March 16, 2014

There is Hope: When We Are Sick & Tired of Living with Disordered Eating. ~ Paola Messa

silent scream

I am screaming. No one around me can hear me. I realize that up to that moment I had been building a life that didn’t belong to me.

It started when I was 14, when I survived bone cancer—Osteosarcoma. I never faced what that really meant. All of a sudden to my eyes I was different because of my scar. I was different from all the other 14 year olds and—in my mind—I thought that I needed to be punished because of that.

In a matter of two months my diet was down to 300 calories a day, my weight down to 85 lbs, and as my parents were getting more and more worried my goal kept on getting lower and lower. If I was hungry I would allow myself to eat half a piece of gum per day. I would weigh every single thing and calculate the calories. I would weigh myself 30 times a day. No one could touch my food but me because I was afraid they would use extra fat to make me gain weight. First thing in the morning, I would touch my bones and have a feeling of reassurance.

“They are still there, I can still touch them.”

I would go to bed hungry and wake up hungry and dream about food. When you suffer from Anorexia the misconception is that you don’t like food, but you do—you love food. There is nothing else on your mind, all you think about is food, your life revolves around it; you are just not allowed to have any.

Thanks to therapy, after almost a year, I was able to gain some weight back and my parents were happy. They didn’t know I learned a way to get around it. I would throw up—up to eight times a day. I was so good at hiding it that it was scary. I knew exactly what to eat and in which order so that I could purge in a matter of minutes without even using my fingers.

One of the scariest aspects of Bulimia is that a bulimic person is hard to spot. Most of the time they have a normal weight and the bingeing episodes happen “in secret.” I read that the behavior of a bulimic person is similar to that of a drug addict. Food is your drug—you crave it and you are addicted to it—it’s an obsession.

Anger, resentment, loneliness.

After bingeing all my feelings were stuffed. I just needed to wait—wait to purge. I was so stuffed and tired I couldn’t think nor feel anything. Then  it comes, the moment where you purge, and when you are done you feel so relaxed. The medical explanation behind that is that vomiting causes the body to release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that make you feel good. That’s where the sense of relaxation comes from.

I tried ending this routine for years, but my relationship with ED (my Eating Disorder) just got stronger.

Then I reached a point—and it’s different for each person—where you do want to change; you do want to be happy. I reached that point last year, a few months after giving birth to my son. Last year, for the first time, I realized I didn’t want to live like that. I had been living with ED for almost 14 years and I was sick and tired of him.

I read somewhere that change comes from within you, and at the time I didn’t fully understand what it meant, but I can now say that I do. Something inside you changes and I am not sure when, how or what originates the change but there is something that tells you:

“You can do better than this, you do deserve to be happy.”

And that’s when I was put in contact with my current therapist. When I sat down on her couch I remember that one of the first things I asked her was if there was hope and she said: ”Yes!” She told me that recovery it’s a lifetime process, meaning a “learning process.”

She taught me that a one time binge and purge episode is not a relapse but it’s just a slip and it’s part of recovery, and as long as you identify it and accept it, then you can move on and continue your recovery.

Sometimes I do regret not going to therapy five or 10 years ago but I know that I wasn’t ready at the time. I wasn’t ready to break up with ED, I wasn’t ready to let him go and I loved him. He was making me feel safe and secure and no matter what he was always there for me.

What matters to me right now is that I am glad that I am on my way to recovery. A few months ago I thought I would have never been able to say these words but it’s true, there is hope—there is hope to recover from an eating disorder.

Sharing my story is definitely part of my recovery.

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Editorial Assistant: Jess Sheppard/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Veronika Cieslak/photoblog.pl

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