The Diagnosis – Part II

Continuing where I left off in my previous blog post about my book, here is more on the day of my eating disorder diagnosis from Chapter One. I really felt so much shame that day, as if I had done something wrong. It would take many months of treatment to realize that I had done nothing wrong and this was not about another weight loss program.

I signed in at the front desk nearly 30 minutes before my appointment that Friday.  I was given a ton of paperwork to complete, which included a variety of assessments.  How often do you eat more than what others would consider normal?  How often have you weighed yourself in the last 7 days?  How often do you…..All kinds of questions.  I finished the paperwork at the table they had me sit at and turned it in at the front desk.  Then, I headed to the bathroom. 

I came back and sat in the waiting room.  The tables were all covered with jigsaw puzzles.  I had a lot of time to kill since I arrived well in advance of my appointment. I wasn’t sure about the road conditions with the snowfall happening that morning and the route was one I hadn’t travelled during rush hour before.  I absently read a Suze Orman article in a Money magazine I brought with to kill the time.  I don’t even remember any of what I read.  I put the magazine down and sat in silence, wondering what was ahead of me.  A young girl checked in with her mat for yoga and said she didn’t have a co-pay when asked by the woman at the front desk.  Another young girl checked in and sat down nearby.  She started working on the puzzle on the table in front of her.  I remember thinking if only I could relax and do a puzzle.  I love puzzles.  She looks like she is totally enjoying herself over there.

A short time later, the young girl doing the puzzle was called back.  The therapist picking her up made small talk asking her how she was doing and what puzzle she was working on.  The therapist was so kind and friendly I thought. Another girl came up from the lower level and stopped at the front desk.  She was upset when asking about the package her mom mailed her as she had not yet received it.  Her mom told her she sent it, but it did not have a tracking number, so there was no saying where that package was at this point.  All I knew was that this girl really wanted her package from home.  My heart ached for her.  And her mom.

Finally, my time of waiting was up.  Jessica called me back.  “Teresa?” she would say as if wondering if that was me.  “My name is Jessica.  I am filling in for Julie, one of the intake therapists who is out sick today.”  Jessica led me back to her office that overlooked the parking lot in the back.  I could see the snow sticking to the grass as I sat in the chair.  After telling me that she reviewed the assessments I took, she started asking a lot of questions.   What brought you here?   What was your childhood  like?  How close are you with your mom? Dad? Siblings? What would it feel like if you gained 5 pounds?  What would it feel like if you never lost weight again? How do you view your body?  We spent an hour and a half together.  The tears just kept flowing.  I kept apologizing for crying.  Jessica kept telling me that most patients say the same thing and there is no reason to apologize.

At the end of our conversation, she told me I had binge eating disorder and that I needed Intensive Outpatient Programming.  I had not heard of binge eating disorder before.  My extent of eating disorders was anorexia and bulimia.  I knew what those meant in general, and yet had not really heard of binge eating disorder.  She said they were starting up programming in Woodbury and that it was very similar to the one at the Como location.  You either meet from 9-12 noon or 5-8 pm in the evening.  It was four days a week. 

“What?  I can’t do all of that.  That’s too much.  I’ve got too much going on.  I work.  I have a life.  Don’t you know? ” 

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 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.

I came home in the cold and snow.  I stopped at the McDonald’s drive thru on the way home to escape the news I’d just heard.  How can I have an eating disorder?  I must have answered a couple questions incorrectly or she heard me wrong when we were talking about my life.  It couldn’t be.  I just needed something to numb the pain and food was the cure.  I felt so alone, so ashamed.  How could you let this happen?  If only you would have learned something when on the appetite suppressant prescribed in 2016, you wouldn’t be this way right now.  Only now do I realize that my eating disorder (often referred to as “Ed” by many with an eating disorder) was putting on one big, fat shame sh*t-fest as “we” went through the drive-thru.

I felt even more alone when I told my husband later that day at home.  He was sitting at the kitchen table, attempting to wake up with a cup of coffee after working the night shift.  I told him I needed a hug because I was just diagnosed with binge eating disorder.  He asked me what I needed from him.  I responded, “Nothing” as I didn’t really know what I needed at that time and quite honestly, it was a typical response for me as I didn’t ask for help.  In actuality, I was numb. I was ashamed.  I felt so alone.  Like a failure.  I have a good job, make good money, have two beautiful children and I can’t get my sh*t together when it comes to food.  What is wrong with me?

It took a lot of courage to tell my husband.  The story I made up in my head was that he isn’t one who seeks out therapy for himself, so he will think I am looking for an excuse.  It got louder and louder – “you just are looking for an excuse to be fat.  We Schmitz’s don’t roll like that.”  Louder, louder, louder.

I felt even more ashamed after that interaction.  Only in programming would I learn about “Dear Man” and being assertive in telling Dale, and others, what I really needed.  That would take time and practice.  And I’d get there eventually.  Being assertive or confronting anyone, especially my husband, wasn’t anything remotely possible at this point in my life.  You kept everything inside and ate your feelings with soothing food later.  Numb.  I’ll just numb later and escape the conflict now.  Ed was always with me in these early days, dictating my every move without my awareness.  I had no idea this wasn’t my voice.  It would take lots of therapy to discover that these stories, these words, were all coming from Ed.

Looking back on this diagnosis and the weeks leading up to it, my authentic self seemed to be on to something.  I just didn’t know it.  Just 40 days before my diagnosis, I sat in my bedroom in my glider rocking chair, the one we still had from when I was first pregnant with Kaitlyn, my oldest.  It’s green and does not go at all with the red paint on the bedroom walls, yet it provides a sense of comfort, a sense of familiarity; a sense of simpler times.  The following was my journal entry on Sunday, 9/17/17 at 2:59 pm:

The sun shines in on the carpet, with a gentle breeze, making the shadows of the leaves sway along the carpet.  A distant motorcycle is heard from the highway.  Now the blow of a loud train horn as it chugs down the tracks.  The little bird chirps ever so quietly.  I imagine it is a small bird, yellow, with a tiny beak.  The windows are open and life feels good.  It feels good in this moment because I am in tune with my outdoor surroundings while in the comfort of my green glider rocker.”

Later in this same journal entry, I say:

“Sometimes you are forced to make a change which is for the best in the long haul.  I feel like a change is about a year or two away.”

At this point in time, I would not know the magnitude of the change that was coming in just a matter of days, not years.  I was so focused on losing weight and changing my body leading up to my diagnosis. If only I changed my body and was the “perfect” size, life would fall into place, is what I thought at the time. How so far from the truth…. 

****If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please seek out professional care with an Eating Disorder treatment provider like The Emily Program. I am not a therapist. I just so happened to be fully recovered from an eating disorder and am now a coach who empowers women to show up authentically in their bodies no matter their size. It wasn’t until I recovered that I could see the beauty of my body no matter its size.

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