Eating disorders thrive in lies. Being able to hide food from a parent, fake weight at nutritional appointments, and disguise a fragile bony figure under layered clothing takes A LOT of effort, energy, and time. But when those lies get exposed, the eating disorder cringes. It cries out in fear. And then tries to find a way to bury itself so that NO ONE will be able to discover its’ deathly voice.
After drinking my daily Ensure for a good month or so, and seeing minimal to no weight gain, my doctor suggested I start drinking two Ensures a day, and if I wasn’t able to increase the pounds then maybe I should also rethink my decision to attend college away from home.
Now this was getting serious. From my freshman year of high school it was assumed that I would attend some university on the mainland–the majority of students that graduated from my campus wound up taking classes at an Ivy-league college, and the prospect of not following where the crowd was going made me sick to my stomach. So I hatched a plan–restrict intake during the week until a day or so before I had to weigh-in at home, then eat as many vegetables and fruits as I could (and drink as much water and diet soda as my stomach could handle), and THEN weigh-in. Falsifying my weight in that manner proved advantagous, as I could suddenly gain up to three or four fake pounds in a day or so–but then every subsequential week I ended up having to eat more and more carrots and drink gallons of water. Eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t keep up with the food and water loading and came clean to my mother. The look of disappointment on her face burned a hole deep into my chest, and through tears I vowed that if I went off to college then I WOULD gain weight and I WOULD make her proud.
I never lied to my mother or father. I really did believe that MAYBE being away from the stress of graduation and an ill parent would be good for me. MAYBE a change of scenery would also mean a clean new start where I could be someone else than ME. At home I was seen as the “perfect” child, and throughout recovery psychiatrists sprouted off facts to me about how that same perfectionistic persona I exuded was a hallmark trait of many individuals with eating disorders. I always compared myself to my cousins, friends, heck, even random people I’d see at the mall. Was I prettier than them? Was I smarter than them? Would people like me more than them? The continuous voice in my brain telling me that I MUST have a certain put-together exterior or else risk being unfriended and unloved by others fueled fire to my perfectionist brain, and the more weight I lost and the more miles I ran, the louder the voice became.
Even as an adult who knows that Jesus is the only person who has ever lived without sin, I still find myself drifting towards wanting to be “good” in all that I do–and with that type of purist view comes a black or white/all or none thinking. For example, lets say I ordered a tofu sandwich for dinner with no mayo. If the cook put even a spot of white condiment on the bread, the meal would be ruined and I would then ruminate over how many calories were in the teaspoon of mayonnaise I ate. Perfectionistic thinking has the ability to drive one completely insane, and so when I left for the University of Southern California after high school graduation–still at a low weight, still looking to be as perfect of a student and daughter and runner as possible–that was when all hell broke loose.