Today I want to tell you how anorexia Tried to Kill me and also saved my life.
February is awareness month for many things and one of the subjects this month is eating disorders. This is a topic that I know pretty well, because I lived it for 20+ years.
My eating disorder started when I was 4 or 5 years old after my step-father molested me, then told me that I was a bad girl and basically worthless. I wanted to disappear so bad, and as a lil’ tike I thought that if I stopped eating, I would accomplish that. I also thought that I didn’t deserve food, or anything good for that matter. That is a theme that carried on until last week… when I realized that I deserve basic needs because I am a human, and I am worthy of blessings in excess because I am a daughter of the King.
I experienced more trauma as I got older, and as the trauma compounded, so did the anorexia. The symptoms waxed and waned, but the disorder was always there.
My step-mom caught me purging in the bathroom at a Hardee’s when I was 13 years old.
I’ve never seen my parents so mad – mad that I lied to them, mad that there were other family members that knew about the purging and didn’t tell them, and mad that they didn’t know what to do. This revelation started a domino effect. I went to out-patient treatment over the summer, which I vaguely remember.
What I DO remember are the years of suspicion – people watching me every time I went to the bathroom within an hour after a meal, people silently checking how much food I took and if I ate it all, people watching how much I exercised, generally – people watching.
What made high school harder was that I didn’t tell anyone about any of the trauma until I was 16 years old. This was partially because I didn’t remember until shortly before then, and mostly because I was so ashamed.
I kept myself very busy with things that made me look really happy on the outside. I was a cheerleader, very active in the drama department, in choir, etc. I loved it. I am an extrovert, I love supporting people, and I am a team player.
The problem with cheerleading was the fact that I am 6 feet tall, and broad. I’m not built to do the splits, I’m not petite, nor will I ever be – but my captains and coaches couldn’t accept that. I was penalized and punished for my physical in-capabilities which did 2 things – it compounded the body shame that I felt, and it pushed me to work harder than I should have had to.
By the time I graduated High School, I was pretty thin, but I was positive that I was obese. I had clear evidence that my worth was based on my weight, and my assumption that restricting would keep me safe, was false. I couldn’t wait to get to college where people didn’t know my history, and I could eat the way I wanted (or not eat the way I wanted).
Immediately after High School, I went to college 3 hours away from home.
I dropped 30-40 pounds in the first 3 months. My family was appalled and incredibly worried when I came home for the holidays. I was irritated – I worked hard to lose that weight – I thought I had done good.
During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at college, I was sexually assaulted by two different men, one via date rape, and one at a party via a date rape drug. These traumas fueled the anorexia – limiting my calorie intake even more, and drastically increasing my time at the gym. During this time, my friends knew that it was normal for me to pass out in the hallways and to sleep for days occasionally. I was too sick to know how sick I was. I saw a counselor at the behest of a church friend, but I wasn’t ready to grapple with the realities of a life threatening illness complicated by complex trauma.
Spring semester of my Sophomore year, I passed out and started to convulse in a bathroom in the music department of the University. I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room where they stressed how incredible it was that I was still alive.
I dropped out of college and went back to treatment. I only stayed for a couple of months, again, thinking that since I had restored some weight and learned some skills, that I was good to go.
Over the next 6 years, I got my cosmetology license, got married, realized that I married an incredibly manipulative and abusive man, and was forced back into the anorexia.
Little did I know, the anorexia would save my life.
After 6 years of mandated low calorie consumption and forced workouts, social isolation, and abuse – combined with 50-60 hour work weeks – I broke down. Literally – my body broke down.
I presented with stroke symptoms in 2009, which turned out to be malnutrition with a side of mental exhaustion – but no stroke – thank God! This lead into another bout of treatment for the eating disorder.
In July of 2009, I started treatment – for real.
I was admitted as an inpatient (I was adamant that I wasn’t that bad off.). I stayed inpatient for about 2 weeks and then continued with intensive outpatient treatment for the next 9 months. During that time, I not only gained a little weight, and more mental clarity, I also gained perspective.
I had no idea I was in an abusive relationship. No clue. My therapist and all of the staff were amazing – they saw what I couldn’t see and they gently taught me to stand up for myself and think independently. They taught me the abuse cycle, and I ‘saw the light’ if you will. I would come to realize much later how incredibly brainwashed I had been.
February 14, 2010
My husband left me for another woman – PRAISE JESUS!!!
I had prayed for years that he would either leave me, or that I would die in my sleep, because I believed that under no circumstance could I ask for a divorce.
My recovery started on February 15, 2010.
It was the most painful, gut-wrenching, grief stricken, tear-filled time of my life – it was the birthing process. I was being birthed into the incredible, resilient, intelligent, forward-thinking, woman-leading, Christ-following warrior that I am today.
Had I not had anorexia, almost died, went to treatment, and gained my confidence – my husband may not have left me, and I could very well be dead right now.
So when I say anorexia saved my life – I mean it.
Romans 8:28 says “God uses all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
I didn’t always see why I was going through the pain and the muck – but by recognizing where I’ve been, I can now move forward in victory.
I tell my story for 2 reasons.
- I tell my story because in doing so, I am able to connect with my readers (you) on a deeper level – one that cannot be achieved through educational memes and how-to articles.
- I tell my story because it’s proof that there is abundant life on the other side of mental illness, abuse, trauma, and seemingly hopeless situations.
After all of that, I am now 5 years in recovery from anorexia, I have worked through the trauma that continued to plague me, and I am loving my life. God has been so faithful, and He is opening doors for me left and right.
I am now an Author, Blogger, Public Speaker, Mental Health Advocate, and Writing & Self-Publishing Coach.
I am so blessed because I get to teach women how to write their stories so they can achieve personal healing, and inspire others who have experienced the same things.
So tell me, what has saved your life?
Everyone has been through something, and everyone needs to be heard. If you feel like you need someone to talk to, I am always available. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the contact page.
Your story is important because YOU are important!
LOVE AND BLESSINGS,
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