Testimony by Brenda Piazza, Transitional Coach
The following is a testimony of Brenda’s battle with negative body image and bulimia and her inspirational story of healing and recovery.
I was born into a traditional family with a father, mother and 2 older sisters. The traditional family lasted for the first 3 years of my life only. In 1969, my middle sister was accidentally killed by an automobile when I was 3 and she was 4. She died instantly. We lived on a lane with 3 homes and both older sisters wanted to run alongside the car as we coasted back to the house after getting the mail. My middle sister’s shoe lace was untied and the spokes of the wheel pulled her under. It was a freak accident. My older sister blamed herself because she thought she pushed her and my father blamed my mother because she was driving the car. I did not blame anyone, but I just wanted my family back.
I remember right after the accident, I was sitting on my neighbor’s lap and I was asking for my parents. She was telling me, they would be back and not to worry about it. She also told me not to talk about, that it would all go away. At age 3, I learned how to bury feelings and not share them with anyone. To always put up a good front and everything would be fine. I also learned later in life that between the ages of 3-5, our boundaries of how we react to situations and handle situations are formed. Based on experience, this is so true for me.
My dad spent many nights over the next 9 years drinking, not coming home for days at a time, and sleeping with other women. He was afraid to lose more of his children and just didn’t want to get close to us. My parents eventually divorced when I was 12. I do not remember much from the age of 3 to 12. My mom said I spent a lot of time in my room reading and not having a lot of friends. I was extremely shy and withdrawn.
I craved love from both of my parents every day but didn’t know how to ask for it or get it. The wall created around my heart at age 3 was firmly in place. I thought something must be wrong with me because I didn’t feel loved and withdrew further into myself. Every time I did see my dad over the years, his first comment out of his mouth was always, “looks like you have gained weight.” He would say that to my sister and I both even though we didn’t gain weight. My reaction was always “well something must be wrong with me or he would love me. I will lose weight then he will tell me he loves me. “
After my parents divorced, the house was sold and my mom and older sister moved from a very influential neighborhood to a one bedroom apartment 30 minutes away. I had to attend a new high school at age 15 and was terrified. I was shy, a freshman, and had no friends. I started dieting in high school because I wanted my parents to love me and I wanted friends to like me. I felt that my problems would be gone if I lost the weight. My mom and I joined Weight Watchers. I bought the Richard Simmons workout tapes and worked out every evening. I actually lost too much weight and was anemic. After I graduated from high school, my mom remarried when I was 17 in Lake Tahoe and I remember that I could not get warm. I was freezing all the time because I was anemic. But that didn’t stop me from working out and eating less. I still did not have many friends and I still did not get the love I needed.
My mom’s new husband lived 5 hours away so my mom set me up with my own apartment at age 17. I was still very shy and insecure about who I was. I remember the one bedroom apartment was very dark because of all the trees around it and I felt very alone and abandoned. My sister had moved in with her boyfriend my then. I first learned about bulimia from my sister. Her best friend in high school was bulimic but appeared to be loved by her family and friends. So I went to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor one night, ate a large sundae and threw it up. I realized that I had a new way to lose weight yet could still eat whatever I wanted. I would get the love I craved now and fill the hole in my heart at the same time by being thin. Boy, was I wrong!
Since dieting did not seem to bring the love I needed from others, I then got into bodybuilding at the age of 18. If I won contests, then I know others would tell me they loved me and all would be great. I continued to be bulimic throughout the body building, dieting and contests for 6 more years. During this time, I met my future husband (ex-husband now). Throughout the time I was married, he did not know that I was bulimic. I continued the bulimia and over-exercising for 8 years. Even though I was married, I still craved love. We dated for 5 years then married to combine our incomes and buy a house together. I know he loved me deeply but I never allowed myself to give in to someone that much because I wanted to maintain control over my life (and my bulimia).
When I was 27 years old, I stopped the bulimia. I found another outlet that would assist in keeping my weight down and bring the love I craved if I was thin enough. I started using crystal meth. It took away the appetite for food. This continued for about one year. I remember the weekend I stopped using crystal meth was a fishing weekend that my husband had with his dad and brother. I was left alone at the house for 3 straight days and did nothing but meth throughout those 3 days. It numbed the void in my heart. But I grew very paranoid over the weekend, thought people were trying to break into the house, and I just broke down and wept. When my husband got home that evening, I confessed what I had done and vowed never to do it again. And I didn’t. Praise God!
Because of so much secrecy in my life, my husband looked for assurance and love from someone else outside the marriage. He met someone, fell in love, and asked me for a divorced when I was 32. I actually felt relieved because I got back complete control of my life back—not knowing at that time because I wasn’t a Christian yet that I was never in control – only God is in control.
Since I was with my ex-husband and married at an early age (from 19 to 32), I felt like I missed the partying life so after the divorce, I went out almost every night for 2 years drinking a lot. This also numbed the void in my heart. I started to think that if I found true love in a bar, ridiculous huh, then I would be happy. So I dated a lot of men I met in bars but I never let them know the real me. I always kept the wall up around my heart. No one would ever get into my heart deep enough to hurt me like my father did. Everyone at work, family, and friends thought things were going really well for me. But at night, I hid behind an alcohol cloud and I was hurting and felt unloved but didn’t know how to reach out to anyone. The wall remained around my heart and I never felt good enough.
Throughout my older years, I thought that if only I was smart enough, then others would love me. So I got the 4 year bachelors degree during my marriage and a master’s degree after I was married. After I hung the certificates on the wall, nothing changed. I still craved love from others and still felt like I was not enough.
I started a journey of introspection and self-reflection at the age of 35. I bought a lot of self-help books, life coaching, and a student edition bible and started reading everything I could get my hands on to figure out what was wrong with me. I accepted the Lord into my life at age 38 while attending Horizon for 4 weeks to see if I “liked it”. I was a “Christer” prior to that which means I attended services at Catholic mass for Christmas and Easter only. I came forward when Mike McIntosh said, “leave your cares at Jesus feet and come forward to accept His love as Your Father in Heaven. Man will always let you down but Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.” My Father showed His love for me. Praise God.
I was then able to let down my guard, then others into my heart and begin the complete recovery process of identifying triggers, and learned how to express emotion though the bible, therapy and pushing myself through those uncomfortable situations until they became comfortable. I know now that I am loved by family and friends. The void in my heart has been filled by Jesus and I am a complete and loved daughter of His.
I am reaching out to you now. I do not want you to take the long journey I took to heal from eating disorders and body image issues and feelings of being unlovable, not enough and hurt.
Please come join us any Tuesday evening at New Day Women’s Center at 6:30 PM in a confidential support group that shares your issues and whose heart is to lift you up and encourage you to heal from the past.