Tag Archives: anorexia

Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Everyone Knows Someone

 

Hey Recovery Writers! This next week is the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “Everyone Knows Someone”. Considering the current statistics on eating disorders, I’m betting this is true. Think about it, I’m sure we all know someone who had been affected by an eating disorder. If you have been personally affected or you know someone, or you even know someone who knows someone, I want to hear about it!! In the comments section below or on the WfR Facebook page, please feel free to share your story. The more people who share, the more it will show how big a problem this is and how wide it spreads. I look foward to reading your experiences; thank you for being willing to open up here!!

With love, Sarah

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Domestic Violence Story Project: My Story- Sarah

Hi everyone, thanks for joining me once again for the final story in this series. Everyone who has contributed to this project has done a wonderful job and I am grateful to all of you, but each story has been from the perspective of a survivor in a violent relationship. I really wanted to include at least one story from the perspective of a child who had grown up in an environment of domestic violence, but unfortunately I didn’t receive any stories like that, so because I believe it is such an important perspective to include, I thought I would volunteer my own.  I will caution you, this story may be triggering and is not easy to read. But I decided not to pull any punches, and to really lay out the truth about what went on in my home growing up. Even people who know me may be surprised at the extent of the violence; I just want to be clear that I am not ashamed of anything that happened. I did nothing wrong. My mother and sister did nothing wrong. We were the victims, we are the survivors. And I am ready for the world to hear our story. 

Thank you to everyone who has written, commented, and read these stories. Just by witnessing these words, you are making a difference. 

Growing up in a violent household isn’t easy to explain. It isn’t all like what you see in Lifetime movies; it isn’t all as obvious as black eyes and screaming fights. Sometimes- many times- violence is much quieter than that, much more insidious. It was that way in my house

I think the number one word that comes to mind when describing my childhood home is this: confusing. Damn, was it confusing.  It’s not just that it was chaotic, though it certainly was. It’s that no one had a clearly defined role in the family. Mother, daughter, wife, big sister, little sister, friend, adult, child, lover, whore, caretaker, confessor, victim, savior, and others were all interchangeable roles for the three females in the family; that is my mom, my older sister, and me. We shifted personalities at the whim of my father, who also had his own little cast of characters that he played: father, husband, surgeon, family man, abuser, pedophile, rapist, philanderer, and general, all-around sociopath. We spent our days and especially our nights in a mixture of terror and exhaustion, wondering who was going to be what next.

As a child, I got extremely mixed messages from both parents, but especially my mom. On the one hand, she was very careful to make sure that she raised me to be a feminist, equal to a boy in all the opportunities I was given and the things she said to me. She gave me trucks along with my Barbies, made sure I admired Cinderella and Sally Ride, and said I was so smart I could be anything I wanted to when I grew up- no one could stop me.

Except while she was telling me all of this, I was watching her wither away in an abusive marriage. My father stopped her from seeing friends and her family, from taking a job outside the house or even working from home, from using any of the degrees she had earned. My mother is a brilliant, talented, educated woman, and he convinced her that she was worthless and stupid and couldn’t even do housework correctly. I watched him treat her like less than shit you wipe off your shoe my entire life. He slowly took away every little bit of control and happiness and sanity from her. I watched him screw other women behind her back. I dealt with him abusing my sister and me behind her back, which he knew was the worst way possible to hurt her.

When you grow up with a tyrant who rules your home like this, things are never safe. You don’t even know what that word means. Stable and secure are pretty meaningless too. Because one night your father might come home, get pissed off, and threaten to kill your cats. Or, just because he thinks it’s funny, he’ll hold an empty handgun to your six-year-old head and pretend to fire. Or while you’re doing your homework he’ll walk into your room completely naked and act like it’s no big deal. He’ll make dinner for himself and forget to feed you and your sister. He’ll pinch your ass. Pull your hair. Shove you into a wall. Molest you. Rape you.

And that’s just the stuff he did to me. He pretty much did the same to my sister. I don’t even know everything that he did to my mom, and I don’t want to. I know he abused her verbally, emotionally, physically, sexually, financially, and even reproductively, by forcing her to have her tubes tied which ended up in a hysterectomy after a post-op infection. It was horrifying.

