Applauds To Us Wannabe/Soon-to-be/ Mamas In ED Recovery

The moment I found out I was having my first baby I was beyond happy—my mind was on a cloud dancing, gangnam style, with my friends, the Care Bears. Anybody who longs for a child might feel this, but my joy was infused with such gratitude and relief that it is hard to put into words. I had thought I had completely ruined my body during my two decade long struggle with ED, but once I got my weight back to a healthy BMI and my period became regular, I was able to get pregnant.

“Oh my gosh, we are going to have a baby!” I shrieked, my initial reaction to seeing a positive result. I placed my hands over my mouth in disbelief. I am having a baby!

As excited as I was in that moment, once it sunk in, there was a part of me that was afraid that the weight gain would jeopardize my recovery. I’d finally found balance in my routines and eating and felt strong in my recuperation, and this was a curve ball. So here is some advice for a wannabe-mama/ mama-to-be in recovery who finds herself in a similar position:

1). How do I deal with my body changing?

I had some initial struggles with my rapid body changes: sudden huge boobs and out-of-control evolutions I had never experienced and could do nothing to affect. This is how I dealt with it. For starters, there were my half an hour workouts each day that helped keep me in shape and fueled me with “feel good” endorphins. Then there was another part of me, a much more rational and greater part that wanted a baby more than anything and knew, no matter what, I would be okay. I would make sure of it because my baby would need me to be. So if you find yourself struggling, remind yourself what is in your stomach-and why you are gaining weight in the first place–your incredible baby!

2). How do I cope with seeing the numbers go up on the scale?

Easy: Don’t look!

            When you are pregnant you are expected to gain a certain amount of weight. Every time you are at the OB’s office you will be weighed to make sure you are on track. I would advise that you stand backwards on the scale and let the professionals track your weight without you knowing. As long as you are on track, that’s all that matters. I know people without eating disorders who do this. I know that weighing myself is a trigger and I take no chances with triggers when I take into account the health of my child. That is why standing backwards and not knowing my number is a good solution for me.

It is very important to be upfront with your gynecologist about your eating disorder history and past. This may seem trivial, but with my first child, I received a document from my gynecologist with great news, but it had my weight on it, a trigger. I hadn’t seen a number in three years and I hate to admit it but that number haunted me. I couldn’t stop staring at it as the doctor was talking to me. To resolve this, I emailed my OB reminding her of my history/it would be better to not know the number as long as I am gaining healthily and the baby is doing great. She said no problem and that was that.

3). What helps you feel comfortable with your growing belly? 

The other issue I struggled with sometimes was my actual bump size/physical weight gain, not surprisingly. Sometimes I thought it looked cute, and other times I thought I looked chubby or like a “beluga whale”—more the latter honestly, which I am not proud of. I was carrying very side to side, so I just started looking pregnant around 28 weeks. I was waiting for “the bump” for so long, and once it came I was actually not that confident in it.

What helped a lot was that I had gotten a great maternity wardrobe that I felt comfortable and confident in. I would suggest everyone get clothes that fit and feel good, especially toward the end of pregnancy! It was helpful to invest in a maternity wardrobe, and it’s not a waste of money; I still wear the clothing postpartum. I also plan to have more kids, so they can definitely be recycled. It’s better to avoid all of your old clothes during this time. It can be a sting to your ego when your clothing starts to get tight and remind you that you are packing on the pounds.

4). Will I have some down days? What should I do?

Of course you will! Duh, you are human. On days when I did feel insecure about my bump, I felt guilty talking about it. If I would complain, “I was feeling huge and bad about myself,” I would be met with “but you are having a baby.” Then I would feel extremely guilty for my feelings, because yes, I was having a baby and I was extremely lucky, but on the other hand, I am allowed to feel not great about myself.

It is ironic that our need to be skinny is dictated by the media and society, but then if we have a fear of getting fat when we are pregnant, it is considered blasphemous and we are thought of as superficial. Addressing any downsides of being pregnant is frowned upon and seen as taboo, but it shouldn’t be. I bet you that most mothers-to-be have insecure days and these so-called “irrational fears.” We have to start supporting, rather than judging, one another so that we can talk about these normal fears and make one another feel better, instead of holding the feelings in.

