How I Got Here

I have three drafts of this post. The one where I explain where in the world I’ve been, but also try not to sound too apologetic, as taking time for yourself is something I wholly endorse these days. I can’t even refer to this as an “I’m back!” post because then I get really philosophical about everything: Am I back? Did I really go anywhere? If it’s my blog and I post on it as a hobby, then does it really matter how these posts are timestamped?

Speaking of which, I don’t know what happened to the dates atop my blog posts. They disappeared like the lack of motivation I had for keeping up with my site, but I can tell you with scout’s honor that the last time I posted was in April. I was doing pretty good then, and felt like posting, but without really going into the whole story of how I came to be where I am now, it just seems so menial to report on weekend activities and travel plans.


These past few months (8 months?) have been … I want to say “hard”, but I feel like that’s a word you use when your Calculus homework is piling up or you’re not hearing back from any job interviews, and I just feel like this time was so much more than that. It was hard but it was life-saving. It was challenging but transformative. It was probably the biggest chunk of my personal story waiting to be written and I watched it go by like a sad Lifetime movie over the past several months, but it’s one of those things that changes you for the better and all of those other cliches.

My eating disorder starting a long time ago. I’m not sure if “long time ago” is my freshman year of college when I first began dieting by way of gym workouts and grilled chicken as a means to shake off some extra pounds I’d found at the cafeteria and from several years of refills of my Lexapro prescription or if it’s genesis was somewhere between the ages of awkward pre-pubescent body changes that left me self-conscious in my Limited Too tank top and skort. Whenever it walked unwelcome into my life, it made it’s mark and kind of gnawed at me for several years. Ironically, taking more bites out of me than I would of anything else.

It was easy to ignore it for a while and chalk all of my rituals and anxieties up to “just trying to be healthy”. After all, we’re praised for our green smoothie breakfasts, salad lunches, and if we lose weight we “look amazing” and no one ever worries or sees the compulsive behaviors behind these activities, so I got away scotch-free for a while.

I don’t mean to say it like I didn’t know something was wrong. I am almost certain I did. I remember crying for an hour my sophomore year of college when our friends we went out with each week wanted to go to one of those burger joints that only sells burgers and has no remorse for the gluten-free, the vegetarians, or the body conscious. It’s only burgers and fries, and I cried thinking of ruining my “perfect diet” with a morsel of beef or cheese or bread. I arrived at the restaurant an hour late, let our friends think I was either suffering from terrible seasonal allergies or just had a really big fight with Cam, and proceeded to pick at a basket of fries and ignore the hurt and hunger I was feeling. There would be many more nights like this.

When I moved in all by my big-girl self my junior year, it was easy to give in to my anxieties around eating. I could microwave a potato and call it “dinner” because that’s what you do in college. I could say I didn’t eat meat or dessert or ice cream because it was “too expensive” and I was “on a budget” and then spend Amazon gift cards on smoothie powders to trick me into thinking I was eating a well-rounded, nutritious breakfast, when at one point I’m 99% sure the only thing edible in my smoothies was a few cubes of frozen sweet potato. And I assume it was around this time when people started to notice and worry. It’s one thing to order your hamburger without a bun, but it’s another to skip the entire burger itself and just eat the lettuce. I never did this exactly, but looking back on some of the things I would allow myself to eat…it was basically just lettuce.

I sort of reached out to a school counselor around that time, and she did suspect I had an eating disorder, but wasn’t specialized or well versed in ED training to give me the help I needed. She referred me to a support group that met on campus. I had a class during that time and couldn’t go. She gave me the name of a specialist. I used the note as scratch paper to write a grocery list and recycled it among empty containers of almond milk.

It was Cam in April of 2017 who really pushed me to seek someone out to help me get well. At this point, I wasn’t super sick. I had most of my bone density and memory and energy, I just was frantic around food and had cut out so many types of food that there wasn’t much left but aforementioned zucchini, lettuce, and the occasional drop of unsalted natural almond butter. I found a dietician, the heavens parted, and I started going to see her weekly.

She taught me how to eat. She taught me how to feed myself. I ate cereal and full fat yogurt and I revelled in snacktime consisting of ice cream and my beloved, long-forgotten Cliff Bars. I realized I wasn’t intolerant to gluten, sugar, dairy, wheat, or anything that tasted delicious – I was just scared. From July to October we worked together to undo the demons in my head that told me to eat as little as possible and as clean as possible. Food was food. I wasn’t special if I ate kale or pasta. I was me and I had so many other things to live for that what I packed in my lunch box. It was freeing. It was empowering. I was high off of it, and when my dietician left to go on maternity leave for 4 months, I turned my nose up at the offer of continuing treatment with a replacement dietician.

