December 3rd, 1981 – “I’d had enough. I was truly sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.”
So, after careful planning and excellent execution, I was waiting to die. I knew I had about 7 hours before anyone would return home and that would be plenty of time for the bottle of anti-depressants to take effect and end the pain that had been mounting from years of being fat, depressed, bullied, self-loathing and overwhelmed. I was 16 years old.
That morning, I feigned the flu and was very nonchalant, even light hearted, as I bid my family a good day, knowing, or at least thinking, that I would never see them again. Lucky for me, I had an urgent need for the coffee cake my mom had made that morning. My binge eating was so uncontrollable that even in the face of death, “knowing” that I was on my way to hell for killing myself, I could not resist and ate the whole cake. That’s probably what saved my life.
My little brother and his friend found me unresponsive when they came home from school that afternoon. As it commonly happens, memories get blurred over the years and I can’t recall if I heard about some of the events of that day first or second hand, but it was pretty miraculous that I survived it. My heart stopped at one point and I was in the cardiac wing for a week because of the damage. That last coffee cake binge slowed down the digestion of the pills enough to give me time to be found alive.
That almost ending became a beginning and I came out of my teen suicide attempt swinging. Perhaps I had a near death experience. I don’t recall one, but I know I died, at least for some period of time, and the fierceness of my desire to get whole after surviving the event was potent. After coming face to face with my mortality, I decided to rewrite my story.
But it wasn’t easy, and I continued to self-medicate with food. By my mid-twenties I was no longer obese, but my weight would yo-yo. As with many women, I was on the diet roller coaster and the number on the scale was the barometer of my self-acceptance.
Even though I was of “normal weight” for most of my adult life, I engaged in disordered and nonsensical behavior to manage the number on the scale. There was restricting, crazy diets, long workouts, laxatives, closet smoking and if I could had been successful at making myself vomit, there would have been that too. But, it wasn’t ever about health. Obviously…….
All of this took a toll on my mood, which was the main issue to begin with, and it wasn’t until I stopped eating meat that I began to reconcile my relationship with food. I’ve been pretty squeamish about meat since I was 8 years old. I clearly remember the Sunday dinner when in the middle of eating my steak I suddenly became concerned about where it came from and what it went through to land on my plate. That was it, I was done with steak for that day. Over my lifetime, whenever I thought about what the animal must have gone through to become my food, I had to push the meat away. So, on January 1, 2012, after years of calling myself a meat-eating vegetarian, I watched a movie that flipped the switch in my brain and stopped eating meat cold turkey (pun intended). I had to learn how to feed myself as a vegetarian. And that my friends, was the beginning of the most astonishing spiritual and physical transformation of my life. I now eat what is called a “whole food plant-based diet”. It’s the best thing I have ever done for myself. There is so much to tell you and I’ll write more about this in the future cause there are volumes to be spoken!