My number one advice is talk to someone about how you are feeling (a support) and then do something to make you feel good. Go get a pedicure, a manicure, read a good book, exercise—whatever makes you feel like your best self.

 5). Will my Second baby be easier?

Okay, so surprise, I am pregnant again (almost 20 weeks). Meaning after all of these doubts, I did it again. And guess what? This time around has been much easier because I know what to expect. I am finding that the change in my body is also easier because not only have I already been through it, but also I have no time to focus on the changes this time around. I am constantly chasing around my toddler, taking her to classes, feeding her, watching her reach milestones etc. Also, the best thing about this time around is that you really know what you are getting out of it–another little person that you will love more than anything in this entire world. For that deal, I am in, maybe a couple more times (ask me a couple months after this one enters into the world. I may be bluffing…)

6). Will I relapse after baby?

These little people keep you honest. I know I will be healthy for my daughter so, in a way, she will always be keeping me honest about my recovery. I never want to hear the words “I am fat” out of her mouth. I never want her to emulate unhealthy eating habits from me. I want her to look at her mommy and want to be the confident, smart, kind individual I plan to be for her. I want her to see that intelligence and a kind heart is what real beauty is. Helping people is what beauty is. Being happy and healthy is what beauty is. The rest is bullshit. I want her to know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and not one is more perfect than the other. I want her to never compare herself to anyone. I will teach her self-acceptance because no one is perfect. It’s the world’s greatest farce.

But always make sure to contact support after the baby if you are finding yourself struggling with your postpartum body. With the stress of having a new baby, it is easy to feel like “I am not doing a good enough job” and everything is completely out of control. These times are when the disordered eating thoughts come back into my head, and I must be vigilant about shutting them down. Wanting a perfect body is hardest to resist when everything around you is so out of control. I had to remember that the size-zero jeans in my closet weren’t the key to my happiness; in fact, they made me the most miserable I had ever been. I stepped back and realized that I was only obsessing about fat because I felt overwhelmed (between balancing working from home and a new baby who needs to eat every two to three hours), and I shut the voices down. This is what you will need to do.

Also, I wasn’t able to diet to lose the weight, because dieting isn’t recommended for recovering anorexics. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted to at times. I am not sure of what my weight was before I became pregnant again, but between breastfeeding (which burns calories and helps shrink your uterus) eating healthy (intuitively), and exercising (chasing a baby is a workout when they get a bit older!) the weight seemed to come off fairly easy. I will never know if I hit my pre-baby magic number, because I didn’t get on a scale, but that’s not important to me. Also, like diets, I don’t believe in scales and obsessing about numbers. I went by how I felt. Most important, my baby was getting proper nutrition from my breast milk and gaining weight and I was strong enough to be the best version of myself for her.

            If you are questioning getting pregnant because of your ED history, know that you will be more than fine; in fact it will be the best decision you ever made. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Just because we had eating disorders doesn’t mean we won’t be amazing mothers. It means we will be strong, sensitive, caring, appreciative, aware mothers to our off spring. And for mamas out there–This mothers day every mama in recovery deserves to be celebrated, because not only are we mamas, which is a hard enough job, we were able to do something our ED told us we couldn’t and produce and care for an amazing human being. Bravo to us!

 

Hatching An Egg The Second Time Around

First of all, if you are pregnant with your second child, props because it’s work to get here! After a long day of having your toddler climbing you like you are human Monkey Bars, the last thing you want to do is be touched in any form, at least on some most days. So yes, getting to this point—high five to you! The first time around, there were countless times I wished I was a chicken and could just hatch an egg. I think we all have these wishbone moments—where we wish when cracking that chicken wishbone for this baby’s healthy eviction another route. But this time, so far being pregnant with child number two has been treating me well–besides the headaches and nausea of first trimester– but I digress to some encouraging facts I have gathered:

1). It goes by fast.

I am already 16 weeks pregnant and I feel like I took the pregnancy test yesterday…maybe I did? (Damn forgetful pregnancy brain and your momnesia ways!). My pregnancy is like the Roadrunner running away from the Tasmanian devil on Looney Tunes-fast AF. I hardly even look at my Ovia app, where last time I obsessed about my baby’s fruit and animal size. It was important when she was an avocado. This time I just think oh that will be a nice food to give my other out-of-womb-child tonight. We haven’t done avocados in a while…

2). You are too busy to think about how exhausted you are, most of the time.

