Monday, July 18, 2011

The Period Question.

Heya girlies.

Today I want to talk about periods.

Oh yes. That time of month. Can anyone honestly say they like having their insides bleed out every month?

Apparently Dakota Fanning doesn't bat an eyelash when it comes to menstruation.

Periods are a part of life, Lexi, you say. What's the big deal? The big deal is that a lot of girls lose their period because of eating disorders or over-exercising.

I first got my period soon after my twelfth birthday, whilst my parents were on vacation in China and I was staying with a friend. Telling my friend (who, by the way, had never had her period) and her mother was awkward, to say the least. I got my period sporadically, every few months, for about two years. Fast forward to Spring of my 13th year of life. I had the last period I would have for a very long time.

I lost my period for about five years. At first I didn't understand why it had left - I hadn't lost weight, and I wasn't doing that much exercise, was I? Turns out I didn't make the gains required of my increase in height (which is equivalent to losing weight), and I was exercising a lot, for me. But whatever, who cares? I thought. Getting my period was such a hassle. This is so much easier!

Then came my anorexia, and you can bet my period wasn't poking his head back anytime soon. Being in my ED, I was really, really pleased to have amenorrhea. It was reassurance that my body was so underweight, and so little fat on it, that there was not enough energy to keep my period up and running. Boy was I glad.

Friends would comment "Ugh, I feel terrible. It's that time of month again." and I could just sit back, smirk, and say "Oh, I don't get my period. I haven't for years." They would be shocked and ask me "Isn't that a bad thing? Aren't you worried?" But of course I didn't worry. I was skinny. I didn't menstruate. What on earth could I possibly worry about?

The doctor I had in France didn't make a big deal out of it either (although, looking back at it, she didn't do a very good job taking care of my health.) I would ask her why I didn't get my period, and she would just shrug her shoulders and move on to other things. She did however say that it wasn't good for my bones, and so did my parents, but what did that mean? What does 'not good for your bones' really mean? As it had no immediate, realistic consequences, I brushed it off and labeled them all as paranoid freaks. I was skinny. I was 'happy'. Maybe other people had 'bone issues', but I would never have to deal with that.

And so I floated through four years, peacefully content, with only the slightest sense of unease about my body wasn't working as it should. When I returned to the US, and saw American doctors who specialized in EDs, they were extremely concerned about my amenorrhea, and actively tried to get me to gain weight and get it back. Their freak outs made me freak out, and I began my weight gain and mental journey to health. I won't be redundant and rewrite my story of recovery, but you can read about it here.

Earlier this year (2011) I got a bone density scan. Normal bone density is -1 to +1, with -1 being low, and +1 being high. If your bone density is between -2.5 and -1, you have osteopenia. If your bone density is under -2.5, you have osteoperosis. Before my anorexia, my bone density was very high. My mother fed me breast milk for the first two years of my life, and I was genetically predisposed with very strong bones. On the bone density scale, they were around a +1.

After suffering malnutrition and amenorrhea, my done density fell to around -0.7 to 0.9 in my whole body, and -1.3 in my hips, diagnosing me with osteopenia. What is osteopenia or osteoperosis, other than a fancy Latin name?

It means your bones start to disintegrate. It means you'll go from a healthy posture to a hunchbacked old woman.

I finally realized the consequences of what I'd put my body through, and I was pissed. Why on earth had I screwed my body over so badly? I was so lucky to have strong, healthy, dense bones, and I'd gone and ruined them! For the rest of my life, I'll have to be very careful of falling, I'll have to work twice as hard to have good posture, I'll have to consume a lot of calcium, and I'll probably end up as a crippled old lady like the one above. Not to mention I'll probably have trouble having children as a result of all those years of malnutrition and amenorrhea.

This is not a pity party. I don't want people to write "Oh, I'm so sorry about your bones, and possible lack of a family in the future." No. I want people reading this to realize that anorexia, bulimia, all eating disorders in fact, have terrible consequences on your body and your mind. You can't just starve yourself for a while to be skinny and expect everything to be all fine and dandy. You will get trapped in the eating disorder, and your body will fall apart. And it will never fully recover. Eating Disorders are not all fun and games.

Before you even think about losing weight in an eating disordered way, ask yourself: do I want to look like the woman on the left or on the right when I'm old? Do I want to have children, one day? Do I want to cause irreparable damage to my body? Many people think they are the exception to the rule. They think: Oh, the doctor says most people lose bone density as anorexics. Well, I won't, I'm different. I'll be fine. I'll just lose a little weight, look good, be happy, confident, more attractive, and then I'll stop. No problem. I won't go crazy. I'll be fine.

Sorry dear, but that's what we all thought. Please, don't go down the path I and so many other unfortunate girls (and boys!) went down. You will regret it so much. If you feel unhappy with your body image, talk to someone about it - a close friend, family member, or a therapist. You don't have to have a diagnosed Eating Disorder to get help. Everyone deserves help. Especially you.

You can always email or message me if you need support.

To finish my story, I finally got my period back in April of 2011, after I had been at a healthy weight for a few months, and was continuing to get in good nutrition. I was expecting to be devastated by the return of menstruation, but I felt oddly at peace with it. Nowadays my period is a time to appreciate all that my body can do, and to feel reassured that my bones are strengthening after going through so much trauma. It's also a time to relax, lay back, and think to myself, Okay. I need to take good care of myself for the next few days. Get lots of sleep, good nutrition, use heating pads, drink tea, and just do girly things that make me feel good!

Now go out there, and do something good for yourself!


What are you doing today to take care of yourself?

1 comment:

  1. I just found this post and I can't believe no one else had commented on how beautifully written and informative it is!!
    I'm in recovery from Anorexia and although bone density is at the back of my mind all the time, I need things like this to jolt me into gear oftentimes. I need to know that other people can do this and so can I. When i read things like this I often want to leap into the kitchen and eat a sandwich or something. Something delicious and nourishing.
    I have a DEXA scan tomorrow and I cry when I think about what might happen. Will it be reparable? Who knows but all I can do is do the best I can and feed my body, my bones and my future.
    thank you for my needed wake up call. I will bookmark this page.