I have an eating disorder. Typing those words makes me cringe. Those words are embarrassing. I have been ashamed for so long. Bulimia came from feelings of never believing that I was enough. Always trying to be something I was not and trying to have the body I was not meant to have.
Usually when you think of someone with an eating disorder you think of a teenage or college age girl. So what happens when that girl grows up and becomes a mom? The eating disorder does not care, it is not just going to say goodbye.
My parents divorced when I was 8 years old. As a kid, you don’t understand the complexity of relationships and why things don’t work out. You’re just hopeful – hopeful that things will just be normal again.
Fast forward a few years to age 14. This is when my mom remarried and I moved with her to a new town, a new house, a new school, a new family. I felt like I could never love this man she married because that would seem like I was betraying my Dad. So I put up a wall. The biggest wall I could ever build. It was ugly. It was my own self hate and loss of control.
Enter eating disorder and depression. I somehow decided that controlling what I ate and the number on the scale was something I could focus on. The scale was like a game to me. I would weigh myself in the morning and see if I could weigh less by the end of the day.
Next thing I know I’m being treated in a hospital for depression, bulimia and anorexia. I stayed in that hospital for two weeks before they released me to go home and continue treatment with outside counseling.
I relapsed throughout high school. For the most part I was able to keep in under control but I always struggled with my body image. I compared myself to other girls and never thought I was pretty enough or thin enough.
Any time something in my life became stressful or was out of my control, I would turn to my eating disorder for comfort. I had this constant internal struggle. I didn’t want anyone to see my imperfections. Hiding this secret caused me to have an overwhelming feeling of guilt and self-hate. Especially after becoming a mom. I was so disappointed that I could not overcome this on my own and I didn’t know how to ask for help. I felt like a hypocrite. I was the one always giving advice to people on how to eat healthy, yet, I continued to struggle with this eating disorder.
The biggest relapse happened fairly recent. It started when we found out that my husband got a promotion at work that would relocate us to Arizona which is 1,800 miles away from where we lived in South Dakota. I was excited for the move but unfortunately things did not happen smoothly. I ended up staying with the kids while the house was for sale and my husband left right away for work. The house did not sell for a long time and our family was separated for 15 months.
I was working my job as an insurance agent, taking nutrition classes online so that I could pursue a new career after the move, taking care of two toddlers and keeping the entire house clean for showings. I became extremely overwhelmed very quickly. I was staying up late to clean the house and listen to online lectures for school. I was on a roller coaster of emotions and the depression started to set in. Before I knew it, I was in a full-blown bulimia relapse.
So here I was, married with two healthy and vibrant children and I was studying nutrition, yet, I couldn’t let go of this dark thing in my life. I always thought I would grow up and grow out of this, but until I decided to address it and get the help I really needed, it was always going to be there.
I eventually made the decision to start talking. I first told my mom and my husband. I then decided to see a doctor who prescribed an antidepressant for the depression and to help with the bulimia. I started to notice a change in my mood. I changed my diet and was eating clean foods again. I was able to discontinue the medication. I was no longer exercising just to burn calories. I was working out because it felt good and was making me stronger. I focused on fueling my body so that I could have more energy and be nourished.
I share my story so that I can help women who have gone through issues in their own life that made them struggle with food, their weight or their body image. I want people to see that they too can overcome these things with proper nutrition, exercise and a good support system.
I want my children to see me as a role model and lead by example to give them the best chance at a long and healthy life. In order for me to give them that gift, I have to take care of myself and love myself. I had to forgive myself for the way that I treated my body. I had to let go of the guilt that I carried from taking time away from my children and giving that time to my eating disorder.
Living a healthy life isn’t always easy and obstacles will always arise. It’s how we choose to navigate those obstacles that is important.
I have now discovered that I am enough – exactly as I am. I am no longer ashamed and I am proud of the woman I have become. I have learned that an eating disorder does not define who I am, it is simply a piece of my journey and a story I am meant to share in order to help others.