Sorry this is so late this week! It’s been a really rough weekend for me (in which I felt like an invalid because my mum came around to take care of me, but sometimes you need that). These things happen, and we move forward.
I dealt with this feeling of ‘needing a head start’ a lot with my eating disorder. Any time I lost some weight, these voices just told me to keep going, based on the assumption that at some point I was going to gain all the weight back and more, and that I’d need as much of a head start as possible. No matter what I weighed, it was never enough. I always had to lose more. On top of that, feeling hungry actually gave me this intense feeling of euphoria, a huge feeling of control. I just felt better when I was starving myself.
At least by this point, I was starting to recognise that these voices may not have been trustworthy, even though they were as loud as ever.
It’s been a constant balancing act for my doctor between keeping my emotional health a priority and looking after my weight. Generally those two are in opposition - when we focus on just the emotional side, I lose weight, but when we focus on bringing my weight up, I become even more depressed. She’s trying to make sure that we always keep my personal safety as the forefront goal, and as drastic as it sounds, be realistic about which is more likely to kill me at any given time - the depression or the anorexia.
This was a pretty terrifying moment for me. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and it was just skin stretched over bones. Yet when I stepped back and looked straight at my reflection, I was still as fat as ever. I tried again to catch myself in my peripheral vision again, bending at different angles, and I got a flash of my back - ribs poking through, bony shoulder blades, stretched tendons of my neck. Yet once again when I looked squarely at my reflection I saw a chubby blob. It made it so evident to me that my eyes just weren’t working - these two images couldn’t possibly coexist - and that I had to learn to see myself honestly. I’m still working on that.
Follow your doctor’s advice kids. Rock climbing when you’re nutritionally deprived is a terrible idea. It takes the body a long time to recover from starvation, and I had the mistaken idea that as soon as I started eating again, my body would function amazingly. Part of recovery is learning to listen to your body’s signals and take it slow when you need to.
Please, please, do not abuse laxatives. I’m glad I only did this for a short while, because you can do serious, irreparable damage to your bowels with laxative abuse.
It started because I was suffering such severe constipation (which turns out was mostly a symptom of not eating enough) and fibre supplements were not enough. Finally one day I just took a bunch of laxatives to see what would happen. I overdid it, and was in agony all night, but by the time I’d finished the next day, I felt so relieved. From that I adjusted the dose and developed an unhealthy habit of using them every weekend for what I came to think of as a ‘cleanse’.
The reality is that there was nothing cleansing about it. The weight I perceived myself as losing was mostly about losing water and dehydrating myself. I was putting additional stress on my bowels for no reason, and in the mean time, wasting a huge amount of time and pain on the toilet.
For more information about the consequences of laxative abuse, this page is quite informative.
Way back when I originally wrote the notes for this page (I scribble down notes, later convert them to storyboards and eventually draw the full pages) it felt like a stupid thing to admit that I was scared that I’d never stop eating/never stop gaining weight. Since then, however, I’ve had a sizeable number of people write to me and confess that one of their biggest fears in recovery is that they’ll ‘just never stop’. The early phases of recovery felt so terrifying because my body desperately needed to gain some weight, and I just felt like it would go on forever until I ended up obese. My feelings about the weight gain were obviously very out of proportion to what was actually happening, but the feelings were overwhelming. I realise that not a lot is really ‘happening’ in the panels on this page, but when I focus on this feeling, that is all I see - my huge rounded stomach, my fat folds, my sagging breasts. It’s so illogical and I know that, but it’s easy to get swallowed up by that fear.
Visiting the recovery officer didn’t exactly fill me with hope, but she did make me feel seen. Asking my treatment team to slow down had never occurred to me - I just knew that I was ‘in recovery’ and therefore I had to do all these things that felt unnatural to me, whatever my doctors said. I didn’t feel like I had a lot of control over my situation, so in that regard, her words helped.
I’m still trusting her words that ‘fake it til you make it’ will work. A lot of the recovery-focused things I do still feel forced, but at least if I keep doing them, I’m giving my body the best possible chance to perform well. It’s a struggle.
Not sure why this page appears to have scanned at such poor quality? Sorry folks.
I was so terrified to show this woman my comics - I only took a couple of pages along with me, but somehow I thought my drawings could explain more than I could in words. I am so grateful that comics are available to me as a tool, because I think I’d be lost without them.
It should have been easier to listen to my loved ones and just take care of myself, but everything about being ‘healthy’ was foreign to me, and felt like it had to take place on someone else’s terms. At least in depression, I knew the way. That in itself added another layer of guilt and shame to being sick, because I had to wonder if I really was choosing it.
I still find it so, so hard to figure out where my motivation comes from sometimes. No one likes to be miserable, and at times my depression feels excruciating. But as my girlfriend once put forward in a very long and tearful discussion, ‘it’s almost as if you want to be sad’. Ordinarily, this sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone want to feel hopeless and unloved? But the nugget of truth in that suggestion is that this particular deep, lonely sadness is something that I’ve carried for over a decade. Even though it’s been a burden the entire time, at least it’s familiar. Coping, hopefulness, health and even happiness are wrapped up in a whole lot of newness and mystery, and sometimes I feel like that in itself is too much to bear. Depressive lows are, if nothing else, a place of predictability and familiarity for me.
I hope that helps make sense of why the ED side of things magnifies this possible ‘wanting to be sad’ idea. Whilst being in those pits of despair feels unbearable and inescapable at the time, there is a quiet, nagging voice way at the back of my mind, reminding me so gently that if I make it through this one, I’ll come out the other side having lost even more weight. I should probably mention that I’ve never had a ‘goal’ weight, or an idea that I needed to weigh as little as possible. There was (is?) just this bizarre concept of needing ‘head starts’. There’d be this seemingly undeniable truth floating around my head that at some point in the not too distant future, I was doomed to put on a huge amount of weight and be fat and saggy and busty and unhappy forever. The more weight I lost now, the longer I could stave off that inevitable life of obesity. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but as always, that’s kind of the point.
Right now, in this particular moment, all I have is an overwhelming desire to say ‘Screw you, ED. That is seriously messed up. Get the cuss out before you kill someone’.