Editor’s Note – CW: Physical/Mental Abuse
I have debated back and forth about writing this because it could be shared with thousands of people. I have always been ashamed of my story but I think it’s now the right time to share it. I hope even a single part of this will spark someone else to own their story as well.
I grew up with a physically and mentally abusive mother that constantly told me that I was worthless. Throughout my childhood and young adult life I was told that I would not be loved unless the number on the scale was under a certain limit. Disordered eating behaviors were encouraged. I was punished for nourishing my body without permission..I was 8 years old when I was forced into my first diet. A number on the scale does not determine who loves you.
All my life, I was afraid to do the basic human function of feeding myself. But it wasn’t the calories or the number on the scale, I was afraid that food was something I didn’t deserve. When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with Anorexia, and I needed inpatient treatment. My doctor tried to send a referral to an eating disorder treatment center near my hometown but my mom pulled me out of the doctor’s office before my doctor could hand her the resources. You deserve food.
After being diagnosed, I was afraid because I was starting to lose hair, my skin was dry, and I barely had the energy to get up in the morning. I didn’t have enough energy to deal with the consequences if I ate without permission. When I tried to reach out to my school guidance counselor, she told me “you don’t look like you have an eating disorder”. After hearing that comment, I knew, at that moment, I would not be able to get help. An eating disorder does not have a look.
When I started high school my eating disorder was raging- loud, terrifying, and hitting me full force. It wasn’t about the weight or food. It was about control. I couldn’t control the abuse, people believing me, but I could control this one thing until I couldn’t anymore. When I was 18, I moved out and went to college to escape the abuse and the toxicity. I realized I wasn’t Kimmie, I wasn’t a human being, I was my eating disorder. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see Kimmie, I saw pain and suffering. I kept the comment from my guidance counselor in my head and felt like I wasn’t sick enough. When you have an eating disorder, you are sick.
In 2016, I googled “Do I have an eating disorder?”, and I was taken to a free screening tool. It asked if I was taking this test for myself or a loved one. I answered all the questions honestly, and it gave me resources to seek help. I was afraid to get help because this eating disorder had been in my life for so long, I didn’t know who I was without it. NEDA was the first resource listed, and I read stories from people like me, and thought “I may heal from this one day.”
In 2017, my doctor told me that I was at high risk of sudden cardiac death. I finally decided to get help, I didn’t want to lose my life to my eating disorder. I went to a treatment center and learned how to talk about my trauma, set boundaries, and I was on the path to find myself again. I told my therapist that my goal was to see myself again and, “When I see myself again, I am going to marry the person that sees me today as I am.”
In 2018, I went to my first NEDA walk and I heard stories from people who were years into their recovery journey. Just being able to see how many people were at the NEDA walk to raise awareness for eating disorders was so touching because I wasn’t alone. For the first time, I felt like I was allowed to take up space.
In 2019, a few months before the second NEDA walk in Des Moines, I was reflecting on my entire recovery journey. I started to see myself again, and it was beautiful to meet myself for the first time without my eating disorder taking control of me. My partner has encouraged me throughout my entire recovery. They have watched me heal from my trauma, set boundaries, and take control of my life again. I thought back to what I said to my therapist a couple of years back, and thought “Would it be weird to propose to my partner at a NEDA walk?”. On September 28th, 2019 at the Des Moines, Iowa NEDA walk, I said goodbye to my eating disorder and said hello to my new fiance.
I am not where I would like to be in my recovery journey, but after 12 years of trying to heal I am able to #SeeTheChange recovery has impacted my life. Now I can, #BeTheChange through advocacy, raising awareness by sharing my story, and reminding those that recovery is possible.
Kimmie is a psychiatric technician and mental health advocate in recovery from an eating disorder. She is a survivor of trauma, and abuse, and uses her story to encourage others. Kimmie also shares the message that we are allowed to take up space on sweatshirts she designs to fundraise for her local NEDA walk. She runs an Instagram account @kimmiesbolinger where she celebrates her little “wins” in her recovery journey while encouraging others to do the same.