I have been in recovery for almost five years but there are still times when I look back on my disordered time and wonder why I chose recovery. I’m not gonna lie and say that every day I am thankful that I recovered. I’m not gonna lie and say that it’s been fun. I’m not gonna lie and say that it’s been easy. It hasn’t been. Not one bit.
I used my disorder to hide my anxiety and my depression. With it I was able to go out into the world and act like everything was ok. I was able to put on a smile and talk with my friends. The only negative emotions they thought I had were the ones toward the divorce my parents were going through. I was able to hang out with friends without being petrified to do so. I was able to go on dates with the Actor and have fun. Believe it or not but I was able to actually eat when we went out and be all right because when I went home I knew I could skip more meals and exercise more. I used my disorder to help me cope with life and my low self esteem. It was a coping mechanism and a punishment. A punishment for not being enough, for never being enough. A punishment for having wants and desires which make me selfish. A punishment for wanting love that I don’t deserve. My disorder was my best friend and my worst enemy.
I know that it wasn’t great. I remember the daily scale dance. I remember. But to be completely honest I was not obsessed completely with it until after I was diagnosed. I know that it wasn’t fun but I didn’t let Ana hover over me 24/7 until after I was diagnosed. Before that we were close friends who put me in my place when I needed it.
Recovery challenged not only her but me as well. Because facing recovery meant looking at everything that I hate about myself and trying to work through it. I have had to face everything and try to accept it or realize that that was a lie I have been telling myself for years. Maybe I do deserve love. Maybe having wants and desires and needs doesn’t make me selfish and terrible. Maybe I have some worth as a person. And that’s why I look back and think that I was better then than I am now. But I know that’s a lie too. Obviously I still have a disordered mindset. When I was in therapy this year before my therapist left I left every session realizing another thing I had been thinking about myself all my life that was possibly not true. I didn’t have anxiety like I do now when I had my disorder. I really did trade one for the other. Because my disorder was hiding the anxiety; it was keeping it in check, whether or not that was healthy.
I am still eating. I think that at this point in my recovery I’m not in a place where I’ll start to starve myself again. It is true that there are times when I forget to eat, or get so wrapped up a project or TV show that I feel hungry but don’t want to move because I don’t want to break my attention, not because I genuinely don’t want to eat. I know I can probably never go back to my old ways, whether I want to or not, because I know too much now and I respect my body more now than I did then. So this struggle is purely internal.
So experiment refeed has gone, well, not too well. I have been consuming as much as I should be, and even getting really close to hitting all my macros, even without eating meat. I go back and forth on how much meat I do and do not eat. I kind of just eat everything now. So, while I’ve successfully eaten all I need to, my body is not happy about this development. I’m not dying, I just a little nauseous and my stomach gets a little upset every now and then. I basically doubled my caloric intake overnight and increased my protein intake by 50 or so grams, so my body has had a bit of a shock. It irritates me. I want to be able to just adjust instantly. But I guess the last time I started a refeed I didn’t double my intake overnight. It took a while before I was eating enough. I ran away from food a lot.
I mean that literally. There was a lot of running away during high school lunch times.
But otherwise, I feel pretty good. My workouts are awesome. They had to cut the gym size in half because they’re expanding the weight room, so the entire first floor is shut down except for the locker rooms. And since it’s summer there are less people, especially now that most classes are over, so that means I get to use squat racks! I feel pretty awesome using them, and it’s weird but I feel more challenged. I do barbell complexes now for cardio, which are killer and fun.
I got sent home an hour early today because work has been so slow, but I was happy about it because they’re ripping up the floor where I work so there is a bunch of floor dust in the air and it made it difficult for me to breathe.
Other than my body not being too happy about increased calorie intake, I’m doing ok. I think my body should adjust soon. I’m kind of backing off but I’ll work back up to it soon, I’m sure. I am enjoying my summer. Yesterday I played the Wii and generally lazed around. I did turn in my major application so I can officially switch, and I did work out, but other than that I liked relaxing. Today I have worked, worked out, taken care of some grown up things, cleaned, and now I’m being lazy on the computer. I think a month off is all I need. Longer than that and I get restless.
Back in 2010 when I started my recovery I had a little bracelet that I’d made. My aunt used(?) to make all kinds of great, little, intricate beaded jewelry and taught me this one pattern that I just love. And as a present about a year before I’d gotten a bead animal how-to kit. One of them was a fish. I had run out of the colors that were consistent to the character, but I made the fish and the bracelet and dubbed the fish Pudge.
