Since posting my first blog I have received so much positive feedback and I cannot thank you enough.
When I decided to do this blog the intention was to write about things I knew about like essential oils, skin care, Pilates, and overall wellness/lifestyle things. Sure I would throw in a little about myself, but that certainly was not the intention. However, I was at a bar with my roommate the night I launched the first post. She read it and said she thought it was great, but challenged me for more. She challenged me to dig deeper and really share more of myself. She said that is what people would want. I am now realizing that while those things will certainly still have a place, I believe the other part of the blog, and my journey, will be to take her advice, and to share more of myself as well. To come from a place of vulnerability and share my story in hopes that it can help others, or at least allow for some good reading and a few laughs.
Well here I go, digging deeper.
When I was 19 I developed an eating disorder - bulimia. Although I am sure the symptoms were always there, the disease did not fully emerge until one of my first adult relationships ended in heart break and literally being love sick. While the relationship certainly wasn't the cause of it, as those reasons are many and date back way before he ever entered the picture. The end of this relationship was the final trigger, and the first of many triggers over what would be a 10-year battle and lifelong journey to recovery.
While I have always been pretty open about having an eating disorder, I rarely talk about what it is like living with it and my journey to recovery.
I was 19 and just out of a relationship. It started out innocent enough, I was heartbroken, which literally manifested itself in being physically ill. Not only was I no longer hungry, but when I did eat, it usually came back up; this resulted in me losing the Freshman 15 I had gained, along with the new relationship 10. Once the sadness started to wear off, I was thrilled with the results and my new body. However, this quickly wore off and my old eating habits were back, and so was the weight. Putting two and two together I realized that I could continue to eat the way I was if only I purged it after. While to many this may seem extreme and downright disgusting, for me at the time it just seemed easy and simple. It became my new diet. This new diet plan of mine turned in to a compulsion, addiction, and coping mechanism that lasted for over 10 years.
It was a constant back and forth battle with food and my self worth. It was all tied together, all consuming, and I was miserable. On the outside, it may not have always looked that way, but on the inside it was a constant battle. On one hand it gave me what I thought was complete control, yet I was never so out of control, my eating disorder controlled everything. How I thought about myself, my relationships with friends and family, and how I just dealt with life was all controlled by my eating disorder. Sure there were times in the 10 years that it seemed like I was overcoming this battle by myself, but it was only one life stressor away from rearing its ugly head to help me cope. Even when it seemed like it was gone and I had finally just quit cold turkey, it was there in the form of excessive dieting. I literally did not eat carbs for a year because I was terrified of gaining weight. You see at this time in my life, I was in a different relationship. He knew I was bulimic, but did not want me doing this. There was no support offered (I am sure he thought he did), but it was just a stern warning to not do it, so I chose to give up carbs as a way to cope. It got so bad that when I would even try to eat them I just couldn’t. It was another form of control and I was a failure it I ate them.
At my lowest point in the disease I was purging everything I ate, even if it was just a bite. It was a compulsion, it was my form of getting high. There even was a bit of a euphoric feeling after I was done, because the feeling of expelling everything from your body for me, was perfection. In a world where I felt I had no control, this felt like I was in control. I am not trying to glamorize this, there is nothing glamourous about it, but until we can talk openly and honestly about it, this will continue to be an issue.
I went back to therapy a couple of months after I turned 29. I had been to therapy on and off in my adult life, but not so much for my eating disorder, but just for life stuff. My therapist at this time was awful. There is no other word for it, she sucked. (As a side note, don’t stay with a therapist you don’t click with, find someone new. This is so important, not just for eating disorders, but for whatever you find yourself seeking out a therapist for.) Also during this time, the same ex who had given me that stern warning had moved in with me as a roommate, not one of my smartest life decisions, but he was in a bad place and needed help and I wanted to offer it. Well, as you can imagine this ended badly, really bad. Another relationship ending in heartbreak, me wondering why I was never good enough, and you guessed it, my eating disorder was there for me to help me through it. However, this time something was different. I was going to be turning 30 years old at the end of that year, and I just did not want this to continue into the next decade of my life. It was at that point that I searched out treatment facilities for eating disorders. I found one and made an appointment and never looked back. I also never saw that therapist again.
