Growing up is tough nowadays. When my dad talks about growing up in Brooklyn, it seems like things were simpler. I’m already just about 31-years-old, but I remember being a preteen and an early teen like it was just a short time ago …
I’ve wanted to write about my story since the wellness blog came into existence, but I was a little nervous about what my colleagues would think. However, I’m a mom of a beautiful little boy now and, by being his mother, I really feel like I’ve found my true confidence and I’m not as worried about what other people think of me. The way that I see it, I have a lot to offer and, if you don’t like me because of my past, well, that’s just too darn bad for you!
From as early as I can remember, I compared my body to others. A friend of mine on my block was tall and thin with pretty light brown hair, while I was short and a little chubby, with darker coloring. For some reason, this difference in appearance, even this early in life, made me feel inferior. Little did I realize how cute I was! As I grew up, I developed before the rest of the girls did and I felt embarrassed of my newfound curves. I never really wanted to draw attention to myself, so the fact that I developed so quickly was absolutely appalling. Then, the summer before my eighth grade year, I decided to go on a diet. When I went back to school, some of my classmates commented on how great I looked. I feel like girls that age start to act like little adults. For example, the girls often trade their backpack for a cute little purse and they start paying attention to fashion trends and makeup. I am convinced that even the prettiest of girls are terribly insecure at that age. You couldn’t pay me $1 million to go back to the way that I felt in middle school. Anyway, very quickly, my weight loss got out of control and, without going into too much detail, I was subsisting on less than 300 calories per day. I lost 50 pounds in three-and-a-half months. My hair was falling out, my skin was jaundice (which means my liver wasn’t functioning properly) and I wasn’t getting my period or having bowel movements. My dad brought me to the pediatrician and he caught on to what was happening. I was suffering with anorexia nervosa.
The next several years were challenging to say the least, but, at the same time, I was so very lucky. My pediatrician, my medical doctor from North Shore LIJ (that’s where I was treated as an outpatient), a nutritionist, psychologist and psychiatrist all worked together to help me. But, two other factors were even more important in my recovery: the support of my parents who loved me and encouraged me throughout the entire ordeal and I found God. I know that I might lose some of you at “I found God,” but hear me out. When you suffer with an eating disorder, it’s not just because you went on a diet that went out of control or that you have self-esteem issues. That’s part of it, but it’s not the whole story. There is suffering there that you can really only understand if you go through it yourself. I can’t describe the pain to you because words are not sufficient enough to describe it. At that time, I just didn’t understand how there could be a God if, at such a young age, I was experiencing such pain. One day, my mom gave me a card with the Serenity Prayer on it and told me to just hold onto it. I could always say the prayer in the future. Eventually, that day came and, from then on, my healing process took on a new, brighter path. I know that my doctors played a huge part in that, but so did God.
I relapsed at 24 years old and had to go see my psychologist and a nutritionist again, but I made it a point to be strong. I prayed, I didn’t give in to my demons, and things started to get a lot better. I got my first real job as a counselor and, later that year, I met the man who would later become my husband. All of these wonderful things started to happen because I started to take care of the most important person in my life: ME! I don’t mean that in a materialistic or selfish way. It’s just that what they say is really true: If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to take care of anyone else. Good things will start to happen when you’re good to yourself.
I know that my story may really hit close to home for some of you. I want everyone who is reading this to know that there is a way. You can get healthy. You can move past this. You can and you will be happy again. This actually can make you stronger; you just have to work at it. And, as you work on things, there will be times where it’ll be so tough that you’ll want to give up. Trust me, I know. But, please don’t. There is a better, happier way to live. My mom told me that I had to take my recovery one day at a time and, if necessary, one hour at a time. Her advice really helped me back then (and it still does).
I wish you all love, happiness and health as you embark on whatever path you choose. Be strong and learn how to love yourself. It is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself and to the world. God bless.
Written By: Catherine Vitucci, SJC Staff Member
Photo By: fotonaut