This Brave Body: The Teresa Story

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Trigger Warning: Eating Disorder, Anxiety

Living with an eating disorder is confusing, lonely, frustrating, terrifying and exhausting. At some point, it kind of felt like I was slowly dying - and I was. I felt completely alone and no one understood the amount of discomfort I constantly had. I wanted to die, and I felt completely hopeless that I would ever live a single day free of physical pain. It was a nighmare-ish 2 1/2 years of not knowing what to do or who to turn to. I had no idea that I was suffering from an eating disorder or that all health advice I found wouldn't fix what was going on. I felt like I didn't know how to express my feelings, so I harbored them until they just burst out of me. Little did I know that food, or lack of, was having a tremendous effect on my brain and its ability to process emotions and in general "function".  And I wouldn't have been able to understand it, if it had been explained to me. 

You lose who you are and what you love. This force takes over that tells you that you mean nothing and tells you how to live your life. Your thoughts deceive you and make you think that excessively weighing yourself, limiting your intake, fasting, restricting specific foods, etc...are helping you in some way. I suffered from orthorexia for almost two years, after I started to have severe health issues related to systematic inflammation. (later on I suffered from BED - binge eating disorder for 4 years) These attempts to fix what was wrong only made me sicker and frail. I lost 40 lbs over 2-3 months, I was overweight so I was praise a lot which only perpetuated further spiral into my eating disorder. My nails were frail/splitting/brittle, I lost the ability to have hunger ques and my hair was falling out - so much that I got really scared it wouldn't come back. At my worst I was being awakened at night by the bed shaking and having to pee 5-7 times. This was the result of my heart beating so hard my body was shaking to the point of waking me up. Other behaviors developed over time such as; shopping to distract from eating, dressing room breakdowns, isolation from friends and family, fear of my photo being taken, body checking and frequent weighing. That damn scale controlled me for so long that I was terrified to be near one after I got out of residential treatment. Just seeing one would sometimes make me bust out in tears. It reminded me of the hell I put myself through and the intense eating disorder thoughts I had. Thankfully my physician is amazing and doesn't weigh me. She tells her staff not to even ask to weigh me. I am immensely grateful for her and this has helped me tremendously. After treatment, continuous "check-ups" every few weeks included weighing, and this sent me into intense relapses and downward emotional spirals. 

Healing feels like being free, in a way that I never knew existed. It's feeling connected to my heart, my body and whispering "I chose to have faith that I will heal". I didn't know how, but I stopped trying to define what healing needed to look like. I put complete trust in my therapist, who is specialized in eating disorders and trauma, which helped me to learn how to use my body to go "in" and to "sit with the uncomfortableness" to better understand it. Healing feels like I have so many choices, and that is incredibly profound for me. I'll never forget when I started to understand I had choices - it was exciting and terrifying! It also, meant I had to "try to say things", like words and feelings...out loud. It felt like it went against everything I knew, to be that vulnerable. I'm still uncomfortable with sharing, especially with those that may be unfamiliar with eating disorders, because I'm afraid of getting hurt. However, "sitting with the comfortableness" of sharing with those that I know support me 100% helped me to really THRIVE. Sharing has been a big part of my recovery, but I didn't realize that sharing to "recovery-oriented" people was the most important part. The more time I spent allowing space for me to "just be", and to be curious, the more I started to BELIEVE that there was something in me that was worthy. And despite not knowing "what that was" or "where to find it", I trusted my body to help me.

I will continue to feel uncomfortable in many situations, and I'm very much okay with that. Because now I have more days where I'm certain that whatever happens I'll be able to work through it, and if not, I have people that are there for me that understand. I still fight for recovery everyday, and I will for a very long time, because eating disorders are insidious, sneaky and I'm still healing. Most importantly tho,  because I know I deserve a better life than what my eating disorder tells me.

Now I can feel when I am hungry, when I'm getting full and when I'm too full. And to ask myself what led me to eat how I ate, without judgement but a curiosity.  I am still flabbergasted at my ability to think more clearly and create space to just BE! I have interests again and a desire to be curious about the world around me, and my place in it.  I feel worthy to take up space, have a voice, to seek that which interests me and ENJOY LIFE.

If you are struggling from an eating disorder or know someone that is, please come to ED support group and share. You’re worthy of healing.

Teresa is a facilitator for the Amy’s Gift eating disorder support group. The support group meets every Wednesday night at the Trinity Enrichment Center 4622 Progress Drive, Suite A, Davenport, IA 52807

Sarah Stevens