Finally, right? I decided it was time to continue the story so that we could get closer to finishing this off.
We left off at my leaving for grad school. I was headed to Nashville for a four-year doctoral program in Audiology. At this point, I was 20 pounds heavier than what I thought was my optimal weight. I was not happy. For the first two years of grad school, my weight fluctuated in about a 15 pound range.
My eating was becoming very disordered at this point. I swung wildly between eating too much and eating too little. I would go weeks at a time eating approximately 800-900 calories a day and then have a breaking moment. It would usually be after a long day of clinic when I was exhausted and coming home in the dark; I was cold and hungry and just couldn’t stand it anymore, so I would grab two family sized packages of cheese ravioli or three boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, go home, and gobble down a huge bowl of it. I say gobble because that’s exactly what it was. I would down the whole thing in about 15 minutes and then spend the rest of the night with an achingly full belly and full of self hatred. Repeat.
At that point, life threw me a huge curveball. One night I was home alone and got up to turn off my kitchen lights. All of a sudden, I was on the floor, coming out of a hallucination where I had been walking in a white room with people singing all around me, and my hands shaking uncontrollably. I ended up being diagnosed with a seizure disorder and put on a medication called Keppra.
Keppra was not good for me, not good at all. I was starting to get depressed, having suicidal thoughts, and suddenly, a switch was flipped. One night I was at home after a huge macaroni and cheese binge, sitting with a belly that was bloated and painful, and thought, “what if I just get rid of it?” And so that’s what I did. I purged for the first time that night. It scared me, it hurt, and I vowed never to do it again.
But there’s something about an eating disorder. It is sneaky, it’s dangerous, and it knows just how to prey on your insecurities and sadness. So three days later, I did it again. It got worse and worse. I was mostly restricting calories, but when I would finally crack and binge, I would purge the food I’d eaten. And I started to lose weight. So of course, that made me happy and the cycle continued.
My mom had figured out what was happening and dragged me to my neurologist. Since suicidal thoughts and eating disorders can be side-effects of Keppra, my doctor switched me to a medication called Lamictal. The suicidal thoughts stopped. But it was too late for the eating disorder.
I remember when my disorder was at its worst. I was down to 157 pounds and had ended up injured, most likely due to running on such poor nutrition. I was throwing up almost every meal now, even if they weren’t substantial. I felt desperate to keep my weight moving down and would do anything it took. I went to Disney World for the Disney Princess Half Marathon with my mother, and one particular incident stands out and now brings tears to my eyes.
We had gone and picked up my race packet and went to a cafeteria to get lunch. I ate one package of Reese’s peanut butter cups and a diet coke, and couldn’t stand the feeling of even that tiny bit of food in my stomach. My mom tried to stop me from getting up, but I went to the bathroom and purged it anyway. I came out of the bathroom flushed and eyes watering, and my mom was looking at me crying, with worry, concern, and disappointment all over her face. But my eating disorder had its hooks in me, and I didn’t think I would ever escape.
Wow. Every time I write one of these posts, I feel tired by the end. Re-living some of these moments is difficult, but we’re almost done. I’ll try to get part four, the final part, out sometime this week.