What you don’t know about me

I started long after I knew better, past the age when my decisions could be chalked up to that invincible feeling that fades away as we get older.

Already a mother I should have been setting a good example and following the very rules I was setting for my own child. I was embarrassed by my weakness.

Life was too much. Single parenting and autism and a whirlwind of experience I couldn’t seem to grasp left me feeling undeserving of the most basic necessities and looking for something I might actually be able to control.

Food and I have never had a loving relationship. You would never find me drooling over cake or fumbling for enough adjectives to describe last night’s dinner. I had always eaten because that is just what you do, until I didn’t.

In my early twenties I was put on a steroid regimen for an allergic reaction. Reading the label a little too closely, I fixated on the side effect of “weight gain” and planned what turned out to be the first of many meals I would skip. What started out as a way for me to avoid gaining weight turned into a way for me to feel a sense of control over my life.

From there I began to plan my days by how little I could consume, proud of myself for mothering and working and standing up without getting too light-headed after rationing my meals down to a handful of pretzels. I was often complimented on how well I handled life as a young mom and asked how I managed everything. As tempting as it was to admit I was hanging on by letting myself go, I never did.

I skillfully avoided meals with family and dinner dates and busied myself while I fed my daughter so I wouldn’t have to eat a thing. My work clothes began to droop and I could feel my hipbones through the pockets of my jeans but I barely noticed the difference in my appearance. I was too busy trying to perfect starvation as well as everything else in my life.

Several months later, I got ready for work, dropped my daughter off at school and drove right past the exit for our corporate headquarters to an outpatient program for people with eating disorders. I spent weeks going there daily while everyone else thought I was at work. A woman, probably younger than I, counted my calories, encouraging me to drink juice instead of water while someone else reminded me why I was worth taking care of. All the while I tried not to collapse in complete embarrassment of the fact that I was an adult yet couldn’t manage to do the most basic of tasks for myself.

I have never relapsed to the low points of those days but I’m not sure I will ever be fully better. Just as some people turn to a carton of ice cream under stress, I conveniently skip lunch but pep talk myself into eating dinner. The slippery slope of using food (or lack of) as a coping mechanism will always be one wrong step away.

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week and today is the first time I have ever shared my story.To be honest I am scared to publish this post. There is a certain shame associated with being an adult and not taking care of myself the way I should. I have read other women’s stories and always commented anonymously on how strong they are and how I hope to one day be able to share mine too. I’m not sure I feel confident and strong, I just feel ready. Maybe there is another “anonymous” out there who needs to hear my story just as much as I have needed to read others in the past. We all have our weaknesses and our coping strategies and our vices. The fact that I’ve struggled with an eating disorder does not make me a bad mother or wife.

I’m pretty sure it just makes me human.

kids with mom

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder visit the National Eating Disorders Association for ways they can find help.

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  1. says

    Just read this because I saw it on pinterest. Jessica, I had no idea! But yes, you are very brave for sharing. It seems like there are so few of us who have normal relationships with food. I was a yo-yo dieter most of life before I had kids. In my twenties, I went to a doctor and asked what I could do to lose weight. I wasn’t fat, just not as skinny as I wanted to be. He put me on a 500 calorie a day diet as a trial thing. I think the idea was that if I couldn’t lose weight on 500 calories a day, then there was a larger issue. I have no idea. All I know is that I did lose weight and stayed on that diet for years. I’d eat an egg white for breakfast, plain tuna on a cracker for lunch and a plain boca burger with a can of string beans for dinner. Then I’d record everything in a notebook at night. I thought about food- whether I was eating it, not eating it, what I would eat tomorrow, what I didn’t eat today constantly. I realize now how messed up that sounds but at the time I thought I was happiest when I was skinny. When that diet became too hard I would binge on sweets and beat myself up about it. Having kids changed everything for me. Once I started eating a normal diet, I realized what a relief it is to not feel consumed by food anymore. There are so many other more important things to think about.

  2. says

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I
    hope you write again soon!

  3. says

    I actually wanted to share this unique article, “Battling an eating disorder as an adult” along with my own good friends
    on facebook itself. I actuallysimply sought to pass on your great writing!
    Thank you, Melodee

  4. says

    I really love you when you’re human. :-)

    I just posted about my alcoholism for the first time so I know that vulnerability you’re talking about. But maybe it will help someone. There is no shame in opening up, I think. You’re gorgeous (and not just on the outside).
    Lady Jennie recently posted..Life in the Trenches – Chapter 9

  5. says

    Sharing your story was very courageous! I caught it on Huff Post! So many parents need to hear and see they don’t suffer alone! Great writing and thank you for sharing your story publicly!

  6. says

    Thank you for sharing. With so much in life that is out of our control it is so natural (human) to try to take control over whatever we can. Sending hope and hugs. xoxo
    Lanie recently posted..Silent and Stuck

  7. Jen says

    Hi Jessica. I read your post today on HuffPo and I cried. Big wet tears. I thought I was the only one. I am 41 and the mom to 4 little boys. I am anorexic. I am at the point where I think I may have to go inpatient or it may finally kill me, and I am terrified. This is not about being skinny anymore. I am scared to leave my family, my kids. Terrified that I will be surrounded by 14 year-olds who are nothing like me. I am embarrassed and ashamed. I don’t know what to do. But thank you. Because of you I don’t feel quite so alone anymore.

