Something that's been on my heart to share - My Eating Disorder Story
Hi Friends - today I'm back with something that's been on my heart since I started blogging a few months ago. I always want my blog to be an authentic and vulnerable place. Yes, I love talking about the wellness trends I'm dabbling in, but I also want this to be a space where we can talk openly about our struggles.
You all know that I post frequently about my struggles with digestive health. And to be perfectly open and honest with you all, I've struggled with an eating disorder. There is no doubt in my mind that my eating disorder contributed greatly to these gut-health issues, some of which I'm still dealing with today. I want to share my story because I find that writing really helps me process. It's cathartic for me, and maybe a piece of my story will resonate with you.
I want to make it extremely clear that if these stories are triggering to you in ANY way at this point in your journey, don't read this post. I certainly don't get into specifics, but click out if you feel it's unhealthy for you to read at this point.
I've actually only shared this story once out loud with strangers, and I just tried to find some of the notes I jotted down before I talked about it in a group setting. Well, I couldn't find my notes because I tore the page out of my notebook and threw it away after I shared. That's how uncomfortable sharing made me feel - so exposed and vulnerable. So, I hope you understand how vulnerable sharing this story makes me feel, but if it can help anyone else out there or be something you guys can relate to, it's worth it. Here's my story.
Let's back up. I've always had perfectionist tendencies. Even at a young age, I was extremely driven and focused on schoolwork and getting good grades - as in, I would be absolutely distraught with anything less than an A. I was also always involved in sports and physical activities after school that kept me extremely active - soccer, tennis, softball - I tried it all and dove in headfirst. I worked my butt off in high school, did everything "right," and eventually got accepted to the college of my dreams.
Now fast forward to the summer after my senior year in high school. I was SO grateful to be accepted to Bucknell University, but also so unsure and anxious thinking about the changes that college would bring. I had close friends at home that I was scared to leave - what if I didn't make new ones? I'd never lived away from home before - what if I hated it? I'd always done well in school - but what if classes were too hard, and I didn't meet the requirements of my academic scholarships? These fears coupled with not being as active over the summer led to a little bit of emotional eating as a coping mechanism. By no means was I unhealthy or overweight, but I felt a little bit uncomfortable in my own body. I didn't sweat it though - I had big life changes to focus on.
Despite all of my fears, I started college in the fall and although I felt extremely uncertain and very awkward at times, I eventually found my stride. I was enjoying my classes, meeting new people, and just overall enjoying myself. Because I was living on campus, I found myself walking more to get to class and generally living a more active lifestyle. I ended up dropping a few pounds, got a few compliments, and felt healthier inside and out. I was in a balanced place and just feeling really good.
Remember how I said I was a little bit of a perfectionist? Well, that applied to dropping a few pounds too. It was so easy to lose a little weight, so why not continue? I'm sure you've heard this pattern before, but I started eating less and exercising more. I was laser-focused - similar to getting good grades and getting accepted to an awesome college, this was a new goal for me to conquer. It was an area of my life that I could control.
The end of my freshman year was certainly tough, but I continued to spiral out of control over the summer as I took my diet and exercise to extremes. And returning to campus in the fall of my sophomore year, I looked nothing like the vibrant and healthy college student that I once was. In those first few months, I was a victim of malicious bullying from a former friend. I don't take using this word this lightly at all (it's something I almost never talk about) but it's a critical piece of my journey. I continued to try to cope by controlling my food intake. I will never forget how dark this period was for me. NO ONE deserves to be bullied and you NEED to ask for help if you're this situation. Yet I also understand how very very difficult asking for help is, because I have been there before - I get it. My mom was my saving grace, and I will never forget the unconditional support she gave me. She helped me to remove myself from a toxic situation (moms really always know best) and find new housing on campus.
During this time I continued to lose weight, and friends and family became increasingly concerned. I continued to withdraw. At the time, I just didn't want to hear it and to be perfectly candid, wasn't ready to hear it. But in retrospect, I am in awe that I had such amazing people in my life who were brave enough to have the conversation with me (even multiple times). If you happen to be reading - THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. If you have a friend who you think might be struggling, please reach out to them. Yes, it will probably be awkward and uncomfortable - I certainly know how isolated and closed off to others I was during this time. And I know that it took so much strength for those around me to have this conversation. It might not resonate with your friend at the time, but eventually they will realize that you showed up for them and their well-being - and that's what matters.
With my mom's reassurance and support, I moved to different housing on campus, removed myself from a toxic situation, and I could finally breathe again. I eventually began seeing a nutritionist on campus, and this is where recovery started for me. Again, I can't thank my mom enough for pushing me to go to my initial appointment (notice a theme here?). It's funny - now that I am removed enough from my eating disorder, I just can't imagine how I didn't see that I had a serious problem myself. There were countless nights of forcing myself to eat spoonfuls of peanut butter and granola bars, and also numerous weigh-ins with my nutritionist. And eventually, with my persistence, I found myself back at a "healthy" weight.
One thing that I will always shout from the rooftops (in the right situation of course :)) is that recovery from an eating disorder is NOT linear. And in the following years, although I was back to a "doctor-approved" healthy weight, I'll be perfectly candid that my mindset was anything but healthy. Yes, I was eating again, but I struggled with overexercising. I was still consumed. I still don't know why, but around this time in my recovery, I was compelled to share my struggles with Dan. I had only known him for a couple of months, but I could feel that we already had a deep connection. I trusted him wholeheartedly and he held space for me to pour out my emotions (even the ones that didn't make sense to me). I will never EVER be able to express my gratitude to him for just listening and allowing me to process my struggles and growing pains. He was (and still is!) my saving grace during this time in my recovery. He consistently met me where I was, with no judgment. I truly don't know what I'd do without him, or how I got so lucky to now call him my husband.
I don't know when my "turning point" was, but I started working in a corporate setting after graduating from college, and slowly but surely it clicked that I just didn't have time to focus on diet and exercise. Over the course of the next couple of years, I slowly felt more and more like the truest version of myself. Vibrant. Warm. Happy. Loving. Open. Boy, did I miss her. I'm certainly still on this journey to loving myself fully, but in the past year, I've felt clarity like I never have before. I've also felt comfort being open and flexible like I've never experienced before.
All this to say - I know in my heart that I'm on the right path, and I continue to slowly (emphasis on slowly) find acceptance each and every day. It is NOT perfect. It's messy. But I'm honoring myself and my journey each step of the way. I give myself grace.
I hope that you can connect with my story. And I want to emphasize that if you are ever struggling, you need to reach out for help. There are so many resources out there, and always know that you are not alone <3. I'm here for you, too.
WOW did that feel good (and also extremely terrifying let's be honest) to get down on paper.
I'm sending you all the love and light, wherever you are on your journey to wellness.