Eating Disorder by Cassidy Gertis

Written by Erica on . Posted in Wellness

With my deadline approaching for the upcoming Buffalo Wellness blog I contemplated what I should write about this time around. I obviously didn’t want to write about anything similar to the past blogs written, but I also wanted to make sure I wrote about something that I have a connection to and can write about with knowledge and sincerity rather than picking a topic and relying on google search and copy and paste in order to get a blog written. As browsing through Facebook like any average person does when they are trying to put a task to the side because they just don’t want to it at that time, I came across a good friend and co-worker of mines Facebook post stating that it was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. As I read her blog I wasn’t necessarily in complete shock for I heard her mention once of an eating disorder, but I was unaware of the details and her struggle. As I read on my heart sank for with every sentence I read my past reemerged and I sat relating to every little thing she said. It was then that I finally, after 7 years decided it was time to tell my story and to finally let everyone in on my secret for with reading her blog it made me feel like I wasn’t alone, like I wasn’t crazy, “sick”, and selfish like most thought. What most people don’t realize is an eating disorder is not a lifestyle we choose, but an illness that we must fight. This was not something I wanted; it is an addiction just like alcohol and drugs. It was a parasite that started off small and grew literally eating me from the inside out. It’s not like we woke up one day and thought “gee! I feel like depriving myself today” or “You know what I feel like making my family suffer by watching me slowly deteriorate day by day”. As I go into my story I hope that if you take anything away from this blog it’s to understand the seriousness that goes on behind such an illness so that maybe you one day will be aware and understand how to help and most of all learn not to judge and look with understanding. Many think, “How can you let yourself get that skinny, that sick, that obsessed?!” You think putting weight on is the easiest thing in the world and talk to us like we can make it happen like that. Well there is more then what is seen on the surface.

I can’t even say it started back when I first started to lose weight in 2010 for I know that the root of my disorder was ultimately caused by my low confidence and depression back in high school. Ever since then my personality grew stronger and stronger into an obsession of wanting to just make everyone around me happy and proud whether it be coaches, parents, family, friends that I soon forgot what it meant to make myself happy. By no means did I have a terrible past, especially compared to others and that makes it even more frustrating when I would get so upset and depressed over stupid things and even though I knew it wasn’t terrible I still fell into deep depression and anxiety. It really started to hit its peak once I transferred into SUNY Fredonia as a mid-year Sophmore. I was in a new environment, I had a hard time making friends and fitting in. I was in a college full of arts and theater students as I went for Sports and Exercise Science. I figured I would join track in order to try to meet more like minded people, track is a very individualized sport so…. that wasn’t the smartest choice considering everyone on the team already had their “cliché” so to say, long distance runners with long distance runners, sprinters with sprinter, jumpers with jumpers and then me a thrower, along with 4 other throwers! Not saying they weren’t nice but it was more of making acquaintances everywhere I went, not friends. With the increase in knowledge and love in exercise and nutrition I started spending more and more time at the gym for it was in my building where most my classes were so instead of going back to my dorm or out to get food by myself, why not kill time at the fitness center? Soon I found myself spending every waking minute I had either at the gym, in classes, in the library or my room studying. My mood started to change, I became stressed out so easily, my anxiety was through the roof and not even my family could stand being around me for it was like walking on egg shells worried they would say something to trigger me.

Going out drinking or hanging out with others became far and few for when everyone wanted to go out to eat it was either too early or too late passed my scheduled eating time or I was too tired and exhausted from getting up early to go the gym and school all day. Mentally going out meant I most likely would go over my calories and eat something I shouldn’t eat or everyone would want to stay out passed my “bed time”, which I couldn’t do for no matter how much sleep I got I was always exhausted. Most of the time when I did go out I just felt too awkward and out of place being around others. It was a vicious cycle of being depressed because I had no one to hang out with and do things with that I choose the gym over social activities every time. I was always on the go and always followed my routine schedule and would have anxiety when that routine would break! What others don’t realize about eating disorders is they dominate your entire life from every thought and every action and it’s not to get attention from others. Eating disorders are linked with depression, anxiety and self-harm, it is not to get attention!

