Invisibility

Yiddish Proverb:

How many will listen to the truth when you tell them? Vi file veln hern tsu dem ams ven ir zogn zey?

Truth time.

My Mrs. and me, we did not meet at a book club. Yes, we read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and yes, we loved it (in fact this is a book everyone should read, especially today). We even convinced our friends to name their first daughter Scout, and our first pug was named Atticus Finch. If at some point in our lifetime together, we told you that this is how we met, I am sorry. We weren’t quite healthy enough to speak our truth. Thankfully, we are now well over the stigma and only want to help where we can.

Here is our real story: About one million years ago, or at least a couple or so decades ago, we both arrived at our first meeting for women with eating disorders. We were at one of the very top treatment centers, The Renfrew Center, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. As the young therapist unlocked the door and turned on the lights, not one of us in the group made eye contact. We scuttled about uncomfortably searching for a seat that could somehow feel safe. Everyone stared at the floor. No one made a sound. Occasionally, one could hear a belly growl or the sounds of digestion. If pins were to drop, we would have heard them. And after what felt like hours of bone-chilling silence at a call for introductions, the person who is now my Mrs., she said, “Oh, okay. I’ll go first.” 

Slowly, painfully, we made our way around the room. Not one of us admitted sickness. Not one of us ‘needed’ to be there. The very long, often unbearable road to health and wellness had begun. 

You might say, Lisalah, why now? Why are you telling us this? The answer, as always, is in the eyes of my Big and my Little. We want desperately for them to hold on to the joys of childhood and develop a strong foundation of self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. We are trying to raise our maidelehs (sweet girls) to be brave and mighty, rebel girls as they grow up in this harsh, misogynistic world. We also want them to become women who have a healthy relationship with food. Imagine that! Eating, breaking bread, a nice nosh, all such an important part of our life in terms of sustenance, social interaction, nurturing, and sensuality.

To the caregivers of all of the beautiful kinder that are out there, please know that children, they have ears that hear what you, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, say, even whisper. With social media, unhealthy messages are persistent for vulnerable children and adults. Know, be on the lookout, be prepared. Catch it early. Eating disorders are one of the mental illnesses that have a 20% mortality rate. That is too high. I vividly remember that day in 1983 when Karen Carpenter lost her battle to anorexia nervosa. Understand that you have an ally in me. No stigma. No judgment.

Today in America, over 30 million people of all ages and genders are suffering from an eating disorder. Suffering — that is a kind word for it. As a person in full recovery, this stat, which is on the rise, makes me so profoundly sad. I know the loneliness and sorrow that fills their people-pleasing, loving hearts and souls. I know the pain and overwhelming lack of self-worth that comes from seeking invisibility first hand.

I write about this today for three reasons:

First, so many people, caregivers, parents, and patients all, live in denial. It’s easy to look away, and say, “Nope, not me.” “Not my kid.” “They’ll grow out of this.” If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, learn about eating disorders. Educate yourself to what may be ahead. Talk to your child openly with compassion and empathy. Listen. Love. DO NOT make your talk about appearance. If you say something like, “…you are nothing but skin and bones…” you can easily validate that they are on the right path. This disease, and it is a disease, affects the mind too. Emphasize to them that it is not their fault.

Second, the holidays are fast approaching. Group meals, big meals, family gatherings will feel threatening, frightening to the eating disordered person. They will avoid it at all costs. They will feign sickness, volunteer, say they are eating with friends, all in an effort to avoid the Festivus you are so eagerly awaiting.

Third, you must act compassionately and quickly. Your silence can be deadly. My eating disorder was a cry for help, screaming as loudly as I could scream — a young woman with no voice.

Here are some important things to look for in your child/friend/neighbor:

  • Any weight changes, up or down
  • Differences in eating patterns, like avoiding family meals, or an inability to eat with others
  • Pushing food around the plate; excessive use of condiments; you may even notice the family pet gaining weight
  • New dietary regimes like vegetarianism; fear of certain foods, obsessions with other foods
  • A dramatic increase in physical activity and exercise
  • Going to the bathroom immediately after a meal; spending a long time in the bathroom
  • Missing food that may be hidden away for another time, or eaten when alone
  • Mood and social activity changes
  • Distorted sense of body image; wearing big or baggy clothing
  • Thinning or brittle hair
  • Digestion or bowel issues
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia
  • Tooth and gum problems (often times the dentist is the first to notice)
  • Fine hair growth over the body

If you see these symptoms in your kinder, offer your compassionate heart. Be a loving, nurturing part of the journey. The causes of eating disorders, as the layers of an onion, are so complex. Genetics, environmental, psychological and cultural issues all come into play. Emphasis on diet, looks and body shape only add to the dangerous mix of complex behavioral issues lurking in our society.

