Special Guest: Alumni Blog – Three Years Later

I can’t believe I am writing this. I am writing this for me. To help me continue to grow and love myself. I am scared and anxious. Many people do not know what I am about to write. Even my family. I am not looking for sympathy or compassion.

I am afraid you may think differently of me after reading this. I am afraid you may not want to talk to me. I am afraid you’ll judge me for talking about this. I am afraid you’ll ask me why I didn’t tell you? I am afraid you’ll ask why I kept this in for so long? I am afraid you’ll be hurt by knowing the truth. I am afraid you will think less of me. I am afraid of taking my mask off. I am feeling so much anxiety, guilt and shame right now. I am afraid I am going to be all alone once you realize the truth…

The truth is…we all struggle. We are all not perfect. We all fall short. We are all struggling with something. We all have experienced being alone, embarrassed, shame, guilt, grief, depression and anxiety. But..maybe not to the point where it impacts every waking moment. And most of us hide our pain. Especially from those we love most. We don’t want others to see us broken or in pain; therefore not causing others pain.

“Shelby are you hungry?”
“Shelby do you want dinner?”
“I already ate.”
In the morning before school:
“I made you an egg sandwich.”
“Ok – thanks” (threw it in the garbage can at school)
“What did you eat for lunch today?”
“Why does it matter.”

I thought I was going to have an eating disorder for my entire life. I never thought I was going to “get better.” Truthfully, It became a part of me…it was who I was and I liked it. I never thought I was going to be free from the constant obsessions. I was seen as “difficult” and “hopeless” to many therapist. And almost every therapist referred me to someone else, making me feel more hopeless. I was seen as “a girl who needed to take time off from school before graduating.” Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to graduation either. I was seen as someone who “wouldn’t be helped from medication.” I started to not remember my life before my eating disorder. My depression took over and I couldn’t remember when I last was truly happy.  I started to question God. Why me? I started to wonder if God even existed. All I ever thought about was food, calories and exercise. When would I eat next? When would I loose control and binge again? How many calories would I limit myself to? Would I eat too much that I’d “need” to throw up? How can I skip lunch today? What meal could I pretend to eat but really throw out? How can I be social with friends but not eat? What am I going to binge on next? Am I going to eat again before going to bed? And if so, how can I not let anyone see?

The smile on the outside completely masks the war that was taking place inside. There have been events that have occurred in my life that have allowed me to experience a tremendous amount of emptiness and pain. My environment and genes make me a high risk for mental illness.

But whether or not you have a mental illness doesn’t invalidate the fact that you struggle. I used to believe I wasn’t as “sick” as others. My weight wasn’t at an extreme low…so that meant I wasn’t suffering. I didn’t get sent away for treatment, so I wasn’t “suffering”….I was still managing school, so that meant I wasn’t sick.

Your emotional pain is not any less than the person standing next to you. Even if the person next to you has been hospitalized 5 times and you have never been. Your pain is still real.

My eating disorder constantly told me that I am worthless and I do not deserve my life. My eating disorder told me I was dumb, ugly and alone. Three years ago, I slowly started to take back control. It was not immediate or easy and still is not easy, but I began listening to my body. I started to become aware of my thoughts and feelings. I slowly started to follow a new road of recovery and allow myself to live a life worth living. There were bumps in the road and still are but my eating disorder is no longer my best friend and hasn’t been for over 3 years.

I couldn’t be more proud of myself to share with you I’ve been in recovery for over three years.From an eating disorder that defined me for too long. Someone that became my best friend.  Something that destroyed me. Something that destroyed many relationships. Relationships I’ll never get back. Something that I never wished and never expected. And I am free.I may have never looked like I had an “eating disorder”…I did…and it hit hard. If I can make it out…you can too.It is hard work. It is painful. But, recovery is possible.

To all of those hurting today, that is okay. One of my favorite lines: It is okay to not be okay.

I want you to know no matter how lost you may feel in your pain and struggles- You are NOT alone. I know what you are going to say next, you really don’t know what I am going through. Or you haven’t walked in my shoes. You are right I haven’t. But I have walked in similar shoes and the battle looks a lot like yours.

Please know there are people out there that care and want to help.

I know you fear telling the truth, fear others not understanding, fear being a burden on your loved ones. But, what would you do if you found your best friend in the same pain?

One day, in the not so distant future, you’ll be able to look in the mirror and love what you see. The past (almost) decade has been tremendously hard, and I sure as hell didn’t ask for it or wish this for anyone, but it has made me a better person. I’ve learned to be less judgmental and more compassionate.

My eating disorder was never about the food. It was about something so much bigger. I never expected to have one…I love food! Truthfully before all this happened to me I never really understood mental illness and specifically eating disorders. All I can say is I love food. I have a very healthy relationship with food. It has taking a while and a lot of hard work to get here. Overall, I can say never did I once think I’d come to a point in my life where I can eat whatever I want and truly not think twice. And I am there.
Disclaimer: This is a small piece of my story. Please do not be so quick to judge. And by no means is this my whole story.