“My father was an alcoholic and verbally abusive. My mother had very low self-esteem and a lot of self hatred. Childhood, for me, was traumatic. I have memories of using food to numb my emotions, stuffing myself until I felt sick and could hardly breathe.”
These are not my words. They are the words of Jamie Ottesen who contacted me after reading my blog, Bulimia Is a B*tch: Losing Control and Finding Freedom.
Jamie messaged me to let me know my story had inspired her. She also confided that she, too, had battled bulimia. For thirty-eight years…
“When I was thireen years old I became uncomfortable with my body. I thought I was fat at 105 pounds, and I felt alone. I was in junior high and didn’t have friends to eat lunch with, so I stopped eating lunch at school to avoid the cafeteria. This led to a desire to stop eating, but it didn’t last long.
One day I began self-induced vomiting and then went right back to bingeing on high-calorie foods. Before I knew it I was bingeing and purging almost everything I consumed. I knew this was not right or good for me, but I could not stop. The behavior became extreme when I would consume 10,000 to 30,000 calories a day and purge fifteen to twenty times a day.
My addiction was now completely out of control. I was addicted to being thin and had a distorted body image. I didn’t want anyone to know what I was doing, so I isolated myself and lived in secrecy, shame and judgment. To compensate, I worked really hard at pleasing people and trying to be good and look good to others. Shame, the belief that I was bad, began to take over my thoughts. I felt I deserved to be punished and never felt like I was enough.
I continued this behavior throughout high school. Many days I felt so sick and was so weak that I could hardly make it through the day. I felt like I was going to faint, and I had headaches and stomach aches on a regular basis. My family knew about my behavior; they would see the toilet and knew I was throwing up. Their response was to shame and criticize me. I didn’t know how to stop or where to turn for help.
I went on to college and continued the daily bingeing and purging. At this point I was barely able to keep food in my body without feeling a tremendous impulse to purge. It was so scary for me to live in the dorms where the bathrooms were not private. I would wait for just the right moment to go in and purge. Feelings of worthlessness, despair and guilt permeated my days. I ate for emotional relief and to numb my feelings.
I fainted one day and ended up in the emergency room, but I couldn’t tell them about my shameful secret. Later that summer I had another visit because I felt like my stomach was going to explode. No matter how much I ate, I never felt filled up; it was never enough. Again I kept the bulimia a secret and continued the behavior.”
Jamie finally reached out for help in her second year of college. Unfortunately, the counselor that she spoke to advised her to “Wrap it all up in a package, tie a bow around it, and be done with it.”
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t work. The bulimia continued to thrive.
It would be many, many more years before Jamie was able to start the road to recovery. She would go on to get married and have children, all the while continuing to hide her food addictions and bulimia.
Jamie reflects on her journey, “The thought of not having bulimia as a coping mechanism was very frightening. Bulimia was my best friend and worst enemy at the same time. I felt ashamed and self-conscious, and was constantly trying to hide my secret. It digs into you, creating dark thoughts as it undercuts your self-esteem. Life simply becomes a tiring show as you try to put on a happy face to hide your dark secret. I feared talking about it or exposing it. I knew that the only way through it would be to begin to lift the veil of shame and believe I was worth it”.
Eventually, with the help of a therapist that listened, the support of a 12 Step Program, and a whole lot of faith, courage and determination, Jamie began to find freedom. She has now been in recovery for twenty-three months (amazing!) and has reclaimed her health.
I wanted to share Jamie’s story because it matters. Because after thirty-eight years (thirty-eight damn years), this lady found the courage to face her demons. And if she can do it after a lifetime of living in shame and fear, then we can do it, too.
We can reach out to other people. We can be brave. We can own who we are.
This is how we build communities. This is how we build self-esteem. And this is how we are reminded that we are not floating solo on a raft in an endless sea, no matter how much it feels like it some days. We’re connected. All of us.
I truly believe in our ability to take our vulnerabilities and turn them into our strengths. We can empower ourselves and, in turn, we can empower each other.
Remember the Fierce Female mantra: Empower others. Be the beacon. Shine your light and blaze your own trail. Then look for the sister that’s struggling and help her find her feet. She’ll gain her strength and then she can help the next sister.
It’s a kick ass mantra for brothers, too. Nobody needs to be left out.
Thank you to Jamie for having the courage to tell her truth, thank you to Positively Positive for providing a ‘safe place’ where community is everything and judgement has no place, and thank you to all the amazing hearts (professionals and otherwise) who provide the space for people in all kinds of need to just sit with who they are and how they feel.
Day by day, right guys? And when that feels too tough, moment by moment. @SkylarLiberty
(Click to Tweet!)
We’ve got this.
Skylar Liberty Rose is a freelance writer and blogger. Her articles and poetry have received wide acclaim and have been instrumental in her continuing journey to self acceptance. She believes in creativity as a form of healing and is passionate about manifesting her dreams. Skylar is an advocate of stripping away layers of conditioning and instead discovering the unique truth within. She is inspired by souls with spirit and courageous hearts. She grew up in London and now lives in New York City with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter, FB, IG and her blog.