My story… from eating disorder to recovery

Growing up I always thought I had a pretty ‘normal, happy childhood’. I remember around 3rd or 4th grade the desire to ‘lose weight’ started. I started comparing myself to my girlfriends. All the women role models in my life were always on all the fad diets throughout my upbringing. I saw exactly what it meant to always be in constant battle with your body. I learned very early on that women should pick apart their bodies, go on diets and do whatever it took to ‘look good’. Fast forward to the 10th grade I learned from a book series I was reading that you could make yourself throw up. I was babysitting a neighbor that summer and ate things like pop-tarts and other ‘junk food’, felt guilty about my choices and then decided I could try to make myself throw it all up. It didn’t work at first with my fingers so I used a q-tips. It worked! I thought I had discovered gold. You mean I could eat WHATEVER I wanted and just throw up and it was like I never ate it? I told myself this would just be something I did when I needed to… not all the time.

That was the start of my 12 year battle with bulimia.

That was the start to years of shame, guilt, sadness, hurt, pain and all other ‘dark’ emotions that I didn’t know how to feel. See in my family, we were never taught how to feel. I didn’t know emotions were healthy or that there were ways to cope with them healthily. Food was my drug to numb out the feelings. And purging was my release to purge and release the feelings. If someone pissed me off…I could just binge and purge. And then I would feel ‘much better’. My mom made me see a religious therapist the first time she caught me throwing up in the bathroom in high school. It was so painful. At that point I was quite sure I didn’t have a problem and making yourself throw up a few times a week was normal for teenage girls.

I spent a month in a rehab center freshman year of college for my bulimia, only to be puking the day I got out. I saw a therapist while in college that I did seek out myself, during a period of time in which I was very suicidal. I remember screaming my eyes out crying into a pillow in the middle of the night in my dorm room with my roommate in bed right next to me. I would go to the stairwell and call my sister at 3am just wanting to die. I was in a horrendously unhealthy relationship at the time with my boyfriend from high school. We would argue, he would punch holes in the wall and I would lie to him about cheating on him with an attempt for starved attention… in all the wrong ways. I made false accusations that I was raped by a guy that he hated and his father took me to the ER and I went as far as getting forensic testing done but the deputy called my bluff and made me call a suicide hotline. I continued on with this miserable way of living because it would ‘make me feel better’ to release my emotions through puking.

My sophomore year in college was when I was kicked out of my sorority for being raped and my binge/purge cycles hit an all-time high. I was puking anywhere from 5-10 times a day for the next few years… alternating with extreme restriction, over-exercising, massive daily laxative intake and a lot of adderall. I would alternate between behaviors, binge/purge, restrict, exercise addiction, laxative abuse for the next several years. I graduated from college and my boyfriend at the time (different from the high school one) knew all about my addictions, struggles with food/body, drugs, alcohol, boys, you name it. He witnessed me being taken to a mental hospital in an ambulance 2 months into our relationship. By this point we had been together for 2 years and we spoke a lot about marriage and our future. His dad suffered from alcoholism and he didn’t want to live the life his mom had constantly seeing their S.O. in a battle with addiction. So he gave me an ultimatum… he told me either I get better or we would break-up.

Desperately in love I told him I would get help… yet, I had no plan of action. I didn’t seek out therapy or any kind of help and told myself I could do it on my own. HAHA!!! WRONG!!! I continued purging daily for the next year of our relationship…sometimes in the bathroom of his parents house where he lived. HE HAD NO IDEA! He thought I was just magically better. Cue the meltdown I had in my parents backyard during a butter/sugar binge and I called him bawling my eyes out. I knew that if I was ever going to get better I had to tell him the truth. He was in a tough spot because he didn’t want a breakup to trigger me into a deeper depression and eating disorder but there was no trust left.

So we eventually broke up and I sought out therapist number 3… the 2nd one that was my choice. I saw her for over a year while I still was in grad school and living with my parents. I continued binging and purging throughout the entire process. I guess I just wasn’t ready yet. I moved to Northern VA for my first teaching job and started drinking heavily. I self-soothed with alcohol and food and drugs for the next 3-4 years… always relying heavily on the food to make me feel better. Or just not feel at all. I moved into a house with 4 of my best friends at age 25 and this is when I started to finally build back trust in women and find people who fully accepted and loved me just as I was. Although my behavior continued for another 3 years while living with them, this really was the start of my recovery. To have women who didn’t think I was crazy, fucked up, a reject… and could just fully love me as I was… was exactly what I needed. The behaviors definitely lessened a lot during those 3 years, there were even some days when I wouldn’t throw up at all.

I also started to go to a dance class that became another INCREDIBLE supportive community of women whom also loved and accepted me just as I was. The owner of the company shared her struggles with me and I finally felt like I had a place where I could start to open up, be vulnerable and share my struggles as well. I became close and vulnerable with so many women and I slowly built back up the trust and loyalty in good women.

Finally at age 27… after an 11 year battle with bulimia and MYSELF I sought out a therapist. I was sooo sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time. I went through years of digestive issues, back pain and I started to realize all the ways my disease was affecting my body, my family, my work, my friends, my mental and emotional health….and I was so sick of feeling like shit all the time. The owner of my dance class recommended a therapist to me and I went to him with an open-mind after taking 3 years off of therapy. We clicked the very first session. We worked together for the next 20 months through all of my life shit. We did EMDR on my rape, we incorporated mindfulness. This wasn’t cognitive behavioral therapy. He really started teaching me and guiding me on a spiritual path in learning where I was coming from, learning from my past, and bringing up all the dark emotions that I had stuffed down for the last 11 years. I cried every day during that 20 months. I felt sad… all the time. And angry most of the time as well. I felt all the things I needed to feel and didn’t feel for my entire life. I was emotionally exhausted most days. But I continued because I knew there was no going back. I continued this time… for the first time… FOR ME! It wasn’t for my mom, for my boyfriend, because of a breakup, for my family or for anyone else. This time it was for ME! And this time… it STUCK!

Since my recovery from disordered eating, I always knew in the back of my mind that I would help other women all around the world go from hating to loving their bodies and improving their relationship with food. Through my Hungry for Happiness certification, I have learned the root causes of disordered eating. I am now so happy to share my journey and expertise with those that are ready to transform their lives. Let’s work together, let’s change the world, let’s love ourselves.

<3 Brielle

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