ED Recovery Story

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Extreme Unit

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Today is the five-year anniversary of my recovery from three eating disorders. This is a long post, so make yourself comfortable if you intend to read it all. It’s one of my favorite stories to tell, and I hope it inspires anyone struggling with eating disorders or other addictions.

2005-06

When I was twelve years old, I had made my new and exciting stage theater debut as the title character in “The Nutcracker” shortly before Christmas, which was one of the best I’d ever had. I had an amazing time getting to meet people and playing this swashbuckling character who leads a band of toy soldiers into battle and rescuing a damsel from the giant mouse king. It was also not long after that that I’d decided to try my hand at drawing and had developed a unique cartoon style using regular and colored pencils. However, that Christmas was when the first eating disorder began.

In previous months of 2005, I was eating more than I usually did during that time. I remember my mom making comments to people about it, describing my stomach as a bottomless pit. She didn’t mean to insult me, but this led me to think that my eating habits were not normal and that I should cut back. Anyone including myself can look at me and say that I’m actually kind of a skinny guy, but this was the time when my body was going through puberty and doing all kinds of weird things, and so I had this false idea about my body. So when Christmas came, I began this little "diet" where I would limit myself to seven food items per day. It didn't matter what those items were. You might say that I made a New Year's resolution that went too far, because Mom noticed my behavior in February 2006 and told me I didn't need to worry about this diet I was on. Being the insecure person that I am, I didn't listen, and the food intake decreased while the exercise increased.

Three times every day after each meal, no matter how small the amount I ate, I would go into my room and do hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks to keep the calories at bay. This diet I put myself on had developed into something that caused heated conflict between me and my parents and siblings. I was having other problems during this time as well, particularly anger issues in which I lashed out at my family, isolated myself from them, and was physically abusive to our dogs. They saw my significant loss in body weight and knew about my irrational belief that food would make me fat. In the summer of 2006, I was declared anorexic. I had never heard of it before. Now, I realize that my behavior was abnormal, but even today I deny that I was much of an anorexic to begin with. I wasn’t one of those hardcore anorexics who can take a grain of rice and cut it into separate pieces. I would still--however reluctantly--eat the lasagna, the stir fry, and almost anything that was put on my plate. My weight never dropped to a two-digit number. Not once did I randomly faint from exhaustion and have to be hospitalized. Mealtimes were nonetheless a pain in the butt because Mom had to make my food for me and watch me eat to make sure I didn't throw it down the sink. She would also make me drink protein shakes every day. Lunchtime was the worst because I had to sit with my family at the table, and the atmosphere was very tense and very uncomfortable. Mom would watch me eat, and in turn I would eat slowly as I watched everyone else, making sure not to finish before they did because my mentality was that if you finish before someone else, you're a pig. I wouldn't finish everything on my plate either; I would leave little bits behind to ensure the control I felt.

2007

My parents put me into counseling soon after I turned thirteen. I was able to talk about my problems with food and family. I was tired of Mom having to make my meals for me, so we agreed that I could make my own food as long as it was in an amount that would keep me healthy but not make me gain any weight as compromise. I also said that I wanted to keep doing community stage shows. So in the fall, I got a supporting role as an extra in "The Emperor's New Clothes”. It was a small role, but it was one of the best and funniest shows I’d ever been in, and I had made sort of a little family of my own with the small cast, some of whom I’d share my musical experiences with. 2007 was my musical debut, beginning with spring's "Annie”. I remember the first time I nervously went up onstage to audition. I’d never sung in front of people before. My heart was pounding, and I was shaking so hard that I felt I would collapse. But I got into the show as one of the homeless people in the ghettos of NYC. I met many wise and talented people who taught me the ways of musical theater, and in turn I shared with them my drawings and the world of Sparky and Max. In the summer, I was cast in "The Jungle Book" as Kaa the snake, which was my first time singing solo for an audience. I had also reprised my role as “The Nutcracker” in the late fall, though it wasn’t as fun as the first time. With new ideas for comic strips to draw and my newly-begun musical stage venture, I had temporarily forgotten about ED and was eating like a normal person for the time being.

