There is no particular reason why I am writing this now except for the fact that it needs to be discussed. This topic isn’t discussed enough in treatment centers. Period.
Patients should be told about edema.
Edema is one of those things that is kind of hush-hushed because it’s a little ugly, like a bodily function that you don’t do in public, or body hair other than what’s on your scalp, or anything that’s classified as so-called “triggering.”
Well, things that are “triggering,” in my opinion, you need to desensitize yourself to. Let’s face it, when you go to the supermarket, those tabloids with “LOSE 40 POUNDS IN A WEEK” articles are going to be sitting there right in the checkout aisle whether you like it or not. WeightWatchers will be around forever. Cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer cancer do you hear me? If you don’t want to be triggered, move to a vacuum, but there’s no air there.
So while I was in treatment, I said something to one of the staff about refeeding edema in my normal speaking voice. No, we weren’t speaking in private or anything. We were just hanging out and chatting. Well! It was like I’d sworn or something. I said that patients should be warned about refeeding edema. I said that if I’d been told before April of 2011 that I might get it, and had it explained to me, then maybe all that domino effect that happened last spring, summer, etc (look it up here in my blog…end of April, May, June, July, August 2011 etc) could have been reduced or softened somehow or maybe even avoided.
I don’t mean just refeeding edema per se. I mean any edema. Let me reiterate what I’ve said before in relation to edema: Edema isn’t an illness or a disorder in itself. It’s a signal. Kind of like clenched fists are a signal that you might be tense or angry inside. This edema signal can mean different things for different people. It can mean something serious is wrong or it can mean something less serious.
People with eating disorders can get edema. Not everyone does but many people do. This edema can come for a variety of reasons. Any time you seriously muck with your nutrition a la eating disorder, you are being very mean to your body, and your body might react by getting edema.
Okay, what this means is this: Edema is swelling of tissues. It’s excess fluid in tissues where fluid isn’t supposed to be. Often, this means your ankles are swollen. You may have seen people with swollen ankles before, especially people whose ankles are exposed, that is, not covered by pants or dresses that reach all the way to the floor. Maybe you’ve seen ankles that bulge out over the person’s shoes.
But it can be more than just ankles. Edema can also be in your calves. It can be your whole legs, too. Edema can be all over your body. You can have edema in your stomach or in your face. You can have swollen hands and wrists. One side can be more swollen than the other.
Okay, I think you see the picture now. The more swelling means more volume means, yes, you are bigger. This means, yes, you weigh more. Do you hear me? Trigger trigger trigger trigger trigger.
So in April, specifically the end of April, I woke up one day and I was like six pounds heavier and I had (excuse me!) legs that were a lot thicker than they had been only days previously. No, I had not just binged. It just happened to me because of excess fluid in my tissues because I have an eating disorder and had been mucking around with my nutrition for years and years and years.
Not only was I in absolute shock and devastated but I felt like my life was over and my body was completely ruined. I don’t know how long it took me to shake this feeling but I think I am over it now.
I think I am over it now because I suddenly realized today that I have always had a little bit of sock edema for years and years and years, not just since April of 2011. By this I mean that my socks have always made a bit of an imprint in my legs. Socks aren’t supposed to make that much of an imprint as they do. Big fucking deal. At least it’s just my socks, right? Why it took me until today, February 25th, to realize this, I don’t know.
Anyway, what I am saying is that edema is a psychological issue for people with eating disorders. It shows up on the scale. It shows up in what clothes you can wear. It shows in the mirror and you can see it when you look at yourself. The worst of it is trying to get your feet into your shoes when your feet swell. When it gets that bad, you can’t even tie them. People who don’t have eating disorders have a psychological reaction when they see and feel their bodies swell up from excess fluid and can relate. Tell them to imagine this feeling only a zillion, trillion times magnified and a zillion, trillion times more distorted and…a whole bunch more things that simply can’t be described to someone who doesn’t have an eating disorder.
Or can it. Let’s begin to describe these things to people. Let’s begin to tell others how it feels to have these disorders. The world needs to know our story. We need to open up just a tiny bit more than we’ve been doing. People with eating disorders are a neglected, forgotten, hidden population. You’d think this wasn’t the case, but it is. Yes, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and all kinds of out-of-control eating issues are on the covers of magazines these days, but the people behind these articles are forgotten as is the daily suffering we endure. What’s on the cover is how to lose those 40 pounds and the huge piece of cake and the ad for the great recipe inside the magazine, and the seductive photograph of an emaciated celebrity on the way to rehab yet one more time. This, of course, used to be the photo that would sell the magazine, the one that the drooling public loved to hate. But I’m not so sure now. The skinny celebrity photo is losing its shock value. One thing is sure and that’s that if you want to make money, I mean really, really get rich wicked, wicked big time, lie real bad to people and sell them some pill that will make them lose, say, 100 pounds overnight, sell a bunch of these pills, collect the money, then split the scene, and for god’s sakes, enjoy your vacation and don’t ever come back.