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Drowning Out Emotion: Cathy's Battle Against Anorexia, Part II

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This two-part article was written exclusively for by Cathy Harrington. In this article, Cathy talks about the repeated abuse she encountered throughout her life, her struggles with anorexia, and how she was finally able to find the help she needed.

Click here to read Part I.

When my son was six weeks old I went to the pastor of my church because I was full of guilt. I knew there was something wrong with me. I had tried many times to stop my destructive behaviors but I just couldn't do it on my own. He prayed with me and brought my husband in and told him what was going on. My pastor thought that this would help my husband to understand what I was going through and maybe give me some support. In the end, my husband would only use my disorder against me in our arguments.

The abuse and my disorder continued for years. I was going to a church that frowned upon going to a psychiatrist or therapist for help. They believed that praying to God could help you get through your issues. I can’t tell you how many prayer lines I went up for or how many people I had lay hands on me and pray for me, but nothing worked. I gave birth to my youngest son seven years after my middle child. The pregnancy had come as a complete surprise to both my husband and I. I actually lost weight in my last pregnancy.

A New Chapter

When my youngest child was two we moved to the Phoenix Area of Arizona. We bought a house and tried to start a new chapter in our lives. I thought that maybe a new environment might help, but instead my husband’s abusiveness escalated. Finally, I reached out for some real help from a Christian therapist. He recommended I try to get inpatient treatment. I first went in for treatment for ninety days, but this got extended to one hundred and eighty days. I was really trying to beat my demons. While in the inpatient program I did my best to be the perfect patient. It was while I was there that my therapists told me that my disorder wasn't my fault, that I had been abused throughout my life and that I deserved to be happy.

After being back home for only thirty days, my husband blew up at me and asked me to not be there when he returned from work. That was all it took for me to gather up my two youngest sons and go to a domestic violence shelter. I filed for divorce with help of the people at the shelter and also found an apartment. I embarked upon my new life filled with fear, which caused me to fall back into my old disordered eating habits. I ended up going back into treatment three more times while I lived in Arizona.

Putting Things Back Together

In 2002, I made a decision that would change my life for the better. I packed up my things and moved back to my home state. My step father was out of the house due to dementia so I felt safe to move in with my youngest son back into my mother’s house. It was there that I started to slowly put my life back together. I started seeing a therapist but the one person that had the most influence in my life was my dietitian. She had actually been a patient with me when I was in the inpatient program, my very first time back in 1996. Seeing how far she had come to overcome her eating disorder gave me hope. She encouraged me to get back into swimming. It took over a year of her encouraging words for me to finally put on a swimsuit and at least sit next to the pool. As far as my eating habits were concerned she coached me slowly but surely on dropping one or two things at a time.

I can now say that I am fully recovered. I started doing open water swims a little over three years ago. Something that I had always wanted to do in high school was swim the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge but in my former eating disordered state I never could have done it. To this day I have swum the Golden Gate Swim three times. Each time taking first place in my age group without a wetsuit. I have done the Alcatraz to San Francisco Swim three times as well. I now train in the San Francisco Bay three to four times a week and swim in a pool three days a week. I am the happiest I have ever been.