NEDA Week Stories – Friday
During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2011, Operation Beautiful is sharing survivor stories to inspire, motivate, and help others realize they are not alone. If you’d like to share your short story, please e-mail it to Caitlin at [email protected].
I was raised by parents who were children of alcoholics, and my parents and extended family were verbally and emotionally abusive. I was tormented by the boys at school, and the teachers weren’t exactly nice either. In junior high, a boy I had a huge crush on asked me out… I found out later is was as a joke. Needless to say, my self-image was distorted. I remember wearing long sleeves and leggings in the summer. I later found out my father use to make comments to my sister about her weight. I don’t remember this happening, but obviously it had an effect on me.
At age 22, I got my first boyfriend, and that’s when my eating disorder began. We broke up, and my eating disorder spiraled out of control. I would use laxatives, dieter’s tea, and appetite suppressants in an attempt to control my weight. I would also exercise twice a day. I felt like a slave to the scale. For years, this kind of behavior continued. I never sought treatment, but I should’ve.
My father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1997. I was terrified about what would happen with my eating disorder once he died. My father died April 24, 2003 and his death opened up a Pandora’s box in my family. I stopped talking to many of my relatives, and my sisters began to use their children as a ‘weapon’ to get back at me when I finally stood up for myself.
I do not feel fully recovered. Currently, my life is still out of control. But I try to surrender control to God, one day at a time, and that helps a lot. I know that I am doing the best I can. I look in the mirror and see a beautiful 42 year old woman. Every day, I learn new positive and healthy coping skills. I am woman, here me roar!
I am currently in treatment at Rogers Memorial Hospital, in the residential program. This morning, when it was time for Art Therapy, our therapist Tina came downstairs to the unit and told us that we were going somewhere instead. Once we got into the van, she handed us all post-it notes and explained that we would be going to the local Target and that we could write and then post affirmative statements such as "you are beautiful" and "love yourself and your body." The other residents and I totally loved this, since we all struggle with body image issues and know that so many men and women today also feel negatively about their bodies. We made sure every mirror had at least one note, and decided to post some on the diet products and inside of weight-loss magazines, too. It felt so empowering and even helped me to realize that I am so much more than a number on a scale or image in the mirror.
I’ve never been a follower. I was never influenced by bad decisions or peer pressure. I have always been commended for the decisions I have made throughout my life. Honor-roll student, varsity athlete, loving daughter, caring friend. I think about it every day, how come so many beautiful intelligent people, are faced with negativity towards themselves? I am one of those people. I have been struggling now for over 4 years. Here is my story…
I was never overweight. Sure, I went through the awkward puberty stage like every other girl out there. I put on a few pounds, simply just to fill out into the woman I was supposed to become. I was a fantastic athlete. Soccer, track, volleyball…. I was in love with it all. My sports kept me in good shape, and able to eat a rather flexible diet. I have always been a health conscious individual. I enjoyed staying fit, lean, and toned. I ate healthy and worked out regularly, but like most people, I loved junk food and relaxing too!
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school when I began to develop discomfort with myself. I played volleyball for the varsity team at my school. I was a competitive and serious athlete. With this competitiveness, I felt the need to excel. Just because I was one of the younger girls on the team, that was no reason for me to not get the playing time I deserved. I used this as motivation to get in better shape, get stronger, get faster… do everything in my power to be a star asset to the team. I developed an idea in my head, an idea that would help me achieve this goal. It was an innocent plan consisting of a small change in diet, and a little extra effort to work out.
It wasn’t long before this innocent plan turned into an obsession. It consumed my life; my thoughts, my concentration, my relationships… literally everything. My mindset went from planning what my weekend plans with my friends would be, to how much I needed to work out, or what my next meal was going to be.
At first it was easy to hide or disregard. I would get comments like “Wow, you look really good, have you been working out?” Anyone who has dealt with an eating disorder can probably justify that this just adds fuel to the fire. That was exactly what I wanted to hear, and it was the exact motivation to keep losing just a “few more” pounds.
The compliments turned to concern several months later. I don’t like to use numbers, but let’s just say I lost an extremely significant amount of weight in a very short time. Friends and family would approach me about it. I was in denial, and there was nothing they could say to make me change my mind. Spring time came around, and my parents said enough is enough. Since I was still an adolescent living in their home, they made me go to the doctor. That was the reality check I apparently needed. When a medical professional stares at you with concern, you know something is not right.
That was the beginning of the biggest struggle of my life. Recovering from an eating disorder is not an easy task. I’ve seen doctors, therapists, a dietitian, wellness coaches… I can honestly say I am still working day by day to overcome my struggles with food and myself. I see this website and it gives me hope, knowing that I am not alone. I am extremely thankful for the support of my family. Without them, I would be lost. If you are reading this, know that I listen to you. I hear you, I see your concern. I want to help myself just as much as you want to help me. I will win this battle… because I am strong, I am beautiful.