Warning: This is way longer than I planned and quite possibly boring but my disordered eating has spanned a good portion of my life, I'm finally figuring out. Read at your own risk. I'm also going to add a massive "this may all be triggering to some people" warning to every single entry. I will try to avoid numbers both for my sanity and everyone else but there's every chance I might list food intake and it might not be great or there may be some negative self-talk issues, etc.
Growing up I think I was a pretty normal kid, whatever that means. I was never a worrier or overly anxious. That was my brother. I was always a perfectionist and somewhat controlling but I did well in school and I was never in trouble.
My earliest weight related memory is going to a 2 week summer camp when I was 8. I was miserable, completely lonely and homesick, and I hated the food. They served us pb&j every single day for lunch. After 1 day I stopped eating it and I'm sure I wasn't eating much the other meals. I remember getting home and my mom commenting on how skinny I looked. I know she wasn't positive about it and when I said I hadn't been eating lunch I'm sure she was horrified, though I don't remember this. I do remember looking down in a dressing room and seeing my normal round belly much flatter.
I think that was where I got the idea that to lose weight you needed to stop eating. And so I did, at various points. I remember another summer in elementary school trying to not eat lunch to lose weight because I was heavier than most the other kids. I was also the tallest so that didn't help things.
But I was overweight all through middle school and high school. At the time I cared but wasn't really motivated to lose weight. I had great friends for most of it, participated in a lot of activities, and no one ever really teased me for my appearance. I know I definitely had some binge eating and emotional eating issues. I remember having one of my mom's Weight Watcher frozen meals for lunch in high school and then getting home and eating an entire bag of buttered microwave popcorn and lying to my mom about it when she mentioned she smelled popcorn later.
Then I got to college and everything changed. I was away from the friends I'd been with constantly for 6 years, away from my family that I'd always been super close with, and in a big city and huge university. I was absolutely despondent the first half of my freshman year. I lost my appetite and subsequently 40lbs. And everyone told me how good I looked so when my appetite came back I kept trying to lose weight, which mainly consisted of eating very lightly all day until dinner and then overeating at night. Definitely disordered eating but not quite eating disordered.
My third year of college I studied abroad. For whatever reason, though I'd been unhappy at college before, I loved every single moment of it, made amazing friends, and really felt like I grew up and came into my own. It killed me to have to leave. A couple months prior to leaving I tried on a pair of shorts that had fit before I studied abroad. Because I'd been happy and trying new foods and eating out with friends I'd definitely gained weight and they no longer fit. So even before I left I'd cut back my food intake and I remember my stomach growling a lot in class.
When I got back home it was summer and I was at my parent's house. None of my high school friends were around and I was lonely, bored, and working a not very strenuous job that I liked but took very little brain power. So I made it my goal to lose weight while I had nothing else to do. For a bit it was okay. I cut out breakfast but that wasn't awful. I never really ate much breakfast. My stomach needs a few hours before it won't object to everything anyways. And then I saw a tv show. I won't go into it now, that needs it's own post when I'm ready, but that show really flipped a switch somewhere in my brain. I cut out lunch immediately and as soon as I got back to college and wasn't eating dinner with my family every night I cut out most of that too.
I know my parents had an inkling that something was wrong before I even went back to school from some comments they made. How could they not? When my friend that I moved in with at school saw me she gasped, I'd lost so much weight. The problem was I was within a normal weight range for a while since I'd been heavier when my eating disorder started so I don't think anyone realized what a problem it was. Even when I came back home for winter break at least 30lbs lighter and broke my hand because I was so dizzy from not eating that I tripped, I don't think my parents wanted to admit that I could be sick. Despite being within, though near the bottom, of a "normal" BMI range I'd stopped menstruating.
As an aside, a lot of these next couple years is pretty fuzzy. I was in the middle of graduating from undergrad while working on multiple graduate plays for my minor, then doing the lab research and writing a Masters thesis in biology. But also I know I wasn't eating enough calories to feed my brain for much of it. I have no idea how I managed it all.
I went back to school and spent the next 3 months starving myself down to close to my lowest weight. Then a close friend came to visit and by that point I was so frantic and so lost I confided in her that I wasn't eating. Her response was "Oh good, you know." Turns out she and my flatmate had been talking when I wasn't around about the fact that I wasn't eating. I asked her to promise not to tell my parents and she agreed, as long as I was eating. But soon after that she did anyways. For a long time I was really upset, though now I understand. It was a good thing too.
By spring break my heart rate and pulse were way too low. My parents gave me 2 options. Start getting treatment or take a break from college. Since they were paying for my college they had a way to force the issue. I don't what my mom said but she got me into a school psychologist within a day, something that normally took weeks. I saw her a bit and then transferred to an eating disorder specialist off campus. A psychiatrist prescribed me Prozac that I refused to take for months. The first doctor I saw told me I was basically fine, that it was normal to diet. I didn't go back to him. I also saw a nutritionist but unfortunately she was through the campus and I knew they could make me take time off if they thought I was a liability to myself so I didn't get as much out of it as I wanted. Plus I basically knew all about nutrition anyhow from a nutrition science class and eating disorder research.
I spent another summer at home pretty much maintaining my weight. I had agreed to see the doctors only if nobody forced me to gain weight. I was at a weight way too skinny for my body and one that I couldn't ever eat a treat if I wanted to maintain but since it was only slightly below a normal BMI I decided it was fine. I did manage to get my period back at this weight.
At some point in the next year it occurred to me that I didn't think I would be able to graduate if I didn't start eating more. It was one of the hardest things but I gradually increased my calories a tiny bit at a time so that I wouldn't gain weight. I managed to get it up to at least sort of decent and graduate.
Over the next couple years I kicked my scale addiction, went through an over-exercise addiction phase, went cold turkey off of Prozac, had a few purging episodes, and cut down on food enough again to start to worry my flatmate. That's where I was when I met my boyfriend. I was happy enough for a while to gain a little weight and that's kind of where I am now. I'm working through everything on my own for now but we'll see. I'm in my mid-twenties, supposedly self-sufficient, so how do I decide if I need outside help and how do I help myself? How do I ask for help from friends or family? These are just some of the issues I'm facing these days. How do I deal with being a grown-up and with disordered eating?