I had an eating disorder from the age of thirteen. I sought help, at 32. A lot of damage was done in between those years. It was an excruciating battle to overcome what I believed was ‘my very best friend.’ No number on the scale ever offered satisfaction. Tied in with anorexia, as it oftentimes is, was a major depression. I desperately wanted my outline to get smaller, lighter until it, until I, disappeared. Nothing less than that would be deemed a success.

I had an ‘entire team of people’ trying to help me, help myself. I had a therapist, medical doctor, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, all specializing in my illness. I even spent several months outpatient at a clinic. I called it ‘food camp’ and ‘my unfortunate incarceration.’ At 35, I had to re-learn how to feed myself. When I had to use the bathroom, I had to leave the door wide open and sing the entire time I was in there.

I had never really tasted a food, any food until I was 40. Yes, you read that correctly! The Mrs., and me, we went on a bike trip through Tuscany. We were both finally healthy and happy — new foods and flavors danced in my mouth in a way I had never experienced. Nu? So this is what people have been talking about?

Over time, a great deal of damage has been done to my body. I have had multiple painful gum surgeries to stop the gum recession in my mouth from acid reflux caused by not eating and from throwing up. Too much diet soda led to kidney stones. Malnutrition and missing periods for years at a time led to infertility and brought on early osteopenia and osteoporosis. I even have bone loss in my mouth and jaw.

I am so very grateful I figured out, with a great deal of help, that I was worth the fight. We are proof that this awful disease can be overcome successfully.

Yiddish Proverb:

Love is sweet but it’s nice to have bread with it. Lib iz zis ober es iz feyn tsu hobn broyt mit im.

 

 

 

72 thoughts on “Invisibility

  1. Oh Lisa, first let me give you the biggest cyber hug possible. I know how increadably difficult it is to talk about eating dissorders and how very brave you are for doing so. My personal battle with bulimia started after I had my first born and would possibly still be happening today had I not fallen pregnant with my second 5 years later. It was only having to put the needs of my baby first that made me stop, and even now I have a very unhealthy food relationship.

    Thank you for sharing ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, lovely Tracey. It breaks my heart that you suffered from this pain! I cyber hug you right back, friend! If I can help in any way please rely on me! We can im, skype, anything. You deserve a healthy relationship with food. You deserve a healthy relationship with yourself! xoxo ❤ #mixitup

      Like

  2. It really took some time or me to digest this … if that is not an unfortunate choice of word … but it really had to be absorbed and taken in slowly. What a story, and what a picture you paint. So good to hear that you both finally got over this and learned to literally taste your food, and enjoy it. A wonderful post and one to keep. Thanks for sharing it Lisa, and stay well

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing your truth, although I’ve never had an eating disorder; I’ve had a complicated relationship with food, being super fussy, eating like a sparrow and snacking on anything with sugar content. It’s only since I’ve been with Hubby that him and his family have shown me that food can be enjoyed!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is an EXCELLENT post. I had to be the support person for a woman with a kid with ED that began using MMA to supress appetite and then got busted dealing (to support said habit). It leads to so many more issues than just weight. I also went to a talk (in Australia) and discovered that it’s about 50/50 men and women now. (I am a firm beleiver that with teens you don’t know what the problem is until it’s already a problem so you might as well learn about everything and be prepared. Will share this. And thanks for your honesty. #Stayclassymama

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My sister suffered from both eating disorders from the time she was a teen until her thirties. What changed it around for her was that she was seeing the same attitudes in her daughter. When she confronted her daughter about it, the child responded, “but mommy, you always say you’re too fat.” It hit her then that she needed to change her attitude towards her own body image so that she didn’t pass it down to her daughter. She still struggles with it sometimes by saying things about her body she doesn’t like but she’s not throwing up food anymore and she’s not starving herself anymore. At least I hope not. I live far away from my sister but from what my niece says, my sister is healthy. This is a good reminder for me to check on my sister. Thanks for this Lisa! #MixitUp

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very welcome. We are so cautious to never let those inside voices out for our girls to hear. I’m glad your sister is doing better and I hope she gets healthier. Those nagging inner dialogues are so exhausting. ❤️ #mixitup xo

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and aside from burying food, making everything taste as one — more control. “No matter how you make it, I will add mustard.” The entire world feels out of control and the food becomes the only place where ‘order’ can be had. This kind of order is so very ‘dis-ordered.’ Thank you, Lydia. xoxo #KCACOLS xox

      Like

  6. Thank you Lisa, for opening up about such a difficult topic. I’ve known several people with eating disorders and you are so correct in the signs we should all know to look for. I find it so admirable that you and the Mrs. have been able to fight your battles for the sake of your health – and that you keep fighting every day. You will raise lady warriors who will be able to tackle any problems they face in their lives. Hugs to you! #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks Lisa. This is a very important post to keep in our minds all the time. I have recently noticed the huge impression my 15 year old step-daughter is making on my 2 younger girls and it’s scary. Not that she is doing anything wrong, but talk of ‘body image’ or anything like that just makes me so nervous. Thanks for linking up to the #itsok linky.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is scary. People talk in self deprecating ways about their bodies all the time. We need to nip that talk and teach our kids to love themselves, body mind and spirit. No easy task. #itsok 😘💕

