I don’t really have a problem…Do I?
By Lori Price
My name is Lori Price, and I have struggled with an Eating Disorder (“ED”) for over 20 years. When people think of someone with an ED, most people may create an image in their mind of a female, first born, high achieving, cheerleader/athlete, and above EVERYTHING else, a very YOUNG person struggling with these issues. They NEVER think of a Mother of three, in her late thirty’s, seeking their first treatment for an Eating Disorder! Well… I’m here to tell you that this happened to me and I’ve learned that I’m not alone. What I have discovered through treatment is that there are no age limitations on disordered eating. My therapist says she sees more clients in my age category than adolescents. Sure, symptoms may often begin in adolescent years. I struggled with an ED for many years on and off, but didn’t receive treatment until I was an adult, at the age of 38! “Symptoms” grew over the years to be an all-consuming way of life. The eating disorder dominated my life affecting my marriage, children, and relationships.
For me, what started out as a way to lose a few pounds when I was younger rapidly spiraled into something that took control. It took control of my every thought and action. I was somehow convinced that this was a positive addition to my life. If I could just lose a few more pounds I would finally be happy. The number on the scale was never good enough. I would drastically increase my exercise and decrease my food intake. It became a numbers game of which I was no longer in control. My self-worth had become wrapped up in my body size. Of course, desiring the “perfect” body size is affected by much more than our own thoughts. It didn’t help that after being body fat tested, my college coach told me that I needed to lose weight! It doesn’t help when you read a People magazine and all you see are ultra-thin models or popular stars that have received plastic surgery and other professional help to look the way they do. But, as I found out in therapy, there were a few other triggers that helped the ED thrive; including my parent’s divorce, my personal trauma experience, and raising 3 children with a husband who, early on, was a raging alcoholic.
Growing up I had a pretty “normal” childhood. I was born in Phoenix AZ. My parents were both musicians in The Phoenix Symphony. I have identical twin sisters who were born deaf and are 6 years younger than me. I was super close to my Dad growing up. We had weekly daddy-daughter dates, and just had fun together. When I was 12 my life was forever changed. My parent’s told me they were getting divorced. I found out my Dad had had an affair! I was confused, very angry, and felt betrayed. My Dad was a very non-confrontational man and NEVER addressed the divorce with me; rather, he ignored the issues. I didn’t talk to my Dad for 6 years, and he never tried to mend our relationship. It was crushing to say the least. It felt like he had died, except I continued to see him. He still continued a relationship with my sisters. I have learned that this led me to believe that I wasn’t good enough or he wouldn’t have left. I had to stay strong for my Mom and became her confidante. This process taught me that MY feelings didn’t matter and that I had to be the one who took care of the family. I always wore a smile on my face, but on the inside I was crumbling.
In high school, I lived 2 separate lives. I was the class president every year, swim team captain, prom queen and very involved in school. I was also secretly drinking and doing some drugs. One night while drinking I was involved in a sexual trauma situation that I kept secret from everyone, for a very long time. “It was my fault” I convinced myself. The shame of this experience significantly increased the “need” for my ED, and I started restricting calories, even though I had long, daily workouts swimming on a club team.
When I was 17, I went to college at NAU. Again, I was super involved in school: Swim Team, Sophos, Cardinal Key Honor Society, Pi Phi Sorority President. On the other side, I was also using drugs, drinking, and I began restricting food and using laxatives. Looking back, I think the eating disorder became a priority when swim coaches kept telling me I needed to lose weight after being body fat tested. On top of that, it didn’t help that my roommates and sorority sisters were also practicing the same disordered eating behaviors.
Restricting food was hard to maintain. I was hungry all the time and was consumed with thoughts of food. When I would allow myself to eat, I would eat more than I should (or at least more than my ED thought I should), and I would then beat myself up. These thoughts led me down the path of bulimia. I purged for the first time when I was 13. I felt like I was fat. I think at this point in my life, this was the ONLY thing I was able to control. I felt completely out of control with everything else in my life. Bulimia became my secret and a way for me to express emotions and feelings.
After college, I became a teacher and taught 4th grade while continuing to manage a pool. I loved it!! I loved children, school, and staff. I had found my happy place. I also met the love of my life, Garth. He was a blast: successful, smart, and attractive. We ended up getting married 1 year later, and I got pregnant pretty quickly. When we had our first child, Zack, we agreed it would be best if I became a stay at home mom. Well, life came crashing down all around me! My interaction with all those people I used to see daily dramatically decreased. On top of that, it became very obvious that the person with whom I was closest, my husband, was an alcoholic, causing us to fight often. I had no one to talk to; I was all alone, again. I went into survival mode, living in my own little world. Eating Disorders love secrets…
(I should mention that a few years later, Garth sought treatment for his alcohol abuse and has been sober now for 18 years!)
As I have explained, these ED thoughts become all consuming. While my friends were actually having fun with their kids at Disneyland, I was trying to find the SECRET bathroom! This wasn’t my plan! I never set out to become bulimic! As I spiraled out of control, this secret was taking me away from the people I love. I was isolated, depressed, and unsure how to climb out. I tried many times to just stop. I continually promised myself tomorrow will be better. I won’t do this again.
