After 46 years with bulimia, author shows recovery is possible at any age
When Iris Ruth Pastor was a 19-year-old college student, she thought she found a secret shortcut to maintain her body shape while also developing a social standing within her school and achieving high grades. It all seemed to be working perfectly for her.
Unfortunately, that shortcut was actually a destructive eating disorder that she would be unable to shake for nearly 50 years. It would stick by her side through her career advancements as a successful journalist and author, through her marriage and birth of 5 children, and through every other up and down along the way.
In her recent book, The Secret Life of a Weight-Obsessed Woman: Wisdom to Live the Life You Crave, Pastor looks back on her decades-long experience with eating disorders as an abusive relationship. When she succeeded, it felt like her binging and purging were contributing to this success as a writer, mother, and wife. When she failed, it helped her cope.
“An eating disorder is like an unruly, disparaging lover that wreaks havoc, interlaced with moments of sheer, self-destructive ecstasy,” Pastor writes. “My life, routine, and stress levels were all wrapped around my need for him. He was what kept me coping, but also he was what kept me in a state of perpetual angst and misery.”
Pastor’s story touches on something very rarely addressed in eating disorder communities – the flashes of happiness and confidence as well as the perceived emotional support that can make it hard to “give up” an eating disorder.
“With ED by my side, I believed I could be the best version of me – as a writer wife, mother, daughter, and friend.”
However, as she shows, these short-lived pangs of “ecstasy” are surrounded by a seemingly never-ending anguish.
Even this realization was never enough for her to escape her eating disorder. It wasn’t until she had grandchildren and recognized she was living a risky lifestyle that would likely end in tragedy that she admitted she needed help.
“I had been writing, blogging and motivationally speaking for over thirty years. I had quite a legacy of work I was proud to leave my grandchildren,” she says. Even worse, she knew what alternative was likely awaiting her if she continued down her path.
“I realized that if I died in a pool of my own vomit while purging, that would be my overriding legacy. And that, for me, was intolerable.”
Most importantly, in Pastor’s eyes, was the recognition that she wouldn’t be able to beat bulimia on her own. She needed professional help and support.
“Hope is not a plan, but hope fuels a plan. So first you need hope. You can’t do it alone. So next seek professional help. If the fit is not right, keep searching until you find a professional or an eating disorder treatment centre that intuitively feels like a good fit. When you do, allow yourself to be vulnerable, nurtured, challenged and victorious”
Pastor also notes that recovery is rarely an easy path. There are setbacks and hard moments, but she encourages other sufferers to keep fighting and not give in.
“It’s important to realise that the road to recovery is made up of incremental progress,” she writes. “Small sustainable mouse steps are preferable to kangaroo leaps. Patience and self-compassion are key, but also staying resolute: meaning a dedication to getting healthy and remaining open to new ways of looking at food as fuel for the body not as something to be feared and dangerous.”
Despite living with an eating disorder for 46 years, Pastor has achieved recovery and wants others to know they can too.
“My main message is that recovery is possible at any age and at any stage.”
If you are living with an eating disorder, give Brookhaven a call at (888) 298-4673. We can answer any questions you have and help you find the best treatment option for you.