Thursday, May 3, 2012

Eating Disorders

This morning I have a long awaited appointment to have a coronary angiography.  This is a test that will determine whether or not I truly do have a blockage in one or more of my arteries, and will measure the size of the hole in my heart.  I am completely terrified.  My fear is making me angry.  I'm angry, because at the age of 28 I shouldn't be needing to step foot in a cardiologist's office, let alone having extensive tests performed.  There is a good possibility that unfortunate genetics are to blame for this.  But there is an even bigger possibility that I brought on these problems by nearly starving myself to death over 15 years ago.

Today I feel an overwhelming need to pull every delicately aged girl and boy aside to give them a word of caution.  There is nothing glamorous about extreme dieting.  If you're a parent reading this...share it with your kids.  If you're not a parent...share this with your nieces and nephews, and cousins, and neighbor's kids.  I think a lot of times these disorders begin with going on a simple diet- and it's easy to ignore the future when you've got the promise of immediate gratification.  When you're a tween/teen/young adult, it's easy to do damage to your body (even when you're fully aware of the risks) because there are so many examples in the media of people who have engaged in risky behavior and have eventually grown out of it and gone on to become successful people.  There are not enough examples of those portraying the reality of what these disorders can do to the body, mind, and spirit.  There is also this idea that any damage done during the duration of an eating disorder is reversible.  And that is why I am happily stepping up to say- this is just not true.

Instead of listing the signs and symptoms of Anorexia and Bulimia (which you can check out here if you are interested) I want to shed some light on how my life is and will forever be different after years of severe and mild starvation.

  • I still have trouble concentrating and there are entire years of my life of which I have no memory.  I have pictures of events I can't all.  When you're body is done burning all the fat, it begins to eat at the muscle.  And when you run out of muscle, it begins eating your internal organs, including the brain.  When they did a CT scan of my brain the first few days at the hospital, they said that bits of my brain had been eaten and replaced with fluid.  Though the tissue has regrown and new neural pathways can always been built- I will never get those memories, experiences, or feelings back.  Ever.
  • I have 48 fillings, one root canal, one crown and am scheduled to have six more, and I have lost three permanent teeth.  My dentist estimates that by the age of 40 I will have dentures.
  • I still get dizzy when I stand.
  • Simple falls result in fractures.  My bone density scan revealed the bones of a 60 year old.
  • Even though I was blessed to have three beautifully healthy children, I suffered through the same number of excruciating miscarriages.  
  • My nails, teeth, and hair are brittle.
  • I live with agonizing abdominal pain almost every day.  I take 6-8 Imodium every single day because my bowels have trouble functioning properly and 2 Zantac to control my acid-eaten esophagus.
  • My metabolism is SLOW.  Ironically, I have to monitor my caloric intake carefully to be sure I don't become overweight, which isn't fun when you're a recovered Anorexic.
  • And now my heart.  I'll have to get back to you about what damage has been done to my heart.  But there is no question in my mind that my life span has been shortened.  The question now is to what extent.
Please understand that even though eating disorders are traditionally thought to afflict teen girls with perfectionist personalities...they can strike anyone at any time and there is nothing pretty about them.


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