Ok, so I am about to go to the other end of the spectrum compared to my lighthearted vacation recaps. But I want to get it out on the table early on in my blog so here we go.
As much as I hate to admit it, dealing with an eating disorder has been a big part of my life and while I do not intend for this blog to be entirely eating disorder focused, I am very much still recovering both my mind and body from this vicious disease. I absolutely hate this side of me. I don’t talk about it with even the closest people in my life. I would rather keep it buried forever. I am hoping that by being vulnerable I can process through these emotions myself and encourage others who are struggling to share their stories as well and know that they are not alone.
5th grade is when it all started, I was thin but I looked around at my classmates in comparison to myself and thought that something had to change. It started small. I slowly began monitoring my eating by reducing the quantity of certain foods and completely refraining from others. I remember being at an ice cream shop after a softball game with my team and getting a lollipop because I was suddenly fearful of eating ice cream. These choices quickly snowballed into complete starvation. I wouldn’t allow myself to eat anything. Very small bites of things, a lot of secretive behaviors, and bones starting to pop out of my body became my new reality. People started to notice. I got attention. It wasn’t exactly positive attention but maybe it was just attention itself that I was looking for. I missed school in order to avoid eating lunch in the classroom with my teacher and a few close friends. They were trying to help me and I was running.
I ran from everything. When things at home got hard I would run out the door and hide deep in the woods. I had no idea how to deal with what was going on and my only option seemed to be some kind of escape from it all. I tore my family apart, lost friendships, and hardy recognized myself, all while my body and mind deteriorated in front of me. I no longer had energy for the activities I used to enjoy. I became obsessed with control. I remember going to my Primary Care Doctor when he told me that I was just moments away from being hospitalized if I didn’t start eating. There was one day when I was missed school because I just couldn’t handle it anymore. My dad and I dropped my sister off at school for the day and when we got home I ate a few bites of dry Special K cereal. This was the most I had eaten in a long time and dry cereal has never tasted so good. It was sweet and crunchy and my stomach immediately perked up with happiness. I filled a very small container with cereal and ate it, when I finished it I wanted more.
I still remember to this day the feeling of a door opening inside my brain. A door that had been closed for months. Inside this door was happiness and freedom. It was a black and white moment. I had been living in complete darkness, my brain was shut down, I was barely alive. In all of my running and control Rae had gone missing. But on this day, I came back! I suddenly started to eat container after container of dry cereal. Which sounds so bland now but being in that state of hunger I might as well have been eating an ice cream sundae. It took a few days, maybe even weeks for that door to fully open, but before long I was eating normally again and quickly gaining back all of the weight I had lost. My body was in such a deprived state that I actually started binging on certain foods, especially those that were high in calories and fat. I felt out of control at times, but now I know that my body had kicked into survival mode and was helping me to get back to a healthy weight as quickly as possible. Despite my return of eating and gaining weight my doctor insisted that I see a therapist. I resisted therapy every week until I successfully convinced my parents that I didn’t need to go anymore. I wasn’t in therapy long and we never got to the root of my eating disorder. I was stable and healthy for quite a few years, living in total freedom of food and exercise, and simply enjoying life.
In 11th grade the eating disorder came back, only this time it was paired with an exercise addiction. I was running cross country at the time and was one of the top runners on my team. I wanted to be better. I started running like crazy. I would attend cross country practice after school, go home, and run some more. I would wake up super early in the morning to run for a few hours before school. All of this exercise was paired with restrictive eating. Before I knew it I was covering endless miles every week and eating close to nothing. I was dangerously thin. My health was once again compromised. I was so obsessed with controlling my food and exercise that I lost track of everything else. Running away from home (literally and figuratively) became quite common, along with all of the other negative consequences that I had dealt with back in 5th grade. I have been fighting this eating disorder and exercise addiction ever since. My weight has cycled a lot as I go from periods of restriction to binging, extreme exercise to total burnout.
After going to many specialists and getting all kinds of tests done to diagnose my lack of menstrual cycle, I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea. Based on my health history and lifestyle it seems like a very obvious diagnosis to me now, but at the time I had no idea that everything I was doing to my body and had done in the past could be causing so much harm internally. The best thing I have done for myself in this healing process is work with Robyn from The Real Life RD. She is the reason I was able to get my period back, conceive and give birth to James naturally. She has given me an entirely different outlook on health and recovery. In addition to her structured support and guidance, I gave my life to Christ. I have been on a journey of growing in faith and trust in God. I know that He is the source of my life, hope, and ultimate end to this miserable path of eating disorders and exercise addiction. He is the door that opened back in fifth grade when Satan thought for sure he had a hold of me. And it is through Christ alone that I have the strength to wake up and keep fighting each and every day.
Part two of this post will cover what recovery looks like today. Thanks for following along as I share this journey with you!