The Story of My Eating Disorder-Part 2

By Molly Bice-Jackson - 4:15 PM

With the recent events at the Boston Marathon, I have hesitated in sharing this "off topic" blog post. But then I realized that the very things that allowed me to conquer the eating disorder beast are the same things that helped me deal with the loss of my daughter. They are the same things that have healed our country and our families and our souls over and over again. So ironically, I found the timing of this post to be not ENTIRELY off base. Please forgive me. And indulge me.

{For anyone just joining this conversation, you can read Part 1 of my eating disorder HERE. }

I left off mentioning that I started taking Prozac and seeing therapists at the urging of my parents, in the hopes that I could get a grip on the situation. The Prozac did seem to help a bit. But it was by no means a cure-all.

The first therapist I saw was a woman. I don't remember her name, but I remember on my very first visit she handed me a piece of paper. The names of several different emotions were listed on it--sad, upset, confused, bewildered, angry, lonely, depressed, light-hearted, despondent, happy...
My assignment was to pick a different color for each day of the week and circle the emotions I was feeling with the coordinating color. For example: Monday was orange. By the end of the week, we'd see how many orange circles were on the paper and how many times each emotion was circled with different colors. You get the gist of it.

My point being, at a relatively young age, I was trained to be very in-tune with my emotions. When I was feeling them, why I was feeling them, how to manage what I was feeling. That was the goal, at least. I am very grateful that I was given opportunities to develop this skill and sharpen my emotional intelligence. It has been a great blessing in my life.


Jr. year of high school


My parents sent me to London for 3 weeks around the age of 15/16 to stay with family friends. I flew out by myself Christmas morning and had the time of my life. I ate normal meals. I didn't throw up. I didn't binge (I wasn't in my family kitchen). I came home thinner than when I'd left. Hmmm...interesting. But again, my behavior still persisted. 

I spent one summer of high school performing and cleaning hotel rooms in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A coworker and friend of mine stood outside the bathroom door one day as I was purging the doughnuts the front desk staff had just given us. When I came out of the bathroom she kindly confronted me about the issue. It was the first time I'd ever spoken to a peer about it. She told me it was unhealthy and I knew she was right. But I wanted so badly to be thin! I would do anything!


Our conversation helped. Therapists helped.

But the binging/purging/starving cycle still lasted all throughout high school. Yes, I understood my emotions--I was pissed that I had to be short and shaped like big-busted chubby gymnast. So now what? At the peak (or should I say the low) of my eating disorder I was throwing up 3x/day. But then there would be months I'd only purge 4-5 times.  Eventually, I moved into an apartment not far from home for my first year of college. It helped. Being "on my own" helped me gain a greater sense of identity. I was away from my core group of model-like girlfriends (who I still love and adore), and starting to spread my wings.

I was still heavily involved in dance and theatre--thus subject to what seemed like constant body scrutiny. No matter what anyone says, looks matter in show business. I was talented enough...But I was busty and short and fiery with a small stature but huge voice. Not the most castable. To this day, I often obsess over the injustice of pretty girls who get the leading roles while the more talented ones get bit parts because of their looks.


Sophmore year of college


I spent a summer performing at Robert Redford's Sundance Theatre in Provo Canyon. One of my favorite spots on earth. I was lucky to be performing with good friends, making money doing what I love, I had great roommates, and my church congregation was led by an impressive man (in Mormon lingo, my "Bishop"). I met with him one day to talk about some of my struggles. The boy who didn't like me back even though we spent every minute of the day together (yet again, another gay boyfriend in the life of Molly), the uncertainty of my future, and lastly, I brought up my eating disorder. He looked me straight in the face and said, "If you can overcome this, you can overcome anything."

That really hit me. If I can overcome bulimia, I can overcome ANYTHING? Really? That motivated me. It really did. And after Lucy died I heard those words over and over in my mind. The two seem to be so unrelated, but we all know that they aren't.

Bulimia is the product of distorted female images from the media, yes. It is the product of low-self esteem (generated by these images). It is the product of unhealthy comparisons. It is the product of basing your entire identity on your physical form. But all physical forms pass away. And who I am is so much more than my body. Especially when I am only seeing my body through a distorted mental image...not what it really is. Bit by bit, these truths sank into my soul. And the healthier my thoughts became, the healthier my eating became, and the healthier my body.



Senior year of college and post-mission

There was no clear turning point for me. There was no moment of, "I will stop this right now and accept myself the way I am and never go back to emotional eating and abusing my body..." It was little by little. In fact, I don't feel like I got a complete grasp on it until marriage--at the age of 26.

I binged and purged a few times on my mission. I binged and purged occasionally after my mission. But it became less and less frequent. When Vic and I were first married, he kept telling me to eat regularly. "I don't care if you don't feel hungry, just eat!" This got my metabolism regulated. I felt happy and whole for the first time in my adult life. And once I stopped obsessing about food and weight, I got smaller and smaller. Let me rephrase that--healthier and healthier. Back to my body's natural weight.

And yes, I have purged (its not always accompanied with binging--sometimes it is because I eat foods that my body does not want or need in that moment) since being married. It would be safe to say that I purge maybe once a year. Maybe once every 18 months. I am VERY aware of every thing I put in my mouth. Not because I count calories, but because I have learned the art of listening to my body and letting it dictate what it needs. But more on that  next time. I'll share with you how I am a very healthy and strong 5'1".

So what were those "things" I was talking about in the beginning that helped me overcome this and that also apply to the heartache and tragedy in our nation right now?

