Libero started with a story written by our Founder Lauren Bersaglio. This one story spawned a community and grew into the magazine and community you see here today. If you would like to take part and share your story, click here. If you’d like to read more stories from our community, visit our Community Blog.
Please note: Although this original story has elements of the Christian Faith within it, Libero is a non-religious organization. We do, however, support spirituality in many forms. If you are looking for articles related to mental health and spirituality/faith, please visit our Faith Column.
Originally written April 4, 2010 by our Founder Lauren Bersaglio
I am going to talk about something not often talked about. It is a battle I have been facing since I was seventeen and I know I am not the only person dealing with it: Eating Disorders. More specifically: Bulimia, Anorexia, and Binge Eating.
These three terms hide so comfortably behind the blanket term “Eating Disorders”; they are rarely named and forced to come out into the light. However, the thing about darkness is that when something dark is brought into the light it can no longer exist; it no longer has power.
This is why I am sharing my story. I am getting rid of darkness’ power because freedom is needed.
People asked me whether I would put my name on this article. The reason I am choosing to expose myself is because I am not tied down by this anymore. I am free and I do not need to hide or conceal my identity. I am taking ownership of my struggle and my victory.
I have neither shame nor fear anymore.
It all began four years ago when I made the decision to see if I could make it through a day without eating. Little did I know one choice, one thought, in one moment would redirect my life.
My first attack of anorexia lasted two months. I was eating just enough to stay alive and nothing more. I kept thinking to myself “two more pounds and then I will start eating again,” but inevitably I’d always find another two pounds to lose. I knew if I continued starving myself I was going to get caught, and I was too humiliated to want anyone to find out, so I began eating normally again.
However, the battle was not over. It had only begun.
Throughout the rest of the year, old habits would flare up during times of stress or emotional lows. I would go a day or two without eating and then I’d be setting the table and begin feeling faint. I’d realize what I was doing wasn’t healthy and would force myself back into a life of eating. The diet rules I set for myself, however, were so restricting I was never really free.
Each time I would tell myself never again, but as sure as life throws curve balls I would find myself once again with an empty stomach and a heavy heart.
For the most part, I kept my anorexia a secret. I only talked about it when I was not dealing with it. It wasn’t that I was lying to people; I honestly believed it was over. Every time it reappeared I felt confused and defeated.
By the middle of 2009, I had been free from any anorexic behavior for almost a year. However, as the stresses of life began building up, once again I found myself unable to cope in a healthy way. This time, however, I was so afraid of returning to old habits I instead took on a new one: binge eating.
My bingeing was very sporadic. I would struggle with it for a few days then I would go back to normal life and then a month later it would re-emerge. The thing I learned about eating disorders is food becomes this powerful substance and it fools you into thinking it is the only way to cure the pain.
When I was struggling with anorexia, I would regain a sense of control by not letting food in. When I took on binge eating, I would numb the pains and stresses of life with the comfort of food.
By the end of 2009, I realized the only way I would respond to stress was through eating. I also realized binge eating did not stick well with me. Not only did I not like what it was doing to my appearance, but it also made me feel I was out of control–and I hated feeling out of control. So I made another decision: I purged.
The moment it happened I knew my life would never be the same again. From then on I would live with the knowledge I could eat whatever I wanted and then make it as though it never happened.
Just like that I was in control again. Or so I thought.
For the better part of a month, I found myself fighting two battles: one against bulimia and the other against anorexia. I did not care much for purging so I would try starving and then I’d realize I wanted to be normal so I’d eat properly for a few days and then I’d fall back into the cycle.
The bulimic and anorexic behaviors subsided as my stresses deflated. Then my family moved and I found myself in a new place with a new life and I swept my issues under the rug.
I told people I was done with the behaviors forever, that they simply disappeared. I was telling them this because I truly believed it.
However, when something is pushed under the rug it is never content staying there.
Then something happened. I was hit by what Shakespeare refers to as “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” In other words, life blindsided me.
I managed to get back up on my feet. However, there was a current building beneath the surface. I was overwhelmed and stressed and I began eating.
