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Out of the darkness - A battle over abuse and bulimia

I am 25 years old, a member of the United States Air Force, a wife, a daughter, a sister. And I am also bulimic. Somehow, that last part seems to overshadow the rest of my life. Which is quite ridiculous, considering that I have accomplished, in my own right, more than I ever thought I could. What started innocently enough - in my head - and has ruled each thought I have about myself ever since.

When I was 21, there was a guy that I was really quite smitten by. I want to use the word love - since I married him two years later - but I don't think I really loved him. See, he never fully treated me with love, and I always felt rejected by him. Of course, a lot of girls would not date, nor ever marry someone like that, but it actually made me want to be with him more. I felt like I had to prove to him and to myself that I was worthy of his love and acceptance - his APPROVAL. And the worse he treated me, the greater the intensity grew for me to gain his approval. So after about 3 years of dating, at the age of 21, I started throwing up whatever I ate that I felt would make me fat. He was very thin, and ate healthy, and noticed when I would gain a few pounds. So I wanted to be thin and in his eyes beautiful. Whenever we got in a fight he told me I was fat . . . or some variation of that mixed with other real self-esteem boosting names. I figured if I were thin, he would approve of me.

Eventually, as our relationship progressed, or deteriorated - depending on which way you look at it, my battle with bulimia progressed, and my self-esteem also deteriorated. I compared myself to everyone and then since the disease made me feel so bad about myself, when I would think to myself that I knew what the habits of physically fit people were, that those were habits for other people - strong people. Beautiful people. Smart people. Charmed people. I was much too weak, ugly, stupid, and disgusting to be physically fit! Who was I kidding to think I deserved (deserve) to be that way? Didn't I (don't I) know who I am? Who was I kidding? Certainly not me!

Almost to the day of us getting married, we were divorced. So here I was at 23 years old I was married, and at 24 years old, I was divorced! What a failure right? On the inside, yes - that is how I felt. And on the outside - you would have thought I was the strongest freaking person to ever grace the earth. Because that is how I hid myself from society . . . I pretended to feel strong - even though I felt weak on the inside. At 23, sure I got married. But you know, I was also the first one in my family to go to college and graduate - I got a BA in psychology - psychology of all the programs (kind of ironic!) and I got into Homeland Security, as a selectee to be a Border Patrol Agent - which was a personal success because getting there required a lot of persistence on my behalf. Then, I got a job at an executive level to run a few chain stores - something else that was a bit "out of my league" - in my mind. Oh, and I decided to go into the US Air Force - as a way to fill the intrinsic void I felt everyday.

But I think my biggest accomplishment to date, without a doubt, was leaving my ex-husband. Because, you see, the emotional and verbal abuse graduated to physical abuse about 5 weeks after we got married. And that is just something I was not willing to tolerate. I took the name calling, and I put up with all his tantrums. But if he were looking to knock me around . . . he must have been more mentally demented than me at that time. Did I leave him the first time he hit me? Wish I could tell you yes, but I can't. I did tell my family the first time, and I did make him leave, but I let him back. I let him back because the therapist we saw said it would help, seeing as how he had shown progress over a month's time - a month! As if that made all the difference? He proceeded to abuse me a few more times.

The abuse continued until I had a snapping point. I left for military basic training - an 8 1/2 week program. During that time all of my insecurity issues were pressed. And for the first time in my life I did not have the support of my family and friends to help me, as they had so many times in the past. So I had to rely solely on myself. At the end, we had the traditional graduation - something my ex showed up a day late for. Which was really fine with me - I mean, after I got extremely angry, I figured I did not care because those that loved me - my mom, dad, and brother were there, and they were all that mattered. The next day he showed up - but with a huge attitude. And he instantly changed the whole day's mood from what had been so beautiful the day before. At one point, I realized he really did not care at all about me. We were in his hotel room, and I asked if he had brought the few personal items I had asked for - he pointed to grocery bags full of mix-matched clothes - not one thing I asked for - nothing was folded - none of it made sense. I asked where my suitcase was, and he told me he did not bring me one. So I thought, "where I am/how am I expected to take all this on a plane with me to my technical training school? In these bags?" And that is when I had this sort of outer body experience - and in front of him and my family - I just muttered aloud that I wanted a divorce . . . clear as rain on a window pain on a summer's day. My mother said they would all be down at the pool, so we could have a moment alone. Amazingly, as soon as they left the room, he had me pinned to the door of the room! At that moment, all of the training, all of the self-esteem I had gained, everything - the way I was raised growing up, it just all kicked in and for the first time since I allowed this guy to allow me to hurt myself, I just got over it. I pushed him off me, straightened out my uniform, emptied out his suitcase, threw all the bags into it, scanned the room for anything else that belonged to me and left.

Now, that was quite a huge battle I won - I beat a physically abusive relationship, but yet I struggle with the emotional effects it has left. I went on to start a promising military career. I went on, and still am, one of a small handful of military members who do my job - something that is pretty cool - I am in the Airborne Intelligence sector - something I had to go through SERE, along with multiple, rigorous courses, and flight school to get. And yet I still am losing my battle with this stupid disease. Here I am, I hold a degree in psychology, have a dream job in the military, I am remarried to an amazing man - if it were not for what I consider my fat butt, and bulimia, my life would be perfect. I have spent my whole life trying to gain the acceptance and approval from others - but I never thought to just approve of myself. Absolutely dumbfounding revelation, if I do say so myself. This disease downplays anything I do right - and makes me feel so bad because I think that I should be better - I wear a uniform and perform a job that revolves around integrity and physical strength - I am even one of my squadron's physical training leaders. So what in the heck is my problem! Finally, after 5 years of hiding this from the outside world, I started seeking professional help a few weeks ago. Honestly, nothing has really come of it yet - I still binge and purge. But at least I am on my way to self-actualization and self-discovery. And I begin an actual outpatient program soon, that should prove a lot more beneficial than counseling alone.

We shall see.

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program