As I sit here writing this, I can only look back and smile about how far I have come the last few years. To think that just 5 years ago, I was struggling to make it through every day, every hour, every minute. I felt consumed by my eating disorder… it controlled my every thought and every action. I constantly thought about food, about stopping myself from eating, how I could work off whatever I did eat, the number on the scale… the list goes on…and while I thought these things, I constantly told myself that if I just weighed one pound less, if just made it through the day on minimal food, if I just pushed myself harder to commit, I would finally feel in control and I would be so happy. The voice in my head that kept pushing me forward promised me these things but happiness never came. Instead I felt shame, disgust, out of control, and depressed daily. Faking a smile to the world to hide my shame and hoping no one would ever know what I was doing myself. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t. Needless to say I was addicted to my eating disorder(ED) and it was not because I wanted to be look skinnier. I couldn’t let ED go because in a sick twisted way, I felt like it gave me power over my life in my never ending search to feel in control. In a world that I couldn’t control, at least I could control my own body. It took a serious health scare, finding my future husband, and pushing those I love most away to find the courage to say no more and start the path to recovery. Now five years later, I live a life fulfilled with those I love, in good health, and free from my toxic relationship with ED.
My story is a long one, like so many who go through this nightmare…. It all began for me at the age of 12 and I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was a figure skater at the time and I had come down with a horrible stomach bug that caused me to lose at least 5 pounds. When I was finally well enough to skate again, someone mentioned how great I looked. From that day on, food and weight started to become my obsession. It started with little thoughts and actions here and there until it grew out of control. I would starve myself until the point I couldn’t stand it anymore and then would binge on everything in sight late at night. This led me to feelings of shame and failure, which then led to me to throwing up everything right back up. What started as something to stay slim became my source of what I thought was control for the next 10 years…
My teenage years were plagued with the constant feelings of being afraid to gain weight, afraid that someone would find out, afraid what others thought of me, but mostly I was afraid to lose control. Fate then dealt me a card that sent me spiraling down ever further into the rabbit hole. When I was 15, I ended up losing skating after several knee surgeries and at this point ED became my source of identity. I was depressed, lost, and flat out miserable. The voice in my head that told me that starving myself or purging up what I had eaten had lied to me. It told me I would feel better, that it would make me better, that it would give me worth, that it would bring me happiness.... but the happiness never came. I was so alone and felt broken. My parents knew what was going on and tried to get me help, but I wasn’t ready to accept the help yet. In my mind I was fine, I had it "under control...."
A few years down the road I started dating my future husband Chris. The day he caught me in the act of purging about a month into our relationship I felt shame like never before... No one had ever caught me until this moment. I was at my lowest weight, I was exhausted all the time, I was depressed and I was a flat out mess. After a couple more months of continuing on with this, I began feeling really sick. Chris and my parents encouraged me to go to the doctors to find out what was wrong. My doctor knew right away what was wrong with me, but finally saying it out loud to someone was the most liberating moment that started my road to recovery. I admitted that day I had a problem, that I was sick. My doctor ran a variety of tests and found that I had a tear in my esophagus from purging, my electrolytes were nowhere near normal, and my teeth had suffered damage from the acid from when I would purge. Hearing this as well, made me decide that enough was enough. I wanted to live, to get married, to work at my dream job. It hit me in a tidal wave of emotion that I was not only slowly killing myself, but I was hurting the ones I love most.
As I began recovery, I started to see a therapist who I began working with weekly and continued with regular checkups with my doctor. The most difficult part of recovery was letting go of that voice in my head that shamed me into thinking I needed my eating disorder to be successful. As I stopped restricted and stopped purging, that voice would yell at me that I was pathetic and that I wouldn’t survive without ED. My own voice eventually became louder then ED’s and that voice eventually just got so quiet and I no longer paid attention to it. I still hear a random thought from ED every now and then, but I just say no thank you and move on. Gaining weight at first was also incredibly difficult. I saw that number rise and I knew that it was helping me get better, but it still terrified me. Now I don’t use the scale what so ever and I simply define how I feel to tell me that I’m healthy. Focusing on that number was so dangerous for me, so I no longer allow it to have any power over me. Also learning how to manage my anxiety was difficult for me. For years I pushed down my feelings with my eating disorder, and when I gave that I up it felt like I was swimming through a sea of all my emotions and it felt like at the time I would never find shore. In therapy, I learned coping strategies and tools to use to continue getting better. I made it through two years of hard work and finding my own will to live along with the help of my husband, my family, my therapist, and most importantly MYSELF.
I am so proud of my journey and how far I have come over the years. My eating disorder had control over me for 10 years but I found the courage/strength to let it go and no longer let it define me. I am now defined by God, by my soul, by how I live my life, by how I help others. I learned the value of my own worth and fell in love with who I am, both body and soul. My life is now filled with happiness that I couldn’t have even dreamed of during that dark time of my life.
To those of you who silently struggle with this, please know that YOU CAN beat this, you have more strength in you then you realize. More importantly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! An eating disorder is any other addiction that spirals into unmanageability. My mental shift to see how dangerous an eating disorder really is came when I realized how much I was hurting not only myself, but my loved ones. My therapist told me to think about an alcoholic getting behind the wheel drunk and harming someone in an accident. With an eating disorder harming someone else doesn’t happen like that. The law won’t get involved and you won’t harm someone else physically, BUT you harm the ones you love by closing yourself off to hide your eating disorder addiction and you have the potential to hurt them with the worst pain imaginable and that is letting ED win and possibly losing your life. You may think your actions with ED only hurt you, but they affect others more than you realize. Also keep in mind to be gentle with yourself during recovery. Slip up’s do happen along the way, I know because I had my fair share. Don’t beat yourself up or give up because you slipped up, give yourself grace and keep working towards getting better. Those slip ups will happen less and less as you work on your recovery until they don’t happen at all! With all of this, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know it’s scary, but you will begin to feel relief the moment you ask for it.
I'M KAYLA AND PROUD TO BE PROOF THAT: