As we round out this week, I wanted to share a little bit of my personal story. In 2014, I was diagnosed with anorexia, orthorexia, and compulsive exercise disorder.
It all started a couple of years earlier when I was in college. Moving to a new place with no friends or family while going through some personal and family issues made me feel so out of control and pushed me to isolate myself from everyone. I was incredibly afraid of showing any “weakness” or having to actually talk about anything going on, so it was easier for me to do it on my own. My entire life, I took a perfectionistic mindset, and the thought of showing up imperfectly scared me to death.
Out of an extreme desire for control, I began to control the things I could – food and exercise. As weeks went by, my obsession got more and more intense and I began to face body dysmorphia and a constant need to compare myself to others. I became extremely fearful of food, obsessed with calorie restriction and burn, and unable to sustain normal brain and body function. My eating disorder completely took over my life. Because of my desire for control, I lost every ounce of control I ever had. I wasn’t myself. I was weak, I couldn’t read or think, I NEVER saw friends, my personality completely changed. My life was grocery store, gym, study.
My family and friends didn’t know what to do and I wouldn’t let anyone talk to me about it. This was my life and I was fine with it. Even as I began to face serious medical complications, I wouldn’t share anything with anyone. I lived like this for a couple of years before my aunt sat me down and begged me to own up to what was happening. I don’t know what it was about that conversation, but that’s when I decided I would “try” to get better. I spent four months seeing doctors and therapists and nutritionists and thought I was getting better. Turns out, I wasn’t. I was just going through the motions to please my aunt who I look up to and love more than almost anything on this planet. It was all performative.
My aunt ended up flying with me to Florida to admit me to inpatient treatment at Oliver Pyatt Centers. I was terrified, but I can say, without a doubt in my mind, it saved my life. Treatment was the worst and best thing I’ve ever done. It took a few months but I started to claim my life back. I was able to think and read and have conversations like I use to. I regained the light in my eyes and the personality I had been missing for years. I made friendships that have changed the direction of my life.
Looking back on it now, I am sad I missed so much – school, relationships, the ability to learn literally anything. I ask myself why I couldn’t just own up to it sooner. But now, I’m grateful. I’ve been given the opportunity to be an advocate for awareness and recovery. I’ve been on boards and panels and have been able to talk about my experience. If I’m able to help one person in a similar situation, it’s all worth it.
I still work super hard every day to stay on this side of recovery. Some days are harder than others. Some days I think about giving up. Some days it just feels like too much pressure. It’s not easy, friends, and I don’t know if it will ever be, but I KNOW it’s worth it. I do it for myself but I also do it for my family and my friends. I do it for you.
I’m so lucky to have been blessed with a support system to help me through it still to this day. I wouldn’t be here without that. If you need a person to walk with you, I’m here. I mean that with my entire being. I’m here.