Giving Into Healing
An often-repeated phrase within the recovery community goes along the lines of “an addict can only receive treatment when they want to”.
I have never attended rehab. I have, however, poured over countless online articles, talked to friends who’d been there, even attended an AA meeting in a sterile room that reeked of stale coffee in a nondescript Las Vegas strip mall once.
This article isn’t about drug or alcohol addition, though, although they often go hand-in-hand with eating disorders. No, my drug of choice was food, and consequently, the euphoria of purging.
For years, I hid my secret… until I couldn’t.
Until I was ready to receive help.
The reason I am so passionate about Project Heal is because when I discovered them years after the darkest depths of my ED, I was elated.
I had a pretty healthy self-image growing up; I was homeschooled until I was ten and blissfully unaware of trends or critical narratives on weight or looks. I went into school, and even then, I attribute much of my healthy attitude to playing field hockey, amongst a group of sweet, confident east coast girls in my Washington DC suburb whose M.O. was more about team building, sharing inside jokes and unself-consciously changing into uniforms in the locker room than catering to boys or starving ourselves.
Our bodies were athletic, and we thought nothing of digging into a slice of pizza after a big game. Still, I craved adventure and travel, so I sought a totally different experience and went to college across the country in Arizona.
If I were to try to pinpoint right when my eating disorder started—it was the summer before my sophomore year of college and I’d been processing the assault I’d experienced months before in a humid frat house room during a loud party. My parents were also going through a divorce.
Feeling isolated and unable to cope with the feelings of abandonment, brokenness, and pain I carried, I took to binging and purging.
I lost weight and then proceeded to date men all throughout my twenties who perpetuated the toxic cycle, they’d been attracted to my brokenness, my small stature, my ‘sweet’ persona. I endured a long-term abusive relationship.
I went to the hospital because I felt like I was having heart palpitations, sometimes purging three times a day. I was sure the enamel on my teeth was all but eroded.
If I’m being honest with myself, which is such a huge part of recovery, my eating issues started years before I was 19. When I was 11 I was molested.
I didn’t have the tools to process that experience either, and remember numbing myself with food. I also took to pulling out my hair.
These behaviors have a common thread… physical behaviors that manifest when you’re secretly internalizing things that are very wrong.
About three years ago, something shifted. I simply wasn’t okay with living that way anymore. Enough was enough. I moved out of the toxic relationship. I began to practice what I’d long preached, self-love.
The biggest component of an ED is shame.
It is such a shameful secret for so many people. Suddenly deciding to take control of my life wasn’t an easy choice, but I had no other one-I realized it was a matter of life or death.
Every day is a struggle. I don’t think you ever completely recover from an eating disorder, which is really just a symptom of over-arching, deep rooted psychological issues. I experienced a lot of trauma in my late teens and early twenties, and once I was diagnosed with PTSD I began to understand.
Today, I am healthy.
I don’t obsess over eating a few of my favorite candies at Halloween or drinking a creamy Pina Colada if I am witnessing a spectacular sunset in Hawaii. I have a wonderful, supportive husband, who makes it clear he would love me at any size. I have an incredible career I love as an Evening News Anchor, and I couldn’t be happier.
Is life perfect? Far from it.
But I am healthy, and that means everything to me.
Lastly, I wish I had a resource like Project Heal when I was going through hell for more than a DECADE of Bulimia. They offer financial assistance to those who need help or treatment. I had no insurance for years in my twenties, and was always daunted by treatment costs. The work they do is so important. I encourage you to donate, or volunteer.
Or if you need help, don’t be afraid. We need to de-stigmatize eating disorders.
About The Author: Sarah Jenkins
Sarah Jenkins is an evening news anchor for KSNB Local4 in Central Nebraska. Originally from the Washington, DC area, she has lived in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Hawaii and Salt Lake City. Sarah is passionate about destigmatizing eating disorders, and hopes talking about her 10+ year struggle may someone inspire others that there is hope. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, cooking, and volunteerism.