Lauren was in a dark place, a world out of control. Struggling with eating disorders for 15 years, she felt alone – in her mind that was how life was supposed to be. After years of hiding her eating disorder, Lauren realized that the dark place was not reality.
She began dieting in high school. It went from cutting back on certain foods, to eating every other day, to not eating at all. Her mother, Cyndi, says the hardest part of an eating disorder is watching their mind, and body deteriorate. At one point Lauren was down to 83 pounds and admitted to the hospital. “As a parent, it is a helpless feeling. No matter what we tried, or how many doctors she saw, or interventions – knowing there was nothing we could do was such a helpless feeling. I knew it was up to her.”
Aware that her daughter had previously suffered from anorexia and bulimia, Cyndi did not know Lauren continued to struggle. She was suspicious that something was wrong because of how much food Lauren was consuming while still maintaining a slim figure. “Bulimia is a mean disease, food became her drug, and she would do anything she could to get food. My heart breaks for anyone that should go through this,” she shares “It’s rough on the family; it’s rough on the loved one. It’s a mental illness – you can’t take medication and be happy. It is a different mindset. As a family, you can’t make them overcome it.”
After the birth of her nephew, Lauren realized she wanted to be there for her family. She sat down with Dr. Travis Stork on an episode of The Doctors and told her mother her secret of bulimia, and alternating between binging on junk food and purging.
“I realized that I am not alone, and it is ok to open up. Just tell one person,” she shared. For so many years Lauren felt that food was her only comfort and support. “You have to be aware that you are sick, you need someone to show you that you are not ok. You don’t need to feel ashamed or hurt yourself. Write it down if you can’t speak it – just tell one person. You don’t have to be alone,” she continued.
On that episode, Linda Smith, Executive Director at Magnolia Creek, surprised Lauren with a complimentary stay in residential treatment for her eating disorder. For Lauren, it was the turning point that changed her life. The moment she walked into Magnolia Creek, she recalls feeling like part of the family, “Everyone there took the time I needed. I was far away from home, but I was home.”
At Magnolia Creek, Lauren was in a place where there was no judging, in her eyes everyone was hurting and suffering and understood where she was. “I knew I was in a safe place where I could let my guard down and cry. It was comforting to know that everyone was not looking at me in a certain way because of what I did. I realized they understood what I was dealing with.”
Magnolia Creek offers residential and partial hospitalization treatment for women (18 years or older) who struggle with feeding or eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, other specified/unspecified eating disorders, rumination disorder, pica, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. Our holistic treatment approach emphasizes self-acceptance, validation, and personal empowerment. Our certified clinicians work with clients to address the medical, nutritional, psychological, spiritual, social-emotional and behavioral needs so they can fully recover, not merely manage their eating disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions.
Entwined in her bulimia, she was unable to think about or talk about anything but food or when she could eat. Group therapy sessions at Magnolia Creek benefited Lauren immensely, and for the first time, she could talk about something that did not revolve around food. “The best thing for me was the talking. Talking turned into laughter, and then it turned it to something I could remember. I experienced things there that I hadn’t remembered in years. For me, it was the reason to get me where I am today,” she says.
For Cyndi, Magnolia Creek gave her daughter a second chance, “They didn’t have to do what they did for us. Lauren had reached a true low in her life. At Magnolia Creek, she gave 100%, and they worked a miracle.” Magnolia Creek helped not only Lauren but also her family. They went to the family meetings and received the tools and resources they needed to help Lauren. Working with a family therapist, they learned boundaries – things they could and could not discuss with Lauren. “I am now vigilant and aware of the way Lauren thinks, things are perceived differently by someone with an eating disorder. We don’t make a big deal about food in our family. When your loved one is recovering from an eating disorder, it is a learning process for everyone.”
For those coming into treatment, Lauren says it is crucial for them to know that they should not feel ashamed. “Don’t focus on how many days you will be there, you deserve help. Relax and take it day by day. It is your time, take each day in and use it to your advantage.” She says the therapists at Magnolia Creek helped her learn to stay on track and realize that every day is a blessing.
Cyndi says parents must understand that their child may not want help, but you must be vigilant and continue to try to get them help. “As a parent, you should be patient, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid of the answers. Listen to what your gut is telling you.” Cyndi also credits support groups for parents in helping to her to gain different perspectives on how to support her child and encourages parents to reach out and talk to others.
“We have our daughter back – to hear her laugh, a deep, meaningful laugh makes my heart smile. When she was bulimic, she was angry. There is such a difference in her personality. We take family vacations, and we don’t worry about food. She goes and enjoys herself and is so happy. Our family has a newfound freedom to enjoy the moment. “
Today, Lauren is a different person. Struggling with anorexia and bulimia has been a tough road mentally, but she credits her friends, her family, and Magnolia Creek for helping her continue not to give up. “I will not go back to where I was. For those that are struggling, I will tell you that you don’t have to hurt anymore and you don’t have to be in the dark. Ask for help.”