Welcome back! It has been months since I posted last and I am vowing now to do my best and post more frequently! Today’s post is very emotional and hard for me to write. I always knew I would create a blog post on this topic but I wanted the timing to be right. And then I realized, the longer I keep it in, the bigger of a secret it becomes, and I’m tired of being so ashamed of this part of my story. So here it goes…
There are 2 ideas in my life that have been a constant since I was at least 6 years old (this is the first age I can remember actually thinking about these things but I’m pretty sure it’s been passed on to me for generations):
- I have always stressed about the future
- I have always had a keen awareness of my physical body
These ideas ruled my life and therefore I constantly worried about my grades, striving to get all A’s so I could be accepted in to any Texas school that I wanted (yes, I was thinking about college in kindergarten). I constantly worried that I didn’t lock the door to my house when I left. I constantly worried about what others thought of me and never wanted to be in a situation where I could be embarrassed. From such a young age I always loathed certain parts of my body and would constantly pick them apart in front of a mirror, using my fingers to pinch undesirable parts of myself.
For the majority of my adolescent life, the incessant worrying served me well (at least it seemed that way):
- I made good grades in school and my teachers always liked me
- I had a lot of friends
- I never burned the house down
- I never really embarrassed myself
- I had male attention when I got older
- I was in the top 10% of my graduating class
- I was accepted to the college I absolutely had to go to
Everything that I had worked so hard for had been achieved. I started my freshman year of college in 2007 and by the end of the semester I had lost over 30 pounds. I quickly realized that despite receiving everything I had worked so hard to attain, I wasn’t happy. Faced with my first dose of depression at age 18, I had no idea how to handle it. I was away from home for the first time ever, I didn’t have a car and lived on campus so I couldn’t really leave, and I had spent that entire first semester locked up in my dorm room studying so I didn’t make any friends.
To deal with the anxiety and panic attacks, I worked out. I worked out at the campus rec every day, sometimes multiple times a day. This eased my depression a bit, but not completely. I had gained a little bit of weight during the summer after graduating and the first couple months of freshman year. The constant exercise changed my body and I started to become obsessed with watching my body change. Despite making good grades during the first semester and losing a bit of extra weight, I was still depressed and felt out of control of my life. My eating disorder started when I realized that controlling what I ate, or didn’t eat, gave me comfort. I know this can sound a bit odd if you’ve never dealt with anorexia, but a lot of people suffer from this disease because of the need to be in control.
I had finally found something that eased my depression and gave me a sense of being in control once again. At first I just wouldn’t eat things that were “bad” for me and I prided myself on having the will power and self control to say no. That quickly escalated into saying no to food completely, no matter how much my stomach growled or my body begged for nourishment. I lost over 30 pounds within the span of a couple months and by the time I went home for Christmas break, I was almost unrecognizable. My family and friends obviously knew something was going on but I don’t think anyone was equipped with how to deal with it. And the starvation of my body had let to immense irritability and fatigue on my part, so I had no tolerance for anyone trying to reason with me.
By the end of my break from school, I no longer had a period or bowel movements. The little bit of food I had eaten over the holidays were stuck in my stomach and I could see it actually protruding out. Out of concern (not that I wasn’t having bowel movements, but that my stomach looked ‘fat’) I went to my doctor before heading back to school. My doctor, obviously, freaked out when she saw me and sent me to a cardiologist to get an EKG of my heart. I did, and then back to school I went.
A week later, my mother called me in tears, telling me I had to come home because my heart rate was so low that just walking to class could put it in distress and cause my heart to fail. So all my organs had begun to shut down in order to keep my heart going. This was the first time I realized I had a big problem, and decided to leave school for the rest of the semester and come home. Thankfully with me moving back in with my parents, my doctor’s at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston did not force me to do inpatient counseling. I was able to stay at home and drove downtown several times a week for check ups and weigh ins. To be quite honest, being back home took most of my anxiety away so I was able to put weight back on in no time.
But I never truly recovered…
For the past decade, any time something stressful has occurred in my life, I have fallen back on my disordered eating tendencies for comfort. Skipping a meal here or there, usually nothing too extreme. But that all changed the year Josh and I were engaged. Being engaged to be married made me happier in ways that I’ve never experienced before, but it also caused A LOT of stress. I’m sure any of you who have been married can relate when it comes to wedding planning. I hated every second of it. I would have been fine marrying Josh in a court house ceremony, so everything that came along with planning a wedding was just something that caused immense anxiety in me. I had also lost my cousin to suicide the year before (although I have never talked about it much, it has affected me in ways that no one knows about) and Josh lost his best friend/best man just a few months after our engagement. And ultimately, because I didn’t have much love for myself at the time, I couldn’t see how someone could love me enough to want to be married to me. So in the year we were engaged, I lost over 20 pounds and my wedding dress had to be taken in from a size 6 to a size 2.
Again, after the stresses of the wedding and changing careers, I was able to put the weight back on and have remained around 130 ever since. But the thoughts never go away…and that is what I am working on changing. I can say with absolute confidence that I definitely love and respect myself more now that I did 2, 5, 10 years ago, but it doesn’t come without struggle. I know I will get into another post about how I have started to learn to love myself, but I think this one is long enough!
If you made it to this point, thank you. Thank you for reading this and thank you for being in my life. This is the hardest thing I have ever shared out loud, but I know I will be glad I did.