    • says

      Oh Jen I am so sorry to hear this but glad that you contacted me. I was in the same spot as you, terrified I would have to leave my daughter but I was able to go to a day program where I was only gone from 8-3 every day. It helped me so much and I still look back on that time as a gift because I truly had a lot of “work” to do on myself that went well beyond just food. I know it is so hard but battling whatever is causing you to restrict food will make you better for you and your children. Please email me if you want to talk more fourplusanangel@gmail.com

  8. says

    First of all, I commend you for writing about something so personal. This post is going to help so many people. Your strength oozes in this post and I love you even more for it.
    I always struggled with body image. I stopped eating in grade 10 and when people started questioning me about it, I freaked out because I didn’t like the negative attention. And I realized it wasn’t healthy.
    When I dropped a crap ton of weight last year because of my gallbladder, I was kind of happy about it. I look back at picture and I see a sickly girl. I take lithium and I worry about the weight gain…which makes me worry about what I eat…and worry that I will fall into that “I better stop eating or I’ll get fat”…sigh.
    Love you.
    Kimberly recently posted..Canada Bleeds Hockey

  9. says

    I have to say, though I don’t know you personally, you seem to be an amazing mom. And an eating disorder, or any other struggle in life shouldn’t lessen that. I’m glad to hear you are overcoming your struggle for yourself AND your family. Anyone judging should turn an eye inward. You are strong, and brave for posting this. Kudos and hugs from across the blogosphere.
    Momma Running in Heels recently posted..Denim, Stripes and Orange and White Polka Dots, Oh My! {Fashion}

  10. says

    You are beautifully human… and beautifully brave.
    It takes courage to seek help, and courage to now share your story. I love you so much for always being an honest, human, and courageous writer. You are part of what makes the blogging world so powerful.
    Jenni Chiu @ MommyNaniBooboo recently posted..Facebook Is Not Real.

  11. Kate says

    Thank you for sharing your story. The more of us that get our stories out there, the more people we can help. Very brave of you. Hugs and strength coming your way!

  12. says

    You have no idea how much this story will impact that “anonymous” person. You ARE strong and brave…I know because I’m in remission from an eating disorder too {because we are never truly cured} For over half my life I starved myself, to look like a super model. To be someone else, when all I had to do was finally LOVE myself. That’s it isn’t it….it’s about valuing yourself. Knowing that you are worth it. I have days when someone will make a comment about weight, or I read a blog post about someone getting fit or I just need to grasp the reins of my life a little tighter or I’ll lose control, and I think Hmmmm, perhaps skipping that meal would get me to “that point”. But I remember that feeling, the empty stomach and the empty heart and I never want to go back there EVER. Please don’t be embarassed about sharing your story, because it will help someone else. In fact it just helped me know I’m not alone…and neither are you. :-)
    Brook recently posted..Scenes: The Greatest Gift

    • says

      I identify with every word of your comment and, as you said, it never truly goes away. We have to be able to love ourselves enough to know that we deserve the most basic of things, like food. Whenever life gets too stressful my mind wanders there but I have always been able to fight going back to that complete emptiness. I hope you can too and I’m so glad we’ve connected over this. It is so good to know I’m not alone.

  13. Katie says

    I had to comment and share some support. THANK YOU for sharing your story. Too many people are afraid or ashamed. I’ve been there and back again. Wishing you all the strength to deal with it, but, more importantly, the ability to realize that you are SO MUCH MORE than this issue.

  14. says

    Just from hitting submit you showed so much strength. You don’t have to be 100% perfect. Your ability to share and show the world how you have experienced so much and come out the other side is what matters. This is so open and real and I truly believe your words WILL help someone, if they haven’t already. Thanks for sharing such a private part of yourself and for allowing us to support you.
    Andrea recently posted..Moments of Motherhood: Firsts

  15. says

    I entered treatment as a 27 year old adult. Ashamed and embarrassed as well. Thank you for this. There’s such a stigma and sharing your story helps reduce that stigma. Thank you for being brave enough to help other women just by sharing your struggle. It helps so many of us to know we aren’t alone.

    • says

      I was in my mid-20’s too and remember thinking I would be the oldest person there. I was surprised to see several other women. It’s amazing how alone you can feel until you reach out for help.

  16. says

    I’m so happy your shared your story. Honesty is empowering and I hope you’re feeling that. I love how you said that regression is always “one wrong step away.” That applies to so many problems that so many people have struggled with. Making the right choices, for some of us, will never be an automatic response. It will be a conscious decision each and every time. I’m more of the turn to ice cream in times of stress type, which is a battle I’ll have to win over and over again for the rest of my life – which can be exhausting and feel unfair. But the unfairness is a wrong perception, because so many people struggle in one way or another. I’m not the only one, so rather than being unfair, it’s fairly common. But I wouldn’t know that without people like you who stand up and speak out. You were brave to seek treatment then and brave to talk about it now. There is no shame in struggling. It’s the human condition.

