My cycles in and out of each eating disorder were dramatic. I would be extremely heavy to very thin, and I learned early on that it was never about food or weight, it was about feeling safe, comforted, gave me friendship, and having the control of what went into and stayed in my body.
Binge Eating made me feel insulated and untouchable. Bulimia made me feel powerful, and anorexia made me feel numb and invisible.
From the age of five until the age of 17 I cycled in and out of each disorder, but at one point I found myself stuck in anorexia. I was so numb to the world that self-harm walked into my life. I had cut and burned at an early age, but that was different because, at the time, I was punishing myself for not being good enough. When it started again, I wanted to feel anything other than the turmoil going on inside me. Feeling pain allowed me to express my emotions externally and kept the emotions internally. I always knew the “why” behind my eating disorders and self-harm, but I had no voice. As children, we were seen and not heard. From the age of ten until the age of 15 I never felt good enough, I was the ugly sister, and most of the time I was the fat one. I hated myself, was riddled with guilt and shame, and I was alone in my head. The summer after I turned 15, I started working which gave me a sense of peace, and I felt useful. It took me away from my thoughts that were destroying my heart, body, and soul, but I began the cycle of binging and purging again. I also met my now husband of almost 31-years. We both worked together, hung with the same friends, and began dating, however, I could never connect intimately emotionally or physically without numbing myself. Two years into our relationship I found out I was pregnant. I gave up everything to ensure the safety of our unborn child, and it gave me an excuse to binge all the time. At 20-weeks’ gestation, our baby no longer had a heartbeat, and I was placed under general anesthesia to deliver. My unborn baby died around 14-16 weeks’ gestation, and I blame myself to this day. From that point on binge eating controlled my life over the next 11-years.
Married with Children
Although my binge eating disorder did not start because of having a chronically ill child, it morphed into a monster during the months and years (not days) spent in the hospital with him. The guilt of not being able to help him, not being with my son at home, and then having a newborn a few years later, who I could not breastfeed since she could not come into the hospital, binges became my comfort and friend. It allowed me to detach from all those feelings of being a lousy wife, mother, and person. I had a four-year-old who felt abandoned, a newborn who I could not bond with, and a child who had to wonder why mommy couldn’t stop the pain.
My Last Binge
I remember my last binge like it was yesterday, just as I did my first suicide attempt. It was August 19, 1996. My baby now four months old and my oldest son now five, my sick child three years old on this day, and was dying, by noon I had to be at 10,000 calories, and I was sitting on the floor in a bathroom at the hospital in disgust and despair. My husband and I no longer connected because we were fighting our own fears of possibly losing our child; was in the room with him, and I heard a code blue come over the announcements. It was my child, and I was not there with him. He was in septic shock and DIC, his kidneys were failing, and I was binging. I watched them shock him back to life, and I knew at that moment I would never leave his side again.
At 300 lbs. my eating disorder was not validated, and my first therapist told me we could not deal with the problems until I got the binge eating under control, and if I just lost the weight, I would be happy. She sent me to the “fat” doctor who told me I was what I ate, and he put me on amphetamines. Six months later I was in my first residential for anorexia; however, I was at 85% of my ideal body weight and was not “sick” enough. I left there feeling defeated because I still was not discussing the reason behind my cycles of eating disorders, self-harm, depression, and suicidal ideation. When I first saw my therapist again, she told me to stay with the fat doctor, so I would not gain the weight back. Six admissions to residential treatment and three medical hospitalizations later, cutting out all food, exercising six hours a day, and addicted to amphetamines, I was finally sick enough, and my first team could no longer help me.
New Treatment Team
I knew I needed an ED team that would help me work on the “why” and from the moment I left the hospital and began with my new team who specializes in eating disorders and co-occurring conditions my recovery journey began. I was admitted to residential to get stable, but that lasted 12-hours, so I ended up on bedrest at home except to go to appointments and my driver’s license medically suspended, but with my new team I never binged again, all behaviors were in control, and I never took another amphetamine.
Finding My Way
Yes, there were and are setbacks, and real recovery did not start until I watched my dad die 6 1/2 years ago. He begged for one more year, six more months, one more week, and one more day; he got 19 days after we, as a family, told the surgeon to close him. He had no choice, he was going to die, but I had an opportunity to live and was choosing to die. I lost a lot of time with self, children, husband, and family because my eating disorders took control of my days. Over the last six ½ years I have faced many obstacles; injury, losing my career as a nurse, starting college again at 46-years old, dealing with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, learning to walk again, and the list could go on forever; however, I have remained behavior free. I still have nightmares of binging, which has left me terrified of facing fear foods and food in general, and I still cannot meet my daily intake requirements, but what I have realized is those dreams are telling me I still have work to do because I have not faced my past demons. While I cannot say I am recovered, because I still have a long way to go, I can say my mindset has changed, I have grown, found my voice, and I know who I am; someone I never knew existed.