The inspirational real-life story of navigating recovery after sexual abuse.
In one of my first-ever guest posts, Laurie Katz tells the story of how she came to conquer recovery after sexual abuse. Laurie is an elementary teacher, avid runner, and Boston native. She’s also a survivor of sexual abuse and an advocate against sexual violence. Laurie kindly agreed to write this piece on how her eating disorder developed after being sexually assaulted in college. And details how she used therapy to navigate toward recovery.
How I recovered from an eating disorder after sexual abuse.
Coming into the summer, I always feel a sense of dread and stress. I feel uncomfortable about my body, a feeling which is so foreign but also so well known. Since I was 18, I’ve struggled with Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. Now known as OSFED, and previously known as ENDOS. I now know that I can get through this, but for a long time, this didn’t feel possible.
The assault took place on September 17th, 2011.
I was 18, and I was sexually assaulted by a student at my college. It was devastating and in the aftermath, I was forced to deal with the trauma on my own. Friends abandoned me in my time of need and I felt worthless. My college covered up the assault and this only added to my feelings of self-blame and self-hatred. I was overwhelmed with depression and anxiety and took to self-harming. It was such a dark time for me. I couldn’t cope with what had happened at all. In a desperate attempt to have some semblance of control in my life, I developed what I now know to be an eating disorder.
“With the weight of my trauma, my denial of my problems, and society’s perception of eating disorders, it took me years to recognize it for what it was.” – Recovery after sexual abuse, Laurie Katz.
It started so small by cutting out snacks. But, as these things often do, it quickly escalated to an obsession with food and how little I could eat. Though I was working out for hours and limiting my food, I didn’t fit the strict criteria for anorexia or bulimia. This furthered my denial that my problem was in fact, not a problem. My BMI got lower, but not “dangerously” low. When I saw my doctor for a hip injury she just praised my weight loss and refused to read between the lines.
“Friends, family, and even my doctor praised me for my weight loss.”
The feeling of hunger gave me a sense of calm and control. But behind my smile and thinner form, I was miserable.
After four years of struggle and mental health deterioration, someone finally stepped in to help me. It was a hard road to accept my assault but therapy was key for this. When I was able to accept that I’d been assaulted and that it wasn’t my fault, I could face the problems I had developed as a result. It was also, in a way, freeing to know what I was struggling with and that my disorder was real. It had a name, and I wasn’t the only person in the world with this disorder over my head.
Yes, it took years. Healing takes time.
I learned coping skills for my depression and anxiety. Sharing my story with my therapist and gaining internal and external validation was so important too. I also met with a nutritionist and this helped immensely. Of course, getting healthy meant some changes in my body and that can still be hard to accept when something from when I was at my lowest no longer fits me. I’ve had to learn that holding on to clothing from when I was unwell is not healthy or productive.
Looking to the Future.
My eating disorder or this type of thinking can come up when I feel stressed and like I need a sense of control in my life. And of course, it can come up when the weather changes from comfy sweaters and pants to t-shirts and shorts. Perhaps even a bathing suit.
That feeling of stress and uncomfortableness can come up and feel so real and urgent, but I now have ways to keep myself healthy and not listen to that nagging voice that tells me to eat less, workout more, and hurt myself. I feel okay about the summer coming up. I know I can conquer it because I’ve done it before.
It can feel strange that I needed to recognize my disorder and name it, but now it no longer defines me because in naming and recognizing it, I faced it. When things were really hard, I didn’t think the life I have now was possible, but I’ve learned that therapy and time heal all wounds.
I can’t thank Laurie enough for allowing me to tell her story on the blog. It’s so important to share our stories of inspiration in the hopes that we can help and inspire others.
If you have been affected by anything discussed in this article.
Please seek help within your local area. For those within the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, please see below for relevant resources.