“Oh shoot,” I was thinking, “I really do not want to go to this.” I was referring to the ANAD 2017 Conference in Chicago in October. Having suffered from an ED for forty years, the first twenty years bingeing and fasting or dieting, and the next twenty, bingeing and purging, I was not too keen on “exposing myself,” especially being the “dinosaur” that I knew I would be at seventy-four years of age! Also, my therapy days and purging days were far behind me now and I think subconsciously I did not want to re-visit those reminders.  But ANAD had referred me years ago to the therapist in my area who finally helped me with my ED.It was not until then that I was diagnosed with a co-morbid Major Depressive Disorder, which I had probably had since the ED began in the late 1950’s. But at that time, adolescent depression was virtually unheard of, as were EDs. So I have a very fond place in my heart for ANAD, as that phone call to ANAD, after I was an adult and married, set me on the long road to recovery.

Fast forward to this year, it was with trepidation that I attended the 2017 ANAD Conference. But I left a changed and better person. It re-invigorated me. It was like someone throwing cold ice water on my face. The Conference itself was amazing in that its level of professionalism and excellence was outstanding. But it was the content that “got to me.” It was informative, factual, raw, emotional, revelatory, sad, inspiring, hopeful. Never had I imagined SO many women – and probably men, in even more secrecy than the women – were still suffering from what I had more than half a century ago! And the stigma, the shame, still persisted. That is why I had to speak out.

I used to naively and foolishly think, “If only I didn’t have this ‘thing’, (for ED was then unnamed and unknown), life would be perfect.” Well, just by virtue of life being “life,” there is no such thing as “perfect.” There is no perfect life, perfect person, perfect relationship, perfect marriage, perfect anything! But this knowledge in itself is  very freeing! We can finally stop struggling for perfection, which will never be obtainable, and be satisfied to be just one of the human race. No, my life may not be “perfect,” my recovery not “perfect,” but it sure is a heck of a lot better than it was before!

Written by Barb Nielsen