My eating disorder followed me through many phases, many sizes, and many shame filled years. In hindsight I know that I’ve been either battling or hiding behind my disorder for decades, but because my behaviors included a love of food and eating, I had no idea that I had an ED. I had no idea, until it hit me like a freight train.
I’ll never forget the day I understood that I had something treatable; a real, live problem that I could address and manage, rather than just a continual crisis of self-hatred. And I really mean hatred. I hated myself for eating, for being hungry and for being fat. I hated the fact that I didn’t know from one night to the next if I’d blackout and raid the kitchen, or that when I was stressed beyond measure the only thing that was reward enough to sooth me was food. I hated the loss of control, the speed, the frenzy, the insatiable need… I hated a big part of myself.
And then I understood I was not alone.
I was sitting on the bed having said goodbye to my husband as he headed for a family weekend that I couldn’t bring myself to attend. I was ashamed of my size and I could feel that I was so close to crisis; I didn’t want to lose control around our family again. That afternoon I began in earnest to look for something that would help me, something that could alleviate the pain and shame I felt. I didn’t know what I was looking for so I began where many of us do; I looked for diets and considered the possibility that I was addicted to eating. I checked out Overeaters Anonymous but couldn’t bring myself to embrace a 12 step program; I knew abstinence what just a form of white knuckling my way through another round of restrictions. I didn’t see how the diet programs with prepared meals would help me much beyond that either. So, I kept Googling. I searched every keyword I could think of; fat, diet, weight loss, addiction, compulsion… and then I tried binge.
What happened next was the very first step in my recovery. I began reading; every article and every webpage that I could. Most of them lead me to BEDA, and from there I read stories of people like me. People who behaved just like I did, and looked like me, and other people who provided research about what it means to struggle with BED and how to seek help. I learned that I needed and deserved help and that I could get better.
Shortly thereafter I found a certified BED treatment provider and I began to see her regularly. We talked about most everything other than food and eating; things that hurt or things that stopped me from being compassionate to myself. We discussed what I feel and how I manage those feelings – we talked a lot about shame and how to gently let go of it. I still see my therapist, she’s key to helping me keep old patterns from creeping back into my life. It’s less about eating patterns than it is about patterns of thought, internal dialog and boundaries. When I don’t pay attention, I sneak up on myself so I have to continue to invest in my recovery.
And that’s the way I look at it, my recovery is a lifelong investment in being kind and supportive to myself. I’ve learned along the way that my body is my home, that I deserve care and love and gentle words.
I also deserve good nutrition; good rest, eating things I enjoy and I don’t deserve to feel bad about myself – not for eating, or for soothing or for finding ways to cope.
I rarely binge any more, and when I do, it’s not necessarily about quantity; it’s about fulfilling a need. Do I need to treat myself? Am I anxious? Am I feeling inadequate, ignored or lonely? I don’t experience the frenzy any more, but sometimes I do feel pulled to eat to fill something and that void, I’ve learned to recognize, is my ED telling me I have something that needs to be addressed.
So this is my recovery story. Where I’m at is a place of acceptance, and more often than not, joy. I’m no longer ashamed, I don’t ditch family events and I don’t live in fear. I live, one day at a time, some days for better and some days for worse, but no matter what comes, I know that I have the tools and/or the support system to get me through.
I wish that for you too.