My Testimony: Overcoming Anorexia and Anxiety
I've been debating whether or not to share my testimony, and if I do, what parts of my testimony I would share. Tonight I finally feel like it's time for me to share my story. I'm going to try and keep it as brief as possible but it happened over many years, and still happens from time to time so bare with me, because this could get pretty long. So I am skipping a few stories here and there, please
me if you would like more information, I love sharing my story! To really know my testimony I have to take you back about fifteen years, that way you can really understand my background.
I rocked that eggplant sweater for quite awhile. Anyways, this photo was taken in 1998 so it was probably six month to a year before I started Kindergarten. I'm fairly certain that I would have been in kindergarten 1999-2000. So maybe a year and a half. Not that any of that really matters. While in kindergarten I dealt with some absolutely horrid stomach pains. I mean it was so bad I remember laying on the sofa and not getting any sleep (and at least one of my parents were always up with me) and I would just be screaming and crying. I had blood work done and I even had an ultra-sound. The doctors couldn't find anything. Then one day, the stomach pains just went away (they came back a few years later but not nearly as bad). Looking back, I am now 100% sure that those were stress pains. Yes, I was stressed out in kindergarten.
I saw a therapist on and off through elementary school and middle school, for various things like simple anxiety, body image, etc. One time in sixth grade I was eating an ice cream bar at school and was so anxious the rest of the day after that because I thought that
there had still been a little bit of paper on one of the parts that I ate. I had to go see my therapists that day because I was so worried that it would like kill me or something. Mother's Day weekend 2006 (still in sixth grade) I became violently ill with a stomach virus. I ended up having to go to the hospital over night because I was so dehydrated. After that, things started going down hill for me. The Saturday that I had gotten sick I was wearing a blue hoodie, I had put my hair up in a ponytail while it was still wet, I had eaten chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and gone to my grandma's to sleep over. It was the last time that I ate, wore, or did any of those things (I mean I still wore blue and my hair up, just not on Saturdays).
Real quick, we're going to go back one year to 2005. That year, my mom had her first seizure was diagnosed with epilepsy. She only had one so was soon able to go back to work and drive. Flash forward to 2007/2008. My mom started having horrible, uncontrollable seizures. My mom has grandma seizures which means it is a full on seizure that lasts for at least five minutes, involves convulsions, falling, and flailing. I remember she had a seizure at work one time and came home looking like she had gotten beat up, but she had flailed around so much around computers and things that she had black and blue bruises all over her. If you've ever seen somebody during or after a seizure, you know that it is a horribly traumatizing thing to see. My anxiety slowly started to become more pronounced during this time because I couldn't control my environment.
I'm on the right (with the sling obviously)
In eighth grade I decided that I wanted to be a vegetarian. I did a fairly decent job at first with getting enough protein and what not but I was also dealing with some pretty bad depression (oh yeah, I have both anxiety and depression...I'm just that cool). I wasn't as social as I once was and the introvert side of me became more noticeable. I, on my own, decided that it may help me if I switched schools to go to a local private Christian school (I had actually gone there for Kindergarten and first grade and my dad was in the first graduating class). So I did indeed switch schools from public to private school in the middle of the year. I believe there were either fifteen or sixteen kids in my class at private school. Although I really enjoyed the switch and became a bit more social, my anxiety and depression slowly became worse and it was came out in my eating habits. I was still vegetarian but became even more and more selective with what foods I was eating. If you remember my post called
, I mentioned that this is the year when I broke my arm on that class biking trip to Gettysburg. Read more details in
. I honestly don't know how I made it through that weekend without fainting. I think I ate once a day and it was only pb&j sandwiches. I broke my arm so badly on that trip that I had to have surgery and of course took lots of pain meds which suppressed my already small appetite. Needless to say, I lost a good amount of weight and my pediatrician started becoming concerned and asked me to come in for monthly weigh-ins. I was like what evs. I'm just eating healthy. But my anxiety just continued to get worse.
The summer before my freshman year (still at private school) my pediatrician suggested that I go see a psychiatrist and get some help for my anxiety/depression. I started on a very low dose of Prozac, which helped slightly but the anxious stomach pains started coming back as well. I started to never eat breakfast (that really started in 8th grade I would say) and slowly started eating nothing for lunch. I was so so afraid that I was going to be sick (after the horrible illness in 6th grade traumatized me) that I didn't eat a thing. My best friend at the time noticed I wasn't eating anything but I always just told her that I was too anxious. She didn't know any better to be seriously concerned.
taken end of fall 2008. I'm on the far left.
