So I went home from Mercy to find that everything was pretty much the same but I was so very different. My relationships drastically changed because I was a different person and everything just kinda felt weird, not necessarily in a bad way, just weird.
I was very strict with myself and continued to keep the same schedule and perimeters that I had a Mercy. I was honestly terrified of screwing up everything that I had worked hard on. I had an accountability coach that I met with weekly, I watched what I ate, how much, what I watched, and looked at. It might sound extreme but I needed to do this to stay on track. When you are dealing with an eating disorder or any type of addiction there are things called “triggers” these are actions/ things that drive your ED/ addiction behavior so you avoid them. My triggers were certain people, different things I watched (with like models or skinny women), magazines, the scale, certain foods, to name a few. I felt like the first month I was home, it was my job to stay aware of these things and work on things as they came up. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back my anxiety definitely went up during this time because I felt like I had control of less now being back in the real world.
Like I had mentioned before, I knew when I left Mercy I wanted to help women in a similar way but I had no idea what that meant. I started thinking and praying about what this meant for myself and pretty quickly I determined that I needed to go back to school. I wanted to be a counselor and help women and I wanted the proper training and to go back to work at Mercy. I enrolled at Southeastern University for the Fall and did a couple of internships during that interim time.
I mentioned to you guys that I was/am a bored eater and I’m not gunna lie during that season I was a little bored so I did eat more and gained a little weight but I wasn’t bothered by it, I felt good and had lived in the other extreme for so long it kinda felt good to not be controlled by it. By time fall came around I was so ready/ excited to go to school, so off I went!
School was awesome, I had great friends, was doing great in my classes, had an amazing boyfriend ;), but the anxiety started to creep in more then ever and so did the perfectionism. The weight I came in with fell off because I was busy and active, and I was able to keep a good handle on all eating disorder things but the anxiety was brought to a whole new level. I was so into school it somewhat consumed me. Looking back, I basically transferred the obsession with the numbers on the scale to the numbers on my papers and exams (except I wanted these numbers high 😉 ). I would get 98% and be upset and disappointed with myself, and I ate, slept, and breathed school. I honestly loved it though, I had no problem spending the day and night in the library studying and creating study guides and emailing them out to my class, I was succeeding in school and feeling great.
My relationship with Tomas moved really fast (in a good way) you can read about some of it here. We got engaged after freshman year and were married after sophomore. Before we got married I went to see a school counselor to make sure I wasn’t taking any ED behaviors into my relationship. I loved Tomas so much I couldn’t even fathom the thought of putting him through something like that. I chatted with her and she asked a lot of questions, by the end she asked if anyone had ever talked to me about my anxiety, (my what?), no. I thought anxiety meant you had panic attacks, needed to breathe in a bag, that whole thing. She began to explain that she thought I had a different form of anxiety called “generalized anxiety” and started describing it, which was basically like reading a book on me. She taught me a few coping skills and I went off to get married because an eating disorder was no longer my issue.
Marriage was amazing and did so many great things for me but the anxiety reached new levels. I have always been a clean and organized person but now having my own home took it to a new level. I could not relax unless everything had been deep cleaned. The school obsession and perfectionism continued and I started to see how these things were affecting my quality of life. I reluctantly went to a concert with a friend one night (because I wanted to be home working on a paper) and on the way home I started sharing about how it was hard for me to enjoy because of everything I was thinking about. She shared with me about an anxiety medication she was on that was helping her so much, so I started to think about medication. A couple of months went by and it got worse, I needed help, I needed medication (a very humbling thought). I went to the Doctor and explained what was going on and he wrote me the script. Kid you not guys, the first day I was on it, I felt like a normal human being. It helped so much, I felt like my normal real self. I could be super productive, get stuff done and then turn it off and enjoy life. It was bliss and I was so thankful I had made the choice. I was on a super low dose and took half of that because I am super sensitive to meds.
About six months later I was at a praise and worship service at my school. I was going into my last semester in my undergrad and ready to enjoy it to it’s fullest. I started praying about being on the medication and asking God if I could find a way to come off of it. I have no idea why, I didn’t have any negative side effects, I think it was just the idea. I never went on it to be on it forever even though I was ok if that had to be the case. I did feel a lot of peace come over me and a new joy that I hadn’t had but the anxiety was still there, but I didn’t care I was ready to take on the semester and apply to grad school!