I am taking my fourteen month old to classes, running after her, as she is finding her walking groove–transitioning from her crawl. We are always on the “go, go, go” as she says often, especially when she is using her walker. So yes, I am always exhausted anyway, and don’t have time to feel it until around 7-7:30 PM when my little girl closes her eyes for the night and I can just sit on the couch and veg. But let’s be real, that’s what I did every night before I was pregnant anyway.

 3). You already have maternity clothes from the first time around.

In fact, I never stopped wearing them! I am one of those freaks that love maternity clothes. Baby number one is almost fourteen months, and I just never stopped wearing them because they are so damn comfortable. It’s also not because I don’t fit into my other clothes, because I do, it’s just a comfort thing. Why would I want to squeeze into jeans when these are like jumping into butter? Exactly! They are also nice and stretched from pregnancy number one—so they are that perfect consistency of soft comfort. One bonus for working at home and being the primary caretaker for my daughter—I am going to rock my maternity for life and no one can stop me!

4). Your attitude about your body changes.

You already have stretch marks and fun pregnancy battle wounds from the first go, so it’s like bring it on to more. I struggled with eating disorders for years, but pregnancy actually did something wonderful for me. It made me realize how amazing our bodies are as women. Being pregnant actually took me from in recovery to recovered because I really treated my body like I always should have without much second thought, or at least third thought (we all have bad days!). That has continued to this day. So if I get another mark or two, bring it on because pregnancy has brought the best thing in the world into my life—my daughter.

5). You’re not as nervous, because you have already done this whole baby thing before.

You are a pro mama. At least you are no longer a virgin to this whole baby world. Throw up-bring it! More poop diaper—shit, bring that too! Pat yourself on the back mama–you got this. Now that whole multiple baby thing, let’s just not think about that…

6). You are actually looking forward to the birth.

I mean, free childcare and drugs at my disposal—it will be like a full on party!

So far, pregnancy number two has been treating me well. I will keep you posted but no wishbone moments…yet. All you mamas out there try to think of these positives. Oh and remember, in those tough moments, you have another beautiful baby on the way—double high-five to that.

The Smiling Girl In The Picture

Look at that girl in the picture. She is participating in a fourth of July talent show at summer camp with her bunkmates. Her slinky textured hair is combed back into a tight bun on top of her head, hidden by a multicolored hat. Oh, and her bunk will win, and she will jump up and down feigning excitement because really she doesn’t care about stupid drama competitions and would rather be kicking around a soccer ball. She’s kind of a secret rebel like that. She is young and seems happy based on that wide smile cementing the lower half of her face. But her teeth are a giveaway, impressionable aligned with braces, like her soul. She is molding into the person she thinks she should be—but who exactly is that? No one would know she is hurting, but she is. This young third grader is struggling with anorexia. This young girl is the surprising embodiment of mental illness. This girl was a younger version of me.

It began on the first day of sleepaway camp. I was beyond consoling and wanted only to be back home. I missed my parents and wasn’t sure who I was at camp without them. But I didn’t know how to tell anyone, to express my emotions. How would I find comfort without my mommy and daddy? At dinner, my wide brown eyes scanned the food stations and opted for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of the mac and cheese, meatloaf, hamburgers, hotdogs, and baked beans. It just all turned me off, which was odd, because I had never felt that way about food before. After the first day, I panicked in the face of all of the food choices and became known as a picky eater.

 

There was no deviation and that would impact me by the end of the summer.

I woke up to a crowd of kids and counselors surrounding me, my eyes blinking a few times before coming to. I wasn’t in the comfort of my bed at home. No! I was flat on my back on the hard floor of the camp basketball court, staring into a blinding sun in a big blue sky. Oh shit! After a short trip to the infirmary, it was decided that I needed to go to the hospital to get an IV. I was mortified that my parents would have to take a three-hour car ride to make sure I was okay. I wanted to tell them they didn’t have to—that I was fine— but I had no say in the matter. What if they figured out what caused me to end up in this state?

