Lake Effect Series: Dear Diary
Note from Hollie: This was sent to me by Sophie. Thank you Sophie for sending me this and it’s a truly inspirational story.
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As many of you already know, I battled disordered eating, from puberty until my hospitalization in 2005. My official diagnosis was Anorexia – purging type. I would restrict calories and purge the calories I did consume with excessive exercise and/or vomiting. The disease evolved in the 15 years I battled it – making a transition in my early 20’s to full-on binge eating disorder then, back to anorexia again in my mid 20’s. There are so many reasons a person succumbs to such a disease. There’s much research and plenty of theories – none of which I feel like engaging you in with this blog entry. Mental illness is a very difficult topic because there are just too many factors – here are mine:
I was the oldest of two children born to 17 year old high school students. My parents married, got jobs in the local car factory, and did the best they could to support their young family. My mother was born into (and had in a sense escaped, when she became pregnant with me) a heavily toxic family as the oldest of 6 children. Sexual and physical abuse as well as alcoholism, were part of her daily existence as a child. My father was the 2nd oldest of 5 children born to a hard working family with a very emotionally unavailable mother. They raised their children the only way they knew how. My mother knew absolute instability, neglect, and abandonment – and my father knew how to disassociate. This was the perfect storm.
I was the oldest of 2 children and spent my entire childhood trying to keep my emotionally unstable mother happy so she didn’t fly off in a rage and abuse my brother – because when she did, I was powerless. In order to do this I had to keep my brother on his best behaviour and my father happy so he was always in a good mood. Even at the age of 6 I understood that my safety and the safety of my little brother, was in my hands entirely. As you can imagine, this didn’t work. My brother still suffered from my mother’s rage, my father still left, and I was still scrambling to pick up the pieces.
No one ever gave me this role but it was not a conscious decision that I would be the keeper to this household. I just fell into this place because of my basic survival instincts as a little girl. I learned that if I was one step ahead of everyone else, I would be safe. So, my quest for perfection began when I was 6, when my brother’s abuse began. I was doing dishes, laundry, vacuuming, dusting, and making beds from the age of 6 to 8. By 9 I was left to take care of my brother while my parents worked, and I was in charge of cooking. I started babysitting other people’s children at that age for extra cash as well because it angered my mother when I asked for money for things for school – like pencils, erasers, new shoes. I learned that being perfect was absolutely critical to my safety.
Eventually when my dad left and my mother had nothing to be angry with me for, she started picking on my appearance. I was entering puberty and I was gaining weight, which became her focus. I would be so pretty if only I lost weight. I would be a better baseball player if only I lost weight. I would be a better… you get the point. So did I. The message was loud and clear.
My relationship with my mother would continue to be based purely on my productivity and accomplishments as I grew – and I tried to love her anyway. What I did not do however, was try to love myself. My identity was built and by hitting rock bottom with my eating disorder I was finally given permission to look at why and how that identity was killing me, slowly. I recovered in 2005 and went on to work tirelessly on rebuilding my self-worth and giving myself permission to find ME. I am now a successful entrepreneur with two businesses that allow me to embrace my two biggest passions: childcare, and fitness. I am a mother to an incredible little boy who is an absolute JOY to love, and I am a competitive bodybuilder. In spite of the rocky start and the rock bottom plummet, I am here, happy, enjoying discovering all of who I am and what the Universe has in store for me. This is the reason I decided it was time to share my experience.
Over the years I have kept a journal. Recently I came across the journal I kept while I was at the peak of my illness. While I understand the depth of my experience I was now reading these journal entries from a healthy mind, and I was absolutely floored with what I read. I want to share some of my entries with you. They are from the mind of a girl in her mid-20’s who has only the buds of consciousness that her lack of self-worth is controlling her drive to…kill herself for perfection.
