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...
It’s revealing and awkward for me to share this story so publicly. Traveling way back in time to 1981 seems a bit self indulgent and weird. At the same time I know this is an important part of my eating disorder journey. If you are reading this I want you to know I harbor no bitterness or anger, I do not feel sorry for myself, I am now completely free in mind, body and spirit.
5th grade. In 5th grade I was the tallest, biggest, most developed girl in my class at school. This is funny now seeing how I am short, 5’ 3” tall and am petite in size overall. Back to 5th grade - being the tallest, biggest (as in largest in size around, chubby, fat whatever you want to call it) and most developed girl in my class was downright awkward. I didn't handle it well. I felt big, tall and awkward. On top of that I was boy crazy so in order to "feel pretty" I chased the boys to try to get attention.
To make things worse, abandonment issues set in as my family went through a devastating loss when my sister committed suicide. As a 10 year old I was left to collect information by overhearing conversations and observing what was happening. In hind sight, I can understand this because losing a child, especially due to suicide was something my parents had to deal with themselves, something I can never fully feel the weight of and hope I never go through. Nonetheless, as a 10 year old, dealing with my feelings and the loss of my sister on my own I felt abandoned and desperate. When girls feel this way it is highly likely they will try to fulfill their needs for acceptance and love with trying to be socially accepted into a group and with guys. This time in my life (chubby, awkward, feeling abandoned at 10 years old) was the beginning of a long road, searching for love and acceptance through social groups and guys.
On to 6th grade - the boy chasing increased and the attention received also increased. It takes boys a little longer but by 6th grade they realized they could tease and touch the girls who were chasing them and it became appealing. I was no longer the tallest or most developed girl in my class but I was still chubby and ahead in the development area. The boy chase continued - I caught a few and was passed around a bit too. Sadly, I didn't mind. I was feeling accepted. Still chubby and awkward but accepted and in my mind that was because of the attention from boys. I wanted to keep that going as long as possible.
Then, on a bus ride in 7th grade, I was catapulted into a lifestyle of starving in more ways than one...
Photo Credit: Bryan McDonald, Flickr
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...
© Heidi Suydam and Simply Our Society, 2016. Excerpts and links are encouraged and may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Heidi Suydam and/or Simply Our Society with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.