Jen's Story Compulsive Eating

I have been morbidly obese for 14 years now.

As a child, I was always told I was fat. I don't see that in any of the photos from those days, but I retained that image of myself to this day (a self-fulfilling prophecy). I was an "early bloomer", always much taller than my classmates. In 4th grade, I was 5'4", and weight 100 lbs. A public weighing in gym class made me the focus of derision and teasing for my size -- it makes me angry to this day that the gym teacher allowed these things to happen.

By 7th grade, I reached my adult height of 5'9". In 9th grade, I remember that I weighed 135 pounds. I still thought I was fat.

In high school, everyone else finally started to catch up to me in size. I also started gaining weight, now that I was not growing any more. By the time I graduated, I weighed 150 lbs.

My life was never easy. I have suffered depression since the age of 13; I tried to commit suicide at age 14. Lactose intolerance caused me tremendous stomach pain daily for over a decade, until I realized the cause of my discomfort. My parents divorced when I was 16, and the divorce was a messy thing, emotionally. I caught my mother sleeping with her lover in our house (my father was just down the hall). Although I was supposed to end up living with my mother, instead, I lived with Dad. Nobody told me this would be the case.

After my mother moved out, when I was in 11th grade, my father, brother and I lived for a year in relative peace. Then my father met a woman 26 years younger than he, with Multiple Sclerosis, and married her two months later. She had two small children, and she was emotionally unstable. The night they returned from their honeymoon, my father kicked my brother out of the house. Six weeks later, I left, voluntarily (being a lawyer, my father was aware of his responsibility to house me until I reached 18), midway through my senior year of high school. I lived with three different friends' families, and managed to graduate, and got away from the area by going away to college.

In college, I moved into my grandfather's house. Although it afforded me escape from all I'd experienced at home (I was 400 miles away), I was also living with people whose ideas of a young woman's proper behavior was Victorian. I lasted a year there, and spent my second year in an apartment. I graduated with an Associates degree, and now weighed 160 pounds.

I moved even further away from home, in with my college boyfriend. I spent the summer searching for employment, and finally found it, but not before I'd gained more weight. In my job, I met and fell in love with a man 7 years older than I. I finally split up with my college boyfriend, and moved in with my new man. Although he was physically abusive and emotionally volatile, I ended up marrying him. He was also very controlling, and through his "management" - rigid control of my diet - I lost weight. I weighed 135 when we married.

After less than 3 years, we agreed to divorce on my 24th birthday. Within a month of this decision, he moved in with another woman. I ate my upset away. I decided to come back "home" after 6 years. I found a job, an apartment, and made arrangements to move. But the stress was taking its toll. I was up to 180 pounds, and during the moving process, I had horribly painful gum surgery, and then an ovarian cyst that put me in the hospital. Nonetheless, I managed to get myself moved.

I found some peace of mind, finally living on my own with my two cats in my little flat. I worked at my new job, and liked it. I went on what can only be described as a "booze diet" and lost 20 lbs (I drank booze at night instead of eating dinner). I met a new man, and started dating.

We were married the following year. I maintained my 20 lb "booze diet" weight loss easily. We bought a house, and life was pretty good. However, I still suffered from depression and mood swings. Over time, I slowly started gaining weight again. I was probably 180 pounds when my stomach problems hit.

Since high school, I had taken Motrin in ever-increasing amounts for menstrual cramps. My gynecologist finally switched me to Naproxen. It was a terrible choice for me. I immediately developed four peptic ulcers. It took six months to clear the ulcers, using what was then a new drug named Prilosec, and during that time I had eaten my way out of the acid pain. After it was over, I weighed 210 pounds. I tried Weight Watchers. I couldn't keep to it. I punished and berated myself for my weakness. I hated myself - although that has always been the case.

Then I got pregnant. I was 232 pounds when I conceived. During pregnancy, I was nauseated most of the time. By the time pregnancy was over, I weighed 215 pounds. Unfortunately, I fell deeply into postpartum depression. During the C-Section birth, a tumor had been discovered on my ovary. Four months later, it was removed, and found to be ovarian cancer. Thanks to my baby's birthing method, it was caught way, way early. None the less, it served to isolate me even more - my family wanted to forget the word "cancer" and was in denial. I felt lonely, afraid, depressed - and I coped in my usual way, by eating. For two years, I stumbled through life as an isolated, at-home mother of my baby. Finally, my doctor put me on Prozac. In the meantime, I had gained all my weight back and then some. My all-time high was 255 pounds.

On the Prozac, I totally lost my appetite. I lost 20 pounds in a flash. It was great! But slowly, it started wearing off, the way the anti-depressants do over time. I started gaining the weight back.

Today I weighed 251 pounds. I have gone off Prozac a couple of times, but the depression debilitates me to the point that I cannot cope with life. My husband has stuck by me, even though I outweigh him by 70 pounds. I hate my image in the mirror. Severe Sleep Apnea, caused by my fat neck and double chins, requires me to use a CPAP machine to sleep. I struggle to lose a little weight, and then something happens, and I find myself shoving eight pieces of peanut butter toast in my mouth. I don't know what natural hunger feels like anymore. My stomach is a churning pit of acid, all stretched out and constantly demanding food. The Prozac enables me to function. If it weren't for my son, now five, my life would have no meaning. I wish I could be saved - from myself. From my food addiction that sends me running to stuff my face whenever something goes wrong. I look like a giant blob, and figure people must stay away from me because I'm so ugly and disgusting. I can't believe that this is what my life has amounted to.

I wish I could say I had answers. I don't. I continue to strive forward. I know that my childhood, while it was terrible, was mainly loveless, and that I feed myself in an effort to fill that empty spot inside me, that little child within me who needed its mother's love but that did not get it. Insight, however, doesn't fill the hole, either. I have a drive to lose weight so that I can be around for my son. I just can't seem to accomplish anything.