Immediately after graduating from college I married Paul and we moved to Texas. Throughout our time in Texas I would say my weight was not really a focus of mine until becoming pregnant about 3 years in to our marriage. I put on a massive amount of weight for my small frame due to "justified" overeating in the form of root beer floats and burgers from Sonic, sometimes twice a day.
I eased the financial stress and fear of the future with food. Which felt good until our baby was born and I had to deal with all the weight I chose to gain during my pregnancy.
Cue the eating disorder - my familiar way of dealing with my weight was not eating at all.
So there I was extremely overweight, nursing a brand new baby and eating a lean pocket once a day. One Lean Pocket a day. This is when my dental issues became really severe. I had to have a root canal within 2 months of giving birth.
What happened? I started losing weight. While simultaneously ruining my teeth (long term consequence I was not fully aware of until much later in life) and refusing to deal with all the other emotional stresses of my marriage and financial issues.
My marriage was in trouble, we literally had less than no money, a new baby and no direction for our future. Food was the only thing I felt "in control" of when actually I was out of control with that too.
We made a big move back home to Florida, moved in with my parents for a few months, started working and saving money. While this started to help in the marriage and financial areas of life I still wasn’t eating. I was still eating a lean pocket only once a day.
This was my choice. No one noticed. Well actually, my husband did and he begged me to eat, but the truth is there wasn’t anything he could do about it. I was determined. In defense of my other friends and family, even if they had noticed and said something chances are I would have gone further into "hiding" what I was doing and avoiding the real issues.
Remember eating disorders are not just about food...
Obviously I lost weight which resulted the praise and attention we as a society give to someone who loses weight. I felt "better" about myself and time marched on. My relationship with food seemed to improve in an on again off again sort of way.
Until our 2nd baby was on the way - to me being pregnant was an excuse to pile on the pounds...in a way I suppose this was a form of binging. Except I didn't actually purge, I would starve myself, destroy my teeth and mentally beat myself up through it all.
Photo Credit: Gellinger on Pixabay
I often refer to the years following High School as "no man's land". It's a strange time after graduating from High School, trying to find your way in the world. Feeling grown up because you live away from your parents 9 months out of the year but dependent on your parents funding your life and education. Kind of a transition period. You are old enough to be completely independent but few people I know really jump out of the nest during the 18 - 22 year age range. Mostly due to financial ties.
I went to college because it was expected of me. My parents drove me six hours north to Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia - sight unseen - and left me there in my dorm room. I didn't know a soul. I was excited. I thought I could finally break free from myself. Start over. Reinvent myself. Stop being so insecure, weak and needy. Finally reach my full potential. I tried - but failed.
It is futile to try to run away from yourself seeing how you are always with you...
I started eating. I actually gained the "freshman 15" or in my case the "freshman 20". With the help of Krystal Burgers I went the other extreme and shifted from not eating to overeating. I found it interesting that gaining this "freshman 15" didn't keep me from being able to hook up with willing college boys. Of course none of this helped my self esteem and the extra pounds quickly became a problem for me. I started skipping meals, working out and trying to find some balance in life. I never returned to weights in the 90's or low 100's but mentally and emotionally I was a wreck.
Eating disorders are not just about eating. I keep repeating this because it is an important truth.
No one in my close family or friend circles in high school or college realized I had a problem at all. The mental, emotional and physical challenges I faced, I faced them on my own. The warning signs of eating disorders were present in my life but are considered "normal" for teens or young adults. Things like being concerned with looks/weight, moodiness, boy trouble, friend issues, withdrawing...these are all things expected of teens and accepted as normal in the culture of raising American teenagers.
Even though there are multiple resources available educating parents, teachers and friends about signs and red flags in the life of the teens we know and love, unless the signs are drastically extreme it is my theory most friends and family members miss the signs.
I am guilty of missing signs with my own daughter, history will repeat itself if we choose to ignore it , which is one reason I am telling my story, stripped of pride, with all the embarrassing details.
This journey with eating disorders comes with many layers - some I haven't even touched on yet. For starters I actually saw psychologists off and on while growing up and none of them ever knew about my real issues. Another layer includes being in an emotionally abusive relationship in high school with a boyfriend who would have me get on a bathroom scale to check my weight. Yet another layer includes being drawn in to emotionally and psychologically abusive relationships and situations without knowing how to set healthy boundaries. Layers and layers with many unhealthy years physically, mentally and emotionally.
