My parents divorced when I was very young and my mom chose to move my older sister and me over an hour away from the rest of our family. Time with my dad wasn’t as frequent as it should have been, and when we did have our time together, my sister got all his attention while I remained introverted and painfully shy.
Growing up, I was always seeking approval. I was smart and did very well in school. I was well behaved. I knew early on I wanted to change the world. But none of this ever earned me the praise I desired.
I ended up dropping out of high school and instead worked a few jobs, finally finding something steady in my early 20s.
Without guidance, I learned how to become financially independent and somewhat maintained a social life as I continued searching for a landing pad after attempting to return to several different schools.
Still, no matter what I achieved or how far I advanced in my life, I never felt good enough.
I never felt like I was living up to expectations, whether it be my own expectations or the expectations my father had for me. It was around this point the eating disorder began to fog my mind.
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When times got tough, I restricted. When I hated myself, I restricted. When I didn’t feel pretty enough, I restricted. The cycle never lasted very long, so I thought it was just part of a normal dieting lifestyle. I even continued to believe this after a time when my friend had to force feed me before we went out.
In my mid-20s I was introduced to weight-lifting and immediately fell in love. Little did I know, it would soon turn into an obsessive kind of love.
It started out perfectly normally. I loved feeling strong and seeing my body change in such a positive way. But I let my perfectionism take over, and kept pushing my body beyond what was healthy.
I visited the gym nearly every day, sometimes going twice a day. I bailed on social invitations, and would occasionally leave my then-boyfriend in bed at 10pm to get in another workout. I stopped spending time with my family in order to go to the gym, and all the while I was obsessing over every little ounce of food entering my body.
I lived my life by the scale.
I wanted to see how far I could physically push my body and if I could do so on less food. I wanted my efforts to be noticed. I wanted to be praised. Instead, I started to horrify people.
By this point in my life, everything had become so stressful and chaotic between work, college, and my home life. Suddenly, I was no longer in search of praise–I wanted to disappear. I was in my late 20s and felt as though I would never be able to make something of myself. Everything felt like a setback. So I chose to focus on the only thing I thought I could control: my eating.
Not only did I begin losing weight at a rapid pace, I also lost both my period and sensation in the lower half of my left leg. I was exhausted, I felt crazy, and I couldn’t silence the voice in my head telling me I deserved to feel this hurt, as I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, ambitious enough, or wanted at all.
I had spiraled to rock bottom around Thanksgiving of that year, and since no one knew how to handle me or my disorder, they didn’t bother to try. All the negative talk ED was spewing at me started to sound true. So I resigned myself to my eating disorder and tried to give up.
Fortunately for me, I had one person who was willing to stand up to me and drag me out from the hole I had burrowed into. She helped me believe in myself again. She helped me to believe in my strength, and to see life is worth fighting for. It was painfully hard to believe.
I had to completely change my view of the world to see what life could look like in recovery.
But, never wanting to let someone down, especially my best friend, I took the frightening first steps.
It has been nearly three years, and I am still in active recovery. I’ve regained the weight, found solid ground, and feel love surrounding me. I still have moments I find trying and difficult, yet I accept there may always will be.
Feeling free from the desire to be deemed ‘good enough’ by someone else, whether it’s a parent, a friend, or a significant other, has allowed me to open myself up to all life’s possibilities. I am able to live an authentic life. As a holistic health coach, I hope my story, which I now see as a gift, will help inspire others to live a rich and full life of their own.
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