I would be fine.

(I was not fine.)

It started innocently enough. I would eat a smaller breakfast one morning because I didn’t really feel like I needed to eat a full breakfast. Didn’t I read somewhere that my favorite blogger always had a small cup of yogurt and sprinkle of granola? Or what about that picture I reblogged on Tumblr of the French model with half a grapefruit?

Forget TJ’s cinnamon raisin bread! It’s probably too much carbs and sugar before 10 a.m.

Then I’d skip on snacking…why snack when no one else around me seemed to carry Larabars with them? At a previous job, there was someone in my office whom I’d only ever see consume a single cup of microwave soup during the work day. If they weren’t spontaneously combusting, I guess neither would I.

Now it’s not that I am special that I declined so quickly to these little quirks.

In fact, I’m not special at all.

Our bodies are made for consistent meals and snacks. That’s how they operate. Maybe you don’t get crippling blood sugar migraines when you miss a meal or eat inadequately, but we all suffer in some way, shape, or form. Our productivity goes down, we’re irritable, we snap at our significant others as we fall to a “hangry” state of mind.

It’s taken me a while to learn that the eating patterns of others don’t dictate how I should care for myself.

But before I could know this, I had to go down a really hard path.

It started around October. Like I said, I wasn’t in treatment anymore with my dietician out for a few months and I had started to restrict here and there. I got a pretty bad headache one afternoon and thought that after dinner and some rest it would go away as headaches normally do when you’re gentle with them, but that wasn’t the case. I spent the next week with the same migraine. My dad sweet-talked the front desk at my old neurologist’s office to see me one afternoon without an appointment.

“You’ve got to see her. She’s had a migraine for 8 days now.”

I was feeling so hopeless after some drugs the nuero gave me did a whole lot of nothing. I was persistent in finding a cure for this new chronic pain that I walked around with each day, however – I never just thought to eat a sandwich or something. I went to the chiropractor for regular adjustments, I went to an allergist to make sure I didn’t have something crazy happening to my sinuses. I even tried acupunture! Acupuncture!

Nothing worked. I felt like I was dying.

(I was dying.)

And all the time I was eating very, very little.

I was already suppressing my own appetite by restricting – eating small meals and barely snacking at all. But then coupled with the pain from not eating, I only lost appetite more. I’d sometimes eat breakfast. I’d put some vegetables in a bowl and call it a meal. I’d stay out after school until after dinner, so that I didn’t have to eat with my family. It was self-sabotage at the worst of times, but my brain told me that anything more than half a piece of tilapia for dinner was way too much and my body didn’t need any sugar or carb to keep going.

But that’s the thing about EDs:

They’re compulsive liars.

It’s hard to say that I continued this way for four months. Four months I got up and barely lived because I felt like it was the right thing to do. It felt right to shrink into my own bones inside my favorite dresses. It felt right to have no energy. To have a beating heart and nowhere to go.

My family, of course, was pleading with me at this time to try gaining some weight. They were optimistic it would help me in my quest to rid myself of the four-month long migraine. I was more convinced that I had some kind of invisible illness and that my weight and diet had absolutely nothing to do with it.

I don’t really remember much about a moment where I surrendered to the idea of getting help and getting healthy.

I know I was scared. I know I could actually feel death at times.

I remember sitting in the car sobbing on a rainy day with Cam by my side and admitting that I could feel that I was dying. I had never felt so terrible, and it was every day that I felt this way, with no end in sight.

Maybe that was the same weekend I went to urgent care to try to get rid of the migraine. They gave me a steriod shot and I felt hopeful it would bring relief.

“This always works,” I thought. (I’ve dealt with migraines in the past and this little miracle drug they shoot below the waistline of your jeans always does the trick…and leaves you pretty sore.)

I waited…15 minutes. 30 minutes.

The doctors kept checking on me, asking if I felt better. They put me in a dark room to wait. I curled up on a couch that didn’t belong to me and prayed for the burning to stop. It didn’t. Someone suggested I go eat lunch. Cam? The doctor? I protested because I had had “breakfast” not that long ago: a smoothie made up of weird powders that barely filled a small glass.

Somehow we got to the drive-thru of Panera and I ordered a salad with chicken and buckwheat grouts. I hadn’t eaten chicken or grains in weeks.

I didn’t feel better right away after eating, but I felt the best I had in days. So chicken had magical healing powers, I thought smugly.

