Hard Times Helped Me Appreciate the Holidays: I Overcame an Eating Disorder

Read one woman's inspiring story of how she triumphed over anorexia and bulemia at Christmastime

“I spent the holidays in treatment for an eating disorder.” —Kimberly Farr, 31, Birmingham, AL

Christmas means different things to different people, but when you’re battling an eating disorder, it means food. It’s your enemy, and it’s everywhere. I’d struggled with anorexia and bulimia since October 2003, and by the holiday season of 2007, I worried about food non-stop: Was I eating too much? Too little? How could I hide my disorder? Was everybody watching me? I wasn’t in denial about my condition. I saw a skeleton in the mirror. Lack of body fat made it painful to sit and stand. Still, like most people with a mental illness, I couldn’t take the steps toward treatment on my own.

With my parents’ help I entered a treatment center just five days shy of Christmas. I weighed 80 pounds. Being around others with similar illnesses made me feel validated and within a few days I began to make progress. Being in the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week forced me to face my disorder, dig into my feelings and attack the underlying issues.

Spending Christmas in treatment was less stressful than past holidays, where I had felt pressure to be “merry,” but I was constantly obsessed about food. My family was also painfully aware of my condition, so there was a lot of tension in the air. In treatment, all that was a non-issue, and I could just focus on getting well. The services were nondenominational and Santa left a punching bag in the group therapy room—a big hit! I don’t remember what we ate for dinner but the cookies for dessert were memorable. Most of all, I began to feel an enormous gratitude for life, and hope of a better future. I learned to make changes in my behavior and gained new methods for coping with life in general. After 30 days, when I was approved for release, I felt much stronger.

Four years later, I still consider myself in recovery. I want to make good choices, but eating disorder triggers are still sometimes present. Fortunately, my family, including my new husband David, is incredibly supportive. David loves Christmas, and last year while I was cooking and baking for a party, he put on some holiday music. Next thing I knew, I was dancing and singing along. I realized then that I had learned to appreciate the holidays, which to me now signifies a season of hope forgiveness, and perseverance. Christmas reminds me how truly joyous life can be.