I never understood how anxiety felt until I started experiencing it in my mid-twenties.
The sad truth: I used my eating disorder to cope with uncomfortable feelings. Feelings of unworthiness, like I didn't belong, no one liked me, my boyfriend (at the time) made me feel like I was never invited to parties and if I went no one would like me there. He pinned me against people that used to be my friend. He would go alone while I waited at his apartment for him to come home. I was like his little toy that he kept in a box.
It made me feel worthless. I questioned his every move. I had no trust for him and no trust for myself.
I wandered through life. Hoping for someone to steer me in the right direction. That person never came. But I started showing up.
After a 10 year battle with bulimia, I got scared. When I started thinking about how excited I was for my parents to leave so I could eat as much as I wanted with no one being around - I started to become aware of my problem. I didn't realize how bad it had gotten until it became a daily thing, with tears streaming down my face, crying alone, until someone got home and I wiped off my tear stained cheeks and slapped on a smile.
I was lost.
I needed help.
I got help.
I was ready for something to change - I saw the rabbit hole I was headed down and I didn't like it.
In counseling, I realized that I used my eating disorder to cope with depression and anxiety. When someone made me feel worthless or I felt empty inside, I used it to cope. I reached for sugary snacks to bring up my already seriously depleted serotonin.
She diagnosed me with chronic low grade depression.
For the first time I started to feel my feelings. I felt the heavy chest. I let the tears fall until I dropped to my knees. I let the words circle in my head. I stayed up hour after hour, hoping, praying for someone to make it stop.
I pulled away from friends. I stopped replying.
I started going to yoga 5 x's a week, sometimes twice a day. I went on 5 mile walks by myself.
I ate food and kept it down.
I felt my feelings. I wasn't happy after eating cookies and ice cream. I could feel my legs rubbing together the moment I finished a cookie.
I experimented with what and who would make me feel safe.
I started writing. I wrote hate letters for men and women who made me feel like I was stupid. I tore them up. I didn't press send.
I stared into my eyes while looking in the mirror trying to find the right words to make myself feel better. The words were viscous.
"You are ugly."
"You're too big."
"You'll end up alone."
"Try running from me, it will never work, I will always be here."
"You've screwed everything up."
"You have never made me proud."
"You're the worst."
"You aren't worth it."
"It'd be better if you weren't here."
The last one woke me up and I said aloud, "NO NO NO NO NO!!!" ENOUGH! SHUT THE FUCK UP!
I grabbed my stuff and headed for a trusted friends house. We hung out all night, listening to music and smoking a joint.
I felt more anxious than ever. There I was again, trying to fit in, but the weed was too strong and the negative talk started again.
"You're gonna try to run away from me? NICE TRY!"
I talked myself down. I didn't let this newfound anxiety take over. I realized what was happening. All these feelings I had stuffed down were coming up in full force. I had no coping mechanism. I had no idea how to cope with hateful, rage-filled feelings of self doubt and hatred.
I was mad.
I was really fucking mad.
It was mostly at men.
Men who couldn't communicate with me.
Men who made me feel stupid for asking questions or needing more clarification.
Men who made me stick up for them, even though they were horrible to me.
I became aware of men when I was 12. It was the first time I noticed caring about my weight.
When a group of boys shoved me in the bathroom and made me weigh myself. All of a sudden, 112 pounds was a negative thing to weigh. They called me 112 for an entire year. I hated them. I hated myself.
They were bullies, but I had such low self esteem that I stuck up for them and lied for them. I even dated a few of them.
When I stopped coping the only way I knew how, these old feelings started to resurface. Images of this sweet young girl who was picked on started popping up in my head.
Images of girls making fun of other people and then of me because I didn't join in.
I was pissed.
Pissed that people have to deal with this shit. It's messed up.
Say it to me, but don't say it to other people.
A girl from my high school emailed me 10 or so years ago with a youtube link. When I clicked on the link, it was a video of her talking about her attempted suicide. I wondered why she would send this to me. As the video neared the end, she mentioned a girl at school who was nice to her. A girl who listened and stuck up for her. The tears came immediately. She was saying that I saved her life.
Mental issues affect 1 in 4 of us.
Anxiety & depression is more common than you'd think. It is not shameful. It is not something to be embarrassed about. It is something to be talked about.
In my professional experience, I've talked to many women who have experienced an eating disorder at one point in their life. Women who have been shamed. Women who don't know what to do with anger, because we're supposed to smile.
"Geez, where's your smile?" Annoying man who walks by.
I'm still on a mission. I said goodbye to bulimia 4 years ago and it is still a struggle to know how to manage angry feelings.
"What do I do with these besides imagine a punching bag?"
I am learning.
Nature helps me. Getting outside away from electronics, emails and people wanting something from me is a big helper. It can get to be too much at times. I still love people and love my job, but I'm in a constant balancing act.
I write this story for me, not for sympathy, but to build a community of warriors who've experienced the same thing and who are battling today.
Thanks for letting me share my story.