Monday, February 1, 2016

My Anorexia Journey

I've mentioned it a few times here and there, I've thrown out the words, and I've been vocal about my struggles... but I think it's time I'm "real" about my past history with anorexia. I've debated about posting this blog, as much of the content stems from a very personal place, and there is still an element of shame of this part of my past. However, I feel like sharing this part of my story will not only help me let go of this part of my past, but it might also encourage others to do so as well.


I remember sitting on the floor of my living room one evening when I was 11 years old watching Oprah with my mom, and a very young girl who was maybe 80 pounds and in the thralls of anorexia was being interviewed. I watched, in complete awe.... "How could someone do this to themselves?" I was thinking. I looked over at my Mom and said "Well, this is something you will never have to worry about with me. I promise!!!" I believe I even went and got myself a bowl of ice cream at this point in time, just to prove a point. I loved food, I couldn't imagine that someone would just choose to not eat because they thought they were "fat" or wanted to loose weight. 

Sadly enough, about 4 years later I broke this promise with my Mom, and ended up turning my life upside down. 

Before I go any further, I want to be straight up here. The core of my anorexia was not about weight loss. The cause stemmed from a much deeper place: depression, anxiety, insecurity, the wish for control. For myself specifically, everything about my eating disorder was about control.

I remember sitting on my bed one night when I was about 15, crying. Within the last year and a half I had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, scoliosis and chronic daily headaches. My uncle, whom I was very close to, received a palliative diagnosis. I lost an important friendship and I was about to change schools (as I was headed to high school). I was in the midst of extensive tests trying to figure out why my hormones were so wacky, and I just felt like my life was completely out of my control. I kept a running tally in my head of things that I could control, and it looked something like this: 

My health: NO 
My friends: NO
My family: NO
School: NO
Food: YES

It was almost like a revelation, I DID have control over something. I could control what I put in my body. I could control what I ate, when I ate it, and how I ate it. After this I felt...enlightened! Something in me changed, because I finally felt like I might have some element of control over my life. I went to bed that night feeling like a different person.... feeling like I might be able to get my life back. 

Months later my obsession for control began to spiral out of control. I was no longer controlling my diet in a healthy way, I was becoming dangerously thin, extremely fast. I however, didn't see this. Each time I stepped on that scale and saw the numbers drop I was ecstatic... my exertion of control was WORKING! I felt exhilarated, even when half a pound was lost. This feeling became so intoxicating to me that I began to significantly restrict my eating, just so I could see those numbers drop faster. Watching the numbers fall on the scale distracted me from my Neurofibromatosis. It gave me something else to think about. 


Pretty soon, eating caused me anxiety. I was afraid of food. I became so obsessed that I wouldn't go out in public if I even thought there was a chance I would have to eat. I avoided birthday parties, going to friends houses, and family events. I made excuses all the time for why I wouldn't go out. All I could think about was what people would think when I sat there with an empty plate. I knew people would judge me, ask me questions. I was afraid. People didn't get it, they would tell me to "eat more" or "go get a cheeseburger", but I just couldn't. The thought of giving up the one thing I could control frightened me so much. 

I remember going to a friends house one night, and someone I knew came up to me and asked "Wow, are your parents feeding you these days?" I instantly felt ashamed, I knew people were talking, I knew people were calling me names such as "anorexic" and it hurt. All I could think about was how nobody understood, nobody knew the true reason I was doing what I was doing. Nobody lived my life, therefore in my mind, nobody could judge me. People would tell me to "eat a cheeseburger" and their words cut me like a knife. 

The numbers on the scale continued to drop until I reached a dangerous 84 pounds.  At this time, I was actually afraid to drink water because I didn't want to look bloated. I searched Google to see if lip chap had calories, because if it did there was no way I was going to use it. I looked up ways to burn 1 calorie so that piece of gum I just ate wouldn`t make me gain weight. I cut out all foods with added sugar or fat, and soon my diet was limited to chicken and some fruits/vegetables. It felt like anorexia was at the core of my own personal being. The more I exerted control over my eating habits, the more depressed I became, and the more depressed I became the more control I wanted over my life. 

I wouldn't even be able to tell you at what point in time I decided I needed to make a life change. It sure wasn't when I was seeing an eating disorder specialist, because I  flat out lied to her because I thought she didn't understand... how could she when she wasn't battling NF and an eating disorder?! She pressed me to share why I had the eating habits I had, and I just wasn`t ready to give that little secret up quite yet. 

I remember at one point deciding that if I ever wanted to be a true, happy and authentic version of myself I needed to change. I slowly began making changes to my diet, just like I did when I started this whole "journey". I added in a few snacks in the day here and there. I stopped doing jumping jacks in my room, or excessively exercising on our Wii Fit. I would eat meals before going to bed, which used to be a forbidden activity. I started drinking liquids that weren't water. Before I knew it, I started having food cravings again and I slowly allowed myself to enjoy food.

Sometimes I hear people talk about anorexia and other eating disorders in such a negative manner. People think it's a choice, and I'm here to tell you it isn't. Anorexia is no different than having depression, or asthma for that matter. It's a mental illness, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. All I ask is that if any of you, right now, are facing an eating disorder PLEASE go get help. It was so enlightening when I freed myself from the burden of anorexia, I want nothing more than for others to feel the same way.

Being a perfectionist I used to compare myself to what I thought was the perfect body type, but what I've come to realize is that there isn't one. I still struggle with body image issues, don't get me wrong. I compare myself to others, I wish that my hips were smaller and that my cheekbones weren't as wide. I pick all my pictures apart wishing I looked differently, but these struggles remind me that I am human, and that I am not perfect. I've been given this life to live and I'm darn well going to live it, with my perfectly imperfect body. 

- Court 

  

** The picture on the left was taken when I was at my lowest weight and most depressed. The one on the right was taken last summer... fully weight restored and healthy :) **





6 comments:

  1. Well....I just sit here in awe at your openness and honesty. You have come such a long way, my girl. We were so worried about you back then. I'm thankful you were able to turn things around and are now living an open, carefree and happy life, and following those nursing dreams!!! We love you Courts!!!!
    xoxox
    Momma

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  2. Courtney,
    I appreciate your honesty in sharing your struggle with not only NF but with Anorexia as well. You are such a strong individual and will no doubt make a wonderful nurse. I completely relate to waiting desperately to control things in my life and have been on my own journey where I have realized that it is completely okay not to be in control of everything. If you want to know more about how I came to this realization, I would love to tell you. Anyways, I am in your cheerleading section and travelling along side you as we take it one hour then one day at a time. You are amazing!

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  3. You've kept to the topic in your first paragraph. People can not get it around their heads that anorexia is a very nasty piece of business. Everybody should read your post. They would learn a lot.

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  4. Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments, thanks for reading <3

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  5. So glad that you chose to share this. My family and I are going through a similar situation at the moment and it takes everything you have got to fight your way through. We are definitely still in the midst of it so it is encouraging to hear that others are making this tough journey as well. All the best.

    Jeffery @ New Dawn Treatment Centers

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    1. You're definitely right, it takes everything in you to fight against an eating disorder. I wish you and your family all the best! If I can be of any help please let me know!

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