Life is messy. And sometimes hearing about the stories of others helps us to feel less alone (and can start a shift). In this vein, I’m sharing part of my struggles in my teens/twenties with eating disorders (and depression).
I struggled with binge eating disorder and then bulimia (and depression too) in my late teens and twenties.
I remember my first major food binge. This one wasn’t of the “this all tastes so good and oops — I’m really full now!” variety. This one was different.
It happened while watching the Olympics on TV the summer after my senior year of high school (after I hadn’t made the Olympic team) along with a group of teammates at an Olympic viewing party. I didn’t want to be at the party — it all hurt too much. I was feeling like a failure, weak, bad, and broken, but didn’t know how to say any of that. I just wanted to go home. But I put on a smile and then proceeded to numb out anything and everything I was feeling with food. I ate boatloads of rainbow jello, along with cookies and other stuff I can’t remember now. And it helped me get through the party.
I slowly (and then quickly) started to eat more and more whenever something came up that seemed like a “bad” feeling. The feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment over my behavior started to follow. Before I knew it, I was entrenched in binge eating disorder.
As I look back now, I think one of the main reasons I struggled for years, no matter how much I wanted to change where I was headed, was that I kept thinking I was somehow broken, bad, and defective. I see that a turning point in my recovery came while reading the book Eating in the Light of the Moon by Anita A. Johnston, Ph.D.
Dr. Johnston related story after story of outwardly “successful” women who were struggling or had struggled with eating disorders, sharing their feelings of being broken and ashamed. She also talked about how eating became an overused crutch in difficult situations.
For the first time, I didn’t feel so alone. I also began to question the mental tape of “you’re broken and an embarrassment” that I had running through my head every day. I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t bad, broken, or defective. Maybe I was just human. And maybe, just maybe, being a human was messy sometimes. My eyes started to open.
Fast forward 10+ years. It’s amazing how much has changed in my head and in my life. I can’t remember the last time I counted calories or worried over fat grams (or any other kind of grams). While some days I still feel fat, I’m seeing more and more that the feelings of “fat” are actually pointers to get my attention to the areas in my life where I’m not taking care of myself and/or stressing about something.
Last year I wrote the book I would have like to have found when I was struggling: Nope, You’re Not Crazy: Rising from the Swamp of Disordered Eating. Writing this book was on my bucket list, and now it’s available on Amazon. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop smiling when I think about that.