NEDA Week Stories – Monday
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].
The first negative body image thought I ever had was in the first grade. I saw a picture of my hair and thought "Ewww I am really ugly." Fast forward to the summer of fifth grade when I restricted for my first time. This was after my grandmother put a scale in front of me and told me how embarrassed by dad was over my weight. Fast forward to my junior prom. The prom picture professional done was photo edited to put on myspace because my boyfriend at the time thought it needed to be (he of course was not edited). At this time, my dad was in Iraq. Fast forward eight months later, right after my dad came home and my boyfriend had broken up with me. I felt very separated from my dad at the time and I also had a prom dress to fit into. The next three years were the hardest years I believe my life will ever endure. After losing a rapid 40 pounds (I was never overweight to begin with) and after battling insurance companies, I was forced to get better by myself. ALONE. And I did. I told myself how amazing I was everyday and this is essentially what helped me get through anorexia, then bulimia, and binge eating disorder. I believed something positive was to come from all of it and this has led me into changing my major to Public Health and has resulted in a passion for interning and coaching for Girls on the Run. I believe NO ONE should ever have to deal with an eating disorder and the best way to prevent it is simply positive words and encouragement.
Today I am 38 years old. When I was 14 I began to suffer from anorexia. I just thought that I was losing a few pounds so that it would be easier for me to stay competitive in gymnastics. Little did I know that losing a few pounds would turn into a life-threatening disorder that I still struggle with on occasion to this day.
If I could go back & give my 14 year old self some advice, I would start with one simple phrase “You are beautiful.” Sure, my parents told me that, but you know, the girls in the magazines and on TV look so much thinner and prettier. My parents became concerned when my bones were protruding from my body – hips, knees & elbows were way more visible than they ever should be.
After a visit to the doctor, I was diagnosed with anorexia. I was at a dangerously low weight and the doctor was going to put me into the hospital if I didn’t begin to gain weight. Fortunately that scared me and I slowly began to eat. Over the next year, I did gain weight and became healthy again. Something was missing, though. I never faced the reason for my starvation. I never worked with a counselor. It wasn’t until years later, after the birth of my second child did I have a relapse. My doctor immediately recommended therapy and I got the help that I needed. I now realize that this is a battle that I will fight throughout my life. To keep myself on track, I have taken up running and am training for my 2nd marathon. I know that I have to eat to be healthy to run. Having a goal in place reminds me that I am fueling a powerful machine that I want to perform at its best. Starving or under-fueling that machine would make it impossible for me to reach that goal!
I have ‘survived’ an eating disorder. Today, I successfully manage both Anorexia and Bulimia. I say manage because I feel that to an extent ‘ED’s’ will always be a part of me, and they could resurface as a coping mechanism when times get tough or I am feeling distressed. I count myself as a survivor because I do not engage in any restricting, purging, or bingeing and have not for the past 12 months. I still have odd days where I feel down and like I could be perfect if i wasn’t….X, Y, or Z… but who doesn’t? I’m a work in progress and feel that I manage my illness and rehabilitation successfully. Educating myself about health and wellness has been a MAJOR key to my rehabilitation over the past 12 months (after 10 years of ED’s). Developing an interest in a positive subject area has been rewarding in ways I could not have imagined. Instead of striving for a certain death, I strive for health and wellness.
I have taken up running and go to the gym to manage my mental and physical wellbeing and no longer wreak havoc on my body by bingeing, purging and starving. I love healthy, wholesome food, my dogs and my husband. Life is great. I love myself.