Three days left of camp, my first summer away–I had fainted. That little girl in the picture wasn’t just very active like the doctor’s said. She was starving. Truth was, she was always hungry, but needed her patterns and rituals much more than she believed she needed food, and her body couldn’t keep up. That girl in the picture didn’t have curves, or really think she was fat—yet. She just couldn’t eat, because that’s how she dealt with her anxiety, but no one could see her pain. They could only see the smiling girl in the picture and that was enough to mask her eating disorder for many years.

So warning, the next time you look at a picture of someone on social media, know it is just a snap shot of a moment in time. Maybe they look happy in that instant, but there could be more going on. There always is more than a picture can capture. Don’t be blind to the glossy game of make-believe that is social media. Peal away the glitz, before you look in from the outside thinking the perfect exists on the screen you are browsing. A Picture is just that-a picture. Though, of course, there are many moments and pictures of genuine happiness, that just isn’t my point. Mental illness is easily masked with a smile like the smiling girl in the picture. So no, I don’t believe the idiom a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s harder to fake words. Our generation needs to dig deeper. So let’s start digging and using more words.

Five Reasons Why Stroller Rage Is Actually A Thing

It’s strange. I was never one for road-rage. In fact if anything I was the slow-anxiety-ridden driver causing traffic and inducing fury in others. I heard my mom and sister dropping F-bombs and yelling obscenities in their respective driver seats, but I was just the innocent passenger calming them down. I swear. But put me behind a stroller and I feel rage like no other.

Here are five of the top reasons why my Bugaboo stroller makes me want to go all Destiny’s Child on someone’s a** because “You buggin me! And don’t you see it aint cool!” Don’t mess with someone who has a real life Bugaboo (bug a boo—per lyrics).

1). People have no stroller etiquette.

I live in Manhattan and we walk everywhere. As I mentioned above, I am not crazy about driving so walking is the best means of transportation for both of us. Plus, my thirteen-month-old and I get some fresh air and exercise. Trust me, it keeps us both sane! Well on these walks it’s not the easiest to get around. We try to maneuver around people, but they just don’t notice or care! I mean they mostly have headphones on their ears rocking out to music or are on their cell phones, chit chatting about such-and-such and how self-absorbed such-and-such is. Yep, really! Like, come on people we have a class to get to! Sometimes I start tailgating them, but still, people’s cognizance of the world around them seems bleak. We end up walking so slow behind a person for miles and wind up ten minutes late to wherever we are going. Thanks, slow-lady in front of me. I did admire your tall red heels though and was impressed with how you didn’t trip along the way!

I was actually in a cross walk today and this woman crosses the street and says to me excuse me, like I had anywhere to go with the stroller. We were surrounded in a snow mote on all sides! I wanted to say, “where do you want me to go?” but I held my tongue and tried to maneuver closer to the snowy left side. The woman squeezed around me, but like Stephanie Tanner used to say, how rude! Excuse yourself lady!

 2). When my daughter is fussing I have no etiquette.

When my daughter is crying or fussing and I am all “Oh no sweetie, what’s the matter?” and maneuvering to get a WubbaNub or a snack out of my diaper bag. My main focus becomes her and I may or may not run your feet over (warning!). Look it’s totally an accident. I will 100% feel bad and apologize at least five times, but shit happens. Oh, and when shit or throw up actually happens, then I need to get home ASAP (as soon as possible). This means, I am running past you, beating lights by mere seconds, and not caring at all about who or what is in my way. Sorry!

 

3). People don’t take weather into account.

My daughter and me are out let it be rain, sleet, hail or snow. Okay, maybe in a blizzard we stay in, but if we can get to class safely–we are going to give it a shot. I am a mother that needs to get out of the house or I will go insane—so we stroll in most elements. Well, in snow people are really for themselves—survival of the fittest to the extreme. This means, that they don’t let you by or help you when you are stuck. When stuck in snow, some people may gawk at you like you are a statue or exotic snowman. Observing, but not helping! I am not saying all people don’t, I have gotten a handful of kind citizens who helped us over snow piles, but most people just look at you like “lady you should have stayed inside.” Okay, and maybe I should have, I admit, but I was too far in my journey to turn back because of some snowy obstacles. Psh. Plus my daughter loves My Gym. We were stuck in one day from a blizzard already so we were going to get there. Dammit.

4). Because mommy’s don’t get enough sleep and work too hard.

