There are many signs and symptoms that indicate an eating disorder. One of my earliest symptoms (next to dry skin and loss of hair) after developing anorexia was the loss of my menstrual cycle. After a year without it coming back, my mom took me to my first gynecologist’s visit. The usual questions about my being so skinny were, naturally, answered with a by then well-rehearsed excuse. My doctor may have had suspicions, but she didn’t raise any further questions. So, I was given the pill, my cycle returned and everybody was happy.

Well, not really. My eating disorder got worse and after hearing rumors of the pill being related to weight gain, I stopped taking it. (Ridiculous, but I was sick.) Months after months went by and nothing happened. No cycle again.
However, at this point I was so weary of life and so caught in my illness that I did not care anymore. So what? It will come back eventually and if it doesn’t, I will move on. What difference would it make, really.
I have come to learn and accept the contradictions of an eating disordered mind. This is why it doesn’t surprise me that despite being so careless, I was constantly dreaming of a life with 4 children. I always knew that it was going to be the number of 4. 2 was always too conventional for me and 3 was never going to happen because I was a middle child and was utterly unhappy in this sandwich position. So, yes 4 was the perfect number for me.

The more energy my eating disorder stole from me, the more active my phantasies about my future family would get. I envisioned it all. I was happy in that future. I was healthy and I was a great mom. There would be no family drama, nothing like the war I grew up in. There would be no brother terrorizing his siblings. This was never going to happen to my future family. Yes, we would have our ups and downs, but in the end, there would always be love. A fairy-tale, if you will.

Fastforward a decade

Still suffering from anorexia, even more so now, I met my husband and this only strengthened feelings.
After Andreas and I got married, all we could think about was having children and starting a family. Now I know how ludicrous this wish was because of the mental and physical state I was in. A pregnancy would have been joyless, a burden even. I don’t think I would have been able to stop obsessing over all the weight I would have had to gain and how quickly it would have come off after the baby was born. A pregnancy during those critical years of starvation would have depleted my system because the baby would have taken vital nourishment from me.

Additionally, a pregnancy would have been extremely dangerous for the child. Delayed fetal-growth, low birth-weight, birth defects, fetal abnormality such as a cleft palate or cleft lip, jaundice, respiratory distress of the baby immediately after birth, higher death possibility to the baby in the last trimester of pregnancy or within 1 month after birth, and low Apgar scores are just a few of the risks of such a pregnancy. Scary, right?

Well, the list goes on and includes miscarriage, Gestational Diabetes, Preeclampsia (toxemia), low amniotic fluid, placental separation, complications during labor (such as a breech birth), incompetent cervix and/or spontaneous abortion, and increased risk to the mother of damage to the kidneys and heart.1
Needless to say, the chances of carrying the baby to term would have been slim at best.

Another point to consider would have been my ability to properly take care of another human being. The answer, I believe, is obvious. Just think of the role model I would have been. And with my energy level being somewhere close to zero, I would have never been able to demand the baby’s needs.

But I longed for a baby.

The desire to fill this whole inside of myself, that not even my husband could diminish, was overwhelmingly strong. However, trying to fill a whole so vast with a baby is dangerous. I realize that now. I was selfish in my wish and my motives were utterly out of whack.

Now I know that this whole was my eating disorder and as I am recovering, it gets smaller and smaller. The inner emptiness that accompanied me for so many years is subsiding. No child could have ever done this job nor would it have been his or her responsibility. I needed a baby, not realizing that it is and should be the other way around. I needed to be needed, I needed to be part of something bigger than myself and I needed a reason to live.

Now I know that it is wrong to start a family having these thoughts in mind.
Now I know that it is a good thing that the miracle I was praying for during those years, never happened.
Now I know that the consequences would have been disastrous.

Yet, as I continue to walk this path of recovery and self-exploration, I am doing a lot of soul-searching and the wish for children is still there. Not right away though. There is still too much to discover about my new life. Too much to learn. Too much opportunities to take before accepting this huge responsibility. Too much healing to do. Too much strength and stability to gain.

I always thought that after starting to eat properly again and giving my body everything it needs, my cycle would start up again. But I was wrong. So very wrong.

Here I am, a year into recovery and nothing has happened.

And I am starting to really, really worry about that fact. Thoughts of a life without my own children creep into my head. A life without the thrill of looking at a pregnancy test and it confirming that a life is growing inside of me. A life without ever looking into my husband’s eyes telling him that he will be a father (again). A life without ever hearing that first scream of a baby I carried for so many months. A life without ever seeing my children’s smiles. A life without every reading bedtime stories to my babies and tucking them in. A life so completely opposite to everything that I have always envisioned.
I may never feel the unconditional love that everybody describes as being part of motherhood. I may never be at the receiving end of one of those baby hugs that just warm your heart. I may never pick up my baby from kindergarten and hear her or him exclaim gleefully: “My mommy!”, as if to claim ownership.

With every passing month of nothingness, this fear becomes more real.

And all I can do is wait and see.

I am putting it out of my mind most of the time though, but there are certain instances when agony peers around the corner.

Every time I hear that another couple of our friends is expecting a child, I feel this thud deep inside. As much as I share their joy, there is always this doubt circling around in my head. Will I ever get to share such a joyful announcement?
Every time we talk to my husband’s daughter, feelings of loss arise. I love this little girl to pieces and I am beyond blessed to be allowed to be part of her life. Yet, I don’t want her to grow up without siblings. I want her to hold her little baby brother right after birth. I want her to play house with her sister. I want to give her the opportunities that a life with siblings provides.