A few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas (closer to Christmas) I went into the doctor's for my monthly weigh-in. It was very weird when my doctor asked my parents to step into another room with her discuss something. I knew then that something was wrong with me and my anxiety rose like a lot. I thought that maybe I had cancer or was dyeing or something. The doctor and my parents came back in a few minutes later and my mom was crying. I knew something had to be wrong. My doctor told me that she was severely worried about me and thought that I had an eating disorder. She suggested we go to a clinic at Hershey Hospital and meet with the doctors there. I think I was in shock. I know for sure that I didn't believe that anything was actually wrong with me. I remember texting my best friend and her saying "But you're not, right?" and said, "I mean I guess I am. But it's just anxiety. I don't know
taken at Christmas time the same year. I'm in the middle.
why it's such a big deal. "
I was lucky enough to be able to see a doctor at Hershey's Adolescent Eating Disorder Center either the next day or the day after. I was so nervous. The thing that sticks out the most to me and still makes me so so sad for younger me is when the doctor said, "You are severely malnourished. You are like the kids in Africa who are malnourished." That statement struck me hard and still does. She also said, "If you had come to us a week later, we would have had to put you in the in-patient program with a feeding tube." Everybody knows the images of the poor and starving young children in Africa and other third world countries. I was doing that to myself when I had access to plenty of food. I was then diagnosed with Selective Anorexia in-conjunction with the anxiety disorder I had previously been diagnosed with (
selective anorexia means that I ate select types of food when I did choose to eat
God was really looking out for me because it is very, very hard to get a spot in a treatment group, especially ones for eating disorders. But there was a spot open in the partial-hospitalization adolescent group. Guys I'm tearing up right now thinking back on this. For the next two and a half months, I drove up to Hershey (about 45 minutes away) by 8 or 9 for breakfast and stayed until 3pm. I did this Monday through Friday and eat breakfast, lunch, and a snack at the clinic. I can't even tell you how hard the first few weeks were for me. I was so scared. I am thankful that I had supportive parents who were willing to drive me up every day and stick around two or three days during the week to talk to my doctors with me. I will never be able to repay my parents for the time they gave me.
What's being in a partial-hospitalization program for eating disorders like? For one thing, it is emotionally and physically draining. At Hershey I had a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, a nutritionist, and there were two full-time nurses that stayed with the group at all times. There were also a few therapists that would come in every few days a week for various group therapies. We each had individualized meal plans to follow. The nurses would prepare our breakfast, lunch, and snacks according to our food plans and we would eat dinner at home. At the beginning the meal plans were small because being anorexic causes a person's stomach to shrink significantly so one has to slowly build their stomach back up to a healthy size. As I was slowly introduced to more and more foods, I would get just the absolute worst stomach pains. I can't even explain how hard it was to continue eating with those stomach aches. When I would come home from my day at Hershey, I would be so tired and have such bad stomach aches that I would have absolutely no energy to do anything except for laying in bed and watching TV. Honestly, most of the two and a half months that I spent full-time there are sort of a blur. Partially because I had not been getting enough nutrients and when that happens, brain cells slowly start to die off (not kidding). I'm sure some of you have had to loose significant amounts of weight in a short period of time but if anybody has had to gain thirty pounds in two months or so, you know it is hard and it's hard to get used to your new body shape. If you interested in hearing more about what treatment is like either leave a comment below and I will write a post dedicated solely to what treatment is like or feel free to
with questions. Basically, I was taught how to handle my anxiety and that I don't need to have control over everything in my life.
the first time Lauren visited. September 2009.
One of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders is that only people with low self-esteem develop eating disorders. False. That's more of a side effect. Eating disorders come from a need to control your environment and from severe anxiety disorders and depression. Self-esteem issues are not the "cause." For more information,
is a reputable website and organization for finding help and information.
the summer after being in treatment. 2009.
The best part of treatment? I met my bestestest friend, Lauren. You may remember her as my maid of honor. We had the same psychologist and we both became close with her. Honestly, without Lauren I with I could have relapsed and gone back into the hospital. She now visits my family a few times a year, whom she is also very close to, and the best part was that we weren't supposed to stay friends after treatment (a general rule that they had so that people could not pull each other done). But our doctor let us and trusted us (p.s. Lauren and I both still email our doctor life updates because we are so so thankful for her). I'm so glad we stayed friends for going on five years now.
I went up to Hershey Monday-Friday for two and a half months. Eventually they cut my days down to
two then one day for awhile and all of the other days I went to school. I really learned that sometimes God puts us where we are supposed to be for a season. I didn't enjoy all of the drama that went on at my private school and for tenth grade I ended up going back to public school. But because I was in private school while in treatment, my teachers let me text them with questions during the day and even let me skip some tests and finals since they knew that I had been going through so very much. I know that if I had been in public school they would not have done any of that. God knew what He was doing.
As for the anxiety, it is a day to day issue for me, and it always will be. I went off medications for awhile but I am back on them now. I'm a little disappointed that I have to rely on medications but without them, I have constant panic attacks and can't live my life, so I'm not ashamed of them. Being out of my parent's house has helped my anxiety immensely. I think because I have slightly more control over my life and I'm living with my very bestest friend who knows me better than anybody else in the world. Marrying your best friend does awesome things like that for ya. Trust me.
top photos are from my first senior session and the bottom two are from my second session after loosing weight
Aside from my anxiety I have struggled with finding the right balance for eating healthy. When my anxiety became better, I ate everything. I mean everything. I was slightly overweight for my height and became unhappy with my body. This was the summer before my senior year when I had these issues and I had to have my senior pictures taken. Kent did an amazing job but soon after I lost thirty pounds (it was needed and it was done with healthy eating and exercise) and I had my senior pictures done a second time. I still struggle with what is healthy eating and my weight still fluctuates from time to time. But I'm healthy. And that's what matters.
I wanted to give you a "brief" over view of just one little part of my testimony but if you would like to know more about my time in treatment or some general information about anorexia or about more of my story, please comment below or email me with questions.