The next day a friend of mine asked if I would start training with her for a 5k run to raise money for her Haitian Organization, CPI. I wanted to help them out but had not exercised in years because I had only known abusing exercise from when I was anorexic. I decided that I would eventually need to start exercising so why not now! It was a crazy season for sure, last semester, thesis, I was taking a GRE prep course (for a grad school entrance exam) in Tampa two days a week, and now training for this race everyday, but I did it and something magical started to happen…
I started to feel super chill. Like pot head chill. I’m not super certain because I have never smoked pot but if I had I feel like that’s how I would feel. Super super chill, not really motivated and just wanted to hang. Not me, at all. I started to evaluate why and it hit me that it was probably the combo of the running and anxiety meds. It was the only thing that had changed. There was no weaning off of my anxiety meds, I was on half of the lowest dose and it was so tiny, so I decided to just stop taking it and see how I felt (talk to your doc about this first 😉 ). With the running at least four times a week I felt exactly how I felt when I was on the meds and thus a love for exercise was born! I was seriously amazed and although God did not miraculously heal me, He did bring that race opportunity literally the next day and I was healed of my anxiety through that. It was seriously unreal! More details on all this here.
About a month later a friend of mine was telling me about the whole food diet she was on and how great she was feeling and all of the physical improvements that came with it. This sounded so foreign to me because I lived off artificial sweeteners, diet/ fat-free, highly processed foods. Like “lite” can of Progresso soup every day for lunch, processed. The thought of giving up my “safe” food terrified me but I knew that it wasn’t very good for me even though it was super low calorie (which was thought to be good at the time). I decided to take on the challenge just to see. I started small like swapped out Splenda for Stevia and powdered creamer for regular half & half. Like that was it for two weeks and then started buying healthier things as I ran out of the other stuff. I had like 20 cans of progresso from a BOGO deal at Publix, so I finished that ‘ish’ and then started making salads for lunch. I know a lot of people like to go cold turkey and just start eating healthy like the next day but that is so not me. My whole process of eating healthier whole foods took about a year. I believe that faster you jump on a train the faster you jump off it- at least with my personality.
I did experience so many changes both physically and mentally from making these switches. My hair grew wicked long (yes its real 😉 ), my skin cleared up, I looked skinny fat before, so with these changes I put on muscle but leaned out, so I weighed more but looked fitter. Mentally I felt more clear, anxiety went down ever more then before making it nonexistent. The eating disorder temptations completely disappeared. I remember waking up one day and thinking “I haven’t had an ED thought in about a week”, then another week went by and another. That was four years ago and I haven’t struggled or even had a thought for a second. This is a freaking miracle you guys because I really was prepared to struggle for the rest of my life and fight the battle daily, and sadly for most people that is the case, but by the grace of God not for me. I am not saying this will be my forever but for these past few years I am so grateful. My mind is freed up to focus on the things I really care about and to dream about The Balance Culture and it’s future plans (stay tuned 😉 ).
The reason I don’t struggle is so multifaceted. It is totally God and the fact that I find who I am and everything in Him. Eating healthy and not being concerned with calories or weight, I focus on fueling my body and doing what is best for it so I can effectively carry out everything I need to everyday. Exercise makes my anxiety nonexistent preventing and triggering thoughts when I feel out of control, I still protect myself and don’t think I am immune to anything, so I still keep boundaries with myself and some of those trigger (like I don’t weigh myself and haven’t in years, read about that here), and I have so many amazing positive relationships that add so much to my life. I got to experience unconditional love from my husband, who would talk me through things when I was in a rough spot and love me regardless of what I was dealing with. I am accountable to so many people and in difficult seasons, I get real raw and vulnerable with that accountability. I am not stupid and protect myself because I am not void from anything. This is a humbling and important place to live. All the things I learned in Mercy still remain with me and are things I practice daily and I always remain open to counseling and medication if the need arises, I am in no way, shape, or form above it! This is such a good place to be.
So much of The Balance Culture stems from all these things I have shared with you guys over the course of my story. I do not have a single regret and know each thing has happened for a reason and has made me into the person I am today. I have so much compassion for where people are at because chances are I have been there too. I am so blessed that my life is one that provides a space for women to feel the best about themselves. I love pouring myself into my team and all the people that attend the studio and my clients from my nutrition practice. I am truly blessed and forever thankful for this season. God truly gets all the glory because all of it is because of Him, no doubt.
So many of you have walked through this journey with me and have played such a significant role in this story. God has used so many people to impact my life and I am forever thankful! A huge part of recovery is vulnerability and letting people in, I have been so blessed by these people. Thank you, you all know who you are…
Special shout out to my mom, where would I be without you…