A Spiritual Journey: Learning How God Paints Us Beautiful
Some Medical Complications of Anorexia Nervosa
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I’ve waited to post until I know more about my health status, but asking for prayer is always a good idea, so please pray for my health after you read this…and sorry this is so outrageously long.
My pastor talked in his sermon this past weekend about God taking us past the line we’ve drawn. Isn’t it funny how when God wants to tell us something, it’s in our face. That’s God for you. Just last week, I got to a point where I’d been taken past my limit. I knew it, thought about it, and talked about it just before his sermon.
I was somewhere near the BMI considered ideal for those recovering from anorexia. I was put on a meal plan in January. Though I hadn’t been actively and perpetually restricting in almost a year, I wasn’t ready to follow the meal plan. I wasn’t used to snacking. When I would count my calories (which I hate doing), I had noticed that if I didn’t snack, I didn’t meet my calorie goal my dietician had set for me. When I became a client at the Center I now go to, I no longer was “allowed” to count calories (hallelujah) and was required to eat 3 meals a day plus 3 snacks (an intimidating task).
To begin my meal plan, I decided I would just start with trying to get my snacks in. I mentioned hating to count calories, but following a meal plan (even one that’s not calorie-based, at least to the client) is tedious. I was doing good with snacking until about a month ago. I didn’t relapse, but I decided I didn’t like my body. So my plan was to work out a little more, and I stopped snacking. I’m supposed to tell my dietician if my movement increases and she will increase my meal plan. I planned on waiting about a week…
Remember God breaking my ankle? Yes, I believe it was His doing. Well, He gave me 2 days this time of eating less and exercising more, and then He intervened again with a doctor’s appointment scheduled a month in advance.
Some backstory: I didn’t have a GP. I’ve mentioned previously that I went to a sports med doctor a year and a half ago and told him I was battling anorexia. He told me I was at the low end of my healthy range. I actually wasn’t and knew I wasn’t because I was wearing 3 pounds worth of clothing when they weighed me, plus I knew my accurate weight and body fat from a Bod Pod analysis I’d just done). I told him I could see my heart beating through my chest, and he told me he can see 12 year old boys’ hearts beating through their chest. Needless to say, I didn’t go back.
My counselor at the Center told me she thought it’d be a good idea for me to go to a doctor because I’d been having some issues with dizziness. It was really bad 3 years ago when I was pumping for my baby (and dieting)–yes I was struggling with anorexia then but didn’t know it–then when I was restricting, but it had been better over the last year. I told her it was probably just dehydration or caffeine. Sometimes I react poorly to caffeine. She asked me if I’d go to the doctor if the doctor had some experience with eating disorders. I said maybe. She gave me the name. I finally called but was told they didn’t accept new patients. I called Counselor. She said she’d get in contact with them because she’d been told the Center could refer clients. She received confirmation and told me to call again. So I did. I was told the same thing. I could have let it go, but I pressed–and thank God I did (keep reading). The person I spoke to put me on hold then came back a few minutes later, and we scheduled an appointment…for a month later! It was the earliest I could get in.
I go to my appointment, and a nice resident came in to talk to me to get my information. I told her all about my history. Then the doctor came in. He spent a long time chatting with me and going over things and checking me out. Then, he ordered an EKG. I did my EKG. He came back in with the printout.
He told me my pulse was 46 during the EKG (bradycardia). I asked, “So my EKG was fine, it’s just my pulse?” He said, it’s not just your pulse. The pulse is an important indicator of overall heart health. He told me he had grounds to hospitalize me right then for refeeding (my pulse was below 50). I think my mouth dropped open. REFEEDING? I noted that I was somewhere close to my ideal weight/BMI. He said he wasn’t going to hospitalize me because I’m an adult and I would probably fight him on it, and I said he was right. He also said another reason was because I’m not emaciated (I’d gained at least 10 pounds from my low).
He did say he was suspending my movement. I know my jaw dropped that time. I think I started to argue but he said he knew I was barely doing anything right now anyway because of my ankle. I vehemently agreed. He did say I could still do my PT. Thank God. Then he told me he was increasing my meal plan, and I had to drink an Ensure every day along with caloric liquids, like Gatorade, at lunch and dinner. He also had me get my blood drawn for a blood panel.
You can imagine how I responded. I was in shock. I could understand having to do this stuff when I was at my worst. When I had a 17 point something BMI, but now?!?! He told me he would call and talk to my Counselor and Dietician, and they were supposed to take my pulse when I went in. I just so happened to to be seeing my dietician the next day and my Counselor three days later. He also told me no caffeine. When I went in for my dietician appointment, she agreed and said there was no negotiating on the caffeine. She said she agreed with the doctor that my low pulse was because of my anorexia. She told me if I didn’t comply with all his recommendations I’d need to go to a higher level of care. She also told me they didn’t admit clients into partial hospitalization with a pulse as low as mine. I was once again dumbfounded.
I ended up calling my doctor’s office the next week at my Counselor’s request. She’d taken my pulse, and it was 50…right on the border, so she said she would call as well. The doctor wanted to see me back in his office. This time the EKG was mid 60’s. Good. But that wasn’t a surprise to him. He said it can vary 20 points within a day. The thing that did concern him was my orthostatic pulse. I had around a 20 point variation between lying/sitting and standing.