Pudge the fish from Lilo and Stitch. See, after having a weird mental breakdown that lead to a temporary state where I believed that my eating disorder was actually a lifestyle choice and that people needed to get off my back about starving myself, I saw the light and started my recovery by pledging with that bracelet to myself and to the Actor that I would get a pudge. That lower belly pooch everyone always complains about. The Actor showed me a drawing book he had where in the basic drawing skeleton for all women there was a circle at the lower abdomen for that belly pooch. All the women in those classic, beautiful paintings have that lower belly pooch. I started doing research about what it actually meant to be healthy and basic anatomy and nutrition and discovered that that lower belly pooch was necessary. I learned that women carry essential fat there, like the essential fat your body needs to protect organs and not fat that’s just left over, and that it was necessary there to protect the uterus and to help support the growth of a child when the time came. The Actor also insisted that I would look cute with one, so I went for it, eating mostly peanut butter sandwiches, which was a step up from the 0 sandwiches I was eating before.
Maybe it sounds like a bit of a stretch, but I was so broken and desperate back then that I was just happy I found something that might motivate me. And now, four years later, I’ve got one. It’s less than it was say a year or two ago, because I discovered the magic of heavy lifting and so my stomach became tighter and somewhat flatter, but I’ve still got one. And I’m okay with that. I am completely okay with not having a perfectly flat stomach because having that bit of fat there tells me I am healthy. There was a time in my ED and recovery where I wondered if I had ruined my reproductive system; if I would ever be able to have children. I all honesty, even today I would be okay if that turned out to be true; if I couldn’t have children. I would be mad at myself for ruining that part of my body, yes, but ultimately okay with it. I am just happy that now I am healthy. It’s okay that I don’t have six-pack abs or a flat stomach. It’s okay because I am alive and I am healthy. Yes, it jiggles when I run and jump, and it makes me happy. Because I can deadlift more than my bodyweight, so I don’t care if I jiggle a little. I am healthy, I am happy, and I am strong.
I had a conversation on Facebook yesterday about people being able to mention how skinny someone is, but you absolutely cannot mention someone is overweight without being labeled a terrible person. I don’t understand the difference. Both parties know their weight. It’s not like, “you’re so skinny!” “Wait.. what??? I’m skinny??? Holy shit!” Or vice versa. I already wrote a post about how we should basically have both or neither instead of the double standard. But that conversation got me thinking a little bit more about the whole double standard.
I see this a lot online, and I’m not saying it’s bad at all because a lot of people find it motivational and I even like seeing them, but the “before and after” pictures of people who lose a lot of weight. That is so great. You guys are awesome, and I’m not being sarcastic. I love seeing those pictures. They make me happy, and it gives a lot of people the extra boost they need to start their own fitness journey. Great, awesome, perfect!
But we never see the other way around. Ok, I’ve seen one or two “before and after” posts of people gaining weight, ie, going from underweight to a healthy weight. But like I said, I’ve only seen one or two. We don’t talk about the other side. I know we have an obesity epidemic which makes these “before and after” pictures very popular. I’m very passionate about that (ask the Actor. I get scary when I talk about it apparently) but we need to have the other side represented too.
The girl I had the conversation with mentioned that people with EDs that are very skinny are more likely the ones to get sent to the hospital for their treatment than people with EDs that are not. This is partially a flaw in the treatment of EDs where they primary focus on weight gain instead of the actual issue at hand, but it doesn’t make the difference less valid. Weight gain is important so you can treat the ED without the person dying, but in my experience and from what I read online, many others, the focus on weight is perhaps a little stronger than it needs to be.
Why can’t it be an achievement to gain weight to be healthy just like losing weight to be healthy? Gaining weight and becoming overweight isn’t so much an accomplishment, but gaining weight after being underweight and/or working on or beating an eating disorder needs to be just as much of an achievement. More people need to speak up so both sides can be equal.
My name is Aja. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and depression in March of 2010. I weighed 94 pounds at 5’2. Today, four years later, I weigh 120 pounds; more than I ever thought I would ever weigh without being pregnant. This is me today:
On March 25, 2014 I will have been in recovery for four years. In that time I will have regained the weight I lost, found and developed a lasting, healthy relationship with fitness (this includes diet and exercise), graduated high school, gone to college, started my major, gotten married, started a new (hopefully) lifelong career, gotten my first (and maybe second) tattoo, and just grown overall as person. Part of me expects that since four years will have gone by that all this should be easy now. I shouldn’t have any trouble eating enough to live and meet my current fitness goals. I shouldn’t have any trouble making sure I don’t over-exercise. I shouldn’t get so depressed all the time!
That’s impossible, though. More and more evidence is coming out to prove what I suspected all along: eating disorders are genetic, meaning they are caused by a genetic mutation and not by society, although society can help push it’s development. There is something wrong with the way my body processes hormones or whatever that makes me depressed and anorexic. There is no pill to make my body do things correctly. There is not a cure that exists today that would make my body function the way a normal person’s does, which is why I will always face this. I will always have bouts of deep depression that I find extremely difficult to manage. I will always have that little voice in the back of my head nagging at me and telling me that I’m fat.
