My name is Jillian Prager (most call me Jill), and I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I moved around a lot, but not because I was in a military family, but more so because I grew up in a broken home, like so many have. I always knew I was a little different, though I couldn't explain why/how, but I felt secluded and alone as a child, teen, and young adult. I felt like I didn't belong in my family nor circle of friends, if they were ever my friends to begin with. It is my belief, now, that is how a lot of my issues began: wanting to feel like I belonged somewhere.
[As a side note, I now know that what I was struggling with was borderline personality disorder. Having gone my whole life mis/un-diagnosed, I was always being treated for the symptoms: eating disorders, self-harm, major depression, OCD, black/white thinking, etc. These symptoms live within BPD, so it is not uncommon to go mis-diagnosed simply because it is hard to isolate the issue(s). It wasn't until I found myself in a serious relationship, experiencing the most erratic symptoms of rage, when my therapist brought up borderline personality disorder. Unfortunately, this is something that I am still struggling with today, but I do not deny what is happening, and sometimes that is all anyone can do - be aware.]
Before the age of 13, I found myself obsessing with how I looked. Of course having self-esteem issues as a teenager is not uncommon, but I was obsessive. I saw myself so much differently than how I truly looked. My self-esteem was dependent on outside validation, nothing came from within. And, I sought the acceptance of everyone around me. This was happening during a time when the "herbal" pill Metabolife came out, and both sides of my family were taking it, so I did too. This, combined with obsessive calorie counting, body dysmorphia, lack of self-worth, etc. contributed to my developing an eating disorder. I experienced a lot of adversity in middle school and high school before dropping out at age 16 because I could not stand to be around high school kids. Without going into too much detail, there were other reasons that I was not committed to my education at the time, it was not for lack of ability (I was a straight A student and dreamt of going to college). There was a lot of abuse in my life that included physical, sexual, or mental, which is something I hear often from people like myself. It's sad to think about, but I know now that if I allow that part of me to prohibit future gain, I will regret it. Today, I have a choice; then, I may not have.
It was around the age of 15 when I found myself using purging as an occasional form of "dieting", or so I thought. Unfortunately, I had no idea that I was inviting that voice inside my head, and it was setting up shop for a long bout of negativity, shame, and the ultimate deterioration of any self-worth I had. Let's not forget all of the physical harm I was doing to my body, though I was not thinking about that at the time - it was all about control.
As I can see now, the eating disorder just kept winning, and by the age of 23, I was not me anymore in any way, shape, or form. I lived for who/what you refer to as ED, and, back then, ED was very much in charge. It/He took my health, money, friends, family, and overall life; it took everything! I isolated to the point where I didn't know how to be around people anymore. I didn't eat without binging, and I didn't binge without purging. This behavior went on for several years before my then boss said something. Nobody else said anything. My family is not close and we walk on eggshells around each other. Nevertheless, my boss insisted I go to the doctor; he also found an eating disorder specialist for me, and by age 25, I had finally admitted it out loud to someone: I had an eating disorder. I was so scared! It was clear that my body was not going to be able to handle much more - it was starting to shut down. And, through all of this, I felt so alone.
I wish I could say that when I found out my test results, I stopped treating my body so horribly, but I did not. I tried, I really did, but it didn't last long before I was doing the same thing. It took another year after that before I got serious about recovery. This doesn't mean I was done, but it meant I wanted to be and that was a huge step. It took me 3 more years of trying and failing before I finally binged for the last time on January 27th, 2011.
Since then, I've been trying to put the pieces of my life back together. Between February of 2009 and January 2011, I left my job, went bankrupt, lost friends/family, moved wherever I could stay, had my car repossessed, went on social security, and walked my way around Atlanta trying to find recovery without any money. It finally clicked, though I'll never be able to really explain "how", but I finally found it. I will say, though, that the anonymous support groups helped me more than anything. And, I didn't discriminate on which I attended: AA, EDA, OA, ANA, whatever was free, I was there! And, I also could not have done it without the encouragement of a few select individuals that crossed my path in those years of hardship. Some I still talk to today, some are in the distant past, but they all came into my life for a reason and at the right time.
Today, going on six years later, I'm still trying to recover. I may not "have" an eating disorder anymore, but I still find it difficult to see myself as I am. My confidence is still lacking in so many ways, and I still battle with depression. And, as mentioned, with borderline personality disorder, my emotions can be so overwhelming! But, I do not use the eating disorder. I feed my body. My body gets me where I need to go, and I never want to deprive it of the fuel it needs - ever again.
When I see someone so clearly suffering, it breaks my heart. I wish I could go up to everyone I see that encompasses all things eating disorder and say, "I know what you're going through, and I can help... if you let me", but it doesn't work that way. We need to be ready, don't we? We need to be open to it, even if we fail at it. I can say from experience of ridding myself of unhealthy behaviors, that the things most worth doing in life are the hardest things (I quit smoking, I stopped using the eating disorder, and I'm almost fully free of financial debt).
Nothing is impossible, and writing you my story actually gave me a good reminder. I need to stop saying, "I can't", and replace with, "I can"!