Initially I started this Word Press as a way to talk about very personal things, like the anxiety, depression, and eating disorder I had been dealing with. I tried to avoid using names of places or people, or showing my face, in order to avoid being identified should any of my friends – by some miracle – stumble upon this.
For the most part, I am doing a lot better. My anxiety and depression are minimal now because: 1) my stressor is gone and 2) two and a half years of psychotherapy has really helped me. I was taking Lexapro for about a year and a half (off and on, mostly because I’d forget). There were times I did the bad thing that patients shouldn’t do and I’d take myself off because I thought I was doing better. I’ve started taking it again just as a precaution by my therapist because I was really struggling here in India. A major stressor for me is lack of control, which, obviously, was something I needed to deal with here upon my arrival. He and my fiance coordinated with each other to send my Lexapro and Xanax here.
I used to shut off completely sometimes because I couldn’t stop thinking. It’s so tiring. It nearly ruined my relationship on countless occasions. I thought I was crazy and a terrible significant other but my therapist would tell me that because I recognized that what I was doing was wrong and felt remorse and shame (dumb things like going through my SO’s phone and computer, though for good reason, which I will not discuss here…), I wasn’t a bad person. I was just trapped. There were times I would need to bring myself back from the brink of crying at my desk at work. At the time I was a receptionist at my work place so if I cried, someone would notice. The worst time was probably 2014 – 2015 when I went through a really bad cutting phase. Not all of them scarred, but there are 17 on my legs alone and three more on my arm. One of the cuts on my arm, near my shoulder, badly keloided and I’ve just people that I cut my arm on a fence (somewhat believable since Hawaii has a lot of chainlink fences). One episode was particularly bad that I called my therapist on the phone crying. He said to come in and I said, “No I can’t today – I have to go to work in an hour. I can’t call in now” and I went the next day. My anxiety and depression kept me from going to India when I first decided I wanted to – and look, now I’m here, near thriving.
My fiance deserves a lot of praise for sticking with me. I was very difficult to be with. I was either really sweet or really terrible. I accused him left and right of things and whenever I did propose that we end our relationship (whether I was sad, upset, or just apathetic) he would say, “Why? Because you think you’re crazy? Because you go through my things? I don’t care. I know how much you love me, I just know you get scared. I don’t know how to fix it and I don’t know how to make you happy, but I’ll keep trying until you’re happy.” On some occasions he’d sprinkle in, “I don’t understand your anxiety or depression and I don’t know how to make it better, but I’ll keep trying. I know you think you’re making life harder for me but you aren’t, and I don’t want you to be alone during this.” Every time we fought, even if it was my fault and even if he would muster up some sharp retorts for me, in the end, he would always motion for me to snuggle into his chest and he would say those kinds of things to me. He’s the crazy one for wanting to marry me after all of that.
I look at old pictures of us sometimes (we’ve been together for 5+ years) and the photos that I like the most of myself are from the times I was the sickest, roughly 2012 – 2014. During that time I was probably purging about 3 – 5 times a day no matter what I had eaten. Pizza, doughnuts, chips, etc are the obvious ones. But then I’d even purge salad, cereal, and yogurt. But I was so thin and even now, it makes me sad that I don’t look like that anymore. I’m not much heavier, but I just looked very different. But I constantly remind myself that I wasn’t happy during that time and I could barely eat without feeling the need to throw up shortly after, and that is no way to live. My mother had asked me about it once and I lied profusely. She said I was too skinny and that my arms and shoulders looked like bones; I had dark circles under my eyes. My biggest slip up was that I wouldn’t wait long enough before running to the restroom after eating. She doesn’t think that I’d be weak enough for an eating disorder so she took my word. My mom is a strong person, as are her sisters and my cousins, so she even had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that I am seeing a shrink. But to be fair, I hid it from her for almost a year and a half and she only found out because she was nice and paid one of my bills, but under treatment was listed “psychotherapy.” Of course she had questions. My mother does not know I had an eating disorder for 5+ years. My boyfriend knows, but I told him I was better in 2012 (only a year after it started). The only other people who know are my therapist and best friend.
Before coming to India, I of course needed to submit paperwork for my health. My records indicated that I had been seeing a psychiatrist, and I was a bit unnerved about that because my advisor would see those records and I hadn’t divulged to him that I had any mental health issues, despite how close we were. One question asked, “Has the patient ever suffered from an eating disorder?” The thing is, my general practitioner filled out these forms because he was the one who had to conduct the physical. He didn’t know I had been seeking treatment for an eating disorder in addition to the anxiety and depression, so he just quickly checked “No.” Up until the day of my physical, I had been thinking really hard about what I would do with that box. I knew the eating disorder would challenge me here. I don’t run to the bathroom to purge after every meal anymore and I haven’t since about May or June, but it’s so difficult. I’m terrified of gaining weight. I joined a gym near my home but this isn’t helping much either because although it is off-setting the desire to purge, I work out a lot more than I used to. I go at least four times a week and stay for at least two hours each time, and for the rest of the day try to eat very little. This obviously has repercussions the next day because I am tired during my workout and need to work harder. I tell myself, “if you work out now you can eat whatever you want” but once I’m done, I don’t want to un-do the work I did so I try to stick only to eggs, fruits, and vegetables. At dinner I always only allot myself one roti, maybe a tablespoon of rice, and the rest, I fill up on some dal but mostly veggies. I recognize what is happening, because it happened before. When I was my thinnest, between 2013 – 2014, it was because I was exercising a lot (I’d be on the verge of tears if I missed a run or work out) and on a very strict diet (i.e., barely eating and still purging). But I miss that body so much, and I have to constantly remind myself that I was not happy. I was thinner, but I was not happy.
I feel my body getting stronger, though. Like I said, I’m barely heavier than I was at my thinnest, but it’s showing in different ways. My arms aren’t as skinny, but they’re more toned. The same goes for my legs. Before, I just used to run and do some strength training. Now I mostly do strength training with anywhere from 20 – 40 minutes of running.
My point is, despite all the trials I needed to go through to get here, I am happy where I am. I try to avoid looking at old pictures of myself. I’m usually able to make jokes about myself gaining weight. I gained a lot of weight last semester — 10lbs! — because it was my last semester of undergraduate study and I was writing my senior thesis (27 pages on wartime Japan, “ultra-nationalism,” censorship, and oral histories from World War II) and applying for scholarships for India. It was a fair trade though – I traded a lot of my workout time for my first ever 4.0 (it had always eluded me, and I usually ended semesters with a 3.7 or 3.8 or so).
Anyway…I doubt anyone reading this is also dealing with similar issues but if you are, don’t be afraid to seek help. I put it off for five years. And even a year into therapy, I would often lie to my therapist or stop talking just because I no longer felt like talking. That’s obviously quite detrimental to psychotherapy. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and if people around you make you feel bad about it, those aren’t people you should be around.