It is officially National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and the theme is Come as You Are. That could mean a lot of things to a lot of people even with NEDA’s explanation, saying: “Come as You Are sends a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid.” This prompts me to share so many things about my eating disorder story. I will revisit them each day but today I am going to talk about my eating disorder story. Not my recovery story, but how bulimia manifested in me. My recovery story is being saved for a later date this week.
Before I even knew it I was already susceptible to eating disorders. My parents got divorced when I was 4, my dad moved to Florida when I was 5 and when I was 7 my mom moved my younger brother and me to live with her boyfriend at the time, who ended up being abusive for 17 years. So it’s no surprise that when I was a freshman in high school (in 2005) my soccer coaches told me that I needed to lose weight to get faster, I already felt like my world was out of my control. I was a very technical player and I knew that but I felt so devalued by their comments. Above all else, I was at a healthy weight.
Well, my mom tried to take matters into her own hands a few months later because she saw how these comments hurt me and proposed we go on a healthy eating “diet.” Although she didn’t use the word diet we all knew that’s what it was. I started severely restricting my calories, even though I was playing lacrosse every day. I weighed myself every Friday morning and woke my mom up and reported my weight loss each week. I got so obsessed with weight loss but couldn’t see the difference. After about a month and a half went by of solely restricting I started binging on the weekends because I was so hungry. I remembered from a movie we watched in my 7th-grade Health class that gave me the idea to purge this excess food. So that’s exactly what I did.
When summer came I wasn’t playing lacrosse as frequently. (And by the way, soccer was ruined for me forever so after playing since I was 5 I quit after the season the coaches told me I needed to lose weight). To make up for the smaller expenditure of calories, instead of playing in the pool with my family at the country club I would spend hours in the gym there. No one was ever in there, so it was my safe haven.
That is the summer that my mom also found out I was purging. One day I purged in her bathroom and forgot to flush and she confronted me about it. I know I still have the journal entry somewhere of how mortified I was and how I felt like it was the worst day of my life. I had only been purging for a few months and my cover was blown! I felt like a failure that I wasn’t losing enough weight and that I let my mom down.
That October I started going to the adolescent eating disorder clinic at the hospital and had to leave school early every other week for this. The first day I went I was diagnosed with bulimia. I was shocked. I knew what I was doing wasn’t normal per se but my family had always been so wrapped up in diet culture that it didn’t seem that unhealthy.
Before the next summer rolled around the clinic team threatened to pull me out of lacrosse for the summer and admit me to a partial hospitalization program so I ended up lying about my disorder saying I was better to be able to graduate from the clinic and pursue lacrosse. Of course, looking back this is something I seriously regret.
So by the time freshman year of college came I was really unstable. I played D1 club hockey and spent most of my time exercising on my own or at on/off ice practices with the team. Notice how I didn’t mention going to class or going to the dining hall.
Until junior year of college (2011), my closest friends from high school didn’t even know I had bulimia. It was my little secret since I was 14 and I wanted to keep it that way. Until I finally admitted myself to partial hospitalization at the end of the first semester of junior year and couldn’t come home for Thanksgiving break. I finally told each of them one by one and they were so surprised. I had always joked about food and my body so no one suspected I had any serious problems revolving around my body and food. They were amazing and have always supported me and surprisingly basically everybody else I’ve had to come out to about this.
I could go on forever so I won’t bore you about the details of the next 6 years because it entails more treatment than I would like to admit. During that time I had been in partial hospitalization more times than I can count, inpatient once, residential twice and outpatient for the remainder of the time. Somehow within that time I also graduated from college (2014) so that makes me proud and I would also say I’m proud of my persistence to keep fighting this monster within me that was just trying to kill me.
Here I am, over 13 years apart from where this story started and I am free of the eating disorder. Bulimia defined me and controlled my life for so long and I can finally say it is in the past. I honestly didn’t expect myself to be saying this because after so many years of this I thought I would just struggle forever. At times I was gaining and losing extreme amounts of weight and being so sick, my EKGs and bloodwork were so out of whack. To me, being a bigger person but with a healthy heart and labs are so much more important than striving for control and perfection.
Thanks for reading. Happy NEDA WEEK 2019!
As always, you can check out the card featured in this post, and many more, right on my Etsy site here.