I was only 3 years old when I wish that I could cut the fat off my little rounded, protruding tummy. That’s the age my body image issues started. As for the eating disorder itself I do not even know. Maybe around 15 or 16 for occasional binging and if not binging, then overeating. I was maybe 20 when I started restricting.
My story is hard to tell for me. Not because of the details but because there are so many twists and turns in it. This is what I remember in great detail during my childhood; having surgery on my bladder at the age of 3 and thinking that I had done something wrong and that was my punishment, my mother’s stomach, my mother standing at the refrigerator in the middle of the night binging on cottage cheese, my thighs, again my stomach, my mother counting calories and feeling very old for my age in kindergarten. I had already gone through so much more than my classmates had. I felt alone and very scared.
When I got a little bit older I can remember; my first diet at the age of 14, how much I weighed, how my body was different than my friends, gaining weight by eating the candy bars I was suppose to sell for cheer-leading, trying to purge and breaking blood vessels in my eyes, being jealous of a previous friend who was clearly anorexic, counting my calories and feeling inadequate in all areas of my life. I was compared to my twin sister that excelled in school. School for me was a social thing and I didn’t apply myself at all. I always wonder how things would have been different if they had given me my diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in high school instead of when I was 30.
Around 19 or 20 I had broken up with a boyfriend and binged through the end of the relationship which resulted in a large weight gain. I decided to join weight watchers and was very happy that I had consistently lost weight and got down to my goal weight. Which I stayed at for about a day. I couldn’t stop right from the start. Just as an alcoholic, which I am; couldn’t put down a drink; which I couldn’t do, I also couldn’t stop losing weight. Until I got scared. Then I’d try to gain a few lbs; which I did but couldn’t stop THAT until I hit the previous high weight. I did this over and over in record speed between my 20’s and 30’s. I went from disgusted at myself for a high weight to being scared for myself because I was anorexic. I did the cycle probably about 4 times a year or so, maybe more. I couldn’t get off the roller-coaster ride.
My problem went undiagnosed, even from a doctor who asked me if it bothered me that I wasn’t getting my period. My favorite excuse to anyone, especially myself was…I’m only 5 fool 1 ½ inches tall. I could be at a very low weight and still fall in the guidelines for normal weight or slightly underweight. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t getting my period or bones were sticking out…I fell into the “healthy” weight on “the” charts. My body was never meant to be at the low end of those weight charts. I could never get low enough in weight to satisfy me.
Things started clicking for me that I had a eating disorder when my best friend’s little sister asked me bluntly, “Are you on drugs or just an anorexic?” I was shocked but her words made an impression on me. It didn’t stop me from using any behaviors…I was merely becoming aware that I had a eating disorder. I continued my up and down weight while I met my first husband. He loved it when I was in my anorexic stages and withheld love when I wasn’t looking what he considered was my best. I went through a bitter, horrible divorce when he walked out on me and literally skipped the state. It doesn’t just happen in the movies…it was happening in my own life. At the exact same time many horrible events started to unfold. Between May 1998 and May 1999, these events happened; my husband at the time walked out on me and fled the state of Minnesota leaving me unknown to his whereabouts; I lost my job; my Dad died; My truck that was repossessed; I was forced to file bankruptcy; my husband filed for divorce, my husband tried to sue me for filing bankruptcy which has never been done in the state of Minnesota, BUT that’s a whole different story in itself, and the little apartment that my mother embarrassingly had to co-sign for went up in flames, literally and I lost every piece of everything I had, which I had no renters insurance for. But considering they told me I was minutes away from possibly dying from smoke inhalation put losing all my possessions into perspective for me. Basically I had lost everything I ever had. I was so low that I didn’t know if I was going to ever get up again. I was so scared that God was putting me through all of this drama to get me ready for “something” bigger and I couldn’t handle bigger.
That was a lot to go through in a one year time span. It took me at least 2 years before I could even function in society. I was certainly a mess and I certainly used restricting and drinking alcohol as a coping mechanism, not to mention smoking 2 packs a day during this time. I liked how drinking dehydrated me and always after a night of heavy drinking with no food my pants was always loose on me and I craved that feeling. I was certainly quite the mess during this time. I was in so much pain emotionally that I don’t know how I survived. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and with panic attacks and all, I managed to get to a place in my life where every living minute wasn’t filled with pain. It took me many years to get there.
