Repost from my livejournal.
(Trigger Warning for disordered eating and sexual assault.)
Anorexia is a weird thing.
For a girl who was 300+ lbs throughout high school, anorexia was always the terrible disease I longed to catch. I tried being anorexic--not dieting, I mean, I tried cultivating a fear and hatred for food. Didn't work, for the obvious reasons. So I had a gastric bypass, which may or may not have been about as destructive (my intestines ruptured; I nearly died). It got the job done, and I made the decision with my eyes wide open about possible deadly consequences (though no one mentioned intestinal rupture!), so I don't waste time regretting my decision. Anyway.
A gastric bypass isn't a magic bullet, especially when you are very heavy pre-surgery. The first year, it's impossible not to lose weight, but after that, you're on your own. I got down to about 180 lbs, then went to rehab and shot up to 230 lbs pretty quick. Since I had lost over 100 lbs, I was still considered a success story, but it certainly didn't feel that way. So I resolved to try and lose weight again, and began actually doing healthy things, like limiting food intake and exercising. All for the good.
That changed after I was raped.
Weight loss became an absolute obsession, totally all-consuming. I would weigh myself three times a day, maybe more. A gain of an ounce or two -- not even talking pounds -- would send me on a tailspin. I limited myself to 500 calories a day and would hyperventilate if I went over that number. Of course, I dropped the weight very quickly, losing nearly 80 lbs between August and December. But because I was heavy to start, no one saw my rapid weight loss as something of a concern--except for my therapist, who kept pushing me to see an ED specialist because he felt like I was out of control and out of his depth (and OMG when he threatened to stop seeing me I thought my world was crumbling; I cried for hours).
My baby brother, actually, was the first person in my family to notice. Everyone else bought the "I'm not hungry" line, but he flat out accused me of being anorexic, and tried hard to get my parents to notice. My mom just didn't want to hear about it. Her strategy for my anorexia was the same as it was for my depression and anxiety--to tell me to "get over it" or "stop thinking about it." Real helpful. But mostly, I just accepted the praises of everyone around me for dropping the weight like a good girl, even as a I could barely walk because I was so dizzy.
My dad said after my intestines ruptured, he tried to explain what happened to me. I still had a tube in my throat so I couldn't talk, but he tried to explain the whole rupture and subsequent surgeries. When he got to the part about them having to undo the gastric bypass best they could, I freaked. Just lost it. He rushed to assure me that because of my intestines being gone, the chances of my gaining weight back were slim to none. How sick is it that, though, that the thought of gaining weight was more of a concern at that point than, like, the very real possibility that I might die or need a transplant or the myriad other horrible things looming at the time?
I wasn't able to eat for over six months; I just lived on juice and IV food. Now I've got to start eating again. My dietitian is trying so hard to convince me that I need to eat lots of high calorie food, because I'm dropping weight. But I'm fucking terrified. No, I didn't get over the eating disorder just because so much other shit happened. They have me drinking Ensure, and I can barely chug down a bottle, because it contains almost as many calories as I would allow myself in an entire day. I still know the calorie content of most foods, and I add them together throughout the day without even thinking about it, just getting more and more nervous. I try and I try to force myself to eat. Sometimes I do okay. Sometimes I just can't.
One positive step is that I moved the scale to the garage. My therapist allows me to weigh in once a week. No more three times a day freak out crap. I've been mostly successful at this, but I gained a couple pounds this week and I'm so upset. I stood on the scale and cried. They were good pounds, necessary pounds, but I can't help wanting to still be the 129 I was at the hospital (lowest weight so far), instead of steadily gaining up to where the doctors want me (around 150).
It's hard, and there are triggers everywhere. Our whole society promotes disordered eating. I'm still working with my therapist on this, but I wonder sometimes if you ever can get over anorexia. Will I ever go back to how I was before, or if once that flip is switched, is it switched forever?