Ingrid, 23

I’m from Scandinavia, and I’m 23 years old. I’ve suffered from a eating disorder for some years. Or, from different types of eating disorders. I found your web page last week, and it’s so amazing. I didn’t know that so many people struggle with the same kind of problems as me. I thought I could send you a mail with some information about who I am, and what I’m struggling with. Maybe you have some ideas on how the help me get better. Or maybe you know someone who is struggling with the same problems. And it’s just good to have someone to write to.

I’ve always focused a lot on how other people see me. And even when I was I kindergarten, I used to sit at the table and eat with the other children. If they left the table early, I would eat just a small amount of food, but if they sat longer, I would eat more. I was shy even then. But I don’t know why I ate that way. I was hungry, and then I ate till I was nauseous. There was nothing in between. And in high school I was teased about my looks. I’ve always been quite tall, and I was bigger than the rest of the girls. But I wasn’t fat, just a bit chubby.

I remember crying myself to sleep, wishing I would become thin and beautiful. But I never talked to anyone about my problems. And I don’t think people noticed, because I’ve never shown much feelings. I saw that as weak, and I didn’t want to be seen as a weak person. I started obsessing about what I was eating, but I didn’t starve myself. I just felt that I ate to much, and I hated myself for that. I felt that people saw me as a ugly “monster”, that didn’t deserve to be around all the pretty people. I didn’t go out partying, ’cause I was afraid that people would get angry, since I wasn’t pretty enough. I can safely say that I had very low self esteem and feeling of self worth. And I lost a bit of weight in high school, but not a lot.

When I started college I started to exercise more, and restrict my food. I was living alone, so it was much easier to not eat as much as I did at home. I lost weight, but not scary much. My mom was pleased, she has always encouraged me being thin, and always complimented my thin waist. I didn’t notice that I lost weight, or, I did notice it because my clothes were getting too big, but I didn’t feel better. During my first semester I exercised a lot, and ate too little. But after Christmas I began to eat in secret. I just had to eat. A lot. I couldn’t relax, and I felt like crap. But I didn’t know what was going on. I isolated myself, and felt depressed. But I wasn’t in contact with my feelings at all. I though it had something to do with the school, so I decided to start over at a new university in a different city. But I couldn’t escape the real problem, which was me. So the first semester I started exercising and eating less. But this time I exercised every day and eating very little, and by Christmas I was very thin. I hoped that my mom would notice it, and I just wanted her to take care of me. Hold me, and tell me that everything was going to be okay. But she didn’t understand what I was going through, she was just happy for me. Even though I was almost underweight, and it was one year since my last period.

I didn’t have a lot of friends at my new school, my interests was mainly exercise and school (even tough I had big problems concentrating and fell asleep in classes). One day after Christmas i suddenly felt so weak, I couldn’t even wash my room. And I overate. A lot. And threw up. It wasn’t the first time I’ve thrown up after a binge. I felt like a freak. Why did I eat so much? But this behaviour continued over the second semester. I started to isolate myself, I stopped exercising. I was really depressed. And I was gaining a lot of weight. But I didn’t talk to anybody. I was so ashamed. One night when I was on the internet, trying to figure out what was wrong with me, I read about bulimia and overeating. And I suddenly realized that I was suffering from a eating disorder. I contacted my doctor, and she recommended therapy. But I couldn’t get an appointment until 4 months later.

That summer was the worst summer in my life. I overate, threw up, and isolated myself all the time. My mom told me that I had gained a lot of weight, and that I would have big problems getting thin again. I felt like a monster, and didn’t dare go outside, in fear of what people would say. After summer I started therapy, and it was good to have someone to talk to, even tough I always tried to be the good girl, the one that could handle her own problems. And my therapist didn’t question this, he just said I was doing great progress. I thought he was stupid. But slowly, I started opening to people, and talking a bit to my best friends about my problems. I didn’t tell them about the¬†binging and purging, because I was so ashamed. But just showing some feelings was a great improvement, and I could see that they appreciated it. I would still binge and purge almost every day. I felt fat and ugly. I had gained almost 60 lbs in one year. None of my old clothes would fit me, and with being so tall, it was almost impossible to find new clothes that wasn’t in the “fat”section. I would fantasise about how skinny I had been, and how pretty I had been. My self esteem was at its lowest.

