Follow Your Bliss

Blog covering: Love, sex, motherhood, drug addiction, self-worth, body image, feminism, sexual orientation and activism.

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FROZEN: A Story About Fertility

rena-strober-egg-789x526Guest writer Rena Strober on freezing her eggs and starting a conversation

 

[Editor’s note: With Nora Ephron-esque comedic flair, Rena Strober takes heart-wrenching choices and makes them funny! There are many ways to be a mother and various avenues into motherhood. This week, Strober lets us witness her unfolding journey. Enjoy!]

By Rena Strober

Another Mothers’ Day has come and gone. What did I get for this holiday celebrating motherhood? Nothing. It was just another day when I didn’t receive anything from my six frozen eggs, tucked comfortably in a fertility freezer in Encino. I don’t mean to sound needy, but I do check in on them from time to time, and I have made sure they’re sung to sleep to the Frozen soundtrack four times a week. And I do pay their rent! A little gratitude isn’t too much to ask for, is it?

Technically, I’m not a mother of children, but I like to consider myself a mother of other things: I mother my career, I mother a basil plant I recently bought at Trader Joe’s and I mother that spider I didn’t kill in my shower on Tuesday. Instead I let him remain on the empty bottle of body wash where I assume he was reading about the all-natural ingredients. Only a good mother would offer organic body wash. And his life.

But over the past few years, the pang of wanting to mother a child hits me multiple times a week. It hits me as I teach seven-year-old children to sing. It hits me at 4:54 AM when I’m up contemplating all my life’s choices. And it definitely hits me when my niece asks “Auntie Rena, why don’t you have kids?” (Why are kids so honest!?)

Two years ago, I had been sitting in LA traffic when NPR aired a show featuring a book about women in their 30s who were dating the wrong men and rushing motherhood before they were ready. I pulled my car over next to the La Brea Tar Pits and listened intently to every word. I was in my mid-30s; I always knew NPR was for liberals like me, but this time I felt like Terry Gross was talking directly to me.

A girl from my weekly Happy Hour group is the anesthesiologist for a well-known fertility doctor; after three $5 glasses of Chardonnay one night, she told me it was time. The next day I made an appointment with Dr. Boostenfar at HRC Fertility. Mostly because his name made me giggle, but I had also heard amazing things about him.

What’s worse than a first date from JDate? An initial evaluation with a fertility specialist. I bit my nails and picked my polish off because of nerves. What if I found out I can’t have kids, that my eggs are already fried and the only way to enjoy them is in a breakfast burrito? I feared that, although people assume I’m 27, my insides are truer to my real age. Which is, let’s just say, higher.

So I did what I could do: I made sure I looked extra young that day. On my way to the doctor, I listened to the Disney Pandora station and belted out “Part of Your World” (from “The Little Mermaid”) and “Chim Chimminy” (from “Mary Poppins”); I pulled my hair into a pony tail, put on an ironic hip t-shirt from Los Feliz and grabbed pink lip gloss from CVS. Maybe my outsides could trick my insides into looking younger too.

“Wow, you don’t look your age, Rena,” the doctor commented before the exam. “But let’s get in there and see how healthy you are and if you’re a candidate for egg freezing.”

I never thought I’d never find a position more uncomfortable than first date sex but then I had my first ultrasound…without the dinner and drinks. My robe was shapeless and opened in the front, my legs were spread in the most ungraceful position and this “nice doctor” was in no way looking for a “nice Jewish girl.”

After poking around a lot, Dr. B. spoke. “Oh, actually, you look your age on the inside.” What was he doing, counting the rings? Ok, this dose of reality – that although I could act and dress younger, my reproductive organs would tell their own story – shot me into panic mode. “I want to do this, and do this as soon as possible,” I realized. We scheduled my procedure for three weeks later.

The hardest thing to swallow about this whole process was the ”egg-surance” – the extraction and the storage is not cheap, and as an actor in LA, I didn’t have thousands of extra dollars sitting in a savings account. But I did have plenty of chutzpah.

The most expensive part of the process is paying for the medication: $4,000 for the hormones and shots. And so, I turned to the network of women I had collected over the years.

I put together an email telling my personal story of wanting to be a mother but not being in the right place in my life to do it. I spoke of egg freezing and how it has come so far. I then asked that if anyone had leftover fertility medication or knew anyone who had recently been through IVF and that I would trade a personal song and/or latte for whatever drugs they had.

