The first time I went skydiving I was the second (and last) to jump. The plane had just enough room for the 5 of us (pilot, 2 instructors and 2 of us jumpers each jumping as a tandem pair). I remember being so nervous until I got in the plane and we started flying. It was strangely surreal, I was unexpectedly brave and convinced it would be okay. Then we reached altitude, and the door latch opened. The air rushed in at over a hundred miles an hour, the sound was equivalent to one of those hurricane simulation tubes at the museum and it was cold (I jumped during summer in Key West). Fear shot through my body, I instinctively pulled away and shook my head no even though a huge part of me wanted to do it. Then, the other guy and his instructor jumped in tandem. They were there on the edge of the plane and then….GONE. SUCKED out with a noise that is equivalent to what it sounds like when you put your hand against the hose of a vacuum cleaner but times a thousand. I am fairly certain I was saying no as we inched closer and as I breached the edge of the plane I prayed to God that I was doing the right thing, my parachute would work and that I would somehow survive this.
Today, as I drove to the doctor’s office the same emotions came back. I had the same sense of bravery and confidence that I did in the plane and then, as I got to my destination I was overcome with fear, horror, anxiety and a huge sense that I was not going to be able to do this but feeling it was too late to back out. I had already changed clothes into some of my most lightweight clothes that made me feel comfy and would add less pounds to the scale and I had already parked, I HAD to do this. It was raining outside- quite fitting given my mood and the rain was getting worse as I arrived at the office but I still walked slowly, like a preschooler tiptoeing to the closet to check for monsters. As I walked down the hallway I went from feeling numb to shaking with fear, visibly shaking. Writing my name on the sign-in page was one of the worst memories, my usually nice and neat name looked like I had written it while driving down a gravel road. The nurse/receptionist at the front was really kind and took my copay. I think she noticed how nervous I was because I was quiet and, well, shaking. The nurse came and got me not long after I sat down (I mean I did wait until 2 minutes before the appointment to enter the building…) and I felt sheer terror. As I walked in the back my biggest fear: the damn scale.
I got on and convinced myself to not look but then the other “me” won: I saw it. It went down quite a bit again, makes sense and was soooooooo addicting and made me want to lie infinitely more. We walked to the exam room. I sat on the chair and felt my heart racing as she took my pulse and BP. I think she knew I was nervous because I was fidgeting and my pulse was high compared to what it normally is. Then she said, “so it says you’re here to go over some concerns about a few issues, what kinds of issues?” I glanced over, nearly started crying and all I could manage was a slight chuckle (which I am convinced is only because I was trying not to cry), and to say “I’ve got a lot of issues,” before my eyes started tearing up. She then said, “you just want to wait for her then?” and I just shook my head and picked at my nail, knowing this was the end of my lies.
The wait for the doctor seemed like AGES. I wanted to get up and run away or at least pace the room but I couldn’t get up, I was too scared to move. I kept mindlessly staring at my phone hoping someone, something would jump up and save me from the Hell I was in but nothing did. I had put my sweatshirt on- I’m ALWAYS cold- and plus it felt comforting to have something familiar around me, protecting me. Then the dreaded knock at the door.
I started crying almost before she sat down. I think the nurse had told her something pretty major was up because she walked in and was instantly concerned. I was sitting cross-legged in the chair, with the sleeves of my hoodie pulled over my hands, hiding as much as possible. I’m not normally the person who shares their feelings, I think that’s why this was SO unbearably hard and inconceivable for me. A lot of it was blurry at this point but I do remember quite a bit. I remember her asking if it was something new, I shook my head no this had been going on for a couple years. She asked if it was something we hadn’t ever discussed and I said yes. I remember saying this was hard, I didn’t how to start, and then she very very cautiously asked if anyone else knew. I hugged my legs and just knew I wasn’t getting out of this but too scared to do anything.
