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In which i had an eating disorder — repost

Sonoma Valley

(I couldn’t decide about this one but I realize that I rarely mention it and I’m rarely serious so I figured what the hell I would repost it)

When a call went out over Twitter looking for people who had had an eating disorder, I didn’t hesitate to reply that I had once had an eating disorder.  I received a response asking if I was willing to talk about it.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m an open book so I figured “yeah, why not?”  I had always intended on talking about it so now would be as good a time as any and it’s not like I hadn’t already been incredibly open about it with my family, especially my two college aged daughters.

 

I would be a guest blogger for someone who  was doing a series on eating disorders but weirdly enough, this has been a tougher assignment than I would have suspected.  First, I’m already in my midwinter slump and down in the dumps so writing, especially an emotional piece, is difficult and secondly, where do I begin?

 

How do you explain an eating disorder without explaining your complicated relationship with food?  And how do you explain your relationship with food without explaining why you’re screwed up in the first place and need to use food as a feel good source?

 

And trust me; I’ve been in therapy for 28 years.  Explaining the need for food, the need to self medicate with food would be a novel if I went into the entire thing so seriously, how to explain an eating disorder which is actually a symptom without explaining your feelings, which is actually the disease?  The more I thought about it, the more difficult it became to figure out exactly what to say.  What I’ve decided is NOT to go into the many psychological issues about WHY I was a binge eater, but to simply tell the convoluted story of HOW I became bulimic…so here goes.

 

When I was in college, like many young people, we would go out and eat and drink.  There were many evenings that ended with huge pig-out’s.  My roommate, and many of my other friends, would simply make themselves throw up afterwards so that they wouldn’t get fat.  While it was often suggested that I do the same, I simply couldn’t.  I don’t mean that I couldn’t mentally throw up, I mean that physically I actually tried to throw up and for some reason I couldn’t.  Therefore, my weight often fluctuated because I alternated between starvation diets and gigantic pig-out’s.  I don’t think this was highly unusual, especially for college kids.

 

At any rate, after I graduated college I went on a one month trip to Europe and between a shitload of beer, a ton of chocolate, a lack of diet soda and an overload of unhealthy food, I gained a lot of weight.  Arriving home, I needed to go on a massive diet and lose a lot of weight.   I was doing pretty well until one day, in a crap mood for some reason or another; I had about a half-gallon of ice cream.  A half-gallon you’re saying?  Yeah, no shit, a half-gallon and trust me, I felt pretty damn sick.  I went in the bathroom and I stuck my finger down my throat and for the first time ever, I managed to make myself throw up.  This had NEVER worked for me before but this time I felt SO MUCH BETTER.  What a relief, both physically and mentally.  I had eaten too much but now I wouldn’t get fat.

 

The ramifications of that particular instant were devastating although at the time, I didn’t know that.  I didn’t try it again right away but the next time I was in a bad mood and I ate too much, I immediately went into the bathroom and threw up.  This was awesome, or so I thought.

 

Because I’m a binge eater, throwing up is a perfect solution.  What is a binge eater you might say?  To me, it’s someone who basically consumes MASSIVE quantities of food to eat away the pain, the emotion, the black hole of feelings.  I have always eaten when I felt bad although it took me YEARS to realize that was what I was doing.  Simply put, I could literally sit down and eat a pound of M&M’s, an entire half-gallon of ice cream or an entire pizza in one sitting.  Did I feel sick afterwards?  Hell yeah I did, but that could be taken care of by throwing up.  Win-win, right?

 

At any rate, as throwing up because the perfect solution to my weight problem, I realized I could literally have my cake and eat it too!  It was great, until one day I realized that instead of over-eating and then throwing up I was actually planning on eating knowing that I could always throw up afterwards.  What had begun as the perfect solution to an occasional problem had developed into an addictive behavior which I was incapable of controlling.

 

Although I wasn’t happy about this, I also wasn’t particularly disturbed about it because honestly I was 22 and figured it was no big deal.  I was taking some courses post-graduate and living at home and altogether enjoying this time with my parents.  It wasn’t until one evening when I was watching 60 Minutes on TV and they had a story on bulimia.  In this story, a young woman had DIED because she suffered a heart attack while throwing up.  To say I was shocked would be a massive understatement.  I mean, I knew it wasn’t healthy and I knew it could mess up your teeth but actual DEATH; it scared the ever living hell out of me.

 

I tried to stop, and I couldn’t.  I knew I was screwed so I decided to tell my parents.  This was literally the most difficult thing I have EVER done in my life.  My parent’s always seemed to capable, so amazing and to admit such a glaring weakness was terrifying.  My dad, who was in all honesty my hero, was always saying things like “Lynn, if you want to lose weight; just don’t eat so much!”  It was all so cut and dried to him and to have to tell him this was both scary and embarrassing.  And yet, I knew I needed to let them know just how much trouble I was in.  I sat them down and I told them the news and they were incredible.  They just hugged me, told me they loved me and quickly set about to find a therapist to help me.  Honestly, I don’t know how the situation could have been handled better.

 

And so began my process of recovering from bulimia.  How long has this taken?  Well, I’m 51 today and I’m no longer bulimic and haven’t been for quite some time.  I would like to tell you it was easy but it wasn’t.  I started therapy in Greensboro, North Carolina when I was 22 and eventually moved to New York City.  Through my job, I found a new therapist and continued to have appointments twice a week.  By the time I met Kevin, I was 26 and was just beginning to get better.  I had good days and bad days and every type of day in between.  I had the lowest of low points where I despaired that I would never get better.

 

It took a long time for me to be able to tell Kevin the truth; that I was bulimic and I was getting help.  I was worried about how he would take it; would this be the end of my relationship?  Obviously, we’ve been married for 23 years and he’s been incredibly supportive.  Through the 25 years that we’ve been together there have been times I’ve been great and yet, I’ve had relapses…even through my early 40’s.  I’ve never stopped therapy and very frankly, I never will because I love it.

 

I’ve told my girls that easy answers aren’t always the best answers.  For many young women nowadays, throwing up is the easy solution.  I have instilled in my girls repeatedly that it’s a TERRIBLE solution because sometimes, right when you think you have the tiger by the tail, it really has you!

 

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2 Comments

  1. cathy procton
    August 27, 2013

    What a brave person you are and have been. XO

    • Lynn
      August 27, 2013

      Thanks Cathy…I’m in Maine right now

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