One day during ”The Jungle Book”, I got a terrible stomachache in the middle of rehearsal. One of the junior counselors drove me home, and the pain got worse. I remember screaming and rolling around on my bed and couldn't get comfortable no matter what position I tried. Mom took me to the doctor, who thought it might be appendicitis. But I was given some stomach medicine and the pain went away soon after; turned out it was just gas. The thing was, one of the nurses weighed me and I was bewildered to discover that I had gained twenty five pounds since the beginning of the year. So in October 2007, I relapsed, bought a scale, and began this new thing that I called a "24-hour diet" in which over a span of two months I had lost those twenty-five pounds by eating only once a day at lunchtime. A typical meal consisted of a big container of spaghetti or meatloaf with a small side dish. I suffered from extreme hunger and low body temperature in those late-autumn-to-early-winter months. Unlike the previous year where I could effortlessly decide not to eat, I now thought about food all the time and how much I wanted to eat it, which scared me. I would be setting myself up for the second eating disorder that came in December 2007. The anorexic was gone, and the compulsive binge eater had taken its place.

2008

I had starved myself so much up to this point that I couldn't do it anymore. I binged on huge containers of food which caused my weight to skyrocket in just a week and a half in what took me two months to lose. In addition, because much of the food was stuff like beans and ham as it was Christmastime, I experienced severe gas and bloating (riding in the car with the driver and passengers sitting right next to me was hell on wheels) and I couldn't bend over or get up to walk around because my overly-expanded stomach was in so much pain. I was embarrassed and humiliated at what I had become. Unlike anorexia, I couldn't control or hide my crazy eating behaviors because people saw the enormous amounts of food I would eat. They didn't comment on how fat I looked because nobody saw me as fat, but they made embarrassing remarks on how much I ate and this caused me anger and bitterness towards them, because they didn't understand how weak, ugly, and disgusting I felt. Sometimes I would throw tantrums and yell in their faces, catching them off guard.

2008 was another successful year in musical theater. In spring, I performed in "The Music Man" as an ensemble member. The musical comedy, set in early 20th-century River City, Iowa, featured some of the most iconic music ever written for the stage and the most intensive choreography I’d ever been part of, and everyone who came to see it gave it high acclaim. In the summer, I appeared in “The AristoCats” as Edgar, the sneaky butler who tries to get rid of his mistress’ house cats and steal their inheritance fortune. People praised me for my performance and it was one of my favorite roles I’ve ever played; I enjoy playing the bad guy more than anything else.

But, behind the curtain, my binge-eating habits were out of control. During “The Music Man”, most of the time I ended up dancing on an uncomfortably full stomach. I was so embarrassed about my physical appearance and the weight I’d gained over Christmas. I couldn't even look in a mirror and hated having my picture taken. That’s a regular part of theater, unfortunately. By summertime, I had slowly but surely regained composure over my excessive bingeing. But not having learned from my previous mistake, I once again did the 24-hour diet starting in May and was able to eat even less than before because the warm weather must have enabled me to preserve calories; a typical meal consisted something of a PB&J with a small can of yogurt or vienna sausages. I drank nothing except water every night before I went to bed and weighed myself in the morning, so I also risked over-dehydration. During “The AristoCats”, I was fifteen years old and looked more like a skeleton than I ever did as an anorexic. The ironic part was that, despite the anorexic behavior of the diet and of my appearance to other people, I was still a binge-eater at heart, and I knew it. ED was about to get even worse: I took my first laxative that summer, and I was headed down the path to what would be the worst of the three eating disorders.

Near the end of July, I relapsed into my compulsive binge-eating habits and gained back the weight I lost, only this time I had laxatives. In almost no time at all, I had become addicted to how they could eliminate the huge amounts of food from my body so that my stomach was not painfully full as often. I had become a mindless eating machine known as a bulimic. I had become so miserable that I isolated myself from my friends and family, spending most of the day laying in my room with an overloaded stomach waiting for the laxatives to take effect.

