Deep down, when I first started this blog, I knew what it was eventually going to be about. I figured by the time 2013 ended I would have spilled all of my secrets and that nothing would be off limits for me to write about. I wasn’t sure exactly when I’d get the courage to nail everything down and actually write it out, but hey – better sooner than later.
So, if you aren’t interested in really getting to know me … this is the part where you should stop reading. It’s about to get real personal, real fast. I’m extremely scared for how people are going to react to this, but the only way I know how to solve a problem is to talk or write about it. Writing is my therapy.
So what do you say to taking chances? (insert Celine Dion song here).
Allow me to re-introduce myself. (Credit due to Jordan MacIntosh for the link idea). My name is Emily Clark, I’m 21 years old, and have a weird obsession with alligators. My little sister is my best friend and role model, and I love staying home with my family on the weekends. I also have an eating disorder. I am currently in recovery for bulimia and I am now going to make my blog about my journey.
I can’t pinpoint exactly why I started hating my body or why I thought purging was a positive way for me to get “in shape.” I’ve always considered myself a pretty healthy person and no one has ever told me that I’m “fat” or need to lose weight. I want to make it very clear that the way I chose to treat my body – was all my own doing. It all began in my freshmen year of college, when I slowly began to hate myself.
In high school I never gave my body a second thought. I started cheerleading in sixth grade (yes, it’s a sport) and could always complete fitness testing for my gym classes. I didn’t think anything of binging on McDonalds the night before a cheerleading competition or eating double chocolate poptarts before every cheerleading practice. You couldn’t pay me money to do either of those things now. If for some strange reason I did agree to eat like that, I’m still extremely afraid of what I’m capable of doing after.
It’s been since this past August that I’ve last gotten sick and it’s the longest I’ve gone yet. Woot woot!
I think a number of different things went into “my downfall.” I was in a five-year relationship in high school that often left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough. My senior year I went from a size six to a double zero after completely losing my appetite due to stress and anxiety over the relationship.
The relationship ended shortly after I stated at RIT and as I continued to “get over” everything, my appetite returned. Nights out with my friends would turn into early morning eating fests. If I was stressed about anything, I’d eat. I didn’t recognize it at first but eating became my support system.
Not surprisingly, I gained a lot of weight back. By January my jeans were too tight and my younger sister’s clothes weren’t fitting like they once did.
So binging and purging became my BFF. I convinced myself that anything that wasn’t all-natural, whole grain, a fruit or vegetable, and under 100 calories wasn’t healthy. I couldn’t stand having it in my body. However, that didn’t stop me from consuming it. The more I told myself I couldn’t have something, the more often I’d end up binging on it later.
This continued on, there were good weeks and bad weeks. When summer rolled around, I convinced myself it would be a good idea to learn how to run. My goal became to run ten miles by the end of the summer and I thought “practicing” by running twice a day would for sure get me there. This mostly just led to more stress, when I realized learning to run over night wasn’t going to happen. This began the horrible cycle of “taking days off” only to binge like a mad woman and then try to make up for it by days of running for multiple hours. I wasn’t getting anywhere.
To make matters slightly worse, I worked at an ice cream shop. No matter how many times I told myself I didn’t want ice cream, my brain twisted that into “you can’t have ice cream.” Telling myself I couldn’t have ice cream only made me binge on it. I usually worked at the ice cream shop at night and would often leave with ice cream for home. Once at home, I’d eat the ice cream and get so mad at myself. I’d think, “Well, game-over for the day. I mine as well eat everything I can get my hands on and start fresh tomorrow.” Thus became my mantra for the next year.
If I messed up by eating a food I deemed “unhealthy,” at any point during the day, the rest of the day was shot. I’d soothe myself by becoming convinced I could start fresh tomorrow and that I must get all of the “bad” eating out of system. It was as if all of the “bad” food was going to magically disappear the next day and I had to eat all of it now. If only it really did disappear. Suprise Em, it’s not going anywhere.
I had already been seeing a therapist, so naturally our sessions began to be shaped by my eating disorder. I’ve always been a perfectionist and definitely have obsessive compulsive tendencies. Staci, my therapist, showed me how my need to be perfect was fueling the bulimia and that anytime I “messed” up, I punished myself by continuing to binge and purge. As much as I wanted each tomorrow to be a fresh start, I’ve very slowly grasped the concept that life isn’t clean. There isn’t always a fresh start and therefore you have to work with what you have now.
