It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I’m Sharing My Story
I remember cold tile floors—wrapped up around porcelain toilets, beads of sweat forming like tears at my forehead and streaming down the length of my face. I remember the seduction of the all-consuming binge followed by the urgent purge—the need for release. I remember the sensation of emptiness to fullness to emptiness again. And again. And again. Too many years spent on cold tile floors amidst graduate school classes, awards, accolades, fake smiles and crying behind closed doors. And I remember, vividly, the day I risked getting up off the floor because maybe—just maybe, I deserved more.
It was the sound of a child’s laugher that brought me up and off my knees. It was late morning, February, in south Florida—a cool but bright day. I was on the floor nestled against the toilet after one of my more robust purges. Outside of my window, I could hear the voices of small children playing in the park across the street. Shouts, banter, joyous child voices and then the laughter of a girl. Although I could not see her, she came alive in my mind’s eye.
I knew that she was smart.
I knew that she was brave.
I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was beautiful.
The sound of her laughter stirred something deep within me that felt resonant. It moved me. It evoked memories of the freedom I felt riding my bicycle through the streets of my small town during summer, of how beautiful I felt feeling the wind blowing through my hair.
Her laughter reminded me of how strong I felt digging holes in my backyard looking for archeological treasures. The presence of this child in the playground helped me to remember how, as a young girl, I, too, dreamed of birthing my own children one day.
It was this last thought that compelled me to get up off of the floor.
I steadied myself at the vanity and turned on the light. And with great courage, I found my eyes. Despite urges to look away, something inside kept chanting: “Don’t turn away now. It’s time to begin a new journey. Don’t look away.” Mascara stained, tired eyes gazed back at me. I held my own gaze. I held it until I felt myself diving deeply into my chocolate brown, amber-flecked eyes and began to see “life” stirring there—a desire for life. I held my gaze until I began to see a glimmer of beauty. “These eyes,” I thought, “are portals to a wise, grand, bright and beautiful soul.”
This was the first day of my recovery from disordered eating. And this first step was inspired by the sound of a child’s laughter, a remembrance of the child I once was, and a fleeting moment of touching into the beauty of my own soul.
I did not entirely “believe” the voice speaking from deep inside of me but I decided that I might just give her a chance to prove herself right.
I must love myself because the image of “me” I see reflected back is breaking my own heart.
I must love myself because I only feel compassion for the woman gazing back at me.
I must love myself because I got up off the floor and took a long, hard look at myself.
I must love myself because I want a better life.
I must love myself because the sound of children playing tugs at my heart and I want to give life to healthy children one day.
I must love myself enough because I feel called to do the work necessary to not pass this painful behavior onto my future children—especially my daughters.
I must love myself enough because I ache to get to the point where I can look into this mirror—look deeply into my own eyes, and not want to turn away.
My journey has not been an easy one. At times, it has been a day-to-day progression. But as time passes, the call to binge has been significantly diminished. Over time, I have felt more frequently called “outside of myself,” and onto the playground of life as opposed to wanting to remain isolated and alone on a cold, tile floor.
There are many components, stages, phases to the journey of recovering from disordered eating—far too many to discuss here.
What matters is that you must start somewhere. You must reach that point where the vision of what is possible becomes stronger than the fear that keeps you stuck.
The laughter of that little girl and the images it evoked helped me to create a different sort of vision of my future. This vision became much stronger than my fear.
The month of February is special to me for three reasons. It is my birthday month. It is the month of “love,” associated with Valentine’s Day and it is the month within which one week is devoted to raising awareness about disordered eating all over the country.
One’s birthday is an honoring of one’s self.
On Valentine’s Day, nothing means more to me than nurturing self-love.
During National Eating Disorders Awareness week, little means more to me than sharing about my way out of bulimia. Two realizations propelled me forward: The realization that the first steps in recovery must be inspired by an honoring of self, and that self-love is the highest form of “honoring.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. Join in “feeding hope.” There is a way out. Recovery is possible. It begins with the courage to imagine that you are worthy. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 22-28. For more information, visit www.nedawareness.org