Okay, it’s not right of me to play the mommy card, but I am going to do it. We work way too hard to not have some pent up aggression. Give a dirty look to a mommy who just wants to get her baby home to change her diaper and she will want to scratch your eyeballs out. That may be extreme, she may just threaten it and think about it–a lot. We work too hard, chasing our baby’s around all day, making sure they have everything—putting them first, and then you are messing with us mamas. Hell to the no!

5). Because we love our baby’s too much.

It’s part of nature. Mothers protect their young. Mother bears protect their cubs. Geese protect their flock. So I will kung fu your a** if you give my daughter any bit of side eye. According to David Wolfe, female alligators even create nests of rotting organic material. Once the nest has been created, the mother alligator will guard her eggs from all sorts of threats before placing them in her mouth once they hatch and caring for them over the next year. Talk about helicopter parents! We all are protective, even scary alligators! So give me a break, I just love my little girl more than anything! Okay?! It’s in my birthing blood.

So the next time you see a mother or father pushing their young along, be aware and be kind! Trust me, it will be appreciated. If not, you put yourself at risk. I have warned you, stroller rage is real AF!

 

 

 

 

 

My Daughter The WWE Wrestler

When I was a little girl, I used to cuddle up with my dad on Sunday night like clockwork. My curly brown hair resting on his chest, legs sprawled out on the couch, eyes locked on the television in front of us. I would get ready all day, playing with my wrestling figurines, making them attack each other—you know, normal little girl behavior. I was getting ready for Hulk Hogan to come out to Eye of the Tiger and to get my Hulkamania on! While admiring those outfits–the speedos with emphasis on washboard abs and fake tans—man, those pre-Trumpian tans. We all should have known and waved our American flags in defeat then–God Bless America.

Hands down no one can fake beat-up a person better than Hulk Hogan and his pro-wrestler pose. That was my takeaway. I’d feign interest to hang with my dad, but it was good times!

Well my daughter has a future in wrestling. I can sense it. Just the other day I was hanging in her crib with her—again, totally normal mommy-daughter behavior. We were like Snoop Dog and his gang rapping with all of our WubbaNubs in her crib until we dropped them like they were hot. And those WubbaNubs get fire hot. Anyway, when we were done throwing Wubbas, I lay down and kablam she pounced on my face like a cheetah and screamed ahhh. Maniac.

“Wow, Viv, or I should call you, Viv The Destroyer. What do you think of your wrestling alter ego?” I said tickling her tummy, until she exploded into that adorable baby giggle that makes my heart melt like a Popsicle in hot weather. One day, she will suppress an eye roll at the mention of her wrestling name. Actually, her new alter ego will probably be a moody AF hormonal teen girl. With that thought, I should take full advantage of this moment with my Destroyer–another tickle to that roly-poly tummy.

Back to her rising career, she’s Viv The Destroyer, because she wreaks destruction on every–WubbaNub, Mama, Bah bah– in her path. Toys, beware! Viv is going to push you over and say “ahhh” or “bahh” or something to claim her victory.

She is a wrestler all about body positivity too. She stands proudly in her pampers diapers, all rolls exposed, and takes on her victims in all her sumo-wrestler glory. Smash, there goes victim number one a small basketball hoop. Boom, victim number two a little car. These are the moments when you hope Doc McStuffins and Toy Story are totally wrong or these toys are going to come back filled with revenge instead of batteries and stuffing in their insides.

I hope my daughter and husband can uphold the Sunday night ritual or at least a tradition of their own where her head will be on his chest, legs sprawled out on the couch, eyes locked on the television in front of her. Or hey, maybe we will be watching her kicking more than stuffed animal tush in the ring one day. In that case, just a word of warning, watch out Bella Twins and the WWE Diva Champions my little girl is coming for you. She learned to SmackDown in diapers.

ED Will Never Ever Be My Valentine’s Date Again

Gosh, relationships. Hard enough before you have a third party involved. If you watch Sister Wives, you know what I am talking about. If you are in a relationship while having an eating disorder it’s like having an ménage à trois, because the eating disorder voice is always there, looming, as the third party in the relationship. You can’t just focus on the two of you, because that third party is constantly pulling at your heartstrings, like a puppet master, causing complete havoc.

Since I have never been one for a three way–I guess I am just not that kinky, but power to you if you are—when I was struggling with ED (short for “eating disorder,” which was coined by author and eating disorder survivor, Jenni Schaefer, in Life Without ED) he was the only thing I had time for. We were exclusive to each other, a monogamous duo. We had the talk many times.

