Taryn and Lorri Benson wrote a book together about Taryn's eating disorder. The residents of southern Florida live in Steamboat Springs during the summer and are speaking at Off the Beaten Path on Wednesday evening.

Photo by Blythe Terrell

Taryn and Lorri Benson wrote a book together about Taryn's eating disorder. The residents of southern Florida live in Steamboat Springs during the summer and are speaking at Off the Beaten Path on Wednesday evening.

Mom, daughter share story

Women wrote book on eating disorder to provide perspective

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— When Lorri Benson heard Taryn vomiting in the bathroom, she knew her daughter wasn't ill. She had just seen the 16-year-old polish off a full meal and the rest of her sister's at a restaurant.

The incident about five years ago marked the beginning of the Benson family's struggle with Taryn's bulimia and anorexia.

"She really had descended into quite a living hell, and it was the same for the rest of us," Lorri Benson said. "That's the part that's often overlooked: what the family goes through when they know their loved one is struggling, and you try to fix it for them and you can't."

The struggle for mother and daughter led them to co-write a book, "Distorted," about the experience. The summertime Steamboat Springs residents will give a book talk and signing Wednesday at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

Taryn Benson has since recovered and plans to attend nursing school this fall. She is 21, married and the mother of a 7-month-old son.

But Taryn was miserable as a teenager.

"My eating disorder started when I was 15, but a lot of the thoughts and negativity about myself started when I was in middle school," she said.

She was open with her mother about her feelings. The family was close, Lorri Benson said.

"We'd talk into the night," Lorri Benson said. "She'd tell me how she felt about herself. : My reaction was, 'No, honey, you're beautiful.'"

That response wasn't helpful, Taryn said.

"When I said all those things to my parents, instead of writing it off, they should take it seriously as things that I thought," she said. "It made me think they didn't understand."

The trouble, Lorri Benson said, is that she wanted to swoop in and fix her daughter. She wanted to make it all better.

The Bensons sent their oldest daughter to therapy for the illness. She left their South Florida home for inpatient treatment. When Taryn returned, the binge eating and purging continued.

"The disease really turns girls and young men into amazing deceptors," Lorri Benson said. "They become masterful liars."

The disease stretched at least three years. Taryn went to another inpatient treatment center before leaving home for the University of Florida. There, things turned around.

When she was about 19, Taryn started to get better. She was in therapy and on medication. Slowly, she built up her self-esteem. She has had a few purging incidents but has pulled out of them.

"It's tough, but I just try and focus on what's positive about my life now," she said. "I don't want to go back there."

Two years ago, Lorri Benson asked her daughter whether she would mind her writing a book about the experience. Throughout the ordeal, Lorri had trouble finding resources about how eating disorders affect families. She wanted to write one.

It turned out that Taryn wanted to write about her experience, too.

The result is "Distorted," a book in which both of the women tell their story. They plan to talk about the book and the experience Wednesday, particularly in light of statistics showing that there were 19 suicide attempts in Routt County in May.

Mary Jarchow, events coordinator at Off the Beaten Path, said this is a smart time to discuss depression.

"It's a tough thing to talk about, obviously," Jarchow said. "After May, it's something our community needs to be educated about."

The event will be in the bookstore's loft, which will provide privacy, she said.

The Benson women hope to share insight into eating disorders - and to show people that recovery is possible.

"Taryn's a happy person now," her mother said. "She was not a happy person then."

Comments

Tracy Barnett 6 years, 5 months ago

Congratulations, Taryn. Recover is not always (or rarely is) the case. Those teenage years can be so cruel!

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