I’ve been away from the blogspace for about 9 months now, not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to share my full story before I continued to blog. If you decide to read please do so from an mindful place. I am not posting for criticism or judgment, but to be honest to the world and open to anyone who has questions or seeks advice about this particular topic. Enjoy.
(Warning: sorry for any grammatical errors, run-on-sentences or lack of flow- when it comes to my story I just go with wherever my mind takes me) 😛
My personal journey has been quite a roller coaster. For many years I was extremely ill with an eating disorder that manifested as a way to cope with emotional trauma from various life events stemming from the time I was about 13. It wasn’t until my junior year in college when I was under medical supervision that I realized how much harm I was doing to my body. After my first of several weekly blood tests, my doctor walked up to me and told me that from the results of my blood work he was shocked that I was still alive. My potassium levels were so low that “at any point my heart could have stopped working”. I didn’t take the news lightly but after years of relying on my eating disorder to cope with stress, fear, anxiety, disappointment, and quite frankly anything that didn’t go as I wanted it to, I got immensely depressed and found myself in a deeper, darker place than before. Luckily around the same time my parents had begun to understand what was going on with me and took the initiative to seek out help for me. They offered for me to take a semester off from school and attend an outpatient behavioral care program. I agreed and although it wasn’t my idea of a vacation, I knew that I needed to go if I wanted to live to see the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
During treatment I learned a lot and also made a few life-long friends. It was good to be around people who struggled with the same issues and it also opened my eyes up to the realities of the disease. Many of the people in treatment with me were much worse off than I was. It was physically evident, they experienced many more side effects and consequences than I had at the time. After a few months of treatment followed by weekly therapy sessions I found myself much more aware but still falling into the same traps as before. I was able to cope with my emotions for longer but my brainpower alone couldn’t stop the inevitable from happening all of the time. For a few more years I struggled to get a full grasp on this issue, as my desire to get healthy grew stronger, so did my frustration and disappointment in myself. At this point I was very aware of my body, how I was damaging it, I could see and feel it but couldn’t escape it.
Throughout this time I had always been very physically active. Working out was freeing to me, it made me feel good, it made me feel strong, “healthy”, and capable, even though I was far from all of those things. I knew that being so unhealthy and so active wasn’t a smart combo, especially with the reminder that if my heart is barely working, I shouldn’t be pushing it. I fought daily with this back and forth of doing the one thing that makes me feel good and doing something that is causing more damage to my already broken body.
As the hardship continued, I got an unexpected glimpse into “what could be”. It happened on a vacation that I went on with a few friends. I was always petrified of going away with anyone, being in an unfamiliar place, trying to hide my issues, finding a place that had the kinds of foods that I liked, not letting my emotions get the best of me. I was scared shitless but always went in with an open mind. Long story short; I had the best vacation of my life, never once got sick and was able to allow myself to be free and have fun for an entire week! Unknowingly, the constant support of my friends along with the beauty and adventure kept me so at peace with myself that I never once needed to use my eating disorder to cope with unpleasant feelings. On the plane ride home I was nervous about returning to reality but determined to fight to keep that peace within my body and not let myself down.
To my surprise I was able to keep my positive mindset up for quite a while. I learned that with every slip, there is a steep slope, and there’s no one but yourself to pull you back up. As my life went on, new people came into and out of my life, new opportunities presented themselves, and with every step forward I tried harder and harder to not let myself slip again. My biggest goals were to do better, fight off the disease for longer, ignore the nightmares, wake up and accomplish something without looking back.
I found ways to hold myself accountable for my own actions. I had a friend who was always there for me, who knows my whole story, and who accepts me for who I am, no matter how good or bad my day had gone. I would seek advice and support from her whenever I needed; she was and is always there for me. I started working with a naturopathic doctor. He helped me learn the full damage that I had done, resulting in three autoimmune diseases: rheumatory arthritis, psoriasis and raynaud’s disease. He put me on a track to help reverse those diseases yielding in much success but still a work in progress. I started implementing specific strength goals at the gym. Since I have developed a love for Olympic Weightlifting it has given me incredible focus and perseverance in my journey. Each day I seek to prove that I CAN be strong and healthy again. There have been many setbacks along the way but my ultimate goals never fade.
There are days when things get hard. It’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to others these days with the presence of social media. Some days I feel like I will never be as strong as I want to be, or eat foods that everyone else is eating. But I keep myself focused knowing that I’m not everyone else- I’m me. I have walked a different road than most other people and therefore many things will be harder for me. I may never be able to eat a donut again and I may never be a national level athlete but if I can continue to improve both physically and mentally, then I will have beat adversity and won this life-long battle. I hope that people can read my story and begin to understand that everyone is running a different race, everyone struggles, and everyone needs love and support to make it through those struggles.
Some people have a hard time understanding how behavioral disorders manifest themselves. I can tell you that there is nothing more difficult than having to actively ward off a constant urge in your head. It presents itself in every situation, in every way it can, and every night that you sleep. The longer you can ward it off, the smaller it gets… by about a millionth of a fraction. And every time you let it win, it comes back even stronger. I can happily say that I have been free of this illness now for quite some time. Although it still haunts me from time to time, it will likely hold its presence in my life for years to come and when new challenges arrive. But I am equipped to handle it now. I can wake up from nightmares and say “F. YOU”, I can deal with emotions by experiencing them and talking about them with the people who understand me best. It doesn’t own me anymore, and never will again. Every day my goal is to get stronger inside and out, and every day I get closer to rebuilding the strongest version of myself and being whole, and at peace with my body.