But I didn’t want to give up. So I kept fighting, and I found a lot of useful stuff on the internet. Especially things about improving my self esteem helped me a lot.

Now, I’m feeling so much better. I’m still a bit overweight, but it doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I feel better about my body, and I feel much more secure about who I am. I don’t focus on getting thin fast. My main goal is to get healthy, and learn to eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m full. I’m SO much more open to my friends and my mom (she’s been great to me ever since I told her about my problems and how her comments have affected me). And I don’t obsess over what people might think of me. And it’s so liberating. I can do what ever I want to do, and I don’t have to feel ashamed of myself. But I still overeat and throw up.

Not so often, but it’s still a problem. It’s like an addiction. I think I’m in control, and I make excuses to overeat. I’m telling myself that it’s not a problem, and that I can quit any time I like, but of course I can’t. But I don’t know why I’m doing it. I’m not denying my self anything, and I feel good about my self. It often happens in the evenings, after my mom’s gone to bed. I know it’s going to happen, and I just let it happen. It’s like I want it to happen. But afterwards I feel like I’ve failed. That I’m never going to be recovered.

I’ve stopped gaining weight, and I’m sure that if I stop overeating, I will lose more weight and get down to my normal weight. Sometimes I wonder if I’m focusing too much on stopping the binging just because I want to lose weight. But I can feel pretty and good about myself, and still overeat. Is this just a step in recovery? I’m not sure on what to do. I’m not scared of never being recovered, ’cause I know that I will. I just want it to happened soon. Most of time I feel great, but I’m not good at connecting with my feelings. I almost never cry, even though I often want to. And I turn to food when I’m stressed out, or tired/exhausted.¬†It bothers me that I’m aware of this, and still don’t do anything about it.

4 Responses to Ingrid, 23

  1. Cristina says:

    Hi girl,

    I’ll just say “Ditto” to your entire essay. Since you wrote this, did you change? Did you forget about food?

  2. Ingrid says:

    Hi Cristina!

    It’s been a couple of months since I wrote this, and I have indeed changed a lot. I started on my exchange in Canada, but it didn’t turn out to be the change I was hoping for. I developed a severe depression, due to all the stress + my eating disorder, and I decided that the best thing for me would be to end the exchange and go home. I couldn’t be sure that it would be better for me to be home and do nothing, but it surely couldn’t get worse.

    Luckily I did get better. I started seeing a therapist who understands me and my needs, and I got better at handling my emotions. The time-out from my studies gave me more energy, and I also got more free time, which I could use to get to know myself better.

    I wouldn’t say that I’m recovered yet, but I’m more aware of my feelings, and the underlying reasons for my eating disorder. I’m more comfortable in my own skin as well. And I’ve stopped throwing up. I still overeat when things get too overwhelming, but I also have healthy tools which I try to use instead of food. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I don’t punish myself for slipping up anymore. It’s like learning to ride a bike: it takes a bit of time, but when you’ve learnt it, it can’t be undone. So if I fall off my bike today, that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten how to ride a bike. I can just get back on the bike and continue. Maybe I’ll realise why I fell off, and avoid doing the same mistake later. And staying on the bike means that I have to be aware of what might cause me to fall off. I guess the same goes for staying recovered: I have to be aware of the things that might cause me to relapse.

    • Sunny says:

      Hey Ingrid, It’s so good to hear this update from you! I love the analogy of the bike. It’s so true, and such a realistic and compassionate way to think about it. xo…Sunny

  3. Helen says:

    I know this entry is over 1 year old but I came across it this morning after turning to the internet not for the first time in search of help, advice, guidance and hope
    .I just want to say thank you Ingrid for sharing your story. It is hugely inspirational to learn about your journey and how far you’ve progressed. It gives me courage to take responsibility but also show kindness to myself. Your transition form virtually no self-esteem to self-acceptance is a great achievement that should never be overlooked, and I’m glad you learned to appreciate your own strength. I’ve only recently started sharing my food secrets with my family and friends, via my blog (they live in Wales, UK, I’m living in Poland at the moment). I’m sure my parents will be as understanding as your family, and hearing about your history and how you began sharing your problem with your mother takes away a lot of my fear of rejection.
    So, again, I just want to thank you.
    Sending my love and support to everyone out there in similar situations.

    Helen

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