TRIGGER ALERT! My bottom with bulimia looked like this - me driving around Austin going from drive through to health food store and everything in between with a liter of almond milk. From restaurant to super market, I ordered french fries, ice cream, smoothies…basically anything and everything while drinking almond milk to make it come up easier when I purged. I would do this for hours and hours and hours. I think the longest I ever binged and purged was for 10 hours straight. I would spend hundreds of dollars and waste countless hours. I always went to the Starbucks on Oltorf near my house on South 1st to purge because the bathroom was private and that way I wouldn’t disturb my roommates with my disgusting habit. I remember the terror when I couldn’t seem to get everything to come up. I remember looking in the mirror after purging with tears streaming down my face, make up smudged, eyes bloodshot and mouth red from being stretched open by my hand. I always thought, “When will this end?”
Where do eating disorders come from? This topic is debatable, but for many the disorder stems from some kind of childhood trauma, a family history of addiction or mental illness, and/or societal pressure to be thin. However it’s not really that simple. I have met plenty of men and women with eating disorders who said they had a great childhood, no trauma, great parents, a fabulous high school and college experience, and yet they still struggled with Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia, or a combination of all of them.
The cause of my disorder was a combination of things. I think the main causes were societal pressure to be thin, a family history of mental illness (alcoholism from my paternal grandfather and depression from my mother), and sexual trauma that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to open up about publicly. Part of the cause was also childhood trauma, which is exceedingly difficult to write about, but I do find it necessary.
Ever since I can remember my dad had an exploding temper. He would often scream at my mom, which made me feel frightened and alone. As I got older, he would scream at me. My first memory of this was when I was around 4 or 5 years old. I was an only child, so I had no one to turn to in this pattern of rage. I remember hiding underneath the bathroom counter as a kid. I knew in my heart that my dad would never hurt my mother or me, but it still just felt safe to hide. Again, it’s so difficult to write about this because overall, he was and continues to be an outstanding father. He taught me the concepts of mediation and yoga at an early age, which later allowed me to overcome my depression. He has also worked extremely hard to heal his temper. Ever since I left home, he rarely explodes any more. As painful as it is to talk about, I think it is an important part of my story.
My mother is an incredible other. She always told me I was beautiful, smart, and I could do anything I wanted with my life. However, she didn’t truly believe these things about herself. She never said anything negative about my weight, but she was always on a diet herself and often talked about how fat and unattractive she was. We all look up to our mothers to obtain our positive body image. Unfortunately, her attitude towards herself made me more susceptible to having an eating disorder. It’s sad because she really did try to teach me to have a good relationship with food. When she was growing up in southern Louisiana she was told, “It still tastes as good, even if you’re full.” This mentality lead her to have a compulsion to overeat, which led her to diet, which started a vicious cycle early on. She would tell me I didn’t have to eat my whole plate if I wasn’t hungry. She constantly told me how beautiful I was. Yet seeing that she didn’t have a positive body image herself definitely had a negative affect on me.
Luckily I was fortunate enough that my parents were in a place to help me out financially with in-patient treatment. I realize this is a privilege that unfortunately so many people who are suffering from an eating disorder will never have. This is why I think it is so important to support causes like Project Heal and NEDA which help people get treatment who need it the most.
I worked through a lot of the aforementioned issues with my parents at family week at Shades of Hope treatment center in Abeline, Texas at age 23. My dad had previously never agreed to any type of therapy without quite a fight, so it was huge that he was willing to spend a whole week with me mom and I in a treatment center doing family therapy sessions! This was by far the most beneficial part of my 42-day stay at Shades.
Unfortunately I re-lapsed a year or two later when I went back to school to finish my college degree in Austin. I found out I had an 8-centimeter dermoid cyst inside of my right ovary, my then-boyfriend broke up with me, and I had finals going on all at the same time as my relapse. This relapse nearly destroyed me. This was my bottom. Binging and purging for 10 hours straight.
How did I finally recover? Honestly it was a lot of therapy and a lot of time. Someone posted on Instagram the other day that recovery is NOT a destination (actually it was Kate Speer @positively.kate ;) and I could not agree with her more. Recovery is NOT linear. I first started therapy when I was around 22 and I started treatment around 23. For the next 4 years I relapsed on and off, with the worst of it being around age 26, where this blog post began. Finally about 6 months before I moved to Chile at age 27, I binged and purged for the last time. Even after recovering from bulimia I occasionally struggle with food and body image. However, the difference is that now it is MUCH easier for me to get out of crazy town. From therapy and treatment, I have countless tools to help me get out of my head and into my healing when need be. The top three things that have helped me recovery are 1.Therapy, 2.Treatment, and 3.My support team (family and friends).
If you have made it this far, I truly appreciate you reading my story! My only hope by sharing this is that someone somewhere may feel a little less alone and may see the light at the end of the tunnel. We each have the ability to change our neural pathways in our brains for recovery. It just takes a lot of time, effort, forgiveness, and love. You CAN recover!
:::love and light:::