As time passed the condition got worse and a professor pulled me aside to voice her concern, Oh how pissed I was that she said something to me! Automatically I went on the defense, “What does she know”? Denial, a huge indicator of any disorder. Even though I heard it from my mom, sister, aunts, uncles, colleagues, etc. that I was “looking too skinny” I was always in denial of what I let myself become. This particular professor made me go to the college’s medical counselor to be weighed in daily for a week. I had 2 weeks to prove to everyone that I could gain weight, 2 weeks: piece of cake I thought, I will show them. Day 1 I weighed in 5’6” at 94 lbs. The doctor told me I was bordering the line of hospitalization and that I could drop dead due to dangerously low heart rate and blood pressure. They would continue to monitor me for 2 weeks for me to show signs of weight gain. I started to eat more, but like I always do when I over eat, I felt guilty and gross. I found myself sneaking into the gym and even doing jumping jacks and Burpees in my dorm room to make myself feel better. I must say that unlike most with an eating disorder I never binged and purged but rather took the root of what is called Orthorexia where I was obsessive about eating clean and excessive exercise and when I ate poorly or overate I would revert to exercise to burn it off. It’s not like I wanted to look like a model or had this vision of a perfect body and a perfect look, I was in fact complete opposite. I never cared much about my looks for I grew up a Tom boy, always running around with baggy dirt stained clothes! Fashion was never a staple of mine so why I took such an obsession to my body, I still don’t know. I think it was for once in my life I felt like I was actually good at something. I was good at working out and eating clean, but then I just took it too where I felt I had to perfect it and went too far. There was no goal weight or sought look for every goal weight and ideal look was never good enough.

Fast forward to 2 weeks after initial weigh in, didn’t gain a pound and now I am sitting blind-sided next to my parents and sister as the nurse tells me I am suspended from college on “medical leave.” I can say I have never felt so much rage, for my family was behind the suspension the whole time. I did not speak a word to them as they watched me throw every little thing I had into boxes and pack up my dorm room to get the hell out of there. On the flip sided I was never so eager to leave that place for I never liked the college to begin with and now at that moment I hated every little thing about it. My sister cried as she tried to talk to me, tried to make me understand, but there was no reasoning with me; I was pissed, I was hurt, and I was over life. After being kicked out I was under strict house arrest, no working out, therapy every week, weigh in every week, I was forced to eat 2200 calories to start which made me want to throw up in pain every day. I would eat and yearn to just go do cardio or lift weights so bad that it killed me! It made me so angry when my family tried forcing me to eat, I figured I would just wait even longer just to piss them off and show that I was in control of the situation. Even at therapy I choose to go against, I knew what to do at the sessions, say my “Yes, I am in the wrong” and “Yes, I know I have a problem” blah blah blah. That part I got cleared on quick just for “BSing” my way through and say things she wanted to hear. The weigh-ins however took a little longer in progress. I remember pounding water before weighing in that right after I had to quickly rush to the bathroom for I felt my bladder was about to explode. Each week was either a pound heavier or the same. My days consisted of sitting on the couch watching Price is Right and Golden Girls, sneaking off to the down stairs gym every time my dad walked outside for a cigarette break, and still refusing to speak and see anyone. It’s funny because out of all the support and care I was receiving from my family it just for some reason wasn’t good enough. Throughout all this the only words my father spoke to me about the situation was when he asked me why I can’t just put weight on, I told him the same reason he couldn’t just stop smoking. You know it’s bad for you and killing you, but you got to want to stop. I screamed back at him “the day he stopped smoking would be the day I would put weight on”. It wasn’t until one night I walked up from down stairs and saw my father, a man who I only saw tear up once at his father’s funeral, a man who rarely spoke unless it was to crack a joke to you, a man who rarely said I love you unless you said it first, was leaned over the counter, glasses in his one hand and his face buried in the other crying. He simply looked up at me and said “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to help,” all I could say in return was “there is nothing you can do dad, this is my problem and I will deal with it myself”. It was that night that I discovered I wanted to do it, I wanted to conquer this illness because my stubborn hard headed personality made me want to prove to everyone that I could and that I wasn’t a failure.

I won’t go into much detail other than through time my roller coaster of a life brought me to highs and lows but altogether I began to climb, I began to live again. I have proven myself strong with no relapse for I have now worked as a Personal trainer and lived my life in the gym environment for over 6 years, I have competition in two body building/ fitness competitions and none of that has brought me into a full relapse. I literally went through the most heartbreaking time of my life a year ago, losing my father and even though all I wanted to do was escape through exercise I remembered the reason and my purpose to kicking the illness in the first place, my father, my family’s love and support, and my will to conquer. Today I am proud of my body, I found my happy weight and even though I may still be a slim figure I know that I am healthy and fit. I still love food. It’s a complicated relationship for I am pretty sure I think about food more than anyone else I know, but I have learned to enjoy my splurges with others and still engage in social activities and no longer let it keep me from being happy. No matter how far in recovery I am, I still have anxiety and OCD and freak out with little comments like “Well maybe if you put some meat on your bones” “What do you know you probably have always been super skinny” for no one knows what I went through to even get to the point that I am at today. A “full recovery” doesn’t mean I don’t slip up here and there and its always a vicious cycle in my head of relapse, guilt, recovery, repeat, but every day I look at what I was and everyday it keeps me from becoming that ever again. I have or will never expect you, my family, my friends to fully understand what I went through and still go through for I quite honestly will never understand it myself. What I do understand however is that it’s not something I choose for myself and the same goes with anyone with an addiction problem, so again I please just ask that everyone take the time to not force help upon others, but to guide them towards the right path without judgment and without negativity, but with understanding.

eating collage

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