Updated: Dec 24, 2022
My eating disorder started at seventeen years old, when I was alone in my dorm room. It really was an accumulation of mental dis-ease (not "disease," but not "unease" either, the latter word being too mild) I'd carried through my teen years. And the root of that dis-ease was why I was also flowering weeds of anxiety, low confidence, self-hate, poor finances, and a weak self-image.
As the years went by, I started learning how to take care of myself more. It was a constant battle, though. As a inborn author, it was all too easy to sit on my bed for hours and write. Plus, a large part of my love for writing grew out of being too socially anxious to hang around other people. It was an escape. It was a way to numb my heart from reality. But when I took on a higher level management position, taking care of my physical and mental health became a must.
For about six months, I cut out all sugar. I hit the gym four+ times a week. I went on walks with God daily. I'd never felt better in my life.
But then in early 2020, shortly after I was published, I fell into a mild depression. And then covid hit. And my old destructive eating habits crept back into my life. With the gyms closed, I started eating massive quantities of industrial junk with very little exercise. For a few months, nothing really changed with my health - as far as I could tell - so I kept on not caring.
In April, I made the life-altering decision to move out of NY and back to CA, after 17 years of being away from my home state. It was a 4,000mi drive that I had to make across three days. I thought all the people who whined that 13 hour/day drives were exhausting were crybabies. Piece of cake for me, I thought.
But on night 2, after the roads went dark and I lost cell service, a full on panic attack struck me.
Holy cow, I hadn't had one that bad since 2017. It was so bad that the only way I could calm myself down was to come to the sudden realization that I wasn't afraid of death. (It seriously felt like I'd reached the end.) Since I'd conquered my last panic attack in 2017, I'd thought they were gone forever, so when this one hit, I couldn't distinguish if it was really a panic attack, or if I was, in fact, dying.
On my third day of driving, another panic attack crept up on me just four hours away from home. Thankfully, I arrived safely...but the panic kept coming back. Again. Again. Again.
I started to despair. I've battled through a lot of mental junk up until this point, but one thing that terrifies me to this day is not being in control of my body - an especially my mind.
When I took the time to really reflect though, I admitted to myself that these panic attacks weren't an overnight surprise. They were an accumulation of 10 years of eating horribly, and doing horrible things to my health and body. In fact, as I write this post, I had another panic attack two nights ago; it felt like I was on the verge of losing total and permanent control of my mind. (Scary, scary, scary.) The panic only really appeared to hit me when I started eating large quantities of processed toxic junk. When I switched them out with whole foods and exercise, they went away...completely.
Please don't take this as medical advice; all of us have different needs. What I'm saying is, as writers, I think it's really easy for us to neglect our health. Writers are kind of the antithesis of athletes. (P.E. was the only class that dragged down my GPA in high school...anyone else relate?) It's so easy to sit and write for hours without moving. A lot of us also tend to be introverts who prefer to hide from the world. We dismiss mental wellness as being ra-ra for the vegans and manbeasts at the gym, and thus we also neglect our physical wellbeing, too.
When you're bustling through the day to day - and especially in this horrible season of covid - don't forget to give your body the same love you give your books. It's hit me harder than ever this year that we only get one body; once your health is gone, it's gone. My writing and creativity tends to be at its very best when I'm feeling vitalized physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Give yourself the love you deserve, and watch your health not only flourish, but your writing, too.