Many do not know this about me but when I was 15, I got mono and lost sooo much weight I got down to 96 pounds. It was the first time anyone told me how thin I looked and it made me feel 'noticed' and accepted - like I'd finally done something outstanding. Even my mom noticed that my jeans bagged on me.
I was determined to not gain it back and thus started a cycle of binging and purging that lasted until I was 21 when I lost my fist baby through miscarriage at four and half months. And even though the pregnancy was doomed from the start (something was wrong and it was apparent that the mass of cells had never developed), I harbored the guilt and blamed my twisted eating habits and fear of gaining weight for the loss of a precious child. The ipecac and laxatives went into a drawer and were never used for purging again.
From there my weight problems went to the other extreme as I ballooned upwards hoping to disappear behind rolls of fat in order to become unnoticed.
After years of trial, family counseling, finally understanding my own self worth and gastric bypass surgery, the weight is coming off and I am using food in a healthy manner as I reclaim who I am.
Since bulimia and anorexia at that time were not commonly talked about (this was before Callista Flockheart and Kate Moss), I thought no one else dealt with issues of self esteem and body dismorphia like I did and treatment certainly wasn't openly discussed either. I thought I was unique in a very sick sort of way. And so when my dear friend Tristi Pinkston asked me to review a book called A Future for Tomorrow about a young woman who struggled with Anorexia Nervosa, I have to admit that I was intrigued.
Haley Hatch Freeman is extremely candid as she opens her mind to readers who witness the struggles of a young woman struggling with anorexia. The thought processes, the self depreciating talk, the distorted views of self, it all becomes clear and evident to the sickness that rages on behind the eyes of one who struggles with an eating disorder.
And for me, it was healing. I cried and I laughed as I cheered Haley on, recognizing the thought processes of self-disgust and guilt and the desire to feel loved and accepted. I understood the battle that goes on in one's mind for control of the number on the scale and as I read her account of that struggle, I battled right along with her remembering my 25 year process and cheered at her triumph.
Up to this point I have hated full length mirrors and cameras (so why I bought a house full of mirrored closet doors is beyond me!!). But after reading the last page of A Future for Tomorrow, I proudly stood before my full length mirror and looked past the dry erase marker to-do list and looked into my own eyes and saw something I'd never seen before.
It was me,.... and despite the fact that I have another 80 pounds to go, I could honestly say that I was happy with myself and that I have a pretty smile and clear blue eyes that sparkle with the knowledge that I am okay.
I haven't been able to do that my whole life. But after reading Haley's book, I had the desire to look at myself through a Heavenly Father's eyes and see the good in His child. And I have Haley to thank for that.....
I had a desire to get to understand this young woman a little bit more and so I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions. Here is that conversation:
Me - Haley, you were very candid about your experiences in A Future for Tomorrow. How hard was it for you and your family to relive that period and were they okay
with the honesty with which you painted yourself and them?
Haley -It was painful for me to relive the experience. There is a quote I read that I think applies to my situation: “Better that one heart be broken a thousand times
in the retelling, if it means that a thousand others hearts need not be broken at all”
(quote by Robert MCAfee Brown)
My parents tell me when they read my book it brings everything back to them vividly, as if they are there again since I was able to describe it as accurately as I did. So
it does bring back some of their pain as well. However, they are amongst my biggest fans and supporters of the book, and of me telling our story.
My parents, other family members, and friends are pleased with their portrayals since they admit it is completely factual and accurate. My dad’s depiction was the hardest
for me, with showing his negative side of his inherited “fat-phobia”. He is one of the greatest men I know with deep spirituality and love for others. He would do anything
for anyone and is truly an amazing man and father. He does admit he has this problem with judgment over weight issues and he tries to work on it. I hope the
reader is able to see his positive attributes over his weaknesses.
Me - You have a passion to share your experiences to help others avoid or overcome the pitfalls that consumed you. What single factor drives you the most?
Haley -There are two factors that drive my passion to share my experience. First of all, I feel it to be part of my mission, my purpose in this life. We each have a
sacred duty and reason we are on this journey of life, a purpose only you can accomplish. I know sharing my story is part of mine.
Secondly, I know the heartache of this disease. I can offer something unique to those who are suffering. I don’t know many people who would choose not to help
someone if they knew they had the potential to do so. It sounds cliché but it is sincerely how I feel: “If I can help just one person avoid or get through this
disorder it will be worth it.”
Me - I'm sure it was very difficult to talk about your experience with being overcome by dark influences. How did you come to peace with that in such a way that you
were able to share it with others without causing more trauma to yourself and those around you?
Haley - This particular incident was without a doubt the hardest for me to write about and edit. It was something I did with great prayer and guidance. I feel it was
suppose to be a part of my book and the Lord guided me through representing what truly did occur in a respectful manner in my book. I never felt writing about it would
bring trauma to me or others around me, which it didn’t.
Me - What is the best advice you could give to those who struggle with eating disorders and self esteem issues on a whole? How can they overcome them or avoid
Haley - I could write an entire other book answering this question alone. In short, the main thing I would like a person who is suffering with an eating disorder to know
is they CAN NOT get over it alone. They DO need to get professional help. 20% of people with eating disorders and 25% of people with anorexia nervosa die without
treatment. That number goes down to 2-3% with treatment. The key to recovery is to get help, be honest with your counselor and with yourself with the issues that
caused the eating disorder and the eating part will take care of itself. Find a passion and use your energy to focus on that instead of the disorder.
Self-esteem is a difficult one too, if it is low enough that there is destructive behaviors, again treatment is necessary. This is one of my favorite quotes, “All of you need to
drink in deeply the gospel truths about the eternal nature of your individual identity and the uniqueness of your personality. You need, more and more, to feel the perfect
love which our Father in Heaven has for you and to sense the value he places upon you as an individual. Ponder upon these great truths, especially in those moments
when (in the stillness of such anxiety as you may experience as an individual) you might otherwise wonder and be perplexed" (President Spencer W. Kimball) I would
like to share with those mentioned the letter in the back of my book titled “To Those Who Are Suffering.”
Prevention again encompasses so much. Causes of eating disorders can span from their parents raising style, to life situations such as abuse, to being overly influenced
by media and much more. (Usually a person with a serious disorder has multiple triggers, maybe all of the above and more.) A powerful prevention tool is awareness
and education. Something I hope my book can provide more of.
A large responsibility does fall on parents. A child with a mother who diets or who has an eating disorder is 12 times more likely to have one too. A parent should NEVER
put themselves down in front of their child. They not only model this behavior but it leads the child to believe, “If Mom, who is perfect in my eyes, thinks she is fat
and ugly then how much worse am I?”
Me - What is the single most important lesson you learned through your whole experience?
Haley - The importance of self worth, and faith.
Haley’s book is published through Granite Publishing. For more information, you can
go to her website www.afuturefortomorrow.com and to read more of her thoughts and
wisdom, go to her blogsite at www.afuturefortomorrw.blogspot.com