Moms Who Self-Destruct
This self-hatred can even be deadly. Leigh has been married for 12 years, has two children, and is dangerously anorexic. She is 5-foot-6 and weighs 82 pounds—less than an average 10-year-old girl.
Leigh says she used to work out two hours a day, but now after 20 minutes her weak body can't take any more exertion. Leigh says she's disappeared both physically and emotionally. "I used to be the life of the party," she says. "Nobody really wants to be around me anymore."
Leigh has begun worrying how her disease is affecting her 8-year-old son, Benton, who weighs nearly as much as his mom. "My children eat, but they see how I eat and [in turn] don't eat snacks," Leigh says. "It's not that I try to keep it from them, but I worry about my oldest and I worry about what he's going to eat."
"I wish my mom could play longer with me. Because of her energy loss, she sometimes just doesn't feel like doing anything. I feel kind of sad because my dad usually gets onto her because she doesn't eat enough. And he always says, 'If you put on about 30 more pounds, I'll be happy.' I feel a little sad for her because I know she can't put on 30 more pounds because she doesn't eat enough.
"At supper, she usually eats way before us. Sometimes I would like to prepare supper for her so that she can eat a little more.
"When my mom and dad are in the arguments and I'm still awake, I get pretty scared when my dad yells. And my mom usually just says, 'This is the way I want it.' She asks me sometimes if she needs to gain a little more weight, so she knows that I'm thinking about it. Usually I don't ask her because I don't know if it will hurt her feelings or not. Telling her that she needs to gain a little more weight, that she needs to play with us more. If I asked her that, well, she'll probably say, 'I'm doing the best I can.'"
Dr. Robin urges Leigh to understand the impact her anorexia has on Benton. "When you have children, we give up our right to self-destruct because there are people depending on you," she says.
"Yes, we'll be there," Brian says.
"That's a problem," Dr. Robin explains. "We think love means, 'I'll go down with the ship.' If we have kids, some parent must say, 'If this ship is sinking, it will not take my children down with it.'"
"Now I'm more okay with it," Leigh says. "But as a child you wonder, 'Why didn't someone love me?'"
"In many ways, you are still a child who is still asking, 'Why am I unimportant?' And how do I know that? You're evaporating, you are becoming invisible," Dr. Robin says. "You are willing to die and leave your children and your husband alone to prove the fact that she wasn't worthy to be kept."
Dr. Robin says that anorexics like Leigh, and people who otherwise abuse themselves, are refusing to feed themselves physically, emotionally or spiritually. "You are redoing that pain and showing yourself that you deserve to be rejected," she says.
Over the course of several years and two failed marriages, Lauren began to overeat in order to cope with her feelings of rejection. Lauren has gained more than 100 pounds and is married for the third time, this time to her personal trainer. Lauren says her husband verbally abuses her daily about her weight. "My husband calls me 'fat ass,'" she says. "He always makes me feel like I'm nothing."
Lauren says she's ashamed that her kids have found her passed-out on the couch after her binges. "I don't want them to see me like that anymore," she says.
Lauren's overeating is the flipside to Leigh's anorexia. "The huge connection between the two stories is that [both Lauren and Leigh] feel they're not worthy," Oprah says. "They are harming themselves to 'prove' that something is wrong [with them]."
Oprah: Promise me—no matter what else you do—you will never drink and get in a car and drive again. There are so many lives that have been destroyed [by drunk driving]. ... Do you promise?
Lauren: I promise.
Dr. Robin: It's [your] first step in loving yourself. It's [your] first step in being worthy. ... It's a step of loving you to not drink and drive.
Lauren: I need to love myself. I need to stop relying on other people to make me happy. I need to find worth and happiness within myself.
"Everything you [are] saying about your husband is what you need to feel for yourself," Oprah says.
"It absolutely started in my childhood," Tracey says. "[I was] abused."
By understanding how her wounding has shaped her life today, Dr. Robin says Tracey can learn to feel differently about herself. Even though her feelings of worthiness were robbed from her in childhood, it's not too late to reclaim them. "It was rooted in somebody else's lie about [you] or somebody else's misery about themselves," Dr. Robin says. "The healing happens when we can rewrite the script."
What's missing in your life? Dr. Robin helps you launch your personal comeback.