In the fall of 2008, I performed in my high school production of "Willy Wonka" as Grandpa Joe. What should have been my biggest and most exciting role turned into an epic fail. "Willy Wonka" had all sorts of special effects, funny moments, and memorable songs. We even had the scene where Charlie and Grandpa Joe ingest the fizzy lifting drinks that make them float in the air (the stage crew pulled us up on cables to give the illusion of “flying). The audience probably enjoyed it more than I did, though, because I felt more like Augustus Gloop, the fat kid who does nothing but stuff himself with food all day. If I didn't binge before I went to rehearsal, I would suffer through it and then go home and binge afterwards. Even though I was physically part of the show, ED would not allow me to have any fun with it. All I could think about was how ugly I felt, how much I wanted to lose weight, and how much I hated myself. I was banging my head against a wall. I decided to quit theater until I could find a way to get better.

2009

January and February were the low point with ED. My closet and drawers were full of laxatives I had thrown away money on, and I had figured out how to make myself purge to get rid of the food even more quickly. My entire life was just binge, purge, kitchen, bathroom, repeat, sometimes as much as ten times in a day. I threw up in plastic buckets until they broke apart, and I clogged up the toilet and shower drains with what was left over. In addition, I was going to a church with my family that served a breakfast buffet every Sunday morning before the service started. The eggs, sausages, and biscuits would be sitting out the entire service, and the temptation to binge on them was irresistible. I would eat huge platefuls of them, then get up in the middle of the sermon and disappear into the bathroom for long periods of time. I stayed in my room for most of the day, not talking to anyone.

One day, Mom and Dad came to me to discuss plans for a rehab for teenagers/young adults with eating disorders. So on Sunday morning on March 15th during prayer requests, I spoke up and told the congregation where I would be going for the next couple of months and told them about my eating disorder, adding how hard it was to come to church every week because of the food. A lot of the people who went to that church were homeless and struggled with drugs and alcohol, so they could relate to me. I left the next morning on March 16th. I stayed at rehab for the next two months and received a lot of supportive letters from my friends and family, who occasionally came to visit. The staff and counselors taught me and my fellow clients how to listen to our hunger levels as well as cope with problems in non-destructive ways and find things about ourselves that we felt good about. I was able to do this through my drawings and my writing. I was released on May 12th.

Did I get better? No. Not long after I came back home, I relapsed again. There was more conflict with my parents which involved fights, homicidal desires toward them, and cutting on myself, which put me in two more mental rehabs that summer. I continued to binge and purge through the summer. Where Mom and Dad once had to force me to eat, they now hid the jars of peanut butter, vienna sausages, and other foods in drawers or under the bed so that someone else other than me could eat them. When I had finished raiding the cabinets and refrigerator, I would ride around town and dig through trash cans for garbage to eat since I had no more money to purchase food, and since I had no more money, I couldn't buy laxatives, so I shoplifted them from various stores. This kept up until one day on August 14th. One of the workers at Rite Aid caught me trying to sneak some out the door, and I was banned from the store as I was sixteen at the time.

2009-10

Up to this point in my life, I had been homeschooled. But I had trouble concentrating on my work and consequently was in danger of failing, so my parents put me in public school as a sophomore in August 2009. As a result of the busy class schedules, I didn't have as much time to binge or purge as often, but I still did it when I could and would still dig through trash cans after school hours when no one was around. For the most part, no one at school seemed to know about ED except maybe my choir classmates, because I remember after getting back from a competition trip, my choir teacher confronted me about it. We had gone to spend the night at her parents' house, and she told me everyone heard me throwing up in the bathroom.

