Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life With An Eating Disorder: The importance of recovering for YOU

I hope you guys are enjoying the series thus far. I know I am and I love that we can come together, learn from one another and journey through life's ups and downs, together, even if over the internet.

A Story of Hope
A Story of a Once Perfectionist
A work in progress

Our testimony today comes from one gal who would like to remain anonymous. I have gotten to know her (via this blog and lots of emailing) and while she says she reads this blog as a way to receive hope and encouragement, I can tell you quite confidently that she has also been an encouragement to me. While she has had some ups and downs (um hello, haven't we all?), she continues to seek God's will and guidance for her life and in her recovery. In a nutshell, she is awesome.

Day four here we go.

. . .

First off - I'm keeping my struggle of an eating disorder anonymous - partly out of respect and neccessity to my career, and partly out of shame.  I know this makes it harder to connect to me and my story, but I hope & pray you will allow me to open up to you all. 

I first began reading recovery blogs, which is how I know Brittnie, a few years ago when I was trying to get serious about recovery after a recent relapse.  I didn't really know what I'd find, but what I found was a community of genuine kindness, sharing, and most of all - HOPE.  My ultimate goal of this post is to extend that same feeling of hope I found, to even just one person, so they don't feel so alone in their struggle. 

My "story" began as so many of our struggles do - I was a young teen - 12-13ish - and was dealing with a lot of the normal teenage girl stuff - friendship drama, feeling unworthy, feeling less than others around me.  I also grew up in a family where it is acceptable to comment on someone's weight, and while I was absolutely not fat (funny how we can look back and see that NOW, huh?), I was not really thin, and got teased for it.  I was also dealing with family drama - nothing major, and I was raised in a very, very blessed and loving home, but there were issues that I really have no need or desire to get into.  The end result was, like so many young girls - I had nothing to control but myself.  I didn't know this at the time; I told myself that if I just lost weight, I would be thinner and it would help the friendship drama and family drama, and it would absolutely help my feelings of being unworthy.  So began my descent into disordered eating, followed by EDNOS, followed by my final diagnosis of bulimia nervosa. 

I was very good at hiding my eating disorder for a long time (family drama assisted with that), due in part to the lying that comes along with an eating disorder and also in part to the fact that bulimia does not lend itself to extreme weight loss, at least not in me.  All this to say - I was able to avoid treatment for about 7 years.  I started my first round of treatment when I was 19.  I admit, I did not go all that willingly, but because of an incident that woke me up - let's just say - I was removed from my college chemistry lab because I was considered a liability after nearing fainting - but once I went, I felt such a relief.  For the first time in my life, my depression was under control with medication and therapy.  

wish this is where my story ended, and I could tell you all that treatment round 1 was perfect!  and great!  and worked like magic! ... but that's not the case.  I hated therapy and being uncomfortable and feeling judged.  Once my depression was being managed, and I was behavior free of my bulimia for a few weeks, I quit.  I stopped seeing my entire team.  That was probably the worst decision I've made with respect to my eating disorder recovery.  I did not have enough of a solid recovery under my belt yet, and I quickly relapsed.  I won't bore you with the details - I was 19 (maybe 20 by now?) and relapsed many, many, manytimes between then and now, at 26. I have bounced in and out of outpatient for way too long.  My insurance would definitely, absolutely never cover inpatient - because again - my bulimia never caused extreme weight loss, much to my annoyance and frustration when sick, and therefore, my average weight means never "sick enough" for insurance - but that's a whole other rant.  

What I kind of wanted to focus a bit on is what made me finally WANT recovery.  It is such a cliche that anyone who has had any amount of therapy for an eating disorder has heard multiple over - it will NOT work until you actually WANT recovery.  I scoffed at the idea, but honestly and truly realized how true it was only in the past year, over a decade after my eating disorder started ruining my life.  

Wanting recovery is not even good enough; you need to want it for YOURSELF.  It is not good enough to want recovery for your family.  It is not enough to want recovery for your job. It is not even good enough to want recovery for your husband or boyfriend or best friend, who loves you and adores you and it pains him to see you suffering - I have been there and tried recovery for my husband - it worked for a little while, then I relapsed.  Again.  I am absolutely not saying those things can't all be factors in recovery - they can and should be - but ultimately, you need to know that if all those factors are taken away, you still want recovery for YOU.  

For me - what keeps me motivated - is something I want for myself more than anything else in the world.  I want to be a mother.  I believe it is my calling from God, and I mean that really and truly.  I believe I was put on this earth not to be good at my career (which I like to think I am!), not to be a perfect person, most certainly not to spend my entire life purging and starving, but to be the best mother I can be.  Due to a medical condition that may or may not be related to my eating disorder (it is impossible for my doctors to know whether I would have had it anyway), I am infertile.  Whether or not my eating disorder caused my infertility, I know without a shadow of a doubt that it will NOT help me get pregnant.  My infertility has been the key to my finally staying in recovery and not relapsing.  This is what I want for MYSELF.  Of course, I want to make my husband a father, but I want a child more than anything my eating disorder provides for me.  

I do not really consider myself recovered - I have been in recovery (again) since July 2012.  I have had almost an entire year of recovery.  I admit there have been set backs; the most recent being a couple of weeks ago.  My wise friend Brittnie told me in an email to just keep telling myself, "my eating disorder will not help me get pregnant".  

Though I do not consider myself fully recovered - I definitely consider myself as someone who has had sometimes long periods of recovery before a relapse.  I know how wonderful it is to be free of this disorder, where bulimia does not dictate my day.  I am still in the stage where I know I need recovery to reach my goal, but the eating disorder thoughts are often very loud and I have to fight the urges each and every single day.  I know, without even a small doubt - that if I lose sight of why I want recovery for ME, why it is important that bulimia does not ruin MY life again, then I will relapse again, probably at an alarming rate.  

The only thing I really want anyone to take from this is that you need recovery for YOU.  I promise all those other reasons are good reasons to recovery, but not good enough. It needs to be for YOU.  Find that reason within yourself, what you want for you - whether it is overall health, or a specific goal for yourself (like my fertility), find it for you.  And know that if everything else is taken away, you will still have that reason.  And THAT is when recovery may start to stick. 


  1. I appreciate that these gals aren't painting a rosy picture of life after their struggles, as if all it took was a magical fix and then they were fine forever. Good reminder that recovery from major disorders and wrong ways of thinking is a lifelong thing.

  2. How true this is. I found recovery blogs in the same way and have met some of my dearest friends. Hang in there sweet one. The disordered thoughts can be loud even when you want recovery for you. Some days the disordered voices will try to tell you that they are what you really want, on those days hang on with both fists to your recovery. Praying you will find the healing you long for and that God will grace your arms with a child. The ache of infertility is a big one so I also pray for comfort and strength to walk through that at the same time as recovery.

  3. I love that all of our stories have one thing in common: HOPE. Hope for something more, something better, something bigger than ourselves.

  4. So interesting to me that all of these stories so far reference a need for control rather than being about looks... I just think that the motivation behind disordered eating (although it can obviously vary greatly) is really misunderstood, so thanks for shedding light on this!

  5. I agree with Amanda. The commonality with control is really interesting. Thanks for sharing this story- I hope you are able to continue recovering for YOU!

  6. One thought that came to me as I was reading this is the same as what the blogivers said, in that none of our stories ended up being all rainbows and cupcakes and glitter in the end. Every single one of our posts, so far, has said something to the effect of, "I wish I could say it ended at that point." That's life and reality. Darn this "human" thing ;)

    Another wonderful post. Thank you for sharing, Mystery Girl! :)


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