As I look back it was apparent that my eating disorder began in my sophomore year of high school. There was not one specific cause for my eating disorder. I had a very “normal” family life. My mother and father are still married today.
I have an older sister and younger sister and brother. My parents own their own business and are very successful which gave my siblings and I many opportunities many children are not fortunate to have. This is why I couldn’t understand the unhappiness that I had in my life at a very young age.
When I was thirteen years old I asked my mother to take me to the doctor because I was concerned about my weight. I felt that I was overweight. In retrospect it was normal at that age as I was just beginning to start my menstrual cycle. The doctor assured me that with a healthy diet I would be okay, it was just “baby fat.”
My parents always assured me that it was nothing to worry about, I began to internalize this worry. This is the first time I remember being aware or concerned about my weight.
When I was 16 years old I began having some problems in school. I had been very in to sports up to this point, but I lost interest. I was depressed. I was having some problems with a few of my peers at school and this caused me a lot of stress.
I began to sleep a lot and quickly went from a bubbly, fun classmate to a very sad, depressed and hopeless girl. I went to a very small high school so it is not surprising that one of the women at the school noticed my rapid weight loss. She said, “Wow Lida you look good, you’ve lost some weight.” It was like music to my ears.
If I look good having lost only a few pounds, how great am I going to look after losing even more? As I look back, this was the moment I dedicated myself to my eating disorder. This was the moment I identified myself as having an eating disorder.
I decided to try another private school. I was still very depressed but thought it couldn’t get much worse…I was wrong. I hated my new school. I had no friends and felt more alone than ever.
I felt like everyone was looking at me wondering why I should be eating. I began to skip lunch. I began to sleep all of the time and slowly isolated myself from my friends. The school year ended and I felt relieved. It was summer.
Throughout the summer I was slowly getting sicker and sicker. My family was painfully aware but felt helpless, there was little they could do. I worked a part time job through the summer that I enjoyed. I would often hear comments from my managers on how thin I was and these made me thrive.
One day while at work I began to get dizzy. Everything went black. I stumbled to the back, told my manager I was sick and had to leave. I never told him I had been starving myself. I went out to my car and just sat there. I couldn’t believe not eating had affected me like that, it hadn’t in the past. The first thing I did was went and got a chicken sandwich and ate it…I was scared.
I was scared because this was the first time I realized that I may not have control over this illness. I decided to see a psychologist, the first of three. I went because my mother requested it of me, it was for her not myself. Finally I decided to quit seeing the psychologist, I thought I had control, I could do it on my own.
A new school year began, and I was going to yet another school. Surely this year would be better. I began this new year with high hopes for success. It was a new beginning. I started out doing well, but slowly began to slip again. I didn’t like eating in the lunch room. One day my girlfriend and I made a pact to see who could lose the most weight.
We set up a schedule, we would skip breakfast, eat a cookie for lunch for energy and have a very small dinner since that is when our families would see us eat. For her this plan faded away for me it was mission. I felt like she was weak because she couldn’t do it, but I certainly could and did. But it didn’t make me happy.
I again blamed it on my circumstance and pleaded with my parents to let me switch schools one more time, this time to a boarding school up north. After much conversation they agreed with the one stipulation that I would maintain a healthy weight.
My new school was a big change and change scared me. Quickly I realized that most socializing was done at mealtimes. I began increasing my calories without noticing it and my weight began to increase. I would try restricting, but had less self control up at school because I couldn‘t avoid eating. Each night the store in the dorm would open, we had access to a lot of junk food. I would go buy a lot and binge, then the following day I would restrict. That became a cycle for a few months. The school year ended and I was about 20 pounds heavier coming home than I was when I left. I was insecure but dealing with it. It was summer again.
I went back to my summer job. As I was getting ready one day I realized I couldn’t fit into my tiny uniform anymore. I had to go and ask my boss for a larger size and felt humiliated. Her response to me was, “Wow, someone got chubby at school.” My co-workers all talked about it and I was devastated. This was my motivator to go back to old behaviors and again the cycle began.
