My Secret Shame - An Inside Look at Eating Disorders

INNER STRUGGLE - INNER STRENGTH Everyone will feel the pangs of pain associated with growth. As a person ages, they realize that there is no escape from turmoil. Whether that struggle be physical, environmental or emotional, adversity is universal and harbors no discrimination. Inner struggle lends itself to several options. One can grow from an experience; one may deny the pain and hope that it will numb over time; another may become crippled under its overwhelming destruction.

Many struggle with shame at the mere fact they have problems or challenges. In this world of social media where we present "our perfect self," it's easy to be seduced to comparing yourself to everyone else.

I have had many struggles over the 65 years of my existence. I would like to lend some insight and hopefully motivation for the plight of the female adolescent or teenager who is battling their own unacceptable perception of who they are and where their true beauty exists.

Adolescence is a magnanimous time in a young girl's life and if the delicate body and emotional fluctuations are misinterpreted, it can prove to be detrimental to her entire future existence. Menstruation is the beginning of the anticipated "womanhood" and the manic depressive mood alterations. I was a mere child of 10 when I received the gift of pubescence and although I was prepared for all of its related attributes, I was not ready for the painful metamorphous.

Puberty is probably the very first time a girl experiences the loss of control over her body functions. Breasts grow, hips spread, waist thickens, and uncontrollable pain and flow take charge. Girls do not know how to be kind and gentle with themselves at this stage; they get impatient, irritable and very self-conscious. If there is the slightest focus on these changes by anyone, there is potential for self-dissatisfaction and/or denial.

It is this denial or hurt that turns inward to a self-punishing action. What begins as a desperate attempt to gain control over the body and force it to stop swelling, bloating, popping, spreading, and smelling, leads to destructive, harmful, repulsive, revolting, self-loathing, shameful, brutal and possibly fatal disease. The disease, if left unmentioned and therefore untreated because of shame to admit it or denial to face it, leads to numerous addictions to release the stress of the secret while still participating in the eating disorder itself.

Disordered eating is insidious as there is no escape. We need food for nourishment. It's not like any other addiction you can white-knuckle through. This addiction has many twists. One can eat and purge; eat and over-exercise; eat and starve; eat and use laxatives; binge and become obese; convince oneself not to eat; deny natural hunger signals and become emaciated (anorexia); eat only a minuscule amount of food; chew food, but never swallow it; use diet pills, diuretics, diet programs, surgery, other drugs.

This emotional rollercoaster leads to addictions with drugs, alcohol, and cigarette smoking. These addictions become the central focus to outsiders, because they are more noticeable. This leads to the escape and denial of the primary addiction. Many compulsive/obsessive eating disorders are left hidden until the victim is either hospitalized, dies or recovers from the secondary addiction and realizes that her final addiction is her primary and hardest one to give up.

I hid my food disorder with cigarette smoking. It became the focus of my parents and others to get me to stop smoking so my ED was not under the microscope. It took me ten years to quit smoking and 40 years after quitting cigarettes to finally address my eating disorder in a way that lead to recovery. I searched and tried everything to heal from the monkey-on-my-back EXCEPT FEEL MY FEELINGS!

There are times in your life, I’m sure you recall, when you’re told some vital information and realize its importance, but don't quite "get it." Sometime later, perhaps years, you read about the same topic or get if from some other source; you assimilate it, but don't really understand the significance of it. Again, time passes and the same information is presented. Perhaps it’s better explained, perhaps you are more open to it, or your unconscious mind triggers the previous messages, but, this time it hits you like a thunderbolt. It clicks; you become enlightened and act as though this is the first time you are receiving this information. THAT is how recovery is.

The process can take years of accumulating information, assimilating ideas, determining what is relevant to you, trusting, proving, theorizing and trying it on. The actual enlightenment seems to be instantaneous. It is the process however, that can torture a lifetime. The confusion, frustration, loss, depression, and shame is what leads a person down the black, narrow path to despair. There, no hope is found. There, no one cares, notices your pain, your self-hatred, your loneliness.

The key to healing is FEELING and that is something we fear most. We distract or even discount. I recall after a horrendous purge episode - just flushing away the evidence and then acting’s as if nothing happen!!!! Out-of-sight…out-of-mind. And time doesn’t exist. A result of this insidious disease is loss of time, because the victim checks outs. They also lose vital nutrients and electrolytes necessary for healthy brain function. As a result they develop brain fog, forgetfulness and because they have involuntarily conditioned themselves to leave their body or check out, which is a normal involuntary response to trauma, their sense of reality, memories and timeline get skewed.

I can best describe recovery to childbirth. Even though another can observe and be there, the INNER SOURCE of courage to overcome the fear and pain MUST come from WITHIN, and often, solitude is the only method that will ALLOW such a transition. It is almost too embarrassing, to reveal or to show THAT PART of one's self. It is like reading another's diary.

Throughout my illness, I always had a part (my guardian angel) that looked out for me - encouraged me to take vitamins - eat bananas after purging, drink plenty of water previous to a purge. My disease began in puberty - it encompassed my thoughts - my time - my being. There were times when I ‘d purge up to 12 times per day. It caused my infertility and stunted my emotional growth. It robbed. Me of my life!!!I was too busy trying to fix or deny my problem that life flew by. I went to college as an adult, but never had the wherewithal to develop a career.

As I sit reflecting upon these series of fleeting thoughts, I have come up with a beginning - a time frame. It dawns on me - like a BOLT of lightening - I have abused my body and mind, and emotions for almost 40 years! I robbed me. My god - that long? How? Why? When did all this time pass?

The realization of my present health condition SLAPS me straight in the face - a wake up call! The extent of self-inflicted punishment and still I have the ability to RUN MARATHONS - to be HEALTHY! It’s ASTONISHING! No, it's a MIRACLE! That guardian angel was divine intervention caring as much as I would allow. Seeping through cracks in my stubborn control to destruct. All that could be done - in the midst of my awareness - was done.

I agonized through the path of unconscious suppression. I numbed the pain, but also removed the memory in the process. Memory was vital to dissecting my understanding of all that I was(how and why I cared to be what I was) so that I could use that knowledge to evaluate and nurture who I want to be - was going to be. Now, painful memories, exposed like nerves of a bad tooth - no more numbness - feel the pain - drilling - digging - working to get to the root. Finally, applying caring, nurturance needed to heal. Now I am at the filling part - the filling with new perceptions - new feelings - new hope and even dreams and goals. All to give a new beginning - a new life, to an old shell. Now I live, not exist! I love, not envy! I am, not void! I have God, not fears! I have hope, not worry! I love living instead of obsessing about dying!