Friday, March 20, 2009


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.


addy said...

Wow. Good for you, writing this.

Obviously, you'll have to take my advice with a grain of salt as 1) you don't know me, and 2) I've never been in this position. But here's what I think.

You can't blame yourself. I mean, you can. For a minute, you can wallow in the effects of the bad choice you made when you were 18. But then, you need to accept it as what it is: a consequence of something that can't be taken back.

We can't live in the past, and we can't regret things that we can do nothing to change. It's very sad to hear that you may not be able to conceive children. But, there are other options. There's adoption, or possibly surrogacy... and it sounds like you have an amazing and supportive husband who will help you figure everything out.

So, in my humble opinion, your dream of having children may not be over, at least not in the way that you and your hubby would end up raising a child. It's just set back at the moment.

Bottom line? You got past the eating disorder. You are happily married. Our lives very rarely take the path we thought they would, but I firmly believe that things have a tendency to work out the way they should.

Anonymous said...

Sweetie -

First of all, you can't continue to beat yourself up for decisions in your past. It's a waste of time and will only drive you back into the negative behaviors that led to your eating disorder and resulting fertility issues.

Stop beating yourself up and, secondly, give your husband credit. Be honest with him and tell him what's going on. There'll be a lot of mountains in your relationship and you need to start climbing them together. If you push him away out of shame for your situation or try to "fix" this yourself, you're depriving him of an opportunity to do his job as your husband to love and support you. None of us enter marriages without baggage. Let him help you carry yours.

Finally, be sure to get a second opinion from another medical professional. If your fertility is compromised, it may be a blessing in disguise. A pregnancy (and all of its hormones) can wreak havoc with the emotions of those of us who are already dealing with anxiety or depression issues. If your issues are genetically related, you may be better off pursuing other means to build your family. There are a lot of kids out there who need to be loved. It seems to me that you and your husband have a lot of love to give.

Best of luck and big hugs and squeezes.

heels said...

1) I was anorexic for many years, and though my condition was not quite as severe as it sounds like yours was, I am now pregnant with my second child. Get another opinion- it's too early to give up hope or grieve.

2) There are lots of different kinds of families, and lots of ways of making a family. This could be an opportunity to let an amazing little person into your lives in a different way than you thought you would.

3) Make sure that you find a professional counselor/ psychologist that you really trust and feel comfortable talking to while you go through this. Silence can be dangerous.

Best wishes. Take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Anorexia and infertility are not inextricably linked. Did you ask your gynecologist, or did she volunteer the information? If she volunteered the information, that seems like an unnecessary stress to put on someone who already has shown a tendency to respond poorly to stress. 18 year old bodies are incredibly resilient. You do not yet know if you are infertile. Your future is definitely not ruined - it may just take a different shape than you expected.

Unfortunately, infertility is treated as a lifestyle issue rather than a medical issue, so it's hard to get diagnosed without months of trying to conceive with no success.

What I might try is an ovulation predictor kit (perhaps combined with some blood work). That might at least tell you if you're currently producing the correct hormones necessary to ovulate. It might give you some answers and possibly some peace of mind.

Anonymous said...

Ditto the above comment: don't underestimate your body's ability to heal itself. My good friend, who was severely anorexic (sounds eerily similar to you), had her first baby almost two years ago.

As someone who has struggled with infertility, I understand your concern about the possibility of not being able to live the life you and your husband dreamed you would. But there are a lot of things in life that are sad, and we find ways to get through them. Take it one step at a time. That's all you can do.


ok! Hoping for a laugh-- cause at this point I think you need one----
Accept this as a gift. Kids are messy. They consume ALL your time. They actually EAT your identity! You are forever trying to find someone who is unafraid of watching your preschoolers even for a few hours. They devour your $$$, from formula to cars to college..,AND they will tell you that thy hate you for all you have done for them....