What happened next was nothing short of a Hannukah miracle. The 25 emails turned into 50 which turned into 250, forwarded around the country. All of a sudden I was getting emails from strangers, women who connected to my story and wanted to help.

The next weekend I set out with a Starbucks card and and open heart and made my way around Los Angeles collecting needles, Follistum, Menopur and even alcohol pads. Each door I knocked on led to 20 minutes of honest chat with women about their fertility experiences. Some of these amazing women found success – we talked as a baby sat on the floor next to us. Others never got pregnant but were happy to share their leftover drugs with me. It was a beautiful, deep, feminine bond like none I’ve ever known.

Two weeks later I started with the shots; six days after that, I had six little eggs gently removed from my ovaries and placed in a freezer in Encino.

For the past two Mothers’ Days, as I ordered roses for my own mom, I sat and thought about my eggs– my tiny chances or ”Olafs,” as I like to call them – sitting in a freezer and waiting for the thaw.

Perhaps I’ll use them soon, or maybe they’ll remain frozen forever. But either way, I feel so good about my decision. And beyond my personal experience and because of it, I believe now more than ever that it’s time that fertility and the advances in modern reproductive science become part of our daily conversation. If nothing else, it brings women closer together and for that I am grateful.

This story first appeared at Grok Nation.
MG_7738Rena Strober is a native New Yorker currently living and working in Los Angeles. She made her Broadway debut in Les Miserables and went on to perform on and Off-Broadway for a decade. Some shows included Fiddler on the Roof, Beauty & The Beast, Reefer Madness, Bat Boy and more. She is currently recurring on Disney’s “Liv & Maddie” and has guest starred on “Shameless,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Adult Swim.” Rena is also well known for her voice work on Disney’s “Penn Zero,” “Ever After High,” “Sailor Moon” and dozens of video games including Fire Emblem Fates, Republique and Zero Escape. When she’s not working as an actor, Rena teaches voice at the Academy of Music for the Blind and is their director of Outreach. Learn more about Rena at: www.renastrober.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets

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What Is Privacy In This No-Privacy New World?

By Darrah Le Montre

I grew up in a family that said, “I love you,” a lot. Everyday. I love you was a truth, an apology, an afterthought, a team drill and an aside. My idea of love was so skewed for so long. Despite being told I was loved, I was also yelled at, ridiculed, hit, neglected and my voice and needs were diminished.

There are many adages in program that help me. “Easy Does It”, “One Day At A Time,” “This Too Shall Pass,” but the one most reflective of my adolescent life and my years as an addict is this one: You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets.

I grew up in a family that was hyper-private and there were many secrets. Because of the unhealthiness and addictions, the way our family presented itself to the public versus what was really going on in the inner dynamic were two very different things.

In my recovery from eating disorders and drug addiction, I came to know that we are only as sick as our secrets.

My older sister recently wrote to me out of the blue and asked me to limit what I write about her in my essays on this blog. Unfortunately, I’m only able to do that within the confines of what would put her in danger—as I won’t censor myself. I made that decision a long time ago.

As a result of her request, I have to walk the fine line of trying to make a compassionate decision toward her while also respecting my own needs (which were rarely acknowledged or met in my alcoholic home). I also have to be certain I’m not trying to control her or get back at her for things that happened when we were kids.

I am currently crafting a response back to let her know that part of my healing process is writing about my experience in our home. Now, this is from my point of view, obviously. As we all know, there is our perspective, the other person’s perspective and the truth. I don’t kid myself to think I remember things exactly as they were. Only as I am.

The letter from her got me thinking… while I don’t want her to have anxiety or uneasiness about what I write, I can’t make the promise that she wants. And I don’t feel it’s selfish, I feel it’s evolved. It’s a tough decision on my part.

Part of the reason I feel confidently about telling her ‘no’ is because of my own process of releasing my attachment to how I feel about how other people feel about me. Another slogan in program is “What other people think about you is none of your business.” I’ve intentionally surrendered so much around what I’m OK with people saying or knowing about me. In fact, I’d rather be the one to just lay down the cards and admit “these are the things I’ve done” and thus others don’t have the power over me to reveal seeming secrets. Fearlessness is a powerful tool. Being unafraid of judgment is dynamic.

