Below is one in the series of reader submissions called “If You Really Knew Me.” This brave post comes from a woman named Linda who reached out to me and totally inspired me with her will to recover after decades of an eating disorder. I’m cheering you on, Linda! If you are interested in participating in the series, check out the details.
If you really new me, you would know that I’ve been struggling with anorexia for 3 decades.
I was born into a family with many dysfunctional issues. On the outside everything looked perfect and from an early age I did my best to make it look that way. It was a secret that my mother was an alcoholic and abusive in many ways. It was also a secret that my father was never around emotionally or physically. My parents divorced when I was 7 years old so my 2 sisters and I went to live with my mother. As the eldest I grew up trying to take care of my sisters, making sure they “looked ok” to the outside world so no one would find out what was going on inside my world.
The pain still lives within me. My mothers unpredictability. When I come home from school would there be yelling, put downs, emptying hidden vodka bottles? Maybe a slap here and there? Should I close the windows on a hot summer day so the neighbors won’t hear what’s going on inside our household? Would my father ever call and say “Hi”? Would he ever see our school events or come pick us up to visit him? Yes he would pick us up every 3 months but it just wasn’t the same.
I left home on my 18th birthday and moved in with my best friend’s family. Her mother showed me what it was like to have a household with love and caring. To this day I will always be grateful to her and my friend who have been with me through this anorexia struggle. Anorexia came into my life at 19 years old. I was on my own and my boyfriend broke up with me. Thoughts went through my head, if I was only thinner maybe he will take me back? Maybe I will be good enough? I never heard of anorexia back then, it wasn’t talked about and there weren’t treatment centers that I knew of. The first time I heard of anorexia was when the singer Karen Carpenter died. I ended up going down to a dangerous weight and slowly tried to recover on my own. There wasn’t internet or a lot of books written so I just tried to do it by myself. This trying to get well on my own lasted until I was 51 years old. I always thought I would be over my eating disorder at a younger age and it would “Just go away”
Through the years I raised a daughter to love herself as she is. There was no “fat talk” in our house. No diet foods or scale. She was allowed to eat when she was hungry and stop when she was full. She could voice her opinion with respect and come to me with any concerns. I was there for her unconditionally. I was so committed to raising a daughter without an eating disorder. In the mean time my struggle was still within me. I also ran a business for 20 years. It was a small company and I loved it. I had 5 employees and again I enforced, no “Fat talk” and no diet talk! Still the struggle was within me. It was my secret. I did have friends, family, clients voice concern about my weight. I never took it seriously, they don’t really know me. I always had an excuse.
Then came the year my daughter married, moved out of the country and I had to close my business because of the economy. My world slowly fell apart. My eating disorder was on my shoulders to comfort me till I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’ve been in therapy for almost 3 years now. What I do know for sure is that you can’t do it on your own. Reach out for help in any way you can. Recovery can happen at any age.
I challenge myself every day with self care. I read blogs to move through challenging days. I work very hard to stop a relapse knowing how long it takes me to get back on track to recovery. Yes I’ve had relapses but I know it’s ok. Every day I’m one day closer to recovery. I’m moving forward and it feels so good! To eat a meal without anxiety, to enjoy life is so worth it.
If you really new me, you would know that I’m on the road to recovery and I will do it!