I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs.
I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“
I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.
I am ashamed.
I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.
I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”
I eat spoonsful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.
I am depressed.
I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.
I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.
I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible. And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.
I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.
I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).
I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.
I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.
I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday. As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.
I am brave.
I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.
I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.
I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.
I’ve written about the night my daughter died. I’ve gone on and on about my depression battles. I’ve even written about a suicide attempt. Yet this is the most difficult post I’ve ever written. Because I’ve never told anyone. I just made the connection a few weeks ago. My “aha” moment, Oprah would say.
And Oprah could probably relate.
I’m a binge eater.
I’ve never typed those words, or even thought about telling anyone.
I’m ashamed. The stigmas attached to this disorder, painful. I’m the fat girl. The one you judge. The one you think should “just go on a diet.”
I used to lie to myself. Tell myself excuse after excuse. For a while, I went to the other extreme. I stopped eating for over a year, and the weight fell off. I became so sick. I was “normal” weight for probably under a year.
When my daughter died, the weight gain was so fast. I told people this or that. I lied to them and lied to myself.
The truth is I’m overweight because I eat an outrageous amount of food when I’m sad. I eat too much.
I’m so ashamed. I’m ready to get rid of that shame. I’m ready to eat like a normal person. I’m ready for my husband to not ask “Is the ice cream all gone?” or “Did you eat all the XXX?” He means no harm, but I feel so bad when he asks. I feel like a fat ass.
I think coming to this realization is important. I think it will be key to changing this. It’s not going to be easy though, The Band, not easy at all.
I’m scared to hit publish. I don’t know if I should do it anonymously or not.
I’m scared people will think of me differently.
I know that coming out about this publicly will mean that I’m fully ready to admit to being a binge eater.
I just don’t know that I’m ready. I can continue to deny and go on eating to provide comfort if I publish this anonymously. Or if I publish as me, it will be the catalyst to change. I know that from my experience with other demons. I need to own this as both part of me and something beyond my control.
Perfection isn’t always attainable and the cost may be too high.
Talk to your loved ones:
My sister P has an unrelenting drive to pursue perfection.
In the 70′s, she started working as a file clerk. She worked and worked, harder and harder until she was Vice President of one of the biggest banks in the world. All without a college education. remember as a child, she’d get up at a ridiculous time every morning to iron her clothes so she was perfect for her day. On the weekends, she would wash and detail her car so it was perfect, too. She was meticulous about everything she was involved with.
When someone gave her a gift she liked or someone did something well she exclaimed in a high pitch voice, “PERFECT!!!” I gave up on her level of perfect a long time ago, knowing I was never as driven as either of my sisters to keep up appearances.
She was nicknamed, after Olive Oyl, the character in the Popeye cartoons who was tall and slim with dark hair just like hers. My sister and I always struggled with our weight as children and adults but not P. She vowed as a junior high school student she would never be fat and she never was.
When P discovered she had cancer she fought extremely hard. When she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 20 years ago, the survival rate was much lower. Her treatments were hard but she kept her spirits up. After her bone marrow transplant she got out of the hospital faster than anyone else had before.
Year after year passed and P remained cancer-free against all odds.
Yesterday, my sister K and I drove 3.5 hours each way to see P. It was a tough visit. She’s not breathing on her own, has 5 tubes down her throat, has had a heart attack, and her kidneys are working at 25%. She is being kept alive on machines because of an infection anyone normally could get at home. Part of this is because she had a bone marrow transplant and will forever have a compromised immune system.
After talking to P’s doctors we also discovered she partially did this to herself.
P didn’t eat enough and when she did eat she didn’t eat healthy foods. I can remember for years now if she ate a normal meal she would be in the bathroom with diarrhea or throwing up.
We found out yesterday along with all the medical issues P is facing she is suffering from long-term malnutrition.
This is a woman who has money. She can afford to eat but she chose not to. We know now she didn’t eat enough for a long time. In her search for her version of perfection she is fighting for her life and on life support with an infection that you or I would be in bed with mildly inconvenienced .
She always had Cosmo or Glamor magazines in her home and strove never to be bigger than a size 6. She was forever losing just 8 more pounds.
I hope all the women I know read this and take it to heart.
P will always suffer the effects of her long-term malnutrition. It is not too late for your daughters, it is not too late for anyone reading this who struggles as P does with food. It sickens me that my sister who I love so dearly is malnourished.
Talk to your daughters. Talk to your friends. Before you skip that meal to fit into that new dress think of P and eat something healthy. Trying to be some unreal version of a woman can kill you.
I have no words for the anger I feel about this. I have always hated the unreal images of women and the shapes I will never be, but this event takes my anger to a whole new level. If women as a whole don’t buy into the magazine image of a woman then the image of the size 0 woman as perfection will have to change.
My great-aunt owned our dance studio, so for the girls in my family, dance was non-negotiable.
The first few years of ballet we just had to go for one hour a week, and let’s be honest, you don’t do a whole lot of ballet when you’re 4 and 5 years old. It’s like cat herding. The fact that they were able to keep us all in the same room at the same time was a pretty impressive accomplishment.
My older sister started 3 years before me, so for the first few years, I always went to her class too. I watched her dance with her peers and with one of our cousins, I watched their feet, their new tricks. I would imagine how in 3 years I would look just like her. I would be graceful, balanced, thin and my great-aunt would shower me with the same praise she did my sister and cousin.
