The Girl with the Eating Disorder
I was four weeks old when I first started dieting. Four weeks. And I’ve got to be honest here – the diet wasn’t actually my idea. My mum was concerned about my rolls of baby fat so she decided to “slim me down”. That was the beginning of my disordered relationship with food.
I was always plump – clad in the puppy fat my grandmother said would mysteriously disappear when I “got older”. By the time I was 12 I had fully embraced the binge-restrict cycle while having no idea that was what I was doing. By my teens, I knew I was dieting continuously.
In my twenties, I learned to purge and over-exercise, embracing my new weight loss strategy. I received endless amounts of positive reinforcement for the slimmer body I was desperate to maintain – at any cost.
My topsy turvy, upside down, gain-some lose-some, relationship with food and body continued until I had a lap band installed. Then I sunk to my lowest depths with surgically induced bulimia. I endured six years of fighting my body every day, denying its basic needs and reaping the physical consequences.
By the time my 50th birthday rolled around, I had 50 years of eating disorder hell firmly strapped to my ever-changing body. I finally decided the mental health toll was too much to bear and sought psychological support.
It has been a rocky path that included one suicide attempt and three psychiatric inpatient stays on the way to the recovery road. For six months I have put into place all the psychological tools gathered over the past five years. For six months I have come to terms with my body as is, right now. Without that acceptance, I cannot recover.
For so many years I declared myself, “beyond redemption” – too old and too tired to maintain any semblance of recovery. For so many years I succumbed to the psychological pull of binging, purging and restricting until my body was desperately begging for reprieve.
My disordered relationship with food was heavily based on emotional dysregulation – healing has required both psychological and pharmacological support to settle the rollercoaster of emotions I did not have the tools to deal with. As I stare my 55th birthday in the face I feel a sense of hopefulness I have not felt in decades. I am coming to terms with living in a larger body – the body I fought for so very long. I am learning to let the emotional distress of life’s messy ups and downs simply sit with me then wash away as time passes. Leaving me stronger and more willing each day.
For five decades I was the Girl with the Eating Disorder. Now I am the woman who won the battle. I have finally found the road I was too afraid to walk upon.