ED and Me

T/W: Discussion about eating disorders and mental illness in somewhat subtle detail—disordered thinking is displayed.

Note: I will be pledging $20 of my own money to NEDA and ProjectHeal in an effort to raise further awareness about the issue—donations would be greatly appreciated and can be made on the home page—For any donation I receive for the whole week this post is up, 100% of what I receive will also be put towards my contribution to those organizations! Or you could donate to them directly if you prefer and are able to! Thank you, enjoy the post!

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2021 recently passed! So, I figured a good way to kick off this blog would be with some background about one of my biggest struggles in life. Yes, I have an eating disorder. Specifically, I have bulimia, but I have had multiple EDs throughout my life—because as with many cases, they morph and change.

I know that my disorder is complex—there is certainly more to it than just “throwing up food”…although, even if that was all it was, that would still be deeply concerning and need to be addressed regardless! That is one of the most important things that should be mentioned about EDs and mental illness in general—it does not necessarily matter someone’s “reasoning” for doing what they are doing (unless it’s to contribute to the healing of the issue), because no matter what, it is an issue/illness and needs to be addressed as such.

For me, my disorder started young, mainly with harmful thoughts. I was about nine or ten when I could first pinpoint my body not being good enough. Even earlier when I could first sense a disconnect with my body.

Your body is a vessel, a palace, a home, a well-oiled machine…it takes you through this twisted journey that we call life and to put it plainly…it takes a lot of shit.

I never felt that way about mine. I never fully connected with her. She was an enemy in my mind’s eye (ironically, since that is also a part of my body, but you get it). Instead of associating her with the good things she would do for me like my ability to laugh, to sing, jump, and play, I would instead point out all of the things she was doing wrong.

One of the main things was existing—she took up too much space in a world that was not made for her. She also failed me on numerous occasions throughout my life! She couldn’t breathe properly (asthma), she wet the bed and screamed at night into her early teens and occasionally in adulthood too (trauma), she didn’t look like the other girls, and that somehow ended up being the worst part because that’s clearly why we were miserable all of the time and scared and worried and empty (mental illness/anxiety/depression/PTSD).

It wasn’t long before I met a new friend to help me cope with these feelings. At the age of—roughly—14, I met Ana. She was beautiful. She had an elegance about her that could be matched by no other and a radiance that could put the sun to shame. She was there for me when I needed someone the most—when I was at my lowest. You see, I couldn’t eat well for a while because my body once again let me down and sadness plagued me—my bones ached and my muscles felt heavy and weighed down, which made everything, including “simple tasks”, feel impossible. Eventually, I noticed one day that I was lighter because of this, and it gave me a certain pep and provided a purpose for my life…Ana pointed this out to me.

Ana convinced me early on that the emptier I was in my stomach, the fuller I was with pride and power and confidence (even though I hadn’t actually gained any of those things). I was so far above the people who felt the need to fuel themselves with food *scoff*…who needs that when I had the air, the water?—all of the necessities that nature had to offer, according to Ana—stick with her and I could finally be lighter than a feather, than air! Weightless. No longer would my body take up so much room, and I would be beautiful…that’s what Ana always said.

But Ana lied.

Ana was manipulative, harmful. She consumed every waking moment until I could no longer adhere to her impossible standards. The minute a morsel passed my lips and hit my stomach, it was done. She was no longer my friend…she always lingered in the background, checking in occasionally, but I knew she was disgusted with me and no longer wished to know what she couldn’t control.

It was around this time that I met her cousin, Mia. Mia was different. She wasn’t as well liked, and certainly couldn’t hold a candle to Ana in terms of boldness. She was much more secretive—had to be, given her generally obnoxious nature—a bit messy (sometimes very), and down on herself. She never thought she was helping me, in fact, she hated being here, but she was and is loyal—to a fault, it seems.

