Imprisoned No More... Part One
(Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
Dear Shaye, and friends in the ED community,
I never in a million years thought I would be posting my story on a site about bulimia. Or anorexia. Eating disorders.
No, not me. That's not who I am. That doesn't define *me.* That doesn't happen to gals like me.
I'm not 85 lbs. I don't make myself throw up. I haven't been hospitalized for weight issues (ok, well, since a brief stint in my teen years for GI issues related to weight loss).
I'm not dying.
I just want to control my weight a little bit- that's not such a bad thing, right?
I want to be successful and keep my number where *I* want it when *I* say so.
I like to exercise, and ok, maybe sometimes I overdo it but, so what?
Bulimic... that's not me.
... yes it is.
My name is Cathy, and for the first time, I am saying in writing for the world to hear:
I am bulimic.
I am anorexic.
I have an eating disorder.
I may have an eating disorder... but dammit, it will NOT... it will NOT. HAVE. ME.
Here's my bulimia story - my attempt to continue on my path of recovery by relieving some burden by coming clean, and hopefully inspiring others to also move forward. I will likely be long-winded, but even then, am probably missing parts. Here goes nothing...
My weight issues truly began in childhood, as healthy eating habits were just not set for me at home. How could they be? My mother struggled to raise me and manage my father's health issues and alcohol addiction, after, as I learned just this past week, battled her own eating disorder before I was born (*at the time, she didn't realize it was, because that wasn't talked about back then).
Now, don't get me wrong - I have been raised by two devoted, loving parents who could not have loved me more. God rest his sweet soul, my father took care of me, my mother, and my son, the best he was able for as long as he was on this earth. My mother is not in the best of health now, but certainly supports me in all I set my mind to and does what she can, including light housework and watching my son while I'm working.
Back to childhood, I was not the most social child. In fact, I was pretty much an outsider. My parents didn't grow up in the area we moved to when I was little, so they didn't know anyone. With the exception of the kids in the neighborhood, I didn't have a lot of friends. I was very clingy to my parents, and I was a "Daddy's Girl." As I got older and moved to junior high, I started to crave attention. I craved socialization. I wanted friends. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted boys to notice me like they noticed the other popular girls.
So, I started dieting. I was probably 130 lbs. or so (note, I am 5' 3") when I started to lose weight. Within just a matter of months, as I moved from dieting to starving myself to maybe 800 calories a day (on a good day), my weight plummeted and I ended up causing myself severe digestive issues. I ended up in the hospital, constipated as can be and had fainting spells. I remember dropping to 92 lbs., and was told I either had to gain weight and start eating, or I'd end up in a hospital or program. That scared me enough into eating again, and I found the strength to tell my story to my 9th grade English class. I remember my peers coming up to me and hugging me, telling me they liked me for who I was, and that I *was* pretty and that I didn't need to make myself sick for people to like me. I got better - much better, and moved forward. I ended up with a boyfriend, and started to build friendships over time.
I became pregnant with my son at 18 years old, and gained over 80 lbs. with him. I stopped caring about my looks, my figure and my health after his birth. I focused all my energy on him and my family (still lived with my folks, God bless them for loving the two of us as they did!). I ate whatever I wanted and figured, what the hell? I'm already fat again, so who cares? I binged and ate like a pig, and could have cared less. This went on for years, especially after I met my soon to be husband (a friend from college whom ironically I met while pregnant!). He wasn't a health nut either, so again, I didn't have anyone to practice healthy eating or exercise with.
At the time I became engaged, I was also dealing with the ailing health of my maternal grandparents. I helped care for them while working full time and raising my son, who was showing signs of developmental delay and biomedical issues himself. I went through a traumatic, devastating, and unthinkable experience (that's another story worthy of a TV movie, if you can believe that) and soon learned that, on top of other medical issues, he was autistic. Now more than ever - he was the focus. Everything and anything I did, was for him, and only him.
After I was married and my son starting getting treatment, my father fell very ill and nearly lost his life. He ended up in a coma and, what started out as pneumonia, turned into what we think now was a stroke, and he came out in a wheelchair. Now, we had him to care for, too. My grandfather died, and soon after, my grandmother became ill and developed Alzheimers.
As I dealt with these countless issues, I lost sight of everyone and everything around me. And again - could have cared less about myself. Not even two years into my marriage, my husband felt the same and left. Most folks call him a coward - and sure, I kind of agree. But let's face it - with all the baggage that came with me, and after being married to someone who didn't love herself, how could he have loved me, too? I'm not taking all the blame, because I don't deserve it (and there's a lot I'm not sharing). But, I will own my part in it.
After my husband left, as my son continued treatment, and as I watched my grandmother's health fail further, I looked at myself and realized, "Self, you are NOT taking care of yourself. LOOK AT YOURSELF. You used to be attractive. You used to be healthy. Not now!" I began to lose weight - in a healthy way, in the first few months. But then, stress got to me and I rapidly lost weight within a few months time span. This time, though, I stopped at what seemed reasonable - about 135, 140 lbs.
We lost my grandmother in 2006, and my father's health got worse yet. My son was making progress though, which relieved a great deal of stress and allowed me to take a bit better care of myself. So, I maintained a healthy weight up through about 2008, when then *both* of my parents were diagnosed as being diabetic. Well, stress made me put on weight again. I ate whatever I wanted and didn't watch, didn't exercise, nothing. But then, I had to manage my son's weight because of a thyroid condition. That was it for me.
I became fearful of poor health, fearful of dying, became desperate to set a good example for my son, and after weighing myself in about 181 lbs. , I went into diet mode again. Within a year, I lost over 60 lbs. through drastic calorie reduction and vigorous exercise. But then even more weight came off as my father became gravely ill. I remember one day in the nursing home where he gave me his macaroni and cheese and cried, begging me to eat because I always seemed to say to him, "oh I skipped lunch because I wasn't hungry" or "maybe I'll eat cereal later." He tried to take care of ME while he was fighting for his life. I was so stressed that again, I didn't care that I was going down a destructive path again. I was under so much stress and pressured myself, telling myself that if I wasn't thin as a rail, I might end up like him, too.
My sweet Daddy passed in the summer of 2009, and instead of committing myself to getting healthy, I just lost more weight. But, the weight loss became exhausting to manage given my obligations to my mother, my son, and my career (which by the way, is to support families and individuals impacted by behavioral health disorders and autism).
Dammit, I was hungry. Really, really hungry. So, I started to eat like a normal human being, and put on maybe 5 or 7 lbs. I hated it. And...
I was scared. I feared ending up like my father. Like my mother. I needed to be able to eat, but I feared putting on weight. I was afraid of diet pills because I thought they would give me a heart attack (as my son and I both have a slight heart murmur). So, I found what I thought was the perfect solution...
(to be continued in comments section after approval, as it was too long for submitting it entirely...)