“Every single one of us has a devil inside,” so aptly put by the musical group U2. This statement rings true, however. Every one of us has a demon deep within us, bringing us down, skewing our vision. My demon’s name is anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder. First let me explain to you the difference.
Anorexia, according to Wikipedia, is this:
“an eating disorder characterized by a low weight, fear of gaining weight, a strong desire to be thin, and food restriction. Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight even though they are underweight. If asked they usually deny they have a problem with low weight. Often they weigh themselves frequently, eat only small amounts, and only eat certain foods. Some will exercise excessively, force themselves to vomit, or use laxatives to produce weight loss.“
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is this, according to Wikipedia:
“is a mental disorder via obsessive preoccupation with a perceived defect in one’s own appearance, viewed as so severe as to warrant exceptional measures to hide or fix it. In BDD’s delusional variant, the flaw is imagined. If the flaw is actual, its importance is severely exaggerated. Distinguished from anorexia nervosa, BDD is categorized in the obsessive–compulsive spectrum.”
I am talking about this because I often find relief when I bring it to light. It is something I have hidden most of my life, as is often true with people who struggle with these two taboo issues. I first realized that I was anorexic when I started a diet plan at age 15. I went to a managed weight loss clinic because being a size 10 was just out of the question. I wanted to lose weight so badly and was so tired of being made fun of, that I would do anything to change the way I looked; even starve. That’s precisely what I did. My meals consisted of little to no breakfast, barely any lunch, and a small supper. And I walked everyday. No one seemed to see an issue with this. So, I reached my goal. I teetered between a size 6 and a size 4. The lowest weight I ever reached was 116 lbs. The highest weight I ever allowed myself to get to was 120 lbs. I continued this from 1992 until 1996.
In 1996, I was back in a size 9 and I was totally upset with myself. So, I began starving again. I never did see a size 6 again. I maintained between and 8 and 9 and thought that was just terrible. I did abuse laxatives. I ate barely enough to keep myself alive. I craved sweets and would punish myself if I ate a cheeseburger. When I looked in the mirror I saw someone who was completely and utterly unacceptable. That is where the BDD comes in. My vision of myself became so tainted by having anorexia and being so small for so long, that I didn’t know what I was supposed to look like, but I was sure it wasn’t the image looking back at me.
I started graying when I was 19. Now I realize it was from malnutrition. My body was trying to scream at me and I didn’t want to listen. By the time I graduated from college in 1998, I was in an 11/12. I was very disappointed with myself, but I was getting married and it was time to quit worrying about such things. I needed to get a job and contribute to my marriage. Guess what happened? When I started eating like a normal person, I blew right up. When I got pregnant with my son I was wearing a size 18. And each day I looked in the mirror, I wanted to vomit. I hated the way I looked and more so, the way I felt.
Because I starved in my younger years, I ended up with gestational diabetes and guess who never got rid of it? You guessed it. My doctor told me that because I decided to destroy my body by not feeding it, my metabolism was a mess. I was lucky my thyroid hadn’t turned on me; that’s what he told me. Then, in the same breath, he handed me Adipex. Little did he know I had been addicted to it as a teenager and into my early college years. I sure wasn’t going to tell him either. I was trying to stay up at night with a new baby, clean the house, take care of bills, and do everything else I, as Wonder Woman, was supposed to do. I think the lowest I got down during that bout was maybe into a size 16.
I stayed at a size 16/18 for quite some time. I got divorced and my one hope had been that the divorce would throw me into such a depression that I wouldn’t want to eat. Although I wasn’t starving myself, the BDD was wearing the crown. I hated looked in the mirror. I hated each and everything about myself. My thighs were too chunky. My arms were too flabby. My cheeks were too round. And I was back in the dating world competing and I felt that physically, I had nothing to offer. I had friends that were tiny and every time we went to the bars, the men just flocked around them. I was an afterthought; the fat girl who no one wanted. Talk about utter darkness.
I met my current husband in 2006. I was a size 16 still. He seemed to like me anyway. I didn’t presume to understand why. I was a big blob in my mind. My diabetes was entirely out of control and I didn’t even care. I wanted to die. I was sick of looking at myself and seeing the sickening being I’d become. But, I had a son to raise. So, each time I would get ready in the morning, I remembered that he was the focal point of my life and I needed to stay in the game for him.
In 2009 I started researching lap band and gastric bypass. I wanted to do something so badly, but it seemed like my body was resistant to losing weight. In my mind, I had tried everything and nothing worked. I watched as my friends got surgery and dropped hundreds of pounds and there I was gaining and gaining. By March of 2009 I had almost hit 300 lbs. My hope was that with the diabetes and the obesity, my surgery would be paid for by insurance. WRONG! I have needed to cough upward of $20,000 to have anything done. It felt like it was just hopeless.
