Come As You Are: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week | Seattle Family Photographer
Getting To KNow You: More about me!
Come as you are. I love this message. I love it for so many reasons. When I was 24 my life fell apart. I had been struggling for years. As I child, I worried constantly that I would die. I tried not to sleep because I was terrified of dying at night. I also remember being around eight or ten and not wanting to wear jeans because I thought I looked fat. Hating swimsuits. Hiding the sweets I wanted to eat. In middle school the severe and chronic tension headaches started, along with self-harm. High school was a jumble of anxiety attacks, headaches, medications, therapy, bio-feedback, binging and restricting. When I started college I managed for a short time, but really these patterns continued. I would feel better, then feel worse, and next completely lose it. After I earned my associate degree in Switzerland, David and I moved to Boston. The beginning of our second year there, the week I was supposed to start classes, I was suddenly paralyzed. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t go to class, couldn’t stop crying. My mom and David took me to the cape and we decided I would go back to Dallas with my mom and work on getting better. And I did, for a while. I worked, went to therapy, tortured myself with destructive and loathing thoughts. A few years later, David and I were living in Houston. David traveled all week for work while I was working at Anthropologie. I made new friends, I felt good about getting quickly promoted, I had two sweet dogs and we got engaged. But a few months later I was at the lowest I had ever been. I was constantly binging, drinking too much when I went out with friends, sleeping only with the help of way too many Xanax. The self-harm began again, endless crying, begging David to stay home with me, and suicidal thoughts. I actually started intensive 3 day a week outpatient therapy, but it wasn’t enough. I spent most of the time in class obsessing over what I had eaten, what I wanted to eat, imagining everyone there was thinking about how disgusting I was only to return to my apartment and hope to sleep and never deal with anything.
And this is where I get to “come as you are.” My therapist (my life-saving Martha) suggested in-patient treatment at The Renfrew Center, an eating disorder treatment facility. As soon as she said it I knew that is where I desperately wanted to be. However, I was terrified of going and for all of the wrong reasons. I thought that everyone (who is this everyone that I have cared about for years?) would think it was ridiculous because I wasn’t skinny. I asked over and over again if I would be the only fat person there. I was mortified that I wasn’t a “successful” girl with ed- I should be 70 lbs! Why didn’t I purge more? How come my restricting hadn’t made me skinny since high school?? But I went. I stayed at Renfrew for almost two months, followed by their outpatient treatment in Dallas, and more outpatient work back in Houston. I fought HARD and I lived. My resume looked pitiful on paper when getting back to work, but in reality I had been working on the hardest thing I had ever done.
I still struggle with disordered thoughts nearly every day. Recovery isn’t linear. I am an open book sharing about my depression, anxiety, bi-polar, infertility…but I am still very shy about saying that I have an eating disorder because I am not skinny. I am worried right now as I write this that you will read it and scoff. This is why I am so happy that the National Eating Disorders Awareness week is focused on inclusion this week. There isn’t only one type of woman (skinny and white) that needs support through an eating disorder. Binge eating has the highest rates in Latin and African American women. A-typical (meaning not visually obvious, basically) anorexia is a vast problem affecting women.
I think about the things I have told myself over the years and want to scoop that girl up and chase those hateful thoughts away. I literally held the younger girls in treatment in my arms and tried to do that. The recovery rate for eating disorders is staggeringly low. It is not a choice, it is not dieting or lack of willpower. If you think that you need help, you do.
When I was in residential treatment so many of the food and eating choices were taken away from me. I was able to completely focus on working through my depression, trauma, anxiety, sleep issues. When I had to start feeding myself again it was hard. I still don’t have balance. But I mostly have my life back. I took a leap that maybe I deserved help just the way I was and in turn, I lived. I am sharing this today even though I still feel shame. Maybe one person will read this and get help or feel reassured, and that is worth so much.
*I have already written so much here, I think I will save part two, where I talk about come as you are for your family and your photos for another day, but I do think it ties together perfectly.
Photos by Lora Grady