I had to think long and hard about if I should share my story. Then I came to the conclusion that it would be worth it if it lets someone else know they aren’t alone, and it could be therapeutic for me. So here is my story and what led me to contact TheHopeLine.
The Steps of an Eating Disorder Journey
Growing Up Felt Unloved
I grew up in a very unloving and unsupportive home. They did not allow us to be ourselves. It was very strict and abusive. My siblings and I suffered in different ways. Mine was mostly physical and verbal abuse. My mother did not bond with me, and I was often handed off. As I grew up, it became more apparent that she absolutely didn’t like me. Nothing I ever did was good enough and there was this high standard of perfection that I just couldn’t seem to meet no matter how hard I tried. Honor roll grades, maximum effort into chores, listening and not back-talking, I truly tried. As I got older, there were comments about my weight although I was always very small, comments about how I’d never be as pretty as my sisters. My hair was always cut off like a boys and I hated it but I wasn’t allowed to have a say. My dad avoided conflict with my mom because he knew she would take it out on me, although he did stand up for me when he thought he could.
All throughout school, I was bullied...on the bus, in class, the cafeteria, and in the halls. I seemed to be the target because I was quiet and unsure of how to interact with peers. I wasn’t allowed to have sleepovers, go to friends' houses or parties until later on. I had literally spent the majority of my life sitting on my bed as punishment or cleaning. I felt alone and different from the world. I still feel this way.
Stopped Eating to Become "Good Enough"
When I was 14, I slowly stopped eating. I thought in my head, if I could be thin enough and pretty enough, my mother would love me. Since I was already smart enough, I would finally have reached perfection. Starving myself did no help my mother love me, however, it calmed me, distracted me, and gave me something in my empty life. Something of my own that no one could take from me. At this time, I was allowed to go to church with friends and do some overnight church activities. I was also allowed to join our school cross country and track teams. I finally made a few friends and life seemed okay for me.
Then suddenly one night my mother told me and my younger sister that our dad didn’t want us anymore and we were moving out of state with her and her new internet boyfriend. We left 3 days later and I had to start all over again.
I didn’t mind living in this new state actually. I hated being at the house because it was her boyfriend's parents' house. However, the dynamics between my mother and I changed. I was allowed to go wherever I wanted. I was a star on the cross country team. The teachers and principal raved about how good I was. I joined choir and got a solo. I was very popular with everyone. I was close enough to walk to the mall and allowed to. Life was ok except I really missed my dad and my friends and I was still starving myself.
Looking back, I honestly believe my mom kept me happy because she wanted child support from my dad. Regardless, I felt free and in control as long as I didn’t eat.
Then just as suddenly as we moved away, we moved back home with my dad. However, a week later, I came home from school and found a U-Haul packed and my mother and sister leaving without me.
I started failing classes. I did rejoin the track team, but nothing was the same. My dad wasn’t the same. Our house was empty. I didn’t understand what was going on. Why I was left behind. I literally didn’t want to live anymore. So, I attempted suicide at age 15.
First Suicide Attempt at 15
This attempt led to my first inpatient hospitalization where I was diagnosed with Major Depression and Anorexia Nervosa. During this stay, I let something out that I shouldn’t have. I was trying to sleep and apparently was screaming out. I woke up to a flashlight in my face and several nurses telling me I’m ok. I started crying. A nurse told me I could tell her anything and she wouldn’t tell anyone. I finally told her about how my half brother had been molesting me and about my parents. The next morning my dad was called in to have a meeting. The abuse was revealed, and, as I expected, my father did not believe me. However, the doctor believed me and refused to send me home where my half brother lived.
My mother called and gave me false hope. She said she believed me and was going to find a way to get me, but she didn't.
I went to live with a friend until my brother left for the army. I spent my 16th birthday there. I received no cards from my family. I was desperate to feel loved and a senior boy convinced me that he loved me. I lost my virginity on my 16th birthday. I remember the hatred and guilt I felt for what I did, and it made me starve myself more.
Became Part of the System
Here is where my life took a major turn for the worse. Six days after my 16th birthday, my father came to get me. I made a run for it and tried to escape, but was eventually caught by an officer. I told the officer that I’d rather be dead or in jail than go home. And I honestly meant it.
Later that night that a caseworker drove me to a run down group home in another city. She told me she would be back Monday to place me in a foster home. That night, I sat in my bed looking out at the intersection, at the traffic light as it turned from red to green and back again. And each time a car would slow to stop for red, I silently pleaded that they would look up and see me and rescue me. Of course no one did.
Monday came and went. In fact, six months passed. Lots of things occurred in this group home. Abuse by peers, abuse by staff, and an ever-growing eating disorder. After six months, I was sent to a really abusive foster home and eventually back to the group home. I had reported stuff going on there, but nobody believed me.
Eventually I ended up in a children’s home, in a locked ward, that was exactly like jail. So more trust issues, abandonment issues, and more hospitalizations for an eating disorder. I also ended up self-harming all the time. I was extremely lonely. I finally did get better, but only because I didn’t want the court ordering me there until I was 21. My self-worth was deeply wounded living here because my mother always threatened that she could ship me and my siblings off to a children’s home, and here I was locked up and in one, but my siblings were free. In my mind, this meant that something was majorly wrong with me. I had to be some kind of a monster.
At 18, I was able to leave. I made many bad mistakes...horrible boyfriends, looking for love in all the wrong places, a failed attempt at college. All I wanted to do was die. And so, one night I made my second attempt at suicide. I was hospitalized yet again.