It started with a few harmless (but unnecessary) snacks, and within a couple days, it turned into uncontrollable bingeing. Before I knew it, I was leaning over the toilet again–the position of defeat.
I realized I was back there. The monsters had crept out from under the rug and come to play, only this time they were playing to kill.
What started as one binge and purge in one day turned into two or three in a day. Then the bingeing stopped, but the purging continued. I was purging as many as five times a day.
I’d lost control.
Giving into bulimia became my only focus. I wasn’t getting any work done. I was eating, purging, and sleeping.
I knew I had to stop, but I couldn’t. When I ate, even if I intended to keep the food down, it always ended the same: me bending over the toilet, allowing my life to slip out of my hands.
I realized as long as I was eating I would continue to purge. That’s when anorexia came knocking once again, only this time it was far worse than it had ever been.
No longer was my motivation losing weight; I was motivated strictly by fear.
Rather than eating tiny bits of food every so often, I was eating nothing. I was so afraid of purging I became unable to put anything in my mouth.
I went three days without food.
By the third day, I was a wreck. I could hardly stand up without being overcome by dizziness. Exhausted, in pain, and emotionally broken, I wandered from class to class, lifeless.
I didn’t want it to be this way. I wanted to be outside with the living, but I was trapped.
I was being held captive by my fear and addiction. I had no escape. I told close friends about my problem, but there was little they could do to help. The choice was up to me. I had to decide if I wanted help or not, and the frightening truth: I didn’t want it.
The more I realized how addicted I’d become the more frightened I became. I didn’t want to destroy myself but I couldn’t stop what I was doing to myself either. I found myself sitting across from friends trembling and petrified, my shaky voice telling them how much I didn’t want to die.
The darkness had sunk in too far; I didn’t know how to stop it. I had lost all control–I was a slave.
In desperation, I went to one of my mentors. As I sat across from them, numb and broken, I asked how much longer I could live like this. They informed me without food a human being has thirty days to live.
I went back to my apartment and tried to sleep, but my mind would not shut off: thirty days and then dead. Not passed out and in the hospital, but dead. Gone forever.
I wanted to be alive!
I curled up on the couch hugging my knees and began crying uncontrollably. I was killing myself and I couldn’t stop.
I knew what I had to do: I had to save my life.
I called up my friends and family, who came from all over the city. They circled around me in my living room. I explained to them I was destroying myself and I wanted to be alive but I didn’t want to stop what I was doing. I told them, “I don’t want to stop, but I want to want to stop” but I said I didn’t think I could do it. That’s when my cousin stepped in. She told me, “Lauren, you can do it. You are doing it right now. You called us all here because you want to stop this. You want to quit and you can.”
I looked around the room at the people I love and who love me and I realized I was hurting them. I had to stop what I was doing to myself, if not for myself, then for them.
I didn’t want it anymore, so I handed it over to God. In that moment it was as if I were awakened from a bad dream; I stood up straighter, my eyes shone. God breathed life back into me. I was free.
A few days later I found myself sitting on the bathroom counter facing a decision: I could give in, purge, and kill my chances of enjoying my evening, or I could overcome. I thought about what it is I wanted: a good night or a bad, and then I made my choice. I stood up and walked out of the bathroom.
That night I realized the battle is still not over; this is something I will have to face for the rest of my life. There will be many more nights spent sitting on the bathroom counter rocking back and forth between giving in and overcoming–sometimes I will make the right decision and sometimes I will make the wrong one. It is a decision I will have to make every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to sleep.
I am no longer afraid because I realize no matter how many bad days I have, no matter how many relapses and slips back into darkness I have, I will not be defeated.
The fight is still not over, but now I have the right armor on. This is how I know my life will be a good story. I will have a happy ending. I am sure of this now.
Opening up and allowing myself to receive help was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but it was a decision that saved my life.
And I am not the anorexic girl or the bulimic girl; I am a girl who struggles with anorexia and bulimia. It does not define me.
I am not alone. You are not alone. And hope is never lost. We are free.
Note: this piece has been edited for quality, relevance, and length. If you wish to read the original Facebook Note, click here.