In an effort to put my money where my mouth is… The two most embarrassing acts I did while in my speed addiction are: I went to the bathroom next to a tree at a public park during the middle of the day in plain view of passersby. 2) I changed my pad in the passenger seat of my then-boyfriend’s truck at a gas station in front of his cousin.

These memories make me feel a mixture of sheer horror and odd reverence. I was so fucked up I just didn’t give AF. I was also in a weird space of irreverence about the world. I was angsty and young (eighteen) and rebellious and pushing the limits on acceptable behavior.

But, I’d rather you hear it from me than an old drug buddy!

In a way, I feel lucky that I grew up in an era predating social media. The lessons my daughter will learn will be steeper in some ways because everything is recorded for a sick kind of humiliating and fraternal posterity now. There are no photos or videos or Snapchat’s of me pissing aside a tree. But, there are memories that grow fecund in the vacuum of our minds, and I suppose, sometimes that’s even more dangerous.

I know that my teenage and early-20s drug addiction and eating disorders were a result, in part, of my formative years and the home I grew up in. For better or for worse, my parent’s choices affected my three siblings and me. So did my choices. My behavior and repeated choice to use drugs and run around with shady people was difficult for my parents. I have compassion for them.

In a way, I wouldn’t mind if my mother wrote about what it was like to have a teenage drug addict living in her home. At least I would feel seen. I would feel she was processing through an important chapter in our shared lives. I would feel like it actually happened. But, she is still in her own addictions. And if she did write something, I fear it would be in spite and I would not be handled with kid gloves.

And, I guess that’s what we all want. To be treated with gentleness. So I will do the best I can with my sister, while still maintaining my boundaries. After all, I’ve learned to treat myself with the softness that I always wanted. And to allow people into my life who will treat me with fragility. Not because I’m weak. Because I’m strong enough to admit that I need love to be a verb and not just something you are told before bedtime.

…Follow Your Bliss xoxo


Did you find this post insightful or interesting? Have your own thoughts on Family, Addiction & Privacy? Leave your comment below. 

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RELATED: Saying Goodbye To My Eating Disorder

RELATED: This Is What Dating An Alcoholic Is Like

RELATED: From Sex Addict to Monogamous Mom: A love junkie finds true love

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Darrah Le Montre is a writer and journalist and devoted mom. Her work has been published by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, The Fix and nudie blog SuicideGirls.

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Darrah’s Facebook Fan Page!

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I’m super-excited to share that my Facebook fan page for this blog has reached over 2,200 fans! I’m so blessed to have such a robust & charming readership as you guys! Seriously. Not only do you read my work, but you comment and send love and unique and interesting and thought-provoking ideas my way. I’m very lucky to have ♥YOU!♥

I made a video blog to Thank You for being a part of my Facebook family. If you aren’t yet a member of my fan page, please visit & hit like! Also, sign up for Darrah’s Insider Club in the box to your right. You’ll get an email when I post new blogs! :)

Sending Love!
Darrah xoxo

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Jungle Book Premiere — Red Carpet Pics

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Darrah at the Jungle Book Premiere at the El Capitan Theatre

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Mitchell Lieb, Pres. of Music/Soundtracks for Disney (Far Left), Elizabeth Sherman, Original Jungle Book Songwriter Richard Sherman (Center), Lola Debney (Score Coordinator & wife of Jungle Book composer John Debney), Darrah

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Darrah & Lola Debney

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Jungle Book Red Carpet Photos — El Capitan Theatre

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Darrah Hits Vegas!

Hi My Lovely Readers!

I had lots of fun visiting Las Vegas recently, staying at the Wynn Hotel! I did a li’l video blog to share a bit about my journey! And, below is a pic Richard took on our way to dinner at Mr. Chow. I unearthed that black dress from the recesses of my closet, having forgotten it existed! It’s pretty cute, right? :) The second pic is in this gorgeous topiary exhibit in the Wynn lobby.

Sending Love,

Darrah

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Photo Gallery — Darrah Modeling at Petit Ermitage

IMG_3739I had the joy of seeing an old friend, Toledo, and spending four hours on the rooftop pool of the coolest L.A. hotel, Petit Ermitage. We smoked cigarettes (I know! Le Sigh) and gushed about everything that’s been going on in our lives for the past few years. I just love him. We always seem to get into trouble together. (Proof.)

