Written sometime in 2014…
I’m five years old. I go to A.M. kindergarten where the only time I engage in conversation is to say “here” after my name is called during attendance. Other than that, I keep to myself, too afraid to open my mouth in front of my peers. They’d ask me my birthday as a desperate attempt to get me to converse. It’s a different story at Lauren’s house. Lauren is my best friend and I go to her house after school until my mom is able to pick me up after work. You can’t shut me up when I’m there. It’s winter and the wood stove is blasting heat into Lauren’s downstairs family room. We’re playing house with our dolls. I remember looking at Lauren and then down at my tiny, five-year-old frame and then back at Lauren I’m bigger than she is; I must be fat, I think to myself.
While I did not begin to engage in disordered eating behaviors for many years after, this is the very first memory I ever have of placing judgment on my body. The inner critic that introduced itself at five was just a blueprint of the voice of the eating disorder that would occupy my brain a decade later. Five years old. Wasn’t I supposed to be more concerned with whether or not my mom was cooking macaroni and cheese for dinner?
As the years passed, I was a generally happy and healthy child. I didn’t have any more intrusive thoughts related to my body or eating until my adolescent years; the only struggle for me seemed to be social anxiety in the school setting, which later progressed and was eventually labeled as generalized anxiety.
A couple years down the road, I had a weird issue with my blood sugar. Fortunately it wasn’t diabetes and instead, I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia (aka: a fancy term for dips in blood sugar). My blood sugar would drop throughout the day, so the doctor told me I would need to implement a mid-morning snack at school. And I did…for a brief time. As I’d sit in the nurse’s office plugging away at my 6 pack of peanut butter crackers, it dawned on me that not every 10th grader had to break for snack time. I’m eating so much more than everyone else. I don’t like this. I’m going to gain weight. I started to cut back on my visits to the nurse until I decided snack was not necessary for me anymore.
I began journaling at the age of 15. (Unless you count the ugly tweety-bird diary I had in 4th grade where I’d write about my crushes and failed math tests). But my real journaling days started in high school. I’ve been journaling ever since.
And so…it began….
8/12/2004 – After dinner I felt like I had eaten way too much, but then drank a cappuccino anyway.
8/14/2004 – Feeling like I’m getting fat next to cousin who is built skinny.
8/15/2004 – Beginning to feel like I should tone down my eating habits. I think I should limit my dinner intake – feeling a little bigger in the mirror, want to exercise it all off. Feel good after dinner, didn’t eat so much.
8/27/2004 – Lately I feel like I really want to watch what I’m eating, almost like it was before I went on meds. Weighed in at XXX. Kind of wish I could be XXX or less. Starting Pilates again.
I was just approaching my junior year of high school in 2004. These are the first written words on my life with an eating disorder. I mean, 15 is a terrible time for any adolescent; high school, establishing a clique, puberty, hormonal changes, that’s just the beginning of the list. Sometimes I wonder, what the hell made me feel like I needed to start recording my intake (or thoughts about my intake) on paper on August 12, 2004? What determined my desperate need to weigh XXX pounds?
I’ve spent 10 years trying to figure this out and I don’t know that I will ever have the answers to these questions.
If I could, I would go back to my 16 year old, naïve self, grab her face tight with my hands (like the scene in Billy Madison) and tell her to put the pen and paper down and go enjoy some Ho-Hos. Otherwise, I would tell 16 year old me, you’re headed into a fiery hell of a future if you keep this shit up. And you’re in for some really neat surprises (cue game show host voice)….Guess what is behind door number one, Abby? That’s right! A trip to the sweetest place on earth, Hershey Medical Center! We won’t stop there! You’re also getting a two week bonus gift in a psych ward in the quaint little town of Falls Church, Virginia. But wait, there’s more! After you enjoy those two trips, you’ll then spend three months in bone chilling, -38 degree Oconomowoc, Wisconsin! All this for the low, low price of tens of thousands of dollars, severed relationships, a depleted nutritional status, AND the loss of your will to live!
This all sounds so lovely. Where do I sign up?