He was romantic at times. On Valentine’s Day he pulled out all the stops, triggering bulimia, a special peanut butter binge-he knew it was my favorite–followed by an epic purge. He was thoughtful like that, knowing this was what an ideal date night for me would consist of–no one knew me, the ins and outs of my mind, quite like my eating disorder.

At times I did try to date. I made a profile and joined the ranks of New York dating singles on JDate and Match.com. At the time those were the big ones. It was difficult for me to take any “blind” date situation seriously. I felt like a caricature of myself out on these dates. I could never take these meet-ups as more than a joke—that would mean I would have to face being rejected or, worse, let someone in and get my heart broken. My eating disorder kept me safe, so I stuck tightly by his side.

For four years during the peak of my self-destruction, he was my everything. He was the only one I had time for because he was extremely demanding. He was bossy, actually verbally and physically abusive. He told me to workout, that my butt was too flabby. Sometimes he would tell me to workout for three hours on the elliptical in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep. He told me not to eat anything all day except for a lean cuisine meal around dinnertime. He told me to wear baggy clothes to mask my shrinking frame. He told me how to order laxatives without people knowing (online—duh!). He taught me so many tricks, he taught me everything I knew. We were so co-dependent that I thought we merged into one. I forgot who I was.

Six months into recovery, was the first time I was able to let someone besides ED into my life. A year and a half later we were married. I finally started to peal away who Dani was without her eating disorder—what she really liked, didn’t like, and most importantly how she felt. I became the real me, not the me I felt pressure to be or who constantly believed I wasn’t good enough. Because you know what I am more than good enough, thank you very much!

My husband, he was not my cure-all, by any means. I am in no way saying that a ring and a wedding cured my eating disorder or made me well, because it didn’t. What I am saying is that because I was happy and healthy enough, mentally and physically, to let myself be vulnerable, the conditions for true connection were set.

So this Valentine’s Day I will be celebrating, four years eating disorder free, with my husband and my 11-month old daughter by my side. We will be at home, in our pajamas, eating takeout and speaking baby babble with food absolutely everywhere—and it will be perfect. I couldn’t even imagine this life years ago, but now I wouldn’t even want to take a peek back out of curiosity. Recovery has brought me this perfectly imperfect spaghetti-and-tomato-sauce-in-the-hair filled image of Valentine’s Day and as challenging and sometimes messy as it will be—I couldn’t picture it any other way. I will cheers to my recovery, with a spaghetti noodle from my hair, for giving me the guts to get rid of my abusive boyfriend—ED.

 

 

This Is Not A Choice

“Why can’t you just eat?” Such a simple question with such a complex answer.

Trust me, when I was at my lowest weight and struggling with anorexia, I knew I looked sickly. I just couldn’t get myself to eat. It wasn’t that easy. That is the biggest misconception about anorexia; that if you just eat, you will get better. Great, if it was just that easy! Eating is against everything you believe, especially when it is ingrained into your DNA not to.

Similarly when I was trying to recover through the Maudsley approach, family based treatment; I couldn’t help but slip with laxatives a couple of times. It was like a force was pulling me towards them like I was in some kind of magical trance. My parents didn’t understand. One time it got really bad. I didn’t respond well—we all didn’t respond well.

I was about halfway through my Maudsley refeeding at twenty-six—I know, it was rough-when my mom found natural laxatives I’d bought in one of the drawers in the computer room at my parents house. I was staying there for a couple of months to avoid inpatient treatment, while working with an eating disorder therapist, and other experts. I had compartmentalized the laxatives as not being a problem. I mean I was gaining weight, eating, doing everything else right. Can’t I be getting better but still abusing laxatives at the same time? I wondered. I know the answer to that now, but just humor me for a moment.

I had tried to justify them to myself when I sneakily bought them because they were “natural” laxatives. Natural meant they were acceptable in my mind—wrong! My mom called my dad when we were on the way home from work and angrily told him what she discovered. He yelled at me for being deceitful.

“All you do is lie to me. I can’t trust you! How could you lie to me?” he roared, his lower teeth overtaking his upper lip like a shih tzu, which was intimidating as fuck—not like the cute little teacup shih tzus I was familiar with.

