I was the kind of person whose weight fluctuated like a yo-yo, constantly up and down and I was always on a diet. I believe I tried every diet on the market and I counted calories as though there was a calculator in my head, bought no-fat, low-fat, and sugar-free foods, but it was my bulimia that continued to give me the results I needed.My dependence on my eating disorder grew and I found many more uses for it. It helped me through many hard situations, helped to hide feelings that I feared, numbed me from anything I didn’t care to deal with. It was truly always there, and felt like my best friend.Rationalizing extremes
For many years exercise was a part of my daily routine. I would walk three to four miles every morning and at least that many in the evening, and did aerobics in between. In my mind, this created the rationale that I had permission to eat something fun, since I had exercised so much.My entire days were filled with thoughts of food, calories, exercise, and bingeing and purging. I enjoyed nothing more than cooking large meals for everyone, but didn’t eat myself, or if I did eat I would binge followed by a purge. I got to a point where I would consider even one cookie as badand I would have to get rid of it. I thought I was in control of my eating disorder, and could stop whenever I wanted, but I was extremely wrong.Danger aheadIn 2004, I was driving with my daughter Jodi, and I lost consciousness behind the wheel. Thank God we did not have an accident. I was taken to the emergency room and after many tests I admitted I had an eating disorder. My purging was up to 20 times a day and I was depleting myself of vital nutrients. I was told that the blackout occurred because my iron level and blood pressure were at dangerous lows.I promised my family I would never throw up again. In order to keep my promise I decided I would not be able to eat. I did begin outpatient treatment, but continued to lose weight, and was truly enjoying it. I was on an all-time high.Best friend, worst enemyI continued to shed pounds and my outpatient therapist told me I would be dead in two years if I kept this up. Even that didn’t scare me. I was not convinced at this point that I even had a problem and was certainly not willing to give up my eating disorder. I was feeling better than ever; I thought. One day I was sent to have lab tests done and there appeared to be an irregularity in my EKG. This did scare me, a little. This was the beginning of six years of treatment programs. For a long time I still depended on my eating disorder, and was having a hard time giving up my best friend, yet my worst enemy.At first, my outpatient therapist sent me to a nearby hospital that offered an eating disorder program. They offered inpatient, partial hospitalization and group therapy. Patients with eating disorders were mainstreamed with all aspects of mental illness with some separate therapy focusing only on eating disorders. I was admitted to this hospital four separate times.After the third stay my family gathered at and intervened and I was admitted into Rogers Memorial Hospital, a phenomenal residential treatment facility, which happened to be 20 minutes from my home, so I was close to family.In the other treatment facility I found it hard to express what I was going through in midlife because I was grouped in with teens and young adults, but in residential treatment we were divided more by age which did help. I did learn a lot from the younger patients about my own parenting and the influence my weight obsessions had on my children.
Being at Rogers was the first time in my life I was able to actually focus on Me and make decisions that would benefit my recovery. During treatment I dealt with many past and present issues that were weighing me down; I was able to let them go and move on. It was very beneficial to have such a caring team and safe environment when working through many difficult issues. I also learned how to have a healthy relationship with food during my treatment process.
Soon after I was discharged I had to make a number of very difficult changes; I got a divorce, changed careers and moved to a nearby city to start the second half of life. I was still close to family, yet felt I could start finding the real me. I always tell people that my birth certificate lists Rogers as my place of birth; I feel it was where I was reborn and where I truly found myself.
I believe the toughest parts of my recovery were making the changes that would help my health, but would hurt others. I was always the kind of person who wanted to insure everyone else’s happiness, but never thought of my own. When I was trying to make the changes needed to become healthy, I felt like I was hurting everyone I loved.
Others would say things that made me feel very guilty and selfish. I was breaking up my family, which was the most difficult. I never wanted my children to be from a broken home. My therapist asked me one day if my children would be better off with me divorced or dead? It was also tough moving out on my own. I would have the independence I was seeking, but I was also very lonely. I began using alcohol as a companion, but eventually came to my senses as my life began to rebuild.
Healthy ways to deal with life’s challenges
Throughout the changes I was making and stages of recovery I occasionally struggled with disordered thoughts and behaviors. What I would do, that I was incapable of doing a few years prior, was to stop and change or reframe the negative thoughts in my head.
Self-talk has been one of the most helpful tools I learned in treatment. I use it daily. I have challenges in life every day, but I have to deal with these issues and put them behind me, instead of trying to ignore and not deal with them. Communication has also played a large part in staying healthy. I found my voice and realize that I must let others know how I feel about things.
Recovery is “discovery
I realize now how important it is to deal with issues as they arise in your life, despite how tough that can be. You must stand up for and take care of yourself, before you can ever take care of others. But, most important you must be yourself and not who you think others want you to be or how society wants you to look. You do not have to conform to the world, but do and be what you believe in. Also, do not let others control you-this life was given to you by God. Recovery is being healthy, happy and feeling free to choose and be myself and to deal with life’s challenges in healthy ways. Recovery is learning more about myself every day. I sometimes refer to recovery as “discovery”. I am in discovery. I think it sounds a little more positive.
Recovery is not easy, but it is so worth all the hard work. I know myself so much better than I ever have. There are days that are tough, but I continue to move forward despite the ease it would take to fall back in to my old unhealthy ways of coping. It is never too late to find out who you are, discover your needs and take care of yourself. Life balance is key in finding good health and happiness.
I have a voice and a story: I want women of all ages to know that recovery is possible!