Here I go, finally publishing the post I said I never would. The one I thought I never could. The one I’d kind of already written in pieces, yet also held so much back. The one I thought would make me cringe.
Funny how that happens.
We hold on to things (big or small) – things we feel are so shameful, so personal, so isolating – we couldn’t possibly bear to make them public.
Yet, over time, as we get to know our true selves more, we become increasingly compassionate toward others, and our biggest bumps, breaks, and bruises of life become scars that have withered. Whereas they used to be the divet of despair in our daily thoughts, reminding us of the trauma we’d been through, one day we look down, and can no longer even see it.
It doesn’t just disappear from the surface either. It heals from the inside out, bottom to top, to where the skin’s now smooth surface seamlessly blends in with the rest.
I believe healing is possible, because this is (part of) my story…
About 14 years ago, I returned to campus after the summer break for my sophomore season of Division 1 field hockey. I’d worked my butt off all summer long trying to get rid of the dreaded freshman 15 (it’s a real thing) and return firing on all cylinders.
During my first year, between the three-a-day dining hall veg-outs, binge-boozing whenever we didn’t have a game or practice the next day, late-night food, constant study snacks, calorie-laden coffees, and constant team workouts in the weight room; inevitably, the number on the scale went up and up.
Even still, we were living the dream. The friends, the sports spotlight, the freedom – we had it made. I honestly remember saying, “I love my life” on a daily basis. At times, I think we even felt invincible.
But then something shifted in a big way.
It All Started Prior to My Second Year
In high school, I averaged 115 pounds. (Small, I know.)
The summer going into college I was coming in around 125.
By the end of my fall freshman season, I’d inched up to about 135.
By the end of my first year, I was a full 145 – 150 pounds.
As a 5′ 6″ athlete, 145 wasn’t “skinny”, and it was by no means “overweight”. It was a relatively healthy weight for me at the time.
However, a 30+ pound increase never feels good. Especially when you have to run those 30 pounds up and down a field every day.
Not to mention, everything suddenly fit tighter and needed to be a few sizes bigger.
I was uncomfortable – heavy and slow feeling while playing, and my self-esteem started plummeting in my social life. For the first time ever, I was utterly consumed with thoughts of dieting.
I didn’t have the first clue about how to diet. Having been so active my whole life, I’d always eaten what I wanted, when I wanted and fared completely fine.
And still, I resolved to change my habits, get down to business, and within about 6 months, I’d managed to fall from 145+ lbs. to a svelte and strong 118 lbs. I was without a doubt in the best shape of my life. I felt accomplished and ready for our fall playing season.
But needless to say, I looked a lot different. Especially to the friends that had met me in the 140-range and never knew me to be anything smaller. The quick shed was worrisome to many close to me and their rumors of an eating disorder began spreading.
The Part When Shame Settled in Deep
I’ll never know why I was unable to confront those whispers, heed the feedback, and ensure I stayed on a healthy course.
But let me tell you, food and weight can get in your psyche and purchase the extended-stay with no regard for check-out.
Shame, paranoia, and unworthiness somehow settled in deep.
Pair that with a number of other horrible incidents throughout my college experience that completely rocked me. (Stories for another day.)
As the year went on, between my vigorous workouts, newfound obsession with reading health and fitness magazines, nutrition overhaul, and calorie-counting craze, my weight continued dropping.
Funny thing is, at the time, the last thing I thought about was having any kind of “eating disorder”.
My eating was certainly disordered but it was nothing in comparison to the war that was going on in my head. The weight loss became a symptom of a much bigger problem.
The mind games were fierce and far beyond my grasp. Grappling for stability, the only thing I knew how to control was food. My eating went from less to less until I was eating, on average, less than 1,200-1,500 calories a day.
As a D1 athlete and college student who was constantly on the go, walking all over campus, and playing field hockey or lifting 3-4 hours a day, you can imagine the discrepancy in my daily energy requirements.