As time passed, ED’s grip on me slowly but surely began to weaken. Maybe it was because I was too busy with my high school classes or because of other drama that was going on with me. I think it was in the summer of 2010 that I officially stopped worrying about body weight and image, and I actually started to feel better about my physical appearance. I especially liked the compliments I was given about the beard I had grown and my hair that I let grow down to my shoulders during my junior year; I had started to look like a rather handsome cross between Abraham Lincoln and Charles Manson. I also started acting again, and began to feel better about myself through the commendation and support of my musical theatre friends as my performance improved, particularly in shows such as fall 2010's "Beauty and the Beast" and spring 2011's "Once Upon a Mattress”, a sort of musical parody of “The Princess and the Pea”. By this time, I’d grown accustomed to the hectic routine of theater, and as a teenager I felt immense pride when people mentioned that I showed more knowledge and professionalism than a lot of the kids and even some of the adults. One of my fondest rehearsal memories was from "Beauty and the Beast" one evening when neither actors for the beast or Gaston were present. My main character was Lefou, Gaston's goofy sidekick in the Disney cartoon version, but I was also the understudy for the two former characters. So when rehearsal began, I went through the entire show getting to play several characters at once: in some scenes, I was an arrogant hunter who tried to seduce Belle only to have her fall for me as the beast in other scenes; in a forest scene I played a fearsome wolf; and in other scenes I was this dopey sidekick who got pushed around by cast members like a human punching bag. The tavern dance and fight scenes at the castle were my favorite. When rehearsal ended, the director approached me and shook my hand profusely, showering me with praise and gratitude.

2011

Sometime around February or March, the laxative use had stopped and the bingeing became less and less frequent. I would be eighteen years old, and it would be time to start thinking about what I would want to do after high school. I spent several frustrating months trying to find a job until I got one in August at the local radio station. My main area of work there was to sit next to the radio in one of the studios and run the commercial breaks in between innings for the Dodger baseball games. I wanted to go away to a nice college someplace where I could pursue my major in stage theater, so in addition to my job I researched different community colleges that offered such courses.

I had made a priority to do one more musical show before graduating high school. Auditions for 2011's fall production of "Bye Bye Birdie" were held on the morning of August 27th, the first week of my senior year. At about 8:00 that evening, the director called me on the phone and, much to my excitement, offered me the title role: Conrad Birdie, a depiction of the 1950’s rock star, Elvis Presley. But then I remember she said my character was supposed to be sort of the muscular, athletic type and that I should try to gain some weight by eating lots of high-protein foods. Trying not to express my reluctance over the phone, I thanked her for the opportunity and hung up. Over the next few days, I thought, all this time I’d been obsessed with body image and trying to lose weight, and now I’m going to gain it back. By this time, however, I didn't care about my body image and the purging episodes were extremely inconsistent, so I was game enough to try. For the first couple of weeks, I ate lots of meats and other foods to comply with the director's request, as well as getting in some moderate exercise. I weighed myself on my scale every couple of days, and that's when I discovered I must not have been eating the right stuff because I wasn't gaining any weight; in fact I even lost a couple of pounds in the process. I struggled with purging episodes for those first couple of weeks, but by mid-September they had stopped completely. Since then, I had never starved myself, exercised, binged, purged, used drugs, or acted on any eating disorder urges.

With the help of my cast and crew, I delivered a killer performance, and on November 19th, shortly before the last performance on closing night, stood up on the greenroom stairs a sober man. I thanked my friends for having me and for the wonderful times spent with them. I then surprised them with a six-foot drawing that exploded with bright colors and featured over 150 characters from the previous musicals my school had done up to that point, from the 101 dalmatians to Aladdin and his genie; from Harold Hill and his brass band to Mulan, Maleficent, and Joseph with his coat of many colors. They were gathered in front of a vast backdrop that included but not limited to the Eiffel tower, the Great Wall of China, Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, a giant Egyptian Sphinx, and the New York City skyline. The drawing had taken me two and a half months of intensive work, almost the entire duration of the production. It was my gift, my monument to these people who had helped me find a passion in life and, to a lesser extent, contributed to my recovery. The looks of disbelief, gasps of amazement, applause, and happy tears from my cast and crew members was the most rewarding experience I’d ever had.