My blood tests had come in the day after my first visit, and my phosphorus was low and calcium was high. Though my other electrolytes were fine, I knew that high calcium wasn’t good, especially with someone who’d battled anorexia. Shouldn’t my levels be low?! So I looked it up and saw a lot of information about this linking to the parathyroid. During my second visit, he said he wanted to do another blood panel because I had a few interesting results in my blood test. He ordered a parathyroid hormone (PTH) analysis and a few other things. My PTH test came back double the high end of normal. So, now I have to see an endocrinologist.
He also had ordered a DEXA (bone density) scan after my first appointment. I did that last week and got the results over the weekend. I have osteopenia in my hip and lumbar spine, but my forearm was okay. Your parathyroid controls your calcium and I believe your phosphorus levels. See what happens with hyperparathryroidism is your parathyroid doesn’t function properly, so it thinks your body doesn’t have enough calcium, even when it does, so it starts leaching calcium from your bones. I have no idea how long I’ve had this, and my doc says it’s not from the anorexia. However, between the two, I wasn’t surprised to find out my bones were in the precursor stage to osteoporosis.
I came face-to-face with my mortality three weeks ago. Prior to that, I had started to backslide a little bit, and God immediately interceded. I’m not saying I’m in the clear, but I would have had no knowledge of this if I hadn’t gone to the doctor. At least now I’m under a doctor’s care, who is working with my dietician and my counselor. I have a team now. Teams are good when dealing with eating disorders.
To tell you how difficult eating disorders are to recover from, I was triggered last week. Yes, I continued doing everything I am supposed to be doing, but I was in anorexia hell. I couldn’t escape the anorexia noise in my head–it didn’t matter that I am now having medical issues. My husband told me it was a spiritual battle and beckoned me to fight. Somewhere inside of me, I was able to reach out despite being in crisis mode. I spend Saturday afternoon getting help from my spiritual mentor. She’s helped me through this whole battle, and battle we did. We fought through it. I now feel like myself once again. The demons are at bay. For now.
When I’m mentally healthy, it’s unfathomable to believe I could ever relapse. But then the demons don’t ever leave us alone for very long, do they? We are in a war. I couldn’t battle myself through it–are we ever really supposed to do these things on our own? I’ve healed to a point where I can get through most of this stuff with the Word, prayer, and worship. But I was in a bad place, and I needed help. The important thing is that I didn’t regress from the doctor’s orders (meal plan and movement), and I contacted the one person I knew would be able to help me through it.
On the outside, I believe I look healthy, but I have so much wrong with me right now it overwhelms me if I let it:
I had an MRI done on my ankle on Friday. I’ll get those results next week.
I have the issues mentioned above.
I have an order for a MRI on my shoulder. I injured this while in my boot, to try to avoid reinjuring my broken ankle as I fell into my van door. I stuck my hand out and caught myself against the door but at the expense of my shoulder. I’m pretty sure I have micro tears now in my rotator cuff that can only be fixed with surgery. I’m waiting on the MRI though and continuing PT. I can’t deal with my shoulder or the thought of another potential surgery right now.
I have arthritis in my right knee from a water skiing accident form over 20 years ago. Since I’m not working out, it’s not too big of a hindrance right now.
I was diagnosed with sleep apnea after sleep studies a year and a half ago. I haven’t done anything about it because my dentist wants me in a mouth guard because I grind my teeth. But I can’t get a mouth guard until she knows which CPAP I’m getting. But I held off on that because I wanted to get my lower teeth straightened. Forget Invisalign. I found out I needed $21,000 in jaw surgery. I can’t deal with that either.
I’m not about wallowing in my own misery though. I try to be funny and smile a lot…even though my smile has been under attack. I’m asking for more of God’s grace. I’m thankful that despite all these issues, I still feel like I’m pretty healthy. I’m healing (by God’s grace), and I have an amazingly supportive husband. I’m meeting new friends (thanks to a support group) who are Christian and who get the things about me that no one else in my life gets. I believe in miracles, and I know God is doing many in me.
Anorexia is deadly–you can get to a good place and still have major medical concerns. It is important to be under the care of a good doctor who knows what s/he is doing! I can’t stress this enough.
Whether you battle with an eating disorder or not, it really is important to go to a doctor once a year. It’s amazing how much can be flagged by doing some blood work and checking your vitals.
Having to gain weight and drink Ensure every day is incredibly humiliating after finally getting to an “ideal” BMI (but maybe not my ideal BMI)…and finally being okay with where I was at.
What’s even more humiliating is then struggling with my own brain telling me to restrict and work out because I’m insanely uncomfortable and about to explode because I’m having to gain weight and being pushed too far up to fast and not being ready for it after I found out I had medical issues. Sometimes the medical needs are greater than the psychological needs.
God’s grace is sufficient. When we are weak then we are strong. We allow Him to be God when we admit we can do nothing without Him. I know this, yet I have to re-know it all the time…
Recovery is not even just a day-to-day battle. It’s a minute-by-minute and even second-by-second battle. I keep thinking I’m going to get to the end of it, and then I get slammed out of nowhere. I wasn’t where I was two years ago, last year, last month, or even last week. God works in His own time, and His timing is perfect. Most of us know this, but it’s something I know I sometimes have to be reminded over and over and over again.
I know most people don’t want to “touch me with a ten-foot pole,” but I am grateful for those in my life who have reached out to me. Most of them don’t get the disease at all, but I know they care. They ask me how I’m doing. They talk to me. They don’t get uncomfortable with themselves–some people do when I’m talking to them. It makes me sad, but I have to remind myself it’s not me, it’s their own insecurities. I don’t have leprosy. And even if I did, I’d still be a person worthy of love because I’m a human (God created all of us) and Jesus died for me too.