The Diagnosis – Chapter 1

Over the Christmas holidays, I finished the first draft of my memoir. I started writing it in May when the first several chapters just flowed out of me night after night. Then, I put it on hold as I got stuck while talking about the middle of the journey into my eating disorder recovery. It sat untouched for about three or four months until I picked it up again in late November. I set aside time first thing in the morning to work on it and finished while on two weeks of vacation from my Corporate job in late December.

I am currently working to get feedback from others on the flow and then will work to publish it this year. A friend of mine suggested that I start to post portions of it (it is a total of 65,000 + words right now before any professional editing) so here is a portion of my first few hundred words (some chucks of content were removed to be more conducive to a blog), so let’s hear what you think.

If you think about it, God (or the universe if you don’t believe in God) has a way of giving you gifts in the most peculiar of situations. We may not realize it at the time. Sometimes, we need to be far removed from the situation (i.e. years) to realize the gift or gifts that we received. That was the case of my eating disorder diagnosis. It was not until I was far into recovery that I realized the gifts of which God had blessed me when giving me an eating disorder at mid-life. At the height of my eating disorder and body image issues, I was slowly killing myself. I didn’t see it that way, even though the doctors told me I had an unhealthy relationship with food. They even asked if I would keep my life the same if I knew the stress of my life and job would kill me in ten years. Despite these warnings, I didn’t see my eating disorder or my lifestyle as a problem. My eating disorder was a way to cope with all the stressors in my life, and my lifestyle was a way to show the world that I was worthy.

For so many years, my identity was my job title. Since I didn’t feel good enough as a mom when my kids were younger (my own mom was “better” because she was a stay-at-home mom), I poured my identity into my job title. My worth was equated with how much my paycheck was, and how much recognition I received at work. I spent years accumulating “stuff”―more projects, more people to manage, more recognition for exceeding expectations year over year, more material things for our home―all to define my own self-worth. I soon surpassed my husband and became the breadwinner of our family. I thought I was going places. Then, over the course of three years, my “worth” from my job unraveled, and the only thing to fall back on (my “mom role”) had already decreased in value, since my oldest child was now an adult and my youngest was soon there himself. I thought I had nothing left to define me. My fallback was gone. I was in a middle-aged woman’s body, seeing my value whipped out from me in what felt like overnight. Looking at my body evoked shame. My internal world had collapsed. I spent years trying to control everything in front of me―every last detail. Then came the eating disorder diagnosis that felt like a blow to everything I had worked so hard to secure.

Leading up to the diagnosis, I kept thinking,

“I don’t have a problem. I just can’t seem to lose weight on my own. I am fat. I eat when I am not even hungry, and I eat in secret. I am stressed from my job. What’s so wrong with that?”

Most of my former Weight Watcher dieters would say the same thing when they would notice a gain on the scale. It was a letdown. I kept thinking, “I am a failure at losing weight.” On the flip side, it was a score when you could go on a binge after a “successful” Weight Watchers weigh-in―a weigh-in that included a gold star and a round of applause from the group. I remember dreaming of the binge that was about to happen when that scale showed a loss. I would dream of cheeseburgers, French fries, Diet Coke (it was always about diet soda when on the Weight Watchers (WW) plan because it was zero points and I could drink as much as I wanted―sometimes thirty-two to sixty-four ounces in a day), chips, cookies, popcorn, cake, and whatever else I could find. I deserved a buffet of food for all the restricting I did the week before to obtain that approval from the WW staff, and the group at large. I would eat until beyond full, and then search for more in private later.

Food. It was always on my mind. What am I going to have for lunch? Let’s go out for dinner tonight. I deserve it as I’ve had a long day at work, or my boss was stressing me out. Then, when we got home, let me binge on popcorn, chips, cake, cookies, and whatever else I could eat when the kids were in bed and Dale, my husband, was off at work. I would hide “my food” behind other containers in the cupboards and fridge and get mad when someone else ate “my food.” It was mine. Didn’t they know I was going to escape with that later that night? It had my name written all over it, and I had been dreaming about the quick fix and escape since the 9:00 a.m. meeting with my boss earlier that day.

Despite all of this, I would still be in denial when the diagnosis came on October 27, 2017. I thought,

“I must have answered a question or two incorrectly on the assessments or the intake therapist heard me wrong on some of the questions she asked me in that hour and a half session.”

Looking back, this was the first acknowledgment of my eating disorder throwing a fit.  “We don’t need treatment. You need me to survive,” he’d say.  In hindsight, this diagnosis was the best news I had received in a long time.  My life was spinning out of control and I thought if only I’d lose more weight, I wouldn’t be depressed, I could love my body and I’d be more confident.  This of course wasn’t true and yet it was where I was at in my journey.

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