How much can a woman overcome? Triggers today include eating disorders, suicide and depression. I am left wondering if and how the promise of anonymity allows for honesty. Thoughts? Be kind in the comments, as if I need to remind you.
Milestones of grief marked my struggles since passing time has blurred the dates. I estimate the bulimia started at age 12 or 13 in correlation with the first milestone.
A Lifetime movie actually started my eating disorder. Barely a teenager, naive — not even understanding how sex worked–I witnessed a girl vomiting into Mason jars and hiding them in her closet. Disgusting. But, the vision couldn’t be undone.
Soon after watching the movie with terrible acting and nasty purging, I arrived home to find an ambulance taking my suicidal mother away. She had just discovered my father had been unfaithful the entirety of their marriage — milestone one. My family which I thought was held together tightly with an honorable head was a lie. As all pedestals were ripped aside and reality settled in, I knelt before the seat that would be my comfort, my escape and my control for the next decade. I began to gag myself sick.
The disorder waxed and waned from months without purging to purging 20 times in a day during my teens. My disorder was my survival and my torture. Loosing my parents not to death but to sadness, alcohol and sexual addiction, I was left alone and dealt with struggle the only way I knew how.
Two days before I turned 18, I lost my brother to suicide — milestone two. At this point, after raising myself, I had grown weary of being the emotional support of my depressed mother and left. A wonderful family welcomed me in their home for the remainder of my senior year, and despite the heartache and bulimia, I excelled in school. My classmates even voted me “Most Likely to Succeed.” School was my only constant, staff and friends became my new family and it was my ticket out of the hell I experienced as a teenager.
I graduated with a full ride to Oklahoma State University, but the eating disorder followed.
During my sophomore year, I lost 40 pounds in five months as my bulimia evolved into anorexia. I lived on Diet Coke and iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing. The soda diminished the hungry feeling and lettuce was one of the few foods light enough not to make my stomach reject it. One late March day, a breaking point hit — my last milestone of grief. After excusing myself to the bathroom several times to sit, drink water and regain my composure from nearly fainting in my drawing class, my defeated 98 pound frame walk over to the Student Union to sign withdraw forms. I was exhausted and lost.
“Most Likely to Succeed,” yeah right.
Healing did come over two intense years. A spiritual makeover, countless hours of self-improvement books, Bible verses and prayer far succeeded professional therapy. By 22, I only purged occasionally in moments of weakness, and meeting my husband propelled further healing. We married within six months and within a two and a half year span had two babies.
My twenties, which are now slipping away, have been compiled with circumstantial struggles and celebrations testing the disorder.
Newly married, lacking the means go back to school, I bordered depression. Feelings of failure were overwhelming seeing all of my friends graduate and begin exciting careers while I was changing diapers, working the night shift and couponing to help feed my family. Also, caring for my ailing mother-in-law and watching my husband’s family crumble in the process, job losses and finances tested my strength against the ever lurking bulimia. But, if I lost control and purged, I quickly forgave myself and it never returned full force.
This decade provided wisdom as ammunition to fight against bulimia. I now see even as a young child, my home was always broken but the innocence of youth protected me for many years from that truth. My mother, from my birth, has never been able to nurture me nor remain stable enough to provide parental guidance and my father has always struggled with the bottle and sex. Their problems do not take away my worth, and I am worthy of love and happiness and forgiveness.
At the tail end of my twenties, I am wholeheartedly excited about my thirties. My career is developing in ways I only dreamed in my early and mid twenties, finishing college is an option and my profession is becoming quite clear. Most importantly, my marriage is strong and children are loving.
My thirties will seem so far away from that lonely girl with a terrible secret. I think it is time to proudly reclaim the title, “Most Likely to Succeed.”