My boss at work started seeing how depressed I was and brought me into her family which was wonderful until Christmas Day when I thought I lost my boss due to a miscommunication. I attempted suicide a third time. This time I ended up in a coma for a week. When I woke up, I realized I wasn’t sad about being alive. My boss apologized and tried her best to be there for me. She started calling me her daughter, and I called her mom. My boss and her husband, came up daily to visit and support me. I lived with them and I gradually got better.
Fast forward 2 years, I’m still in therapy. I’m living with a boyfriend. I still feel very lonely, empty, but I had people in my life. I got strong enough to attend this modeling conference where I was signed with an agent. Cue Anorexic relapse. I worked very hard, learned to hide my feelings, and give everyone what they wanted. I ended up very sick, but I felt that I was sort of attractive and desired. My “mom” made me go to therapy because I was dying slowly.
Then my "mom" died. Prior to her death, she always told me that she wanted to see me in college and would be the loudest person cheering for me. So, when she passed, I wanted her to be proud of what she saw when looking down. I enrolled in college, and graduated with honors. And... even if only I could hear it, she was the loudest one cheering at my graduation.
My anorexia was in remission for a brief period, but returned when I decided to go back to school to get a BS in Psychology. I had very little faith in myself that I was intelligent enough to complete my bachelor's degree and the pressure caused me to fall back into old habits. I was a full-time student working hard to prove to myself that I was worthy. I maintained honors, but then something finally broke me and I never returned.
This was 7 years ago now.
For 7 years, I locked myself away. I stopped driving. I stopped working. I stopped school. I wouldn’t let anyone see me. I purposely gained a ton of weight, irrationally thinking if I made myself undesirable, I would be safe. I was so ashamed of my weight, I isolated and only communicated by phone, text, or internet.
Then two incidents occurred that caused me to panic and become overwhelmed with anxiety and led to my contact with TheHopeLine.
First, a medication I was on for fibromyalgia, I could no longer refill. The withdrawal had me completely incapacitated and suicidal. I couldn’t sit upright for almost 2 weeks. Finally, I went to the ER. The doctor I saw not only criticized me for being there, but said I had a made-up disease and didn't need medicine. He then proceeded to scan my body with his eyes before promptly saying that the real reason for my sickness was my obesity..lack of proper eating and "couch potato laziness". I cannot express how this made me feel. It was crippling considering I locked myself away because of my weight and had a long history with anorexia. I left there in a panic attack. I felt this crippling unworthiness inside. I physically felt my heart feeling like it shattered.
I reverted back to my old thought patterns and thought about suicide again. However, this time I decided that I would do something different. I would try to live. I went to a psych hospital and admitted myself. I became close to someone that worked there. We formed a friendship. At first, it was very helpful, but then she started criticizing me and judging me constantly. The things she said to me hurt and made me feel even more unworthy. I had started restricting food during this friendship. Finally, she walked out and I let her go. She literally said if I killed myself, ok.
Eating Disorder Returns
All of these incidents caused me to fall into a cycle with an eating disorder that felt constant and predictable. Before these two incidents I had lost 36 pounds in three months in a healthy way. I felt I was making progress. Now I was back to my old habit of starving myself. At first, I had control, but I lost it somewhere along the way. However, I kept going because everyone told me I was doing amazing. I still have a ton of weight to lose. No one would think I have an eating disorder. It’s hard for me to look in the mirror and think that. No one can see my struggle which both hurts, but also allows me to hide it. But I recognize the old patterns. I’m stuck in constant emotional pain that I turn physical with an eating disorder. The physical pain is easier to withstand than the emotional pain.
This is where I contacted TheHopeLine.
I'm hopelessly obsessed....thinking about food every 10 minutes, desperately trying to figure out a way to get more weight off. I didn't know who to talk to because no one understands. At moments I'm scared I will die suddenly. Then I think death wouldn’t be so bad considering how I feel. The depression from it is unlike anything I’ve ever felt in the past. I don’t think I’ve ever been this extreme and yet this time, it’s hiding behind all my fat. I'm restricting, taking pills, exercising, one purge, keeping a calorie journal, etc. I knew the eating disorder was back, but I didn’t meet the criteria and I was so confused. I wanted so badly NOT to be back here.
I was trying to find the answers on Quora, and I came across a comment on a post about the HopeLine. And I started on-line chat with them.
I needed answers that I couldn’t find. I was ashamed, lonely, and so depressed that I was ready to give up and had convinced myself the world was better off without me. So I reached out. The person I chatted with online helped me so much. They referred me to an amazing resource about higher weight anorexia.
One link helped answer all my questions. And chatting online helped me not feel so alone. I didn’t get the usual generic responses. I didn’t feel judged like on other sites. I felt like I was accepted for who I was and left the chat feeling better.
Since that day, I have opened up to three friends and my doctor. I have decided to return to a former therapist. My hope is she may be able to help me with some of the reasons why I relapsed. Until then, I am just trying to stay strong, trying not to sink too far into the past. And I'm trying to remember that just because I don’t feel worthy, doesn’t mean I am not. I just have to find my worth in something other than eating and my weight.
My story is long, and full of depression, hopelessness, fear, abandonment, and poor self-image, but thank you to TheHopeLine for laying the first bricks to wherever this path will lead me.
Do you have a balanced approach to eating and how you view food? If you struggle with body image issues, this is important to read to help you set healthy goals.
For more eating disorder help and information for women, men and teens check out our partner organization, Mirror Mirror.
Photo by Hannah Busing