Let me tell you—the enemy knows when he sees a foothold. He’ll turn an inch into a mile, and a few pounds lost, into a full-blown identity crisis.
The only way I know how to describe it is that I literally felt as if someone caged me in a thick glass box and I was walking around life with a barrier between me and the rest of the world. On top of it, the glass was shaded. It was colored with a tint of “You’re unworthy”, mixed with “Everyone is talking about you”, and “You must be perfect, but good luck, because you never will be.”
This went on and on for years, and it didn’t go untreated either. I was blessed to be provided with incredible medical care in the form of doctors, nutritionists, and psychologists. Even the local leaders from Athletes-in-Action would invite me out to coffee to talk about God and my faith, which gave me a momentary glimmer of hope.
By the time I managed to graduate and stay on the hockey team all four years (by the grace of God), I moved to a new city to begin my first job, where I’d reached an all-time low of 98 pounds.
98 pounds, ya’ll.
What I thought was some insane anxiety and depression at 108 pounds, was absolutely out of proportion when another ten came off. The mind-body connection is absolutely fierce.
The craziest thing about depression and eating disorders is they can reach a point that’s so critical, where you honestly don’t know which part of it to fix first. The mind? The body? The heart? The soul?
The body physically can’t just start consuming mass quantities of food. The mind struggles to create new thought patterns overnight. The heart wants to love and hold on but doesn’t know how. The soul is screaming at its highest octave from within that thick, sound-proof glass case; crying out to anyone and anything.
To this day, I also can’t identify the one thing that got me out of that mess. I wish I could give you a quick solve or a 3-step answer, but I can’t.
Despite the memories of those days that are often still hard to recall, I can now look back on them with 100% certainty and tell you, God never left my side, and He didn’t ever not have a plan or a purpose for my pain.
Did He do it to me? Certainly not. Did His heartbreak to see me struggle? Absolutely.
At times, it’s less hard to think about what I went through, and harder to think about where I’d be if I hadn’t. It’s certainly made me who I am today.
What I can tell you is, God deserves so much glory for my recovery. He parted the seas in my raging ocean and fought for me when I thought I had nothing left to give.
Alllll this time later – now at a much fuller, healthier weight, my mind is sound, my heart has been healed, and my soul is both cemented and free. I see myself differently in the mirror these days. I certainly still have my downer days, but I’m actively declaring the phrase: “The more I think with love, love is all I see.”
There’s no sugar-coating it – my recovery took years.
It took working for an incredibly supportive company with great leadership (lululemon), it took a hip surgery that forcibly stopped my intense activity regimen, it took living with my parents while I paid for grad school and they reintroduced me to normal eating, it took finding the love of my life, and it took many, many encounters with God that ultimately led to COMPLETE surrender.
So please hear my plea: Whatever you or a loved one is going through – remain standing. Stand tall. Stand by their side, stand with them and for them. And my goodness, pray for them.
The power of prayerful intercession is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I might not be where I am today without the friends, family, and faith-filled believers who shook heaven and earth to see me whole again.
Wholeness – I’ve learned – is a constant discovery.
I feel a bit emotional writing this because, in the years of distancing myself from these memories and more recently being distracted with life + work, I haven’t been as much of a voice for mental health and walking it out in faith.
I hope to continue sharing more parts of my story and helping others through the process, because this I know for sure:
Our God is bigger than the scale, what the mirror shows, the whispers and rumors, and the disorder that’s wiped you off your feet. You will get well. You will. It will take grit to stay there and grace to take you where you’re headed.
But no matter where you’ve been or what’s happened to you: be proud of who you are. Work towards a place of mental and physical health and don’t ever be afraid to seek the help and resources you may need.
Own the bumps, bruises, scratches, and scars of your life. Some will wither and fade, and some will serve as a constant reminder of just how tough you are.
There will always be more to you and your story than your weight. So much more.