Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ana: Quod me nutrit, me destruit

"Morpheus: I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?"
~ The Matrix ~

Too Thin.  Gaining weight.  Are you dieting?  Oh she is eating cake again.  I wish people would leave me and my body image alone.

Not a day goes by that I don’t get audited for the amount or quality of the food I ingest.  I hate it and for the most part it’s meant to make me uncomfortable.  However, once in awhile it is out of genuine concern.  Since having mono and Epstein Barr I lost some weight, about ten pounds and because of it I have yet again become a target for insecure women.

For a solid two years I lived a lifestyle of tanning, smoking cigarettes, being sloppy drunk, and occasionally eating fast food.  Most of what I ate was fast food.  I say occasionally because I occasionally ate.  (Yet I cannot stand fast food now, except Taco Bell and a random KFC.)

During this time I graduated college with my bachelor’s, left a long term relationship I was not happy in, and found myself in a weird in-between phase.  At the time I was just trying to get by and live despite being depressed.  I have never been one to set goals and go for them.  Generally opportunities come to me.  I also do not handle rejection well so when I graduated I wanted nothing to do with interviewing, nor did I have the confidence.  I also felt as though my schooling, no matter how much I put into it, did not prepare me for a career in advertising.  This is no fault on the school.  I had to work fulltime, go to school fulltime, and commute in by train.  I just didn’t have the time or energy to absorb as much as I could have.  I was in a weird spot in life where I desperately wanted to move forward but had no idea how to.

Spring 2006 - 25 Years Old
I found myself wandering aimlessly through those years and in the process I wound up shedding weight like nobody’s business.  I am a normal healthy weight right now, but back then I was 20-30 pounds smaller.  When I tell people that they usually ask how that number could possibly be so high, but when I hear that number it doesn’t seem high to me at all.  I had body issues and I still do.  But when I was super tiny it was the only time in my life I have ever been completely confident in my skin.  The only time.

Thing is normally when people drop weight to this degree it’s intentional and it takes focus, dedication, and control of oneself.  This was a byproduct of my lifestyle.  Instead of eating I was smoking and when I did eat it was half of a McChicken and some fries.  My weight loss was purely unintentional in the beginning.

Back when I was in 6th and 7th grade it was rare we ever had food in the house so I got by on things like Jell-O.  It was inexpensive and always in the house.  As you can imagine I dropped a lot of weight and the loss continued every year through high school without me actively participating in sports or anything physical.  I never cared for sports.  I will say that it could have to do with singing because anyone that has sung opera knows how it engages your core like nobody’s business.  I did alarm doctors with the weight loss and they did ask me if I was dieting and truth was I wasn’t.

What makes it even more complicated is that I grew up in a home with a single parent.  That single parent was my mother who happened to be an on and off alcoholic and drug addict.  If it wasn’t one, it was the other, or it was both.  She spent a lot of energy keeping me controlled with put downs.  It was never stated but I think my mother always felt like she was in competition with me.  So she naturally made me inferior by constantly telling me how unattractive I was and how much heavier I was then her.  The focus on my weight started as young as ten years old. 

2003 - 22 yrs
When I came back from France at 22 years old I was very thin.  This was because after having been to London and knowing my fussy eating habits I made sure to tell the advisor in advance that I was a vegetarian.  I am not a vegetarian, but there is no way I am eating octopus or cervelle (look it up).  So I chose to eat vegetarian for the trip.  The French do not understand vegetarian diets (or did not at the time), so I was fed salad the entire trip.  I mean real salad.  Just lettuce blends and olive oil, once in a while with a cherry tomato.  Naturally I came home very slender.  We were at the beach and my ever nurturing parent says to me “you lost weight, but you still need to lose more.”  It got so bad she had my younger brother telling me I was fat (which he thought was hilarious) and I realized she had me doing it as well.  This is called sibling abuse.  It’s very hard to believe that I am not unattractive and fat after having been conditioned to think so for so long, even though I tried to not listen to the comments.  No child should have to go through this and every one should be raised to feel beautiful.

Even my boyfriend at the time wasn't being supportive about it.  He introduced me to the concept of back fat, told me I needed to work out, and get a boob job.  Just to state it, I have not had any work done, not then and not since.  We broke up when I was 22 a few months after my France trip actually.  It's tough to believe otherwise when it's coming at you from all directions.  His mama used to always ask me about my size because his previous girl friend had a serious eating disorder.  I wonder why?

