How I Came to be Anorexic
Anorexia is a hard thing to comprehend. If you haven’t struggled with it yourself it is nearly impossible to understand this disease. Even those of us who suffer from it find it difficult to define or explain. It’s equally, if not more difficult, to watch someone you love wrestle against something so bafflingly powerful and yet intangible.
During a recent conversation with a friend whom I’ll call Mark*, the subject turned to that of my eating disorder.
M: That reminds me, you described Bulimia as being an instant anxiety killer, I have follow up questions. Mostly, I just never heard of Anorexia or Bulimia being a symptom of an anxiety. Is that a thing? Tell me more about that.
Also, is Bulimia a bad word now?
K: Bulimia is not a bad word, no, it just doesn’t happen to be my official diagnosis, which I now know is tricky to pin down when it comes to eating disorders.
*ICD-10 Diagnosis Codes—Medical Nutrition Therapy, proof of my diagnosis which I need to obtain in order to submit a claim to my insurance company so that my therapy and nutrition counseling might be partially covered.
K: My official diagnosis according to my medical team’s best guess the day they filled out the form shown above is as marked, “F50.02 Anorexia nervosa, binge eating/purging type.”
For me the anxiety came after eating, the physical feeling of being full brought on full on panic attacks. I would purge to get rid of the full feeling which felt to me like it was relieving my anxiety but it was really just my brain getting those two types of tummy aches mixed up.
M: Haha, Official diagnosis. Hadn’t even considered that. Mental flow chart—
*Mark’s mental flow chart as he drew it and sent it to me.
K: I think that looks about exactly like what’s happening in my brain. If you read my blog (he hadn’t yet) you’ll see I was afraid to even start talking about this publicly because I was afraid people would say I’m not “thin enough” to be anorexic. That’s how the disease speaks to me.
M: This is all barely comprehendible but I’m getting there.
K: I know. It’s really tricky to try and understand it. That’s what makes it hard to share...unless you’ve actually experienced it, it’s hard to comprehend.
M: The fullness anxiety was thinking you’d get sick? Or that you’d get cankles?
K: The fullness anxiety was me feeling the physical feeling of fullness because there was food in my belly and mistaking it for the tension that I hold in my stomach when I’m feeling anxious about actual stressful situations. Does that make any sense? Have you ever worried about something so much that your stomach hurt?
M: My anxiety makes me feel like I have no appetite, or like I’ll get sick a bit. So yeah, I think so.
K: I think what happened is my brain got tricked into thinking I was too full and started screaming inside my head to just get it out. And when I did, when I purged, the full feeling was gone. And so my tricky brain thought puking was the right answer, that throwing up relieved the tension of anxiety. Silly brain. Had to go back and completely rewire some things up there.
M: So the purging and the bodybuilding and Barre etc. aren’t related??? What are the odds?!?
K: Not exactly. The purging and food restriction and excessive drinking which were driven by my underlying depression and anxiety were all a direct result of this fact...
UP UNTIL ABOUT 3 WEEKS AGO I DID NOT TRULY BELIEVE I WAS BEAUTIFUL OR LOVED.
M: Aww. Well that part sucks. Where’d that come from?
K: I imagine it came from a lot of different things all piled up together and slammed into my psyche, so it’s hard to parse out. But now that I know that it’s not true I can work to heal all the broken bits and THAT is a very good thing.
M: This is like a documentary where they don’t know what the story is but they keep getting footage and piecing it all together until they figure it out.
K: Yes, exactly. And might it make a pretty intriguing book?
M: Intriguing, yes, I think so. But mostly because we don’t know the ending yet.
Keep turning them pages, shoot.
K: Alright then I will.
Following our conversation I asked Mark to please check out my previous blog posts. He did and had this to share, “I think there’s a really succinct point to be made that PART OF Anorexia is having the thought in your brain that IF you tell anyone you’re anorexic they might look at you and think you’re not skinny enough to be anorexic.”
I think he’s absolutely right on with that. It’s why I struggled over sharing my journey to begin with. But I believe healing begins by making the struggle speakable, by bringing it to the light. The response I’ve received sharing my story so far has been overwhelmingly positive and I must thank you all for that. You have been so gracious, kind, encouraging and supportive, even brave and bold enough to reach out and share some of your own struggles with me. I am blown away by the healing and hope that is happening around me every single day. I’m so grateful that the Lord is using me to help others who are still suffering and I am committed to following His leading on this journey every step of the way.
Thanks so much for listening. I hope this post might have helped some of you to understand my struggle, your own struggle or the struggle of someone you might know. You don’t have to go this alone. We are better together.
*I have barely changed his name to barely respect his privacy. And yes, he absolutely came up with that and told me I could say it. If you know him, you’ll get it. “Bits over everything.”