Editor’s Note: For Mental Health Month 2019 our theme is “It Gets Better.” As part of our campaign, we are interviewing Libero alumni and asking them to reflect on the past and share words of encouragement to those who can relate to their stories. CLICK HERE to learn more about our Mental Health Month campaign and fundraiser!
What was your life like before you took steps towards mental health?
Every second of every day was filled with thoughts of food and exercise. Whether I was worried about what I would eat, what food would be available at the restaurant we were going to or feeling guilty for what I had eaten, food was always on my mind.
What was the turning point that led you down the path of change?
My sister encouraged my parents to take me to a therapist who specialized in eating disorders. Initially, I wasn’t invested in recovery at all because I didn’t feel like I had a problem. However, after working with this therapist I soon began to realize that I did, in fact, have an eating disorder, and began to see what a healthy relationship with food and exercise could offer.
When did you first reach out for support?
I first started getting treatment around my freshman year of high school, around 2009
What gave you the courage to ask for help?
I didn’t really reach out for help. I was lucky enough to have an attentive family that got me the help I needed before I knew I needed it myself.
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What types of support did you pursue and which were most helpful for you?
I worked with a psychiatrist, medical doctors, and a nutritionist. With my psychiatrist and medical doctor, I started taking an SSRI which helped me immensely. Additionally, I received support from my family as well as the blogging community.
The support from my family was the most helpful for me.
How did Libero help you along the way?
Libero helped me by giving me the opportunity to share my story with a wider audience, and to help others going through the same thing I had been through.
How does your life today compare to your life before beginning the journey towards mental wellness?
Life today is so much better than life when I was completely consumed by my eating disorder. Food is no longer the center of my thoughts, and I don’t have nearly as much guilt surrounding food and exercise.
Do you still have “bad days”? If so, how do you respond to them?
I do still have bad days. However, my bad days now aren’t nearly as bad as a normal day was before. When I do have thoughts of guilt regarding lack of exercise, for example, I try to remind myself that there are more important things and that sometimes spending time with family and friends is more important than exercising.
What is something about your life today that you never would have thought possible before?
I married my husband in 2015, which would have never been possible with my eating disorder. When I was sick, my thoughts were consumed by food. Friendships were the farthest thing from my mind, let alone a romantic relationship of any kind.
Being able to connect with someone the way I have been able to with my husband is something I am very grateful for and was not something I thought I would be able to do.
What do you wish you’d known when you were first reaching out for support?
I wish I had known that there are other men and boys that also suffer from eating disorders. I found this out after starting treatment, and it really helped me to feel less alone. Knowing this from the very beginning would have been helpful.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your former self?
If I could go back in time to before my eating disorder, I would tell myself to love my body just as it is. At the time, I think part of what drove me to start restricting food was the desire to be lighter to be more competitive at cycling races. To that end, I would also tell myself that a healthy body is far more important for sports performance than being lightweight is.
What would you like to share with those who can relate to your story and may feel that things won’t get better?
To people who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I would say that although it is a long road, recovery is possible.
I would also say that for me the healthier I got physically, the clearer and easier it was to make process psychologically. I mention this because I know that in the beginning weight restoration wasn’t something I looked forward to; however, it is essential for both physical and mental recovery.
Is there a specific quote or song that helped get you through difficult times?
“Recover” by Natasha Bedingfield really spoke to me, really the whole song.
“Been torn apart, / Got so many scratches and scars, / Maybe they won’t all go away, / But they’ll fade, / Maybe time can mend us together.. Again. / Its not what we’ve done but, how far we’ve come. / We will recover / The worst is over, now. / All those fires we’ve been walking through, / And still we survive, somehow. / We will recover / The worst is behind / And it hurts, but in time, I know that we will recover.”
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