Healing Connection

"In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you."- Andrea Dykstra

I was raised in Memphis Tennessee where I went to a private girls school. Told I could achieve anything with a great education, I was trained to become a wife and to submit to male authority in the Southern Baptist church. And don't dare be angry, ever. Submit to male autority, but don't have sex until marriage. Be nice and compliant, and don't question authority. Smile. A great conflict followed, and so did bulimia at 14 years old. I tried to follow all the rules, but deadly conflicts were ahead.

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I matured and my body changed, and I hated it. I was angry. My basic need for being valued was not being met, while my woman's anger was not feminine. I stuffed it instead. As expected, I began to date and every date was a potential suitor. Sadly I did not have any skills for protecting myself from the sexual assaults that resulted. In college I met some lesbians, and shortly afterward I realized my sexual orientation was gay. Great! And oh no! Alienated from my parents, I went down the dark ladder. Alcohol, drugs, and bulimia are a deadly combination.

I should have been hospitalized, but I was alone. I am thankful to have survived. The main reason I survived was because I was an athlete. In graduate school I discovered cycling as a sport. It  saved my life. Before cycling there was running, before running there was swimming, and
before swimming there was an active Girl Scout troop. Like others, being in movement and in the
outdoors was a relief and refuge. I could not practice my eating disorder on a bicycle where I found that I valued fitness over thinness, yet breaking through to abiding relief eluded me.

Now my mother has dementia, and the complexity of our relationship has been a surprise. Growing up, she was always on a diet and so was I. Today, in photos from the past, I see that she was not fat. She had an eating disorder, but she is a person who cannot take responsibility for my pains. Never bonded to her, I've released my grudge, and that is a gift.

At 57 years old, I have had an eating disorder for 43 years. I was bulimic for 12 years, then an addict, then anorexic, and up and down and round and round with anxiety and anger. There was joy and accomplishment, but I could not feel it. In the last 31 years, I sought counseling and prescription intervention, but there was no enduring relief. There were relapses, thankfully not the raging illness, not the vomiting two or three times a day. I lost hope, regained hope. I tortured my body, hurt myself, and chased the light though I was ready to die. Anorexia is a terrifying experience of mid-life, but I am a survivor and I found people who helped me. I found a nutritionist who held me accountable. I found an acupuncturist who treats my physiological damage. I found a spouse with whom I can live an honest life. We cycle, swim, cross-country ski, hike, garden, and give love to our pets. Food is a joy, and cooking nurtures me and those I feed.

In isolation we are able think we have the most horrible ed, but with connection we find others who suffered more, or less, or about the same. Wild and Weightless is a healing connection. Thank you for being a part of my journey.

Words and photo from Sarah Brooks