National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

Finding Light in The Darkness
By Barb Lano

I went on my first diet when I was in 3rd grade. I was "overweight" and was continuously made fun of by my peers. My mother thought that she would help me by putting me on that first diet. I lost a significant amount of weight for my age and falsely learned that love and acceptance came from being a certain size. Needless to say, I put the weight back on and lost the approval of my mother again. My peers began to torment me ruthlessly, and I longed to be accepted again. I went through a very traumatic experience when I was 13 years old. I kept it a secret and blamed myself for what had happened. I decided that it was time to take back the control in my life, and that is when my full blown Eating Disorder began. I went back to school that fall and my peers did not even recognize me. All of a sudden I became popular, boys liked me, and my mother was thrilled, this only fueled my eating disorder more. I felt like it was my best friend. Eventually the hunger took over, and I began engaging in other eating disordered behaviors. I graduated from high school, went to college, got married, had a career as a counselor that I loved, and had children. Through it all, I held on to the eating disorder. I did horrible and disgusting things to keep it a secret. I eventually broke down and told my family about my eating disorder in 2008. I couldn't do it anymore. It was ruining my life, and I felt like everything was crashing down on me. Between 2008 and 2010 I went to treatment five times, but I had a difficult time letting go of the eating disorder. I was so scared of life without it that I didn't even know who I was, I didn't want to find out. December 29th of 2010 I became very ill. My husband took me to the emergency room. After blood work and many tests I found out my kidneys were shutting down along with other vital organs. I was immediately placed in intensive care and placed on dialysis. All I remember of those five days in ICU were doctors and nurses working diligently to save my life. When I woke up I had tubes and monitors attached to my entire body. My doctor came into my room and told me I shouldn't be alive. He told me that my eating disorder was killing me. I spent three weeks in the hospital. Once I was ready to be discharged from the hospital, the social worker referred me to be re-evaluated at an eating disorder program. I didn't go. I felt that after five times in treatment it would be hopeless and I accepted the fact that my eating disorder would eventually kill me. I felt that any chance of recovery was gone. I had damage to my heart, liver, kidneys, had neurological damage, and my bones were as fragile as those of an 80 year old woman. I felt that it could not get any worse than it already was, I was wrong. In 2012 I began having what I thought were horrible migraines. I was in excruciating pain for three months and so I went to see yet another specialist. He told me that I had developed spinal degeneration, and that my condition could not be fixed. I would be in pain for the rest of my life. I had enough, and in August of 2012 I decided that I was going back to treatment for a sixth time, determined to get my eating disorder out of my life for good. I was terrified but determined. I actually opened up about my feelings, and spoke about that horrible thing that happened to me. I learned skills on how to deal with my eating disorder, took what I was learning seriously, and ate all of my meals. I used my faith in God to help me. I prayed every day. I knew that without him I would never have control of my life, and after many weeks I was successfully discharged from treatment. Yet I felt this enormous amount of emptiness. I had a void in my life that God couldn't fill. I didn't understand it. I went to see my counselor twice a week, but could not figure out why I was so sad and empty. I realized that since I was in recovery my emptiness was caused by the loss of my eating disorder, my identity. I could tell you the "facts" about myself- I was a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, a counselor for close to 10 years, but nothing else. I didn't know MYSELF. I couldn't tell you if I had a hobby, what my favorite song or movie was, my favorite color, or if I felt passionate about anything. I had to figure out who I was. I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and what to fill it with. At first this loss of identity felt like a curse, but then I realized it was a blessing. I decided I would be happy if I could help just one person with an eating disorder. I felt that if I could help one person with my story, all that I had gone through wouldn't have been in vein. I made a video about my experience with my eating disorder, and I put it on my Facebook page. I had outpouring support and was flooded with inbox messages from others. Putting my video on Facebook inspired two people to go into inpatient treatment and one into outpatient treatment, my video is now on YouTube. I conducted a campus wide Eating Disorder Awareness Day at Eureka College with the Delta Zeta sorority during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I was asked to join a ministry called Mighty Strong Girls. They are dedicated to help adolescent girls build a positive self-esteem. I was assigned a girl to mentor who is suffering with an eating disorder, and I was asked to speak at their conference in June. I can't wait to be able to share my story of recovery with those girls and their mothers. I am also working with my former coworker to develop a curriculum for an Eating Disorder group, due to the lack of resources in my area. I feel blessed to be able to use the counseling skills that I have developed over the years to help those who are suffering like I had. I feel like I have a purpose in life. I want to help others who are suffering from this terrible disease, and inspire hope. I hope that if you are reading this you can see that RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. I suffered for 22 years of my life and have never been happier than where I am today. My body may be broken, but my spirit isn't. I have realized that every day is a gift. If you are suffering from an eating disorder, or if you are struggling with recovery please look at how my life has changed. Look deep inside yourself and realize that you ARE beautiful. It doesn't matter what size you wear or the number on that scale. You are a gift from God and deserve recovery. Do not let your eating disorder control you for another day, break free. You can use all the energy that your eating disorder is taking from you and do something beautiful with your life, because no matter what you think about yourself you are amazing!

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