I was 9 years old the first time I made myself throw up. It was easier than I expected. It made me feel powerful and in control of my body and the chaos that surrounded me.
I was 17 the first time I decided to fast. I spent weeks sipping lemon water and nibbling on leaves of iceberg lettuce. I started eating again after I passed out during a drama rehearsal and fell off the stage. At 20, I went on the Grapefruit Diet, and after two months of eating nothing else, I lost 6 pounds and gave myself a bleeding ulcer.
From the ages of 22 to 29, I would binge & purge regularly. I would stop at a drive-thru on my way home from work and gorge myself on junk food, then go home, cook dinner, and eat a whole second meal. Then, after everyone was in bed, I would lock myself in the bathroom and eat until I felt sick — then I would bring it all back up and flush away the evidence.
In retrospect, these behaviors weren’t about my body or how it looked; these behaviors were the result of deep distrust in myself and my place in the world.
A divorce, a cross country move, and a spiritual reckoning brought me to a B&B in Estes Park, CO, where I worked and lived and began my healing process.
The mountain air, the Thompson River, and the wildlife all brought a sense of wonderment and joy that I had rarely known. I began eating on a regular schedule for the first time in years, I moved my body in new, challenging ways, and I sat with myself and my trauma for long hours. I would love to tell you that it was there, by the swift, clear waters of the river, that I found self-acceptance, but I did not. What I did find was an opening, a tiny crack in the armor I had constructed over a lifetime of hurt.
Over the next couple of years, I picked and scraped and clawed at that crack, and every time a piece of my armor fell away, I discovered a new part of myself.
At first, all I found was pain. Pain left over from the past, pain created from my choices, pain borne of self-loathing. It was difficult to work through all that hurt — it still is — but beneath the pain was something wonderful.
The more I chisel away at who I was in order to find who I am, the more amazed I become.