It’s hard to really make someone understand what it is to live under the constant threat of violence unless they literally have. It’s terrifying, but it is also exhausting; physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Because you’re not only having to live with it, you have to keep it secret. You’re all living in this silent warzone, this strange compromise gets struck where you can be fucked up inside the house, but once outside it’s all pretend. It’s like a bomb in a Tiffany box; it may look pretty on the outside, but when you open it up, the contents will still kill you.

For those of you who have children who have lived in violent homes and are concerned about how they will be affected, I can tell you one thing: they are aware of so much more than you think. You think you are hiding the stress and trauma from them but you are not. They understand what’s happening and they want to help. They want to protect their parents and themselves and make it all ok. They think it is their fault that things are falling apart. They think this so they can have some control over a situation in which they have no control. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to “stay together for the kids’ sake.” The kids do not want two miserable parents together. They would so much rather have two separate, functional, happy parents, BELIEVE ME. They would rather have a struggling single mom in a safe home than a rich, extravagant home that is filled with chaos and violence. Do whatever you have to do, but make your kids feel safe. That’s all they really want.

As far as how I was affected by growing up like this, it’s hard to tell. I ended up with severe anorexia and bulimia, a dissociative disorder, self-harm issues (mostly cutting), a prescription pill habit, and horrifying posttraumatic stress disorder. But how much of that was due to witnessing domestic violence, and how much of that was being a direct victim of sexual violence myself? There’s really no way to know.  Both affected me in deep and profound ways, ways that I still deal with to this day.

So how, you’re probably wondering, did my family’s violent situation end? Well, it sort of ended because of me. I finally went off the deep end at 15. I couldn’t take it anymore and I tried to commit suicide, which landed me in a psych ward, which began the process of family therapy with the therapist who recommended my parents get divorced, which finally began when I was 17 and ended when I was 19. It took many, many years of therapy for all of us and a lot of moving around and of course, cutting my father out of our lives completely to be where we are today, my mother my sister, and me. And where we are is a pretty good place: moving forward, looking to the future, hopeful, peaceful, and free.

Finally, gratefully, free.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011


National Recovery Month Stories: Alli

Hello everyone and thank you for joining me for our final Recovery Month Story! This account comes to us from a brave young woman who is facing an interesting challenge: how to stay in recovery herself while taking on a challenging career in the medical field. Alli is a registered nurse who works to advocate for her patients and keep them healthy, while at the same time trying to stay in recovery from her own eating disorder issues. I identify with her greatly, since I too am recovered from an eating disorder and am currently in nursing school; it’s interesting to hear about how she feels towards the profession of nursing and her daily struggles with recovery. I hope you find it interesting too. Thank you for staying with me through this month’s Story Project, and I hope you’ll join me on the first when Writing for Recovery begins the Domestic Violence Awareness Story Project. Thank you again! Peace, Sarah

Let me introduce you to someone: She is a bright-eyed intelligent young woman full of enthusiasm for nursing sick people back to health.  This has been her passion for longer than she can remember, and it took her more years than most to reach just the bottom rung of the ladder–a license to practice as a Registered Nurse.  Setbacks forced her to put the dream on hold and learn to let others nurse her back to health before she herself could be the caretaker.  But she achieved these first necessary steps of living her dream and is on the verge of changing lives with her career finally in her hands staring her in the face.  She embraces the challenge despite the feeling of terror that comes with knowing she will be responsible to care for human lives.


She didn’t sign up for this.  They told us it would be hard, but didn’t prepare us at all for the magnitude of suckiness that is the life of a floor nurse.  No, what they told us was a joke compared to the war we face every day. This job, this career, has been one giant disappointment.  After all the time and effort I’ve put into it.  Seems like a waste.  I’m good at it.  But just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you’re happy doing it.  I have to wonder if I’ve even given it a fair shot though.  If I have even stepped into the ring.  Maybe I’m holding out for something better that doesn’t even exist.  Maybe this is it for me.  I’d always wondered if I was destined for greatness.  But I am swallowed up by a feeling of limbo; this is the most I’m ever going to be, to do.  Who ever said I deserved better anyway?

Who is this chick?

