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On Monday, my darling cousin posted this to Facebook along with a link to the NATIONAL EATING DISORDERS ASSOCIATION:
“Hey everyone guess what?! It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week!!! *Throws confetti* About 6 years ago I started my battle with anorexia nervosa, an extremely dangerous eating disorder. In those 6 years I’ve had ups and downs, countless attempts at recovery and countless falls back into relapsing. But like anything in life, the only way you’re going to succeed is if you never give up trying. Last spring I quit ballet and moved back home to focus on recovery, after cluing into the fact that ballet was only feeding my disease. Recovery is a long process, one that I’m no where near finished with yet. Everyday is a struggle but everyday that struggle gets easier.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are so many resources out there to provide you with the tools necessary to start your journey to recovery.
Did you know?
-20 million women and 10 million men in the US alone suffer from severe eating disorders
-Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disease.
-Only 1 in 10 men and women diagnosed with an eating disorder receive treatment, and only 35% of those who do receive it at a facility specializing in eating disorders.
-20% of women diagnosed with anorexia will die prematurely from complications related to their eating disorder.
Everybody knows somebody with and eating disorder. Spread awareness. Spread concern. Spread your love for those suffering.”
Grandma Magpie had told me a while ago a little about her struggles and it cemented in me an even deeper love for this sweet girl. Why? Because in a way, I’ve been where she is. When I read her post, my heart swelled with pride. Elle was speaking out on something that is very common and yet rarely talked about. She was not only educating others, but empowering herself in the process. I thought about that post for the rest of the day, and on into the days following. I started to feel a twinge of guilt. If my cousin was brave enough to stand up and tell the world, I should be too.
As a 16 year old girl, I found myself losing control. Due to several unhealthy relationships and consequent choices that I had created and chosen in my life, I started to lose a piece of myself.
As with most things, it wasn’t right away, it happened gradually. I won’t share details, there are two sides to every story. But, every coarse word, every snide remark, every lie, every put down, every little whisper of gossip spread, began to take it’s toll and my light started to fade. I knew who I was on the inside and yet it seemed as though very few could see that on the outside. I felt as though I was in constant battle, fighting for who I could be against the version of myself others wanted me to be. I started taking risks because it gave me a high. I jumped snowmobiles, dove off high cliffs, stood on the very edge of the mountain top, whatever the boys were doing I was going to make it look small.
Some people turn to alcohol. Some turn to sex. Others to drugs. My drug of choice was a little different.
At 17, things hit an all time low. The people I surrounded myself with, though good people, were bad for ME. It wasn’t healthy, I know that now. As my friends started partying and making choices I wasn’t ready for, the further we grew apart. The more I was pushed into situations I wasn’t comfortable in, the angrier and more moody I became.
In my 17 year old head I was alone. I was in battle, all by myself, fighting a war that I didn’t even know if I could win. I dropped friends, became extremely sarcastic and cold, isolating myself as I spent hours somewhere with my guitar.
I love food. I love to cook it and even more, I love to eat it! I ate when I was lonely. I ate when I felt guilty, angry, sad, hurt, happy, excited, or scared… emotional eating at it’s finest.
After eating I’d feel sick, but I mentally could not make myself throw up. I hate puking with a passion. I refused.
I started running as a sophomore on the cheer squad. We had to do a certain amount of laps every day for training. Running felt good. I would run those laps plus some, then I’d hit the stadium stairs. On bad days, I ran for miles. The track coach noticed and asked me to come out for the team. Silly man thought that I ran for fun, he had no clue.
The worse I felt about myself the more the cycle continued and the more intense it became. The more I ate… or now, didn’t eat… the more I exercised. Sessions in the weight room became completely torturous as I pushed my muscles to the breaking point. If the lineman could leg press that, then I thought I should. If somebody did 10 reps, I did 20.
On the outside I was the pinnacle of teenage fitness, but on the inside I had never been more frail.
That’s when I hit bottom.
5’9” and 107 pounds, with weight dropping fast. My eyelashes started falling out. My hair was dry and brittle. My menstrual cycles were completely out of whack and my body hurt all the time. I was passing out at football games. I was an emotional wreck. I flew off the handle at my family at the drop of a hat and I cried constantly. It was ugly and it literally ate at me.
It was all too much and I couldn’t do it any longer. I needed to change. I desperately wanted freedom, and peace.
He KNEW who and what I was and he loved me still.
As the days passed, my eyes and heart were opened to the people who loved me and were cheering me on. I realized that my dad had started taking more time off so that we could go camping and explore God’s creations, sing by the campfire, and be away from the world. How did he know?
My mother was staying up late to talk to me even though it was obvious that she was exhausted. She would check me out from school and take me to breakfast. She would take me for drives to see Christmas lights. My mother was constantly at the crossroads. How did she know?
My brother was speaking out about his disapproval of my boyfriend. He was standing up for me when someone spoke ill. Even though he was fighting a terrible health battle of his own, he repeatedly had my back. How did he know?