Research suggests that the longer you have suffered from an eating disorder, the less likely it is to regain your menstruation. However, for roughly 80% of anorexic women menstruation will start up again after starting to eat sufficiently again and reaching a healthy weight.2
More very interesting and super frightening facts:
A recent study in Denmark suggests that even eight years after successful ED treatment, the chances of having a high-risk pregnancy are the same as those for women who receive treatment immediately before they conceive.3 It appears that a history of disordered eating may predict reproductive trouble even years after treatment and progress in recovery. In the U.S., about 20 percent of women patients who ask for help at fertility clinics have had an  eating disorder. 3

It is a bitter pill to swallow. But hope always wins. At least for me.

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Social media makes it fairly easy to get to know knew people. Even for someone as shy as I am, it is no problem to reach out to make new acquaintances.
However, every once in a while, there is this one person that just stands out to you. Something clicks and you are drawn to him or her.

Rachel W. Cole is one of those people. I have come across her blog a few days ago and I have been in awe of her messages, her positive outlook on life and the way she is helping women all across the US – and probably even beyond that. Rachel writes that she too struggled with an eating disorder, but she recovered.
Her question for us, her readers: “what are you truly hungry for?”

I couldn’t stop thinking about this question. I was contemplating it over and over again in the last few days.

What is it that lies so deep within you and wants to be expressed? What does your soul thirst? Which emotions does your heart long for?

Are you hungry for change? Hungry for wisdom? Hungry for love? Hungry for life? Hungry for relationships?
There are so many possibilities, so many options to consider.

However, I would argue that there is always one answer in every chapter of one’s life that stands out and meets all the above mentioned criteria.

Maybe you are at a stage in your life where your deepest instincts (and yes, I believe we still have them, no matter how sick we are) beg for something, anything, nutritious. Somewhere deep inside you, there is a voice that tells you to eat, listen to it. This is the healthy part of yourself that is still left and has not given up hope. This is the part of yourself that will help you survive and come back to the miracle that your life is.

A year ago, that was definitely the case for me. Even though I couldn’t let my mind realize it yet, my body screamed for food.
However, now, I am well-fed, full of energy and food is just a part of my day, something I don’t have to remind myself of. The urgency, the true hunger for food is gone.

Maybe you are like me and are a bit further down (or should I say ‘up’) the recovery path.

This is where the bigger questions of life come into play.

What is it that you want your life to be about? What do you want to achieve in your professional and, more importantly, in your private life? In which direction does your heart want to go?

I believe that asking yourself these questions and answering them honestly will help you tremendously in how you move forward. Life after recovery can be overwhleming. However, by listening to your deepest desires, you can find out what you are meant to be and do.

I tried to really dig deep in the last few days in order to answer this question for myself and one message that just comes to mind over and over again is the hunger for freedom.

Being freed from the strings of self-doubt, body image issues, past issues and traumata, lost time and, of course, my eating disorder is my ultimate goal, my ultimate challenge.

I long for freedom in order to be able to love myself, be my best friend and my greates ally.
Freedom means being able to travel without being terrified of the eating situations that present themselves so differently when away from home.
Freedom signifies forgetting about calories, meal plans and all the rules that I still carry around with me on a daily basis.
Freedom means completely loving my body, as short as it is, with all the curves that it has.
I want to achieve the freedom to love my husband in ways that are still unreachable for me because of the attachment to my eating disorder.
I want to be free to be intimate with my husband without the paralyzing fear of him disliking parts of my body just as much as I do.
I am striving for the freedom to lose control and just let go.

Freedom means being able to talk to everybody I please to without agonizing hours upon hours before because of being scared of not knowing what to say or how to reply.
Being free will give me the chance to develop my strengths and to embrace my weaknesses.

Living without chains includes having the prerogative to play with my creativeness and to have the confidence to stand behind my work.
The more I listen to myself, the more I start to realize that freedom for me involves financial freedom and standing on my own feet.
This pursuit will present opportunities to connect with my deepest desires in ways that are far from my imagination at this point.
Freedom will give me the mindset of success and the confidence to achieve it.
I want to have the freedom to dream unspeakable dreams and being crazy enough to believe that they will come true.
Being free is having the peace of mind to do more basic activities like going to the movies, reading books or taking a walk without this nagging voice that is still there from time to time.

And ultimately, this freedom promises living life with purpose.

What is it that your heart, mind and soul is truly hungry for?


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023 Fighting Anorexia – My Year 2011

December 30, 2011

Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadThis will be a more personal podcast episode. So, if you don’t want to hear more about my year, please come back on Monday, when I will release a regular episode of Fighting Anorexia. In this episode of Fighting Anorexia, I talk about my year 2011. I talk about […]

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38 Steps to Beat Anorexia!

November 21, 2011

1.   Admit to yourself that you are not OK and that you need help. 2.   Talk to someone close to you. 3.   Schedule an appointment with your physician 4.   Ask your doctor about treatment facilities and/or counselor. 5.   Schedule an appointment with a counselor. 6.   Don’t cancel the appointment. […]

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Mommy, I understand now.

November 18, 2011

The power of dreams. Last night I had the weirdest and scariest dream in a while. Due to the sleeping medication that I still have to take every evening, I dream very vividly. However, this dream was different. Very much so. I dreamt of my mother. She was younger than she is now, or at […]

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