I remember clearly the day I was somehow capable of seeing myself. I mean, truly seeing….
I didn’t immediately seek help but it was at that moment when I knew I needed it. I would continue on a path where it took me years to seek treatment but in the back of my mind I knew I was sick. The image of my face burnt into my memory. Why I could see myself this day and then not again, I do not know.
I had been starving myself for days. I was constantly tired and sleeping more and more. It had to be from the lack of nutrition. I loved sleeping. When I was asleep I didn’t have to worry about food or deal with people expecting me to eat. I had also convinced myself that as I slept I was getting thinner. I did eat but I would binge eat and then rid myself of all the large quantities of food by forcing myself to vomit. Then I would go without eating again. I also popped laxatives like candy. The feel of food in my stomach disgusted me. I had to get rid of it as soon as I was able too. Sometimes this meant hiding and vomiting after eating out with friends or family. I always managed to eat in front of others. I never wanted anyone to know about my secret battle with food. I thought I was hiding it but I now believe some people knew.
On this particular day I had woke up late again. I dressed quickly and grabbed my makeup bag to finish getting ready at the office. There was a small mirror in the hall where I could finish up my makeup before the office would get busy.
That is when it happened. I walked past the mirror on my way to the restroom and I saw it… I saw me. I saw a person I did not recognize. A pale person drained of life with a sunken face and large protruding cheek bones. I had brittle hair and extremely dry skin from the continual vomitting. There were black rings around my eyes and a yellowish tone to my skin. I was horrified!
I was seeing myself… the real me. A person I had never seen. I did not want to believe in that brief moment that the reflection I saw was me but I knew in my gut that it was.
I do not know what happened in that moment that allowed the true image of myself to be revealed. It was as if my mind opened up for a split second allowing me to view the monstrosity I had become. I saw what I had done to myself.
This moment prepared me to believe I truly needed help and eventually I did get treatment. It would be several years down the road but that day stuck with me.
Today I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. I still have days where I struggle with self imagine but I look back and ask myself, “was I truly happy in that condition?” Of course the answer is NO. My size, weight, ect… none of that really made a difference. What mattered most was dealing with what was going on with me on the inside. Finding what was behind my behavior. There were so many underlying issues I hadn’t faced at the time that fed into my disease… Until I faced them, I could not truly face myself and my own reflection of truth.
Yes, I said it. My scale… a 20 dollar, digital box that I would stand on every morning ruled my life. The number that came up would determine if I have a good or bad day. It sat so perfectly on my bathroom floor and could strip me of any amount of joy in a matter of seconds.
Each morning I would remove all my clothing. I did not want anything adding even an extra ounce to me. And regardless of what it told me I would exam myself in the mirror and go over every area that I felt needed improvement. My back, my legs, of course my stomach. Nothing was flat enough, thin enough, good enough.
I was a pro at dieting. I would go on any fad diet I would hear about. I would think to myself, “they need me as a spokes person, I make this look easy.” But the truth is I made it look sick. I didn’t realize how sick at the time. I could go three days at this point without eating. Friends starting voicing concern. Telling me I was getting scary thin. Yet there were still others who I wanted to notice and didn’t. I could not eat without throwing up and I knew people saw me and heard me. I wanted them to care… wanting (maybe even needing) that attention intensified my illness.
I was also in a depressive state. I could feel and see my life unravelling around me. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I was going through a divorce and I would cry and cry. My sons would visit and I couldn’t keep it together. The hardest thing was seeing them afraid. It was at this point that I knew they needed to stay with their father until I could pull it together. And to add to it, missing them caused me to mourn for them. It got to where I would hide in bed and wasn’t eating at all. My heart hurt, my body was weak. I wasn’t even sure why I was still here… It was God’s grace that kept me alive. I didn’t feel I had a purpose anymore. I had become so self involved I was only thinking of myself the majority of the time. Something needed to change. Anorexia had consumed me and it was killing me mentally and physically.
There it was… right smack in the middle of my shirt. The small chocolate spot was a tell all to my earlier indiscretion. My four year old was awarded a scoop of ice cream as a special treat. After serving him I continued to heat hot fudge and pour it over the remaining content of the half gallon container and devoured it within minutes.
Immediately the guilt crept in. Seeing the chocolate on my shirt made me cringe and brought on feelings of overwhelming shame. I am no stranger to the guilt. My mind wandered back to a time when I uncontrollably binged and purged. What’s comical is my complete desire or need to be in control appeared to me, even visited me in a form that was utterly compulsive and uncontrollable. I corrected my thinking and decided I would not allow myself to return to that place. Emotionally and mentally I had come a long way. I knew the trap door was there. It is there… waiting for me to slip up.
I am stronger now…
but continually reminding myself of what once was. My struggle with bulimia was my secret. I hid it like a very special baby doll, that I kept wrapped in the softest blanket, handled with the most delicate care, but hid in a place were no other child could find her. I did not want anyone touching my precious treasure. It was mine and mine alone. I did not realize I was sick. I did not realize that anorexia and bulimia were taking over my life.
The person I saw in the mirror was not the person you would see. I tried to hide her with smiles and cute trendy clothes. What I did not realize was my whole identity was based on the person I was trying to hide.
Glaring at me was person who was not real but was so incredibly real to me that she tortured me daily. She haunted me and reminded me of all I longed to be. Sometimes she peaks her ugly head up, she peers at me with piercing agonizing eyes beckoning me to join her again. I am more aware of her than I have ever been but she no longer controls me. I have found myself free from her grasp as I constantly remind myself of who I am.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I purged. I faced her, I fought her and even when I felt alone I discovered I was strong. I realized I was able to overcome any bondage, any stronghold, any captivity that tries to take hold of me. As my dear friend Christina would say, I am a beautiful warrior chick! The awesome thing is, today, no matter what thought creeps in, I believe it! And that is good enough for me.
If you are battling an eating disorder you may feel isolated. You need to know you are not alone. For information and support please visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.