By Heather Hamilton, PhD., LMHC, NCC, DCC | ©2022BreakThrough!
Gillian’s story of recovery began when she decided to take the BreakThrough! Challenge by joining our program. She was in one of our early closed zoom groups and ultimately she decided to sign on for a few individual sessions to privately explore long-held beliefs and behaviors that were continuing to cause problems. Her initial email to us was simply: I have horrible guilt and shame with regard to my relationship with food; good or otherwise. I don’t want to live with this misery anymore!
I grew up with a really critical abusive mother. As far back as I remember, if I did anything wrong, I was spanked. I wasn’t allowed to show emotion, nor say what I wanted. I was expected to obey without question and do everything right. I was expected to be the best at everything and be “better than” my peers, even ones who were older. I was supposed to be the “wunderkind” but at best, I was average at most things and completely lacked interest in competition of any kind. It seemed as though my mother was always angry; always demanding that things be done exactly her way. I lived in total fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. The first time I remember lying I was 5. I’d done something at recess and was terrified that if I was caught, the teacher would tell my mother. I let another girl get punished for what I did. I was never caught and over time it just became easier to lie than get hit and be grounded.
In my teens, I stopped lying and things got worse. The punishments were more extreme, but by then I had a new way to temporarily avoid feeling pain. My dad felt sorry for me and often gave me money. Under the premise of going for a bike ride, I’d sneak to the corner store. I’d buy candy, chips, ice cream, and pastries – whatever I felt like at the time. I‘d either eat all of it in a frenzy before I got home, or I’d smuggle the contraband in, hiding it in different places. Fortunately, my mother never cleaned my room. As she’d rant and explode about my grades, looks, or lack of social life, I’d smugly think about the chocolate hidden under my dresser or in the closet. It became easier and easier to ignore or wait her out of her vicious tirades. Over time, lying, sneaking, and hoarding became second nature. Even when I moved into my first apartment, I would still hide candy in different drawers…and I lived alone!
So how did Gillian recover and become one of our greatest advocates? She did the work. From the outset of the course, she used the simple Daily Reflection tool to identify her vulnerabilities. Next, she went through the chapters that helped her transform from an inner bitchy critic into a positive inner coach. At one point, she realized she literally heard her mother screaming at her every time she looked at her reflection. Every day she felt a hollow pit in her stomach; hearing old words: “you’re a poor excuse of a daughter!” She realized she had been eating her mother’s cruelty for a lifetime. When she read that 40% of our happiness is a result of our choices, she made the choice to break free from the chains of the past. Gillian not only reached her health goals but more importantly she felt entirely remade and able to uncover potential in other areas that had long laid dormant. Gillian’s story of recovery is unique to her as are the stories of so many of our clients, you too can experience your BreakThrough!