Creating Hope After Bulimia: Jacquelyn's Story
This article was written exclusively for EatingDisordersOnline.com by Jacquelyn Ekern, founder of Eating Disorder Hope. She is a licensed professional counselor who shares the story of how she beat her own eating disorder and used her experiences to help others.
My eating disorder was a miserable enemy destroying my life while also serving as my knot at the end of my rope when life seemed overwhelming. Life OFTEN seems overwhelming! I felt as though I needed my eating disorder to cope and get through life.
I used bulimia to deal with all of the uncertainty, self doubt, self rejection, rejection by others, etc. – all of the stuff that generates highly uncomfortable feelings of pain, sadness, loss, despair, hopelessness, loneliness, abandonment and shame. The eating disorder was ultimately a symbol of my own deep rejection of myself. Bulimia distracted me from accepting the reality of who I am, what I am, the circumstances of my life. My eating disorder was based on a belief that my life would be different and so much better if I lost weight and looked as beautiful and thin as the media images with which I was constantly comparing myself.
I had a confusing relationship with food and weight; decadent food offered me comfort and solace, yet pursuing the ideal of a thin body also gave a purpose and direction to my confusing life. Only inpatient treatment, my work with a wonderful therapist, and God saved me from the complete destruction of my life. I borrowed the therapist’s unconditional acceptance and approval until I could begin to offer some of this to myself.
In therapy, we faced my demons together. We restructured a lot of erroneous conclusions I had drawn about life, and slowly pulled me out of the hell of my eating disorder. That being said, the biggest and far most powerful thing that pulled me from the stranglehold of my eating disorder was God. I now turn to my faith in a loving, omniscient, omnipotent God who has it all under control. I accept I do not have it all figured out, under control, or understand all the painful things that happen in life. Rather, I make the knot at the end of my rope my faith in God, not food, thinness, or image. This was nothing short of a miracle considering I had been willing to sacrifice my health, my relationships, my future and more to be thin while consuming large amounts of food through binge eating.
The turning point for me came at age 28. I took 30 days leave from work, admitted myself to an inpatient eating disorder treatment center and began the hard work of recovery. I then followed this up with about four years of therapy to work through my painful underlying issues.
Two things were highly instrumental in my recovery. The first is my faith in God, and renewing my personal relationship with Christ. This gave me the capacity to lessen my need to control things and increased my ability to trust in God’s plan. The second was my wonderful therapist who taught me to restructure my irrational thoughts about food, weight, self image, etc. She also helped me to develop the skills to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and nurture myself.
I eventually founded Eating Disorder Hope in January, 2005. Eating Disorder Hope is my passion and maybe one of the reasons I am here! It is an attempt to take all the suffering and pain of my former eating disordered years and create something positive that can help others overcome their eating disorders, too. Eating Disorder Hope promotes ending eating disordered behavior, embracing life and pursuing recovery. Our mission is to foster appreciation of one's uniqueness and value in the world, unrelated to appearance, achievement or applause.
Eating Disorder Hope offers hope, information and resources to those suffering from eating disorders, their treatment providers and loved ones by providing information, groups, articles, books, treatment providers and events for individuals struggling with bulimia, anorexia and binge-eating disorders.
For those suffering from an eating disorder, please obtain treatment! Eating disorders rarely resolve themselves. Find professionals specialized in the field of eating disorder treatment to walk you through the recovery process. It is advisable to work with a team of a nutritionist, therapist and physician on an outpatient basis.
Jacquelyn Ekern received her Master’s degree in counseling/psychology from Capella University and her Bachelor of Science in Human Services from the University of Phoenix. She directs the Eating Disorder Hope Corporation and AddictionHope.com.
Photo by the fire within