My anorexia first came to light when I was eleven years old. In the decades since then, I have struggled with the disease to varying degrees, but one thing has been relatively constant: I have not had a period. 19659002] Because of my eating disorder, I've been amenorrheic for most of my adult life (which means you do not have menstruation), so the pregnancy never seemed realistic to me. So if you do not have a menstrual period, there is a good chance that you will not ovulate, and I thought I would not be able to imagine without intervention.
But I always knew that I wanted children ̵
I started to work with a fertility doctor who required it. I see a psychiatrist who has a history of eating disorder. It was not the first time I had seen a therapist for my eating disorder – I had seen her over and over again over the years. But at the time, I thought I was pretty stable. I certainly was not in my anorexic throat and not for five years. The reality, however, is that an eating disorder never really disappears and recovery is not black and white, so working with a psychiatrist made sense then and now.
I remember this necessary psychological rating pleasant. I explained why I would agree with the weight gain when I became pregnant. It seemed so straightforward to be such a problem – although I probably felt that way later, because I went into the conversation and still assumed that pregnancy would never happen to me.
After I received the all-clear from the Internet My psychiatrist, my doctor, used fertility drugs that helped stimulate ovulation and support early pregnancy. We had been through failed cycles for eight months, which involved taking the medication and timing the intercourse during the ovulation window (very romantic) and then taking other medications. At that point, I was firmly convinced that pregnancy was out of the question for me.
Then on a sultry August day I got the call: I was pregnant. In my eyes the impossible had happened. I was overjoyed But now it was time for a number of other challenges.
Here I am almost 22 weeks pregnant and still move in my recovery disorder.
When I got pregnant, I would have called myself "in remission" – although this formulation does not mean much, as eating disorders never completely disappear. In fact, the presence of my anorexia during my pregnancy is undeniable: I can not help but compare my pregnancy weight with the numbers in the recommended weight-gain charts. I prefer to avoid mirrors and my reflection in the profile for fear of the thoughts that could be triggered by it.
I feel drawn in two directions, one is the tyrannical voice of my eating disorder and the other is the desire to keep my baby healthy
Strangely, I often feel like my pregnancy has all the others in my life brought to forget my struggle with the disease. You seem to think that now that I'm pregnant, the anorexia must have completely disappeared and the prospect of motherhood so devouring and magical that it dissolved the thoughts and behaviors that have driven me for decades. Friends who saw me in the hospital Years ago, I now casually comment on my stomach; Relatives who have asked me how I am spiritually; Doctors who know all my history happily report my weight gain. You have no bad intentions, I know. But it still happens.
To be completely transparent, my behavior in eating disorders has not completely disappeared, although it has decreased in frequency and severity, and I am always open with my doctor about these things. Now that I am pregnant, they are manifesting in strange and sometimes contradictory ways. For example, I like checking the app that shows me my baby's size every week versus a piece of fruit, but the idea of wearing maternity pants brings a lot of negative self-talk from my anorexia. When I'm hungry, I give myself permission to eat. I feel comforted by the fact that this food is meant for another being and not for myself. However, I still find every calorie. I like to put my hand on the hard, round belly of my lower abdomen when I'm lying in bed, but I can shy away when I see my stomach in a reflection.
Sometimes I feel deprived of the usual joy most people experience during their pregnancies. For example, I sent a video in which I gave my mother an ultrasound so she could hear the baby's heartbeat. In her excited reply, she commented on how "sweetly rounded" I looked. I could focus only on the word "rounded" and how it sounded and how disgusted I felt. When the doctor told us that the baby was three days ahead of me in terms of height, I could not help but think that this meant I somehow "let me go."
I know that these thoughts are harmful and lagging behind; I know in one part of my brain that my growing belly is amazing, that the love I already feel for the little girl is stronger and more important than my desire to grow smaller. But in another part of my brain, these thoughts persist and show how strong a grip of an eating disorder can be, how you perceive reality. Years ago, I remember a conversation with a therapist about my ability to gain enough weight. One day I had a baby and is surprised by her reaction: She reminded me that this weight gain theoretically temporary before and during pregnancy could be. Of course, she did not mean that I had a relapse, but she pointed out that the pregnancy process, when he sees my weight gain as temporary, feels much more manageable. On the other hand, she said, I could gain weight and get used to it and realize that it feels good.
The point is that I can not know for sure how my body is changing or how I am & # 39; I will respond to these changes. Although this sounds a bit unconventional, this perspective has helped me in times when I felt most vulnerable.
When I was discussing this with eating disorder experts while working on this article, they confirmed that the experience of having a baby became an experience. An active or sleeping eating disorder is a complicated one.
