NEDA Week Stories – Wednesday
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 had undiagnosed anorexia when I was 7. I wouldn’t eat breakfast due to scheduling, tell my teachers at lunch I was full from breakfast and tell my parents I was too full from lunch to eat dinner. I was discovered when my parents found a sock drawer full of lunch money. I did it because a boy in my class called me fat.
I turned to bulimia Thanksgiving Day of 2005. We took in my Godfather’s family as our own when he suddenly passed away a month after his wedding. Unfortunately, this brought great stress to our family. Instead of putting my unwanted two cents in, I kept shoving my face full of food until I made myself sick. For some reason, controlling what went in and out of my body stopped the stress and made me feel in control of the situation.
For me, bulimia was more about stress relief than weight loss. However I made myself think it was some kind of a diet. When things got too rough at school, work, in my marriage or with friends, I had a built-in defense mechanism. I was not even overeating – I was eating normal meals and throwing them up. At the height of my bulimia, I was purging three times a day.
I became very good at hiding my red and raw knuckles and blood shot eyes. I even continued for months after my husband caught me. It was only becoming pregnant with my son that made me stop. I didn’t even stop for me, but for him. After his birth, I started back up. It was then I realized I needed to seek help. With the help of a therapist, I was able to realize that the bulimia needed to stop immediately for his sake. And mine.
It started as a way to control something in my life. I had lost a friend to suicide, my uncle had passed away, I was depressed, and felt like everything was spiraling out of control. At 15 years old, I was running cross country yet only eating at most one meal a day. Fast forward a year, and I was the smallest and weakest I had ever been. I looked emaciated, looking back now I don’t understand how I thought I looked good. I had to meet with my school nurse daily and eat lunch in her office, it was awful. My freshman year of college everything changed. I was happy again, did not care about my weight, got up to a higher and healthy weight…and when I saw that on the scale I cried, and cried some more. The summer after my freshman year of college I resorted to my old ways. It was the first time in my life my parents started getting really concerned. Three years later, I consider myself recovered. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my friends and boyfriend. They were the ones who actually took the time to listen to me and forced me to get help. I am not completely satisfied with who I am and still have ED thoughts on occasion, but I am much happier today than I have ever been. I have learned that beauty does not come in one size and that we are all beautiful in our own way. Eating disorders are not worth the pain you put yourself through.
I’ve had my eating disorder for a long time, too long. But, it’s been exactly a year since I spoke up and finally got the ‘higher level of care’ my treatment team had been recommending for years. In the past year, I’ve grown, I’ve changed, I’ve learned. My downward spiral with anorexia, and then bulimia began because I was a little girl that was afraid to speak up and felt undeserving of her own voice. Symptoms spoke for me. They were my way of releasing my tension, aggravation, sadness, fear, frustration, self-hatred and anger without breaking the ‘perfect little girl’ mold. It took me until I was 22 to get outpatient help, and from then until I was 24 (last February) to really be ready to fight.
Since then, with the help of my amazing outpatient team, who I’d be lost without, I was able to get into a treatment facility and complete their program. In the process, I’ve learned, and am learning how to replace all of those symptoms with my words. To let my voice be heard, and how to cope. I am replacing impulsivity with balance, action with skills, and isolation with socialization. I am opening up to the outpatient team who works around the clock to keep me safe, instead of bottling my emotions up, and letting them fuel the disorder.
I know that this is a life long journey, but every day I learn something new (cheesy, but true). Slowly, positivity and acceptance are taking over, and each day I am more hopeful than the one before. I have a lot I want to do in life, and there’s not room for my eating disorder to come too!!