Have you ever had a habit or addiction that you were positive you had left behind ten residences ago, only to find that it was just hiding in a box on the top shelf of your closet waiting to come out, be dusted off, and screw with your life? For me, that little trinket that I can’t seem to throw away, is actually a disease called Bulimia. No matter how far removed I feel I have become from it, something will happen in my life and my screwed up brain will let it back in with open arms to abuse my body. WTF?
A few years back for Vegan MOFO I did a special series of post for Vegan Mainstream, the first of which was titled, How Vegan Saved My Life, which briefly touched on my battle with bulimia. Some find it odd that I am willing to talk about, others are made uncomfortable hearing my story, but more often than not when I do open up about my issues it helps, whether the person I am speaking to is suffering themselves or have a loved one who is struggling. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t usually just blurt out in day-to-day conversation about my issues with my self-image, but I will share when I feel I can help.
Recently, I have been involved in more than one conversation about the topic, in which the loved ones of those with eating disorders can’t understand how the person in their life could possibly abuse themselves. Unbeknownst to the other person, I also suffer from this same problem and have been known to abuse myself. After listening to their concerns I have shared my story and attempted to shed some light on how they might be able to help the person they are concerned about. Unfortunately, other than force feeding them and making sure they don’t binge, you can’t really help a person unless they want help, because a large part of the treatment is psychological.
I have decided to write today, so just maybe if there is someone out there feeling alone, or concerned about a loved one, this might cross their path and help in some way. Also, more selfishly because my silent enemy has been haunting me something terrible lately and I am hoping that facing it head on and remembering how I have made it this far will force it back into the dark hole it came from and hopefully stay away longer this time. For you see, I can’t kill it or make it ago away. It’s always waiting in the back of my head looking for a weak spot to break in. It has been approximately three and a half years since we duked it out last, roughly the same time I began Don’t Fear the Vegan.
When did it start? Here is my story:
In high school I was tall, thin and extremely shy, none of which helped me gain any popularity. When I was seventeen I started dating my very first boyfriend who happened to be in college. Despite the fact that I was thin and had the body of a kid, he felt my body was frumpy. I was so excited to actually have someone interested in me. I was willing to do whatever it took to keep him. With him, I began working out on a regular basis.
Eventually I moved out with this same guy who continued to help tear down my body image. I became a workout feign, working out three times a day, every day. I counted every calorie and fat gram I ate. The most fat I consumed was from an avocado, and I felt guilty when I ate it. At this point I was 5′ 9″, 118 lbs and still not skinny enough for him. The night before our wedding I took a double dose of diet pills combined with laxatives and refused to eat or drink anything other than coffee. I ended up losing it from both ends until my body finally calmed down hours before I walked down the aisle. My loved ones, not knowing what I had done wrote it off to nerves.
After the wedding he confessed that he found strippers on speed to be attractive and that is what I should try to look like. There was also a lot of other verbal and emotional abuse going on that I am not going to get into here, so I’ll just admit I was pretty far gone. To try to make him happy, I began taking large doses of diet pills, both legal and illegal. Despite this self-abuse, nothing I did made him happy. After a decade with him, I finally had enough common sense and found the courage to leave him.
At the time I left I weighed in at 110 lbs and wore a size 1. Weirdly, I was still unaware that I had a problem. I looked in the mirror and felt I was too fat because I could pinch skin on my butt. An old family friend asked me at one point if I had an eating disorder and my comeback was, “I could never make myself throw up.”
This in fact was a true statement. Other than my wedding day I never threw up because of my disorder. This is a common misconception when people think about eating disorders. Just like people will look at someone suffering and say, “They can’t have an eating disorder, they eat all the time.” I love food and didn’t stop eating; I was more selective about what I ate and when I slipped up on my diet I popped more calorie burning pills along with extra long runs on the tread mill, until I burned off every single calorie I had eaten.
A friend later talked me into going to a therapist with hopes it would help with nightmares I was having stemming from my marriage. During these sessions I became aware that I suffered from Bulimia. I learned that the pills were a form of purging and that the obsessive work outs were part of the control aspect. I also learned that as much as I wanted to blame it on my ex, I couldn’t. He may have helped triggered it, but it had already lived inside me. My head used it as a control mechanism. When my life was spinning out of control, the decision to eat or not eat and work out were completely powered by me. At the time, my therapist told me that there was a link between the gene that causes alcoholism and eating disorders. It made sense to me. My grandma had a brother who was alcoholic and a sister that was anorexic and alcoholism runs in my family. Now that I am writing this I am unable to find any proof to back that statement. Scientist think there is a link, but nothings states that it has been proven.
When I met my amazing current husband Phillip, fifteen years ago I was a wreck. I was still addicted to diet pills, despite the fact that I was cognizant about why I was taking them. I was still unable to accept the image I saw in the mirror. I was so wired on them, that I would stay up forty-eight hours at a time, scared to sleep, because the nightmares still haunted me. He became aware of my addiction and with his love and constant support I kicked the diet pill habit and was able to sleep soundly. We got rid of the scales and went vegetarian because we had read it was healthier. I had it under control.
When I was pregnant with our daughter it was marked on my file not to show me my weight. With our midwife we worked out a calorie count and I kept a daily journal with everything I ate. I made it through the pregnancy with no issues. I was able to lose the baby weight simply by nursing and going vegan, so I never lost my cool.
I thought I had conquered it until three and a half years ago when I was working for a pretty abusive boss. I was losing control and began slipping back into my old habits. When I secretly began searching the internet for extra strength diet pills I knew better and didn’t want to head down that path again. Instead I opted to start the blog and keep my mind off my body.
The past year has been a bit challenging both personally and professionally. My thoughts began going out of control when I saw the pictures of myself from the Vegan Cooking Class I held in my kitchen in early February and I have been struggling since. This is also why I never posted the last two classes, or have found motivation to create anything new the kitchen. I am proud of myself though, no diet pills. Even though I stay clear of working out, I have been trying to make time to do yoga at home. I am eating and making sure not to count calories. On the really bad days I resort to celery and salsa for lunch, but at least I am smart enough now to add some black beans for substance. I avoid full length mirrors at all cost. The biggest struggleS are the thoughts in my head and the depression it causes, which leads to lots of breakdowns in the shower. It’s different now, I have a kid to hold it together for. She unknowingly keeps me strong.
That’s my story. Please don’t feel sorry for me. That honestly is not what this is about. I am as passionate about helping people struggling with eating disorders as I am about promoting Veganism. I would love if you have a story of your own that you are willing to share so that maybe someone stumbling across this post knows that they aren’t alone and that there is hope. Plus talking about your disorder helps remind it that you know it’s lurking and that you are in control. There really is strength in numbers. We can all choose to refuse to lose to Bulimia and other eating disorders!
If you need someone one to talk to my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I tend to only check emails once a day, so if you don’t hear back immediately please understand.
Thanks for reading along!
Oh Stef,you are such a wonderful, brave and so beautiful inside and out. I admire you so much. You have always look great to us. Comming from this over weight family I can relate to you, sometimes I wish I could do that too, but was never brave enough to try the diet pills.You inspire me and I wish you lived closer so I could hug you and tell you that you are going to be ok.We love you Steffie.xoxxoook
Thanks! I can always use an extra hug or two!
Thank you for sharing such a personal post. I’m glad you’re fighting your demons and that your child keeps you strong. For her sake, and yours, it’s great that you’re working on yourself. May she always have great role models and (in the way distant future) a guy like your current husband and not your first boyfriend. What a jerk!
I am guessing I never came back to this post after writing it. Thank you so very much for your kind words!!