Where to Begin…Always the Best Question!


For some reason today I find myself inside my disorderly eating history. I questioned my journal, “why,” and the answer appeared, “because.” We learn from where we have been, and “for sure” I’ve been in a life of chaos from a very early age. The chaos was managed subconsciously by what is called an “eating disorder”, so…this is “why.”

We want to begin at the beginning. Sometimes we can identify when binge or a pattern of disorderly eating began. I mentioned that my first binge was around the age of three. This was the year my father died in an automobile accident. It was my third birthday. In those days family were waked from the home instead of a funeral parlor. I wasn’t allowed to see my father in his casket but instead was sent to the garden with a plastic bag filled with cookies.

My next memory was opening the forbidden door to the living room and walking over to the casket. I remember yelling and someone pulling me out of the room. It wasn’t my mother. She was in shock and remained that way for many years. This was the day I lost my childhood and became a caretaker. From that day forward my young life was filled with stress and fear.

I lost my oldest son in 2011. He was a rock climber. At the time of his death he was climbing in Colombia, South America. It took us six months to bring his remains home, but that story is for another blog post. My husband died three months ago. He had been ill for several years and I was his caretaker. So, it is no surprise that my eating disorder decided to stop in for a visit.

Very early on I found solace in food. No one paid any attention to what I was doing. I don’t remember ever being corrected. However, I was criticized by an Aunt who told me that “(I) you always have something in your mouth. You will grow up to be a fat pig.” I’m sure she meant to help me, but I can still remember the feeling that flowed through my body….guilt, and shame. From that day forward I began “secret eating.” I think I was four or five.

While food was my solace, I was also a very hungry child. This was true physical hunger. My mother took me to our family doctor when I was seven because of my appetite. I was not fat…just hungry. The doctor gave me three little boxes filled with pills….amphetamines. They were cute boxes like little matchboxes. The pills were different colors…red, green and yellow. Very appealing. I swallowed them before each meal but still continued to be hungry.

I don’t remember returning to the doctor. I simply didn’t eat in front of anyone. My mother saw the problem as “solved.” I share this because of the importance of a missed diagnosis. From the very beginning, I was sensitive to refined carbohydrates. These were my secret binge foods and they kept me “hungry.” I was a very active child, so I burned off the calories but needed more. This became my “circle of horror.” It was all a secret….that I never shared with anyone until many decades later when I finally understood what happened to me and what was still happening. I was lucky. I almost died.

You may not consider this luck, but the level of my illness from “food” and “disorderly eating” forced me to find out what was wrong with me OR perish. While this may sound like an exaggeration, it is not. As I became older, had children, and continued my food crazies, I found myself looking to alcohol and prescription medications to handle the anxiety….which was caused by the very things I was doing. My symptoms were as crazy as my eating. These included major fatigue, sleep disorder, pain throughout my body, dizziness, poor vision, instability, emotional roller-coaster rides, shakiness, etc. resulting in phobias that kept me paralyzed with fear of leaving the house. Doctors labeled me as “neurotic”, depressed, anxiety-prone, etc. Certainly, this was not a self-esteem builder! I truly feel compassion for that Self who survived so many years ago.

No one ever asked me what I ate or drank. No one asked about my lifestyle behaviors or how I handled stress. No one asked anything… For a time I believed them, but there was always a little voice inside of me telling me to “find the truth.” Through all of this, I was a mother, wife and registered nurse. I hid everything…including the crazy bingeing that was well out of control by this time. I knew I was killing myself, but I couldn’t stop.

By now I was bingeing everywhere. What I didn’t know was that my pancreas was over-producing insulin and I was nearing the door of adult-onset diabetes. I had serious hyperinsulinemia or reactive hypoglycemia. My secrets were going to kill me if I didn’t find the way back to sanity.

I remember stopping the car one day on my way home from work. I pulled to the side of the road and prayed. I bargained. “Show me the way and I’ll do whatever it is and then….I’ll spend the rest of my life helping others.” The answer came in a strange way the very next day. The information came to me explaining what had been happening over the years. But, the way back to food sanity was going to be a rough haul for me. I would have to change everything. Once again I was paralyzed with fear. “What if I couldn’t do it??” I felt the fear melting…it was a very strange sensation. I knew intuitively that help was on the way.

I was now on a quest and strangely enough, had to fight others in order to live my new life. This was unexpected…more than food and secrets had to change if I was to truly live the life I had been given.

Now, here I am in that dark place once again. It is part of my grieving process, but this time it is different. I have insight, knowledge, wisdom and power. I know how to care for myself. Eating disorders are not about food, but out of control habits that attempt to help us through rough passages.

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