By the time my senior year began, I was thinner and “happier.” I had a lot of friends at school. I met the love of my life. For the most part my senior year went pretty good. I looked “better” and everyone including myself thought I was better. I didn’t realize how complicated this illness was, that I was sick and I needed help. I graduated and planned to attend Eastern Michigan University in the fall.
The college atmosphere was very different from what I was used to. My eating disorder continued to soar. My parents and boyfriend became very concerned again. I was at my lowest weight by mid semester, failing four of my five classes, and scared to death. My eyes were sinking into my head, my hair was thinning, I looked terrible.
This was the first time that I actually realized that I needed help. I began with the yellow pages, I opened up to eating disorders and just began calling numbers in the Ann Arbor area. Then I stumbled upon EDEN (Eating Disorders and Education Network), there was no rhyme or reason as to why I chose to go to EDEN except that they were the first ones to answer the telephone. I told them I was suffering from anorexia and they told me to come in…the SAME day!! I couldn’t believe it.
I was on fire, I couldn’t wait. I was scared, but happy to be taking a step towards recovery, I couldn’t wait to go talk about my eating disorder, I couldn’t wait for them to tell me how bad off I was, how sorry they felt for me. I left EDEN that day feeling more than a little disappointed. They weren’t willing to wallow in my self despair with me.
Their approach was not to talk about all the negatives about our eating disorders in group. I decided to forget about EDEN, I didn’t need them anyhow, I knew I was in control and could stop if I REALLY wanted to.
The beginning of my sophomore year in college I was at an even lower weight. I spent most of my time away from home to avoid food issues with my parents. I began drinking. I was very thin, the less I would eat the more drunk I would get. This was a time in my life I am not proud of today, I made very bad decisions. Looking back to those times I do not see the person I am today, I see a very scared girl who desperately needed help. This was my lowest point. I realized I had a choice; either live or die. I chose to live.
I began by telling my boyfriend the extent of how horrible things were in my life. I told him all of the bad choices I had made, but that I was going to get help for myself and for my future with him which was very uncertain at the time.
I then told my parents everything that was going on. I told them what I was doing to my body and the dire straits I was in. I asked them for their help in getting me to the right professional as I was not thinking clearly enough to do it for myself. The first place my mom called was EDEN. My perspective was that they were all perfect there, they were too positive for me.
However, my mother made me go and went with me. I felt a kind of unconditional love when I walked back through EDEN’s doors. I knew my mother had told them what I had said and they didn’t even question me on it. They explained they were not perfect, but their approach is not to dwell on the negative aspects of who we are but focus on the positive…the whole person.
EDEN referred me to a physician, psychologist and dietician who all specialized in eating disorders. This was one of the most important components that assisted me in my recovery, being reconnected with the right professionals; individuals that really understood the nature of eating disorders. Upon my first visit to the physician he heard an irregularity in my heart beat. He ordered an EKG and thankfully everything looked okay; the damage wasn’t too severe to mend.
He assured me that through healthy nutrition the problem should work itself out which it has.
My new psychologist was also very helpful. I felt myself making great strides in my recovery while seeing her. She took a very active approach, something I had never experienced with my past therapists.
I also went to a weekly support group at EDEN and worked on goal setting. It was through those group meetings and goal setting that I began to figure out who Lida was. I began to figure out why I was so special, I began to see more strengths rather than weaknesses. As I became healthy I decided I wanted to give back to EDEN. I began volunteering. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to begin facilitating a weekly support group.
I am proof that you can overcome this illness. To do this I had to rely on my faith in God, and get strength from my friends, family and strong support network. This doesn’t have to be with you for the rest of your life if you don’t want it to be. Four months ago I celebrated my fourth anniversary with my husband who stood by me all those years.
This past July we celebrated our son Drew’s second birthday and four months ago we welcomed our youngest son Jackson. If I could have seen back then what I see now, I wouldn’t have believed it. I can honestly say now that life truly is good.