Recovering from an Eating Disorder in Midlife: Q&A with Denise Folcik, Part 2
I regularly feature Q&As with individuals who’ve recovered from eating disorders, binge eating, negative body image and any kind of disordered eating. If you’d like to share your story of recovery, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at [email protected].
Older women who struggle with eating disorders may feel alone, because these illnesses are often associated exclusively with adolescents or young adults. Older women who’ve sought treatment several times may even feel hopeless, or might resign themselves to the fact that they’ll be living with an ED for their entire life.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Recovery is possible at any age. It is never ever too late.
When Denise Folcik was in the depths of her eating disorder, she felt like bulimia and anorexia were her best friends and the antidotes to weight gain and painful experiences. But, after realizing the destructive consequences of eating disorders, she sought recovery. Her recovery took time and lots of work.
But she did recover. And so can you.
Below, is part two of my interview with Denise, who’s also author of the upcoming book In ED’s Path, which tells her story. One of my favorite parts about the interview is how Denise describes recovery.
If you haven’t read it yet, check out part one of our interview here.
What were the toughest parts of your recovery and how did you get through them?
I believe the toughest parts of my recovery were making the changes that would help my health, but would hurt others. I was always the kind of person who wanted to insure everyone else’s happiness, but never thought of my own. When I was trying to make the changes needed to become healthy, I felt like I was hurting everyone I loved.
Others would say things that made me feel very guilty and selfish. I was breaking up my family, which was the most difficult. I never wanted my children to be from a broken home. My therapist asked me one day if my children would be better off with me divorced or dead? It was also tough moving out on my own. I would have the independence I was seeking, but I was also very lonely. I began using alcohol as a companion, but eventually came to my senses as my life began to rebuild.
Do you still struggle with eating disordered thoughts and behaviors? If so, how do you overcome them?
I do still struggle with ED thoughts and occasionally a behavior. What I do now that I was incapable of doing a few years ago is to stop, and change or reframe the negative thoughts in my head. Self-talk has been one of the most helpful tools I learned in treatment. I use it daily. If I fall back on a behavior, I have to stop myself and look at how far I have come and how great I feel and I can get back on track.
I have challenges in life every day, but I have to deal with these issues and put them behind me, instead of trying to ignore and not deal with them. Communication has also played a large part in staying healthy. I found my voice and realize that I must let others know how I feel about things.
Many people don’t realize the physical consequences of eating disorders, including electrolyte imbalances, irregular heartbeat, osteoporosis, severe tooth decay and digestive problems. Did you experience any health problems as a result of your eating disorder?
This is list of the physical complications I experienced when I had my ED. I became so used to feeling this way – I thought I felt good, until I became healthy and realized how awful I felt.
- Dry scaly skin
- Digestive problems
- Low Potassium
- Throat Irritation
- Heart Palpitations
- Low Body Temperature
- Low Blood Pressure
- Shortness of Breath
- Swollen Cheeks and Neck
- Menstrual Period Slowed/ Stopped
- Pitting Edema
- Loss of Concentration/Confusion
- Loss of Memory
What insights have you taken from your struggles and recovery?
I realize now how important it is to deal with issues as they arise in your life, despite how tough that can be. You must stand up for and take care of yourself, before you can ever take care of others. But most important you must be yourself and not who you think others want you to be or how society wants you to look. You do not have to conform to the world, but do and be what you believe in. Also, do not let others control you — this life was given to you by God.
What can family members do to help a loved one with an eating disorder?
First and foremost, learn as much as possible about eating disorders. People with ED’s are not easy to understand and communicate with. Families may think they are doing and saying things that are helpful, but may not be. Not commenting at all on appearance is huge. Also, giving the person room to recover is very important. Chances are that feeling controlled is part of the problem, so space to heal is vital.
Older women may feel isolated and alone because there’s little information and resources about eating disorders in midlife. What would you like older women to know?
All resources are helpful regardless what age they are geared towards, but I think you will see more and more resources surface as people become more and more aware of the long suffering of our age group with eating disorders. I have a book going to print this month, In ED’s Path ,which tells my complete story. I hope it will help others who suffer as I have.
What resources (books, websites) have helped your recovery/which ones do you recommend to Weightless readers?
I found a lot of helpful information on the NEDA website and also Gurze has a fabulous selection of great books on eating disorders. I go to ED support groups regularly to stay on track. I spend a lot of time at local bookstores or the library reading and buying self-help books. I have read so many books that have been helpful, each touching a different stage I am at in recovery.
What does recovery mean to you?
Recovery is being healthy, happy and feeling free to choose and be myself and to deal with life’s challenges in healthy ways. Recovery is learning more about myself every day. I sometimes refer to recovery as “discovery.” I am in discovery. I think it sounds a little more positive.
What are some misconceptions about eating disorders?
- Eating disorders are a choice. People do not choose to have eating disorders. They develop over time and involve many underlying issues.
- Eating disorders only affect adolescent girls. Eating disorders affect men and women of all age, race and socioeconomic groups.
- You can never fully recover from an eating disorder. Recovery takes a long time, but with hard work and proper treatment, you can fully recover from your eating disorder.
- Eating disorders are all about the food. Weight is the focus with all eating disorders. Focusing on food, weight and calories, enables the person to block out or numb painful feelings and emotions. Food can be used as a source of comfort. Eating disorders are not a problem with food, but a symptom of underlying problems.
Anything else you’d like readers to know about eating disorders in midlife or your story?
Recovery is not easy, but it is so worth all the hard work. I know myself so much better than I ever have. There are days that are tough, but I continue to move forward despite the ease it would take to fall back into my old unhealthy ways of coping. It is never too late to find out who you are, discover your needs and take care of yourself. Life balance is key in finding good health and happiness.
I am constructing a website that will be up and running in May. It will have links to websites and other resources and will also include a lot of my own thoughts and feelings on recovery. The web address will be: www.metaflybooksllc.com.
I’m tremendously thankful to Denise for her insightful interview. Again, I’ll keep Weightless readers posted on when her book, In ED’s Path, comes out.
Remember recover is possible for anyone, and, as Denise eloquently states, it’s never too late to recover and discover who you are and start taking good care of yourself.
Tartakovsky, M. (2010). Recovering from an Eating Disorder in Midlife: Q&A with Denise Folcik, Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2010/05/recovering-from-an-eating-disorder-in-midlife-qa-with-denise-folcik-part-2/