It’s Never Too Late to Get Help for an Eating Disorder; I Did it at 42
Making the decision to enter treatment for an eating disorder at any age can be difficult, producing so much fear, anxiety, and shame.
No matter how old you are, you can find many reasons to believe that eating disorder treatment just is not a good idea.
I know the feelings that surround the decision to seek treatment as a young woman, and also as an older woman. The decision is a difficult one at both life stages, and the underlying feelings of deep shame and fear are present no matter the age.
I entered Eating Recovery Center when I was 42 years old. This was not the first time that I had made the decision to enter treatment for my eating disorder. I started treatment first as a college student, and again when I was in graduate school.
I still remember very well what it felt like to reach out for help when I was younger: a sense of brokenness, emptiness, and pain. That same feeling of brokenness was there as an older woman, but there seemed to be additional complicating factors as well.
For starters, I was married, had two children, a career, and other responsibilities that I did not have to consider when I entered treatment as a young woman. In addition to these taxing responsibilities, many women my age are also caring for their aging parents — while they care for their own children, homes, and life’s demands.
I believe that this is part of our problem: it can be very easy to not consider your own health and well-being when you have others that you are caring for.
But we must put our own needs first sometimes, don’t you think?
The shame of needing help
I felt deep shame as an older woman when I walked through the doors at Eating Recovery Center. Deep.
I judged and condemned myself for not being able to grasp recovery and life by the age of 42, having to enter treatment for a third time. I judged myself for not holding up as a mother and wife with many responsibilities as well as a career.
What would everyone think? I wondered. Who would take care of everything?
The eating disorder took advantage of this shame, discouraging me from seeking help for a long time. The truth was that I was actually much sicker than I wanted to admit. My family was actually taking care of me and I had not been able to show up and be present for a long time.
…and then feelings of pride
Yes, entering recovery as an older woman can have its unique challenges, but I eventually learned that as I traveled forward I could draw upon the wisdom I carried that only comes with my additional life experience.
In treatment, it was easier to narrow down my values and to draw upon the courage that comes from experiencing many heartbreaking events through the years.
My husband and children actually became powerful forces in my recovery – offering three amazing reasons why I should work hard in recovery and do what it takes to become whole.
So, while I love to reach out to women of all ages suffering from eating disorders to offer hope and encouragement, my heart goes out to older women who are buried under the lies of shame.
To those of you who think you are too old to get help, please know that the many directions you feel pulled in can be put on pause, you can take a breath, and learn how to live life to the fullest without the eating disorder. You can take care of yourself.
Making the decision to enter treatment as an older woman was such a difficult and gut-wrenching one. It also turned out to be the decision that saved my life and let me begin to really live. My husband, children, and friends know I am now really able to be there and to be present.
It is more than OK to step back from everything and reach out for help; it is never too late in life to want to live in freedom!
Kelli Evans is an alumni of Denver ERC and serves on the Recovery Ambassador Council. She enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her husband and 2 children. Kelli’s passion is to offer hope and encouragement to those seeking recovery from eating disorders.