My sweet uncle in California was sending me random postcards from his trips and beautiful bouquets of flowers. Every time I saw him he would hold me tight, not letting me go until he had whispered in my ear the same words every single time… I was beautiful. It was an honor to be my uncle. He loved me… I tear up even now as I think of how inspired his words were. How did he know?
My friend’s dad, Big John, would sit high in the bleachers at the basketball games and motion for me to join him. There he would put his strong arm around me and ask me about my day. He would ask me who I was and what I wanted to become. He’d say, if those were my dreams to “get after it”. Then, his eyes would twinkle as only his eyes could, and he’d send me on my way. In his quiet and gentle way he was building up a broken soul. How did he know?
My grandpa took me on odd jobs and made me his right hand girl as our family built our cabin. He taught me how to use tools, how to cut down a tree, and how to heat seam together two pieces of carpet. He made me feel useful. How did he know?
Our adult family friends would write me notes, hug me in public, and tell the world loud and proud how much they cared. How did they know?
My cousin would write and call from Nevada. He was bending over backward to make me laugh and let me know he was there. How did he know?
There were people who saw me for me.
There they were reaching out to me!
It would take a lot of time and many more people along the way to get me where I needed to be. I needed to change my friends. I needed to put an end to unhealthy relationships and develop love for myself.
It was hard and unbelievably painful.
Little did I know that a cocky wide receiver on the football team had been watching me. He had the courage to come right out and say that I was short selling myself and I deserved more. He became my best friend. And when I think of my story, he is a bright spot in it. He changed my course and I will be forever grateful. I hope someday my son will understand the impact for good or bad that a boy can have on a girl. I hope he chooses to see the good, just like this boy saw in me. Because of him, I was able to make new choices and new friends. He encouraged me. He expected more. But most of all, he helped me find the fun, which is just what I so desperately needed.
I turned 18, graduation came, summer, then college. I’m sad to say that I hurt a lot of people then. It was my big break and I needed to go it alone. I had to find out who I was all by myself. I moved to a little town and started school. I could be anyone I wanted to. There was no reputation, no judging, no gossip. It was a clean slate and it felt life-altering. The only problem was, finding myself proved harder than I had ever imagined and I wasn’t very good at being alone.
…I should have asked for help.
After growing up in a family of boys, I didn’t know how to live with girls. I had been made tough and I didn’t know how to be soft and tender. Even though I constantly pushed them away, those girls forgave me. I am so grateful for them.
I foolishly thought I had to have a man to be happy. I found them. They were good men, most with humongous hearts, but almost every one was even more broken than me. Each time another relationship ended, and I was alone, I found myself running the dirt roads of Sanpete. Sadly, it became a pattern again. The runs became longer and the weight started slipping off. And each time, God would send another person into my life to convey his message of love. Bishop Bolli, Jimmy T, Marlene Black, my cousin Adam, Zeke Stevens and his crazy redneck gang.
She was ever patient with me. She taught me what it meant to be tender and pure.
I’d like to say it ended there, that everything was better. But, it took a few more years, an unintended degree in Health Education, a giant of a husband, and an incredibly chubby blue eyed baby boy before I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And, even then, I had to make many mental decisions to help me through.
I gave up running, it was too big a temptation for me. I studied nutrition and alternative health. I read every self help, empowering, “you can do it” book out there. Slowly I learned how to channel my emotions. I started writing. I started building and creating. I developed a love for healthy exercise like yoga. I filled my life with supportive, loving, amazing people. I wiped sticky hands and kissed drooly faces. I learned to serve. I studied the scriptures and invited our Father in Heaven into our home and most importantly, into my heart… and I learned to ask for help.
When I look back, I wish I had realized the toll that my struggle would have on my future self. I have a hard time controlling my blood sugar, my hormones have taken years and years to regulate, I get dizzy, my eyesight is horrific, I don’t have the best body image (but I’m working on it!), I have a poor immune system, I get headaches, and my joints hurt like I am an old lady! But, the most difficult to deal with is the realization that I cannot have anymore children, because my health goes down with every child that grows in my womb.
You don’t think of those things when you are 16 and in pain.
You know what?
I am running again, but now I’m free.
Exercise makes me feel good, in a beautiful, healthy way. Food isn’t my friend or my enemy. I don’t need to log 15 miles. It is not a race and I’m not seeking adrenaline. My body is not constantly on my mind. I have found many glorious mental and emotional releases that help me instead of hurt. My body is strong and capable and I am no longer broken. I don’t fear the monster inside me because I gave that monster to the Lord.
After all these years, I won the war.
I am victorious and it is peaceful.
If you are facing this demon, please know that it gets better.
You need not do it alone. Let them in, my friend.
You are a child of a loving God and you are powerful beyond all measure. Armed with knowledge, the right tools, and a supportive, loving army beside you, you can win this war. Life is an amazing gift and there is so much to see and experience just waiting for you.
Be brave, have faith, and… “Get after it.”