"People with anorexia who get pregnant often struggle with the feeling that the body they've been trying to" stay in line "or make smaller is suddenly out of their control." Ashley Solomon, Psy.D., Managing Director of the Eating Recovery Center in Ohio, tells SELF. Of course, this refers to weight gain, but also to the other way pregnancy affects a person's body: shortness of breath, nausea, hunger that you can not ignore, insomnia. "For a woman who is already in conflict with her body, the feeling that she is a stranger and working against her can increase," says Solomon.
Another expert says that my experience is one of several ways people with a history have eating disorders can lead to pregnancy. Another, but similar reaction is almost a feeling of freedom from the eating disorder, although it is not quite so: "Sometimes women regard pregnancy as a permission to grow up," Dr. Ariane Machin, co-founder of the Conscious Coaching Collective tells SELF. The symptoms of the eating disorder may be less intense for these people, but this is not necessarily a sign that the disturbed thoughts have disappeared: after all, it is still an unhealthy way of thinking to give yourself "permission" to become bigger food and your body, and that does not mean that you will be "healed" after pregnancy. This is especially true because this permission is usually contingent – it only exists because the food is intended for another person. Once this person has disappeared, the permission to eat is also available.
Knowing how you will react – scared, ambivalent, angry or suddenly free from a tyrannical illness – is impossible to predict until you are at the moment. For me, I feel all these things several times on a particular day.
To address these unpredictable challenges, experts recommend looking for support wherever possible.
That means being completely transparent about how you feel about your healthcare providers. "Do not cover it and make sure you offer the full picture," says Solomon. She also recommends working with a dietitian who can help you to objectively understand and satisfy your new nutritional needs.
Machin recommends getting consistent help from a psychiatrist working with people recovering from an ED If you feel vulnerable and have too many thoughts about eating, exercising, or maintaining a specific body type, this is an amazing time to seek help through a therapy or a coach. "Solomon agrees that group therapy can also be" immensely helpful "connecting with others who have similar experiences. Individual and / or group therapies can also help to identify the coping mechanisms and strategies that are best for you, because what helps one person in recovery is not necessarily what works best for another.
Mindful and present throughout the process. The good and the bad can also be a useful coping mechanism. Writing (like this essay) can even help create "calm and awareness," says Machin. It can be therapeutic when people who are recovering write, talk or read about their illness and their journey, she explains. Karla Mosely, Ambassador of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), also tells the SELF that it is helpful to focus on the reason behind all yours and to remember it regularly Physical changes: "Know that on the other side of this isolation is joy that is unbelievable," she says.
I may have felt in my recovery when I became pregnant, but this new chapter has confirmed that my anorexia may continue to emerge. I am facing new challenges and entering new stages of life. And with each reappearance, I have to find ways to handle the last manifestation.
Recently, I contacted my old nutritionist again and told all my history of my eating disorder to all my doctors. I do my best to open myself to my husband in difficult moments. When I'm unhappy with my body or ashamed, I put my hand on my stomach and wait for it to kick. When I feel an unhealthy compulsion to exercise, I think about her breathing and her heart rate. Even as I write these words, I hope to evoke that sense of calm that Machin describes.
Despite all these tactics, I kept these words in my pocket from my therapist, and they gave me security in difficult moments. But as my baby becomes more real to me, the thought of returning to my old ways after my pregnancy becomes less soothing or tempting.
My eating disorder did not disappear when I became pregnant. And maybe this reality is why I felt so forced to make this experience crude and honest.
It is true that pregnancy defines me today in many ways, that it has changed me. But it is also true that it does not heal the mental states that ebb and flow. Many people still navigate with forms of mental illness – eating disorders, depression, addiction or other mental health problems – and their recovery process, while at the same time undertaking a journey into parenthood.
This general refusal that these challenges do not exist When I exist with pregnancy, people like me can feel so much more alone. I hope that over time we will recognize the pregnant person as a whole, imperfect human being with their own hurdles as they did before pregnancy.
But in the meantime I find ways to maintain my physical and mental health. When I am flooded with guilt, I read information about my baby's development in my pregnancy app. When I feel bad about my clothes, I think of the small button nose of the sonogram, the perfect baby curling under the zipper of my jeans. When I have a moment when I miss my old body, I remember that this new body serves a purpose.
And when I feel a tiny kick, a hiccup under my navel, I know that despite the challenges behind and those who lie before me, one thing I'm not is alone.
If you or someone you are suffering with disturbed food, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (19459584) (19459058) (US) at (800) 931-2237 or National Eating Disorder Information Center (Canada) at (866) 633-4220.