I am 53 years old. I was born in a small town in Southern IN in 1956. Third of four children, two older brothers, and one younger sister. Mother a homemaker, Father an independent businessman. Environment growing up was very black/white, right/wrong, and gender stereotypical. I led a very protected life. I basically developed a great fear of the “world”, and I see now, of becoming independent. I was “chubby” as a child, which translated to “fat’ as time went by, and was reminded of it often by my peers. My home was not an angry or abusive home, but little to no affection was shown, or emotions exhibited. I felt tremendous pressure to be “good” and not “rock the boat”. I never felt like I “met up” to anyone’s expectations or was “good enough”, and I was constantly trying to please everyone, yet hating everything I was doing.
In Jr. High, I remember on my birthday, two of my friends wrapped up a little brochure outlining the “Roman Meal” diet as my gift. I was crushed, and left to go home crying. After my Freshman year in HS, at age 13, I began to diet, after a dare my Father made to me about who could lose the most weight the quickest. I lost over 60 lbs. in three months, and also my periods, which I had only begun one year earlier. I loved the praise and positive comments from my peers about my “success”.
The rest of my HS years were a progression of isolation and continued dieting, adding exercise and the food rules and rituals began to become ingrained in my mind. I pretty much lost all contact with my former friends, and avoided social functions b/c they included eating. My parents were always onto me about eating, but they didn’t consider that it might be a sickness, but only stubbornness and rebellion. I was 16 when I began to date a young man who was “acceptable” to my parents, and we were married 2 months before my 18th birthday. I graduated HS mid-term, married in March, then went back for Commencement in May….a married woman!! It was 1974, and I was 17 years old…..every day scheduled…and every calorie counted in my head.
I maintained a low weight for several years during this phase, but was obsessed about everything I ate, and how I looked. Exercise began to take it’s control also. I tried to get pregnant, going through fertility treatments….strange how the doctors never said a word to me about my weight loss had affected my fertility. No luck. We applied to adopt, and in August of 1979 we adopted our first son, Matthew. I thought my life was perfect then. The years after that are a blur,except that I remember my weight began to drop. I also began OP therapy with a psychiatrist in Bloomington about two years after Matt was born. I was put on many different types of drugs over a few years’ period of time, but things never got any better. We also tried fertility treatments again, and I did conceive, but miscarried at 6 weeks. I will always believe that it was my fault b/c of my ED. Shortly after, I lost a lot more weight, and I ended up in Indpls.(2 hrs. away) in a Psych unit for 3 months. I continued OP therapy there, and we adopted our second son, Tim, 2 months after my release from the hospital. This was in May, and by Oct. I was very ill again, and readmitted to the same Psych unit for 3 more months. My Mother took care of my boys. After 3 more months I was released and again continued OP therapy. This was in 1985-86, and I started going down in weight again, but I refused to be hospitalized there again.
During the next year or so, I was in and out of our local hospital on IV feedings, etc. several times. Our local doctors had no clue how to help me. When I had subclavion ports inserted, they punctured my lung….I just felt like I deserved it. I felt like it was my entire fault. I felt terrible all the time. I had pain in my right abdomen that would not go away. I finally had stomach surgery in 1991 to re-route my stomach and small intestines. The surgeon told me that my mesenteric artery was being compressed, and that the surgery would also cure my anorexia. Recovery from the surgery was terrible. I could barely move for months. My eating disorder was no better. Over the next four years I just kept going downhill.
When Tim was 4 years old, we found out he had a seizure disorder….absence and photosensitive seizures. His seizures had held him back developmentally, so he was labeled “LD” in school, which was very hard for him. I was admitted to a treatment facility in Arizona in the Winter of 1995-96. Over all these years, I missed out on so much of my boys’ lives. I just couldn’t keep up with their activities, especially Matt’s, and I will always believe that it had a great affect on him…even now.
Tim and I were closer….he had a lot of trouble with coordination, so he didn’t play sports like Matt did, and was very socially avoidant. He was kind of my “sidekick”. He was always begging me to eat, and asking me to “get healthy”…which were the last words he ever spoke to me, two days before he was shot and killed at age 17, on June 7, 2001. It was in May of 2001 that I had returned to the treatment facility in Arizona. I was out of hope and didn’t know where to turn. I had done well for about a year after my first stay there, but I had manipulated things even then. I was on a feeding tube (NG) for 9 weeks during my first 3 month stay.
