everyone has a “hard thing.” a hurdle they jump through, whether big or small, that defines them. it is in these hurdles that we learn to jump. high and long, we leap as we run, and we not only imagine-but bring to reality the conquering of things we never knew possible.
As I entered 11th grade I specifically remember health class. I remember watching a documentary about the detrimental effects of a certain fast food chain (think Supersize Me and Mickey D’s). I remember that tennis is the said-best sport for a good cardio work out, right up there with running. I remember eating snacks.
One specific lesson I’ll never forget was on eating habits. We learned about healthy eating, overeating and disordered eating. I remember my health teacher discussing bullimia and anorexia as “teenage girls looking in the mirror and thinking they’re fat” and consequently starving or purging over it. I specifically remember thinking to myself-
I could never do that. I love food too
See. I was a normal high schooler. I loved my friends, my school activities, my cute clothes and the way I was percieved by others was extremely important to me. However, in the area of my weight I was relatively confident. I mean, my favorite meal was mashed potatoes and ham. The healthy aspect? Lima beans drowned in brown butter. Yum.
My junior year was major. I was taking SATs, choosing colleges, practically determing my future (or trying to). On top of all that I had just started “talking to” a new guy (my husband), and I was struggling with digestive issues and awful stomach pain. We prayed, we visited doctors, I had so many tests done I can’t even remember them all, but nothing seemed to give me answers for my pain. It was distracting, and seemed mostly caused my stress (which there was a lot of).
In January 2009 I started being “more careful” with what I ate…and I started feeling better. I had discovered a cure, the way that I could control what doctors seemingly could have. On a diet of salads I started to “feel better.”
It didn’t take long for my new eating habits to begin catching up with me. My weight loss was slight at first, and initially I got comments like “Have you been working out? You look great!” and “How do you keep that body? What’s your secret?” I ate this up, what had started in a seemingly harmless way was suddenly becoming my latest obession. I had always enjoyed running (short distances), but suddenly I couldn’t live without it. I began to pay attention to calories, a whole new world to me. I had a little notebook and a website I used. Each day was like a math problem- 5 mile run ( burning ____ calories) + eating hardly anything ( ______ calories) equals NEGATIVE _____ calories. That’s right, at the end of my day the goal was to go negative in caloric intake. I was a mess.
Every story has a hero. My mom is the hero in this one. You never want to admit that you have a problem, much less that your own child does. But if my mom hadn’t admitted I had a problem, if she hadn’t taken me to that first doctor’s appointment, the one where my pediatrician said “you’re on the verge of an eating disorder,” who knows where I’d be.
In two months I had gone from a happy and healthy 145 lb high school girl, to a sickly and depressed, awful and mean 119 lbs. At 5′ 8” I could not afford this.
By June of 2009 I had both dated and broke up with my (now) amazing husband. I had become an anti-social nightmare child. The summer of 2009 I don’t think I hung out with one friend. I was mean to my sisters, angry toward my parents and completely rude to my doctor, dietician and counseler. My mom didn’t waste any time getting me into treatement. We made countless trips to the eating disorder clinic at Hershey Med Center, my hero of a dietician here in Lancaster City and my amazing counseler on Lititz Pike.
I remember my mom sending Carolyn out with me on my long runs, for fear that I’d pass out from lack of nutrition (or heat stroke considering I ran mid-day).
I remember when I was told I had to stop exercising for a time, I threatened to go out in the middle of the night, and I did sit-ups in the shower.
I remember Carolyn making me cookies, and writing me a note “I know you aren’t hungry very much, but here’s something I thought you might like.”
I remember my dad taking me to get my cartilidge pierced, in hopes that I would feel pretty.
There are SO many facets to my story. Obviously there is that “what happened with you and Brent?” (Maybe I’ll write a sequel). There is the me almost dropping out of Living Word and switching schools my senior year. There is the me finding value in anything and everything but the Lord.
First I had to realize something.
There are moments of my journey that are just engrained in my mind.
I was standing in my bedroom, looking in the mirror. I remember what I was wearing, a small white beater and my sister Amanda’s shorts. I was 17, Amanda was 10. I was staring at a family portrait hanging on my mirror. The picture had been taken for a church directory the summer before Junior year. We were so happy, I lookedhappy. I hadn’t seen a truly happy Me in a very long time.
I looked in the mirror. I was sick. I was skin and bones, I was not pretty, I was sunken in and pale. There was no going up if I stayed on this path. I either get help or die. It was truly at that point. In that moment I made choice. I went to my mom bawling my eyes out. I needed help, I longed for help and I had been “recieving help” but not truly recieving.
Eating disorders are serious stuff. Anorexia is serious. There is so much more to it than just “a girl looking in the mirror and thinking she’s fat.” This Spring will mark four years since I was at my worst, lowest point. I cannot tell you that I don’t still struggle. Moments in life bring up fear in me. The thought of a wedding brought anxiety which brought control which ended with me in a too-big wedding dress four days before. That is not ok.
SO many parts of my heart have been healed. SO many parts of my mind have been healed. But I am learning. I am on a journey, and I can’t give up. I can’t just give in and decide that I will let running get the best of me, or that I will stop eating out of control. Anorexia is complex, but it can no longer define me. We all have struggles, it’s part of that whole fallen world thing. But I want you, whoever “you” may be, to know that there is hope. I’m still on the journey.
It’s a choice.