“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to—” I said biting my lip hard, tears forming in my shameful eyes.

“You mean, you didn’t mean to get caught! Your mother and I have been busting our assess trying to get you better, and this is how you repay us. You are so ungrateful.”

I swear he had such force in his voice that the car shook with its booming vibrato. He never knew how to handle his emotions, especially over things he couldn’t control. He wanted to scare the shit out of me, scare the anorexia and bulimia out of me, so I wouldn’t do it again. Though that wasn’t going to help. He didn’t understand how powerful this addiction was. He didn’t understand that the last thing I wanted to do was lie to him, to my mom. It wasn’t about trust. I had a problem. I was an addict.

I cried all the way home as he expressed his disappointment in me as a person, even more hurtful, as his daughter. We got home, and as we pulled in, I saw the outline of my mom at the door peering out: her long brown locks, medium-height lanky body, and long skinny arms. How would I get around her without talking to her? My dad’s screams were all blending together as the intensity seemed to decrease, and all I could hear were the same words over and over again “disappointment” and “unappreciative.”

I opened the car door and slithered out like a rattlesnake making its escape, slammed the door shut behind me, and ran past my mom up the back stairs and hid. Yes, you read that correctly, I hid. I didn’t want them to belittle me anymore. I couldn’t take it. Through the vents, I could hear them talking, but only in murmurs. Then they shouted for me: “Dani! Dani!” I stayed in my hiding spot, paralyzed. I felt like a little girl hiding from her spanking.

I hid in a closet in my room under hanging clothes, squishing old shoes with my butt and legs for what seemed like a long time. I whimpered but tried to stay as quiet as possible. It was hot and dark with a little light peeking through the bottom. I saw the backs of dresses from when I was younger. One was dark maroon. I recognized it as the dress I wore to my bat mitzvah. I placed my fingers on it and felt the texture; it felt hard, almost stale. I looked at a suitcase above me where I used to hide laxatives, now I was hiding for them. I was hiding because I was so addicted to them, to my habits, that I couldn’t stop myself from using them. I’d reached a new low. I was sitting in my childhood closet hiding from the world.

I heard my mom calling in echoes. “Dani, Dani! Is this a joke? Where are you?” I heard her faint footsteps far away.

My dad chiming in: “Did she leave the house?”

I heard the front door open and slam close.

Tucked quietly away, I let them panic for a bit. I let them squirm the way I had been squirming these past couple of months, tiptoeing around them, trying everything to please them, following their every order so I wouldn’t be hospitalized. Somehow, in this moment, this felt so much worse than the worst punishment I could think of. I wanted to get even with them in a way. I resented my dad’s reaction; I resented my mom for busting me the way she did. She could have just waited until we both got home, instead of making me get stuck in a car with someone who saw this as the ultimate betrayal.

“You are going to be in big trouble whenever you come out!” I heard my dad scream. Not exactly motivation for me to move. I closed my eyes and tried to slow my breathing, hoping the walls from the closet would close in and suffocate me, end it all right now, right here . . .

“Dani, please, we are not mad at you,” my mom countered his lunacy. Her panicked voice made me feel a little bad.

About ten minutes in hiding, I opened the closet door from the inside, revealing myself. I picked myself up slowly, gaining balance on my two feet and feeling weak and defeated as I shouted, “I’m here, I’m here.” I realized that my voice was in a whisper and not the shout I intended it to be. “I’m here. I am coming!” I screamed again, and this time it was actually louder.

I walked down the front stairs and found them both in the kitchen.

When I saw their faces, I apologized through broken whimpers and tears. My parents both embraced me. I snuggled into my dad’s chest, hiding my face and tears in the warmth of his body. I cried for my parents. I cried for myself. I cried because I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I just cried.

I wish all of us had responded differently. There were a lot of emotions. It was one of the hardest times in all of our lives. My dad didn’t know anything from eating disorders. He thought I chose not to eat. He never heard of anyone being addicted to something like laxatives. But now every year at the NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) walk, my dad stands right by my side listening to the speakers; his unblinking eyes release tears that roll along the contour of his chin and down his neck. Now, he is my biggest advocate and understands how difficult this illness is. He is proud of me, of all the people that beat this. He knows this is not a choice.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or refer to the resources page