When I dropped weight in my mid 20’s I was asked again if I had been dieting and, again, I was not dieting.  It was just a byproduct of my lifestyle and I loved it so much I became obsessed with it.  It’s amazing how much joy losing a pound or two can give a person.  That kind of happiness was attainable and I like being happy.  So I wound up in the control end of starving myself for personal gain and satisfaction. I also liked the sickness of it and the feeling of disappearing.

The perfect jeans.  Sigh.
I still have my jeans from back then.  I have two pairs that were the only jeans that have ever fit me perfectly and comfortably without slipping every few minutes.  I can’t get rid of them and I always thought they were a size 3 until I took a look at them thinking “maybe I will fit into these again” and I saw they are actually a 1.  Yet again my perception is not reality.  I remember myself being a 3 (never a 1 or a 0, had those too) and fitting into both extra small tops and children’s sizes.  I took a job at Target for a year to keep myself busy when I wasn’t at my hospital job.  The target uniform is a red shirt and khakis.  No one had red shirts that season.  Red was not the color that year.  I looked everywhere and I finally found a few shirts in the children’s aisle when I discovered I fit into little girls clothes.

When I started researching Anorexia (because there is no way I would go to a doctor) I found that it can be a byproduct of abuse and chaotic home life, because even subconsciously when ones life is out of our control the person will still have the need to control something in their lives many times it’s food that is the simplest to control with out immediate repercussions.  I learned this from a book called Perfect Daughters by Robert Ackerman.  It’s a self help book and it’s the best book I have ever purchased.  I do pick that book up and reread sections because being a female ACOA and reading that I am not alone in my thoughts and concerns is amazing.  It makes me less isolated. 

I also picked up another favorite of mine Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulemia by Marya Hornbacker.  My intention in reading Wasted was to learn about how Marya fell down the hole and how she got out.  Thing is Marya never really got out.  No one does.  In fact, while writing the book and revisiting those days she relapsed.  You can imagine how the book didn’t do much good for me either.  I wound up more obsessed after reading it.  However, I highly recommend this book as an extra read or for education.  It is gross a times but it’s very real and honest about everything and I mean everything.  I think it would be an amazing movie as well.

I also found in my research a lot of pro-ana support.  I found that my rebellious streak and the experiences of other girls that I anonymously befriended added to my own obsession.  The internet has quite a bit of information on subjects that I should not have access to.  The biggest being pro-ana sites.  On these sites they talk about tricks to lose and tricks to fool doctors.  By fooling doctors I mean in ways that wrestlers do to go up a weight class or down one.  One trick is to water load, another is to put rocks in pockets, wear bulky clothing, layer cloths, loose clothes, etc.  You have always wondered why Mary-Kate was so boho when she was sick.  Haven’t you?  The tricks to drop weight are too disturbing to write about.  None of which I participated in.

I also found quite a few acquaintances in my day to day life that also had eating and body issues.  All of them bulimic.  In the world of eating disorders Anorexia is like the highest badge of honor because it’s about control and discipline.  There many more bulimics then there are anorexics.  I found so many bulimics around me I have to wonder if we honestly attract each other or if there are just that many in the world.  I think the actual amount of people with eating disorders is statistically much higher then what we believe it to be because it’s so secretive.  I also do not believe it pertains to strictly underweight people.  These conditions can begin at any size.  I also do not believe that all underweight people have an eating disorder because many do not.

I was asked over New Years weekend if I miss it which is what sparked this blog.  Do I miss being sickly thin?  The answer is yes and no.  Yes because I have days where I wish I had that control again and that particular type of confidence.  Yet no because I don’t think I could function.  At the time I was working a routine job where you go in and you have assigned tasks each day that do not change and in a lot of ways I felt like a robot.  This is not the case anymore.  I also don’t miss feeling like I could break at any second.  I don’t miss my butt aching from sitting because I didn’t have any padding on it.  I don’t miss feeling lightheaded all the time.  I definitely do not miss getting vision loss.  There are a lot of things I don’t like about it, yet I still wouldn’t mind being there again.  I wouldn’t mind it at all.  It’s so easy to slip back into.