I was sitting in the doctor’s office for a check up or something and my doctor told me that there was a managed weight loss clinic next door. She told me that they had seen a lot of success, especially with diabetics. Some had even managed to get off of their medication or even insulin. So, I walked next door and checked it out.
They told me that I would be eating 500 calories a day. WHAT???? I said, “Can you even survive on that?” I already knew the answer because I had. The cost of the program was something I could afford, too. I was preparing to go on another cruise and told the receptionist I would contact the clinic when I returned.
I did just that. I went in for a consultation. I was put on a strict plan and put on Adipex again. This time I spoke up and told them about my past and my issues with anorexia. They said that the Adipex would only be in my plan for 12 weeks and they would monitor me each week at weigh-in. They told me if I started having any issues to contact the crisis line. Regarding the anorexia, they said that the diet plan would be healthy so I would be getting proper nourishment. The BDD was a deeper problem and they didn’t exactly address that mostly because I didn’t even realize that I truly had it. I knew there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know it had a name.
Anyway, I started losing… fast. Each week I would lost between 3 to 5 lbs. I reached my goal weight of 150 lbs. by December of 2010. I was in a comfortable size 10. And guess what? That wasn’t good enough in my mind. It was true I had followed the plan, taking about 850 calories a day. Yes, the foods were healthy and my diabetes numbers were freakin’ awesome. My A1C was lower than it ever had been. This weight loss plan had basically helped push the “reset” button inside my body. My struggles with flu and illness were down to nothing. My immune system had strengthen significantly. However, the urge to be thinner came banging at the door. The knocks were pretty loud, too. The bad part was that the entire time I was losing weight, I didn’t exercise at all. It was all calorie counting and protein intake. I was in grad school. I didn’t have time to exercise! So, the anorexic habits started kicking back in again.
My BDD was under control. When I looked in the mirror I saw exactly what I liked. Thin. Trim. Sexy. Then the anxiety kicked in when I no longer needed to go to the clinic. I ate that trusty 850 calories and worried myself to death that I’d gain my weight back. I kept two pieces of clothing from my “fat” days as a reminder to myself that I did not want to go back down that path again. Here’s a crazy confession: I would lay in bed in the mornings, flat on my back. If I was able to feel my pelvic bones and ribs, then it reassured me that I wasn’t getting fat.
I got married to my husband in 2012. I was 160 lbs. I gained 10 of what I lost. My clothing still fit well. My 10’s were a little snug, but then I often kicked my anorexia into high gear and lost those pesky 5 pounds. I still didn’t exercise. I didn’t have time. Full time job. Raising my son. Roller coaster issues in my marriage. Who the hell had time to exercise? Not me!
I took another job. When I did a health thing for the company, I weighed in at 175. THE HORROR! My 10’s no longer fit as well. I was in 11/12’s. And this made me unhappy! WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG WITH ME! I had a mental disorder. That’s what was wrong. I last wore an 11/12 in college. Still, I beat myself up. This was when the BDD began to wrap its chains around me even tighter. Mentally, I kicked myself black and blue. I even said things about myself being fat, something I swore I wouldn’t do after losing my weight.
2014 rolled around and I lost my job. Guess what the first thing out of my mouth was (besides, how am I going to pay the bills)? “I can’t get fat.” In my mind, my job loss was going to cause me to eat more because I would be home more. I went to the doctor the week after I lost my job and still weighed 175 lbs. I still fit into my clothing. My 12’s still fit. Do you know why? Because I was stressed out, I couldn’t eat. ANOREXIA brought on by stress. When I did eat, it went right through me. I couldn’t keep any weight on. I didn’t gain any, but I didn’t lose any either.
Fall 2014 I finally had a pretty active job. I was wearing 13’s from Wal-Mart. I still fit into my medium and large shirts for the most part. I could still where my Vic’s Secret underwear and bras. My 12’s are snug, but it depended on the way they were cut. I didn’t weigh myself. I was too busy and too worried about keeping a job.
My husband and I split for a bit during that time and I ended up getting back into the 11/12’s comfortably. Depression solved the problem of snug clothing for a short period of time. I was having to compete again, too. The dating world was a jungle and in order to remain int he game, I had to stay thin and attractive. I was dating someone who had BDD worse than me. I didn’t think that was possible. He showed me what vanity really looked like and made me feel utterly inadequate with myself. My jeans were so loose on me by the time October arrived that I actually felt pretty good. However, the price I was paying was letting my anorexia and BDD take control of how I lived, something it had always done.
