Virginia's Blog: He Has A Name -

Virginia's Blog: He Has A Name

It's Thursday. I’m on the Great Day St Louis set about to go on the air. I’m sitting on the sofa next to a beautiful girl I met just 20 minutes before the show. I feel a connection. We were both taken by the same gruesome monster…but managed to escape.

She and I are about to out that sick creature on live tv. Warn everyone in the audience to be on the lookout. He could take your life too. Your child's. Maybe he already has and you don’t recognize him. You can't see him for what he is.

He took me hostage for 20 years...more than half my life. But for the first time this monster has a name. A face. He's been identified.

Now I know without a doubt he’s real. That it wasn't my fault. All those years. I thought it was me. No self control. Disgusting. Full of gluttony.

But. He. Has. A. Name.

This month for the first time the bible of the mental health industry ..the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders calls him a disorder. Just like Anorexia. Just like Bulimia. But my monster is more common.

As I prepare for this segment for Great Day. Looking up the definition of this new diagnosis. Researching the signs. “Binge Eating Disorder: 12 binges over a three month period.” “If you answer yes to the following about food..Feel out of control. Think about it all the time. Eat in secret. Feel powerless…and so on.” I hear myself saying, yes, yes..that's him. That's the one! That's the predator who took me.

He took me hostage when I was 13. The year my father had his first manic episode. Never realized my monster surfaced the same time my father’s did. Until now. His monster's name is Bipolar Disorder.

Unlike most people, my memories of the past aren't tied to happy times or even particularly sad ones..they’re tied to food.

All I remember of 1988.. aside from seeing my father fall to his knees weeping at my bedside confessing to me he'd bought a condominium behind my mother's back. Aside from that...I mainly recall the three tall glasses of chocolate ice cream I inhaled after school. And then the full hour of Jane Fonda aerobics that followed.. I would work out another 30 minutes in my room before I went to bed. I did this Every. Day. The next year I would run a mile for every candy bar I ate after school. Usually five.

Summer school in college. I’m the only one of the four girls in the house who stays on campus on the weekends. Once they leave it’s just me.. I eat tubs of fudge chocolate icing until my roomates return Sunday evening. They all have boyfriends. I have my monster. He won't allow any one else in...and if he does those boys treat me about as well as he does. Controlling, deceitful, liars. I wouldn't expect anything more.

Fast forward to my second job in TV journalism. I live in Spokane, Washington. I'm 27, 28. A weekend anchor. I’m lying on the couch after a date dropped me off. I just made and ate and finished an entire box of pancake mix. I look 6 months pregnant. Skin stretched so tight, it hurts. I won’t eat for the next 24 hours because I am so sick.

I. will. Never. Do. This. Again…The monster returns the following night.

Four years later the monster is all grown up. Too big for me. There's now more monster inside me than me. I wake up listing as I do every morning. Listing every single thing I put in my mouth the day before. Every calorie. "I will beat him today." I never win.

I'm now a morning news anchor in a top 25 market. I pretend to be confident. Strong. Just like I tried to do in high school. Pretend to be part of a "normal" family. Just as I keep my monster a secret, I keep my father's a secret too.

I have years of practice. Hiding, avoiding, repressing. When I feel as though I'm losing control of this facade, I let the monster take over. He's really my only friend. The only one who understands. Right? He helps numb the pain. At least for a short while. Then the disgust and self loathing returns. I must numb again.

The monster breaks loose. Forcing me to drive to as many as three stores in a day…I don’t want one clerk to see everything I’m about to put in my body. They can't find out. What if they told? I can just hear them. Laughing as they gossip about the sad, fat news anchor who can't stop stuffing her face.

Once I’m home, I’m in a trance. Hypnotized to the point I can’t keep track of how many candy bars, bowls of ice cream and bags of M&M’s I’ve inhaled. That is until I pass out from my sugar high and wake up only to begin listing again. This monster is a mere minion who answers to a master. Her name is Depression. The two of them can be lethal.

I'm now 33. I'm giving up. Giving in. Let the beast have it all. I've called off the healthiest relationship I've ever had with a man. That man..Jason.. wanted to marry me. But the monster said, no. I'm not too be shared. I'm too used up. He's taken the best of me. Jason is too good. Too normal. Too nice. I don't deserve him.

But there is a sliver of me left to hope..maybe even fight. I start seeing my counselor every week. Sometimes twice a week. We don't call my monster by name. He doesn't have one. I don't starve. I don't purge. I just gorge. We only recognize Depression and her influence. I take medication.

Jason doesn't walk away. He sees hope too. Even though he won't know what that monster did to me for four more years..he knows enough. I'm too ashamed to tell even him everything. But Jason shows me how to be me and how to stop trying to pretend to be someone else.

I'm healing. It doesn't happen over night but I escape the powerful grip and learn to live for the first time. Since. 8th. grade.

Five years later. Today. I’m free. A wife. A mother of a two year old boy. I survived. I’m here and I’m still fighting. The monster hasn't taken control this entire time. But he and his master..depression still try to rear their ugly heads. But now there’s much more of me than there is of them. And now I have the one power that can defeat them every time. Jesus Christ.

I've learned how to count the gifts in my life. And how even suffering can be a gift from God. But as I prepare for this segment I struggle to see the gift in this. How could two decades of torment and shame be counted as blessings? It was easier to see the grace in the two miscarriages I had this last year than to find the gift in this monster.

But God reminds me that I did win. That's a gift. And if I hadn't have lived it, if I hadn't have suffered the way I did. I never would have felt the joy I do now. I can feel for the first time. Appreciate every emotion. I am patient enough to even let those feelings marinate a while..long enough to process them. Understand them. Now that I'm free from that monster...there is so much room for love..even if it does hurt sometimes.

I can now separate my father from his monster. I can relate to him. Forgive him. That is a gift.

And now I can go on live tv..use the platform God gave me to expose this illness. I can help other prisoners of mental illness trying to escape. Trying to beat their own monsters. They need a voice, they need an ally. They need to be told they don't have to give in. Don't have to give up. With the right treatment..the right army. They can fight this. Take them head on.

And. We. Can. Win.










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