In Media Res: Notes from My Eating Disorder Relapse
TW: eating disorders, body image
[NB from Q: This was written about 2 months ago in the midst of an ED relapse - it was barely even written for the blog, but we’ve decided to share it anyway. I’ve since “recovered,” so let’s all agree to view this as a historical relic]
My perception of my own body has been distorted from a young age, a side effect from being brought up in a household that viewed bodies as inherently shameful. When I was 21 I finally found clothes that fit right after a bunch of friends took me shopping and convinced me that I wasn’t actually a size 14, and no, not all clothes are supposed to look baggy.
I was a complete bum in university; until about 3rd Year I survived on grazing; cooking was too much effort, and washing up was objectively the worst. Also shared kitchens? Terrible– how are you supposed to keep track of everyone’s olive oil? It’s a nightmare. Official PSA to every roommate I’ve ever had (apart from you Steph, u good): do your dishes immediately after cooking; it takes way less time and then you can just put everything on the drying rack. Also, official apology to every roommate I’ve ever had: sorry for always getting quinoa and buttercream (not together) everywhere.
Needless to say, I didn’t really cook in my young adulthood. Pringles for dinner became a staple, and I’d always look on in awe whenever L would cook for me. I can cook – I’m actually a really good cook! I just often choose not to. It’s a shame that I’m such a bum really, food is amazing.
I haven’t cooked anything in the past few weeks. I haven’t been snacking for dinner either. I haven’t ordered any take out or ready meals or had my friends cook for me.
The other day, I had about 15 grapes, two clementines, a cappuccino, 500ml of squash and a can of diet coke.
Well that’s annoying, I’ve only gone and got an eating disorder.
I mean the ‘good news’ (?) is I’m saving a fortune on grocery bills, plus I barely have to step into our shit-tip of a kitchen (seriously guys, clean your crap up!). The less-good news is that I’m tired all the time, my muscles ache constantly, I’m getting short of breath walking fairly minimal distances, and I have a headache all the time.
I used to love food, even if preparing it was a torture for me. Now, I look at food and feel nausea; I haven’t been hungry for days now, and whenever I have to eat in social situations it’s a struggle. My oesophagus feels like it’s actively rejecting food, and then my stomach feels like it’s been invaded by a parasite it’s trying to get rid of. I had a full meal yesterday, and despite the congratulations by concerned friends, the entire evening I felt shame; there was something unwanted, and unneeded sitting in my abdomen, stretching it out. Part of me finally felt nourished; I could feel my hair getting healthier, my skin getting a little bit of its glow back, my muscles getting properly oxygenated again. The other part of me felt bloated – stretched out and nauseated and taking up too much space.
I’m suddenly very aware of where my body is; I’m aware of how much space I’m taking up on a seat, I’m aware of how far my stomach and thighs are jutting out. I’m aware of how I shake when I move.
I’m very aware of how objectively unhealthy this all is. I’m very aware that if a friend or a patient were to come in with the same stuff, I’d have serious concerns and consider some sort of intervention. I’m not sure what I’m looking at when I look in the mirror; it’s probably distorted from incorrect brain chemistry, but the incorrect brain chemistry is stopping me from truly believing that.
I don’t know what I look like anymore. I don’t know what fits and what doesn’t. I don’t know how I’m supposed to look right now. Even writing this makes me feel like a fraud; how on Earth could I possibly have an eating disorder when I’m not a skeletal white girl hooked up to TPN at a psychiatric hospital. On the other side of the fraud coin, how dare I call myself the editor of a feminist magazine when I’m currently the antithesis of body positivity. This isn't what an eating disorder is supposed to look like, right?
I’m very aware that this is objectively not right, and internally I’m screaming at myself to stop it.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to eat anything tonight though.
I am a junior doctor and a feminist. And I am writing this from the frontlines of my eating disorder relapse.
[PS; No seriously guys,we’re fine now! I had a jacket potato for lunch yesterday and it was delightful. No concerned messages please (esp you Lauren).]