Heather Bowman says she was first sexually abused at 13—by someone in her Arizona home. But when she went to her parents, she was ignored.
The abuser told her he did not like skinny girls, so she stopped eating, she recalls. He eventually left her alone.
Bowman, who is 5 feet 8, says she starved herself down to 90 pounds.
Her family and friends insisted that she go to an eating disorder treatment center, so she went, reluctantly, she said a week and a half ago publicly for the first time. She spoke at the overlooking the .
But she learned to be bulimic at the previous center and hid her disorder for many years, she says.
Bowman says that when she finally started overcoming her eating disorder, at age 23, she was raped.
Associating the trauma with looking like a woman, Bowman says, she once again transformed her body into skin and bones.
One day while showering, she passed out and woke up 10 days later in a hospital, unaware of how she got there, Bowman said.
Homeless, without a job and with very little money, she raised donations to send herself to Montecatini, an eating disorder treatment center on La Costa Avenue. The 21-year-old center that serves hundreds of women provides residential, partial hospital and intensive outpatient care.
In 2008 while in the partial hospitalization program, Bowman left one night to meet up with a guy, she recalls. Back in treatment eight weeks later, she learned she was pregnant.
Montecatini kept her in the program while pregnant, and she stayed there until her third trimester, she says. Bowman had a baby girl and has been free of eating disorders for three years.
Do you know someone who might have an eating disorder? Montecatini says symptoms include fatigue, sleep disturbances, dizziness/fainting, weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety, cold intolerance, loss of menses, broken bones, bloated/heartburn, constipation/diarrhea, puffy cheeks, brittle hair/nails and loss of muscle mass.
More resources and information about eating disorders can be found on montecatinieatingdisorder.com.
And Heather Bowman? She and her baby now live in Arizona.