Vision loss is very scary.  I am making an assumption that is has to do with my weight because it happens more often when I lose weight.  Although it can happen regardless of my size.  I did go to the doctor for it, I had a brain MRI and it was chalked up to a type A migraine.  I know it’s not a migraine.  It’s not painful, but it’s very scary. 

The first time it happened I was on the train headed into Penn Station for a day of interning at BCBG Corp.  I slept on the train as I always did.  I woke up and as the train pulled into Penn I mentally wanted to get up but my body did not.  I had to fight my body to get out of the train, I felt funny, I was unusually warm, and as I was stepping onto the platform everything faded to a fuzzy blackness with my eyes wide open.  So here I was in Penn Station on a platform unable to see anything and scared.  I had crouched down by a support beam before everything faded out of sight because I felt like I needed to sit.  Standing was making me woozy.  It’s because of days like this that I enjoy commuter trains and the community on them because people did stop and ask if I was okay or if I needed help.  In about ten minutes my vision came back.  It’s happened quite a few times. 

The parking lot experience was what sent me to the doctor.  I was at a cell phone store buying a new charger for my phone because mine had died.  I remember going in the store and it being really hot.  I don’t know why these stores are always so hot, but they are.  I have had several episodes from being in really warm stores.  Anyway, I picked up my charger and I got to the register and by time I got to the cashier I felt awful and everything was starting to turn gray and even my hearing was fuzzy.  I was trying to fight the vision loss and I did well enough to pay and get out of the store.  I tried to get to my car, but my vision completely went while I was in the middle of the parking lot.  So I felt around for parked cars and crouched down until my temperature went down and my vision came back.  I got in my car and laid down before leaving.  One time I lost my vision while walking up a staircase and this time I was with people.  For the first time (and only time) someone was actually there and saw me with my eyes open unable to see.  That person had to walk me step by step up the stairs and outside for some cold air.  I still get them once in awhile.  It’s not a fun experience and I do think it started when I was very young.  They just happen more often and longer when I lose weight.

Anyway, in a way I am still dealing with the repercussions, but not at the same time.  Everyday someone makes a comment on what I am eating.  Either it’s too healthy or I am told I need to eat healthier.  Some of the ladies will make sure to tell me when they think I am too thin.  I even had a male friend tell me I looked pregnant when I finally started gaining weight.  That one really hurt.  That person also didn’t mean anything by it and a female in the area snapped at him for it.  Women, however, are a different story.  I try to treat everyone with the respect I was never given but that does not ever mean it will be returned.  Women are the biggest offenders.

Now-a-days when I lose body mass it’s not from dieting or starvation.  It’s from exercise.  Exercising doesn’t have the same results as starving meaning my actual weight doesn’t change.  It’s harder to judge because I can’t see numbers changing.  This is because I am tightening up and gaining muscle as well as losing some fat.  So I try to shake the too thin comments because I know I am healthy, but it hurts to think that my feeling and looking good makes women want me to gain weight.  In a level the playing field kind of way.

I bought a beautiful dress for a wedding a few years ago and I was the heaviest I had been in a long time, but it’s very pretty and it was very flattering.  I had a wedding this summer and I was very excited to wear this dress again because it’s a summer dress.  I assumed it would fit.  I had lost weight since wearing it last.  I assumed wrong.  Since trapezing, even irregularly, my muscle mass has changed.  I now have back muscles and this made the top of the dress extremely uncomfortable.  It also made me feel like a suffocating buffalo.

Cosplay is shaky territory for me.  It’s very difficult for me to be around people that look like they stepped out of an A&F catalog, but in spandex.  I have said in previous blogs I am extremely self conscious about my stomach (and my toes too).  I honestly feel like I have the completely wrong body type for cosplay and often I feel very chunky and I don’t like it.  In trapeze I am around lots of rock hard bodies as well but I guess because we all know each other and have vocalized our body issues; we are not models but doing something athletic so it’s different.  Also because part of the reason we are there is to help boost our own images.

