Hiding from hunger

Hiding+from+hunger

Caylea Ray

Dealing with the danger of eating disorders

Eating disorders aren’t just a phase; this was one of the points the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) made during its annual week of awareness, Feb. 22 to Feb. 28. Nearly 30 million people — men and women of all different backgrounds, ages, and sizes — will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their life, but many of them will suffer in silence. I am one of the thirty million and I refuse to be silent about my experience.
My freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with major depression. I won’t blame my eating disorder on society or sickly thin models, but because of how badly my depression was, it wasn’t a huge surprise when I stopped eating. A symptom of major depression is weight loss or weight gain, and sadly, weight loss was one of the most impacting symptoms for me.
My intentions were never to lose weight. At that time in my life, I felt like everything was going terribly wrong and I had no control over anything. I felt like the only thing I had control over was my eating. In reality, my eating disorder controlled me. I went from a healthy 115 pounds to a terrifying 83 pounds in 30 days. Once I lost weight, no one ever commented on how quickly I was losing weight or asked me if I was okay. I was only ever told how great I looked and that I was beautiful. I was not beautiful. I was destroying my insides and slowly killing myself by not eating.
I only allowed myself 500 calories a day on the days I did eat, instead of the recommended 2000 calories. I noticed my long beautiful hair that went down to my belly button began to fall out and I eventually had to cut it to my chin because of how terrible my eating disorder was affecting my hair. My body was constantly cold no matter how warm it was and I didn’t have my period for six months because of how little I was eating. All of these side effects should have made me want to get better, but food was the enemy. Anytime I ate, I felt like a failure.
Eventually I went to Missouri Psychiatric Center for my eating disorder and depression and was in inpatient treatment for a week. I’ve seen movies and TV shows in the past about people who were in psychiatric centers for mental issues, and the way the media portrays it was completely wrong. I wasn’t around crazy people. I was around teenagers who were struggling to survive because their mental struggles were taking over their lives, which was exactly what my disease was doing to me. Five out of the seven days I was at MUPC, I didn’t eat, which was the longest I ever went without eating. I honestly thought I was dying. I couldn’t move because of my lack of energy and anytime I did get up, I would throw up or pass out. It was the most terrifying experience I had with my anorexia.
Now I see that going to MUPC was the lowest point of my depression, but it didn’t help being there. It never scared me straight or gave me the strength to want to get better like it should have. My mental health didn’t get better until I left then Oakland Jr. High School, and switched to RBHS. I met new people and found things I was interested in which really helped me.
I began to feel better about my life and happier in general, so I started eating more, but because I was so used to being tiny, gaining weight was a bit of a shock for me. I felt so incredibly guilty after eating and so full, like a balloon was in my stomach about to pop. While my anorexia was fading away, I started purging instead. Even though they were two completely different eating disorders, the effects they left on me were equal to one another. My anorexia was gone, but nothing changed because of my bulimia.
I don’t know what made me want to get better. I think it was a mix of having a new support system and wanting to leave this part of my life behind me. I knew that I would never have the life that I wanted if I continued to let my eating disorder control my life. Slowly I started to eat normally and whenever I felt like purging I would talk to someone I trust about it. I’ve been purge free since Dec. 4th, 2013 and I’ve gained back all the weight I lost while I was sick.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, know that you are not alone and you can get better. Recovery is always an option; talk to your doctor and start going to therapy to identify what has caused your disorder and how you can avoid your triggers. Fill your life with a healthy support system and people who care about you. For me, recovery was the hardest part of having an eating disorder, but recovering was the best thing I could have ever done for myself.
by Caylea Erickson
photo by Jenna Liu