For a long time I’ve kept a secret. I used to think this was the kind of secret that could never be told. I was ashamed to share it with others, but today I choose to share it because it just feels right.
Sadly, like many young women (and men too) I suffered in silence with an eating disorder. I’ve been wanting to share this on my blog since I started writing. One, it feels empowering to talk about it now because I can proudly tell you that I no longer have disordered eating habits. Second, I tell you this because I know people who have had eating disorders and maybe my story will encourage someone who hasn’t gotten help to reach out.
The thing about many eating disorders is that they make you chase an unattainable goal. Initially for me, my goal was to just be even healthier than I already was. At the time when my eating disorder manifested, I was in college and on a full softball scholarship.
My logic behind all of this was that I ate healthy and worked hard, so why not turn it up a notch? I told myself I’d eat even healthier and workout outside of my rigorous, daily softball workouts and practices.
I’ve always been athletic and in “good” shape, but as soon as I started to tweak my routine in this extreme way I started to lose weight. I’d be gone for a weekend softball tournament and after having three games in one day, I’d go back to our hotel and run on the treadmill. Meanwhile, my healthy eating became full blown restriction and starvation. I’d lose a few pounds in one weekend, and it wasn’t like it was just water weight. My body had no fuel and my muscles were basically eating themselves.
After months of doing this to myself, I knew it was wrong and I’d tell myself I’d stop once I saw a certain number on the scale. But, each time I’d hit my “goal” I’d create a new one in my head. That’s where the unattainable comes in. With the state I was in I was constantly depressed about my outward appearance and I was angry. I’d lash out at loved ones, but it was always unintentional. I was so, so unhappy and in a very dark place. I knew I needed help but I was beyond scared and didn’t know where to start. I was scared to gain weight and do what it took to get healthy again. I was scared to tell anyone the truth about what was going on and I was scared of losing more than I already had – and I’m not talking about losing weight. I’m talking about losing things that were important to me, like softball.
Ultimately, I was losing weight at a pace that was pretty dangerous. I was ordered by my doctor to no longer travel with my team and participate in practice or games. Talk about a crushing blow. At the time I felt like I was totally abandoned and forgotten by my coaches and teammates because I wasn’t present with them everyday, even though I was still a part of the team. I was so embarrassed that I had this huge part of me taken away. After all, my whole identity was wrapped up in being a softball player. It’s something that defined me since a very young age. To say I was having an identity crisis during this time would be putting it mildly.
Part of me wants to place the blame on someone else for all that I went through. I won’t go into detail about that here, but at the end of the day I did essentially do this to myself. I still have a very bittersweet taste in my mouth when I look back at some of my college years. Regardless of all that, I’d never change what happened because it has molded me into the woman I am today.
Without my eating disorder I wouldn’t have the outlook on health and mental wellbeing that I do now. I also probably wouldn’t be as mindful of my actions and habits. If there’s one thing that this disease (yes, it is a disease) has taught me, it’s that I NEVER want my daughters to measure their worth by a number on the scale or from their outside appearance. Although I think my girls are the most beautiful beings on the planet, it’s what is in their hearts that matters. If I’m not kind to myself, they will never know how to be kind to themselves, or others.
So for anyone out there suffering, whether it be from an eating disorder or any other terrible struggle – there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark. If you don’t want to get better, do it for someone else who loves you. Asking for help was by far the hardest thing I did through my journey back to health. There were setbacks, countless tears shed, fights and loss, but today I am healthy in my mind and body.
Having a healthy mind after having an eating disorder is tricky though. Although I don’t act on my old ways of thinking, there are days where I do have negative self talk, just like anyone might. Recovering from an eating disorder is kind of like sobriety. There’s always temptations out there and that little devil on your shoulder can sometimes talk a little louder than the angel on the other shoulder. With that, you accept the challenges and push through to the best of your ability. At least that is always the goal.
There’s a lot more to my story, but I hope that this little glimpse into one of my most unhappy times can help someone else heal.
We are all worthy and we deserve to love ourselves! Sometimes we just need a reminder of that.