Old friends are the best! They know you better than anybody, and you have no explaining to do. You can go in and out of seeing each other, and those rhythms are almost expected. The ebbs & flows of friendship. When you do hang out, it’s like no time has passed! He’s such a creative soul. The link to his femme fatale cabaret is at the bottom of this entry.

Anyway, as you can see, we had a lot of fun shooting together once again. These were totally spontaneous and other than a couple filters, I’ve done zero retouching.

***Here’s the fun part: There are even more saucy and too-sexy-to-post images that you can see of Darrah modeling… BUT they’re for Subscribers Only! So, if you sign up for my free e-newsletter called “Darrah’s Club,” you will have the rest of the images made available to you! Below this post, enter your name and email address (we never spam, don’t worry!) and you’ll have the opportunity to salivate at some seriously sexy imagery.

Thanks for being a reader of Follow Your Bliss! Feel free to leave your comments below and Visit Often!

XOXO Darrah
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Photographer: Toledo Diamond
Location: Petit Ermitage

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This Is What Dating An Alcoholic Is Like

Hi friends, my article “This Is What Dating An Alcoholic Is Like” was published in one of the biggest recovery blogs today. I would love it if you would read it and leave comments in their site, as this is my *debut* for The Fix. They had me add a couple paragraphs to the original story, so those that have read this article will have newness. I’m excited about sharing this with the world and I really appreciate your support! Please share this with anybody that it might help. XO ♥ Thanks!

This is What Dating an Alcoholic is Like

By Darrah Le Montre  04/14/16

My attraction to addicts is uncanny—I joke that I can find a room filled with 100 people and instantly be drawn to the ones with a drinking problem.

This is What Dating an Alcoholic is Like

via Darrah Le Montre 

Growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent is a unique kind of rough. As a child, you love this person so intensely and are so dependent on them. Then there’s the inevitable fact that they are emotionally incapable of demonstrating their love in a way that will seep into your bones the way kids need it to. There’s a merry-go-round quality about the systems and functions and habits that occur in an alcoholic home. Soon enough, that merry-go-round becomes a hamster wheel and even after you’ve grown up and moved out, you still run races you’ll never win. And ache for a love deep down in the recesses of your being–in that unfillable void–that you’ll do anything to feel OK and thus you reach out for stuff: people, food, money, status, drugs, anything. Including more alcoholics to love you better.

When I was 18, I moved in with an alcoholic/addict who was verbally abusive and a perpetual cheat. He convinced me I was special and different and I was so desperate to get out of my house, that I shacked up with him and his mother in a two-bedroom apartment in Canoga Park. I was a drug addict and I had recently lost my virginity with him. I was vulnerable in a way that I’ve never been again. I also realized that my asexual tendencies at that time—which resulted from my troubled home-life coupled with sexual orientation shame and simply being a late bloomer—could be quelled by alcohol. I’ve never had a problem with alcohol like I have with drugs, except that I have used it on several occasions as an emotional crutch.

To read the rest of the article, visit THE FIX.

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Saying Goodbye to My Eating Disorder

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Written By: Darrah Belle

Edited By: Megan Granger

When I was eight or nine years old, my mother and older sister were cleaning out the refrigerator when Mom stumbled on a box of éclairs from a deli near our Tarzana house. She called out to me. I bounded into the kitchen and took note of her outstretched hands, the pink box resting atop her lily-white fingers. Those hands gave me everything I needed and many things I didn’t.

“These are old,” she said, in that critical but questioning tone she’d mastered. “Want any?”

The implication was that I should say no.

I said, “Sure!”

What happened next was something I’d never experienced before and certainly wouldn’t again in front of anybody. I started wolfing down the chocolate and cream and wet dough like a hungry savage beast. The more I ate, the less satisfied I felt and the more I sought to fill that insatiable void. My fingers were gooey, my mouth obscured by chocolate icing. I was in a zombielike trance, unaware of the peering eyes burning holes into my wild disembodied young self.

“Darrah!” my mother finally exclaimed. I froze. I looked up. The ultra-judgmental and shocked gazes of both my sister and my mother met my eyes. I snapped out of whatever ferocious haze I’d just been in and ran into my bedroom, mortified.

About a year later, I began acting. I begged my parents to let me act. In fact, I scribbled on a piece of paper, If I don’t act, I’ll die!!!!!!! and showed it to them. My mother hastily exclaimed, “Oh, god forbid! Bite your tongue. And stop being so dramatic! Go wash your hands for dinner.”