Where could I turn? Who could I tell? I really didn’t trust ANYONE! Much of the world really doesn’t “believe” that this is a disease. I didn’t even think my husband would take me seriously. Most of the time, I didn’t believe I had a real issue (or at least I told myself that). ED was for women in their teens and twenties, not for a married woman with children, right? But it was impossible for me to stop alone. I finally confided in the only “close” friend I had left, and in my husband, who both encouraged and insisted that I seek professional help at A New Beginning and Remuda Ranch.
It has now been 7 years since walking thru the huge doors of Remuda Ranch. I remember being terrified. My thoughts were out of control. I shouldn’t be here, I’m not that bad. I fought treatment the first few weeks. I wanted to leave. However, I found out that my body was in bad shape. My EKG had to be repeated on 3 separate occasions, and all the tests showed long QT syndrome. This basically can lead to sudden death. My electrolytes were out of balance, potassium was low, and I was on the road to destruction.
While in treatment and struggling to accept that I had serious problems, I wrote this poem. Maybe some of you can relate:
I look in the mirror, and what do I see?
A sad broken girl looking back at me
People in her life think she’s having a ball
But they don’t really see that girl at all
In her life’s been so much pain
Sometimes she questions her strength to remain
She doesn’t let the sadness show
For fear of letting anyone know
She keeps her secrets locked inside
Trying to move forward with a gentle glide
Her body broken and heart bruised
Feeling like she’s been completely used
At times the pain becomes too much
She holds it all in, she cannot trust!
Her body she so desperately despises
She’s learned to hide it with all the disguises
Wearing the smile upon her face
When on the inside feels like such a disgrace
So much sadness, so much fear
Everything important is becoming unclear
The restricting, the purging eases the pain
But in the end feels completely insane
EAT they say “you know what to do.”
She’d rather lose a limb, than have to gain a few
Her faith right now can’t be broken
For only with him she can be awoken
I look in the mirror and what do I see?
A little girl looking back at me
“Why did you leave me, what did I do?
I’m sorry all these things have happened to you!”
The cost of my treatment was extremely expensive, and I couldn’t believe that it was not covered by insurance. That still blows my mind!!! Even though the doctors, nurses, my friend, and my husband were convinced and wrote letters on my behalf, I was still denied coverage. Something needs to change. Seems like you have to die before the insurance companies believe you really are in serious need of help. People deserve to get the treatment they need.
Treatment is very difficult; I’m not going to lie. I had to bring out things in my life that I wanted to stay buried. I had to feel feelings, when I didn’t want to feel anything. Feeling terrified me! My ED kept me numb. Learning how to feel again was scary – no matter what the feeling was. Every time something in therapy got hard to talk about, my initial reaction was to RUN! I had to learn that feeling is ok; in order to feel happiness I also had to feel sadness. I also learned that I shouldn’t starve or purge feelings away. I had to feel them, write, and talk about them. All of these steps in recovery were NOT easy for me!! And they are NOT my favorite things to discuss. But I can say it gets a little easier every step I take. The ONLY reason I kept going through treatment was hearing my therapist, Dr. Ashley say, “the only way out is working through it.”
ED therapy is not a quick fix. I thought after 45 days of being at Remuda Ranch I would be done with the ED. But, I’ve been in treatment 7 years now and finally feel an end. After Remuda, I went to A New Beginnings (Outpatient Treatment Center) in Scottsdale AZ, where I still attend today. I’ve continued to see 2 amazing therapists Dr. Ashley Southard, Anna Brennan, and a terrific dietician, Kristine Bott, who all never gave up on me, even when I would give up on myself. Working on recovery has taught me a lot. I’m stronger than I once thought; I’m learning who I am and what I’m not. I’m NOT my eating disorder!!! I am a Mom, wife, friend, daughter, aunt, and teacher. I have a huge heart for others and I am now finally learning to have one for myself.
A tremendous benefit of my recovery was establishing a sense of self-worth outside of my body shape, size, and my performance. I realized that my worth wasn’t derived from my body size or a number on a scale. It comes from a beauty within.
The message that I want to leave you with is this: There is a way out, if you’re willing to do the work. You don’t have to battle this alone, help is available!! I really believe recovery is possible.
About the author –
Lori Price is a second generation native of Phoenix, Arizona. Her husband of 22 years, Garth, is also a Phoenix Native. Together they have three beautiful children: Zack (21), Jake (18), and Paige (17).
Lori received dual majors in Elementary and Special Education at Northern Arizona University. She was a fourth grade teacher until resigning to be a full time mother. Currently, Lori is an Owner / Manager of Flip Dunk Sports, a Trampoline, Gymnastics, Cheer, and Dance Center.
While going through her own recovery, Lori became an advocate for eating disorders and positive body image. Discovering a lack of general awareness about eating disorders in the Phoenix area, she decided to organize the first annual NEDA Walk for the Valley in 2012. Lori continues to be involved in NEDA with coordinating the 2013, 2015, & 2016 Walks. She has also coordinated Body Image Awareness Workshops for children and adults, and manages a Facebook site that supports eating disorder recovery, the “Phoenix Eating Disorder Awareness Walk”.