It’s been awhile since I have written a “Life With Ed” post, so if you’re new to my blog and you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my Eating Disorder Series here.
Disclaimer: This is a series of posts about my experiences with anorexia and bulimia. Many of the things I discuss could be extremely triggering if you are dealing with an eating disorder, so please read at your own risk. I am not an doctor or a therapist. I am simply telling you my story.
My recovery has been kind of strange since I got my stomach surgery back in February. Although I thought I was in a good place in terms of my bulimia, I really wasn’t. The thing is, it’s easy to think that throwing up your food “only” twice a week is good when you’re used to doing it every day, so I was pretty comfortable with that. My stomach surgery threw a wrench into the whole process though, in a good way – after my surgery, I became physically incapable of throwing up. As terrifying as the prospect was, I realize now what a gift it has been. I literally have no choice but to keep my food down, which is something I curse myself for about twice a week on average.
Of course, just because the physical actions of bulimia are no longer possible doesn’t mean that the mental and emotional aspects of the disorder have gone away. It is certainly something I struggle with every day. Because I can no longer purge, I sometimes deal with those feelings by wanting to aggressively restrict my calories, which is also something I really can’t do if I want to run decently. It’s a constant mental argument, but it’s one that I feel like I’ve made a good bit of progress in most of the time.
Most of the time.
A few weeks ago at the Route 66 Marathon Expo, I was so stressed out about meeting all of you who said you were coming to our booth because I hadn’t been drinking much water while I was sick and I felt puffy and bloated. Every time I met someone, I thought to myself “I wonder if I’m bigger than they expected?” Seriously. Every. Time. As if that’s what you guys are thinking when you finally meet me and I’m randomly wearing some insane ram hat on my head.
This past weekend, I went home for Thanksgiving and my mom and I went shopping on Black Friday. I have literally only one pair of jeans that I like, and with my birthday coming up, we decided to go shopping and see if I could find more of them. Apparently, the style of jeans I like – non-stretchy denim – no longer exists in America. Why do people like stretchy jeans? Why is this a thing? All they do is accentuate my giant runner thighs. It is unacceptable. I’m going to add this to the list of things to rant about in my next edition of T-Rex Rantz.
Anyway, my mom and I went into the umpteenth store and she was sitting and waiting for me to try on my jeans. The uber-friendly sales woman starts talking to my mom and trying to sell her some jeans and tells her she should just try some on. She asked my mom what size she wears and my mom said normally she wears a 4. The sales lady said “No way! I bet you’re a 2.”
I almost threw up right there in the dressing room. I was trying on size 2 jeans.
It’s so stupid. My mother is tiny. She’s 4 inches shorter than me and just a very small person in general. My whole life, though, she’s been bigger than me and always worn a bigger size. When the saleswoman suggested that we might wear the same size – and it turns out that we don’t, not that that matters – I almost collapsed.
For the rest of the day, I felt anxious and sick. Even thinking about it now, I still feel that way. When I break it down, I realize how completely ridiculous it is. It’s not that I have gotten bigger and am now the same size as my mom (who was never even bigger than an 8 to begin with), it’s that she has gotten smaller and is now close to the same size as me. Why should that upset me? What difference does it make? The reality is that it should not upset me and it doesn’t make a difference, but this is how my brain works. So then, upon realizing how ridiculous the whole thing is but recognizing that I still feel that way nonetheless, I start to get depressed about the fact that I don’t think like a normal person and then the whole thing just spirals downward.
I write this mostly to try and get it out and process it, but also to further explain the way the brain of someone with an eating disorder works. As I discussed in my fifth Life with Ed post, eating disorders have nothing to do with the way the patient perceives anyone else’s weight – I think my mom is tiny! Yet when I found myself getting so worked up over this whole situation, it never occurred to me that the reason my mom and I might wear the same size was because she got smaller – the only logical conclusion was that I had gotten bigger. Do you see how that works?
Of course, it doesn’t help that trying on jeans is traumatic in the first place and it’s even more traumatic when you’re a runner with rather sturdy thighs. I found myself cursing all my marathons as I tried on pair after pair and hated how they seemed to strangle my poor thighs. I became convinced that none of the jeans looked as good as my old pair, which they don’t even make anymore, and I resigned myself to wearing the same pair for the next 50 years. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen my grandmother wear jeans, so I’m pretty sure it won’t be that long. Do old people wear jeans? Serious question.
As I tried on all those pairs of jeans, I remembered how my stupid body dysmorphic disorder makes it impossible for me to see myself realistically in mirrors, so the jeans probably weren’t as grotesque as I imagined. It wasn’t the jeans that looked bad, most likely, it was just that I was afraid of changes because I knew I was ok with how I looked in the other ones and convinced myself that nothing could ever compare. So I decided to take some pictures of myself, since I can actually see myself realistically in pictures but not in mirrors.
If you are thinking to yourself “Congratulations, dumbass, those look exactly the same,” then you’re not alone, because that’s what I thought to myself when I saw the pictures. After hemming and hawing over how much I hated the jeans and how they weren’t the “right kind” and I didn’t want to buy them…it turns out that it was just my brain that was creating the problem the whole time. Typical.
So, there it is. I guess I’m proud of myself for starting to really analyze and think about why I think the way I do, and I’m proud of myself for recognizing that there is just a slight chance that I’m being ridiculous. The fact that it even occurred to me to take a picture of myself and see if I was being crazy is a pretty big step, but I get tired of the way my brain works. I just want to be normal for one day, but it’s always something. I like to think I’m making progress nonetheless.