LAKE EFFECT SERIES: Trying for Something New

Note from Hollie:  Each week I thank everyone for their positive support and donating towards this great cause.  This week is no different and without everyone I would be no where as far as I am today.  Please continue to submit stories as I have gotten positive feedback from every single one.  Each story has been emotional and I cannot thank everyone enough again for their support.  Also sharing these stories with others whether it’s through twitter, facebook, word of mouth or email is a great way to raise awareness as well. 

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Submitted by Amber

Where to begin? How to begin? How can I explain 15 years in a few paragraphs? 15 years of ups, downs, relapses, hope, despair, new beginnings and shortcomings. I don’t know why it started and I don’t know why it is still such a struggle today. I am certainly not the same person I was at 12, 16 or 20. But I do have an eating disorder. Sometimes I have it in check, sometimes I do not.

Things started very slowly for me, around 12 I became hyper aware of my body, well and I guess everyone else’s too. “Why can’t my legs look as thin as so-and-so?” I have never been overweight, chubby or even had a “few extra lbs”. I was a very active & thin child.  Despite that I started dieting, focusing on labels & only eating “fat free” foods. I exercised, sometimes normal and other times excessively. My weight remained normal. Around 14-15 I started to binge, being so restrictive with my diet caused me to lose control, I gained weight. It wouldn’t have been noticeable to anyone but I knew I had put on close to 10lbs. I would try to purge but my body just wouldn’t let me. It was devastating. Around 15 the internet became a much more common thing in schools & homes. I connected with eating disorder communities who taught me tricks on how to purge, it spiraled quickly from there.

By 16 I was binging and purging regularly. I would restrict all day, binge & purge all night. I would steal food, hoard food, hide food and save food. My weight remained steady. I was thin but not too thin. I wanted to lose more weight, I wanted to be anorexic thin. I would spend hours on the internet talking to people with eating disorders, collecting tips, tricks & unattainable weight goals. I was sucked into a world that I would spend years in. I didn’t have any real friends, only online. I never went out, never went to high school parties, I didn’t care to.

In the beginning of my senior year of high school I went into my first treatment. It was a partial day eating disorders program. I didn’t want recovery. I was protective of my bulimia. I didn’t want anyone to take it from me. I would go to the program, eat breakfast, lunch and then stop at the gas station on the way home to buy food to binge and purge later that night. Same old same old. I almost didn’t graduate high school, I was depressed, suicidal even. I didn’t care about anything. I would try to stay in school, but I would skip out during 2nd or 3rd hour, or after watching everyone eat lunch to make a run to wal-mart, steal food and lock myself in the public bathroom doing my thing. I was miserable and trapped.

I went to college. My first year away from home I just stopped. Cold turkey. Done. One solid year of no binging, no purging, no laxatives and no obsession. I didn’t socialize. Went to class, went to work, back to my apartment, alone. I guess it was just a matter of time. I remember watching, MTV’s True Life I have an eating disorder and BAM right back to where I left off. I was working overnights at a group home and I would have to stay awake from10pm-8am. I would hit up the grocery store on my way to work and spend all 10hrs binging and purging. Making dinners large enough to feed a family. I eventually moved from my studio apartment and had a roommate so I would purge in trash containers in my bedroom, throw it out in the morning. Purge in the shower, go outside behind the garages. Eating Disorders aren’t pretty.

Eventually I sought out a therapist. I saw a nutritionist. But it was just going through the motions. I enjoyed having 2 people who I saw each week who cared about me, I could talk to them. I led a very isolated & lonely existence and they were my only real contact. Seeing a therapist weekly never made a positive dent on my behaviors though.

