TRIGGER WARNING: eating disorder, mention of extreme weightloss etc. Not your cup of tea? Don’t read any further …
So here we go, I’ve had this post in mind for a couple of days already, but needed the matching outfit for it. The hoodie I am wearing on this pic is labeled STARVE CREW, and I had to do something with that. “Starve” is the second full length BLOOD YOUTH album, and once again, things started to click while listening to that band for three months straight now. Sometimes, lyrics just hit home … as you’ve gathered from a couple of previous blog posts Yours Truly shared on here.
I once again am not really proud of what I put myself through back in the day. Believe me when I say that. But I am once again proud of having pulled through yet another adversary on my path.
Ready? Alrighty then … let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane and the year 2004.
“There’s damage inside me now
I starve myself to mute your sound”
Once again, Kaya Tarsus addresses a part in my life when I was fucked up.
Back in 2004, I was having the time of my life whilst being in New Zealand. I felt alive, happy, and free there at the other end of the world. I kicked my fear of heights in its face and hurled myself out of a plane – twice. I had managed to travel halfway around the world all by myself.
Little did I know what kind of tragedy was awaiting me back home …
I was back in good ole Germany in mid-September, when my Mom informed me that my aunt whom I was really close with had passed away from cancer. It was the absolute SHOCK to me. I knew she had had cancer, survived once, but the bastard returned some years later again. I didn’t know that this time it was terminal, and that she was already dying when I boarded that plane. My parents had sworn secrecy and not told me ANYthing to make sure I could enjoy myself there in Aotearoa.
At first, while I was shocked to the core, obviously, I grieved. But I took it in stride and soldiered on. After all, I was still at university at that time, working on getting that degree. I was doing okay, although I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to my aunt.
Towards the end of the year, I found myself on the receiving end of a bitch slap of epic proportions. Two things, one of which I won’t elaborate on, happened at once. Two things which utterly broke me for the first time. I had my first major breakdown. Right in the middle of the semester. I bit by bit had been developing a major guilt complex. I felt guilty that I hadn’t called my aunt one last time before embarking on my New Zealand trip. My conscience was yelling at me how I was a shitty niece, how I had failed, fucked up.
It got to the point of being unbearable.
And at some point, I simply stopped eating regularly and properly.
I had always been on the skinny side, hovering around 50-52 kilos (110-114 lbs) at a height of 1.69m (roughly 5’7″). I used to have an upset stomach every now and then, especially during school when some tests were waiting. I was, however, never once concerned about losing weight or BMIs whatsoever.
And then … KA-BOOM.
Those two things clashed, and I spiralled down. My body went on a legit hunger strike. I simply couldn’t eat anymore. Just looking at food made me feel sick, nauseated. I had to force myself to eat at least one “proper” meal, AND keep it down, too. At some point, I didn’t even feel hungry anymore. My body refused.
Diagnosed with a sub-form of anorexia, I was essentially walking a tight rope – trying to recover from this mess whilst being depressed as fuck (read: guilt complex), AND at the same time, trying to get those grades at university so that I could graduate. My mental health was all over the place. A body refusing food. I started seeing a psychiatrist regularly as well as also beginning therapy. (Mind, I say “sub-form” because usually, when you’re anorexic, you want to be skinny and lose weight, which wasn’t the case with me.)
And every. single. time. I seemed to get better and had been through the worst, I experienced a setback. Because OF. COURSE. It wouldn’t be me if anything worked out fine from the start … 😉 As I stated above, I was prone to stomach bugs all the time, mostly of the gastritis kind. And they, of course, led to losing the carefully, painstakingly gained kilos again. Eating properly again became another chore. Instead of getting back above 50kg, the scale tipped the other way. At my lowest point, and we’re talking a good one and a half years here into this whole mess, I had a mere 47.5kgs (104lbs) next to my name.
I sensed more and more in what kind of danger I was. I was still occupied with uni, exams were coming closer, I was about to graduate, had to write my M.A. thesis … all while I was trying to get my life back together. I carefully weighed (pun intended) the pros and cons and made the ONLY decision that was left: take off that final semester, recover as good as possible and then graduate. I talked to the dean and my professors about it, and they all agreed and were super supportive in this case.
With that additional stress out of the way, I did whatever the fuck I wanted to. I spent time with friends, traveled a bit, took photos … all that jazz. As long as I could distract myself from that war my body and mind were fighting with one another, I was satisfied. And of course, I also managed to eat regularly again. I felt that I was getting my shit together again and would eventually be able to tackle those exams and my thesis.
However, I needed two things first and foremost: patience and time. Time to heal, to recover. And the one thing I have learned in all those years battling against all those demons is that you need patience. The Road to Recovery is NEVER a straight line, but one with obstacles, detours, and lots of lumps and bumps.
Unfortunately, not everyone got the message. Case in point: my late Dad.
I was doing something on the computer in my parents’ dining room (anything to distract myself from that goddamn hurricane in my head), when he came in, stood next to me, and bitched at me, “When I was your age, I already was an officer with procuration of a company!” (read: you are so fucking lazy, you’re actually an embarrassment)
Well, congratulations, and thank you for the encouragement! Exactly what you need to hear when you’re in a total funk, recovering from an eating disorder and all that. I didn’t reply, btw. Would’ve only ended in yet another fight …
In the end, I did graduate. Half a year later than expected, but it was the right decision to take that one final semester off. I wouldn’t have made it in that fragile state of mind I was in. I wasn’t mentally or physically capable of it. I put myself and my own needs (or better, my body and mind’s needs) first. And I am glad I did. Who knows what might have been …
These days, while I am still struggling more often than not, weight is not an issue anymore. At least not in the way that I obsess over losing some kgs, because thanks to one of the anti depressants I have to take, I have gained some visceral fat which I hope to be able to get rid of bit by bit in the long run. But I am no longer underweight or in danger of being anorexic.
In retrospect, I at times really do wonder how on Earth I managed to still be alive, considering all those hardships I endured, the various setbacks, relapses, … all that. But I am still here. And that is what I am proud of. Incredibly proud of. It’s my biggest accomplishment to this day.