Sometimes, like tonight, I want to stop. I picture myself as a bystander, watching this pathetic 26 year old ram her hand down her throat to remove the filth she swallowed. I see the superficial things like the mucus dripping from her nose and the strained blood vessels around her eyes, and the fear of failing to succeed at getting it all out – all of what? Food? Shame? Regret? Maybe all of the above. I see the filth all over her hand, the raw skin on her knuckles from her teeth as she pushes harder into her mouth – more frantic as time passes to get it all out. Regret kicks in, turns to shame and self pity. I see all this in my mind. What do I do with this image? Nothing usefull – clearly. I suppose I store it in my reserve pile of shame. Chances are, I won’t require it, there’s enough to go around. I want to stop, a little. I want to keep doing it more than I want to stop. I want to be skinny more than I want to stop. I see the health risks but I see them as “far away” and for those to will do this forever. I don’t see myself doing this forever. But I think I will.
I can’t tell him that I purge up to 6x a day, that I purge even vegetables. That I feel so unbearably alone. That I feel like no one would give a crap if I disappeared. That I take handfuls of laxatives, that I compare myself to every single person I see. That I hate myself. I hate my body, my face, my laugh, my voice, my thoughts, my dreams, I hate everything. I beg God to take me almost daily. I pray my suffering will end because I can’t end my struggle alone. I don’t have the strength to go on. How do I say that? So I don’t. I keep it all inside where I hope it will dissolve but I know it never will. One day I hope to look back on these entries in shock. Completely shocked by my words. But for now, they are mine, and all I have. My head hurts, I have to sleep. I’m too hungry to stay awake.
6lbs down. I swear to you that was the most beautiful thing I could ever see. I want to lose 8lbs more before I see the doctor at the hospital. How sad that I feel I need to be a better anorexic to deserve treatment, much less a diagnosis. I want to be a better, more successful anorexic. It’s insane but I can’t help it.
I had my assessment today with the Regional Treatment Center. After all the questionnaires and my interview with the head psychiatrist I’m told “You’re very ill and we recommend hospitalization”. Apparently I’m in a category of individuals who suffer from cardiac arrest and it’s a matter of time until I have a heart attack. You know, I honestly thought I was going to hear “you’re not too far gone, we’ll set you up with a self-help plan”. Instead she repeated all the statements I made that stood out to her and explained how they reflect the views of a seriously ill person. All I could think as she was saying all this was “but i’m STILL FAT! I still have fat on my stomach and thighs – can’t you see that?”
Lastly, if something does happen to me in my quest for thin, I hope my family forgives my selfishness. I’m afraid this may hurt me. Maybe not kill me, but i’m aware that it isn’t good. I know it’s selfish and vain but I can’t live without my ED. I don’t know how to undo 27 years of filth and shame.
The thing about anorexia that continues to shake me is that an otherwise intelligent educated woman can be convinced (by herself of all people) that she is hideous and unlovable. I can honestly say that I hate myself. No amount of weight loss can change that. I don’t like myself enough to feed myself. I feel unworthy of the food I put in my mouth, and once it’s in my stomach for any length of time I get a sudden fear that I don’t deserve what I just ate, and I purge it. Lately, even water. That’s a fucking sickness for you.
When things started to get tough in my life I just started to focus on destroying myself. I run twice a day, sprints in the morning, and a steady-state run in the evening – all on less than 600 calories a day. Every time I run, I pray to collapse. I realize the only way I could stop is if I died and I could only die if it happened to me. I couldn’t end my own life any other way. I desperately want it to end.
As you can see this girl needed help in the biggest way and while she saw it – she didn’t want to acknowledge it. She was so far gone that she didn’t feel worthy of the help. The story ended happily but so many do not. There are hundreds of men and women on waiting lists to get into recovery centers like I did – some die on that waiting list. Death from starvation is one thing, but death from starvation of self-love is entirely another. No one should suffer from that, much less die from it.
If you take nothing else from this story, I want you to remember that there is absolutely nothing you cannot do with self-love. As you can see from my story, I was not granted self-love – I had to build it – and I had to hit rock bottom to even understand the work that needed to be done in order to attain it. I work on it even now, daily – and I will never stop because that is my birthright – as it is yours <3.