Dear Annie: I want your readers who think they may have an eating disorder to know that they are not alone and that their condition is treatable. I am living proof!
Throughout my childhood, I struggled with my weight and my relationship with food. When I reached the end of high school, I committed to being “healthy.” I lost more than 50 pounds by eating better and exercising. What a feeling of power it was to have made such a big and (I thought) positive change.
However, when I went away to college, I started to throw up when I thought I had eaten too much. I only did it occasionally, but it crept up eventually to twice a day. I realized that I was purging to cope with my feelings of depression and restricting my food intake to have a feeling of control over my life. My feelings may have been out of control, but I knew exactly how many calories were going into my body at any moment.
I wore my dizziness and lightheadedness with pride. After all, I was getting compliments from people about how great I looked.
Eventually, all the purging and restricting could not keep my depression at bay, and my health started to decline. I enrolled in a treatment program, and I am happy to say it worked. Though I don’t know that I’ll ever be completely “cured,” I live a happy and healthy life now. I want other young women to know that there is help. — Living a Sunny Life
Dear Living a Sunny Life: Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story. Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and people can check their symptoms at http://www.mybodyscreening.org. It takes only a few minutes. It is free and anonymous, and it could change your life.
Dear Annie: The recent news stories of sexual abuse of children have encouraged me to share my story in the hope it helps others. I was sexually abused by my maternal grandfather. I won’t go into details here, but my greatest hurt was when I told my mother. I was about 45 years old and had started counseling. I told her of my childhood experiences and pleaded with her not to tell anyone, saying the counseling was helping and all I asked of her was to give me some confidentiality and support. She expressed sympathy but was not surprised, as this had happened to her when she was younger. Two days later, she called me, said I was lying and told me she and her sisters were going to get a lawyer and sue me if I shared this with anyone. I was so hurt. This split our family apart; she and my brother constantly attacked me verbally and emotionally. Reconciliation was attempted years later, but relationships never were fully restored.
My point here is to protect your children as much as possible, and if there is suspicion of abuse, deal with it immediately. Support them and always give them the benefit of the doubt. The shame of abuse is indescribable. I am glad that now people are coming forth with the truth. — Been There but Doing Better
Dear Been There but Doing Better: I am so sorry that happened, but I’m grateful to you for sharing your story.
Anyone who suspects child abuse should call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, at 800-422-4453.