After my discharge the first time, I enrolled in Nursing School at a University about 1 ½ hours away from my home in 1997, against everyone’s wishes, but I was determined to do what I had always wanted to do. It was a struggle all the way. I was going downhill with my weight the entire two years, and had to make the drive back and forth four days a week to classes. I had five accidents during that time, and miraculously wasn’t injured in any of them. I was taking so many medications at that time, and also prescription “speed” to keep from falling asleep at the wheel….which did happen twice. My weight was very low, but I managed to pull through and get my degree….then immediately went to work back in my home town. In December of 2000, I collapsed at work, and was taken to the ER. I had developed strep pneumonia, was septic, and so depleted, they had to access a femoral line to take blood and administer fluids. I truly almost died. I was in ICU for 5 days, had blood transfusions (which I remember none of), and spent a total of 2 ½ weeks in the hospital. The entire time, I played all the games with my food, hiding it, flushing it, and just not eating.
I was in treatment in Arizona in June when Tim was killed. I tried going back to treatment 3 weeks after his funeral, but I just couldn’t deal with anything, so I went back home in August. Later, when talking to my former therapist there, he told me that they truly thought I would just go home and die. I wanted to. I pulled away from everyone….kept going to church, but the thoughts there had always been that if I had enough “faith”, I would not be sick. I was living in a fog. It was Sept. 2001, and I knew that I was headed for death if I didn’t find help. My family, including my husband, thought that I should be able to “just eat’, especially for Tim’s sake, but I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, and I knew my body couldn’t take much more. I went to a therapist, and she said she wouldn’t work with me because of my physical state, but she recommended a treatment center near Toledo, OH. It was January 21, 2001 when I arrived at that facility to begin TRUE recovery.
I was in intensive day treatment for six months, and then continued regular OP therapy until about 3 years ago. I filed for divorce in Sept. 2002, and my family totally disowned me. Little did they know the complexities of it all. My husband had come for a few “family meetings” with my therapist and I, but it was obvious that he would not support my recovery into becoming a person of my own. It was such a hard decision, but it was the decision I had to make to save my life. I worked with a female therapist while in OP therapy…..she totally messed me up. She had me doing dangerous behaviors in the name of “freedom”, and in the end, betrayed me and lied to me, nearly destroying everything within me. She left the clinic soon after, and it took me several months of working with another brilliant psychologist to straighten out my thinking. I lived in my own apartment for about a year, and then bought a house about 8 miles away.
One great thing that I am so thankful I experienced was being allowed to house a total of six different young women in my home (at different times) who were moving on from intensive treatment and into their independent lives. It really taught me a lot about relationships, how to have fun, and how to let go of some of the perfectionistic expectations I had for myself and my life. Plus, I made some great life-long friendships. Up to this time, my recovery had been solid. It was about this time that my eating started to suffer and things were getting out of control…but I couldn’t ask for help.
I met my husband Dave in Feb. 2006, and it was soon that we knew we would get married. He has been my rock, and through him, I now know what "being in love" is really like!! I had emergency stomach surgery in May, 2006, for an intussusception, which really messed up my eating and my thinking, and then I allowed myself to get lost in wedding plans. We married in Sept. 2006, and I also had to have bilateral carpel tunnel surgery in November and December. So I was out of work for almost nine months. I lost nearly 25 pounds total after the first surgery, and over the next six months or so. I was in denial, and for some reason, just couldn’t force myself to be compliant with increasing my calories to gain back the weight. I was dishonest about it, which made me feel worse, and it took the loss of a very important person in my therapeutic life, and pretty much an ultimatum from the professionals at the facility that I have still been accountable to, to get me back on track. I have managed to gain up to the weight that is right for me to be stable and healthy. I feel more balanced than ever in my life. I also have noticed that in a spiritual sense, I am much more grounded and peaceful with my beliefs. The old ED part of me has truly died away and the healthy “me” has taken over…I know for good. For that I am very thankful. I am also much less anxious, and able to deal with uncertainty and other people’s issues, without taking them on as mine to “fix”.
My passion at this point in my life is to allow the love and care I feel for others to pour from my heart, and to do all that I can to promote true recovery to those around me who are suffering. I love the feeling of being alive!!!