Psychosomatic Mental Illness?!


Don’t get the stake and pitchforks yet! I’m not saying everyone imagines mental illness. I’ve seen plenty of brain scans, which show otherwise. Plus, I realize psychosomatic refers to physical symptoms arising from emotional or mental issues, not physical causes. Therefore my use of the word is technically incorrect. Nonetheless…

Despite my swing from positive to negative in minutes yesterday, apparently I was more serious than I realized. Last night I told my mom a little about my ED relapse, including that I think I should go back on a meal plan. To her credit, for once, she did not automatically suggest a higher level of care. At the moment, it is unnecessary, but usually when she learns I’m using ED behaviors she says, “Do you want to end up hospitalized?”

However, ever since I told her, I feel like crawling out of my skin! I feel 1,000x more uncomfortable in my body! Realistically, nothing changed; no matter how much “accountability” she provides, we both know she can’t stop my behaviors. Yet for some reason, that one act of defiance (of ED) is terrifying me. Logically, I know my body didn’t grow overnight, but I feel monstrous! I feel more fat and repulsive than usual. It is as if defying ED and reaching out focused my attention all the more on my body/ how I experience being inside my body.

Plus, food instantly became scarier. I struggled to eat breakfast, whereas last weekend I was fine. I’m almost always okay on weekends because even though I eat more than I want to, I know I “have to” in order to keep up appearances. However, this morning I didn’t want to eat. In fact, now I feel like crying. …Hahaha, I talk so much about crying, but I rarely break down in tears in real life >.< …

The last time I cried over eating food was as a senior in high school.  I think it was September and the school year started in August. For a few weeks I went to school in the morning and returned to treatment for lunch, PM snack, and dinner. This was my first full day back at school. I sat alone in the locker room, staring at my lunch. With a heavy sigh, I opened an applesauce cup and dipped my spoon in it. Then I started crying. It is difficult to describe the fear an eating disorder creates. We know we need food to survive. We know most people, given the opportunity, eat every day, more than once a day! But when we look at food we see all our shortcomings manifested. Taking a bite equals admitting or giving into our weakness. It means magically expanding fat cells and everyone you love turning against you because food will make you so hideous that no one can stand to be around you. Food is the enemy; it horrifies you. I literally had nightmares about eating. Eating causes a huge spike of anxiety, fear, and self-loathing. This disease is one thing you’re good at; one thing you can do right. After all, despite your teachers and parents insisting you’re smart and capable, you know the truth. You know you’re inadequate and you’re terrified if you eat, they will finally see the monster you see in the mirror. Illogical? Yes. Insane? Yes. Irrational? Of course. But the feelings and thoughts are as real to you as your grief at your grandmother’s funeral.

Right now, I’m a tight knot of dread and misgivings. I feel nauseous and bloated. I want out of my body.

And why? Just because I committed the cardinal sin, I admitted my human weakness and asked for help. There are a million eating disorder blogs on the internet; it may seem like we’re fine with expressing emotion and needs, but there is a huge difference between anonymously ranting online and using your words to ask someone in your life for help.

Now off to try to kill the other law students with studying…

willow_fake smile

…I lied, one more thing:

Remember how I said when we eat, we imagine we’ll immediately gain weight? I meant it. In my first week of inpatient treatment, I felt my clothes get tighter on my body. I saw my body getting larger in the mirror. If someone wanted to bet me that I wasn’t gaining weight, I would laugh in their face and agree to a million dollar bet. I was at “fat camp”, on a weight gain meal plan and I could see and feel the differences! However, I would be a million dollars in debt because a few days later they put me back on bathroom monitoring. Apparently, I lost weight in my first 2 weeks and they thought I purged in the bathroom. So, while I was sick, not only did my mind whisper lies in my ears and my emotions skyrocket, but also my perception of reality was skewed. My clothes felt tighter on my body and I saw myself gain weight because I believed that was what was happening.

Perhaps the fact that it is happening again is a testament to this being a real relapse? I don’t know because I call these  blips relapses, but it always gets better before I get too sick and even as my least disordered, the thoughts are still in my head. They never left. Therefore, have I ever been in recovery?

Oh, for the record, I was not purging. I was hypermetabolic, a state of increased metabolic rate, usually in response to a significant bodily injury. Sometimes when malnourished people, in starvation mode, begin re-feeding (FYI, a normal or even overweight person can be malnourished! Health is not simply calories consumed, it also quality.) their metabolism re-boots when it gets adequate calories again and it revs up before settling to a normal level. It is a terrible irony for re-feeding anorexics or underweight bulimics because the treatment team gives you a high weight gain meal plan to begin with and then your body makes it doubly hard to gain weight with hypermetabolism. I was lucky, my metabolism calmed down in a month. I knew some girls forced to eat 5,000 – 6,000 calories PER DAY for months and they still struggled to gain weight. It might sound wonderful, eat all you want and don’t gain weight! But it is hell when you’re used to only eating small amounts or throwing up larger amount of food. I remember times when I honestly thought my stomach would burst because it hurt so badly (Yes, anyone’s stomach can burst from too much consumption). Your body acclimated to less food and even got used to regurgitating after large intake. It is uncomfortable to eat and keep down a normal sized meal, much less a menu that would satisfy a 300 lbs football player! In that regard, even normal weight or overweight bulimics struggling in treatment because even though they don’t have to gain weight, they may not be used to keeping normal-sized meals down; therefore, it is physically painful.

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