Why I’m Grateful for the Eating Disorder That Almost Killed Me
As horrible as it was, it was also, in many ways, a gift.
To most people, that probably sounds like a strange thing to say. By the age of 16, I was binging and throwing up three times a day on average, during a normal week. When I wasn’t in the act, I was thinking about doing it or thinking about my weight, my body, food, laxatives, how much water I should be drinking, what I looked like in general and if I was good enough. I later realized, after much hard work in therapy, most of it was a feeble attempt to deal with the dysfunction that was my family.
I am now 51 years old. As I read about young people and even older people struggling with this issue, I am propelled back in time as if it were yesterday. My chest tightens as my breathing stops, while I recall feeling out of control and completely helpless. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone, a charade that consumed almost as much energy as the disease itself. Sometimes, I fooled myself into thinking I could beat it by myself, while other days it seemed like the only way out was death.
It was on one of the latter days that the first part of the gift came. Out of nowhere, it seemed at the time, I decided I had enough. I wasn’t choosing death. I was choosing life. I knew I couldn’t count on my parents. Somehow my 16-year-old self decided to call our pediatrician and tell him what I was doing. It was 1983 and there was little to no awareness of bulimia at the time. So he said I was probably fine, but I knew I wasn’t. Fortunately, he gave me the name of a therapist, and even though it took me a while to muster up the courage to call her, I finally did.
I had a job and a car. So I really didn’t need my parents to help with the therapy and they never got involved with it. When they did find out, they weren’t very helpful to say the least. I worked very hard in therapy, harder than I have ever had to work at anything. I was extremely determined to get better. This essay is a quick version of a longer story of course, but I did and I am so grateful. Some people don’t.
As horrible as it was, the eating disorder was a gift in so many ways. (These are not in any order of importance.)
1. I realized I had depression and anxiety and it was not my fault. I also learned there were valid reasons for my depression and anxiety. The way that people acted in my family wasn’t acceptable and shouldn’t be tolerated. My feelings were real, whether or not other people liked them.
2. I learned so much about myself. Actually, I learned I had a self. I spent my entire life trying to be who my parents wanted or needed based on their own issues, rather than my own needs and desires. Self-acceptance is the key to recovery.
3. I learned about my gifts of empathy, intuitiveness, creativity and how to use them. My therapists encouraged my gifts and creativity I wasn’t comfortable sharing with others.
4. I was able to separate from my dysfunctional family and connect with my intuition. From that point forward, I was never alone.
I went on to college and became a Licensed Professional Counselor. I now work primarily as a Medical and Emotional Intuitive with people all over the world. I am so fortunate to be doing what I love every day.
If I had not experienced the pain, then I wouldn’t be doing this work and assisting others on their journeys. I wouldn’t know how to help people connect with their own intuition and accept themselves, like I had been taught and guided so many years before. If I had taken my own life, then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do these things or raise my two beautiful daughters differently from the way I was raised, in a marriage with a person who loves me more than I could have ever imagined anyone would ever love me when I was 16 years old.
Life isn’t perfect. I still struggle with anxiety sometimes but I have the tools to deal with it. I would be lying if I said I never thought about my weight. We live in a society focused on appearance. When I read others’ stories of hope, I’m thrilled to know this is available. When I was young, we didn’t even have the internet. You really never know what is going to happen tomorrow.
I suppose that is just one of the reasons I feel so devastated when I hear about a young person who ends his or her life. If he or she had waited just one more day, then maybe something would have gotten better. Perhaps, two days after would have been worth waiting for.
If anyone reading this is considering suicide, then I hope you will consider waiting, even just one more day. What can it hurt? My life ended up pretty great when at times I never thought it would. I even planned how I was going to do it. I’m so incredibly happy that I didn’t.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255.
Originally published at themighty.com on July 27, 2016.