Friday, February 26, 2010

Raising Awareness, My Story

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. This is a week that I dread and look forward to each year. I look forward to it because it raises awareness for a deadly disease that often gets overlooked in the medical community. I dread this week because it forces me to recall a time in my life when I suffered from this deadly disease.

I was 22 when I became anorexic. I had just moved to Florida, and started my design career. I lived literally a block from the ocean and finally in the same state as the man I would someday marry. It began very gradual, restricting my food intake here and there. I started running, a hobby that I had always hated. Soon I would begin writing down every morsel that touched my lips, down to each piece of gum. I knew the caloric content of EVERYTHING and I kept a tally of the days calories each night. I became very moody, mean and hateful. I would withdrawal from friends and family, even my boyfriend. All I could think about was when I would run next, what I would eat and how many calories it had. My work suffered, I could barely stand up or pay attention. I went from a bubbly 22 year old to a mean and bitter person in a matter of months. Physically I was all skin and bones. I was freezing all the time and tired. My hair began to fall out and my skin was gray. Weekends that should have been fun and exciting became miserable and overwhelming. My parents were scared to death and didn't know what to do. I avoided my boyfriend as much as possible as he was tyring anything and everything to get me to eat.

I eventually gave in and started seeing a therapist to make everyone happy. I lied and told her I was getting so much better every week. Clearly, I was fading away and she could see that. I was so far gone that she threatened to have me committed if I didn't get help. I wasn't about to get help, but for some reason, I told my parents and my boyfriend what she had said. My parents were in Florida the next day and I went home with them for over 3 months to try and get better. Before I left Florida, I saw a doctor who did some tests. She said I was about a week away from a heart attack. I was 23. I had to gain 25 pounds before my parents would even consider taking me back to Florida. I gained the weight, but kept the disorder.

My boyfriend proposed and we were married a year later. I was somewhat healthy throughout this time, but my demon was still there. I was still exercising compulsively mentally keeping a tally of what I ate. Still trapped by the chains of my disorder. We moved to California and I struggled most of the 2 years we lived there. Always keeping my weight up enough to not "look" sick, but inside, slowly falling apart. We then moved to Minnesota. After getting so sick again that I quit my job, I sought treatment from an eating disorder clinic. It was there that I finally had something click and realized how sick I really was.

I wanted so badly to have children, and I knew that I couldn't. I knew that I had lost so many years of my life hiding with my disorder. I had shut myself off from my friends and family and lost a part of myself that I desperately wanted to get back. My soul felt empty and I had little emotion for anything. I was a shell. I wanted to live and I wanted to be happy, but I had lost that spark that made me Meredith. I wasn't myself anymore and that scared me to death. I looked in the mirror and barely recognized myself. My face was so thin and sad, the twinkle in my eye was gone.

I battled my eating disorder for over 7 years. For the most part keeping it very quite. At my lowest weight, the night that my parents came to get me, I had lost so much muscle in my face that I could barely smile anymore. I had blacked out a few times and most of the time I could barely feel my body I was so cold. I have damaged my hips and my lower back from running so much.

While in treatment, I learned a lot about myself and why I was doing this. There really isn't a concrete answer. I was never abused as a child, my parents love me and support me and are my best friends. My husband is amazing and has loved me through good times and very bad times. My friends are sweet and funny and caring people. I am a good, smart and funny person. I had no reason to hate myself so much that I would starve myself. I have some ideas of why this happened.

I have been recovered for about 2 years now. I can honestly say that I don't think about my eating disorder everyday like I used to. I will always have to watch it, but I don't struggle with it anymore. I am not "cured" but I feel like I am "better". I don't struggle with food or exercise anymore. I feel "normal" and whole again. I feel like myself again and I am so happy to be back!! I kind of missed myself!! And I have no idea how much I weigh. I do not weigh myself at home, and I ask the nurse at the doctors office to keep it to herself (I turn my back to the scale). Its pretty liberating not knowing!!

