National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: My Story
When I was 14 years old I began dieting and exercising for the purpose to lose weight. I was not overweight. In fact, I was already at the bottom percentile of what a girl my height and build should weigh. Being skinny and modeling after the bodies I saw in magazines wasn’t the only reason for my behavior. Eating and exercising was something I found I could control….until it wasn’t. I had become obsessed with my weight and how my body looked. I rarely looked in the mirror and found my body acceptable and I rarely went into the bathroom without weighing myself. A year hadn’t gone by before my parents saw me in my swimsuit at the lakes and became alarmed at how unhealthily thin I had become. My mom pulled me aside one day and expressed her concerns. She and my dad discussed getting me professional help. I reassured them that nothing was wrong and I had full control over my life. I told them I was not trying to lose weight. I had lied. Secretly, I was happy they had noticed how skinny I was and I was proud of myself for making such a drastic change. Why would I be proud of something that was harming my mind and body? That is the scary thing when you develop an eating disorder. You don’t know and or you don’t care.
Hiding my obsession became much more difficult now that my parents had caught on. My anorexic tendencies morphed into bulimic tendencies. In the years to come I would exercise for unreasonable lengths of time. My senior year of high school I would even call myself in sick, park my car two blocks from the gym so my parents couldn’t find me, and spend the whole day exercising. I would fast for days. I would take laxatives in my closet and turn off the light so my parents couldn’t see. I had laxatives and diet pills under my clothes in drawers, under my bed, and in my desk. I was sure that once I got to my “goal weight” I could regain a normal lifestyle and everything would be perfect. Nothing was perfect. My life was spinning out of control and I knew it. I had thought I, as an always independent and hardworking person, could help myself. I was positive I could stop the vicious cycle I was in with nobody else’s help…but I was not getting better. I fell into a deep depression that brought about days of me crying in my bed. I wouldn’t leave the house, wouldn’t go out with friends, and I lost interest in things I had once loved. I barely had the will to live anymore. My parents went from just concerned to angry and frustrated with me. They forced me into an eating disorder clinic. I was diagnosed with a form of bulimia.
By bringing me to an eating disorder clinic, my parents were doing what any loving parent would do. They were getting me help the best way they knew how. They couldn’t exactly understand what I was going through and were given no tools to learn how to best help me. I hated going to treatment. After two months of sessions with two doctors and a dietician, I hadn’t felt like I had made any headway. Every time I came, they told me the same things I already knew. That fact of the matter was, I was a smart girl and in trying to go the “self-help” route for over a year, I had already learned what they were telling me and asking me to do. If they had shown me one more food pyramid I would have burst. Because a pet rock seemed more helpful than the current treatment I was receiving, I stopped going. I felt even further hopeless than before. If professional treatment couldn’t make me better and I couldn’t make me better, how was I ever going to be happy again? I had made the mistake that many patients with eating disorders make. I had assumed that all treatment for what I was going through was the same and didn’t give finding another professional with another method a second thought.
I have and probably always will be very persistent (my daddy calls it stubborn). I was too unhappy to just allow my life to continue on that path it was on. Again, I tried to do it all myself with little or no success. It was my freshman year of college in an abnormal psychology class on a day we were discussing eating disorders and depression. I could answer almost every question. Yes, I had studied this subject for years. I was a subject in both matters respectively. That day my professor’s information saved my life, because at the end she stated many facts, but one especially hit home. My professor had done much of her work specializing in eating disorders and depression. She explained to the auditorium of students that without professional help odds were people with eating disorders and depression would never get better, or if they did “get better”, it would come back later in life again and again, many times worse than before. I don’t know if anyone else in the lecture hall that day was going through what I was going through. I don’t know if any other person was changed that day….but I was changed. I knew I did not want to live unhappy, unhealthy, and hopeless the rest of my life. I needed to find professional help. I needed to reopen my mind to treatment.
I remember the day I met the psychologist that helped me recover from my eating disorder like it was yesterday. I had gone into the counseling center where she worked in tears. I couldn’t control my crying and I’m sure I was terribly hard to understand through my staggered breathing and sobbing. I was a sight for sore eyes. I was directed to a person named Amber. They said she specialized in eating disorder and depression patients. She was warm. She was inviting. Amber could sense what I was going through and during our sessions together it was almost like she could read my mind. Treatment with Amber focused more on the psychological factors that were contributing to my mental illness. She never lectured me on any of the things the eating disorder clinic I had been to before had. The help I got with Amber was a much better fit for me and I trusted her. I even began to look forward to meeting with her. I was surprised how fast I began to recover. I became happy again and for once, food and exercise were not things I thought of all day long.
It took a while after my full recovery that I began to be comfortable talking about details of my previous struggle with other people besides my immediate family and best friends. It was after I became involved in pageantry that I realized I wanted to share my story and help others going through what I had gone through. I’m happy to say that I’ve been healthy and happy for 4 years now and am blessed to be working as a mentor to multiple eating disorder patients across the state. I’d like to thank the National Eating Disorders Association for being such a great resource and giving me me the tools to further assist those affected. I have been able to personally meet with those affected and have connected many to treatment programs best suiting their needs. In the future I hope to work directly in schools with students, guidance counselors, faculty, and parent groups bringing eating disorder prevention and education to the forefront of discussion along with ways to maintain a healthy body, mind, and soul.