Did you know that 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life? And those are just the cases which are reported!
One of my four daughters, who I’ll call “J”, was one of those statistics.
“J” struggled with a condition called Bulimia Nervosa. She would binge eat, literally consuming as much food in an hour as many people would eat in two days or more. When she reached the half-way point on her plate, she would excuse herself to use the restroom, vomit what she’d just eaten, and return to finish her meal.
Once her plate was cleared, she’d usually vomit again. Then, the cycle would immediately repeat. As she washed the dishes from her recently consumed meal, she would begin preparing another full dinner.
Bulimia controlled “J’s” every thought. In a desperate effort to quiet the screaming in her head, she would drink alcohol. Eventually, she admitted that being intoxicated was the only way she could feel “normal”. We knew that, by then, our child no longer understand what “normal” was.
My daughter was on a cycle of self-destruction and no matter what we did, it only got worse.
We first recognized the issue when she was 18 years old. Chances are, she’d had the condition for a long time before we saw any signs of it. An eating disorder, like most addictions, creates an impressive liar and astute manipulator in its victim, but eventually, its damaging symptoms are exposed.
We promptly admitted “J” to an in-house treatment facility, but our medical insurance stopped paying after five days and she was discharged, only to sink deeper into devastation.
For five years, we unsuccessfully fought to save our daughter. We were helplessly witnessing the slow death of our once-lively child.
“J” is now 23 and was released from her second round of rehab a few months ago. I’m happy to say that, as of today, she’s stronger and healthier than I’ve seen her in years.
But it’s a constant battle. During her last round of treatment, we learned that it can take from two to seven years to fully recover from an eating disorder.
Think about it, alcoholics can avoid bars and liquor aisles. Drug addicts can avoid their old stomping grounds and friends.
But what about people with eating disorders? They can’t avoid food.
In order to survive, they need the one vice that almost killed them. And it’s not just survival, nearly every social event involves dining in one form or another, whether it be full-course meals or chips and dips. Food is everywhere.
My daughter’s eating disorder had her believing that nobody else could love her, besides her new “friend”, whose name happened to be Bulimia Nervosa. The bulimia bully convinced “J” that she would never be beautiful or possess value on her own.
Sadly, “J” came to believe the lies and protected the disorder vehemently, losing jobs, relationships, and risking her own existence to keep bulimia hidden safe inside her.
If you’re struggling with or love somebody who has an eating disorder, there is help.
When my daughter checked in for her second round of rehabilitation, she attended a wonderful facility called The Bella Vita. She went to treatment willingly, and in fact, researched several options on her own before settling on The Bella Vita.
During her entrance interview, “J” was asked how often she typically purged on a daily basis. I would have guessed five to seven, but I was grossly mistaken. “J”, finally ready to be honest about her struggles, confessed to vomiting over thirty times a day. It was then that I realized that our family was about to learn a great deal more than we’d bargained for regarding our child’s suffering.
I wish I could tell you that there was a defining moment that changed “J’s” perspective and motivated her to seek help, but I can’t. She just said that she was tired of feeling broken. She was depressed, bloated, miserable, and out of control. She was unemployed, exhausted, and didn’t like who she’d become. She was tired of the lies and knew she was wasting the life God had given her. Quite simply, she just wanted to know what it felt like to be happy again.
It took years for her to get to that point, but she finally did (have I mentioned the power of prayer?)
When she’s having a rough day, “J” knows she can call her family. We don’t judge. We can’t condemn. We just listen and pray.
I’m proud of my little girl. She’s still discovering her God-given gifts – the jewels within her that were covered up by her disorder. Her family has always known how incredible she is … and I’m thankful that her mind is now cleared enough so she can begin to recognize the true beauty that others have always seen.
The Bulimia Bully
Everyone who saw her
They said she was quite lovely
But looking in the mirror
All she ever saw was “ugly”
A beauty, young and precious
My daughter stood before them
The compliments meant nothing
She soon learned to abhor them
An inch around her waist
Was disaster in her mind
She couldn’t see her beauty
Though it was quite easy to find
The food, it brought her comfort
And bucket-loads she ate
But then she’d search for purpose
And everything, she’d hate
She’d sneak off to the toilet
And empty out her gut
Regain her sense of value
Then sink deeper in her rut
We knew what she was doing
Confronted her each day
She’d smile and then deny it
Before she’d walk away
We watched our little daughter
Who lived and breathed a lie
We knew if it continued
Our child would surely die
Our precious little angel
Was breaking down inside
There’s no way we could save her
No matter how we tried
We locked up all our cupboards
Explained she could not hide it
But it only pushed her further
With the enemy, she sided
She had a food addiction
For years her mind deceived her
She’d claim that she was fine
But none of us believed her
Bulimia’s a bully
Controlling every thought
She tells you that you’re special
Then lies and says you’re not
She tried to kill my daughter
In many hurtful ways
She tore apart our family
And darkened up our days
Don’t let her lies deceive you
Don’t think she has no power
Despite her soft demeanor
She’ll steal your every hour
My daughter fights the bully
And bulimia is losing
I’m proud to say that every bite
Is now my daughter’s choosing
After “J” read this post, she was inspired to start a FACEBOOK SUPPORT PAGE for people struggling with eating disorders and their loved ones. Please check it out and LIKE her page if you or somebody you know is suffering!