-perseverance
-honesty with self
-courage
-hope
-awareness
-positive, healthy thoughts
-positive, healthy, productive living
-a spiritual connection
-a knowledge that you are more than just your body
-emotional intelligence
-being unafraid to ask for and receive help
-finding your identity in things beyond physical matter
-gentleness with self

Will you come back for Part 3?

I hope this was not self-indulgent.


Photo taken April 15, 2010 just outside of Boston in Maine. 

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8 Loving Lines

  1. You are so inspiring!!! Thank you for sharing your story:) It gave me goosebumps. Cheers to a fabulous YOU!!

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  2. You always inspire me, Molly, and I don't even know you "in real life"! I've struggled with bulimia since having my 2nd baby (which was about four years ago). If you asked me five or even ten years ago if I ever thought I'd struggle with an eating disorder, I would have told you that you were crazy. My mother is a therapist who specializes in helping teens and women with body image disorders and I always thought I had it together in that aspect. I felt myself losing my grip, though, after having my second baby. Every time I would open a magazine, turn on my TV, or log on to Facebook, I would see yet ANOTHER woman who was "baby to body after baby!" What was the hardest for me was seeing a lot of my friends, who had always been skinny, be right back into their skinny jeans two weeks after having a baby. And there I was, struggling (looking back now, being normal), still having to wear my maternity jeans, and hating myself. I restricted myself to about 500 calories a day. When I felt that wasn't enough, I would purge at least twice a day, if not more. So there I was, with a baby and a two year old in another room while I was puking my guts out in my bathroom, feeling not only inadequate but incredibly ashamed. I was a grown woman, dangit! Why did I feel like I had to compare to the "stars" or even just everyday people who always seemed to be skinnier, prettier, or better than me. It's been a struggle. I still wrestle with feelings of hate and disgust when I see a glimpse of myself in the mirror or even walking by a building with reflective windows. My weight dropped down 30 pounds and I felt like I was finally "there", but the binging and purging packed it on again. Funny how that cycle works. It's a maze I wonder if I'll ever escape, but THANK YOU for being so honest and real about it. You have overcome mountains in my eyes and if you can do it, surely I could.

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  3. I love the last picture! Thanks for sharing so bravely.

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  4. Hi Molly. Thanks so much for sharing. I have a similar but different situation that I am currently dealing with and so much of what you wrote speaks to me, but from the oposite side. I am a 36 year old mother of two (6 and 1) who has been overweight for 15 years. I would like to clarify that when I say "overweight" I am not talking about 10 or 15 pounds. I am also not the type of "overweight" that would necessarily draw any attention as I walk down the street. In order to fit into what the charts and graphs say is healthy I would need to lose 90 pounds. Honestly, I would be elated and think that I would look and feel great if I lost 60. Anybody who knows what I weigh is surprised. The one sorta bright spot in my story is that I carry 70-90 extra pounds about as good as anyone can. I can't tell you the number of things I have done in an attempt to lose weight. I have done Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, working out with a trainer, and most drastically a Gastric Lap Band that helped me shed 40 lbs and become pregnant with my daughter, only to malfunction, make me terribly sick and have to be removed. It was an expensive attempt that very publicly failed. About 8 weeks ago I just gave up. I am so tired of being consumed with my weight, constantly trying to lose weight, regretting every morsel I put in my mouth and NEVER really succeeding. It is both emotionally and physically draining. I thought that if I just "let it go"-something I have never done before, something (good?!) would happen. Maybe, just maybe, my body would respond to my brain taking a break. So I did and so far.....nothing. I am not gaining, but am also not losing. I don't believe that my problem stems from any unrealistic expectations with regard to the media, but you did mention comparing, and that is a huge issue for me in my life. As I sit in the pick up line at Kindergarten, wearing oversized sweatshirts to hide my body, I watch other mothers my age wearing cute jeans and shirts that are tucked in, and my heart breaks a little. I may never again be comfortable in a bathing suit in public, but I would give just about anything to be able to wear a pair of cute jeans and not have to constantly tug on my top to cover my fat stomach. I know inside of me is a smaller, healthier version of myself. I am just so defeated at this point I can't find my way to her or even the energy right now to look. Prior to you posting your story I had begun to consider some sort of therapist. I am more convinced now that I should look into that. So, thank you again. I will be looking forward to the rest of your story as I try to figure out the rest of mine.

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  5. Thank you SO much for this post. Well, posts..... Not sure if I am delurking here... Been following your blog since before Lucy died. I battled an eating disorder from age 12-16, and consider myself in remission. i totally get it. and thank you so much for putting it out there. having gone through some horrible tragedies myself in the past few years, i also have said the same thing to myself- if i could get through bulimia and anorexia, i can get through this. hugs. much love.

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  6. thank you so much for this post. well, the two posts....( augh google deleted my big long comment! ahhh.) anyways, i so so so get it. every single sentiment. i think i have commented in the past, as i have been a faithful blog reader since before lucy died. i battled an eating disorder from age 12-16 and consider myself in remission ( 10 years this year!), and i totally agree that if you can get through an eating disorder, you can get through ________. that is what i have chanted to myself as i have faced some real tragedy and heartache in recent years. thank you thank you for opening your heart and sharing this. much love. angela

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  7. I have been on anti-depressants for the better part of 20 years... Tried therapy once seriously only I think I chose the wrong therapist for me and stopped sessions and never found another doctor to see. I think you are brave to be so honest and for sharing your story.

    ToOdLeS.

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  8. You're so brave to share your story. I admire you so much and can relate to a lot of what you have shared. I'm a chronic yo-yo dieter and I'm at an all time high weight right now which is downright depressing. I always love how honest you are. thanks for sharing ...((hugs))

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