I left off last Thursday with a bit of a cliff hanger… Sorry! So on to the next portion of my journey.
What caused me to have an eating disorder?
It is actually a question that even I have not answered all of the way. Every day/month/year I seem to uncover another portion of my eating disorder I had no idea existed. But I am getting ahead of myself… I am not going to highlight every trigger or every thought that came about as my eating disorder came about but I am going to highlight what I believe are the important parts that brought anorexia into my life.
*** I will not be sharing photos of myself at my worst because not only could this post about triggers lead to triggering others (and myself) but this blog is meant to show how much my life has grown and developed, and how much more I appreciate all of life’s challenges now. Looking back on the past and how unhappy I was does not really do justice to my motto of plating it and climbing. The goal is to climb up not down.
As I said before I have always been very preoccupied with my appearance. Being little was something I took pride in, and I grew up unconsciously worrying about my weight and size. I say unconsciously because it wasn’t something I tried to change, it was all thought no action. But I would hear about dieting and associated it with something adults did, so naturally, my time would come. When I started high school I put on a very little amount of weight and I was concerned because now that I was dancing in pursuit of a career my appearance was even more important. So my mom was just trying to get me into fitness and healthy living when she suggested I try out our exercise bike for 30 minutes. I loved it and weight did start to come off. Then she bought me the book above and I became obsessed. I would read this book at night and was inspired to take up cooking, eat vegetables, non-sugary cereals, and begin to realize that portions mattered. All of these things were great concepts. It wasn’t the book that caused the eating disorder… I believe that it was when the weight came off that my brain began to change. And then I regained a lot of weight (I still wasn’t overweight but when you have lost weight and then it comes back, sometimes it can be upsetting) and became so distraught and for some reason I couldn’t get back to where I thought my body was healthiest. Of course the weight I had gained and then couldn’t lose was probably where my body was feeling healthiest… but my brain wasn’t having it.
So dieting was a trigger for me but it is not for everyone.I just want to make that clear.
Competition, Being the best, the need to have something I was recognized for…
There was a time that dance was fun. I looked forward to class and I was good at it. There was no sense of doom and gloom when I talked about my future in dance.
But when I started high school I made the decision to leave my recreational studio where I had basically grown up. I knew that in order to really make it in dance I needed better technique than my studio could give me. I also started Governor’s School for the Arts (I was accepted into the Dance Department) and that meant I danced for my grades! Dancer’s heaven? I thought so. But then this is when dance began to bring more worry than fun. I was always comparing myself to other dancers and I never felt good enough. There was always someone better or some skill I was too scared to even try. And then suddenly class was something I dreaded. I would stare at the clock counting down the minutes until it was over or I would convince myself I didn’t feel well so that I could sit out. I didn’t know it at the time but my eating disorder was my escape plan…
It took me a LONG time to admit that I didn’t want to dance anymore. I tried many things to keep me dancing: Pageants (I’ll cover that in the post about my recovery), The NCAA dance team in college, and taking classes because I though I was supposed to. When something has been a part of your life since the beginning of real memories it is hard to let go. And I will admit, most of dance comes so naturally to me (not all though). So it was hard to explain to people that it wasn’t that I didn’t love dance, it wasn’t that I didn’t feel good enough, it was that I didn’t like the feeling of dance anymore.
A lot of people ask me if dance caused my eating disorder. My answer? NO. I was never pressured to lose weight or look a certain way at any of the schools I attended. I pressured myself to be too perfect. I lost my love of dance and didn’t realize it and then an eating disorder became my way out because when I did recognize I didn’t want it anymore I was too scared to leave the one thing I felt good at. Dance is beautiful, and it does wonders for so many young boys and girls. I would not be who I am today without my years in dance. I just don’t love to do it anymore.
Something more complicated
I don’t have a picture for this one sorry. This is incredibly complicated and I don’t understand it myself. But ever since I knew eating disorders existed I have had a fascination with them. I have always enjoyed watching the movies about them, the TV shows (Emma of Degrassi anyone? or DJ on Full House?), and books that dealt with them. I don’t know why, but I glorified these stories and I think unconsciously I was in a way learning how to have the perfect eating disorder. There is a lot of research out there now suggesting that some people have a specific gene that makes them more vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. I am someone who believes this to be true. We found out shortly after I was diagnosed that my grandmother exhibited bulimic behaviors throughout her childhood and young adult life. And my mom admits to also dealing with some disordered behaviors (although I look up to my mom so much these days, she eats what she wants, no longer diets or counts points/calories, and takes such great care of her body). When my grandma was young eating disorders were not mentioned and treatment was pretty much unheard of so of course she was never diagnosed with an eating disorder and no one would have thought to be on the look out for the possibility in later generations. Now I am. Because if there is a gene, research also suggests that the gene does not have to be activated. That happens when outside forces come into play, and that happened for me as you can see.
So many things can lead to a person developing an eating disorder and the 3 things I mentioned here are only a few of the things I believe led to mine. I believe it is so important to know possible triggers because eating disorders ruin lives. Yes recovery is possible, but it is hard to chose it and when you do the battle has just begun.
I did not realize how hard the recovery from an eating disorder would be. They leave that part out in the magazines and in the movies don’t they. Well I am not leaving it out because my recovery is what I am most proud of.
Come back next Thursday for my path to healthy and happy! I promise it is a good one!