This chick is me.  Alli.  For over a dozen years I’ve been suffering from anorexia and bulimia, spending my days in and out of treatment centers, emergency rooms, therapists’ offices; wearing a mask that says to the rest of the world No matter what it looks like on the outside, I’m FINE.  But I’m not fine–on the inside I’m screaming.  On the bad days, everything in me is fighting to hold it all together but at the same time wanting to cry out Somebody please help me, I can’t do this anymore!  In between treatment stays I somehow managed to fight my way through nursing school and am currently working as a registered nurse on a cardiac floor.  Which is a sick irony–the years of abusing my body has created numerous medical complications; at any moment the tables could be turned and I could be (and have been) lying in that bed being nursed back to health.  Instead I am in the position to care for and to save lives.  When I can’t even save my own.  I give advice to my patients that seems hypocritical; who should be expected to listen to me educate them on living a healthier lifestyle when I’m not exactly the poster-child for health?  My career and the struggles I face every day in my job are reflective of the daily battle against my eating disorder.  They both involve waking up and facing my worst fears over and over and you have to be so strong to do that every single day. When I speak of the “fight” to get up and go to work, I’m also talking about the fight to walk around in a body I hate and try to ignore the self-loathing feelings all day long, to fight the desire to self-sabotage and fall back into a completely eating-disordered lifestyle.  There’s an eerily deep correlation–while growing as a young nurse, I have grown as a young woman and have learned that there really is no separation between my work life and my home life.  How I feel about myself as a plain old human being directly affects me in my career.  It is impossible for me to be strong at work and then go home and beat myself up.  If I can stand up for myself as a patient advocate, then I must stand up for myself as a me advocate. The strength it has taken to survive one of the toughest careers is the same strength that has helped me fight against my eating disorder for so long when too many times I desperately wanted to give up.  As hard as it is though, it is what I live for and now I am a nurse for life.  And if you have something to live for, then you have no excuse for giving up.

~~ Some people plant in the spring and leave in the summer.  If you’re signed up for a season, see it through.  You don’t have to stay forever, but at least stay until you see it through. ~~

Alli Eshleman, RN


National Recovery Month Stories: Nikki

Welcome, everyone, to Writing for Recovery’s National Recovery Month Story Project! I’m honored to be able to bring you these narratives, written by the people who experienced them. I’m grateful for their vulnerability in sharing these pieces of their lives, in hopes that others may take away something that helpful.

This first story is by a dear friend of mine. It is beautifully, if painfully, written. She has been through more pain than anyone should ever have to endure; and yet, despite that, she has a firm conviction about her recovery. An amazing story, a great way to start. Thank you, Nikki.  -Sarah

 

Imagine a girl.

Imagine a girl who was broken. A girl who was abused, neglected, and abandoned throughout her life. A girl who couldn’t trust her father. A girl whose mother picked drugs over her. A girl who was bounced between family members for the first 10 years of her life, only to be permanently placed with the most abusive one of them all.
A girl who stopped eating. Started purging. Cutting. Eventually moved onto pills. A girl who hated herself and felt unsafe in her world. A girl whose mother died when she was 21. A girl who discovered her biological father, her last hope for a parent, had died when she was 14. She never knew him.
A girl who went in and out of so many treatment places that she has even lost count. A girl who lied and manipulated others. A girl who hurt and was hurt. A girl who almost died, should have died many times.
2 serious suicide attempts. 2 surgical feeding tubes. Crushing pills to dull the pain. Purging. Thousands of dollars spent. Dozens of therapists seen. Blame, hurt, sadness, anger, despair; often misplaced.
Imagine a girl who hated herself.
Then decided, one day, she was tired of hating herself. Tired of lying. Of pain. Of hurting. Of hating being alive.

