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I’ve Finally Found Eating Disorder Support but I’m Afraid to Start

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Editor's Note

This story has been published with permission from the author’s daughter.

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

I thought I knew a lot about eating disordersanorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, purging — but I recently realized I had a lot to learn.

You need to know I am extremely overweight. I won’t put a number on it since I honestly haven’t weighed in a very long time, and hearing a number puts me into an even deeper depression than usual.

Eating too much seems like the most accepted addiction because so many events center around food, and the least accepted, as it’s one of the few addictions or mental health conditions that celebrities and others can make fun of without backlash.

I have no doubt that I have missed opportunities due to my weight. There are jobs I know I’m qualified for and was high in the running for until a face-to-face interview. I could go on and on with examples but I won’t. But it is definitely an area where judgment is high and in many places, you are “welcomed but not accepted” — the tagline for my blog.

I tried multitudes of weight loss methods from when I was little until in my 30s. I would gain weight and then lose it, only to repeat the cycle over and over. You know the saying about how if you can do something for two weeks, you’ll replace the old habit with a new one? Well, I would “be good” for months or even years, only to still relapse. Now that I know I have bipolar disorder, I wonder how much that played into it as I have realized I eat and exercise differently when depressed than when manic. It doesn’t matter — no matter why it happened, it consistently happened.

So, I finally gave up. I thought that maybe I’m just going to be this weight and there’s nothing I can do about it. The only problem is that I haven’t stayed “this weight.”  I haven’t gained a lot at a time, but even a little over many years eventually makes a big difference. For a while now, I have been in the “I’m worried” stage. Recently, due to some mobility and health issues, I’m now in the “I’m terrified” stage. But even that won’t make me change, which led me to a realization.

My daughter, who is overweight, was diagnosed with an eating disorder. That was how I realized that overweight people can have eating disorders. I also realized I’m an addict in another area. After becoming abstinent in that addiction, I noticed I started substituting the word “food” for my other addiction when I would be at the support group meeting.  When I did that, everything in my past concerning food started to make sense.

It’s just like any other addiction… some people have no issues with dieting and when they decide they want to lose weight, they have the willpower to stop. Just like my other addiction, I realized I am powerless over this thing without help (and not just help from a nutritionist or from the latest diet fad). We’re talking major, gut-wrenching, 12-Step, support-groups-for-the-rest-of-my-life help.

I went to a few meetings with the group that met where my daughter got treatment. Nothing against them, but I didn’t see any success in that group. I need success. I have got to know it could work for me to even think about trying again.

Once again, I gave up. I was still terrified but I thought that maybe I could work on it when I finally got completely through the 12-Steps in my first recognized addiction.

After finding a mental health support group in my city, I decided to look more into eating disorder support. I saw there are several of these groups. I looked into specifics of each and found one I thought was right for me. I looked up the meeting time and it was a night I’m free.

So I went.

Just like when I went to my first support group for my other addiction, I knew these were my people right off the bat. They struggled with not only losing weight but keeping it off. They knew it was deeper than breaking some bad habits.

I walked out with mixed emotions, though. I was really happy to have found this group. There were people who had success. I had a little bit of hope which is something I had completely given up on having.

But I knew it was going to be hard. I mean hard. I know how hard it was to become sober from my other addiction and the one I had picked up later in life. This one was something I’ve dealt with since I was a toddler — 50-plus years of addictive behavior.

In addition, my life is almost as far from settled as it can be. I am not living in the kind of conditions to be able to successfully undertake such a huge endeavor. I also realized I just can’t wait. I have to start now, even if it means only taking baby steps.

At the next meeting I attended, the same thing happened: feelings of both hope and despair.

Those feelings were amplified when I went to an all-day retreat. So much hope. So many stories that I could relate to. So much validation that I’m not alone in this struggle. So much love and support from complete strangers.

However, so much fear. So much wondering how I can do this given my current mental, financial, living and emotional state. So many conflicting feelings.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted from this mental merry-go-round.

I’m still wondering how to do this. Honestly, I’m still wondering if I can do this. But I know I have to try… one day at a time.

Photo via Charlyn Riggs.

Originally published: January 17, 2020
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