I remember my first smile I had after a few years with no real laughter. I was driving home from work listening to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and when they get to the part that goes, “good times never been so good”…I smiled a REAL smile. It was a break through moment for me. Many good things happened to me during those “sad” years but I just couldn’t feel any joy. I did make some wise decisions though. I had met my NOW 2nd husband at the job I was working and KNEW there was no way that he was going to fall for me like I already had for him under these self sabotaged conditions that I had put myself into.
By the Grace of God, I quit drinking. I was also going a outpatient program which I had started going to in 1997. I started dating XXX (my husband) and I was starting my life over. I had come far in the few years and was complimented by close friends how I was a true survivor. I had grown closer on my journey with my relationship with God during “those” years and with quitting my 2 pack a day habit, now I was starting to build a foundation for myself. Sounds good but I was also purely using my eating disorder as not only a coping mechanism but it was my fun, it was what I knew and could do well, the low weight made me feel important and I got attention. Most of it was unwanted attention because I always hated how people came out of the woodwork when I was thinner. I hated hearing “wow, you look good” when I knew I was actually battling an addiction that I couldn’t control.
Rumors started at work about me which made me self conscious. I guess they weren’t rumors….when it was the truth. I WAS the girl in the license bureau who was anorexic. I wanted to be thin for me…not for anyone else and my weight would usually result in a small gain when the attention got too much. I also was scaring myself getting my weight to where I wanted it. I was, or thought I was in total control.
Between the ages of 29-34 I did my “pattern” of gaining weigh only once or twice each year and I mainly stayed at a low weight. At the age of 34 I happily got pregnant and did a shotgun wedding when I was 4 months along. I was sooo happy. I was having the baby I always wanted with the man that I so desperately wanted and needed in my life. Life was good. What a turn around from the previous 5 years. Life was what I wanted although I was anxious as hell.
While I was pregnant I was so anxious and mostly binged and overate to self medicate. I watched the scales rise once I let the nurses start weighing me for fear that something may be wrong with my daughter. I gained a very, very large amount of weight. I stopped weighing near the end so I don’t know what the actual total was but it was a lot. Then it took me approximately the 10 weeks I was off of work on maternity leave to lose it all in record time by restricting and starving myself. I had to get rid of the weight because I could not handle feeling the way I was feeling.
Once I got the weight off I relaxed a lot and for the first time ever I ate with not using eating disorder symptoms. I intuitively ate and it felt good and was very freeing. For about a whole year I was able to do this. Around xxx’s first birthday I had gained a little bit of weight and fear set in. I could NOT do another round of the up and down game. I think I may have been going through some post partum depression and quite sure that my body was giving in from going through a rough pregnancy and delivery and the starvation that followed. I started to sink again with fear of being a mother and fear of gaining weight. One thing lead to another and next thing you knew I was in Arizona going through a 30 program at XXX.
It was tough and when I came back I sincerely tried to eat. But I was angry for gaining weight, which was barely anything, and my team for refusing to tell me my weight in treatment. I had to take matter into my own hands again. I lost what I had gained plus some and then just continued to be in group and tried hard to recover. I really did want recovery by this time. I was tired of playing my never ending game. One really good thing came out of going to XXX. I started attending Eating Disorders Anonymous meetings. It was such a homey comfy feeling like I got when I went to AA meeting that I knew I had to start a meeting in Minnesota since we had NOTHING for support groups 3 or 4 years ago. My friend XXX and I started meetings at her house every Sunday night and then eventually moved the meeting to a nearby church. I got and continue to get a certain type of support from attending the meetings that I don’t get from going to professionals.
Starting EDA was one of the best things I have ever done. Now I serve as xxx of the General Service Board of EDA and continue to use service work as a means of recovery. I learned in my early days of quitting drinking that you really have to give away what you’ve got in order to keep it. At least for me it works. In fact most of the AA slogans work well for me….ones like “take what you can and leave the rest” and “it works when you work it…it really does” gives me a sense of responsibility that I have for my recovery as well as staying in my disease whether it’s a eating disorder or drinking.
