If you’ve followed me for a decent amount of time, or not, then you may have caught on to the fact that I suffer from an eating disorder.
Some of you may have also been itching to know my story. So, what better time to share some of the darkest parts of my life than during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week!
Although I am working towards recovery I still struggle with many negative characteristics that come hand in hand with these complex disorders. Recovery is a long and hard process that most definitely doesn’t happen overnight. Before I discuss my recovery journey let me take you back to the start of the disorder.
Imagine a sixteen-year-old girl.
I was relatively content with my body but still struggled with some discomfort. Let’s be real; who didn’t as a teenager? I had spent the summer at overnight camp and came back having gained a mere six pounds.
Heading into my junior year of high school I faced plenty of additional stress ahead. With the ACT and college coming up, I instantly became overwhelmed.
This added stress on top of friend drama made me feel out of control in my relatively composed life. I bet you can guess what comes next.
I turned to food, or lack thereof, in order to feel some sense of security.
My diet became extremely restrictive. First cutting out breakfast, then lunch, and so on and so on. This continued for quite some time.
It was clear to those around me that I was struggling but nobody knew what to say. I too knew there was something wrong but I could not get myself to speak up.
Fast forward few months; I was at an unhealthy weight, my lowest weight to date. My body had no energy. I would get faint from standing in the shower too long. Everyday life became a struggle, but still, I could not stop the vicious cycle of restriction that I was caught in.
Then one night, I snapped.
I’m not sure what triggered it or gave me the strength to speak up but I completely lost it.
I have very few memories from that night.
All I can remember is sitting on my best friend’s bedroom floor hysterically crying and spilling my secrets, for FOUR hours. Finally, together we came to the conclusion to call my mom.
I then repeated the whole cycle over again, telling my mom everything. She decided it was in my best interest to get an outpatient team together. The next morning, she called therapists and dietitians, along with my pediatrician, in order to get my life back on track.
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For the first time in months, I was somewhat excited to eat. It was like someone had given my eating disorder permission to take a step back.
I did what I was supposed to do; I ate my meals and went to therapy. I had been consistent and doing well for nearly six months, so I stopped therapy.
For the next three years, I was relatively stable.
My weight would fluctuate, but never more than ten pounds. I dealt with bouts of restricting or purging but was able to quickly pull myself out of it before it spiraled out of control. I considered myself in some sort of pseudo recovery.
Until this past fall.
It is still a mystery as to what triggered it but my eating disorder returned full force. This time, it wasn’t a gradual decline; it went from 0 to 100 within a dreadful four weeks.
I was restricting more than ever and feeling so helpless in my own life. I was depressed, anxious, and eating the bare minimum.
I had very quickly spiraled out of control and became a lifeless being.
I knew that I needed serious help, so with the support of my amazing friends I contacted a doctor at the University of Michigan. I was hoping that they would have room for me in their intensive outpatient program (IOP).
I remember going to the appointment; it was a Tuesday morning. I did the assessment, as expected, and waited in anticipation for the doctor to come in.
Unfortunately, they could not take me in their IOP program.
He had recommended that I go to residential care. I was shocked. I stared at the doctor and cried my eyes out. I knew I was sick, but I didn’t truly realize how bad I had gotten.
Fast forward a week and my room at college had been packed, I was put on medical leave and headed home to admit myself into a residential treatment facility.
I was nervous upon my arrival at Eating Recovery Center in Chicago.
I had never been to this level of care before and did not know what to expect.
I spent a month in residential care before my insurance would no longer cover me at that level. In that month I made tremendous strides in my recovery. I was eating 100% of all my meals and snacks. I was no longer as depressed as I was upon admission.
I was actually feeling somewhat stable in my recovery.
Following my stay at ERC, I did a partial day program for nearly four weeks, and then an intensive outpatient for a week or so.
Together my therapist and I decided that I was doing well enough to move to outpatient therapy, once or twice a week.
All was well for nearly a week until I visited my college for the weekend. This, along with other factors, sent me into a downward spiral and within two weeks I had landed myself at Alexian Brothers Eating Disorder inpatient unit.
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For five days, I battled with myself to complete my meals and snacks. I was as determined as ever to get my recovery back on track, and I did.
I returned to outpatient therapy and began establishing my team. A therapist, psychiatrist, dietician, and primary care physician will help guide me in my recovery as I attempt to do it without an intensive program.
Which leads me to present day. I am working with my team to further stabilize my recovery. And for now, I’m doing extremely well on my own.
Every day is full of hard work but I now know that not only is recovery worth it, but it is very possible. I can and will recover.
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*If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, you can call the helpline at (800)-931-2237*
**You can also access the free online assessment here**