It always frustrated me when my parents told me I was too dramatic—both because being an actress seemed a fitting occupation for a drama queen and because it allowed them to take no responsibility when I had an emotional reaction to my father’s verbal abuse.

My Grandfather & I

My Grandfather & I

I began my short-lived acting career in regional musical theater at a dance studio in Encino. The studio offered a summer performing arts camp called “Paradise.” I snagged the role of Annie in Annie and Frenchie in Grease. (They changed her named to Bubbles to remove any allusion to French kissing. We were ten or eleven, after all. . . .)

I first felt the pressure to diet around that time. I was always about ten pounds overweight—not enough to be considered fat but enough to be seen as having “baby fat” or be called chubby. My mother and aunt were and are perpetually dieting. My mom is still complaining about her weight. She’s semiretired and has miraculously birthed four children from that body (which, at five foot five, has never weighed more than 140 pounds). There’s no use in arguing. She insists she’s fat.

My mother suggested I lose ten pounds before the play. I asked, “How?” She told me to eat mostly fruits and veggies and only what she gave me, nothing else, which meant no more of my favorite food pairing: potato salad and Cup O’ Noodles. I told her I didn’t want to do that.

“Well, you won’t lose weight then,” she said.

“I don’t want to lose weight,” I said.

It turned out that three hours of jazz, tap, and ballet, and voice lessons several times a week were enough to melt away those pesky pounds. But after the summer I regained them.

In grade school, I was sort of a latchkey kid. The youngest of four children, I was impossibly close to my mother. Unfortunately, she worked full-time out of the house to help pay the bills while my father worked at home, nonstop, and couldn’t stand us. He was irritable and angry most of the time and always seemed on the verge of a total breakdown.

I’ve always been forgetful. I repeatedly forgot my house key, and though my dad was often running work-related errands (he sold tropical fish and reptiles) he was more often home and didn’t want to deal with his kids. I can’t count how many times I played alone in the backyard for hours at the end of my fourth-grade school day. He wouldn’t answer the front door even if he was home. Sometimes he would stand at the screen door and chastise me for forgetting my key. “How many times have I told you to remember your key? Why is it so hard to take your key in the morning? Stay out there! You’ll learn!”

I’d jump on the swing that he’d put up between two trees. It slanted to the left when I kicked my legs out and sent me levitating over the barbeque, the crank on the grill hitting and bruising my bare legs. I figured he’d done that on purpose.

There was a hollow tree stump in our backyard that I used to pee in.

By seventh grade I was out of my awkward phase and dying to be popular. I woke up super early the first day of junior high school and foraged through Seventeen for tips on making new friends. I was destined to be popular. I had to be popular. I would be popular. By any means necessary.

Pippi Longstocking for Halloween

Pippi Longstocking for Halloween

Regardless, I was a total geek in seventh grade, and during the summer I did geeky things like ride my bike and play with the neighborhood kids.

When I hit thirteen, not unlike the girls in the movie Thirteen, I was suddenly confronted with boobs, attention, and opportunities—boys, sex, weed, backstabbing friends, and bat mitzvah season.

While it should have been fun and festive, bat mitzvah season ended up being a hypercompetitive stretch wherein girls trashed each other’s dresses and compared cleavage and period start dates.

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I didn’t have good ways to process all the feelings I was having. My grandmother was dying of AIDS from a botched blood transfusion she’d received in 1982. My mother’s drinking problem had become obvious to even casual observers. My father threw outrageous public fits. My brothers, who served as occasional buffers to the madness, were soon graduating and moving out of the house. Sharing a room with my sister had become unbearable. Although claiming to be Christian, she was starting physical fights with me when no one was looking.

Me & My Oldest Brother.

Me & My Oldest Brother

At school there were girls who looked like gazelles. Impossibly tall and gaunt, those girls were my idols. I stopped eating anything but carrots and water in an effort to look like them—especially one gazelle named Mariana.

Carrots and water. Carrots and water. Carrots and water.

Worse yet, my parents knew about it. They mocked me. My father told me I was starting to look like a boy. I declined food. I skipped dinners. I packed paltry lunches. I was happy when my mother got drunk at restaurants, because she wouldn’t notice that I didn’t eat a thing.

