Before I could walk, sitting in a high chair in my grandmother’s Italian kitchen, there were proud smiles and praises uttered from the lips of my grandmother as I attempted to swallow more ravioli than an adult. Standing next to her was my mother pulling the food out of my mouth. That is when my eating disorder first walked into my life. Pulling food out of my mouth was the start of the expectation of perfection in my life.
I was to be the perfect daughter, perfect student, and have the perfect body. I was the ray of sunshine in the family. I learned through the years I never really felt love for me. I felt I was an outsider in my own family. It seemed that no matter the number of achievements and accolades I received the only thing that mattered was my size. Being thin would make me a valued member of my family.
The scale determined whether it was a good day or a bad day. Obsession with food also kept me from defining my place and what I should be doing in the world. But no matter how little I weighed I did not think I was thin enough. If the number was too high, it threw me into a savage binge and the exhausting cycle would go on forever. I began to feel like everything inside and outside of me was out of control. Food became a way for me to bring control to my life. When I was depressed and suicidal, I would limit my caloric intake to the point where it was a slow, but sure way to take my life. Consuming thousands of calories was a way of coping when I felt reality slipping in an out of control world. It was the best way to cope with stress and the best way to take away the hurt, pain and trauma. Then, a state of panic would build and negative feelings and emotions would erupt about what I had done, and I had to eliminate the food. I began with laxatives, diuretics, vomiting and starving.
My eating disorder held me hostage for more years than I wish to remember. The first step through the maze began when I entered therapy. Although I tried many times and walked away frustrated with myself believing my eating disorder could not be fixed, little did I know in that final walk away, I was walking into recovery. For days, it bothered me and I told myself, Debbie does not fail. Period. I knew after many years with the most loving, devoted and giving mentor, he had given me tools to establish a recovery process. The light bulb went on, so to speak, and I began to process the empowerment that was there, but had not yet surfaced. In therapy, he performed a healthy eating marriage ceremony. He married me to healthy eating. He wrote and signed a marriage certificate. I went into my files and brushed off the dust and remembered my commitment. I made an appointment to see my doctor and his nurse/dietician for a new eating plan. The plan has put healthy eating, portion control and delicious food all in one package.
Many of my eating issues had to do with my mother. He taught me how to reframe the scenarios that had been eating away at me for my lifetime. I feel now she did her best. She loved me the way she knew how. It was not really about me at all; it was all about her. When I finally let go, little Debbie was at peace, the war over. To continue with a transformation, he suggested rewriting my life. At 56, I did not think that was possible. However, now I can’t keep away from the computer. I feel it may be a very important stage of the recovery process. Recovery does not mean perfection. It will always be a work in progress. It is not something you get over. You plan for the slips and you celebrate the successes.
Encouragement for Others
Having a mentor can be very beneficial. Through out this story I talk of my mentor. He came into my life at a perfect time and has been with me and there for me under every condition of my life. I trust him with my life and have deep love and admiration for him both professionally and personally. He has showed me that I do have a place in this world in a successful recovery process with the eating disorder. He has me looking at life as healthy instead of size and numbers. He has led me to believe that I can love myself.