National Eating Disorder Awareness Week
If you have been following me on social media this week you have seen me dropping daily snippets of my struggle with anorexia. If you have been around longer than a week than you probably have already heard/seen me share this before when I did part 1 of my story.
Today kicks off National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Many of you know my story but I have some new friends here too.
This week I am going to give little bits of my journey. If you want the full anorexia story parts 1&2 are on the blog.
Today in a podcast I heard @tonyrobbins say “Quality of life is the quality of decisions you make.” I found that fitting for today.
You see I made the decision after spring break my freshman year in college to tell my small group I was struggling. I then made the decision the next day to go to the councillors office. I then made the decision to see a medical professional who immediately recommended I check into a hospital stat!!!
I then made the scariest phone call to my mom, to come get me, and why she needed to admit me to a hospital. That April fools day back in 2003 I made a lot of hard decisions. They were scary, and soon would lead to even scarier decisions.
Looking back my quality of life has been more meaningful and wonderful than I could have imagined on that day. Those hard decisions are the reason I am where I am today💝
It’s day 2 of national eating disorder awareness week. As promised here is more of my story.
I spent a month on leave from college, basically bed ridden, after my trip to the hospital and being labeled with anorexia.
I met with a team at Mass General and they agreed as long as I didn’t lose any more weight, I could finish the semester. The day my mom picked me up for summer break, we got the call. I would start in patient treatment early the next morning.
Scared is probably an understatement. All I pictured was a psych ward that resembled 1 flew over the coo coo’s nest🙈We bought some comfy scrubs & I had to figure out what to pack for something like this.
The walls were white. I had my own room. There were many rules. There were about a dozen other girls around my age. We did group therapy. We were weighed and had blood drawn every morning. We had set meal times and snacks. You could earn daily outside time☀️
As scary as it was, I knew it would help me. The girls were friendly. Their stories were much different than mine. They had really rough backgrounds or parents who couldn’t be bothered with their illness and saw it as they just wanted “attention”.
Here was the really sad part, several of them had been there before, two or three times! I never wanted to step foot in there again. It was HARD WORK but 3+ weeks later after my weight & vitals were up I was discharged. I broke down sobbing on the car ride home.
The support system, the schedule, the nurses, were gone. It was on me. I was scared too death of failing. What if I wasn’t strong enough? What if I couldn’t beat this? What if I ended right back in the ward?
I’d love to say it was easy. It took a long time to break many food rules I had. I cried. I failed forward. But here I am today. I can’t believe how strong I became mentally. When I look back at Jackie in 2003 I wish I could just hug her and be like girl you got this!💝
Day 3 of National Eating Disorder Awareness week, my story continued(scroll back for days 1&2)
After leaving out patient treatment I started seeing a therapist & met regularly with a dietician up in Boston. Once the fall semester started, I no longer saw the therapist but I had to take the T(metro) into Boston from campus 2-3 times a month to meet with the dietician.
We actually called the Dean of students to ask for some healthier options in the cafeteria so I could continue my progress more effectively. Example could there be some steamed veggies without cream or cheese sauce smothering them.
I also was selected to be in a paid trial. The medical team wanted to see the correlations between anorexia, memory, and bone density. I had to have a bone density exam which showed I had osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis which also runs in my family). I also had to take a pill 💊 daily. I had no idea if I was actually taking medicine or if it was a placebo.
I had to travel into Boston 1-2 times a month. Each time I had about 7-10 vials of blood drawn 🧪 🔬 I then would have to take a series of memory and cognitive tests. I was repeatedly told how surprisingly well I did on these compared to the “typical” trial members. I attribute that to the fact I did eat, I just didn’t eat enough. I also got a small stipend for being in the trial which for a broke college kid was much appreciated!
I believe the study was a year long. At the end of the study I had one more bone density test. I was told I now had osteoporosis and later found out I was taking a placebo the whole time.
I don’t regret any of it. Each trip into the city. Each interaction with the dietician, or the trial specialists helped me continue to make progress. It was nice to have friendly faces great me, encourage me and praise me for scoring well on the cognitive exams.
