This is a story of surviving when hope feels lost. Can you imagine being told you are hopeless? Not finding the care you need. Being put on hospice and told there is nothing left to be done until a moment changes your life and gives you the hope and fight you need. Nicola’s story may feel hard to read, it involves some trauma, but never in my interview did she get jaded by it or blame it. You could feel her smile and hope for the future through every word whether painful or joyful. Nicola teaches us that no matter how dark things feel, light always wins out in the end. Here is Nicola.
Favorite Music: Country music, positive Christian music, and Disney classics (a tribute to my son)
Love About Your Job: Home with my son now and I love how he can smile at anything. He makes me have fun again. Everything is new and exciting again.
Favorite Color: Yellow because it is happy and stands out. Makes a statement.
Fun Fact: Love putting on Carrie Underwood and dancing with Hunter. It is terrible dancing but have so much fun doing it.
Three Words To Describe How You Want to Feel: Freedom, True Joy, and Confidence
I grew up in a Catholic family with father in seminary. My mom was fun, carefree one. My dad had more anxiety with history of eating disorders on his side of the family. I had two older brothers. Both my parents worked as nurses, but my father worked all the time to provide for the family. He worked 3pm to midnight so we hardly saw him. We were a very athletic family and we were all happy and carefree. I remember being so happy until first grade. One day I remember the last day of spring break before returning to school, but I was inside having anxiety about going back to school that I put my hand through a window. Everyday I started refusing to go to school. We don’t know why or what happened but my mom and I feel I must have blocked something out. That started my parent’s awareness over my anxiety but I pushed through school. I slept with the lights on and was terrified of everything.
I started in figure skating and loved it. I started competing. One day my coach told me to drop a couple pounds so I could skate faster at a higher altitude. I was heavier set and was teased on the playground also. I was thirteen at the time, this started cutting out “bad” food. Being the younger daughter of the handsome popular brothers, I felt people were friends with me only because of them. This focus was the start of my eating disorder but it was not full blown. I remember feeling fat and not pretty enough. The boy I had a crush on flirted with my other friends and in my mind it was not being thin or pretty enough. This is when the dieting increased and I lost weight, which started to cause concern. The purging started when I was forced to eat. It made me feel better. I can prove to everyone I am fine but not have to eat the food. It got to a point where I started to bleed in my stomach and I asked to go to the hospital. I remember my dad saying not to take me because I made myself sick so I should just stop it. My mom still took me but it scared me so I stopped temporarily.
After graduation I fell in love. The eating issues were steady. I was having fun and happy. He was the cool guy and I felt lucky. The red flag came up one night when we got in a fight and he threw his keys at me but he showed up to apologize with flowers so I accepted it was a one-time thing. We moved in together. We had no money but we were happy until the first time he threw his keys at me and hit me in the face. It continued and I felt so humiliated but I forgave him every time because he would treat me so well after. We ended up getting married and the abuse only got worse. My parents knew nothing because I hid it well. I told him he needed to get counseling or I would leave. That night he put a gun to my head and told me he could kill me. I was so done at that point I told him to do it. I remember he said I was not worth the jail time. I left that night and went to my parents but I never talked about it. I just kept it all to myself. I didn’t want to hurt them with my story. I think this is why my bulimia resurfaced because I was trying so hard to be perfect and it was a release from all the pressure.
I ended up getting remarried and I was happy but he had an ex wife who caused a lot of drama so the bulimia and over exercising helped me with anxiety. It only helped for so long though and I remember it got so bad I called my husband to come home so I could finally ask for help. I was admitted into a treatment center in Denver and got the help I needed. I followed all the rules and saw improvement too fast I guess cause insurance denied me more coverage without symptom use. It taught me that people only care when you are sick and if you start to get better you are on your own. I noticed when I was sick people called, they asked how I was, and I got attention. When I was doing better there was less attention and less caring. I ended up getting divorced because we grew apart.
I ended up dating a man with two kids and we moved in with each other. There were no plans to get married. I moved in because feeling I was feeling bad about living with my parents. Despite my health and not having a period, I got pregnant. That changed everything. I became a mommy right away. The eating disorder stopped. This child was everything to me. It was a great time for me. I had no urges. For seven months I was on top of the world, until I got a call that my dad was having strokes and took a turn for the worse. I drove up to sit with him in the nursing home. When I was sitting there alone, his breathing became labored and he died. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do so I just ran. When I called my boyfriend, he couldn’t be there because he was drunk and could not drive. I felt so alone. I was not close to my father and had so many mixed feelings so I felt no one could relate to me or understand. This was the beginning of the end of our relationship.
My son Hunter was born a month early and my mom was the one at the hospital everyday. My boyfriend was not there. His drinking got worse and one night he could barely hold the baby and hit his head on the door so I left. I moved in with my mom. While I was breast-feeding life was good. When I stopped breast-feeding, I started exercising to get in shape because I wanted my ex boyfriend to see me looking amazing. It became an obsession. It started to take time away from my son. If I didn’t exercise it overtook my thoughts but when I exercised I told myself I was a horrible mom, it was a vicious cycle. The next three years are kind of a blur. I was in and out of hospitals and treatment centers. It got to the point where I could not lift my head. I had a heart attack. I was so bed ridden that I got a bed sore. The only place that would take me was a nursing home. My mom came everyday to eat with me and brought my son. I cried everyday. When I got to a place to get discharged, I felt so happy I took my family on a Disney cruise to celebrate. When I got home, I felt lost about what was next so I went back to behaviors. I ended up in a psych unit under court order because the treatment centers would not take me. The doctor told my family I was going to die. They can no longer treat me because I was not compliant. I went on hospice and went to a nursing home because I did not want my son to see me die. I did not want to leave him but I was convinced I could not beat this because that was the message I kept hearing.
Then one day on day pass with my family, my mom asked if we could go to dinner and I said no. Just as I said no, my son said, “Mommy please eat dinner so you don’t die. Please mommy.” That moment I looked at him and decided this eating disorder is not going to beat me. I gained weight, I am home with my son, and I am about to be discontinued from hospice. It is hard everyday. It is a fight everyday but I want to be here. I am able to lift my son again. I can be present and enjoy the moment now.
The lesson that prevails for me is that eating disorders make you selfish. You are not a selfish person but they make you selfish. It is all about you. They make you stop thinking or caring about anything else. Yes it numbs your pain and takes away the hard thoughts but it also takes away so much joy. When I was numbing the pain, I was robbing my son of connection. He turned to my mom not me. Through my connection with him I have found healing. I still have thoughts of self-hatred but I am choosing to do this anyway. I am starting to see the happiness and the other side of it. I can now say I am a darn good mom. I would not have said that three months ago. I see the future and plan for it now. I am no longer in that black hole. I am climbing out.
Mantras don’t work for me. I need to hear praise and that I am doing well. I tell my mom to share with me when I do well with my son. I need reassuring words. I am able to ask for what I need now. There is so much more to my life then the trauma that happened to me. It doesn’t define me or control me. Who I am is separate from the trauma.
I want to say to women struggling, there is hope. You may not see it now. Everyone gave up hope on me except my son. You are never alone. When you think you are alone, someone out there has hope for you. You can do it.
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