I’m not sure how many folks who follow me (or even friends and family) are aware of my personal experiences…so this is a very bold move for me here today.
In my late teens the women in our household seem to have gotten into the diet phase of being female in our culture. My mom started weighing and measuring food.
Not going to lie – my sister and I are almost 6 feet tall and probably weighed in at 135 lbs. But common sense doesn’t always rule the day and, honestly, I was a BIG eater. I also moved a lot.
We were rarely inside in the summer, did chores, too. And, in the winter, especially by high school and college, I would get up early to ride the exercise bike and take a soak before heading to school.
I’m not sure when it actually started, but I do recall making a sheet pan of break-apart chocolate chip cookies and telling my dad I read that IF I ate only these cookies until I didn’t want them anymore, I wouldn’t get cravings, etc.
So, I did. And, I did stop. Then.
But, by the time I moved to Florida – the first time being away from family and ever living alone – the beliefs were set.
I remember them cutting my hours at work (retail) as spring moved into summer so I started having a bit more time to walk the beach, convert recipes to low-fat and exercise more.
And, I did all those things not realizing I was slowly drifting away, disappearing on many levels. I got thin. I switched jobs. I worked at a PBS station and my coworkers wondered if I had cancer.
Still, I functioned.
At one point, the folks came to visit and I knew that somehow, I was dying. I couldn’t name it…I put a pair of white jeans on (size 6) and they fell off my body. I sat on the floor – the t-shirt was teal, darker blue and purple stripes.
I stared in the mirror and knew I was dying. The folks called me from downstairs to hurry up we were going to be late for dinner (at our aunt and uncle’s). I put something on and left.
While I remember the clothes and it happening. I don’t remember what I saw when I looked in the mirror. Perhaps that’s as telling as the rest of this story.
At some point after that, mom and dad were heading back to Ohio. I don’t recall much of my youth (life) so I’m not sure how or when it happened…but they day they were leaving I do know that I asked my mom to please stay.
She said the car was packed; dad was waiting they had to go.
I cried. Not some simple “I’m going to miss you” crying, but ugly, soul-wrenching, “I know I’m dying and I don’t know how or why” sobbing.
I was on my hands and knees on the white tile at the entry to the condo begging…begging her to stay…begging for my life.
And, she looked at me, opened the door, closed it and I heard them drive away.
In that moment, whether I realized it or not, everything I knew to be true about my family and life had just turned into a lie.
“Family first” – a lie. “I love you; I will do anything for you” – a lie. Lies.
I don’t know what happened next other than a part of me, my heart and soul, crumbled.
I don’t know how I got off the floor or when. I don’t remember what day it was when I finally picked-up a phone book and started to call around for help.
The same day? A week later? Did I miss shifts at work? No idea.
I was in a haze. My brain was already disabled to some extent by too little food and too much movement.
By the shattering of all I believed to be true and knew about my family. About life.
Perhaps my folks called. I don’t know.
I do know that at some point along that path, this path, I picked-up a phone book and started calling around for help.
While it took me years to realize I had an eating disorder, I do recall calling one place in Naples and they told me it was $15,000 for treatment. I was working retail making about $5/hour and no insurance.
Finally, I called and found counseling services on a sliding pay-scale…this I could do. This, I hoped, would help me.
My counselor was extraordinary not only because she helped me, but because she was both firm and gentle. Clearly, she saw I was wasting away. Yet, she never blurted out I had disordered eating.
Clearly, she knew this was more than my parents driving away when I needed them most.
And, she never even hinted at early childhood sexual abuse.
Nope! I had to do the work on my own. And, I did.
I tried overeaters anonymous where a few folks welcomed me with open arms while others literally heckled me for being thin…they couldn’t see it was the flip side of the same coin, perhaps with more immediately deadly consequences.
I stuck with counseling and eventually a few random memories of the abuse floated through my mind when I was calm enough, safe enough, for things to come forward.
It was then, only then, that we did the work on sexual abuse. No, I never recalled who the perpetrator was. And, if you think being the wing-nut in the family with an overt eating disorder brings ridicule and abandonment, then you can imagine what happened when I brought this topic up with my mom.
Interestingly, I continued to somehow think they would eventually come around.
I was also the first in the family to call out some drinking issues…the enmeshment and such. Obvious now – but I’m the black sheep of the family.
At some point in all this, I shifted from over exercising and under-eating to binge-eating. A process of self-care that is just as damaging and damning to the psyche.
I dappled a bit with laxatives, but I knew that was a road to hell and somehow moved beyond that. I guess through faith…but not that churchy, God is coming to save me grace.
A grace that required me to sit in the pit and pull myself up while the angels whispered in my ears “you are not alone, we are here, you can do this” or even “fuck your family of origin…we are your family, you are building a new family, let us help you.” Or, “holy shit – not again? Okay, we are here, let go…let us help”.
I dove into spirituality. Nature. Started attending Unity and found folks who did healing energy work. I felt more at home in those communities than I did with doctors who told me it was all in my head. Well, DUH on the one hand, but, as I would later learn out, DUH on them because I also have a slew of food allergies and sensitivities that contributed to these cravings and binges.