I’m not sure what clicked, but something moved me to seek out more substantial treatment. I knew outpatient wasn’t going to help. At the end of my junior year of college I went to Rader Programs in CA. I stayed 2 months. I left AMA. I learned a lot, I really did. But I was guarded against all the “recovery” hype. People would leave after a few months as if recovery was going to be easy and their new persona. They were happy, hopeful. I wanted to be realistic. I never purged while at Rader. I followed my meal plan. I was honest in group. But I also knew that when I went home it was going to be just me again, what motivation was I going to have to recover? Everything was going to be the same. I was supposed to give a “going away speech”. The speeches were always the same, “I was nothing before Rader, now I have a chance at life yadda yadda yadda.” “Be strong, recovery is possible, we can do it.”  I just wasn’t too sure. I skipped out on my last day not giving the speech.

I returned home and followed by meal plan for a few weeks, changed my major to psychology and tried to focus on life after college. I started eliminating foods from my diet again. And then a couple months after treatment I got mono. I lost nearly 25lbs. I was the thinnest I had ever been in my whole life. I was finally underweight, which is what I had wanted for years. I remained that way for 4-5 months. Restricting, binging, purging. Not wanting to gain the weight back. I finally got the head turns, the stares, the oh my gosh she’s so thin looks. In the Spring of my Senior year I met a guy while I was volunteering in the psychology department. I was deep in my eating disorder again but also planning on attending Graduate School. I was definitely at a changing point in my life. While we were dating I struggled to balance life/eating disorder. It was the first time ever that I kinda wanted to choose having a life over sitting at home alone, with my eating disorder. I remember the moment like it was yesterday, we were at his friends house and there was a scale in the bathroom. I stepped on it and it read that I was up 7lbs. I cried. Right there while the house was full of college kids partying and drinking, music playing. I cried, but not necessarily because of the weight gain, it was upsetting yes, but because I knew I couldn’t have both. I couldn’t keep my eating disorder, and be happy.

From that point on it’s been different.

We broke up, I thought I might have a full blown relapse but I didn’t. I moved. I moved from Minnesota to Chicago for Grad School. I never purge once while living in my dorm for a year. I went to class, I was more outgoing. I made friends but I still couldn’t get beyond the classroom socially. I didn’t go out, it was too intimidating. I met another guy. I married him :) He knows everything and supports me, helps me, is patient and understanding. I struggle. I have never fully relapsed but I slip from time to time. I weigh myself. Sometimes I feel good about what it says, sometimes I am upset. I have wanted to stop weighing myself for a while now but the thought of the unknown is too scary. I suffer from depression and anxiety, social anxiety to be exact. My anxiety caused me to not pursue a career in psychology even though I graduated with honors with my Masters. I tried but it was too overwhelming. I was accepted into a Doctorate program as well but couldn’t pursue it. I was lucky to not suffer any medical complications. Quite frankly I think I am lucky to be alive. Life for me is perfect right now, I am comfortable and happy. But I am taking a chance again, My husband and I are trying to have a baby. I’m terrified. This is something I have been scared about for years. I’m not sure how this whole adventure is going to go. My husband and I both have concerns. There have been times over the past few years that I said I wasn’t going to have a baby. I didn’t think I could gain that type of weight, see my body change. But I’m going for it. Once I am pregnant (hoping) I will have a treatment team involved. There is a plan in place.

My eating disorder is always there, in the dark corners, quiet but it’s there. I wasn’t able to help others like I had intended with my degree so maybe this write up will help someone…

8 thoughts on “LAKE EFFECT SERIES: Trying for Something New

  1. Powerful post!!!! I hope through pregnancy she can see how amazing her body is regardless of size! It will be the home to her baby.

    I love what you are doing with these posts. And I have no doubt they are changing people for the better. It’s inspiring.

  2. Something I really love about these posts is how honest and real people are. Amber was no different, admitting where she has concerns and where things have changed. It takes incredible strength, and I hope that one day she does have a baby- because she will teach that child some amazing things about how to take care of yourself (in a healthy way) and how to fight back against struggles.

  3. This is such an honest post – and I understand when she says “I couldn’t keep my eating disorder, and be happy.” I wonder if we don’t all identify a little with that sentiment? Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you for sharing and for giving so much personal insight into how someone with an eating disorder thinks. You’ve definitely given me insight that I didn’t have before!

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