That’s when my Dad came to Cam’s with my doctor/cousin Carlos in tow, and told me I had to start eating or I’d die.

We had the same conversation over the next couple weeks, with Carlos weighing me and explaining my dangerously low BMI as he frowned at my low heart rate. My dad was less coy about the whole thing and kept bringing home 6 packs of Ensure that he’d send me off to class with. I realized quickly that the best way for me to get better would be to involve an expertly-trained, independent third party advisor…my old dietician. Luckily, she was just back from maternity leave.

When I first saw her, I remember wondering what she was thinking of my sitting in her office right then. (This time, Cameron in tow…who now accompanies me to every appointment seeing as accountability was something I didn’t have, but probably could have really used the first time around.) I knew I’d let her down with each pound I’d let slip. The weight I had gained the first time around was life-saving and life-giving, and I knew I’d exponged that and then some with all of my antics over the past couple of months.

After we chatted for 45 minutes about what I’d been up to the past few months, she weighed me. (I am weighed at each appointed. It’s a blind weight – which means that I can’t see the number, but my physician can on a small screen that pulls out to them on a string-like attachment. It’s really important in recovery to not weigh yourself and get fixated on numbers.)

She announced to me that I was sick enough to go to a treatment center, and I could tell from the way she spoke to me with urgency and care that she would gladly drive me down there herself if that’s what I needed to get better.

Then she asked a very therapist-y question.

What do you think about all this?

What did I think? I was shocked. Hurt. Surprised. Confused. For the past five months, I was just trying to be healthy. If I thought cutting out gluten would do that or going to the gym every day, I was simply trying it, but I wasn’t trying to die. And now everyone was staring at me – from my parents, to my boyfriend, to the strangers that worked the front desk at the gym, and they were worried I’d be gone the next day. I didn’t know how I got here or how to crawl out. It was like waking up from a really long nap you didn’t intend on taking and trying to figure out what time it was or what year it was. I felt so lost, but I knew one thing –

I didn’t want to go to inpatient treatment.

I had an internship I loved. I was weeks away from being finished with school forever. I couldn’t bare to put everything on hold to recovery in a facility.

If there was a way I could stay home and get better, I wanted to try.

The antidote to forgoing inpatient treatment was a very rigorous schedule of outpatient work: I’d see my dietician weekly, plus visit a medical doctor for tests, blood work, and other doctor-y things to make sure I really got better. Feeling a bit more energetic or eating half a sandwich rather than just a nibble wasn’t enough. We needed to see the changes reflected in my body. When I first got tests done, my iron was super low, my thyroid was out of whack, and I had the estrogen levels of a 6-year-old girl. All of this was reversible, but I was going to have to eat on a meal plan to get enough nutrients and hope that the change would reflect in the way my body worked.

Slowly, but surely I got better. My skin stopped being pale and blue on my extremities. I stopped getting night sweats and I could sleep through the night without waking up to the pain of my head and the hollowness in my abdomen. The pain in my head, while still there, lessened to a dull ache. I had energy to talk to people and laugh with people. I came back to myself over the course of the next few months – but not without struggle or tears or moments of “I can’t do this.”

There’s been several times that I’ve been wary of my decision to forego inpatient treatment. I know that those places offer a lot of support, and it’s really hard work to do what I’m doing while living like a normal human. Some days I don’t want to be normal, I want to just be an ED patient because living a Hannah-Montana double life style is hard. People could make fun of how much I eat not understanding anything about the way a body works after it’s been starved and is now acting in a hypermetabolic state, and they might not understand why I get so tired from walking down the block or just having a busy day with a lot of meetings.

But I’ve pushed on because I feel really lucky that I’ve been given a second chance.

The second chance looks like me waking up and reading my favorite books for an hour before work because I can focus and see the words and the characters in my head. It looks like a girl’s night at a friend’s house where I can laugh and drink cheap rosé and let my only care in the world be whether I slather my cracker with brie or Vermont cheddar from the cheeseboard. It’s going on trips and planning a future with Cam. It’s feeling so buzzing and alive at work that the day flies with passing colors of creativity and friendship and fulfillment. It’s nice. It’s not always easy, but it’s so much better that what could have been for me.

So that’s where I’m at. A social media strategist by day, ED recovery warrior by night. Off-hours are spent in a lot of appointments and there’s a lot of turkey sandwiches involved. I hear my own laugh sometimes and am startled by the sound that was absent from myself for so long. I’m thankful.

Thanks for being here.