Voices Across America

My Patient Story

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Karen

State: Maryland
Congressional District: MD05

Diseases

Mental Health

Issues and Challenges

Karen has encountered: Abuse (Mental, Physical, Elder), Addiction / Substance Abuse, Disability, Discrimination (nonmedical), Food Insecurity, Invisible Illness, Social Security Disability, Suicide / Self-harm

My Story

Life with an eating disorder

CW//Food mention. Weight. BMI.

TW//Bulemia. Method mention.

It started as disordered eating when I was in middle school. If I thought I’d been bad or was mad at myself, I’d try not to eat for a certain period of time. Sometimes I’d pretend I was punishing myself by starving myself. It never lasted as long as I’d planned. And I always felt like a failure for not being able to follow through. Afterwards I’d binge on whatever I could get my hands on. My appetite was ravenous. I especially loved carbs, but I could binge on anything. It didn’t help that my friends were dieting also. Back then, no one I knew understood much about disordered eating patterns in teenagers, or how to spot the signs of a full blown eating disorder in young adults.

My parents helped me keep to a healthy weight with their cooking, and because I was a student athlete, my BMI was in the normal range. But I still felt fat. I was embarrassed to wear a swimsuit at meets and at practice. I always covered my body with my arms or with a big sweatshirt. I hated the feeling of people looking at me. I wished I was skinnier than I was 24/7.

At first the intrusive thoughts were minimal. Maybe I’d linger on a commercial longer than I should and wonder why I didn’t look like the girls on tv. I wanted a flatter stomach like I saw on everyone else. No one said anything to me but I felt flawed and ugly.

I don’t know when the bulemia actually started. But I remember teaching myself how to put my fingers down my throat and how to vomit on cue. I also was envious of a friend of mine who threw up after eating without trying. We didn’t think she was bulemic but we weren’t entirely sure. Still, I wished I had a body like hers.

All this stuff happened before I was in the 10th grade. Maybe even before 9th. I can’t remember now. By age 16 I actively started watching my weight and counting calories. I even went to a weight watchers center with my mom. As an adult with grown children, I’m angry that they allowed me to join the group. I was the only teenager. I wasn’t overweight and I was active in sports at school. I would have preferred if only my doctors discussed my weight with me.

Fast forward to today and I still struggle with my weight. I’ve had three kids and now I have body image issues because I don’t look like I did when I was a high school athlete. I want to binge and purge. I want to restrict my food and count calories. But I know this isn’t healthy. Poor eating habits will harm my mental health and hinder my mental illnesses, so I have to persist and communicate with my psychiatrist. This is hard but I can do it. I live for myself and I try to stay health for my children also.

My Motivation and Inspiration

My parents and my children are my motivation. My religion is my inspiration.

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