In September 2009, bloated and hungover from another binge and dealing with the chronic pain of too many laxatives, I realised I had an eating disorder and started on my road to recovery.
What I’ve never talked about is that this wasn’t the first time I’d binged and purged. I’d been abusing laxatives and overexercising for two years before that morning in September but that’s not what I’m talking about. Restricting, bingeing and purging had happened to me in my life once before, many years ago.
Let’s go back to the past
When puberty hit in my early teens, I said goodbye to the body of a skinny kid and hello to boobs, a waist and a generous backside. I found myself attracted to boys and there seemed to be a few who were attracted to me.
In my world, sexuality was frowned upon. It was a sacred gift to be given only to my husband many years into the future. My inner glow and emerging sense of being comfortable in my new skin were quickly controlled by my parents’ insistence that I stay a virgin until I got married. Boyfriends were OK as long as there was no sexual intimacy or “anything I’d been embarrased for my mother to see”. I was a budding flower that began to close up.
The dieting and purging followed soon after. In my late teens and early twenties I would diet until I lost weight, and then I would binge. My strategy to control the damage of extra calories was to take laxatives.
Eventually, the day came when I fell in love and ran away to a city at the other end of the country to live with a man named Peter. He loved me, told me I was beautiful and in this world my sexuality was normal and natural. The obsessive dieting and bingeing/purging fell away without me even thinking about it. Our love didn’t last for long, but my confidence and self-love did.
Twenty years later
Twenty years later with a different man in a different city once again I became sexually closed off. The man whom I’d married wasn’t interested in being intimate with me. We were lucky to have sex three or four times a year and when we did, it was not what you would call tender and loving. Once again I was ashamed of my sexuality and walked back into the arms of dieting and bingeing in an effort to dampen my sexual appetite.
And it worked. Being unnaturally thin, without enough hormones in my body to produce a period, and working so hard to achieve the perfect body meant I rarely thought about sex. I was emotionally numb and physically disconnected from my body.
But the day came again when I fell in love. This time the leaving was harder and the events that followed were more painful than I could have ever imagined. But through it all I discovered that it’s OK to be me, that loving someone is transformational and that exposing the vulnerable and authentic side of myself brings so much more than living in a way that keeps everyone else happy.
And now …
Although I’ve been through excruciating trauma and exquisite joy, I’ve never once considered disconnecting from my body in order to stay safe. Being in an exciting sexual relationship with someone I love has made me remember that who I am and my unique view of the world is valuable and important.
I know that relationships don’t last forever and the day will come when I’m once again alone. But this time, I will never shut down the intimacy I have with my own body, with my femininity and with my core essence by hiding my light in the dark cave of disordered eating.
KatieP discovered life doesn’t turn out the way it’s meant to. She believed if she was a good girl and followed the rules then she would live the life of her dreams. Instead, she ended up with an eating disorder and having to cope with her husband’s decision to kill himself.
When everything turned to shit she no longer had the energy to be the person she thought the world wanted her to be. She discovered that being her authentic self opened up a world of joy and peace beyond anything she’d ever imagined.