I Lived With A Secret, Debilitating Illness For 25 Years — How I Found Recovery

by Jerald Dyson

At the age of 35, after my family experienced successive sad events, my eating disorder escalated. My weight got dangerously low. I stopped eating. I was too depressed to get out of bed. I stopped working. My life was crumbling before my eyes until my parents finally intervened. My disappearing body got their attention.

“Mer, we will not sit back and watch you die. You have had this eating disorder for 25 years. You need help.” 

So, even as I kicked and screamed, I entered a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) at the Columbia Day Program in New York City. It was a program specifically for those with eating disorders. Even though I desperately wanted to be the perfect anorexic, I had a sliver of hope that I would find a more fulfilling purpose in my life.

My two nephews were also born—I called them my guardian angels. I wanted to be a wonderful aunt. I wanted to see them grow up. I needed to stay alive to do so. My eating disorder had competition.

For six months, I sat through endless psychotherapy groups and attended lunch and dinner support groups. Simply put, meal exposure saved my life.

As I placed the fork into my mouth with each meal, I slowly chiseled the chains off my wrists and ankles. I processed earlier sexual traumas. I identified more effective ways to feel my feelings and to express my emotions. I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills to challenge my all-or-nothing thinking and other cognitive distortions. I practiced mindfulness. I connected to my body through yoga and stretching. A supportive recovery community surrounded me.


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