- I was a child and a teenager with serious problems inside, who felt different and outside, who early on was ashamed of and hated her body, and who eventually took control of the one thing I could, and thus lost control of most everyting.

Image: Dreamstime (with licence)


This writes Nina. In this post you will get a detailed description of how the road into an eating disorder can be.

The post was originally written on Nina's blog and is reproduced on helpseeker.net with permission. Here you read the whole post.

I have been asked this question many times. Especially in recent weeks. "Why did you get ill?" - "Why did you get an eating disorder?" I have failed to answer anything in particular. For several reasons. 

I have not particularly wanted to say anything about it. It has been difficult to say anything about it. It's a shame to say anything about it. I have not seen the point. I'm afraid people will think I'm trying to blame others for being ill.

And in relation to the media, I have found it wisest to keep my mouth shut, because there things can easily be twisted and misunderstood by both the individual reader and the mean crowd. Now I'm thinking. Long. In here (i.e., on the blog) I have unlimited meters of space. And much more control. The opportunity to explain and nuance. So now I have decided to open up a little bit.

You will get to know a lot. Far from everything. For the sake of both me and others. There will be no juicy details. But a little insight into how my thoughts went at that time.

 

Incipient focus on body

When I went to primary school, I really started to notice my body. I did not like what I saw. Eventually I started scanning it with my eyes. Several times a day. More and more often as time went on.

The gym eventually became challenging. I was always out early and changing before everyone else came. When the class was over, I flew down to the dressing room and into the shower, and was out of the shower before the others had come down into the dressing room.

At the end of primary school we had swimming. I did not like it. Not at all. Okay when we were down in the pool. But to go up to the dressing room, and to shower. It cost me a lot. Every time. I dreamed of every single swimming lesson. It was a nightmare. But I did not want to tell anyone. 

 

Desperate desire to fit in

When I started middle school, things started to deteriorate to a greater and greater degree. Puberty struck. My body changed. To something I did not like at all. Something that was foreign. Something I did not want. The comparison with others started in earnest.

Not because I was concerned with being the slimmest, prettiest, perfect or impressing anyone. I just wanted to fit in.

I felt a lot outside. I had friends. Absolutely. But pretty quickly I was defined as the class school light and teacher mixer. I hated it. At the same time I did not manage to do it badly on purpose. I was raised to do my best. And I did.

I had already started to become more and more insecure about myself by the end of primary school. I had always felt a little different. I liked things most others did not like. I was very happy at school. I thought it was fun to do homework. I had a very hard time doing illegal things and testing boundaries when this eventually became apparent.

And in middle school, this just got more and more prominent. Especially when parties, alcohol and smoking came to the table .. Not to mention the damn characters. As I hated them! I was desperate to fit in. After being accepted. Accepted. 

 

Comments on body and weight

There had also long been comments on my body and weight and body shape from several quarters. It became more and more difficult to ignore. It really started to hit me. I tried to defend myself by saying that muscle weighs more than fat. Then I was just laughed at. I have never been exposed to dieting pressure at home. Back then, the advertising impact was a fraction of what it is today.

I was not in an environment where one was concerned with being thin and slim. Nor with an over-focus on healthy food and with forbidden food, not at home and not with friends. Normal food at home, little candy and things like that during the week and also on the weekends, little fuss about food. And as written above; I was not concerned with weight, perfect body or fitness.

I was a girl with a BMI around 21,5-22,5. I was active. I cycled back and forth to school, while I went back and forth in the winter. I went trampoline and volleyball 2-3 times a week. We did a lot of hiking and skiing. But I never focused on exercise and fitness. Never. There were none of the "classic" reasons that many perceive as a cause of eating disorders. 

During the last year of middle school, the thoughts of my body began to take over my brain in earnest.

The school day consisted of constant checking of certain parts of the body. Looking for changes. Both one way and the other. The gym just got more and more difficult. Felt everyone looked at me. Showering and changing was a nightmare. Fortunately, carpenter's trousers became popular. I liked them. They hid a lot of the areas of the body I thought were the worst.

At the same time, one more thing emerged that set me apart from the others; it was popular to go with the upper part and braces "lowered" with the braces hanging over the hips. It did not work on me… my hips were too wide… you can imagine the feeling. I was 15 years old. And already outside. 

 

Anxiety, dissociation, depression

This need to fit in and be accepted was quite universal with me. Not just specifically in relation to the school. I struggled with many other things as well. For a long time I had struggled with existential anxiety which only got stronger and stronger, but which I did not dare to show to anyone.

The dissociation had begun a long time ago, but in middle school it began to be relatively pronounced, but I still managed to keep it largely hidden. Just the frightened mind of me. Made me terrified. I had no idea what it was. What it came from. I was sure I was lazy and did it on purpose. Would not take me along. And even more afraid of being discovered.

And I was already struggling with depression. Varying in intensity, but always present. As the chaos and uncertainty inside me grew stronger and stronger, I became more and more in need of control. And outwardly, especially at school, this probably came out as a rather rigid, loud, dominant and partly judgmental girl. Quite the opposite of what I really was. And I HATED it.  