All kidding aside, we get dealt the hand we have... and now YOU have to deal... maybe you were meant to adopt an infant. Or better yet, an older, harder to place child...Or a foster child...Or(it Is NOT a sin!!!) to remain childless and devote your time to children who REALLY need mentors and guidance!
Take the hand you have been dealt (read LEMONS) and make lemonade! Of course he will still love you. Hell, I still love you, and I don't even know you! Turn a negative into a positive!

Anonymous said...

I completely second what Fear & Parenting, heels, and the two above anonymous posters said. And remember, love yourself, and work on forgiving your young self if the news is, indeed, not optimal.

Best of luck to you. (((HUGS)))

Overflowing Brain said...

Thanks to all. I do know that my husband will not for a moment blame me, or make me feel bad, but the guilt will probably always be there for me.

I've actually been told about my (possibly) compromised fertility by 2 different gynecologists in the past, one who brought it up herself and another who I asked. I know bloodwork has been done in the past and that it showed lower than normal levels of a hormone (I am racking my brain for which one it is...)

The worst was when a nurse in the ER played a joke on me and pretended like a urine test came back positive for pregnancy (I had passed out somewhere). I don't think he realized that I wasn't crying with relief that he was lying, but they were initial tears of joy turned into anger.

This post is extremely timely because I go to a new gynecologist next week, where we will be having this very (difficult) discussion.

Hoping for good news, but not letting myself get excited about the possibility of it.

Unknown said...

I don't know anyone who didn't make stupid choices when they were a freshman in college. Being a freshman is all about making stupid choices.

You have to forgive yourself. And you have to give your new husband a chance to forgive you, too.

I, too, think you need a second (third, fourth) opinion. There are LOTS of fertility treatments. If they can knock up some 65 year old grandma with twins, or some crazy lady in California with OCTUPLETS, they can probably find a way to knock you up.

You know what? That first year of marriage is a really hard year for a lot of people - there's a lot of change and transition and adjustment, and it's not all "honeymoon." Maybe you haven't conceived because of plain ol' stress? Just have lots of sex, and throw out the condoms (yay!!) and trust that when it's the right time for you, your body won't let you down.

I know anecdotes don't help, but a friend of mine is around 5' and was seriously anorexic in high school - as in, she weighed around 75 pounds - and she has two kids now.

You're not at the end of anything, you're at a beginning. I wish you all the luck in the world with creating a family. Take care of yourself.

Overflowing Brain said...

(I probably should've mentioned that I'm the OP, since my name doesn't show up when I comment.)

I guess it begs to be mentioned that we haven't actually tried to conceive yet. It's more that we've been told we can't before we've even been given a chance to try.

It's that I'm petrified of the future.

Anonymous said...

i just agree so much with the previous posters who said that what's done is done... please don't keep going back to that place in your mind. there are SO many fertility treatments available... see a specialist, they can give you the bottom line about all of this. (i did not have an eating disorder, but i struggled with infertility before getting pregnant with my son, and we're having an even bigger difficulty trying to conceive a second child... i've seen a lot of specialists about this over the years)
i wish i could scoop you up and give you a big hug - it's evident how much you want to have kids some day, and i hope that dream comes true for you.

Jaden Paige said...

Best of luck trying to conceive... Enjoy it! ;)

You've got to move past the blame game- it's not your fault... In fact, you are brave and strong for overcoming your eating disorder on your own, and coming out a healthier, happier person. If you haven't yet tried, you don't know for sure what is possible... Don't be afraid, jump in with both feet and hope for the best!

I pray that your dreams come true for you... In whatever way that they may :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't read all the responses so if this has already been said I apologize. Eating disorders are a DISEASE if you had endured cancer of had a genetic disorder would you feel the same blame? it is in so many ways the same. live a healthy lifestyle, relax, open your mind and body to conception, see a specialist and look into adoption it is amazing what caring for a child in need will do for ones soul. You would also be amazed at how many people conceive after adoption!
I wish you peace.