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Angela’s Story – Learning to Put Herself First

by nina on February 26, 2011

Today we have an incredible story of the struggle faced by Angela throughout  her eating disorder. It is a powerful story of commitment to recovery, helping others while learning to take care of herself and never giving up!

My Story:  by Angela R. Coats

I was born the third of four girls in a totally dysfunctional family.  My father worked for the local factory (which meant he was laid off more than he worked) and he picked up shifts at a nearby grocery store for additional income.  My mother was a homemaker up until I was in 5th grade.  Then, she went to work as a clerk at a convenient store.

Physical abuse was a daily event.  There was usually no rhyme or reason.  Emotionally, I was often told that I was “fat, ugly, and stupid.”  Making a mistake made one the object of ridicule in our family.  Later, my mom would add words like very explicit words to the commentary.

We attended church until I was 4 years old.  At that time, my mother left my father for another man who attended our church.  She returned about 1 year later as if nothing ever happened.  That was just one of our families “secrets.”  However, our family never returned to church as a formal religion.

My mother suffered from eating disorders of her own.  She tried every diet available.  She would go from total starvation, to binging/purging, and compulsive overeating.  Food was either a reward or a punishment in our family.

The Beginning of my eating disorder:

 

I was always an underweight child requiring extra vitamins and iron for nutritional purposes.  Over the years, I began to believe that I could decrease the hostility within our home if I was just “perfect.”  In my mind, my mother valued thinness and so this, too was a goal for my “perfectness.”

When I was 13, I was a typically awkward teenager.  My mother decided that I needed to lose weight and began taking me to a weight loss doctor.  He prescribed amphetamines for weight loss.  Yes, I lost weight, but this only served to trigger my eating disorder.  For the first time in my life, my mother was giving me “positive feedback.”  It didn’t matter that I was a straight “A” student, athletic, or just “me.”  However, she encouraged my “will-power.”  So, I began a journey through anorexia and exercise purging.

At my lowest weight, I was 92 pounds and wore a size 1.  I still was not happy.  I could look in the mirror and the reflection that I saw was a monster looking back at me.  Her words, “fat, ugly, and stupid” rang through my mind for years.

Changing eating disorders:

 

Through a series of events, I came to meet my present husband, Mark.  We will be celebrating 20 years of marriage on Feb. 23rd.  Up until I met him, I remained anorexic.  He encouraged me to eat and introduced me to many foods that I had never tried.  I loved the soothing effects and comfort that food brought to me.  I began a course of compulsive overeating.  Since I had always been underweight, I was initially not concerned that I would gain weight.  However, I did.

4 years later, my weight topped 200 pounds and I was pregnant with our first child.  I had morning sickness all day, everyday for 9 months.  During pregnancy, the baby takes what it needs from the mother.  After delivery, I was down to 140 pounds.  So the craziness in my mind said, “what a way to diet.”  I could eat anything that I wanted to and as long as I vomit, I won’t gain weight.  I know that this sounds too simple, but this is the basis for my experiences with bulimia.

The Beginning of the End:

In 2002, I gave birth to my 4th child.  Eating disorders were still a large part of my life.  The years of anorexia, binging/purging, and compulsive eating were catching up to me.  I passed out at work one day in the latter part of 2002.  Luckily, my doctor was aware that my mother had had issues and died of a blood clot in her heart at the age of 48.  So, my doctor sent me for heart testing.  The testing revealed that I had cardiomyopathy.  This condition is enlargement of the heart with decreased functioning.  It was bad enough when they discovered it that it was believed I may need a heart transplant.  However, with medication, this condition improved.

Not long after that, I began to show more of the side effects of the years of abuse to my body.  My teeth began decaying, I developed esophageal ulcers and gastric ulcers.  During strenuous exercise, my uterus prolapsed.  The list is extensive.

At any rate, I decided that I needed to tell someone about my eating disorder before it literally killed me.  I talked with my nurse practitioner, received a referral to a psychiatrist, and began seeing my first therapist.  I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder as well as Eating Disorder NOS.  Eventually, I was sent to a therapist that specialized in eating disorders.

My Recovery:

In the past 7 years, I have had periods of abstinence from my eating disorder.  However, relapse had always been lurking nearby.  About a year ago, I began spiraling back into the world of anorexia.  During a therapy session, I admitted everything.  I was desperate for help.  I knew one thing… I DID NOT WANT TO DIE FROM EATING DISORDERS.

This was my turning point.  I began to devote my time to “me.”  This was a totally new concept.  I had always put everyone and everything else first. I attended therapy twice a week, an eating disorder group once a week, attended 12 step programs 5 days a week, and increased my spiritual side by attending a local church with my family on Sundays.

Thankfully, I currently have 80 days of abstinence.  I know that doesn’t sound like a long time, but everybody has to start somewhere.  I follow a food plan developed by a dietician specifically for me.  My exercise is prescribed by my doctor.  I continue to see my therapist and do all of the things necessary to take care of myself.

Most importantly, I am working on educating others on the tragedy of the disease. I have written a book called Serenity available at www.blurb.com I write an on-line newspaper column for www.examiner.com/indianapolis/eating-disorders , have a blog http://www.angi-serenity.blogspot.com and I am active in the community.  As people in recovery, I feel that it is our duty to educate, support, and prevent others from falling down that well.

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Thank you Angi for your beautiful story full of hope, determination and a willingness to serve others. You are a miracle!

Nina Vucetic

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bárbara February 26, 2011 at 11:47 pm

I hope Angela feels free and congrats for all the success!

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nina March 1, 2011 at 12:08 am

Thanks Barbara!
She certainly is a fighter and does not give up!
She also writes about eating disorders on the the examiner, a great way to promote awareness.

Nina

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