I wasn’t doing it alone. The day I left treatment that was my fear. I had a team, family praying really hard, RDs, professors, and other college employees showing me love & support Aside from my faith, I firmly believe I am where I am because God gave me support. So if you know someone struggling embrace & support them!
Day 4 of National Eating Disorder Awareness week, scroll back for days 1-3
Having support and a desire to get healthy is not where my story ends. I slid back twice. The first was spring semester 2006 of senior year.
I was student teaching 👩🏻🏫 and had already accepted a spot to take over for one of the 1st grade teachers going on maternity leave for the rest of that school year. Stress & change were my triggers.
The principal of that elementary school 🏫 & my head professor both sat me down separately to express their concern. I did my best to be mindful of what I was eating and to try and put some weight back on. I graduated 👩🏻🎓 finished that school year as a long term sub & moved back 🏡
I then began doing long term subbing & took a kindergarten aid position. During that year I slid back a bit. My future was out of my control. The thing with eating disorders is control. You can control what and how much you eat. I would hear a few remarks from some school employees that I was looking a little “thin” and of course I’d brush it off. I mean ladies I beat this disease already I am fine!🤨
I ended up going away for spring vacation with one of my besties to Punta Cana. The pic on the left shows I was not fine. My weight had dropped to 89lbs and I wasn’t even trying to lose weight. After these pics were developed my mom saw them & let her fear come across as anger. I got pissed at her and I spent the next night or two staying over that same friends house 🏡
But I did start focusing on my health again. You see I thought “wow my 6pack looks great”, my friend said no babe it’s not great when all I see is ribs.
See your mind gets really warped when you are in the middle of an ED. You see things that are not there and you also don’t recognize what is there in the mirror 🔮
I may not always rock a ripped 6pack but I do rock a stronger body & mind. I have not slipped back to that place since 2007 & I’m proud of that. Just like I tell all my fitness clients & coaches, enjoy the journey and trust the process. I don’t regret my past. It’s made me stronger. It’s made me more appreciative of what I can do and it’s taught me I can do really hard freaking things.
I hope you have been inspired by my little trip down memory lane. Its crazy some of the moments and facts I have forgotten over the years. As messages and comments have come in over the week, my response is always this. I share because I know someone else needs a reminder that there is hope. Maybe they are in the midst of the disease. Often its a family member who needs to hear it as they are scared for their loved one. The road is never easy, but there is hope.
A few things I have learned. One is that the surrounding family needs just as much support. It took me YEARS to have the realization of that. You see in the midst of the struggle I swore my family to secrecy. In fact that whole month home from college on medical leave, I didn’t tell a single friend. I begged my parents not to tell their church, discuss it with close friends, notify the family I was home. DO NOT MENTION THIS TO ANYONE. I was embarrassed. I was scared. I was so disappointed in myself I couldn’t bear anyone else know about it. I feel awful now. They were scared. It was all new to them too. They had fear and they needed the same love they were showing me.
I also came to HATE being labeled. You may not understand it until you are labeled and only viewed in one way. For YEARS when people would run into me or see me at a family event they immediately would size me up. The worst is then when they say “You look like you’ve gained weight thats great.” Now I know they meant well. But you would never tell someone as a compliment they gained weight. Its a major struggle to accept your body changing and returning to a healthy state. I heard this several times from the same family cousin, and it went up me sideways!!!! The reality is people will look at you differently for a really long time. At gatherings they will glance at whats on your plate.
Its something I had to learn to deal with. As the years went by and those around me were comfortable knowing I wasn’t going to go backwards, the stares, the awkward hellos, the family gatherings were no longer something I dreaded. Life went on as “normal”. So to those struggling, man babe fight for it. Life has been hard but it has been so amazing too. I am a whole new person someone I never imagined I could become. I also have had the privilege of experiencing love, thee most romantic proposal, the most magical wedding, and a dream honeymoon. There is so much to fight for. To those who love someone struggling, shower them with love, remind them how beautiful life can be, and be extremely mindful of how you speak to them. But just know, there is always hope!