When I was thirteen and a half, I got mono and then shingles. The doctor said my immune system was worn from stress (that is, if I was “telling the truth” about not kissing any boys). Algebra was the culprit. It’s true! Math gave me mono. But so did not eating enough for my immune system to battle the stress symptoms. I got skinnier than Mariana and the other gazelles.

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My clavicles cut through my skin. My pajamas hung like drapery. That summer, I got my period. I felt older and more mature. I was ready to make my own decisions.

I studied Slim-Fast commercials and soon after began a modified Slim-Fast diet. I ate cereal for breakfast, a Slim-Fast shake for lunch, and an apple for a snack, and most nights I skipped dinner or else picked at the sides (rice, veggies).

Every dinner was a boxing match between my father and whomever he chose to spar with that evening. Most nights it was my brother, sometimes my mom. And while it was rarely me or my sister pinned to the ropes, I developed a raging stomach ache from eating anything with my father at a dinner table. Even the thought of it troubled me. Nobody wanted to sit next to him. He criticized everything—the way you ate, the way you breathed, the way you answered questions, the way you didn’t.

Watching the people you love cruelly ridiculed every day by the person who’s supposed to love them most does some really weird shit to your brain.

Despite my father’s overwhelming disciplinarian role, both my parents elevated my status in the home. Probably because I was the youngest and most free-spirited and vivacious, I was often in the spotlight. The paradox of being both silenced and put on a pedestal has haunted me since youth.

For example, after my father slapped me across the face in front of the neighbors one afternoon as punishment for ditching school, I told my mother that he was no longer in charge of disciplining me. If he hit me again I would leave the house. That was the last time he hit me. Unfortunately, he continued to attack my brothers so viciously that he once broke a guitar over my oldest brother’s head. We laugh about it now, our voices shaking with audacious disbelief.

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Last Year of Junior High School – Made It Out Alive!

By high school, I had become quite shy. I was tiny and wore thrift-store clothes circa 1969. My mom ironed butterfly patches on my butterfly-collared brown long-sleeved shirts and tattered Levis. I was a total loner.

Oddly, my sister, who was a senior, reported one day that the quarterback of the football team wanted to meet me. I was ditching an elective and visiting her in her psych class. Unfortunately, this private conversation occurred within earshot of her classmates waiting for the bell to ring.

“No,” I said.

The idea of dating a football player was foreign and frightened me.

“Why?” she asked.

“I don’t want to,” I said.

The entire class scoffed.

Why on earth would a girl not want to date the QB of the football team at Chatsworth High School?

I flipped my waist-length dark red hair, put on my yellow-tinted sunglasses, and trotted out. My face was flushed; my hands were shaking. Despite feeling invisible, I was seen and heard by those around me, and that was scary as hell. I fantasized about disappearing.

The success I’d had with dieting through tenth and eleventh grade landed me in a doctor’s office more than once and finally earned me a diagnosis of anorexia.

The evening of the diagnosis, my father broke down my unlocked bedroom door and said that if I didn’t eat he would send me to a hospital and I wouldn’t graduate high school.

“Put a fork in your mouth and eat!” He screamed. “It’s easy!”

He told my mother he’d fixed me.

I felt cornered. I had no outlet for my anxiety, and my family was totally unequipped to deal with my special needs.

I began overeating and popping Vicodin with vodka and whisky chasers. My friends and boyfriends were using weed, speed, acid, mushrooms, and anything else that landed in front of them. I took a distinct liking to methamphetamine.

By twelfth grade, I was a full-fledged drug addict and the idea of skipping a meal was out of the question. I was doing dirty, shitty drugs of such a low quality that they made me eternally hungry. Plus, my anxiety was such that even when I wasn’t hungry, if I had any kind of interaction with my father, I’d binge afterward.

Binge-eating disorder is a lesser-known eating disorder that also happens to be the most common. BED is often accompanied by such deep feelings of shame and failure that even after seeking treatment, many people—especially those who feel they’ve failed at being anorexic—refuse to share that they’ve struggled with it.

I had BED for much longer than I had anorexia. I dabbled with self-induced vomiting (a symptom of bulimia), but it was always paired with bingeing and sometimes with excessive exercise.

I would look forward to binges, which entailed shoving mounds of food into my mouth so fast that sometimes I forgot to chew. A binge would involve a lot of different foods, even ones not normally eaten together, but mostly carbs. During a binge session—food crowded on countertops, empty wrappers littering the kitchen floor, the refrigerator door open in case I wanted to grab something else—I wouldn’t even know what exactly I was eating.

