Yesterday, I wrote about how becoming a mother lead to my sewing most of my own clothing as part of Ease-in to motherhood motherhood sewing blog event. Today, I’m going to talk about something else.
I’ve struggled with depression for most of my teen and adult life. One therapist, and I’ve had many, thinks that what happened was a long slow descent into severe depression that started when I was a young teenager. In addition to depression, I have an eating disorder. Most of the time, I’d have been diagnosed with bulimia, and like many bulimics, I considered myself a failed anorexic. Eating disorders are complicated and are not easily categorized. In addition, there is a popular mythos that has arisen. I don’t fit that mythos, and most of my behaviors, be they restricting or purging, were masked as “being healthy”. It wasn’t until I was seen by someone who worked in the area of eating disorders that I was diagnosed.
After my son was born, for a very brief period, I experienced what I call postpartum euphoria. In fact, for most of my pregnancy with Tony, except for some morning sickness in the first trimester, I felt really good. But the euphoria didn’t last. Before long, I was struggling to get out of bed. I had no energy, and I wasn’t feeling anything. It was like experiences had to be extreme to penetrate the depression before I would react to them. And as the depression got worse, the eating disorder spiraled out of control. I wasn’t eating, and when I was, it was like I was slipping off with my abusive, illicit lover, ED (for eating disorder), to have an orgy. Of course, after the orgy, ED beat the crap out of me, figuratively speaking that is. (Note: People with eating disorders often center their identities around the eating disorder, so separating one’s self from ED breaks that identification.)
Things got so bad that I thought I might lose my job. I’m very lucky that my employer also employs the EAP counselor. She’s on-site, and if she has space in her schedule, she can give you time even if you have exhausted your EAP benefit. She is the one who finally, after about 30 years of having an eating disorder, diagnosed me. I thought I was being healthy, eating carrots, apples, fat free yogurt, skim milk and drinking 2 gallons of water a day. She helped me with the depression, and she helped me get into an out-patient eating disorder program.
It has been a long, hard road to recovery. I think I damaged my heart when I was in my 20s and very bulimic, and I may have other health consequences from being sick for so long. But I am faithful to my therapy sessions, and I am able to manage things. The recidivism rate for eating disorders is very high; official statistics say 30% to 50%, but based on my experience of 12 years of group therapy, I’d say the rates are much closer to 100%. Very, very few people stay the course. In my groups, more people have died from the eating disorder than have left the program successfully. No, it’s worse than that: more people have died than have stayed in the program. It could be that I am only exposed to those who have been sick the longest, and the longer one has an eating disorder, the less likely it is that one will ever ditch ED. But I keep going to group. I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to return to those behaviors.
The thing that has kept me going back to group is my children. I want to see them grow up, graduate high school, graduate college, be successful adults, have children, or whatever it is that they choose to do. I’m a little apprehensive about what will happen when the kids leave home, but I have tools and support that I didn’t have before. Fingers crossed.
Sewing and making friends with other women who sew has also helped me. For one thing, they are a welcoming, loving, supportive group. But they have also helped me restate how I think of my body because very few of us fit a pattern out of the envelope. They have railed against the term “figure flaws”. They have bemoaned the fact that most of us shop and shop and shop, and still, nothing fits. They have shown me the difference that well fitting clothing makes in comfort and, yes, in appearance.
And they have shown me how to buy lots and lots of fabric. 🙂 When I was depressed, I bought a lot of fabric. I don’t buy very much these days. I have a fabric cabinet, and I have tubs of fabric under our kingsized platform bed. My goal is to only have as much fabric as the cabinet will hold.
Valuing myself enough to speak back to the eating disorder didn’t happen until after I had children, and in part, my relationship with other women who sew has also contributed to my valuing myself. I’ll continue to mother my children, go to group, and sew up my fabric stash, and maybe, some day, I’ll be free of ED, have successful, happy adult children, have a fabulous wardrobe, and have all of my fabric in that cabinet … um, actually, it’s two cabinets, but still that is a worthy goal.