I used to ask myself all the time why God would give me such an awful disease. Why would He do this to me?? I now feel in some ways that this was a blessing. Weird to say that, but I do feel that way. It forced me to have to be strong and stand up to a demon. It forced me to take a better look at myself and what I want out of life. It prepared me to deal with struggles in my life. It made me see how precious life is and who and what really matter to me in this world. I know what my goals are, and I am more ready now to achieve them than ever before!

I wouldn't have been able to do it without the love and support of my family and friends. First off, my husband. I was horrible to him and he never gave up on me. He stood by me and loved me just the same. I thank God everyday for him!! My parents are amazing! I can't thank them enough for all they did for me. (I have tried!) I was pretty mean to them to, I think I threw a candy bar at my mom once!! (Sorry!) They love and support me so much, and I am blessed to have them as my parents! My parents gave me Oliver while I was sick. I call him my little angel because he loves me no matter what and I believe he is just sent from up above! He would sleep with me all day while I was recovering and on bed rest. (Bed rest was to get me to gain weight and rest my body.) Little Oliver never left my side. I have to thank my therapist and nutritionist in Minnesota. They made me dig deep down into what was going on. And they helped me enjoy food again!! Which I so love!!!

There is so much more to this story, more than I could or should put in a blog. I guess my mission here is to just raise awareness. It's not just a disease that affects young girls and teenagers. I was 22 when mine started and there are plenty of people that battle this that are much older than that. I just wanted to share a part of my story in hopes that it might help someone who is struggling. You are not alone. There are plenty of people that can help and plenty of help and assistance available.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ for more information. You can also contact me for support or guidance or if you just need someone to talk to.

Thank you for taking time to read my post today and learn a little bit about me! It was a long one!! Hope you have a great weekend!!

9 comments:

Kathysue said...

Meredith, I just read your story. You are so brave to share and go through all that you have gone through. I know that everything we go through in life is to teach us important lessons and to grow as a person. The most growth takes place through the most painful lessons. I am so glad you are on your way to a wonderful and fulfilling life. Every day is a gift and I think we often forget what is truly important. It sounds to me as if you now know. Take care and thank you for sharing your incredible story, Kathysue

Leyla said...

That brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being so honest and sharing your story. My daughter is 14 and is a cutter. Well, she hasn’t cut in 8 months (which is huge)…cutting is a symptom of her depression. Cutting and anorexia are very similar in a lot of ways. When we first started going to therapists and psychiatrists they do tend to assume that there was some form of abuse, neglect, etc. And I do understand that the majority of cases of people who have these symptoms do have some form of abuse but I do believe the minority is becoming a growing trend for teenage girls and young women everywhere. I do believe you are making a difference by telling your story…I think it is part of why we are here.

tiny twig said...

thank you so much for sharing your story. i had a best friend who struggled with anorexia in high school and it was so painful to see how she shut herself off from everyone who wanted to help. thank goodness you are recovered and are healthy now! (my friend is, too, by the way!)

your site is darling. thanks so much for sharing your heart and life!!

Design Apprentice said...

Meredith,
What a wonderful advocate you are for other women. You not only raise awareness about the disease but about body image and over coming spectacles. I have no doubt that through your honestly and conviction God is using you to help other women, you are his tool. Thank you for sharing your story and for inspiring women at the same time.

Tiffany said...

Thank you for sharing your story! HUGS!

Stephanie Herington said...

I had no idea! I can't imagine a world without happy, funny Meredith! Thank you for sharing! And you're right God gave you this path and now look at you a beautiful, strong, independent, creative and very funny person. How boring so many of our lives would be if we didn't have your "sunshine" to keep us smiling! I miss you! Hugs and kisses! Steph

Shannon said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story. You are so brave to share it with everyone. I've never known anyone with an eating disorder but your story gives a lot of clarity to the disease. Thanks!

Jacky {The Sweetest Petunia} said...

Meredith, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your willingness to share will help others, I know it. {{hugs}}

kristin said...

Sometimes our loved ones can see how strong we are before we can. I'm so glad you never gave up the fight, maybe your post will help someone else continue to fight, too. I so admire your strength and courage!