November 2014, my husband and I got back together and got married. In the wedding pic you see here, I thought I was too heavy.
My husband and I took a few days to go to Tennessee. I had him snap a shot of me on the porch of the cabin. Although he told me I looked great, in my mind, I still wasn’t good enough. I still didn’t want to put on clothing because I just knew they would be too tight or wouldn’t fit. Nightmare. A living nightmare.
When I weighed in at the doctor’s office on April 17th, I was 188 lbs. I was still in my 13/14’s (15 juniors). My doctor said, “What is wrong that you think you haven’t done a good job? You were 300 lbs., honey. You should be proud of yourself!” I wasn’t. I was angry and disappointed and wanted to cry. I had gained 30 lbs in 5 years! Let that sink in… I was upset because I had put on a total of 30 lbs. in a 5 year span. See where BDD and anorexia turn your mind into a demonic playground?
In May I got mad after someone insinuated I was pregnant. They asked my
son if I was going to have another baby. Getting angry is usually what snaps me into high gear. So, when the comment was made, it not only impacted my self-esteem but it also triggered my disorders to a heightened response. I thought, “Pregnant? PREGNANT? I look better now than I did when I got pregnant!!!” Then I thought, “How dare you!” Then I thought, “Maybe I do look bad.” So, I grabbed those reigns and started losing weight again.
I dropped 10 lbs. before we set sail for our honeymoon. However, because of the heat and water weight from my menstrual cycle, you couldn’t even tell I had lost the weight when I put the same dress on that I wore in 2010 for a cruise. Talk about mad! When I look at that photo of me, I want to throw up. Do you know what I see? Fat arms. Wide waist. Again, I see through the lens of my disorder. You couldn’t convince me that I looked good in that picture.
When I went to the doctor a week or so ago, I was 187. When I weigh myself at home I am between 182 and 183. The fact is I cannot maintain a weight less than that. I can’t continue starving. I can’t keep up 850 calories. It just isn’t biologically and chemically possible. So, I started a fitness routine. I am walking 4+ miles a day, 5 days a week. I have been doing this for 3 weeks. I haven’t change my eating habits. In fact, I found myself eating a little more. However, that came to a screeching halt yesterday when I went to try on clothing. I am in XL shirts! WHAT??? How? I’ll tell you how. When they did a lumpectomy on my breast, it left scar tissue. Now I have one breast that’s bigger and I had to get bras to compensate for it.
Also, as I get older, I notice that I am carrying most of my weight in the top half of my body. This is typical for individuals with diabetes and heart related illnesses. Although I have no known heart related problems, my paternal side does.
Here’s the reality of this situation. Every time I look at myself, I find fault. I beat myself up on a daily basis. People have no idea what it is like to see yourself this way. I look in the mirror and see gray roots, lines, sagging jaws, flabby arms, a dimpled butt, and a gut from having a baby. I see failure. I see dropping the ball from losing all of that weight. I have to make myself eat. I have to literally set out each day to eat what I should just to stay alive. Talk about facing your demons every day.
You would think that after this many years, I would get the monster under control. That I would hush the hate inside myself. Nope. That’s why these are disorders. They impact your daily life and you must have therapy to deal with these sorts of things. These two conditions take away from you.
The mainstream media doesn’t help either. I am always trying to live up to this expectation of what’s acceptable. I feel like I fight a losing battle. Each day, this is something I wake up with. Now that I am exercising on a regular basis I don’t feel as bad, but I feel like I have failed in my quest to preserve my weight loss. However, as my husband tells me, “You are average size.” In fact, he is right.
Did you know that the clothing being shipped to the U.S. is cut based on Asian women? Asian women are naturally smaller than Western ladies. That is why you used to buy a size 6 and now you buy a size 9. Don’t believe me? Do your research.
Another fact: beauty fades, but the qualities of your personality and your soul are timeless. I have an 8 1/2 x 11 paper hanging in my closet and on my fridge that have daily goals to live by and one of those is “I will do my best.” That’s all I can do as a person with these problems. I have to realize that I will never be a size 6 again and that it wasn’t even healthy being that small. I also have to realize that, based on my height, build, and nutritional needs, I can’t maintain a weight of 150. I CAN maintain a weight of 175 to 185 and if someone thinks I’m fat or getting ready to have a baby, I don’t know what to tell them. However, just know that if you ever say those words to me, I will likely be in jail for punching you in the face.
I’m telling you all of this to show you that everyone has a dark side. Everyone has something that they struggle with. Each of us has our hands bound behind our back by something, whether it is addiction or a mental disorder or a health problem or all of the above. The only way to live with these devils is to have supportive people around you and to know that you are loved for not what you look like, but the person you truly are.