Mia wanted that type of radiance and transparency that Ana offered but she couldn’t ever provide. This led to frantic discussions between us about my body many times. My body didn’t feel as airy anymore—I could no longer connect with the wind and water—my body felt bloated and swelled like a balloon. I could not control my body’s urges to betray me and eat…and once she started eating again, let me tell you, she ate. She was frantic, “starving” according to her. Mia didn’t buy it, Ana didn’t either but was no longer interested.

Mia was scared for me. She didn’t want me to feel as disgusting as she always did. While she didn’t necessarily care for my company, I was the closest thing she had to a companion. She gave me a new tip in an attempt to keep me around, to engage me the way Ana had. She coaxed me into the idea of emptying my fullness in an effort to cling to some of the light that Ana had left behind.

With seemingly no other options and desperation clinging to my being, I decided to give her way a try—on it went, the beginning to what would be a decade (perhaps more—it’s quite unpredictable) long commitment. I purged myself of the unclean foods (which was basically anything and everything) that my body felt the need to consume and while it never felt quite the same as Ana’s strategy, I at least was able to eat! Though according to Ana, that was a weak mindset. I think Mia thought so too, but she wasn’t any better and she knew it too, so she never said a word…

It took years before I realized that Mia was just as toxic as Ana. That she had led me astray with her intention to “help” me. Mia was killing me. She was trying to kill my body, but she was also killing me. It was time to get help. Especially once I was caught and my family found out about Ana and Mia and everything they had done—I had no choice at that point but to seek guidance from someone who could help me distance myself from these “friends”.

Therapy. Age 18 and finally seeking some kind of relief from the stress my body and “friends” had caused me for years. In therapy, I realized that my body couldn’t keep up with the strategies my “friends” had planned for me. My body was failing me, giving out. She was tired and aching, she couldn’t move or sing the way she once did. She made my face bloated, red and swollen, with popped blood vessels and acne.

I had to go away. Find even more help. So I did—or I tried. I went to a rehab center for eating disorders but only lasted a week as opposed to the standard two weeks to one month (sometimes longer!). I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to be away from home and my “friends”. I couldn’t cope and I was scared.

Still, in the week I spent there, I did actually learn some useful tools and my eyes started to truly open for the first time. I was and am sick. I was hurting myself. Not my body. My body was actually trying her best to keep up, keep me afloat. My body wasn’t the enemy, she was the solution—my savior, my real friend. With this in mind, I truly did well for awhile.

The thing about recovery, is that it is not linear. Things don’t just get better from a stint in rehab and the occasional therapy session that eventually ended and gapped until just last year at age 23. I am super grateful to my new therapist who has helped me tremendously with taking the next steps in digging up the roots to my disorder and why Ana and Mia appeared in the first place—why Mia still hangs around at all, even if it is much less than she used to.

Still, it’s a work in progress. I am a work in progress—both me and my body—but not in the way that I used to think. We don’t have to fit a mold that was constructed for us by nameless faces and standards set long before I was even a blip on the radar of the universe. We have to not only survive, but live, truly live, and experience things—including food and laughter and music and love and life. But I cannot do that without her. The one thing that I had a hard time grasping all of this time is that she is me and she is my biggest ally. She wants to see me do well, she wants me to stick around as long as I possibly can, to take up space, to exist—and she has a right to, I have a right to, we have a right to.

We are one in the same and though I know I’ll have setbacks, I truly am learning to love myself for the first time ever. I want to see what my body can do and I want to send her love and give her grace. She has gotten me this far and I get the feeling our journey has only just begun. So thank you to my body for taking me through every course of life—for everything I’ve put you through and thrown at you that you held me during. You are strong and capable, you can do anything you want to, and you are still connected to the spaces around you, more so now than ever! I am sorry I hurt you, but I am trying my best to grow and change everyday…I love you.

I love me.

Published by gcalavano

I am a 24 year old who uses the following pronouns: she/her/they/them. I am queer and mentally ill and I’m just trying to live and figure out how to remain true to myself but also grow as I go!

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