      Like

  8. Lisa thank you for sharing your story and creating awareness on this. At the same time, I am glad that you are now healthy and have a healthy relationship with food. Although as you said you’ve done a lot of damage to your body, I am happy that you ultimately survived it #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh wow Lisa, what a story. Thank you so much for sharing. My daughter is at the age where she is more aware of her body and what she eats so this really helpful to read as it is always something I look out for. Luckily, for now, she is happy as she is and I hope it stays that way. You are an amazing and inspirational woman! #kcacols

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So very proud of you my lovely! I have always been conscious with raising children that body image and good health is something I need to model, it was something not modelled to me and during my teen years my weight fluctuated as I took diet pills, made myself throw up after eating for years and took laxatives. Just before I started blogging a few years back I spent a year virtually not eating, I lost so much weight, not because I wanted to loose weight but because my anxiety, depression and OCD had taken over my life. As my eldest is now 14 I get very mad when people make comments on her body, we talk in our home only about health and wellbeing not weight. We have no scales. I am scared for them, and with my own mental health battles I always worry it’ll happen to them. That is why I work so dam hard on myself and I do my best to be a strong female role model. No one ever seemed to notice my cries for help, my parents praised my weightless no matter how sick I became. I too felt invisible, I had no one to listen, but I am no longer silent and will not be quiet like “a good little girl”! Thank you for sharing your story, for sharing the signs to look out for! You empower me! You are so amazing, never loose sight of that!

    Like

    1. Mac, I am so sad for your suffering and I totally empathize with your every word. We too are a scale-less household. That number will never have the power for our girls that it held for us. Health, strength, wisdom and nurturing are much healthier ways to approach food and lifestyle. My parents were told when I was 14 that I was very sick. They ignored, denied and then later blamed me. May we learn from all the mistakes made with parenting us and only be stronger and wiser. I am so thankful for you! 🥰😘💕

      Like

  11. Lisa I am stunned by your article, it is truly wonderful and moving. Some of the things you said really hit home with me. I know I was borderline with an eating disorder as a teenager. At 14 I became obsessed with food and cut so many things out, anything with fat in it. I threw myself into aerobics and walking and I kept a notebook where I counted my calorie intake each day. And I became a vegetarian! (shocked you mentioned that one) and still am today. It never occurred to me that they may be connected. I feel I understand myself a lot better now in my thirties than I did in my teens. I think my obsession with food was connected to me needing to control something when there were other parts of my life that I could not. Fortunately it didn’t engulf me completely and although I still obsess over food I know how to enjoy it now and not fret over it as much as I used to. I never want my two girls to obsess over food. I just want them to love it, appreciate it and celebrate it because it is a joyous thing. Thank you for your great words, I will remember them, Tracey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tracey, I am so grateful for your compliment and so glad that you had the strength to understand as a younger teen. I too am still a vegetarian, but at least a healthy one now. The wisdom we acquire as we age is so helpful and hopeful. Your girls are very lucky to have you as a mum. 😊🥰😘

      Like

  12. #thesatsesh AMAZING post. My mum has always been on a diet, never loved her appearance and avoids mirrors. when i was 12 i decided to pick healthy, loved and am a huge advocate of selfies oh and mirrors 🙂 you are right though, how we speak and role model is essential.x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Such a powerful message Lisa. I am so conscious of my needing my little girl not to have the unhealthy relationship with food that I have. I don’t want her to be obese. But this is the other end of the scale, and is far more deadly. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow Lisa this is an incredibly brave and honest post! So necessary though , i suspect most of us would struggle what to do if we thought that someone we loved had an eating disorder and your post offers such practical advice . Oh….and I agree EVERYONE should read To Kill A Mockingbird

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: BlogCrush week 93 – November 23rd 2018 | daydreams of a mum

  16. Pingback: BlogCrush Week 93 - 23rd November 2018 — Lucy At Home

  17. Pingback: The Saturday session #56 | Whatmyfridgesays

  18. Oh Lisa, I am so sorry to hear that you have suffered at the hands of such a horrible disease. I’m sending a tidal wave of virtual hugs across the blogisphere to you! I had to sit on suicide watch several times with one of my closest friends who was in the grips of an eating disorder so I have some understanding of what it is like.

    Thank you for sharing your story – lifting the lid on this stuff gets people educated and aware of the tell-tale signs. #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucy, I feel your hug all the way across the ocean and I am so grateful to you. Sharing this post means the world to me and I know it is helping from those reaching out. I hope your friend is in a much better place, too. You are very big-hearted to do that with her and for her. Getting out from the grips of this was no easy task, but I am well on the other side. 🥰💕😘 #blogcrush

      Liked by 1 person

Talk to me! Please? You want some cake?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.