I went and got my haircut yesterday and the whole time my hairdresser just kept saying “My gosh your hair has just gotten so thick! I don’t understand this every time I see you it keeps getting thicker!” Meanwhile in my head I’m thinking “yeah well I had an eating disorder and when I restricted my hair fell out and yeah now that I am healthier it’s growing back!” Of course I didn’t say that because I could never be that upfront and honest with someone I am not close to but it was going through my mind. Instead I just played it off, “Really?? Huh that’s weird but good I guess!”
Obviously when you restrict over time you lose weight and become thinner than the weight you were before. But ED does so much more to the body than just shrinking. It is the things we, the people suffering with an eating disorder, notice every day through our daily life activities and behaviors. As I have been recovering I have kept a journal about things I have noticed that have changed since being underweight. I have compiled a list over the past year that I want to share with you all because these are the daily reminders we need to keep us going!
First is the hair. In the shower I would loose globs of hair every day. I told myself it was normal and must be my shampoo or the weather (oh the lies we tell ourselves). My hair was so thin that my ears stuck out of it which had never been the case for me. Since I have been recovering my hair has gotten much thicker, fuller and the color is brighter. If I had continued I could have gone bald and that would have devastated me. Hair can mean so much to a woman!
Ever tried shaving when your anorexic? It’s nearly impossible. I couldn’t shave my underarms because it was hollow that I couldn’t get the razor in there enough to shave. Shaving your legs was killer and if you tried you’d end up with nothing but cuts and band-aids all over yourself. I remember my legs being so bony that my knee caps and shin stuck out so much that if I shaved I would cut myself.
If you haven’t ever bruised before you will when your severely underweight. Anything I touched too hard would cause my skin to bruise. I looked like I had fallen down the stairs at some points I would be covered in them, so embarrassing! As you can see in the diagram posted with this blog, the blood gets so thin which can cause anemia hence the extra bruising. Again since I have been in recovery I have had much less bruising.
Then came the dreaded bone density exam. I was terrified to take it, I knew it wouldn’t hurt me but I didn’t want to know the outcome. I tried to be strong and I got through and left like it was nothing (pretending) until I got the devastating call a few days later with the results. As I listened to my Doctor tell me on the phone I had osteopenia, I collapsed on the ground and cried. Thankfully my Mom was over at my apartment and was there to comfort me. That was a major turning point in my recovery and pushed me to want to keep fighting even more. It hurt my heart so much to know that I, me the person in charge to take care of my body, had hurt it so badly that I had caused my bones to deteriorate. I was so ashamed of myself and mad and angry. The only good news was that it can be irreversible if you get healthy and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Another reminder to keep going every day and not let ED pull me down again. I have a duty to myself and my body to make it strong again and help my bones be firm and tough so that I will grow old as a healthy individual and be able to be around for my family.
The last wake up call was not having my period. I had lost my period for about three years. I knew it was gone obviously since it wasn’t coming every month but again I told myself lies and figured it would just come back one day. I had a check-up at my Doctor’s office once during my restricting days and she was concerned that I hadn’t had my period in awhile. I was currently restricting but she didn’t know that exactly, she knew I had lost weight but had just told me not to loose anymore like I would listen and just start eating again. She gave me a pill to try and “jump start” my period but even that didn’t work. I was concerned but ED had control of me so I didn’t put much thought into it. I finally got my period back about 10 months after going into recovery and receiving treatment. I envisioned that when I got my period I would be upset because that meant I had gained weight and was back to a number I wasn’t comfortable with but I actually was so thrilled when I got it I started to cry. I got it while I was at work and I told my teammates and we all stood in the hallway jumping, hugging and crying. Our poor students had no clue what was going on. I am so happy I got it at work and was able to have that moment with the people who have stood by me the most and have been my biggest supports, my teammates. Most importantly, getting my period back meant having a family one day which is something I have always dreamed about. The day I become a Mom will be one of the happiest days of my life so if gaining weight to get my period back means I will have that moment one day than to me it is worth it.
As positive as parts of this blog post may sound and as strong as I may seem to be, ED is always there trying to knock me down. As I jumped with joy about my period or smile as I shave my legs without cutting myself, he still likes to peep in and convince me that a life with him is better. It’s these moments though that I can actually grin and shake my head no as if ED can see me. Because life without ED is worth it.
Be kind to yourself,