Independence Day – 15 Years Free
This blog contains a detailed account of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors that some may find triggering. Please use discretion.
In July, we celebrate Independence Day. How appropriate that it is also the month I said “YES” to recovery 15 years ago. But first, my eating disorder had to knock me off my feet, break my heart, and horrify my ambitious work-ethic. Here is a piece of my story…
First…why share details?
- Because if you are currently struggling, I want you to know you are not alone and there is always hope.
- Because if you love someone who is struggling, I want to help you understand more of what is happening for them.
I wish I could remember the exact day on the calendar, but clearly recall that it was a blazing Texas summer day in early July. My significant other at the time, my son, and I had gone to Six Flags for a fun-filled day. Before leaving the house that morning, my eating disorder was already distracting me, screaming things like, “How am I going to eat anything today? There are zero acceptable foods at an amusement park. I better skip breakfast to save up my calories. I look fat in a tank top and shorts. I should have eaten way less all week knowing this day was coming.” All of these thoughts made me feel so anxious and certainly stole my joy of starting off what was supposed to be an enjoyable day.
While at the park, I started to feel a little faint. Waiting in the long lines, sweating like crazy, and walking around the park on an empty stomach, was not the best idea. My eating disorder, however, thought of it as a huge win. “I am burning calories and will lose weight today,” she said. I tried drinking lots of water, yet finally decided I must eat something. A smoked turkey leg seemed to be a good compromise. However, my son was begging for one of those deliciously smelling funnel cakes. You know the ones that make the entire park smell scrumptious and bring back memories of your childhood. So, like any good mother, I told him he needed some balance and to share my turkey leg first (another win for my eating disorder, “good, now I don’t have to eat the whole thing”), and then he can have a funnel cake.
The funnel cake…oh boy…it got me. As my son ate it with such happiness, powdered sugar all over his lips and fingers, I felt the urge begin to take root, wanting to enjoy funnel cake like he did, yet remembering specifically feeling sad thoughts of “why did I have to worry about every calorie; so unfair.” Then my eating disorder switched gears to, “Whatever! We are going to have fun today. I am going to eat everything I want, and I’ll get rid of it later.” Then…I went and ordered my own funnel cake. There were other things I ate at the park that day before leaving to head home yet cannot recall exactly what. I do remember the ride home feeling extreme guilt and regret. Not only was the entire day filtered by the darkness of my intrusive thoughts and fear of food, but also the anxiety of secretly reaching a restroom soon to ensure I “purged everything I ate that was bad before it completely digested.”
We arrived home, and I declared I needed a cool shower right away. I knew that desire would not be questioned, for we had been hot all day. I turned on the shower to create background noise and proceeded to get on my knees, hoping everything down to the turkey meat would come up. The next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes to my seven-year-old son over me, crying with his small glasses a bit fogged up and asking, “Mommy, are you okay?” Gosh, I remember his little voice saying that like it was this morning. It literally brings me to tears typing it out. I felt out of it, in a haze, yet uttered the words, “yes, mommy is okay,” while sadly wiping splatters of vomit from my face.
I passed out again, and when I came to, I was being placed in a wheelchair at the emergency room entrance. While I was now fully aware and awake, I pretended to not be. I wanted this bad movie to just stop, needing to disappear, mostly trying to figure out how I was going to keep my eating disorder a secret.
While in the hospital they hooked me up to fluids right away and started running all sorts of tests. I blamed being out in the heat at the amusement park, but a wise nurse was not completely buying my story. When the doctor on-call came in and told me that I was being admitted and would likely need to stay the night, I was absolutely horrified. Because, A, my ex-husband (son’s father) would need to be called, and, B, I was scheduled to head out of town the following day for a rather important business trip. This meant I had to call-in sick. What??? Sarah does not call in sick! Almost every difficult feeling you can image came pouring over me like a tidal wave. This was not the life I wanted. I certainly had some lonely hours in that hospital room. Thoughts of, “What in the world am I doing? I don’t want to be sick. How could I allow my son to see me like this? Are people going to find out?”
Thankfully, my hospital stay was not too long, and I was released within 24-hours. The next day I had the house to myself and kept the shades drawn to keep it dark. The air conditioning was low, and I remember feeling so cold. While still in my pajamas and wrapped in my favorite blanket I headed lethargically to the kitchen for breakfast. My Weight Watchers reference books and tracking logs were sitting on the countertop. My eating disorder popped in saying, “Okay, Sarah, just get back on track today. Count your points and stay in the lowest range possible. If you can just stick to this all the time, you will finally feel good about your body. Just diet and stop losing control by binging and purging.” I then started sobbing hysterically. Sticking to my Weight Watcher points all the time seemed impossible, but my brain was screaming at me that this is what I must do. I ran to my room and dropped to my knees again. This time it was not in front a toilet, but to the side of my bed.
- Side note: Had you told me in this moment that one day I would not only be fully recovered, but helping others break free too, I would have told you that you were crazy.
It was there on my knees, in a dark cold quiet house, all alone, that I decided I could not do it anymore. I needed help. For the first time in my life, I cried out to God. Literally. I begged Him to help me, and then an unexplainable peace came over me. It still gives me visible chills to this day thinking about that moment. I then stood up and went to my computer. For the next several hours, I started learning all I could about eating disorders. It may seem odd that I struggled for seven years and never read much about it (besides one book I bought called: Father Hunger), but that is the truth. Honestly, I never thought I was sick enough for there to be a real problem.
While researching I found a therapist who ran a small practice out of her home in North Dallas. Her website was kind of plain and did not have all the bells and whistles like many treatment center websites, but I felt drawn to her. Really drawn! Everything pulled at me…and I loudly heard, “Call her now.” And I did. That was the moment the door to freedom opened and my recovery journey began.
While my life kept going as normal from the viewpoint of most, the next year was rooted in recovery with only a few people very close to me knowing. The first four months were the hardest, and at times I was not sure I could do it. One part of me wanted to recover and rid myself of what I deemed a monster that took over sometimes making me binge and purge. The other part of me wanted desperately to keep counting everything I put in mouth, remaining chained to a scale and committed to my thin pursuit. However, with time, patience, and a lot of work it did became easier to TRUST and LET GO.
No matter where you are in this moment, healing is possible!
Independence is possible, friends!