I just cried. No one knew the full extent, no one had ever been told in person, no one was there to support me. She continued to cautiously ask what was wrong, was it an issue with a boyfriend, an issue with drugs (she noticed the drastic weight loss from my latest decrease in calories), an issue with alcohol or depression. Each time she asked she would pause, giving me time to respond never be presumptuous or judgmental. When she said depression I took longer and said “sometimes but that’s not it.” She then said no matter what it was she wouldn’t judge. I cried then I decided it was better to just jump out of the plane once and for all. I told her I rarely eat more than 200-300 calories and I am petrified of food and I just spilled my guts. I made very little eye contact at this point, I felt ashamed, stupid, absurd, fear, and like I was some kind of freak. She listened, asked questions, “was I ready for therapy, what do I eat, how do I feel” and many more. I answered feeling lighter and lighter with each word, never feeling like what I was saying was wrong or judged. She offered to tell my family or to help me tell them, I said my mom probably knew but didn’t want to believe it and that my roommate didn’t know and I was honest when I said I had no idea how I was going to do that as I was crying.
Then she said it. She said “We need to find you an eating disorder specialist.” Those 2 words. Eating disorder. I honestly have never heard them out loud in reference to me, never from someone else and not from myself. Even though I can type it and use it to describe myself online, I’ve never uttered those words. To be honest, I felt numb. I’m not sure if that was because so many emotions were finally running through me or if it was a protection mechanism but I was numb. We talked about a lot, what got me to that point, the illness that led up to it (I just switched to this doctor 8ish months ago she she didn’t see me through the depths of it), what was going to happen, some of the side effects. She told me she would go look up treatment centers and sent the nurse (from earlier) back in to do an EKG and some other tests. Blood was taken, the EKG though was the worst because you have to have all these electrodes put on your chest which involves at least having some degree of your chest (and stomach by default) being exposed and I HATE MY BODY.
The nurse knew though, she tried to make small talk and I did appreciate it but I still felt numb. She let me keep my shirt on and let me hold my hoodie and she just rolled my shirt up while she did the EKG to try and let me be as comfortable as possible. I just stared at the ceiling, my eating disorder voice screaming at me for what I had just done and now, to be exposing my gross body saying my ribs weren’t out far enough, my stomach not small enough, tight enough. I laid there and tried not to cry, tried to not freak out or focus on what was going on. It was raining outside and had been since I started driving to the office so I just listened to the rain. It was over fast (I’ve had one before so I know it just felt long and that it didn’t really take as long as it felt). After all the tests she said the doctor would be back in. So I sat on the exam table and waited. Then I was dizzy and overwhelmed so I laid down and for the first time in days I fell asleep.
I only slept for maybe 5 minutes before my body woke me up but I slept and at almost 3 days of no sleep that felt amazing. The doctor had even commented at the beginning how I looked like I hadn’t slept in a while so I was grateful for the 5 minute reprieve. I laid there and waited, unable to move, unable to think, just staring at the wall. When the doctor came back she started talking about treatment options, Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs in the area. I felt for the first time in a long time a sense of support and… hope. She had called a couple of places that she wants me to follow up with tomorrow and Monday (one was closed until Monday and is supposed to be a really good place and we both laughed at the semi-ridiculousness of this). Then she dropped a bombshell: “I need you to let me call your mom or your roommate, I need someone to know so I know you are safe.”
Safe? I’m far from safe. I am freaking out. She reassured me my mom wouldn’t be mad that she would be concerned and want to help. She offered to call my roommate but my roommate has been back home for about 2 weeks while her sister is in town and I don’t want to tell her until she gets back. I need to tell her, I know she will blame herself for not seeing it and I need to be the one to do that. But my mom was a different story. For some reason it was harder to conceive how I would tell my mom. I agreed to let her call her after she promised it would be okay and she would talk to my mom. I never doubted my mom would be supportive but I just don’t want to be a burden, I don’t want her to be mad or be disappointed in me. But, I let the doctor call my mom. She stepped out of the room again and I pulled up my phone to text the only person I could in that moment…my mom.
