But I don’t know what all is contributing.

Like I said, I’m a restrictor. So, I eat much less than I need to maintain weight. As a 5’7 woman, to stay at 135 pounds, with my activity level (considered light to moderate) I need to take in about 1700-1800 calories per day. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? I mean shit, that’s a lot of fucking calories to eat! And I don’t… not regularly. I tend to average 1500 to 1600… so my weight slowly falls off… kinda like the tide taking a little sand at a time, until you have a hollow.

I don’t weigh 135, and haven’t for a while. I’ve forced myself to go no lower than 127, which is the number on the scale that scared me… see, I didn’t realise I was doing it to myself again. I didn’t realise that I’d fallen back into those patterns of restriction. I haven’t been this thin since 2008, when my partner and I got together… I was down to 125 back then.

Now I’m hovering in the 132-133 range, and I look at my food journal half in hatred and half in resignation. Oh, right, I’m keeping a food journal. It’s an app on my phone, and I log my tea, food, snacks, and exercise, so I know if I’ve skipped a meal, right there in blue and white. I see the calories I need for the day count down, and feel accomplished if I can make it to the 1600 mark.

But there’s a part of me that thinks the whole thing is so fucking stupid. Why does it matter if I lose, lose, lose, and would it really kill me to get back to 125? Or less? Maybe then I’d lose the squish in my thighs, the part of my body that I hate so much. Maybe then I’d finally feel thin and beautiful! Maybe then I’d accept my body, just as it is, because of some arbitrary number on the scale and the size jeans I wear.

See, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see what you all see. You see a thin, redhead with curly hair, blue eyes, and a pretty smile. A hard-worker, I hope, and a good friend (I hope harder!) You see me, my flaws reduced and my attributes enhanced, because you’re my friends and loved ones. You don’t see the depression and self-loathing, the Peanut Gallery calling me ugly, fat and useless, the inner part of me that is always ashamed of my height and weight.

When I look at myself, I see a woman with fat thighs, a big ass, no tits, very few curves, and so much lacking in the physical department that I can’t stand it! I see someone who is too tall, and too bony on the top half, and too squishy and fat on the bottom. I see only my flaws, and let me tell you, they’re in fucking Technicolour!

I forget that everyone has squishy parts.
I forget that even models aren’t perfect (and I should know! I am one, and know a couple more!)
I forget that the flaws I see are just tiny parts of me, and not the glaring examples of awful I think they are.
I forget that all together, I’m a good person, and a loving person.
I forget that my worth isn’t tied up on my weight.
I forget that my sense of self shouldn’t be hung on “fits this size”.
I forget so much, and that’s what an eating disorder does, it makes you forget the good, to concentrate on the (often imaginary) evils of yourself.

Ok, so, what am I doing about it? Now that I see what I'm doing to myself?
Like I said, I'm keeping a food journal. That's a big step for me. I don't monitor my food intake, and that seems to be the problem-- it's easier to fall into bad thinking if you're not being mindful. My food journal is helping me be mindful.

I'm being open and honest about it. So, I'm holding myself accountable-- by sharing this with you, my readers, with my partner and my close friends-- I'm admitting that I do have this problem, and that it scares me. That I can't do it by myself, and I just need someone, anyone out there, to know! If you know, and I know that you know, it's not a deep, dark, shameful secret any more.

I'm trying to kill the shame. There's nothing to be ashamed of. I am nothing to be ashamed of. I'm a human, with so much to give, and I am not the walking embodiment of shame. Not today, not tomorrow, and not again. It's ok to be sad and regretful when I harm someone; but it's not ok to be ashamed of myself, and my everything.

I'm telling myself, that I am enough... even when it feels like a lie. I'll keep repeating it, until it feels and tastes like the truth in my mouth. Until it becomes a refrain of self-love. Until I can say it without shaking, and without stumbling over the words. I Am Enough! Just the way I am, right now.

I'm being careful with my emotions. I'm taking the time to listen to the Peanut Gallery-- because not every voice in it is bad, or says mean things. There are parts of me that are supportive, and I'm going to concentrate on those parts. Together, all of me, can shout down the negativity, if I take the time to listen.

I'm taking every day, as a singular day. I'm not going to worry about my calorie intake from yesterday, or tomorrow. Only today. And if I skip breakfast, which I often do when I'm on vacation (this week is vacation), then I'll shrug, and note to myself that I should have a snack at tea time.

I won't play the game, "Well, some people have it so much worse than me, so my problems aren't worth talking about". I'm sure you all know that game. It's a daily part of living with any kind of chronic illness, whether mental or physical... we all know someone who's daily life is so much harder than ours, who is sicker, or fighting harder to stay afloat, so we don't talk. I'll accept that yes, someone always has it worse, and that doesn't negate my worse right now. Someone always has it better, too, and that doesn't take my better away-- I need to remember that.


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