Imagine a girl who clawed her way out of the mess she had created. She fell a few times, but managed to find her way out. She made amends with family, forged new friendships, and decided to begin living again.
One day, that girl met the man who became the love of her life. He understood her, loved her for who she is, not who she was, and knew everything about her. He didn’t care about the past, he fell in love with this girl.
Many months later, this girl got pregnant. After all of the abuse she had shown her body, she was told it would never happen. She had abandoned the hope of a family, of children of her own. She was overjoyed. Grateful. Blessed.
15 weeks later she was grieving, broken, devastated.
“I’m sorry, your son has no heartbeat anymore.”
Words that came to define her life.
She cried, screamed, got angry, sad, spent nights in despair.
But she did not fall. She did not relapse.
3 months later, she got the surprise of her life when she discovered she was pregnant again. Joy combined with terror and fear.
Please don’t let it happen again.
At 8 weeks:
“I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”
And there she was again, sitting in a funeral home signing a fetal death certificate. For her second baby. Devastated.
But again, she is not falling. She has not relapsed. She knows her recovery is real. She knows that no behavior will bring her babies back. Starving, cutting, purging, running, pills; nothing is distraction enough to take away the pain of losing her children. Her hopes, dreams, visions of the future. Gone, in the blink of an eye.
14 days after the news, she is still angry, sad, broken, defeated, devastated, and in agony. She cries daily, nightly for her babies. She needs them. Wants them.
This girl’s recovery has been tested, and still stands strong.

We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, stronger than we ever thought we could be.
This girl is me. And I am proud to say, that despite losing my baby Aiden, and my second baby (who we take to be a boy) Connor, I am still solidly in recovery. I waiver in many things, but never that fact.
I know pain, the worst kinds of pain. And I know that behaviors, of any type, only multiply pain.

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

Nikki Albrecht

 

 


Every Day is a Winding Road: Lessons in Recovery

I think we all know that recovery is not a linear process. It is a long and winding road with many stops, starts, detours, and swerves. There are constantly forks in the road, places where you must decide to keep taking the path of recovery or go back on the path of addiction. I believe that every time you make the choice to take the path of recovery, the decision gets easier, and you encounter fewer forks.

However, that doesn’t mean that they go away forever. I think that sometimes, no matter how much time in recovery you have under your belt, those little opportunities to slip back into old habits can present themselves again under the right circumstances. This happened to me recently, and I think you deserve to hear about it.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been inviting more and more positive changes into my life. I’ve been focusing on my future, getting through school, working as a nanny whenever I can, and writing, writing, writing. I created Writing for Recovery and it’s really taken off; doing this has made me incredibly happy, and given me such a sense of purpose. I’ve had my articles published in many places and begun to feel like a real author, not just some random person spewing her thoughts on a blog. I’m completing the courses I need to get into nursing school, which I am so excited about! I’ve also been thinking about and considering something I’ve never really had before: an intimate, adult relationship with another person. Thinking about dating and the potential that comes with that has been kind of confusing, new and intense for me. After all the sexual trauma I’ve endured, having a true relationship is an overwhelming prospect, but something I do want to undertake.

While all of these things are very positive and forward-looking and life-affirming changes, they are still stressful. And over the past six months, I have been without my therapist, as I have been unable to afford to pay for therapy. However, for the first time since I was fifteen years old, I actually felt stable enough to be without her. I felt ok going about my days, working in school, doing WfR, etc. But towards the beginning of April, I began to notice that I was having a hard time eating. Not every day, but just sometimes I would get to late evening and realize oh crap, I haven’t eaten anything today. This began to happen more and more. I noticed that when my mom would make dinner, which I always adore, I began to refuse.  I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. Was this just a stress reaction? Was this normal? Would it go away? Or was my anorexia trying to come back? I talked about it with my mom, told her honestly that I wasn’t quite sure what was going on; I just had no interest in food, wasn’t at all hungry, just didn’t want to eat period. She thought it was probably stress and there was no need to panic. But one night in early May when I tried to make myself eat a bowl of soup and felt unbearably full, I purged. That’s when I panicked and thought, Oh my God. What the hell did I just do?

Fortunately, school ended the first week of May. I wrapped up my final Writing for Recovery campaign a couple of weeks later, and this guy that I had been stressing over and having issues with, we finally talked and worked everything out. Three major stressors were out of my life, and at that point my eating patterns did improve a bit. But I was still scared and didn’t know how on earth to get back on track to where I was before this little detour.

As I keep finding out though, God does work in mysterious ways. Just as I was feeling like I had no way to get out of the hole I had dug for myself, I got a phone call from my therapist. She told me that she had some scholarship funds come available and wanted to offer them to me so I could see her, since it had been several months. The fact that I was the first person she called, the first person she thought of to make this generous offer to, was so kind and so wonderful that I cried. It was simply perfect timing and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Of course, I accepted her offer and I will be able to see her once a week until at least the end of summer.

