A DIFFERENT TYPE OF BLOG POST
Teresa and I decided that along with our social events and get together with friends, we would add some personal stories to our blog. It’s easy to assume from our writing about galas, birthday parties, fundraisers, and other social gatherings there is a superficial air about us all. There isn’t. We don’t take what we are blessed with lightly. We don’t take our family and friends for granted. When we are out we actually discuss sensitive topics that are heartfelt and painful.
In between the fun and silly blogs we will present stories from the lives of ourselves and our friends. These are personal ones being shared to potentially reach out to those who have gone through the same or are dealing with the situation now. We want to extend our hands out to those who need someone to walk with them, open our hearts to those who are looking for a compassionate conversation, and our ears to listen to those who have not found someone to hear them.
My story is up first. Remember as you read each one that we have made ourselves vulnerable by sharing, but do so to give what we have experienced to the readers in hopes that it will give comfort to at least one.
I am a 51 year old woman who is happily married and a blessed mother of an amazing 25 year old son. I am also a 51 year old who continues to battle an eating disorder and issues with self-image.
As I write this, no one in my family or circle of friends has any idea the scope and severity of my detrimental way of thinking of myself. As I sit and look at my mirror image with disgust and self-loathing, I feel embarrassment, guilt, and loneliness. Then I think of Cher in MOONSTRUCK when she slaps Nicholas Cage and says, “Snap out of it!” So I stick my tongue out at the mirror and walk away from the unhealthy image dragging along the disgust I feel with myself and the realization that I know things have to change.
This time I decide to walk onto a new path. A path where I know there are others who are stuck like me, who feel lonely even though they are surrounded by loving people, who are frustrated and tired of being critical of every inch of their bodies and mind. People like me who would love to just snap out of it, but can’t. So, here I am. You are not alone, I am here too.
Growing up I remember going down to our basement where my father created his makeshift gym and working out with my parents. Being in that cement floored and walled room with Rocky posters hanging, joy and comfort filled my heart as I listened to my dad yell out a primal scream as he lifted his weights and yell again as they slammed back down. My mom and I would dance or jump on the trampoline while my parents’ fifties music played all around us. Life felt safe and perfect for me there. My parents worked out daily and ate healthy. Being in shape was important.
All through high school I was slim. I didn’t obsess with my thighs or waist because all my attention was fixated on my flat chest. Oh the cruel remarks the boys and even some girls would spit out! I hated my non- existent cleavage so I took on slouching my shoulders to somehow hide what wasn’t there. As we know teenagers can be downright mean and for those with low self-esteem the words that fly towards you tend to stick in places you never even knew could feel pain.
With college came the stress of doing well and fitting in. Neither of which happened for me the first year. Food was everywhere and my gym in the basement was not. The adding pounds began to be my companion.
Oh yes, that teenage crowd could be cruel, but nothing smacks you in your spirit like a family adult friend saying, “Why can’t you look like your mother? You really have packed on the weight.” Yup, that was my welcome home from college song. And yes, that was my first in the face reason I took the turn towards the eating disorder world.
Instead of absorbing what my college courses presented, I directed my attention to the school of eating disorders with the introduction to bulimia. Pizza, chips, and ice cream could hang with me any time because I knew how to get them to leave when I became disgusted with the thought of their existence. None of what was happening seemed out of the ordinary. Most of the girls around me were taking the same path, in fact, they were the ones who opened this door for me.
The bulimia became worse while working on my Master’s Degree. No more shared dorm rooms, no more renting the party house with three of my long time dearest friends, I was on my own struggling with the ability to control my feelings and direction of my life.
To top it off, I was in a destructive personal relationship my parents and brother were adamantly against (and rightly so).
As the bulimic beast grew stronger, so did the effects of its wrath. My hair began to become dry and fragile, my teeth started to have problems, I was puffy and looking pretty unhealthy. Ironic since all I wanted was to be “perfect” and instead I presented an ill looking person to the world.
Without going into the disgusting details, I hit rock bottom. I finally realized help was what I needed. Since I was studying to become a therapist (I know, more irony), I was able to find the most amazing therapist in New Paltz, NY.
Therapy gave me some awareness and the tools to get healthy. So did making a decision to move to California.
OFF TO CALIFORNIA
I took what I learned and kept in touch with my NY therapist with the promise to find one here in the California desert. Time passed with me becoming a teacher, a wife, and a mom. However, finding a therapist who was the right fit was like watching a comedy skit.
One of the therapists felt the need to take out his lunch and eat it while talking to me about my eating disorder. I’m pretty sure the entire time all I did was watch the mayonnaise and lettuce continually fall from the sandwich to the desk. That was a good $100 spent.
Time passed again and the stress of teaching, my marriage failing, and becoming a single mom returned with a vengeance. Guess who returned too? Yup, that beast.
I eventually found a sincerely caring therapist who actually listened and offered advice taking me through steps to slay that ugly creature called bulimia. I wasn’t alone anymore. I had support. I had someone who didn’t look away.
There are still rough days when the self-doubt and the vision in the mirror looks grotesquely different than what I should see. But I am a never-ending work in progress and I am okay with that. Just because I am going to be 52 soon doesn’t mean I have it all figured out by now. There is no linear process to dealing with an eating disorder. The ups and downs will continue to be in my path, but I am learning to recognize the triggers and how to handle them.
Each day is a blessing and a new lesson. I have a wonderful life filled with positive role models, supportive people, and unconditional love.
There is no woe is me, there is just a fire and a fight. The effects of my bulimia are stored in my body. I have multiple digestive issues and gum/teeth problems that I am still dealing with today.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Why I acquired an eating disorder is part of the treatment. Eating Disorders are complex that are influenced by many factors. There is no known exact cause, but a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental issues are believed to influence the illness. Many believe it is the society we live in: The one that adores the extremely thin model or actress, the stunning male model with his six-pack abs, or the actor with the chiseled features. Yes, men have eating disorders, too. However, in the small amount of research that has been conducted it has been discovered that genetics do play a part in the story.
Whatever the reason, if you have an eating disorder or know of someone who does, you are not alone. I am here unafraid to talk about it, share my story, and give direction towards professional help.
That was an amazing story – painful to read and so courageous of you to tell it. Kudos to you for reaching out and making it okay to talk about this subject. Also – you are an amazing writer, whatever the subject.
Thanks Michele. I respect your opinion and support more than you know. I am blessed to call you my friend. XO
My dear sweet friend Melissa,
What a fascinating story, written by a equally fascinating woman! You are amazing and I am blessed to have you in my life as such a wonderful friend. You give so much of yourself to others. Everyone who knows you will agree you make this world a special place! I love you ! Xxoo Gayle
Thank you Gayle. It was difficult to post. You sweet words mean a great deal to me. Love you lots.
Thank you for sharing your story with total honesty. My daughter had (at least I hope it’s past tense) an eating disorder. I’m not sure if it ever really goes away. I used to find plastic water bottles filled with bile hidden in her room. This started when she was 17 or 18 (high school) She is 26 now. Yes, I still worry and watch closely. I always will. I wish you all the best Melissa.
Unfortunately, it never goes away. It may be under control but the thought process remains. I am continually working on being stronger than the disease. I hope your daughter has obtained that strength. If she ever needs anyone to talk to or if you do, I am here. Thank you so much.