Posted by Katie.
I’m afraid I’ve wrecked our future. And we’ve only been married for 6 months.
This failure goes back, way back, to 3 years before I met you, to my freshman year of college.
I hated college. I hated every single minute of it. And I was scared of coming home because I simply don’t do failure. And calling and saying that I wanted to come home from a college 2 hours from my house because I was homesick was my definition of failure.
I called my mom twenty times a day, always in tears, unable to cope with anything. After several weeks, my family decided that it was time to stop this cycle of depression and get me some help. And I resisted, oh how I resisted. But my doctor convinced me that anti-depressants were the right choice. At the time I was embarrassed. I failed at keeping my emotions under control, I failed at being happy. I failed at something so innate that it shouldn’t be something you can fail at. But I did.
And that failure flipped a switch in my head. It was as if from that moment on, I needed control in my life. It didn’t matter where. The medication helped and the crying slowed down and my moods stabilized, but the fact that I couldn’t even control my own emotions without pharmaceutical aid ate away at me.
And so I turned to food. Not in the, gobble down everything in sight way, but rather in the, control every single calorie that my body ingests way.
I started slowly. Just cutting back on sweets, eating a little healthier, reading some fitness websites. And then I began running. And running was this freeing process where all that was going on was the wind and air and whatever music I chose to listen to for the morning. I wasn’t thinking about my classes, or my future, I was just thinking about taking the next physical step in the run. It was amazing.
But before long, it wasn’t just eating healthily or running for the exhilarative freeing feeling, it was a problem, a sickness. It was counting every single calorie I ingested. It was calculating the speed and distance I ran to convert it to calories burned. It was stepping on the scale each morning, and despite it showing a weight lower than what I’d been since middle school, it was wanting to drop just two more pounds. Or three more pounds. Just a little more.
It was anorexia.
At the height of my eating disorder, I was eating, (at best) 1 cup of cheerios in the morning, a salad of only vegetables and fat-free Italian dressing for lunch, a snack of green beans and a dinner of either a bagel or the same salad as lunch. On a wild day, I might throw a whole apple into the mix. But I always felt guilty about it.
There were days where my calorie count was easily less than 500, but I drank water and tea so I didn’t feel the hunger. I had over $1000 out of my initial $1400 from meal plan left at the end of the semester when most everyone else was completely out of money.
And the numbers on the scale dropped. 120. 118. 115. 110. 107. 103. I went from 145 to 103 pounds in less than 6 months. On my 5 pound 5 inch frame, these weights were dangerous. I looked gaunt, my hair was falling out, and worse, I hadn’t had a period in months, a fact I outright lied to my doctor (and mother) about when she asked after rightly assuming that I wasn’t just “exercising and eating healthier,” but rather, killing myself.
It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year, after all but one of my friends completely deserted me (understandably since the most important social part of college is meals and I wasn’t participating in any), that I realized that I had a problem. I remember getting into a car with my only friend and saying out loud what I had known for weeks, maybe months. And before I could stop myself, I blurted it out. “I think I have an eating disorder.” And she hugged me and said that she knew, but also that she knew I needed to realize it first.
I went to the school counselor, which was a huge failure (“You don’t look underweight, you’re probably fine”) and eventually just worked hard to let myself eat again. To get past the voice in my head telling me that that muffin over there would go right to my belly, or thighs (never my boobs of course). It was miserably difficult, I was forbidden from stepping on a scale and I hated myself. I could feel myself getting fat again and I hated every single minute it.
In the end I gained too much weight back, a fact that I came to peace with, and tried to move on with my life. But the damage I had done over the past year was not damage that could be fixed simply by gaining the weight back. As it turns out, depriving your body of fat and nutrients for more than a year is not a safe thing to do.
And that brings us to today.
One of the things that my gynecologist talked to me about recently is that because of the severity and length of time of my eating disorder, I may be infertile. We can already see that my bones are too thin and it makes sense that the after effects of my anorexia aren’t confined to just my skeleton. She said, actually very compassionately, that because I went 14 months without a period from being malnourished that there’s a good chance that I won’t be able to conceive a child. Ever.
Suddenly it’s hitting me that our dream of having children may already be over.
I know how badly you want kids, how badly I want kids, but I’m afraid I might have already ruined that life for us. What if what I did 7 years ago keeps us from the lifetime of happiness we’ve both wanted? How can I un-do something like that? What if my life and my mental illness caused us to be childless?
I know that you’ll forgive me and tell me it’s okay, because you love me. But I know I’ll never forgive myself for ruining the future we were supposed to have, because I know it’s my fault.