My name is Linda and I am 50 years old. I have been married for almost 25 years, I am a registered nurse by training, graduating from Jewish Hospital School of Nursing in Cincinnati, Ohio and I have a bachelors in Business Administration from North Carolina Wesleyan College. I have worked in a health care organization since college graduation and presently work as a Database Coordinator. My husband and I own a home, we have a cat and we take trips to exotic countries, such as Peru, Iceland and Greenland. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, bicycling with the Louisville Bike Club, hiking, and going shopping. I am your normal, average woman, but I had a secret for over 20 years of my life.
I had an eating disorder.
There is no specific date or time that I can say I became bulimic or anorexia and there is no specific time or date that I can say I “stopped” my eating disorder. But I can say that I will forever be in recovery as I am an addict. I have lived my life, but I cannot say that I really “enjoyed” the 20 or so years of my life that I spent either with my head in the toilet or not eating at all? Probably at the age of 20 I walked into the revolving door of wanting to “find myself” and getting stuck into that “career” of eating disordered people. I have hit as high as 195 pounds in my life and I have hit as low as 90 pounds.
Every day of my life I am constantly reminded of how powerful the forces of this disease are, and how it is not worth nor it was ever worth wasting my life for the concept of “thinness”. Today, to our relatively skewed American eye, I look healthy and seem very fit for “someone my age”. But I wish that my body knew that. I have medication that assists me to go to the bathroom because I took up to 25 laxatives a day for over 20 years. I have problems with my joints because I have over-exercised and my body did not have enough nutrition. I have an irregular heartbeat and a decreased bone density, I have an ulcer, my intestine is two times the size of what a normal persons intestine is, my teeth have chipped and my gums have receded. But mostly my reproductive system is useless. I could never have children because I had no body fat and did not menstruate. And without body fat your body cannot produce the estrogen needed to reproduce. All of this may seem trivial to you today, but when your friends’ children are having children, you wish that you were a part of their conversation.
So who is the “perfect candidate” for this terrible, debilitating disease? Actually anyone because 1 out of every 4 college aged woman has an eating disorder. And every 1 out of 3 people have a “phobia” of being fat. In the back of my mind I have understood thinness as a term for “control” or maybe the term for respect and being appreciated. I always felt that people would “like me” if I were thin. Not just guys, but girls too. I always felt that people would talk down and about me if I wore a size greater than a 2. I had to be “perfect”. Heaven forbid if I could go out with my friends and eat French fries as I could gain a pound.
An eating disorder, while still an addiction, is also a way of coping and avoiding the pain of every day life. It is a method to hide the pain or anger of your everyday emotions that you struggle with daily. And once you become so obsessed with your war with food and you, then your addiction kicks in. Addictions, also called “disruptive life styles” become deeply engrained in the individual and are very difficult to change or modify. Sometimes the person may not recognize that a problem exists and it may come to the attention of someone else. Or the person may recognize that they have an addiction, but do not want to face it and find it easier to go through the process of denial. That was me to the “T”. I can honestly say that this is what I missed out on the most in life is doing something spontaneously. So if you have that chance, please don’t give it up to regret it later. Being “thin” is not worth losing friendships or companionships.
Anorexia, or basically starving oneself, has many different symptoms such as the person has lost a great deal of weight in a short period of time and yet continues to diet, although they are already bone-thin. They are continuously dissatisfied with their appearance, always claiming to feel fat. Anorexics can develop anemia and it can lead to menstrual irregularities and to infertility. They become obsessive about exercising, and mainly appear depressed much of the time. They develop dry skin, sallow complexion, and puffy eyes with very dark circles under them. Unfortunately anorexia can lead to low blood pressure, slow pulse, or low body temperature. Basically, the body is about to shut down. It can also lead to growth of a fine white hair (lanugo) on the body. Extremely low weights can lead to failure of vital organs, such as your liver to function, your heart to beat normally and your kidneys may shut down. And, sometimes, it can lead to death. People with anorexia literally starve themselves. They just do not take in enough calories.
Bulimia or the desire to continuously purge after eating, can lead to a variety of serious health problems. The Bulimic individual eats large amounts of food over a short period of time and then forces vomiting and/or uses Syrup of Ipecac to stimulate vomiting, laxatives to produce diarrhea and diuretics to produce excessive urination. The bulimic disappears into the bathroom for long periods of time to induce vomiting, eats enormous amounts of food at one sitting, but does not gain weight, exercises often but does not lose weight and can even gain weight from the large quantities of sugars and fats that remain in the body. They have swollen neck glands, scars on the back of their hands from forced vomiting, and the bile from vomiting creates the teeth to crack and/or fall out and like an anorexic they appear depressed much of the time. Chronic vomiting can lead to bleeding in the throat and to rupture of the esophagus. Uses of syrup of ipecac or laxatives are extremely dangerous and can lead to major damage to the nervous system or to the heart. The heart can become erratic and can cause a heart attack. Chest pain is very prevalent in bulimics, but it can be a result of intestinal problems or a possible heart attack. And if you are in denial it makes it that much harder. And again like an anorexia, death is pretty final. This disorder may go undetected because the victim’s weight can be at times normal or even somewhat overweight.
If you feel that you have an eating disorder, you need to recognize that fact and speak to someone immediately. Whether it is your physician, your counselor, your parents, your friend or your friend’s friend, you must attempt to get help right away.
Once again, my view of myself is an ongoing struggle and process. I struggle with my weight everyday. I have lived my life, while not really enjoying every day. Do not let this happen to you. Remember, you have been placed on this earth for only one chance and do not waste that opportunity by starving yourself to get approval or to hide a problem.