Why I Am Worthy Of So Much More Than My Eating Disorder

 Catherine McMahon
Catherine McMahon

I first knew that my body wasn’t good enough when I was in the Pre-K, we used to eat French toast sticks for breakfast and everyone else received four but I got two. Little did I realize at the time that my mom was the one who put in the special request for me to only have two because that should have been the recommended serving size, she did it out of love but in the long run this love would be the reason for my bulimic eating disorder.

As kids, we have received signals from day one. From the pop music stars we idolized to the Barbie dolls we played with, there was something constantly in our face to tell us what the standard was and ensure that we knew we were subpar.

The hardest part of having this eating disorder was like an alcoholic or drug-addict…. admitting you have a problem. I always thought that my brain and my thoughts were unique to me. That what I was doing or not doing was rational and I was making the best decisions for myself. However I didn’t realize every time I used a symptom it could have been my last. Like the drug-addict or the alcoholic I needed my fix. And that fix was the finger down my throat to numb the feelings for as much time as I possibly could.

Like my therapist always tells me my eating disorder was a flower and my life for 18 years was dropping the seeds and the nutrients in order to have that eating disorder bloom. This included my mom who never wanted me to feel ashamed about myself the way she did in college who made sure I had the 100 calorie packs at lunch or was told “Don’t you think you’ve had enough” or “Let’s try this diet together.”

My mom is my best friend and she always had my best intention at heart, but she just never knew the way those messages would come across. It continued on in high school where my first love would tell me “You would be the prettiest girl in the world if you lost 10 lbs” and that led to me no longer losing the weight to appease my troubled mind but to appease a boy… something I always promised myself I would never do. This included me trying an entire protein diet during the swim season something I have no idea how I ever managed to survive. But I lost 10 lbs so of course I was fine with it.

After losing my first love to idiotic high school drama the self-loathing thoughts did not stop, if anything they became much worse. At that point I had recently lost my biggest fan and ultimate role model, my Grandfather, and my coping skills were not intact for that loss, since he was my first death in the family and I took to my self-esteem through the ringer in the process. Since I looked for self-satisfaction from the opposite sex and was receiving no encouragement in that department I took to new diets and new weight loss ideas and in the mean time out casting myself from the people I care about because I was too afraid to let anyone in.

Then came college the time where you are thrown into a completely new way of doing things, completely new friends, and more pressure on my self-esteem. There were foods there that I had never seen before or forbid myself from ever eating and I had no idea how to react. I cringed every time I saw desserts, which are still my biggest weakness and worst regrets afterward. I was alone a lot of my freshman year, which gave me time to think about how guilty I was for the food I ate that day. To top off being alone a lot I was primarily alone in my room a lot, which was how my bulimia started. I would refuse to eat any of my so-called “bad foods” all day and then I would go to the vending machine eat two cookies and feel extremely guilty towards my body and myself. This is when my system would come into place. I would save old grocery bags and turn the TV up super loud and allow myself to puke until nothing more would come out. And this cycle would continue the more I was alone and the more I disliked myself, which was a lot of time.

Finally I broke and obsessed over injections and new ways to lose the weight that I changed my primary care doctor and told her how much I was doing to lose weight (leaving out of course the fact that I was vomiting) and I finally got my hands on some FDA approved diet pills that would make you feel full if you ate two bites of a meal. And of course I loved this. And I told her this and this is when the red flags were clearly visible and she recommended Renfrew.

Renfrew was where I sought treatment for my eating disorder and was finally surrounded by women who knew exactly what was going on in my head. However I discovered new feelings when I was surrounded by others who knew what I was going through, the new feeling was not being sick enough. I put on a brave face and said I hadn’t used symptoms but deep down I wondered if I even belonged there. Some women seemed to have dealt with so much more than me that I felt I didn’t deserve to get better (My therapist likes to remind me that I was in IOP or Intensive Outpatient and I deserved to be there). Through treatment and seeing a therapist who has helped me recognize where my thoughts have come from I am slowly realizing that my eating disorder has very little to do with my body.

From reading this I hope people develop increased awareness.  Besides my family and close friends I have been completely secretive about my eating disorder wanting no one to judge me or view me different.

The more I recognize what triggers my eating disorder thoughts the more I realize how much I and other people talk about body image and food on a daily basis.

So all I ask is the next time you are in a conversation and you or someone else makes comments such as “She’s so fat” or “I need to lose weight” or “I can’t eat that I am on a diet”, or my biggest pet peeve “You are such a picky eater” stop and consider who might be around you or messages that you are sending to you and the people surrounding you. You never know what someone is going through so be kind to yourself and the people around you and that includes your body because whether we like it or not it is truly an amazing machine. I never had a goal of loving my body because at this point in treatment that seems unrealistic but I do hope to respect it for what it is and be okay with who I am and remind myself I am WORTHY of everything it has to offer. TC mark

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