Last night I realized how far I’ve come as even as I was experiencing an over-eating of the foods that cause me major issues…none of these foods are bad, per say. And, if in small amounts, I may have been okay.
But larger amounts than normal + stress + fear (money concerns) + dappling with too many of them in one day = major issues.
I feel asleep okay, but woke to a feeling I hadn’t had in a long time…but was still way to familiar.
And, I didn’t panic. I didn’t even cry – maybe a bit. I rolled myself into a ball and asked the angels to wrap their wings around me…to stand over me and protect me.
I called upon my ancestors, my mom and dad…to love me and be with me now like they couldn’t in the past.
Most importantly, I relied on me… I’ve been here before. Look how far I’ve come that this hasn’t happened in years. I used to live every day like this…the horrible stomach cramps and feeling like I’m going to be sick.
The aches and pains in my joints. The brain fog and weighted, exhaustion in the muscles.
And, I realized several things. How very lucky I am to be alive – to have survived all those years and traumas and still love my family. Have a life.
That it wasn’t just about the trauma and loss of control, the sexual abuse. There is also a factor of food allergies and sensitivities that contributed to MY experience. I’m not sure if that’s true with everyone who has disordered eating…but it was painfully obvious to me last night.
Also, that I somehow stayed grounded while I was in the bed pondering all this and knowing on the deepest of levels that I need more from my life. Yes, more cash…but more SOUL, HEART, LAUGHTER.
My people…I need my people. And, I need some of them to feed my body, mind and spirit as much as I feed theirs.
That I have always survived. I even created a safety net within me that allows me some semblance of faith, security and hope when my body and brain are screaming otherwise.
Kudos to me for loving my parents despite all the shit. Accolades to me for keeping my humor and moving forward even when life is hard.
Today, I stayed in bed later. I stopped trying to create work. I didn’t tell myself I need to do my reiki class or even a session on myself (though I think I did a mini session last night).
I was easy on myself.
I saw Duncan limping and said “nope, I’ll protect you when you can’t protect yourself” and put him back in the house (much to his dismay).
I walked. I spoke to a few friends. Ran into neighbors from my childhood. Nice to be remembered. Met a sparkling gentleman who is married to one’s sister. Petted a playful puppy and watched baby ducks in the pond.
I ate a protein shake and started writing while sipping tea.
I don’t know who this will help, or how. I simply know I’m being called to share this – not to garner sympathy or be a martyr. I’m neither a victim or hero.
I’m just a woman who is experiencing a time of deep dives to heal – along with most of the planet.
I know we can choose to ignore and run away from the shadows, but they eventually catch us.
So, instead, I have, yet again, sat with them and loved them – as I was recently reminded in a post by Dr. Northrup. I sat with my tiny self and SELF – the darkness (fears and insecurities, issues and pain) and the Light.
They were both there and I love them both.
I worked so hard to get to this place in my life and it does piss me off that I could lose every thing. But, I’ve been in hard places before and made it through… so I will this time.
Only, now, I have more experience, more tools in my box of goodies and I’ve seen more miracles and received more grace just from living this long.
I don’t have all the answers. But I do have more knowledge today than yesterday. I can offer you what I do know and I can say with assurance that the Precision Nutrition program helped me look at food in new ways.
My work with energy workers, taking reiki classes, yoga and such have all helped me better understand myself and some work with a nutritionist helped me realize more about how MY sister works and is very different than yours.
All this together provides me with some guidelines, even as all that we know and understand flips and turns inside out.
I’m subdued today. I’m a bit in toxic overload physically so going to not add the crap on the news and fear mongers to it.
I’m going to be creative somehow- maybe color or write something not like this and allow myself the space to be…me. Where I am. Who I am.? How I am.
And, I invite you to do the same. Even if it’s 1 minute alone in the car, bathroom or over the wash machine…I invite you to be you.
To pause, breathe and speak aloud (even if softly) your fears, your hopes, your angers and resentments, your loves…
I’m also going to ask you to speak LOVE to yourself. To stop bashing yourself for what you ate/drink or didn’t eat/drink. To stop yelling at yourself for not doing better, being better, doing more, having more.
To stop screaming internally for not fitting someone else’s image or even your own.
To give yourself some LOVE.
Oh, to find something that makes you laugh or cry – then move the feelings through the body to get them released (walk, clean, dance, shake yourself, jump up and down).
And, if today or yesterday you did something less than ideal that harmed you or another – simply own it as a fact and move forward. If it requires an apology, do it, to both the other and yourself.
One thing is clear as the world we know unravels…resistance, anger, rage, hate, fear only makes everything worse.
Compassion, accountability, allowing for peace and grace, along with more LOVE, improves everything.
These are hard times…we are all grieving something or someone. We are all learning as we go – allow yourself to learn and grow through this all. It’s hard.
But what choice do we really have? One leads to peace, the other to more fear.
I'm Mary Ann. I am a storyteller using skills, interests, education and experience to help others. Together, we'll explore your story and write a new ending for your journey along the nourished path.