*This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts or behaviors. Please use your discretion and speak with your support system as needed.
Betsy Brenner is a lawyer, married mother of three, tennis coach, and bereavement group leader and in Barrington, Rhode Island. She is passionate about her role as a recovery speaker and has shared her story at treatment centers in the Boston area. Betsy co-leads an eating disorder support group and mentors women who are struggling with mid-life eating disorders.
There are many factors that propelled me into a full-blown eating disorder in my mid-forties. The first significant event was my parents’ divorce when I was 7 years old. It shattered the innocence of my early childhood and began years of internalizing any and all difficult emotions. My Mom continued as if nothing had happened. I had no opportunity to talk about the divorce or its impact, no place for tears, sadness or anger, no place for feelings of any kind.
There is no doubt that my Mom loved me and I am very grateful for many happy childhood memories, but her suppressed emotions and undiagnosed mental health issues made her moody, rigid, and controlling. Even with food, she controlled what I ate, when I ate and how much I ate. I never learned intuitive eating.
I grew up feeling that the only way to make my Mom happy was to achieve success in the classroom and on the tennis court. I felt so much pressure to meet her expectations of perfection so that she would be proud of me. There was no place for questioning her ways or expressing my own needs and emotions. While my tennis success was an important source of self-esteem, the tennis court became my sanctuary, my escape from the emotions inside I was unable to express.