I went to a consultation meeting to see what was offered and if it would be a good fit. I signed up that day for an intensive 8-week outpatient program. I would spend 13 hours a week for the next 8 weeks at the treatment center. On April 29, 2008 I entered that program and never looked back. I committed fully to it and gave it my all. I spent time learning about myself, my eating disorder, and new ways to cope. I consider myself so lucky to have found this place and my new therapist. She was an absolute god-send. She was the right amount of push me to my limit, but gave me so much compassion and empathy as she knew I was my own worst critic. She helped me rebuild relationships and be able to speak my truth, from a place of acceptance and love, not anger and fear. You see it was always so easy for me to be in a place of anger. Anger was a feeling that I was comfortable with. Feeling sad or vulnerable made me feel weak and like I was failing at life. I was also great at “fake it ‘til you make it” confidence, but that was seriously no way to live. It was exhausting and fake. Through this experience thought I was able to rebuild my confidence from within. I was able to tear down the walls I had built up for so long. It was liberating and freeing.
It absolutely does not mean that I have it all figured out. I still have issues defaulting to anger or thinking the worst. However, I now have the tools now to help me through and to continue to knock away at those walls that I spent 30 years building. I was able to overcome my obsession with being perfect and realize there is no such thing. I was able to set realistic expectations for myself and others. This program was a lot of hard work, probably the hardest of my life, but I consider myself lucky to have been able to go through it.
I wish I could say that I haven’t ever relapsed and that life has been perfect since, but that is not life. I will say that for about 7 years I did not purge. Unfortunately, in the last 2 years, I have had some times where I let my eating disorder back in. It is not something I talk about much, but I think that is why I chose to write about it, because it is in the secrets we keep about our eating disorders, that it is able to grow. I am happy to say that I have been able to take what I have learned and made some big changes in my life recently so that I can continue to overcome my eating disorder and take my control back.
I stayed in therapy for 2 years after I completed the intensive outpatient program. I am so thankful I did, as I had some pretty heavy life stuff happen (having to have a hysterectomy and losing my dad) in those 2 years, but with all that I learned I was able to work through those very difficult experiences with healthy coping tools.
Throughout that 10-years many people knew what was going on, but did not know how to approach it. Let’s face it, if you know me you know that I am not one to do anything I don’t want to do, which is ironic that I let the eating disorder control so much of my life. I don’t blame anyone for not knowing what to do, who does when you are that young, but if me sharing my story helps just one person reach out for help, or one person reach out to someone they know is suffering with an eating disorder, then I am happy with that. Reaching out to someone you fear may be suffering with an eating disorder is definitely a touchy subject, but what I will say is, just be there. That is the first step. Come from a place of compassion and empathy. Leave the judgement at the door and just let the person struggling know you are there for them when they are ready to talk or seek help.
I am now committed to my life of recovery and not letting my eating disorder back in. I am committed to a life of balance and love. I want to live the life I dream of and live for myself. I have learned so much over this past 8 years since seeking help. I realize that it is ok to ask for help. It is ok that I am not perfect. It is ok if I put on a few extra pounds, those that love me won’t care and those that do, don’t matter. I have to realize when it is time for me to walk away and realize when I have to say no to protect myself. It is all about self-love and knowing that the people who love you and care for you will love you regardless. One mistake or grouchy day does not make you a bad person or a failure, it makes you human. We are all here just trying to get by and live a great life, because at the end of the day we only have one life to live, we won’t get a do over. I know for my life I want to continue to set goals and achieve them. I want to continue to fail, because when I do, it means I tried and just have to get back up again and brush myself off. I want others to know that they too can live the life they dream of and live a life of recovery.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder there are places to get help and people to use as a resource to get better, I am happy to be one of those people if needed. You can also call the National Eating Disorder Hotline at 800-931-2237 or click HERE for their
website and additional resources.
There is a wonderful life to live after an eating disorder.