Thursday, November 16, 2006

Body image and the only control goes out of control

This post contains adult subject matter. Parental discretion is advised.

Ana Carolina Reston died Tuesday of complications from anorexia. She was 21 years old, 5' 8" tall, and 88 lbs. Although our stories are not similar, her story inspires me to share my own.

People take up eating disorders for a lot of reasons. My reason was because I was an overweight tween and was convinced that boys didn't like me with that extra weight. I chose bulimia over anorexia because I love food. I didn't even understand that throwing up was a way to lose weight until I heard about it on a TV news special. As soon as I saw that special (which, of course, was trying to steer people away from it) I knew it was the answer for me. I lost 30 lbs in one summer and arrived to my first day of high school with a beautiful-to-me figure.

I stayed the same weight my first year of high school. In my second year I began dating an older guy. Over the 2 years that we were together I gained 30 lbs out of apathy for my relationship and for myself. When he and I broke up I resorted to bulimia again. I lost the 30 lbs.

I kept this weight off until I moved out of my parents' home and my boyfriend went away for a year abroad. I gained back 15 lbs. I returned to bulimia when I was hooking up with my roommate while still dating my boyfriend long distance. The roommate told me I was special while my boyfriend was placing me nowhere near the top of his priority list. He was dating other people too, so we were actually cheating on each other. Doesn't make it any better, but in my head it made sense at the time.

I kept the weight off until my 3rd year of college, when I was in a relationship with a man I had known from high school but met up with again in college. We didn't actually care for each other and chose to eat instead of just break up. He finally broke things off after a year and I resorted to bulimia.

I then began dating his best friend. My relationship with my ex's best friend was extremely tumultuous. He cheated on me when I was on a business trip and we broke up. I returned to bulimia for a few months, during which time I hit bottom about my issues with men. I resolved to live on my own and enjoy being independent and was able to end my dependence on bulimia.

I was not looking for the love of my life when I met Hay, but that's ironically when you find it. When I started dating Hay I fessed up to my bulimia (he's the only man in my life that I ever told) and told him I would do my best to not do it again but asked him to help me if I ever did.

I've relapsed for a day or two every so often over the many years since. It's like an old friend, my learned coping mechanism for my problems, so sometimes I choose it over dealing with my issues until I remember that it's not the right answer.

This is not how I lost 50 lbs over the last year. Blogging my thoughts and feelings has had a lot to do with my weight loss success. I've managed to maintain my weight through normal eating and sporadic exercise (as in, a walk every now and then :), although I'm not 100% convinced yet that I will be able to keep the weight off permanently.

I remain untreated for my bulimia, and as each day that I don't participate in this self-destructive behavior passes I can more easily tell myself that there is nothing to say to my health care providers about it, that it is something in my past. I don't think this is the right thing to do. If I ever go to therapy again (went once for a family issue and once for a boyfriend issue) I have told myself that I will tell my therapist. If I never go to therapy again I will likely not tell anyone except my children who have a right to know their family medical history and who deserve to know their mother as a whole person, not just the good parts.

I'm not good with finishing posts on such a sappy note, so: End scene, close curtain, and good night to all my adoring fans. I hope that my story inspires no one to become bulimic and someone to seek treatment for it. You are not alone.


stefanie said...

That was a brave and honest post, Poppy. Good for you. And I'm glad you're doing better; I hope it stays that way!

Anonymous said...

People and their weight is such a tough thing. You are to be congratulated on facing your problem. Some things are very hard.

Avitable said...

I got stuck on the idea of you having a lesbian fling in college.

I'm glad you were able to overcome this disease - doing it on your own without support shows an amazingly strong character. Then again, your strong character is evident in every post you make.

AnonymousCoworker said...

What's frustrating to me about this (on a larger level) is how much of a role society plays in conditioning girls and women to believe this is reasonable as long as they get skinny. Did you read the article? Her mother is all broken up about her daughter's death, but the tabloid featured a picture of the daughter in LINGERIE. WTF?! It never ends. Even when people say, "Oh that's horrible. She starved herself to death," they follow that up with, "but wasn't she so good looking?" It's a vicious, retarded cycle.

Sorry. My inner feminist comes out from time to time.