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Student shares her struggle with eating disorders

Nov. 11, 2004

By LINDSAY LAMB, guest columnist

I have an eating disorder.

Five little words, yet by stringing them together, I hope to shatter the preconceived stereotypes that have prevailed in our society for far too long.

The notion that those who struggle with anything--be it with food, alcohol, drugs, etc.are weak, bad or not a good enough Christian. Although it has taken me two long, arduous years, I now have the strength to admit I struggle with an eating disorder and I need help.

Let me begin: The summer before my senior year, my parents split -- it was an incredibly hard thing for me to deal with. I felt like I couldn't express any fear or grief because I needed to be strong for my mom, dad and younger siblings. So I learned to stomach (literally) a lot of my emotions.

That next year was a great year. However, I experienced a lot of hurt and pain -- things that I kept with me for a long time.

My time at Baylor was great. But those of you who know me know I can be incredibly hard on myself. And seeing as how I have always been so critical of the way I look, the most natural way that I could find to get out all my frustrations was to start excessively working out and being incredibly restrictive on what I ate. It was only before this behavior exploded into being a full-out eating disorder.

However, in all honesty, I have struggled with various forms of eating disorders since I can remember. In eighth grade, I wouldn't eat for weeks at a time because I wanted to lose weight -- as a 13-year-old. Freshman year, I started rapidly losing weight by working out for several hours while ingesting inadequate amounts of calories. After four months of this behavior, I became incredibly sick with a blood disorder and spent weeks going to different hospitals and clinics trying to figure out what was going on with my health.

At the time, I had no clue what caused it -- now, after my Human Physiology class, I have learned that my blood disorder (ITP) is symptomatic of being anorexic.

Being sick scared me into recovery, but I was still constantly taking diet pills. It was the summer after my sophomore year at Baylor that I started with bulimia.

At first, it was just when I ate "bad foods," and then progressed to being after all meals I began hitting rock bottom. In fact, I discovered that really, rock bottom kept caving into to a deeper rock bottom. I started drinking excessively. I don't think drinking is wrong within the perimeters of legality, but I was doing it to help mask the pain I was feeling. Every waking moment I was criticizing myself, analyzing my body and comparing myself to everyone I met.

It was not a happy way of life. I felt trapped in my life, and though I wanted to stop my behavior, I was already addicted.

With each binge/purge, life closed in more tightly, choking me of breath -- I felt claustrophobic in my own reality. And though I should have been able to seek out comfort of my fellow peers who were also dealing with tough issues in life, I felt completely alone

But I am not alone. The sad truth is that due to the repulsive stigma associated with eating disorders, many people who suffer feel isolated and hopeless.

Throughout my illness, numerous people told me, "You are not alone. There is help. There is hope," but all their well-intentioned advice rolled right off my back.

I couldn't fathom there being any hope left in the horrific world that I created. I felt so guilty for "being bad" and I didn't believe there would be any grace or forgiveness for me. My best friend once told me, "Lindsay, you aren't the only person who struggles with something," and I just replied, "Yes, but my struggles are just too big -- too burdensome -- for anyone else to deal with. Only I should suffer with this. Only I deserve to suffer."

So what finally made me seek help? I had someone come into my life who helped me believe that I am worth getting better. For anyone who has ever struggled with any kind of addiction, you will know what a powerful statement that is.

To believe in myself when, for the last 10 years, I have thrived off of bringing myself down, is a new and scary thing for me. But I decided those who love me have worried long enough. And that I, as a beloved of God, have been given the blessing of being freed of all that binds me or separates me from knowing that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made."

I made the decision Nov. 3 night to admit I needed help -- I called my mom and told her, "Mom, I am finally ready. I need to go into a rehab."

They have been waiting for so long for me to admit I need professional help. So all day Thursday we called back and forth, I went to the dean to see what I could do about my grades, and come Friday, we had everything settled. On Tuesday I will be leaving for rehab. For the first time in a long time, I have a renewed passion. I am very ready to leave. I am ready to get better, to have my life back and to have my relationship with God back. Besides the physical and mental depletion, I suffer with a spiritual depletion as well.

And to be honest, everyone has been amazingly supportive. It's actually kind of funny. I never realized how many people love and care about me until I finally admitted I'm not strong enough to live like this. And suddenly, I see just how many people have been praying for me and I am overwhelmed with the faithfulness of God.

Even when I had no confidence in me or in my relationship with God, he surrounded me with people who would be strong for me. I seriously am so thankful -- I feel like I have been given a second change at life -- and everything I have been wanting for so long now seems attainable.

I share this, making this very personal struggle public because I refuse to let others believe they are alone. Even if I am just another person in a string of people who say, "There is hope! There is more to life than this," then that brings the struggle one person closer to being resolved. I am receptive to letting this entire experience be used to help possibly prevent another person's pain, if at all possible. I know I am not alone -- eating disorders are a problem that plague this campus. And while I do not suppose to think that I alone can change this fact, I hope to just stand out as saying, "You are not alone."

If this seems scary, I understand, but please know that I am getting the help I need. I will get better. But there are others out there, just like me, and I understand all too well the fear that "I will never get better. I am beyond help."

So for those who are currently battling anything -- be it an eating disorder or any other type of problem -- know I my heart goes out to you with a love that understands.

No one is perfect. Although I may not know you, I deeply care about your struggles. If anyone ever needs to talk, I am here, listening with a sympathetic ear and caring with an compassionate heart.

After nine years of believing I deserved to be ugly, after spending half of my life thinking I was destined to always struggle, I realize I'm better than that -- and there truly is room for beauty in every facet of existence. Even one as troubled as mine.