I’m sorry ❤
That’s what it said. I waited 5 minutes or so to send it, I didn’t want her to get it before the doctor got in touch. I knew she would instantly freak when the doctor said she was calling about me. My mom got that type of call one time before- from 911 when they found me passed out on the side of the road during a run- and I know how terrified she was. Plus I was sorry, sorry I couldn’t do it, sorry I got into the mess, sorry I would scare her when the doctor called her and then disappoint her when she heard those two words associated with me, sorry that I’ll make her worry every day, sorry that she might think I couldn’t trust her- which isn’t true, sorry for just everything.
My mom texted back before the doctor got back in,
Nothing to be sorry for. I love you and nothing you do or don’t do will change that. We will figure it out.
The doctor came back with paperwork, a prescription, referrals for the treatment centers, notes, and the best thing I got all day: a hug. The words I’m proud of you and this is the hardest step were repeated again as they were earlier and she sat and went through everything again. I still felt numb but I also began to feel something else I hadn’t in a very long time: relief. I felt relieved.
At the end of the appointment I made my follow up appointment, promised I would try this anti-depressant she is giving me which is super scary b/c the one other time I was ever put on one I felt so suicidal it was unreal and the only time I actually got to the point where I almost executed the plan, and I told her I would follow up with the Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs. She gave me her email in case I need anything and of course I have the office number and I left.
Leaving I was still numb, as I walked out of the office though I noticed one thing: it had just stopped raining. I cried when I got in the car because I just had no clue what the next step was. I knew the doctor and my mom wanted me to go home or to have my mom come to my place but I just wanted to run. To clear my head, to be alone. I’m an introverted extrovert and while I love being outgoing and with people when I get overwhelmed I need my space. I stuck to texting my mom for about a half hour not wanting to be suffocated, not wanting to be alone, not knowing what I wanted all at the same time.
When I got home I called my mom. I told her everything, she tried to convince me to eat or to come home for a bit and I couldn’t because I don’t feel safe there because of all the unsafe foods. She offered to come here but I didn’t want anyone here or around when it was 7:30 because I don’t like people seeing me eat. I think she realized how entrenched I was in this. She kept suggesting maybe eating 1 spoon of something and said to just focus on eating 50 calories more and I felt so overwhelmed and she could tell because I was crying and finally told her about the “voice” in my head. The one holding me hostage. I could almost feel her sadness and maybe a little helplessness.
I ultimately decided to be alone. I want to go to work tomorrow. I don’t want to go all day because I need to call these treatment centers and I am not sure I can do that alone and I think I want my mom to help so I might just “get sick” and go home early but I need to go back to normal life especially because I feel so abnormal right now. I think the routine will help with that, make it easier to accept my life isn’t totally over.
As I lay here and get ready for (hopefully) sleep, I am still scared, I still feel “not sick enough”, and lost but I also feel the best feeling of all right now: relief and support. I’m not alone and I know it’s going to get hard again before it gets easy but I just need to capture this feeling in my mind and no matter what realize that I’ve got support. I don’t have to bear this burden any longer alone and although they might not get it all the time or know what I feel inside, at least there is someone willing to sit by me, or wait on me while I text them. And I cannot express enough gratitude to for all of the support I have had here and from the girl who knows about my struggle and from my doctor because telling her was so hard and such a huge decision and there are so many fearful stories about idiot doctors and rude responses but she was nothing like that and never belittled or judged me.
So in the end, it was kind of like skydiving. Fearful as Hell as you jump out, a numb almost out of body experience as you free fall and a new perspective on the way down when you can slowly focus on the big picture and take a few deep breaths seeing how far you’ve come and how amazing life can be. It gave me a bit of hope, a lot of relief and even though I still have a ton of fear, I feel stronger than I was a few hours before. Here’s to recovery!
This really is me (much heavier at the time) in Key West- or rather above Key West- during the free fall of my first skydive a few years ago.