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By my early twenties, binge-eating disorder was affecting my work, friendships, dating life, and self-esteem. I was silently suffering. Nobody knew what was going on. They just knew I wasn’t fat and I wasn’t skinny. I was sort of round again and seemed happy enough. My bones weren’t sticking out. I had a job I managed to get to relatively often, and although struggling with my sexuality and my family’s homophobia, I was putting that fork in my mouth, so my father could still take credit for curing my anorexia.

I was living on my own and had the privacy I needed to binge without having to hide it from family or roommates or a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The thought of going on a date totally freaked me out. What would I eat? How long would the date be? When could I go home and binge?

After work, I would rush home to binge. Frenziedly scarfing down cookies, I’d replay all the embarrassing or annoying or angering interactions of my workday. I didn’t have the tools to address them in real time.

Slowly, the sugar and adrenaline rush would fade. My fingers would stop shaking. My post-binge companions were gut-wrenching shame and a bunch of empty wrappers to count.

Even though I lived alone, I still hid food and the remnants of my binges as I had when I lived with my parents. I learned how to eat half a cake in such a way that you’d never know by looking at it. At least in my mind you wouldn’t know. I have no idea what it really looked like. My eyes morphed everything into something better or worse than it was. I had life dysmorphia.

I couldn’t be around a cake without itching to eat the whole thing. I couldn’t enter a grocery store without having an all-out panic attack. At parties, I’d proudly eat nothing and then race to 7-Eleven or CVS—my fav sources for throwaway food.

A typical binge might look like this:

One large bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos
Small bag of Cheetos from the display by the register
Twenty-ounce cup of hot cocoa from the machine
One pint of ice cream (flavor chosen spontaneously)
Two-liter bottle of Diet Coke
Snack bag of York Peppermint Patties
Two-pack of Hostess Cupcakes
Slice of cheese pizza

To maximize efficiency (get the stuff quicker to start the binge sooner), I’d mentally map out my shopping list before I hit the store. That also served to shorten the duration of the dirty shame I felt when the cashier inevitably eyed me with eerie knowingness.

The binge started the minute the car door slammed shut—one hand on the steering wheel in an honest attempt at safe driving, the other hand frantically ripping open the Doritos. Nacho cheese powder stained everything I touched.

I once bought a half gallon of ice cream and forgot to get a spoon. I ate it straight out of the container with my teeth.

I considered Overeaters Anonymous but thought they’d laugh at me. I wasn’t hundreds of pounds overweight; I was about twenty. But I was no less a food addict.

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Desperate for a new beginning, I reached out for change. What finally helped me end the downward spiral? A book called It’s Not About Food nearly saved my life. So did finding therapists who specialized in disordered eating, and getting the fuck away from my family. I moved to Boston when I was twenty-one and stayed there for two years. When I moved back to California, I began attending twelve-step meetings. I also take a medication that helps with my depression and anxiety and with the part of my brain that makes me feel voraciously hungry when I’m not.

One night, when I was twenty-five, not long after I moved back from Boston, a spirit visited me. During my twenties, I often felt the presence of spirits or angels. This one lingered in the archway of my bedroom door. I somehow knew it was the spirit of my eating disorder. That may sound weird, but it was the information I was given right then by my higher power. I said thank you and good-bye. It became clear in that moment that my eating disorder had been a tool to get me through difficult periods when I’d had no other tools to employ. It had been the only constant in my life up to that point. She had also been a teacher.

On the Mend

On the Mend

I cried and felt the spirit linger a bit before saying good-bye back.

It hasn’t been easy for me, but I’ve been blessed in more ways than I can count. One of those blessings is my ability to maintain a positive attitude despite adversity.

This is what my eating disorder has taught me: if you can find a way not to judge your choices and to accept that you did the best you could with what you had at any given time, you’ll probably find a way to forgive yourself and, ultimately, be a lot happier! You will find the peace and clarity you need to smooth the rough spots and make your way into the light you deserve to bask in—radical self-love, I think it’s called.

…Follow Your Bliss xoxo


Know someone who is struggling with food addiction? Contact NEDA.

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Darrah Le Montre is a writer and journalist and devoted mom. Her work has been published by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and nudie blog SuicideGirls. Next week, her essay, “This Is What Dating An Alcoholic Is Like” will debut in the recovery blog The Fix.

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