 

An inner chaos, but also a hope

We started high school. I dreaded that. New teachers, new surroundings, new classmates. At the same time, there was some hope of maybe starting a bit with blank sheets in terms of grades and achievements. Maybe become part of a community and get to participate in some fun experiences that did not just involve partying. 

Fortunately, the class was full of nice people. We pretty quickly became a bunch. Who liked things that did not just involve getting drunk. I was optimistic.

I had a hope. But at the same time the chaos was so great inside me, and together with a full class there were too many impressions and the chaos even greater, and thus I appeared as something completely different than I was. And was probably quite tiring to be with.

I still only wore carpenter's trousers. Had major complexes for my body. I hated the gym. I was very insecure about myself. And I still felt very out of place. 

I had a free space, thankfully. And it was in our "special group", in German, math and English. In the small group room. 5-8 people. Then I managed to be myself. The others were friends. No picking on me due to my grades. And we had a lot of fun. The only place outside of school I felt "at home" was at volleyball. The two workouts a week were a freedom.

 

I took control of my body

So after just a few weeks, I decided. It was time to take control. In the way I had wanted for 3-4 years already. Take control of my body. Take control of the only thing I could. The only thing that was in my power to change. The only thing I could change to fit in better with the others. Maybe I would be accepted and accepted then…? 

That's how to start it. I was not going to be underweight. I just wanted a slimmer body. One I dared to present in something other than carpenter's trousers. One I managed to show in the locker room in the gym without a heart in my throat every time I took off my clothes and every time I stood in the shower with the others.

A body I did not have to scan and check regularly throughout the day. I just wanted the others to look at me differently. And this was the only factor I saw that I could change right then.

So I started fooling around with food. I started throwing up. I started lying. Both at school and at home. I started cutting out food after food after food. I began to supply myself with less. I was often not home at noon. It was easy to come up with an excuse. It was a good feeling. I had a project I mastered. Which only I knew about. 

 

Terrified all the time, but outwardly masterful and confident

The problem was that in those years, existential anxiety had only grown and grown, and by the time we started high school, it had become a giant monster that controlled our heads and bodies around the clock. I was terrified the whole time. While outwardly I seemed confident and masterful and loud. What I wanted most was to curl up in a corner and hide.

So even though I took control of my weight and food, and felt mastered and had a hope that the others might change my view of me, the anxiety monster was still gigantic and ultimately uncontrollable.

So then I took control of it too. I started overeating and vomiting. It was very limited at first. I lived at home. I had very little money of my own. So it was not much. But it happened. Daily.

As in many other cases you have probably heard of, the goals I had first set in relation to weight were not good enough. I remember the summer before VK1 (i.e., 2nd grade in high school). We were going to buy clothes for school.

I dared to try something other than carpenter's trousers. And had to go down in size! The feeling of happiness it gave… It was dangerously intoxicating.

Over the fall, I became more and more hung up on weight. I had to go further down. I just had to. It was a new class again. With many of the old ones. But also many of the new ones. I was equally if not more desperate than before to being accepted. And the more I tried, the harder it became to like me, I think… Only in the small group, and in the chemistry lessons on the back bench with a couple of new friends from other classes. There I had a certain calm in my body. 

 

Losing weight, others were frightened

In the late winter of 2nd grade, someone had begun to suspect. Possibly they had done it before too! But that was the first time I was made aware of it. I was confronted by two friends at home. It was after a physics trip to Latvia. I had lost control of a "party" the class we best arranged for us. Ate too much. Threw up. One of my friends found out. I flatly refuse. Explained it away.

They took me to the social worker. I still refuse. She left me alone. I do not envy my friends at that time, so to speak.

After that class trip, I completely lost control. There was somehow no point in being careful anymore. No point in hiding. The weight really started to go down. Before the summer came, I was underweight. When school started again in August, I was more than 10 kg lighter than 4 months earlier. I was relieved. Everyone else were scared.

I was indifferent and completely engrossed in my project. I understood that everyone knew. It eventually hailed with comments, both from students at all levels, and also from teachers. Ergo, there was no point in hiding it either.

And after this, I more or less didn't eat at all.

 

Thought I was in control, but the fact was the opposite

I had become a notorious liar. I no longer knew who I was. I hated myself. I was no longer accepted. On the contrary. Friends withdrew. They were tired of me. They were tired of being lied to. We were just teenagers, without a fully developed ability to have insight into and put ourselves in the situation of others. In addition, I isolated myself more and more. Life became unbearable. The dark thoughts completely controlled me.

Still, what kept me going was the class with German specialization, where we were only 6 students, and with a confident teacher, and volleyball. Things happened in that fall that were dramatic for more than me. It made things worse to a great extent. At the same time, it probably put such a big shock in me that I did not act on all the darkness inside me. I was forced to go too see a school nurse by a teacher I trusted.

I thought I was in control. In fact, it was the opposite. From that moment on, I felt I had zero control. At any time, someone could intervene. Could stop me. Could stop my project. Could demand that I ate again. Demand that I got bigger again.