But as time passed, I didn’t turn into my sister.
While she grew boobs and a tiny waist, I grew out. I didn’t get the good body or the great balance. I was the chubby girl who couldn’t hold her releve without tipping a little. I was the chubby girl that gave 100%, but always came up short.
My great-aunt began to notice that I was chubby and made it a point to remind me of it regularly. When it was nearly time to start ballet on pointe, she told me that I either needed to lose 10 pounds, or wait a year. I was 10.
I had to wait a year.
I picked up extra ballet classes in hopes of improving my technique, of winning the favor of my great-aunt. The extra classes turned into extra opportunities for her to criticize me. To criticize my size, to remind me that I was not graceful like my sister or my cousin, both of which carried on the family tradition of becoming dance instructors for the younger kids.
Each week I prepared myself, I put on my invisible armor which was dented from the last class’s slightly veiled insults. “Oh Katie, well, I guess that’s better than last time.” Or “Katie, you know that you would be able to do that even easier with less weight.” Sometimes she said it only to me, sometimes she stopped the music and hurled the words at me in front of all the other girls in my class.
I tried to quit, but my mom, who was so well intentioned, told me to keep trying. I kept trying, and to my credit, I did improve. For 14 years I went to ballet, the last few years spending over 8 hours a week in that studio, being told I was not graceful, being denied solos, becoming the first person in my family to not be offered a job to teach there.
At the end of my 14th year, I went away to college.
When I went to watch the dance recital the the next summer I was 60 pounds lighter, I hadn’t had a period in 10 months and I was dangerously underweight. I was out of control.
I was starving myself.
I was anorexic.
I can’t give ballet all the credit for the anorexia, because truthfully it was initiated by a need to control something in my life because I was spiraling into depression I couldn’t climb out of. So I counted calories, and by counted, I mean obsessed over them, I controlled them. I started running. I exercised twice a day.
And the weight fell off.
But when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a thin girl. I saw the chubby 10 year old who wasn’t allowed to start pointe with her peers. I saw the ungraceful girl who couldn’t keep up, who wasn’t good enough.
It has been 9 years since I quit ballet and 9 years since my first bout with an eating disorder. I say first because eating disorders aren’t like the flu, they don’t just go away. They sit under the surface waiting to re-emerge, to re-devastate your self-confidence.
I am older now, stronger maybe, but I still see a chubby girl in the mirror. When I gain 5 pounds, I can’t see anything besides failure. When my weight goes above 135 pounds, I literally cannot stop the thoughts of starving myself, of going to any length to be thinner.
To be the graceful ballerina that I always imagined I’d grow up to be.
So I have recently started this “lifestyle change.”
If I call it a “diet,” I will fail miserably as I have a thousand other times. I try really hard to watch what I eat. Most days I keep a nifty online journal that tells me how many calories I can have and how many I’ve consumed. It’s really been helpful. Tonight, I even walked two and a half miles, which is awesome for me. I’m still sitting here sweatin’ my balls off!
It’s HARD not to get discouraged. The last three weeks I have pretty much stuck to eating 1600 calories, which means that I should lose about two pounds a week. I have only lost two pounds altogether and depending on the time of day that I weigh myself, I haven’t even lost that.
I know everyone is different and all that jazz. I know I shouldn’t weigh myself all the time. I know I have been drinking almost a gallon of water a day to fight hunger. I know I should walk more. I know what I should know.
I know I will lose the weight. I know I need to. I have gained almost 100 pounds since high school and there’s no reason for that. Yes, I had three children, I have a stressful job and a hard marriage. Still, not a good excuse. I really think I’m more disappointed in myself for listening to all the excuses and letting my weight get so out of control.
I have a constant fight with my reasoning. If I eat just one more bite, it won’t hurt. I have to finish my whole plate or I will be wasting money.
My whole life I thought that I was fat because family always said I was. Once, I asked for a snack and my mom replied “and you wonder why you’re so fat.” I was only 10. But looking back at pictures, I see I wasn’t fat, I was beautiful. Maybe if my family and kids at school hadn’t been cruel, I would have cared about how I looked. Then maybe I wouldn’t have been so discouraged. Now that I have friends who encourage me, I know that I can do it. I can lose this weight.
It’s up to me now. I have to get myself out of this mess. It’s going to be a long, hard journey. I will probably fail – I usually do. I’m going to try really hard not to. I have awesome support group this time. I will exercise my self-control. This will be a journey of hits and misses. I cannot and will not get discouraged.
I really need to get hot for Aunt Becky’s cruise(ed note: WOO-HOO!). I need to be able to wear a swimsuit in the Bahamas and not look like a beached whale.
100 lbs. That’s all.
I cannot wait to know what it feels like 100 pounds lighter. That’s a whole person. Somewhere, I will find the willpower.
I cannot offer any deep insights into my body or my mind. I don’t know why I hate the feeling of food in my stomach. Why the only times I eat are when I’m in full binging mode.
I would like to offer up some counterpoints to the common myths surrounding eating disorders: I do not want to be beautiful. I do not want to look good in a bikini. I do not want boys to look at me.
In fact, I would prefer that nobody looks at me. I have come to the conclusion I’m almost certainly asexual, which I can’t pretend doesn’t influence my isolation from the “sexual” aspects of this – of my body.
I did not ask for this body, and no matter what I do, I cannot shrink my body, force it into a prepubescent frame, where I am free of the long fingers of sex and of the realities of growing up.