So far we have had two sessions and I am already doing much, much better. Just having that one person to be accountable to, to make goals with and to kick my ass and to process my thoughts with is such a privilege. And when I come to those forks in the road, I have her voice in my ear, guiding me to make to right decision. She helped me see that as many good changes as I was making, I just became a little inattentive to my recovery. I lost track of my healthy coping skills, so when the stress became too much I began to fall back on my old, unhealthy coping skills. Looking back I can clearly see that. It’s frightening how insidious that can be, how easy it is to get complacent about recovery and forget that it needs as much attention as any other daily practice, like brushing your teeth. It’s easy to forget those coping skills that keep you on track. But as I found out the hard way, it’s those little things that prevent you from falling back into your old ways of thinking and behaving, the ways that kept you sick and addicted.

Even though this was a painful and scary couple of months, I’m so grateful for this experience. It’s been a wake-up call, a startling reminder of the things I need to do as I move forward in my life to stay healthy and recovered. I don’t consider this a “relapse” or even a “lapse,” and I don’t believe it means I have to start from day one. I simply believe it’s a part of life, a lesson to learn and take with me as I continue on my path toward a brighter future every day.

© Sarah Ann Henderson 2011


Voices: “Better”

This is the final post from the series! Thank you for reading this past Mental Health Month. I’m honored to enter your lives through poetry and even more honored to hear your stories and comments in return.

This last poem is brand new, just written a few days ago. I wanted to write something looking back from the other side of mental illness; what it feels like to be better. “Better” means different things to different people, I think mostly because the course of each person’s life and illness is so different. For some people, it means 100% recovery. For others, it’s just managing symptoms. For some, just staying out of the hospital for extended periods is a really big accomplishment. Celebrate those successes in whatever form they come, and try not to berate yourself for the times you fall down. Never stop advocating for yourself, not just as a patient but as a person too; you are more than your symptoms. Choose the people in your life carefully and try to have a good support system. Mental illness is a part of our lives but it does not have to be our whole lives.

My hope is for everyone with mental illness to have access to the resources they need to get “better”- whatever that means to them.

5/24/11

Better

There is a place that’s in between

It’s hard to find and rarely seen

But if you work and search it’s there

You only find it through self-care

For some that includes therapy

For others it means meals times three

For some it means ten pills a day

We do self-care in many ways

I know it’s isn’t always fun

But it’s a task that must be done

To stay here and to really live

Remember the alternative

Remember self-destructive nights

Terror and internal fights

Dissolving into fits of panic

Acting out when things turned manic

Diving into dark depression

Binge and purge in quick succession

Starving to make up for it

Cut to make it all just quit

Round and round and round it went

Never pausing to relent

Revisit what this felt like so

You’ll have the good sense to let go

To keep on caring for yourself

To keep on trying and getting help

And knowing that there is always hope

And support out there to help you cope

© Sarah Henderson 2011


Voices: “Flawless”

Thank you for joining me for the final week of our “Voices” series. This week I want to focus on the recovery side of mental illness- at least, the journey towards recovery. This short poem was written in a little burst of self-awareness I had about five years ago. I was still extremely ill, and just a couple of months away from entering inpatient care. But every now and then something would break through my denial and it would occur to me that eventually this shit would have to stop if I was going to survive. This was one of those moments.

5/26/06

Flawless

 

What does it mean to be perfect?

I have searched my whole life but don’t know

I have tried and have lied and I’ve nearly died

And I’ve put on a grand little show

But the truth, I’ve discovered, is that there’s no magic

There’s no way to opt out of yourself

There’s only this life, and if you choose to stay

You must play the hand you’ve been dealt

There are rules in this life by which you must abide

And you can be pissed and that’s fine

But you will have to eat, take your pills, and take care

Of the body that houses your mind

You will learn to accept things that you used to hate

You will learn that perfection can’t be

You will learn that your so-called flaws make you you

And that self-respect will set you free

If you want to move on then you will have to grieve

And you’ll have to fight like all hell

But when it’s all over, the pain will subside

And you’ll be able to say “I am well”

© Sarah Henderson 2006