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Bridget's Journey with Anorexia

My name is Bridget. I am a 32-year-old, married woman with three children, and I have anorexia nervosa.

I have suffered with this illness for about 18 years. It began very innocently and progressively became worse over the years.

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I had a positive image of myself long ago, as a young girl. There were many events in my life that caused me to change that image from positive to negative, and from worthy to unworthy.

There is not one specific event that I can say is the major cause of my illness. Several have had an impact:

  • Molestation at age 10
  • Growing up feeling unloved
  • Pregnancy at age 16
  • Unhappy/tough marriage
  • Rape

This is just a small list. I feel all of them played such an important role in leading to the demise of "self", into my dark, private and suicidal life of anorexia.

In 1997, I was in and out of doctors' offices for a number of different symptoms related to the eating disorder behaviors. I would switch from one doctor to another when one would no longer give me what I needed to keep me comfortable, or if they mentioned my weight loss.

On Nov. 2, 1999, I began to have numbness and tingling on the left side of my body, my arms and legs were contracting up, and I finally collapsed. I was hospitalized due to hypokalemia (low potassium) and severe malnutrition. That is when I was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I was hospitalized for 27 days as they tried to stabilize my condition.

Then I went to an eating disorder clinic in Arizona for intense therapy for three months. My medical condition improved while I was there. I gained weight and felt well physically, but I was still very emotionally sick when discharged from the program.

Midway through 2000, my illness was in full swing again. I was in a partial-patient program for depression, due to my desire to commit suicide. My treatment followed the status of my eating disorder and depression.

By the following January, the team was so concerned for my life that they referred me to a clinic in Laguna Beach, Calif., which specializes in eating disorders.

The reason I write this now is because I want others like me, who struggle with anorexia nervosa or other forms of self-abuse, to know that that there is always hope. It does indeed spring eternal.

This is an excerpt of a journal that Bridget kept during her long battle with anorexia nervosa.

The past few weeks have been a huge struggle. Depression hit me hard. I felt like I was drowning with no way to come up for air. I was very conflicted inside. I wanted to choose recovery, and yet I struggled daily to find a reason worth living for.

I had two choices; one - to give into the depression and allow it to cripple me with feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and allow my eating disorder to flourish. Or, two - to do the opposite of what I wanted to do at the time, which was to isolate, self harm, take laxatives, purge, restrict and lay in bed.

I chose number two, which for me was not an easy thing to do. I chose to go to friends houses, so I wouldn't be alone. Some days I went without even showering or even changing my clothes. I knew that I just needed to go. I am so thankful that my friends love me no matter what. They encouraged me and laughed and cried with me. They reminded me of all the positive choices I have been choosing towards recovery.

I was challenged to explore what is OK and not OK in my recovery. In looking hard at myself, I realize that I do things that are not recovery focused. My mind is almost automatic in justifying these actions to make them OK. I have listed a few things that I feel are most critical for me to work on. I have to change the way I think in regards to these behaviors to be able to move forward in my quest for recovery.

Some things I do that are not OK (and how I justified the behavior):

  • Going into a meal with the mind set that I'm going to purge anyway.
  • Justification: I was not comfortable with the food choice, but i needed for my family to see me eating!
  • Buying a scale. 
  • Justification: Though I knew I shouldn't have one, it was only $6. After all, it wasn't the elaborate one with body fat measurements.

I have been able to hang on to the eating disorder by practicing these behaviors. I had to come up with a plan of action to fight against them.

For example, I had to make a list of negatives when it came to the scale. I know deep down inside that having a scale would be detrimental to my recovery. I would never be satisfied with what it said. It would never be low enough!

I'm scared! In looking back at these few weeks I know that I need to challenge my thought system continuously. In not challenging it, I'm allowing the eating disorder to control me as it has before for so many years. I don't want to go back.

For me the most important thing during this time has been remembering that I am not alone, and that I cannot do this by myself. I need to continue to ask for help. It has always been there, I just never felt worthy enough to reach out for it. The statement "I deserve to"... was definitely challenged these past few weeks by my belief system. But, today I know that I deserve to get better!

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