My college years wrapped up with my weight fluctuating and my emotional state improving but still extremely fragile. I made real friends who are still my friends today. I met my husband and ended my promiscuous life when we started dating. My college years were full of ups and downs emotionally and in the weight category.
When I started telling my story I knew it was deeply rooted but didn't realize there were so many layers - the telling has started this peeling process. When will all the layers be peeled back? What will actually be there? Where will the telling of this story end? I don't know.
I am still walking out this journey. Thanks for joining me in the process...
If you have been following along, reading my story, you know this post was supposed to be about my college life. I was attempting to write my story in chronological order. However, I am currently living out some of the consequences of my eating disorder life so I decided to take a different approach and share what is happening right now.
I am 45 years old, living in freedom from eating disorders, yet I am still living out the consequences.
My eating disorder of choice was the restricting type of anorexia. According to Help Guide:
There are two types of anorexia. In the restricting type of anorexia, weight loss is achieved by restricting calories (following drastic diets, fasting, and exercising to excess). In the purging type of anorexia, weight loss is achieved by vomiting or using laxatives and diuretics.
When I adopted a habit of extremely restricting my diet I had no idea what the consequences would or could be other than "skinny". That was my goal and not eating was how I achieved it.
After having my first baby in 1996, I went straight to restricting my diet to try to lose weight. One Lean Pocket a day. I was also nursing my baby. Immediately, I started having dental issues. I remember lying on the couch with such terrible tooth pain I couldn't focus or do anything. I had my first root canal at that point but didn't realize the connection between my dental issues and my eating disorder history or the eating disorder lifestyle I was living at the time. I continued with my restrictive diet and went on with my life.
The years that followed were, and are currently, full of continued dental issues.
Restricting my diet while nursing is not what caused my dental issues, I believe the issues started years earlier when I began extremely restricting my diet. After having a baby I reverted to the habit I was familiar with, extreme diet restriction. The fact that I was nursing, while restricting my diet surely expedited the damage that was already started in my teeth. I don't remember when it dawned on me that my dental issues were directly related to my eating disorder. Sometime during my true recovery process the thought hit me. At the time, I looked it up and confirmed my theory. From that point on, as I started to share my story with my own girls I told them and warned them, about some of these long lasting consequences.
Selah House, an eating disorder recovery program, lists these signs and symptoms of dental problems associated with eating disorders:
Signs and Symptoms (from the National Eating Disorders Association):
This entire list applies to me. My dental issues continued through the years. For many years now I have been ashamed to open my mouth too wide due to broken teeth and very ugly mess inside my mouth. I am forever thankful my smile in the front has stayed nice, but at this point I am careful how wide I smile and if I can avoid it I am never in a picture with a wide open mouth (such as a laughing picture).
I have been putting off this dental work because the truth is I don't have the cash to really "fix" my mouth. I hate the thought of spending so much money and possibly going in to debt over dental issues that really are a consequence of my choices. However, I cannot put it off any longer. Part of my recovery process has included learning about health and what I have learned is your physical health and your oral health are directly related. Not to mention, more pain has started to occur.
As I sat in the dental chair yesterday, getting ready for phase one of this long, costly process I thought, this is it - go ahead and share this part of your story. As you live it.
This is part of my story. I am no longer hiding it or hanging my head in shame.
I am not proud of living with an eating disorder but I can finally face it. I can finally share this long, painful story and all the complicated layers of life with an eating disorder, hoping someone can help themselves or someone else.
Thanks for reading. I will get back to sharing my "college years" at some point.
Image Credit: By SSgt Wesley Farnsworth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm Heidi & I am so happy you are here...
If this is your first time visiting this page and reading my story first let me say thank you for reading! This is a story with layers and layers of history and details that have lived in my brain and heart but only now are being shared "out loud" . I truly believe I am free now, keeping in mind having an eating disorder is really something that never fully goes away, it is something that is with me to this day but I am free because it no longer controls me.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or suspect you are, please get help! There is no shame and stigma's are being broken!
Wife, mother, psychology major, writer, dreamer, God chaser, book revolutionist, passionate about people and society past, present and future...
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