*********Trigger warning This post contains weight in pounds as well as information about self harm**********
When I was thirteen my mom caught me cutting myself. She brought me to a therapist and I can still remember how worried she looked. I had been self harming myself for a little over a year. Two months before she found out I can remember her taking me on a long drive and she asked me “Have you ever hurt yourself intentionally?”, I think she was curious about my long sleeves in the middle of summer. I lied of course and felt so guilt about it I started cutting in places she wouldn’t see. Well at thirteen you have little to no privacy and she walked into my bedroom and caught me in the act. I was emotionless. We have talked about this moment many times, and she has told me the lack of emotion in my face was what scared her the most. I couldn’t agree more.
The first therapist I went too was an older man, he was balding and wore thick glasses. His office had no windows and I hated him immediately. Part of it was my “I don’t give a fuck” teenage attitude but also, part of it was he just wasn’t the right therapist for me. Neither were the next five therapists my mom took me too. After a few visits to a “leading child psychiatrist” I was put on medication for bipolar disorder and anxiety. The medication made me feel terrible. I could only stand to be on them for three months when I told my mom we needed to try something else.
I have to say this here. I am so incredibly lucky that my mother took the time to take me to therapy. I would not be alive if it wasn’t for her determination to see me well. I am also incredibly lucky that my mom had insurance and a job that allowed her to take time off.
So, for me sixth time was a charm. I found my therapist. She was great. My first visit I stayed completely quite and came out of the office feeling a bit better. My mom was relieved and I was finally able to learn to open up. I went to her for a year and a half. In one session I explained my tendency to hide food, skip meals, lie about my intake and my intense fear of chewing. I remember she didn’t bat an eye, she just encouraged me to try and eat one thing I liked everyday and wanted me to start keeping a food log. It was the first time I started to look at my relationship with food as something to be concerned about. Up until that moment I thought this was normal. Didn’t every fourteen year old girl lie about what they ate? Wasn’t it perfectly acceptable to to go a day without eating? And a food log? Was I doing something wrong? I pushed it to the back of my mind and avoided it during our sessions, after all I was there to stop hurting myself….oh if I knew then what I do now about this disorder.
When I was almost 15 my therapist told me that she would be taking maternity leave. I shut down. I had stopped cutting myself but my anorexia was spiraling out of control and I was still trying to hide it from everyone, and myself. My fifteen year old heart felt abandoned, I didn’t quite understand why she would have to leave me for several months. Of course in retrospect I know that seems selfish, but at fifteen all I understood was what was in front of me and I refused to go back.
My mother felt that my time in therapy was a success. I hadn’t cut or burned myself in a year, my grades were outstanding, I had friends, a boyfriend and I was even working part time after school. I was also 88 lbs, constantly fainting at school, my hair was falling out and pounding red-bulls to fill my calorie count. I graduated high school at 91 lbs and I still refused to admit I had a problem.
Something shifted during college. My toxic four year relationship ended and I was re-defining myself. I got a job at the same company as my mother. Working together was great, we would email each other all day and take our lunches together and the pay was great for a eighteen year old! I graduated college early and was ready for the next part of my life. Now, I should mention that just because I felt better and gained weight during this period does in no way mean that I was recovering. I had still refused to admit to myself I had a problem. My diet constantly revolved around restriction and I thought because I went to the gym every week, was a strict vegetarian and meditated I was healthy.
I had decided that I wanted to go to law school. I began studying for the LSAT, enrolled in a course and started my summer excited to be moving on to the next phase. The excitement lasted a month. I threw myself into studying and like an obnoxious relative who you just can’t get rid of, my eating disorder surfaced and surfaced hard. I dropped down from 110 lbs to 84 lbs in just four months. This was the scariest time in my life. There were days I wouldn’t leave my bed, curled up in a tight ball waiting to die. My heart felt weak all the time. I shut myself away from my friends and family, ashamed of how I looked and the whispers they would mutter or the looks they would give each other.
I had an answer for everything “I already ate” “I am just stressed about applying to Law School” “Vegetarians are supposed to be skinny” (how stupid that sounds now). My best friend really encouraged me to get help. He had saved my life more times than I think he will ever know, just by asking me to dinners, bringing me smoothies or just listening to me lie and smirking, as if he knew before I knew. He’s always knew me better. He mentioned the idea of trying therapy again, after all it couldn’t hurt to talk about my “LSAT stress”. (I should also mention there were other things in my life that really needed to be worked out, which all contribute to my struggle but that is for a different post)
So, I looked into getting a new therapist for my stress. I told myself I would go to a therapist for three months, then it was back to the books! I saw her for two years. The moment I walked into her office I knew she was going to really help me. We talked for over an hour, though she cut off my time at the insurance approved hour and I just cried and cried. Through our time together she helped me to be honest with myself and the people around me. Once I gained my voice and said the words anorexia out loud it lost a bit of it’s control over me. I began talking about it constantly and every conversation I had where it was mentioned I slowly gained apart of me back. I was lucky that most of my family and friends where supportive and I had very few comments that were less than favorable.
Even though I am overseas and haven’t been able to keep up with my therapy my therapist and I have remained in contact and I can thank her for the empowering feeling she helped me find in myself.
Everyone needs someone to talk to and through my long and drawn out history with many professionals I can honestly say I would not be alive today if it hadn’t been for my continuous sessions with a therapists. And I have every intention on continuing when I return home or if I happen to find someone here that would be even better.