Today

So here I am on September 15th. I have left the small town in the valley where I grew up with my friends from my musical theater adventures, but they will always be remembered. Five years to this day, ED is dead to me. I still wake up in the morning and reflect on how wonderful it is to be free of temptation. To not worry about when my next meal will be, or whether I've gained or lost a pound. I did damage to myself, and I’m lucky that my esophagus and intestines didn't burst from so much vomiting and laxative use and I didn't die with my head in the toilet. The scars from cutting on my body are still visible, if one were to look closely enough. I had received a lot of grace from my family and friends even though I didn't always see it or acknowledge it. I could have gotten sent to jail for stealing from Rite Aid. Everybody who knew about my eating disorders also showed me lots of grace and patience, for which I was grateful. How could I have been so stupid? Why would I make something like food a bigger problem than it needed to be? Because I believed the lies that society tells about the perfect body image, and I spent most of my teenage life trying to figure out the truth and then want to get better.

This part of the battle is won, but it’s never over. There are always other demons to fight. One of them is the anger and other nasty attitudes I’ve had for a long time that started this eating disorder in the first place. They’ve never really gone away, and I’d talk about it, but that’s a story for another time.

Let me end with a word of advice to those with eating disorders: focus on things that make you feel good about yourself, and surround yourself with people who care about you and appreciate you for who you are and give you nothing but positive feedback. An eating disorder is one of the biggest wastes of time and energy you can ever invest in, and it's not worth that time and energy…and neither are the people who ridicule you for your appearance. For those seeking recovery, I used to think that I was only setting myself up for another relapse every time I tried it. Don't get caught in this thinking. Believe in recovery, no matter how many times you might relapse. Let this story be an example that, with time and effort, no matter how deep the hole is or how dark the night may be, there is a light at the end for everyone who wants it and chooses to keep pursuing it.

Thank you for reading.
 

Forsaken-Knight

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Extreme Unit said:
Forsaken-Knight said:
Congrats Extreme Unit !!!
Today is my 9 year anniversary off the booze!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks! Congratulations to you too!

Thanks its been quite a trip. I actually think your addiction was harder to kick. I can live without booze. you cant live without food. you are tempted on a daily basis!

Great Job proud of you!

:)
 

U-122

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I read the title as Erectile Dysfunction. I'm thinking how do you recover from it? I'd like to know. I'm very curious. So i clicked. Disappointed. lol
 

TheRealCallie

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Not really sure how eating disorders are funny, but sure, make a joke out of it.... It's not funny, it's actually really dangerous and scary and not even remotely easy to overcome.
 

U-122

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Not really sure how eating disorders are funny, but sure, make a joke out of it.... It's not funny, it's actually really dangerous and scary and not even remotely easy to overcome.

How am i making a joke? I thought ED means erectile dysfunction. It was funny to me when i read the rest of it and it turned out to be eating disorder. I lost a lot of weight under stress recently. I'm under a different kind of stress now, which doesn't suppress appetite but the opposite. I can't stop eating. I'm trying to understand how different types of stress affect my appetite in different ways. Turns out not all stress is the same. If i can learn how to replicate/induce the first type of stress, i can keep losing weight. I'm working on it.
 

TheRealCallie

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How am i making a joke? I thought ED means erectile dysfunction. It was funny to me when i read the rest of it and it turned out to be eating disorder. I lost a lot of weight under stress recently. I'm under a different kind of stress now, which doesn't suppress appetite but the opposite. I can't stop eating. I'm trying to understand how different types of stress affect my appetite in different ways. Turns out not all stress is the same. If i can learn how to replicate/induce the first type of stress, i can keep losing weight. I'm working on it.
Yes and if you would have posted THAT, I'd have no problem with it. Instead, you resurrected a thread from 6 years ago to say you are disappointed that it doesn't have to do with your penis.. that's making it into a joke.
 

U-122

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Yes and if you would have posted THAT, I'd have no problem with it. Instead, you resurrected a thread from 6 years ago to say you are disappointed that it doesn't have to do with your penis.. that's making it into a joke.

Can you go 5 minutes without getting triggered over trivial things? lol waited for this to use Hitler-Smiley.gif ... i don't really care what you have a problem with or don't have a problem with. To ME it's funny the way i read it.
 

U-122

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OP is probably doing better than all of us here. It's old but still funny. Usually ED refers to penis problem lol
 

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