I was so scared of food. I was so scared of my body. I was so scared in general. On top of my already enormous existential anxiety. 

 

I was very sick, and a master of hiding

The result was that overeating and vomiting escalated fairly quickly. I had been working all summer. Earned my own money. They got legs to walk on. I was horrible. I was ashamed. I wanted to quit. I was terrified every time I pushed the food into me, because not everything would come up again.

Everything was chaos. No control. And the worse it got, the worse the eating disorders got, because anorexia and bulimia were my way of trying to take control.

When the celebration in 3rd year came (i.e., "russe-tida") I was very, very ill. I did not see it myself. I did not want to see it. I tried to escape into the normal the red celebration suit and all the knot rules could give me. But the truth was, I was tremendously ill.

The teachers wanted me to report sick leave. To postpone my exam. That I take a break. I refused. There was no alternative. I was supposed to celebrate with the others. I was going to finish. The thing was, I was terrified that if I did not, I would never come back. 

This is many years ago now. I actually graduated from high school in June 2000. Extremely ill. Worse than most people were aware of. You become a master at hiding. In lying. In avoiding. I was a person I did not recognize anymore. A person many do not have the energy to be with. A person that many felt contempt for. I had become a burden. I hated myself more than ever. So much for the project that was supposed to make me feel better.

 

There were many bright spots, but not enough

Now it may sound like middle school and high school was a living hell for me, totally devoid of pleasures. That is NOT the case! I had good friends. We came up with a lot of fun. I had shorter periods where I felt more accepted. I got to get involved in things. Be a shop steward. I was a representative of an student organization. I organized a collection of funds for a good purpose. I sold waffles to raise money. There were many nice birthday celebrations, movie nights and trips with friends. I had volleyball where I did not have to imagine at all, and we had a lot of fun!

None of my classmates or friends are to blame for things being the way they were. Yes, I was bullied and harassed from time to time. Besides, a lot of this was not meant badly. It was just easy to tease me because I seemed strong and confident, no one could know how much it affected me and why. I do NOT defend bullying! Absolutely not. But in this case, there were many factors that came into play in relation to the fact that I was as affected as I was.

Besides, I saw for myself how I often appeared to the outside world, especially in larger groups. I can well understand that I was misunderstood by those who were not closest to me. And I was good friends with most of the teachers. Not to flatter. I just enjoyed talking to adults. And you can imagine how extremely clever this trait is in your teens... A high-level social suicide it was... 

 

Many who tried to help

My friends tried to help me. Tried to get on me. Asked how I was doing. Tried to reach me. But it was useless. I was so terrified. I could not say anything. Not a word. So I put on my smile and lied, endlessly.

I had several teachers who were actively present. And especially one, which actually saved my life indirectly. Up to several times.

I received outpatient treatment in January 2000. I went there regularly. But I was terrified and ashamed. And I saw no other way to cope with my life and chaos than to have both anorexia and bulimia to regulate myself with.

My friends did not vare. They had tried. Some eventually withdrew. It was too much for them. I can understand that. We were still just teenagers. There were several who struggled with their own problems. That was the way it was. It was a complicated time. To put it mildly. 

 

Feeling different, the shame, and the illusion of control 

That's how it was. By no means easy. By no means straight forward. By no means uncomplicated. As I said, there are a many more factors in play. But I do not consider them relevant in this post. The reasons for my chaos are less important to understand. They are important to me and my therapists. But not to anyone else. It was my thoughts and feelings that took over. Who became obsessed. It went wrong. Very wrong. Had I known then what I was embarking on… but it is easy to say now.

You do not see it yourself. You can not think that far. Think about the consequences and dangers. You are just engrossed in gaining control and mastering something and managing your "project". 

It was not dieting. It was not body hysteria. There was no preoccupation with body and appearance. It was not the desire to be perfect. There was no performance pressure. It was a child and a teenager with big problems inside, who felt different and "outside" for more than one reason, who early on was ashamed of and hated her body, and who eventually took control of the one thing she could, and thus lost control for the most part.

 

A terrible disease

I can not do it over. I wish I could. Both anorexia and bulimia have robbed me of an incredible amount. More than most people who have not been in this themselves can understand, I think. I'm not bitter. It benefits no one. But I can be sad. A kind of grief. Over what could have been. Over what I could have achieved and experienced. It is a mourning process. You have to go through it, I think. To be able to change focus and look ahead. Focus on what you can get after all, on what can be good and give joy. 

I do not wish my worst enemy this disease. There is slow torture over a long, long time. It's like being imprisoned in your own body and your own head indefinitely, you can not count down, because you have no idea when you will be released. It is a life with an extreme ambivalence. With giant downturns. With changing mood. With uncertainty. With shame in buckets and buckets.

It is a life in marriage with a person who is a part of yourself, whom one both hates and loves, who one wants to separate from every other day, but does not dare to let go of. It is high-level psychological terror. It's an all-consuming hell. So if someone still thinks it's merely to start eating or just to quit vomiting... Feel free to try a week being me. I happily switch. 

- From the blog to Nina