I looked the part and played the part well: All-American southern belle.
Make up on, dressed to perfection, made the grades, had the friends, and yet behind it all…
I was dying.
Dying from an eating disorder. But I looked fine. So how bad could it be?
That’s what I hear all the time now. “McCall, I don’t have a feeding tube. So it is fine. I am not in the hospital. It isn’t ‘that’ bad.”
Little do these folks know I was the QUEEN of Not That Bad. But I never had to convince anyone it wasn’t that bad because no one knew.
I was so good at convincing myself and hiding all of the purging, the diet pills, the laxatives, the adderall, the diuretics. If no one can see it, it doesn’t exist, right?
This is what my eating disorder ‘looked’ like:
The picture of me with the lobsters was taken on my 29th birthday…one week before admitting to treatment. That’s the funny thing about mental health. There is no ‘look’ to an eating disorder or to depression (i.e. Robin Williams). You can’t see anxiety, bi-polar and yes, an eating disorder.
Eating disorders are complex illnesses that carry so much stigma. I carried my shame silently for fifteen years, surviving on the “I’m fine” and “I’ll be better when…” scenarios. But no move, college degree or job would heal me from my eating disorder.
The only thing that was going to heal me was medical and professional help…just like every other illness. No one heals cancer without medical intervention – the same goes for mental health.
We live in a super disordered eating society. It is normal for folks to walk around on crazy diets, workout routines that are praised by the world around them. But when we look at it a bit deeper, that person might be struggling with something far worse than just a number on a scale and their latest no carb diet. And yet, the number on the scale seems to be our solution to everything in life.
My years abusing diet pills were written off as a college phase. My sudden wedding weight loss was just ‘the bride diet’. No one took the numerous signs for what they were: red flags that I was suffering from an eating disorder. And I did a really good job putting on a happy face that everything was just fine in my world.
Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God above for my recovery and my life. Because I know the fact that I am alive today is a miracle. That’s right – a miracle. Now if you saw me back in college, social chairman of my sorority going out and having fun, you might say, “What? No way it was ‘that bad’!” But alas it was. What you saw was a cover up, a lie, a girl trying to survive the only way she knew how.
Here is what you did not see:
The girl bargaining with God to let her survive the night because she took too many diet pills and could see her heart beating out of her chest.
The girl still laying in bed at three o’clock in the afternoon because she could not bear to put one foot in front of the other because her depression was so bad.
The girl laying on the floor cursing herself for being ‘so bad’ at lunch and being weak for needing food.
The girl who ran around the track over and over until her IT band gave way.
What you did not see was the girl who was dying.
The severity of my illness did not suddenly hit me one day. It took time to heal and then look back at my struggle with healthy eyes to see its severity.
I will never forget when my Carolina House therapist said, “McCall, you don’t get it. One more purge. One more run. One more anything and your heart can give out.”
It was the first time I truly heard what she had been trying to tell me all along
This. Was. Serious.
My underlying message in every talk I give is this: be kind to one another (yes, everyone knows I adore Ellen). But it is so true. We can never ‘tell’ if someone is struggling or if they are just having a shitty day. Which is why we MUST be kind.
And if you are struggling, in ANY way, talk to someone. Get help. Reach out. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I not waited fifteen years.
I think it is safe to say I am pretty happy and fulfilled doing what I am doing and knowing I am doing what God put me on this earth to do. And part of His reasoning (at least I hope) is to help spread the message that we all need help at some point in our lives.
There is ZERO shame in reaching out. And if you don’t know where to go – shoot me an email.
You can also find it here on www.findEDhelp.com.
If you feel there is the slightest inkling that life isn’t *quite right* then reach out!
I was surrounded by family and friends who loved and cared for me and yet, I felt alone for so much of my life. Know that you are not alone. You’ve got an army of us that have been through it all and are proof that RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE.
Take good care of yourself today and Dare to Love Yourself…always.
In love and light,