There is no such thing as healed.
I’ve been struggling with an eating disorder that started when I was 14 years old. To anyone who knows me well, this is old news. So why would I want to share this with the world at large? I’ve struggled for years as to why I would ever want to put this in writing. I guess it’s because I want women, girls, and my teenage daughter to know that it’s still something I struggle with every day of my life. The voices are always there, its just that these days, they are quieter. There are times that they scream a bit louder, but I am stronger than them. I choose to love myself. I choose life.
This is my story.
I was never self-conscious about my body until the summer I first went to summer camp. There was a fellow camper who had the same bathing suit as I did, but she looked so much better in it. I tried to pinpoint what about it made me think she looked better. I realized she had a flat tummy and well, I did not. Until I did — 7 days later when I returned home 14 lbs lighter, having eaten nothing but a few fruits and vegetables all week. That’s when it occurred to me — I could easily control how I looked when I controlled the amount of food I ate.
Along the way, I taught myself how to purge, so that I could eat some typical teenage junk food with my friends at sleepovers and no one was the wiser. By the time I was a junior in high school, I weighed 89 lbs. I was limiting my daily intake to an apple and a 4oz yogurt cup. Anything more, and the porcelain god was my BFF.
But I was unhappy. So unhappy.
I wanted so badly to be good at my events in track & field. But how could I be? It never once occurred to me that I needed to fuel my body in order for it to work. I was in a toxic relationship and the only way I felt I could have control over it was to control my food. Even if I could control nothing else, at least I had that. But it only got worse before it got better.
College brought on a whole new world for me. I tried to embrace my freedom and listen to the voices that told me I was good enough. But the moment I started eating, my metabolism had no idea what to do with it. It was so slow from years of starvation. So it held tight to everything I put into it and I packed on much more than the typical “Freshman 15.” Because it was all I knew, I entered into another unhealthy relationship and began to spiral again. By the time I was a junior, I was hovering around 95lbs.
One day I went into work, and I could barely open the front door. I joked about my weak muscles, and that’s when my boss pulled me aside and said she was concerned about me and my health.
I don’t know what it was about that particular conversation or moment, but I decided I needed to take my health seriously and find my way out. I wanted to tell that bully in my head to shut up. So I started outpatient therapy. It took another year or so, and the threat of being hospitalized, before I acted upon everything I learned. I was at the doctor’s office for some ailment and I was anemic. I had low blood pressure. And my temperature was registering my normal 93 degrees.
She looked me in the eyes and asked me if I had a death wish.
Finally, through therapy, I learned that this loud, ugly voice….it wasn’t me. It was the disease. And I needed to distance myself from it and let the beautiful voices in that whisper to me that I Am Enough.
I have to be careful.
As I’ve moved into my 40s, I’ve watched my body turn on me and change in ways I am not used to. Instead of appreciating it for all if can do and all it’s done, I find myself being resentful of it. I find that little voice whispering to me, “you know an easy way to take off those 10lbs. You’ll be so much happier if you just quickly shed them.” I basically tell her to shut it. I’ve also learned that I need to avoid most types of restrictive diets, as it just riles up that old bully of a voice and I become more and more restrictive until I find myself slipping back into bad habits. For now, I’ve learned to adopt a 80/20 philosophy as well as never utter the word, “cheat.” It’s all about moderation. Cheating leads to binging which leads to restriction and then the voice starts to try and get in my head. I am also mindful of never making any disparaging comments about my body, or women’s bodies in general, in front of my children (or anyone’s children, for that matter). It’s imperative that I model behavior for my daughter that shows her that I can be fit and strong and load my body with lots of healthy, clean, good foods, while also enjoying life’s treats in moderation.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an ED, please reach out for help. Contact NEDA to find a doctor or therapy program. Because you’re worth it. They’re worth it. Don’t let that ugly voice keep you or someone you love from loving the person you are.