Eating disorders are often misunderstood and stigmatized, and as someone who has struggled with one, I feel it's important to share my experience in the hopes of increasing awareness and understanding.
When you have so much self hatred, torturing your body actually feels good. Some people cut themselves, some engorge themselves with food, others abuse drugs. I took the route of starving myself. The hunger pain made me feel like I was doing something right. It started my freshman year of high school. Up until that time I was quite overweight and was bullied consistently at school and at home.
At my heaviest I was a size 16. Within one year I was down to a size 6. I was drinking coffee for breakfast, apple or slim fast for lunch and something small for dinner (IF I decided to eat dinner). I blacked out at cheerleading practice more times than I can count.
I was so sick and I didn't even know it. I would party and binge drink on the weekends. I would purposefully starve myself all day to get drunk really fast when I went out. I even remember at one point getting worried about the calories from the alcohol so I would take a few Hydroxycut before going out drinking. For those of you under the age of 30, this was a popular diet pill when I was growing up.
The sicker I got, the more compliments I got. Why? Because I was skinny. I finally looked like all the other girls that were pretty and popular. I equated skinny to success [Now ,of course it makes me so incredibly sorrowful that I had those thoughts].
High School was such a traumatic mess. I met a man 10 years older than me when I was 15. He was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive. Somehow that relationship distracted me enough to get me away from my eating disorder. He wanted me to be heavier because he liked women with “more meat on their bones”. Later on I recognized that he just wanted me fat so that no one else would be attracted to me. That man isolated me from my friends, from sports, even from my family. He made me feel so alone.
By the time I got the courage to end it, I had no idea who I was. So I went back to the only version of myself that I knew. The girl that starved herself. Except this time it was different.
Binging and purging became my drug. My coping mechanism. My escape. A few times per week I would binge and purge with a box of laxative pills that would leave me physically ill for a few days.
The longer this went on the sicker I got. By the time I reached my first year of nursing school, I developed bleeding ulcers. On one occasion I started vomiting and defecating bright red blood. I freaked. I knew it was my fault. It was self-induced. It had scared me enough that I stopped abusing laxatives temporarily.
One cannot simply turn off an eating disorder. I kept binging. Started drinking again heavily on the weekends. I was partying to numb my own inner hell. I started dating an on again, off again drug addict boyfriend. I failed my second semester of nursing school. My life was spiraling with no one to blame but myself. My life was starting to reflect how broken I was inside.
Food binges were happening more frequently. I hated the emotional distress after the binge but couldn't tear myself from that initial hit of dopamine to my brain in the first few minutes of the binge. I continued to gain a considerable amount of weight. Finally got rid of the drug addict boyfriend (Not for good. Though that’s a whole different blog for another day).
If you didn't notice the trend, my selection in men was a direct reflection of how much I didn't respect myself. Between the ages of 18-25 I continued to go back and forth between starvation, binging, purging and extremely dysfunctional relationships. I was stuck in a cycle of self sabotage.
I woke up one morning feeling so sick and tired of living in my own personal hell. I was tired of being a victim to my own poor choices. At 26 I said no more. I had to do something drastic. It was all I knew how to do. Alongside some other major life events happening I decided to quit my dream job, sold as much as I could from my home in Orlando, packed my car and shipped it to El Centro, California to start a new life as a traveling nurse practitioner. I never looked back.
I had to uproot everything that was familiar in order to build myself into the new person I wanted to be. I hired a one on one nutrition coach (the best investment I have EVER made) and started my journey with figuring out how to love my body and self as God always has. I gave up many friendships. I spent a lot of time alone, facing all of the trauma and hurt that I had been running from for so long. I went to therapy. Read my bible daily.
The turning point happened when I focused on loving and nourishing my body instead of focusing on how much weight I needed to lose.
Let me be clear when I tell you this has been a journey with many ups and downs. When you have full self acceptance, you learn to have grace with yourself and with others. When I finally embraced this is when I could allow healthy relationships to blossom in my life.
I am so grateful to be on the journey and grateful you’ve read this far about my story. This blog will continue to document my experiences. Someone who went from having an unhealthy, complicated relationship with food to having an exciting, balanced relationship with food. I need you to know that you’re not alone in your struggles .
When I reflect back on my younger self I have forgiven her for doing her best to survive. I appreciate those coping skills that once served me. I have had to unlearn them and grow past survival mode.
Here is what I know for sure. All the suffering you went through helped you learn. And when you know better, you can do better. You CAN change. You can become whoever you want to be. You can change your thoughts. You can change your actions. You can change your surroundings. You can change the way you look, feel, and how you treat yourself.
Make a promise to yourself. And this time don't break it. You are worthy of becoming the best version of yourself.
Peace and gratitude,