The next installment from RESTORING OUR BODIES, RECLAIMING OUR LIVES is a letter from a former TV news anchor. Lynette, now thirty-seven, had suffered from bulimia for fifteen years when she realized her television career was making her sick. She wrote to me during her first year in recovery, after she’d taken off her mask and stepped away from the camera.
I never had eating problems or even thought about dieting or body image in high school or college. However, when I began a career in TV news, I started bingeing and purging. I thought I looked fat on TV. My career was based in large part on my looks. I was never told or instructed to look a certain way, never really felt harassed by management, but I had a big chip on my shoulder. I was damned if I’d let anyone think I was going to skate on my looks. So I went out of my way to prove my worth in the newsroom. I worked my way up as a reporter to the anchor chair. I knew how to shoot and edit my own stories and I’d produce my own newscasts. As I realized I couldn’t handle the intense scrutiny of being the “TV lady” and living up to others’ expectations, bulimia became my coping mechanism. I lived a double life, completely disconnected from what I really wanted.
As my name and face became better known in the community, I pulled further into myself and away from people. For some reason, it made me very uncomfortable when people would compliment me about how I looked, or say that I was thin (“Look! She can eat whatever she wants and she doesn’t gain weight!”). If you’re a beautiful woman in society today, your life must be perfect. It was incomprehensible to others that I might have insecurities or my own fears.
I left TV at the height of my career, and a lot of people couldn’t understand why. Of course, I know: I’d reached a point where I no longer understood who I was under the public facade.
Now that I’ve left, I have the space to focus on my issues: perfectionism, trying to find ways to cope with anxiety, thinking someone I love will make me a whole person, feeling that I’m not worth all the good things I’ve earned.
I believe I have finally laid the groundwork and found the right therapist who will help me manage what seems like a chronic illness. We both realize there are deeper issues at work—that I have to learn healthier ways of coping with my anxieties—to find what makes me happy, as opposed to what others believe will make me happy.