It might get easier at times. There might be moments when I feel great, like how I did in late September and a few weeks ago. There will also be times when it gets hard. Lately it’s just been the depression. I can still eat, and I exercise a fair amount. I can’t do too much right now so I can let my tattoo heal (see it on my Instagram: ajamontana). I’ve just been really depressed for the past week. I’m realizing that I was happy and able to manage it with the Actor’s help while we were dating, but now that we’re married our dynamic is different and I cannot keep expecting him to bandage me up whenever I’m broken. I need to learn how to bandage myself.
I don’t think it will ever be completely easy. I know that my depression and anorexia will never completely be gone. However, I do know that as I continue to grow and age and learn, things will become easier, and that’s okay.
(Also, thank you to The Slender Grapefruit for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! I think I’ve gotten it a few times before, and I’d taken down my “awards” page a while ago. I’ll do the 7 random things next post.)
I realized yesterday that I hadn’t posted anything in a while. I stepped back and thought about how things were going in my life and the direction of this blog. I started this blog with the intention of posting my writing, but it turned into a chronicle of my recovery, a web-diary, and some inspirational posts about recovery. But at this point I find myself to be, well, almost 100% recovered. I think I said I never would be because I didn’t want to let my disorder go, but here I am, and it’s almost completely gone. My life is kind of boring. I’m in school again and working. As for the inspirational posts, I don’t know what anyone needs to hear and if anyone even wants to. I was going to post this morning that I was going to be leaving this blog. I was going to leave it up for archival purposes, but I would be leaving it.
I had a very lazy morning today. I spent most of it in bed scrolling through Tumblr on my phone. Then I came across a post asking people to send this girl a message. She had posted up that she was going to commit suicide and was saying goodbye. I’d never seen her blog. I didn’t even know the K-Pop group she was blogging about on it, but I knew what she was feeling. My ED kicked into high gear after a small attempt at suicide that my brother caught me in and my mom yelled at me for. So I sent this girl a message telling her everything I could in the 500 character limit and then I waited. A few minutes later she posted up that she was not going to commit suicide, and thanking people for their messages. It made me happy that my message had contributed with all of the others to keeping this girl alive.
I realized then why I do everything I am doing. I write not just because I love it, but because stories can connect with people on a different level than real interaction can. It can evoke more emotion, and cause people to experience things you can’t get in the real world. I want to act because that’s just an extension of the storytelling that I love. I am training to become a personal trainer because I want to help people change their lives for the better. I want to help people. I want to save people in any way that I can. I’m not just doing these things because I like them and can’t see myself doing anything else, but also because I feel that I can make the biggest difference doing these things. And I can’t see myself doing that with any other occupations.
So I won’t be leaving this blog. I’m going to keep it up, I’m going to continue to learn. I’m going to go out into the world and try to make a difference with my life and enjoy it.
Today has been a long day of health and fitness. I got up, ate an emotional nutritious breakfast (peanut butter pop tarts ftw), spent some time on my fitblr, did another day of Insanity, and then got an awesome package. I spent three hours studying the human body and all our awesome systems and how fitness impacts it. There was one study that just blew my mind and it basically boils down to, “not exercising has the same effect on your body as smoking 1 1/2 packs of cigarettes a day.” O.O Wait a minute while my brain explodes. So I’ve been working through the text book and workbook I got today. I’m going to be sad when I have to take other classes at the uni and can’t just sit and study health all day.
It’s astonishing how much I love health and fitness. Five years ago I don’t know if I’d feel the same way. Five years ago I was a freshman in high school and beginning to lose weight. I was interested in weight loss five years ago, but overall well-being? Probably not. I have come a really long way, and it’s weird to think it’s been five years.
I have realized something in the past few days. If you remember I bought the Anorexia Workbook a while back, started on it and then stopped. I said I didn’t think it was important in the post where I addressed my stopping, and at the time I did have other things that took priority. But they took priority because I am not in that place where I need to focus on recovering all the time. In fact, now I hardly think about it at all. I only thought about recovery lately because I realized that I’m not trying to recover. I’m not slipping back, I’m not just concerned about it. I eat and exercise, and especially with the class I’m taking now, have no desire to malnourish myself. I want to eat enough good food to survive. I’m past having to remind myself that food is okay to eat. I’m past having to convince myself to take a rest day. I listen to my body now and give it what it needs. I could probably eat a little more really, I just haven’t with all the events from the past month and the new academic year about to start.
Things are good, and I’m glad it’s only taken about three and a half years to get here. I still have that voice in my head, I’m just able to ignore it better.