I was very afraid of doing the Supergirl cosplay because I had chosen the Turner version with a bared stomach.  I think because my stomach was exposed I was so overly conscious about tightening up in pictures that I was pretty pleased with the photographs.  With Elektra because my stomach was covered I forgot this and in several pictures I was not thrilled with the outcome.  Having a poor body image and throwing myself into spandex is probably not a good idea.  I feel a lot more comfortable with a corset on even if it’s on loosely.  I have anxiety attacks thinking about it, but at the end of the day I wind up having a great time.

My body image is a work in progress and it always will be.  The same friend asked me how I gained the weight back.  It’s hard to believe but when you get to a certain point it is hard to put weight back on.  Just like it’s hard to get rid of it.  I started gaining weight when I changed jobs.  My current job does not require me to be nearly as active as my previous one.  I made a conscious effort.  I stopped weighing myself several times a day.  I actually put the scale away.  With the new job I found myself eating more at regular times.  I also found more harping on my food choices.  In a way I feel like I was forced to gain weight by peer pressure which stinks, because pressure usually has the opposite effect on me.  I still have my days where I barely eat anything and I still like having that kind of control over myself.  For example: Sunday, I ate at Panera Bread and had a “you pick 2” which was a black bean soup and a sierra turkey.  I ate about half the soup and the sandwich is a half sandwich but I only ate half of it.  I also had an English muffin and a soda.  That was it.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner in half of a meal.

This is something I am always going to have to deal with.  I try very hard to focus on how I feel about my body, how clothes fit (not the number on the scale) and how I feel healthy and strong.  I try remember all the bad things about starving myself to not slip back into it full force.  It’s a work in progress, but the comments by other people can have shattering effects.

Next time you see someone who looks too thin or looks like they are gaining weight, keep your mouth shut.  You don’t know what that person is dealing with.  It could be an illness, which ED’s are considered.  It could be exactly what you think it is, but your comment isn’t going to have a helpful effect.  When people make comments about my food choices it just makes me not want to eat in front of them which is the opposite outcome of what they are looking for.  So stop passing judgment.  People come in all shapes and sizes and the bottom line is with eating disorders (no matter how tragic they can be) it’s still that person’s choice of lifestyle and not yours.  I know exactly how that sounds but just like an alcoholic, a smoker, a gambler, it’s a choice and that choice has to be made by the person engaging in it not outsiders.  Tell an alcoholic in that they in fact are one and I bet they will be offended and deny it up and down and run to the bottle to forget what they heard.  Eating disorders have the same effect.  The problem will not be helped by you or anyone pointing it out, it will only make it worse.  In order to change the person has to be ready to change.

I want to make it clear that I am not fishing for compliments.  I do not want people to email or comment me a body image boost.  I am just being open about a subject that I generally do not talk about and how comments can be hurtful.  Even nice comments can backfire.  I have male friends that call my size tiny.  I know they mean well and it’s their perspective but because my own is so different it makes me wish I felt tiny.  I don’t feel tiny; so it makes me want to feel tiny.  I don’t get upset with these men for this at all, but that has to do with knowing they mean it as a compliment no matter how much I feel opposite.

I am also throwing it this out there because the hardest part is getting past the secrecy.  I have one friend that knows about this because that person went through it with me.  Other people speculate but writing it down and sharing it makes it valid and real.  It’s also a testament to where I have been and how far I have come. 

It is very scary posting this.  Very scary.  I have had this blog post ready to go for a week and I have been working on it all month long.  When I finished the blog I had a friend read it and then I got too scared to post.  Like why am I doing this?  Why tell anyone this?  This is mine and I don't share this with anyone let alone the public.  That and most people with ED write anonymously and this is a far cry from anonymous.  I really don't know where this blog goes on the net.  Current friends, old friends, ex boyfriends, family, do I really want to throw this out there?  After much debate, yes I do what to post this.  I do because this is who I used to be and I am not anymore.  It's about shedding layers and hopefully helping others in the process.  Let the vultures come at me I am ready for them because I am being honest with myself and everyone in the process.  No one is perfect and I am not afraid of my flaws.

Maybe one day people will stop commenting on my food or I will start hiding in my car during lunch break again.

My second tattoo says “Quod me nutrit, me destruit,” this is Latin for “What nourishes me, destroys me.”  It’s a well known Ana-Mia saying and I chose this because it not only embodies this piece of my life but my upbringing and strength to overcome both.  The first one is a butterfly which I spoke about on a previous post.

Fresh Ink - 2006