On and on the bulimia continued. I had always refused medicine, thinking that only the weak need medicine to heal. I convinced myself I could do this. I tried to be a vegetarian and then a vegan. Finally, in the fall of my Sophomore year, I confessed my eating disorder to my doctor. Hello, medication!
I started at a low dosage and slowly worked my way up to a greater one. Well I wish I could say it was an instant fix, it wasn’t. The binging and purging still occurred, although definitely less frequently. I started to become more comfortable with myself, but still wasn’t pleased when I looked in the mirror. I didn’t think I was being successful unless I could see my ribs in the mirror before getting in the shower, or if my jaw line was clearly defined. A sunken look in my face? Golden. A grumbling stomach when I woke up in the morning? A beautiful sound. I don’t know if I can say that I’ve ever thought I was “fat,” but I definitely wouldn’t ever use the word “skinny.” Being able to say I was “skinny,” and hearing it from others became my goal.
By this time both of my parents, sister, a few close friends, and boyfriend knew what I was dealing with to a certain extent. However, no one could stop me from locking myself in my apartment bedroom if I was “tired,” and no one would have second guessed me taking a shower. Let’s just say the sound of water and a shower can hide a lot.
I don’t know what eventually clicked for me and when hearing myself say, “You can’t do this anymore Em” over and over finally set in. Sometime that Summer I slowly began to turn things around. It may have been the time my therapist told me that if I didn’t stop I’d be headed to rehab or hearing my mom cry over how I was treating myself. All I know, is that it wasn’t strictly my decision, although I wish I could say it was. My parents, my little sister, my boyfriend, my friends, Staci, my doctor, a new doctor at the hospital, a therapist at school, and my amazing eating disorder group pushed and continue to push me to get better each day.
Speaking of boyfriend, I forgot to mention that I’ve been with Jordan for about a year and a half now. I plan on creating separate posts for the people that have guided my recovery, but there is something that occurred with Jordan that I think about often and is worth mentioning now.
When Jordan and I first met, I was at my worst. I was also at my heaviest. I can’t tell you an exact weight, because I don’t know, but I’m positive it was the most I’ve ever weighed. My skin was a mess, my throat was often scratchy and in pain, and I was really at my rock bottom. However, I couldn’t acknowledge this as a rock bottom, because c’mon. My rock bottom had to be dramatic and beautiful, like it was in the movies. Not to sound completely dramatic, but it’s the truth. To this day, it still amazes me that he found me attractive when we first met. It was in those first few months of learning he actually liked me that some part of my image distortion began to fall away.
So where am I now? Well I’m here! I’m writing about it, I’m learning to be open about it, and I’m talking about my recovery. I went for a run on Saturday (which I now can say I love in an non-obsessive way) and mental blogged everything I wanted to share. I think this is important.
Last Wednesday I began running the idea by my parents, my sister, Jordan, my best friends, and finally my eating disorder group. Their responses? Extremely supportive – which I will forever be thankful for.
While in group on Friday, one of the other members said, “Wow, people are going to be really shocked to hear Emily has a problem.” Although we’ve never been close friends, this person is the only one I knew ahead of time and I was just as shocked to see them on my first day of group, as they probably were to see me. When I saw their face in the waiting room, I instantly though “Oh, hell no!” I can’t admit this in front of said person. But somehow I did.
Anyways, hearing this person make that comment on Friday, I was able to put into perspective what exactly I’ve been afraid about with admitting my eating disorder in this blog. It’s hard to admit you have a problem, it’s hard to talk openly about it. Life is freaking hard and I know it’s much harder for others. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and am grateful for what I’ve learned. I think this blog may be the final step in my recovery – that will undoubtedly last forever.
So I’m afraid that people are going to know I failed, people are going to know I can’t take care of myself, people are going to know there are times I think I’m the most hideous person on earth, etc. Most importantly, I’m scared that people are going to know I’m not perfect. It has also been my goal, whether it was conscious or unconscious.
Well, I gladly give up and pleasantly throw in the towel.
I can do this because I now understand perfection is impossible and I honestly, no longer want to it. I’m ready to learn how to accept myself for what I am. I have the most amazing family, boyfriend, and friends … it’s time to love myself.
I think it’s going to be hard, I think every day is a challenge. I can’t wait to share my journey with you.
And I leave you with this …
“Unfortunately, I have a feeling I’m destined for greatness, but I suffer setbacks because being awesome is hard work.”