Struggle & Strength
It’s been six months since I’ve written a blog post. There’s no great excuse aside from laziness…pretty lame right? But the truth is, I have a tendency towards being lazy. Historically, if things don’t come easy, I don’t want to do them. That’s the truth. And I think in great part because of that, I’ve always seen myself as kind of weak. I tell myself I’m not a go-getter, not strong or capable, not able to overcome challenges or weaknesses. But the bottom line is, those are all lies. They are excuses to not have to deal with hard things. And I don’t want to make excuses or tell myself lies anymore.
Here’s the absolute truth: I’m WAY stronger than I often allow myself to believe. And I’m so proud of myself for the things I’ve overcome.
I struggled with an eating disorder for 12 years. It started after college and lasted until I went to treatment in 2011. And it was all-consuming. I think I hated myself a little bit for it. I’ve always been a perfectionist and have had an on-going search for a sense of identity. So striving to be the thinnest or the most fit became that temporary source of identity for me. It was a way to get noticed….because isn’t that what we all want? To be seen, noticed, affirmed? It takes lots of different forms, but I think it’s human nature to want something that is ours and something to be known for. Also, because I’ve never felt very strong, I think I subconsciously wanted something I could control. But the irony is that when you’re in the midst of an eating disorder (or any other addiction or disease), you’re so out of control. It controls you, your actions and thoughts. I felt worthless, all the while striving for the perfect body and the perfect identity that would affirm my worth. And when it comes to my faith, I think this struggle made me feel even more worthless and despondent. I grew up in a Christian home, believe in God and was taught that He created each of us perfectly and individually. Psalm 139: 14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” But while that’s what I was taught, and I would’ve told you that’s what I believed, I didn’t really believe it. My actions and mindset confirmed that, and I was ashamed. I was also ashamed that my eating disorder took time and focus away from my husband and kids. But I hid it. I hid the mental struggle and the outward manifestation as best I could. I thought I became really good at hiding it….until our tenth anniversary when my husband told me that if I didn’t get help, we wouldn’t last. It was a huge wake up call. I realized (maybe for the first time) that my relationship with my eating disorder and my relationships with my husband and kids couldn’t co-exist. And looking back on it, it WAS a relationship….it was like a destructive affair. I was sneaking around, hiding it, hating myself for it but unable to let it go. But when Jason finally gave me what amounted to an ultimatum, I realized that I had to try and beat this, not just because he said so, but because I really wanted to.
Shortly thereafter (within the month), with the support and help of not just Jason but my parents and Jason’s family, I went to a treatment program in Arizona. I was there for five weeks (I’m so grateful to my wonderful sister-in-law Nichole who was willing to watch our kids for that entire time so that I could focus on recovery and Jason could work and not have to pay for childcare), met some amazing and strong women who were dealing with the same issues and came home a little over a month later, feeling strong and that I could do life without this crutch anymore. That lasted all of a few days until I had a relapse that ended up lasting another few months. I was so disappointed in myself and again I hid it. To this day, I don’t know if my family knows that I relapsed for almost four months. And I can’t tell you exactly what happened or why (I have to give God all the credit) but in October of 2011, I made a decision that I was not going to let this control me anymore. It was a day-to-day struggle for at least the first year after that. I had to be careful not to keep trigger foods in the house, not to allow myself to indulge or overeat or overexercise, but every day it got a little easier. Now eight years later I can truly say, I am fully recovered. I have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. And you know the funniest thing? All those years of worrying about being the thinnest or the fittest or having the “perfect body” amounted to so much physical and mental pain, and I can honestly say that I am probably in the best physical (and mental) shape now than I’ve ever been. But the best part is that I have a healthy mindset about it. I work out moderately doing something I enjoy like Pilates or barre, eat what I want in moderation (and sometimes indulge), and I rarely stress about it. I feel like our bodies know what we need and our metabolisms can work properly when we let them. All that to say: RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. So even though I still struggle with insecurities, I am so much stronger, more joyful and more content in who I am. Admittedly I’m not fully where I’d like to be in terms of how I see myself, but in thinking about my story, my history and in writing this I can tell you confidently, I’m strong. And I can say that the quote, “I am thankful for my struggle, because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength” could not be more true for me.
I’ve never really talked about my eating disorder with anyone but my family or very close friends or those in treatment with me, probably because of the shame I felt. It’s not a time in my life that I am at all proud of. But I’ve realized more and more that it had a huge part in shaping who I am. Not only did it change my outlook on myself, it made me more empathetic to other’s struggles. There’s a saying, “Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about. Be kind always.” It’s true. Especially when it comes to social media, blogs, FB, Pinterest…..there’s a tendency to put your best face forward, to share your “highlight reel”, to hide any struggles or insecurities, to not be vulnerable. I don’t know if it’s pride or fear or something else, but that’s how it is. I know for me, I operate a lot out of fear…fear of rejection, fear of what people will think of me, fear of not being liked. But truthfully, it hasn’t served me well. All fear does is paralyze us, make us self-absorbed, and limit us in pretty much every way. I was fearful of sharing a vulnerable post, of being too serious, not light-hearted or happy enough. But to be completely honest, as I write this, I feel a weight being lifted. It’s really freeing to be transparent, to feel like you have nothing to hide and can be completely yourself.
I’ve actually debated talking about this for months (or even years). But lately, I’ve realized that having the platform and opportunity to talk about things that really matter shouldn’t be taken for granted. I don’t want to waste the chance to help or connect with someone who might need it. And I have been so inspired by some Instagram influencers I follow (Casey of @officiallyquigley is one….if you don’t follow, her you should!) who are so real and honest and are using their platforms to spread messages that matter, form true connections and use social media as a place and opportunity to make a difference. And that’s who I want to be. Yes, I love creating content, posting images that I think are fun and creative and working with brands I truly like and admire, but I think my favorite part of all of this is making connections and having the opportunity to hopefully influence people positively. And while I know social media can be very self-serving (and I’ve definitely used it for that purpose), that’s not what I want my platforms and purpose to be. My mom (who is probably the wisest, most generous and giving person I know) has always told me that getting outside of yourself and serving others is the best way to find joy and fulfillment. And I’ve definitely come to learn that she’s right.
So all that to say, if you’ve read this far, thank you. Thanks for taking the time to read a part of my story and I hope in some way that it inspires you to love yourself a little more, give yourself grace and embrace every struggle that is part of your story. And if you relate to this in any way, please don’t hesitate to comment, or email or send me a DM. I would love to try to encourage and support you. And if you get nothing else out of this: YOU ARE STRONG. You are capable. You can do hard things. And let me tell you, it’s worth it.
Photos by Nicole Marcelli/Quotes from Pinterest
Outfit details: Fabletics white bralette and leggings, Nike track jacket and Adidas Superstars from Macy’s