Then I don’t know what happened but when my daughter was almost 3 years old I had a lot of flashbacks to when I was in the hospital when I was 3 having bladder surgery and I think I just lost it completely thinking of my own precious little daughter going through what I went through. I don’t remember much over the course of a few days but apparently, I called my therapist like 15 times in a row one night and for some odd reason he put a 72 hour hold on me. It was a total nightmare and I’m still trying to deal with all the details of it because I don’t remember and don’t really want to. But I was locked up for 10 days at xxx Hospital on the psych-ward. To boot, I was in the “side for dangerous people”. Not proud moments for me. I won’t even go into detail about it because I am still shocked at myself that I was acting that way. Of course many traumatic things happened in there but the worst in my opinion was when one of the doctors said to me about my eating disorder – “you’re not THAT thin”. Maybe the fact a doctor was talking to me so unprofessional snapped me out of “it” because I was only there a few more days after his comment.
It was horrible in every way but a very good thing came out of it. They put me on a antipsychotic medication that has changed my life drastically for the better. I doubt they would have ever put me on a antipsychotic if I wasn’t acting psychotic so it all turned out okay. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Anyways, I eventually forgave my therapist, forgave my husband, and forgave myself. I still have a hard time talking about those events those 2 weeks. I still don’t understand what happened. And I’m scared shitless that it could happen again. Part of my aftercare was to be in IOP and groups and continue to go to EDA meetings.
Shortly after I got out of the Hospital , I started to restrict during the day and then binge at in the middle of the night. Usually I don’t remember much of it, but in the morning I have the sinking feeling of “what did I do last night?” Funny, just like I did with drinking. My binging at night on top of eating a normal food plan resulted in a big weight gain for me. That was little over 2 years ago. I binged at night and restricted during the day. My eating disorder had totally morphed into something else now. I was diagnosed with Bulimia, non purging type. Now typically I have never purged in all my eating disorder years because it felt like too violent of an act on my body but I was so freaked out about weight that I did the unthinkable. I purged. I think it was the next day I went into my therapist’s office and said, “I need help”.
I was sent to an in-treatment facility for 30 days. It was extremely hard to leave my daughter and husband to get treatment but I couldn’t go on anymore. I had a very good experience while I stayed at the house. I was able to break through some barriers and close some doors as well as quitting the horrendous cycle of restricting then binging in the middle of the night. I told my mom and sisters for the first time ever about my eating disorder. Of course they still say everything wrong but I am happy I told them for my own sake. I am done hiding.
I am starting to be proud of myself and proud to be me. I have a husband who truly loves me regardless of what my weight is and fully supports me in every way imaginable. I opened up to my stepson about the eating disorder too. I’m tired of secrets and have spent the same amount of energy protecting my recovery as I did protecting my eating disorder and alcoholism. In all honesty, I still protect my alcoholism. I am not sure where I want to go with that. I don’t have a problem talking about it to others in recovery at all but outside of that I feel that is private. My Dad died of Cirrhosis of the Liver due to his alcoholism and I’d like to think that I silently ended a destructive pattern that ran in our family. That’s not based on shame but rather not wanting to bring energy to it.
Back to the in-treatment facility…that was last May through June and the recovery that I have made since then has become the final stretch. All though I am still working on things and honestly trying to lose the weight that I haven’t been able to lose the last 2 years I am the happiest I think I have ever been which is ironic that I am the heaviest that I’ve ever been. I started a blog of writing letters to my body and ED and vice versa. That is perhaps one of the best tools that I have encountered in my career of therapy/groups and treatments. Some other recovery tools that have significantly helped me have been putting my baby picture up on my bathroom mirror and every time I see my picture I say something nice to that little innocent beautiful baby. I’ve been doing that for 3 years now and it’s really made a dent into healing early childhood traumas and hurts. The last one, is trying to end the fat talk. I still go in spurts of doing this but I have been very aware of how I talk to myself and the relationship that I am trying to grow with myself. I don’t want to be mean to myself anymore. I want to love who I am which has nothing to do with weight.
Yep, 13 years of coming to the outpatient program and almost every form of therapy to be able to say that one sentence out loud. In case you didn’t hear me, it has nothing to do with my weight! I can honestly say that all though I may not LOVE myself quite yet, I don’t hate myself either. And that’s made all the difference in the world.
written by: Kelly M of Dear Body
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