Not Alone(By: Pamela Hawkins)

I’ll never forget the moment when I saw the word “bulimia” for the first time. I was sitting in a hair salon waiting for my appointment. Because I was early, I looked through a stack of well-read magazines to find something to read. Picking one out I took it to my seat and began to flip through the pages to see what might peak my interest. At the time I was freshly out of graduate school and working as a teacher of young children with special needs. Maybe that’s why I gravitated to the magazine’s medical and health section. Or maybe something inexplicable led me there.

That’s when I saw an article about “bulimia” which I had never heard of before. As I began to read I froze in the first few lines. I had to read them again and again to be sure I was seeing correctly and not misunderstanding what the article was about. Chilled to the bone I realized I was reading about me – about the secret life with ED that began in my freshman year of college. Painful details of how others had lived – stocking up groceries that were easy to purge and hidden hours in a bathroom while hugging the toilet- were all too familiar.

Overwhelmed with emotion I felt like everyone in the salon was watching me wipe silent tears from my eyes. I’m certain that I was making little sounds by gasping tiny gasps and releasing my breath. I was both terrified and relieved. I was terrified that I might never be able to stop this destructive eating disorder. But more importantly, I was relieved to learn that I was not the only person in the world stuck in this soul-wrenching self-hating cycle of shame. For all of those years in college through graduate school I fully believed I was alone.

One unexpected article in a hair salon magazine left on a table saved my life. I believe this. From there I slowly and hopefully searched for other information about eating disorders and although at the time information was quite limited, I devoured every single piece I could find. At that moment I knew with certainty that there were others living the same secret life that I was. One brave author ahead of her time with one article pointed me in a direction of healing that I am still on to this day. But now, at sixty-eight years old – as mother, teacher, grandmother, pastor, and person in ED recovery – my heart is drawn to help others with ED know, in any way I can, that they are not the only one, they are not alone.

About the Author

Pamela Hawkins is an ordained pastor and spiritual director living in Nashville, Tennessee. Recently retired from the local church Pam continues in ministries of social, environmental, and inclusive justice. Writing, painting, and yoga help keep her attentive to her recovery.