  17. says

    Thank you for writing about such a sensitive and important topic. Talking about that thing that haunts us is not easy. But we all have stuff. If we can accept ourselves as a whole—flaws and all—we can find a greater sense of peace within. You are a beautiful woman inside and out. Sharing your struggles with the world shows that you are human, just like everybody else. There’s no shame in that!
    Steph at I’m Still Learning recently posted..Advice for the new mom: a letter to my 29 year old self…

  18. Mamaintheburbs says

    Sorry I hit publish to fast! I was so frail from my disease that people started to tell me how sick I was looking. I was then put on a feeding tube and had my colon out. Now bc I have taken steroids and my antidepressants make me gain weight my weight is back up there. It’s a constant struggle with me. Diets, fasts, everything! Then after reading your article it became clear to me that I need to lose weight the healthy way thru proper diet and exercise. Thank you for sharing something so hard! You are a beautiful woman and mother!

  19. Mamaintheburbs says

    Jessica Thank you for posting this story. I’m def an over eater and when my depression is real bad I seem to drown myself in food. The truth is I used to think of life of someone that didn’t eat or that was able to throw up her food. I was jealous. I wanted to be thin like them. Then I got sick with colitis and lost a ton of weight. I was so frail

  20. says

    You are very, very strong. You should definitely be proud of yourself not just for sharing your story, but for fighting so hard to get well. Your words here are so important. Thank you for sharing them.
    Stimey recently posted..The Concept of Quinn

  21. says

    We are all human; we all have challenges to face. When we share them, we can draw strength from each other. I am certain that your bravery and honesty will help others who are struggling.
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted..Rule Bender

    • says

      I’ve received so many amazing comments of support and some heartbreaking emails from people who need help. I’m so relieved that I shared. Thank you so much for your support Alison.

  22. says

    Oh my gosh. Once again, I’m humbled by your bravery and honesty. I’ve lived with an eating disorder, though mine is at the opposite end of the spectrum, and I still fight it every day. It’s stories like mine, yours and so many others which are driving my passion for the project I’m working on now. We may have thought we were taking care of ourselves at the time when our disorder was a frenzy, but there are better ways to do it. Sending love your way, always.
    Mrs. Jen B recently posted..I’m a #Shaklee180 Blogger!

  23. Leigh Ann says

    Thanks for sharing your story, Jessica. I love how you describe not necessarily being strong or brave, but READY. That’s what makes you brave.

  24. says

    you are so very brave for sharing… wishing you peace and comfort my friend.

    “Maybe there is another “anonymous” out there who needs to hear my story just as much as I have needed to read others in the past. We all have our weaknesses and our coping strategies and our vices.” I am a big believer that when we share our experiences, our secrets with others we make our circle bigger and our secret smaller –you are not alone.

    When I first shared about my depression and alcoholism openly I felt dread, but soon I realized that was me letting shame get in the way and soon that feeling of dread was replaced with self-acceptance… of course it helps having supportive people encouraging me. I just the other day opened up on my blog about some family stuff that’s always been difficult for me and after pressing the publish button couldn’t help but feel some dread… I guess that is something that’s been really neat –learning that there are a lot of supportive people just trying to do this human experience, too.
    Amy recently posted..Family Traditions

    • says

      Sometimes I wonder how we all survived without the blogging world. It is amazing to connect with people who are real and honest and find such support out there. Sharing this part of me and receiving not only support from people like you but many more honest stories has been amazing and overwhelming.

  25. says

    This was a brave post, Jessica. I hope you do not receive any negative or condemning responses to it. If you do, please remember that there will also be those who read, say nothing, but leave knowing they are not alone, and are encouraged to seek the help they need.
    Ginger Kay recently posted..Am I the pot or the kettle?

  26. says

    Oh, Hon. I’m glad you shared this and sorry that it’s part of your story. So often women are expected to be perfect, and none of us. Becoming a mother doesn’t change that. Becoming the mother of a special needs child doesn’t either. And whether it’s an eating disorder or dressing all our kids in matching outfits, I think we can all relate to the desire to control what we can when so much else in out of our grasp.
    Katy recently posted..If the Tin Foil Hat Fits

  27. says

    There have been times in my life when I have turned to control over my food when I could not control anything else in my life. Thanks for sharing your story. We are all more alike than we believe ourselves to be. Being scared to publish a post is when I know I need to publish it the most.

  28. says

    That’s absolutely right, you are only human and thus flawed. It’s just true. But that does not mean you cannot try to be better and I hear that you have. I’m sorry this is part of your story but I also know it has made you stronger. I treat food the opposite way and so even though I cannot relate to “not eating”, I can relate to the pain food issues can cause. Good for you for telling your story, Jessica! xoxo
    Elaine A. recently posted..What’s Next?

    • says

      Thanks so much Elaine and thank you for commenting. I really debated on hitting publish on this and seeing you here just gave me a sigh of relief. xo