I am extremely fortunate, that is the short of this entire story, but how I got to where I am now is still hard for me to fathom.
This is a story of myself that I am still coming to grips with. Though this occurred a few years ago, I stored these painful memories away, only for them recently to resurface and be forced to remember years of my life I would certainly appreciate a mulligan on.
The damage began in October 2009, when I did a health exam at my high school. I got on the scale and shortly after got a print out that stated I weighed 180 pounds. I was 5-foot-5 inches at the time, so my being 180 pounds was overweight and certainly not healthy, it was my highest ever weight and it mortified me.
These were times when I could consume an entire large pizza pie in one sitting, in competitive eating time and still have room for a full dessert.
Any time I ran I could feel the weight and that it was not healthy. I honestly felt like a bobblehead and I was tired of the feeling but was unsure of how to motivate myself to change.
Finally around New Year’s Eve in 2009 I decided to lose weight. I made it a typical New Year’s Resolution that was made during a poetry slam in my creative writing class.
Saying you are going to lose weight though is easier said then done and it can be hard to lose weight, but I still wanted to be true to my word, so after New Year’s Day I got started.
I began to do what I thought was best to lose weight which was work out, count calories and set an eating curfew for myself. No more late night snacks.
The results started to pay off as I lost eight pounds shortly before my first month. My goal was to lose 25 pounds and I was well on my way.
As I got closer to final exams I reached my goals. Several people told me they noticed a difference and that I was looking better.
I still look at my yearbook picture which had me at the 180 pound weight and cringe. I was overweight but more importantly insecure and did not trust myself enough.
Normally this is where the story ends. This is a happy ending and I was able to make things right, but if that were the case then I would not be writing this.
In college, there is such a thing as the “freshmen 15”. You typically gain 15 pounds your freshman year. That would have been great for me, but that certainly was not to be.
The weight kept coming off and I had no clue how to stop it. For some reason in the middle of the second semester in my freshman year of college, I decided to run my hand down my face. Something did not seem right. Right above my cheek I could feel a bone. I was horrified, I was starting to get skinny and bony. No matter what I tried I could not gain weight.
My appetite was nearly completely gone and although there was a passing comment made to me. It was not until my sophomore year when one of Point Park’s front desk attendants that I saw everyday told me the truth. I was skinny and I did not look well.
Still, I was in denial. I continued to think my stomach appeared overweight and each time I looked in a mirror, this held true. What actually was the case was that I had an eating disorder. What once was the 180 and overweight me became the 105 pound version of me. A version which still did not satisfy me. Just by looking at myself, I still thought there was weight to lose when of course there was not.
I did not trust anyone and essentially felt alone and hopeless. It was not that I could not confide in anyone, I think looking back at it, I was scared and had no idea what to do. I had my loving family, an extremely loyal therapist that has been with me for over 15 years and very supportive friends who always have been there, yet still I did not trust myself to discuss this with anyone.
As far as I was concerned, there really was not a problem.
The scariest part was what went on in my mind. I had images of my life ending by suicide. So not only physically was I in danger, but worse I was a mental wreck. Never once did I think about carrying any of these thoughts out, but all this time I hid my true feelings to myself, making the entirety of the situation worse.
I had to learn once again how to love and trust myself. It was hard, it was scary and a very slow progress. Really, it took a couple of years that took an enormous toll on my body.
By sophomore year of college I consistently had massive stomach pains from the stress of the situation and I had no idea what to do.
Initially it was thought that I had a gluten allergy, so I spent the first semester eating solely gluten free foods and there was little to no difference.
A CT scan, an endoscopy and a colonoscopy later, I indeed found out that this pain was stress induced and I certainly was allowing the stress to win.
When exactly did things change? I do not know, but essentially I had to start all over again.
I worked out in my sophomore year for the first time since 11th grade and it built my strength both physically and mentally. I began to trust myself and my ability to make decisions, though really that took until senior year of college.
It got to the point that most of my time in college, I did three hour workouts each weekday in college just to build some muscle, gain some sorely needed confidence in myself and make sure I would not revert back to my old ways.
By my junior year, I was on top of my weight, had plenty of writing responsibilities and finally was on a solid footing, which some travel that allowed me to clear my mind.
Consistently I would joke and try to make everyone’s days better but inside I was hiding this enormous secret that was harming my every day life.
Gaining the weight back was harder than it was losing it. It is not even close.
The most important thing of my college experience was certainly not my degree. It was how I physically and mentally hit rock bottom but found my way back to good physical shape and my strongest mental shape.
Today I am back up to 165 pounds but it is a healthy 165. No bobble head. No insecurities of myself. Just acceptance. Acceptance that I am the most satisfied and probably the healthiest I have ever been.
Every day I try to make sure I have a smile on my face, at least inwardly since every day life at times can make it hard to smile on the outside.
As I wrote this, I felt the exact same stomach pains that I did in college, but this time it felt like the pain, my secret was finally leaving me.
This story does indeed have a happy ending though getting there was much harder than I ever could have bargained for.
My hope is that someone can get something out of this and hopefully not have to entertain the years of struggle and denial my body had to deal with. Please do not make the same mistakes I made.
*UPDATE* It is hard to believe a year has gone by since I wrote this original post.
I put all of this down on an iPhone during a break at my old job and it was amazing how quickly and clearly everything came back to me.
In the last year, I have continued to grow and not be defined by this struggle. Writing this post a year ago was the final step to show I conquered my eating disorder. Anyone that sees me now, knows I am able to eat plenty of food once again.
Words cannot express how thankful I am to everyone for reading and reacting.
So many of you called me brave for coming forward with this, I call it necessary.
It was necessary for me to write this post for myself and for my pain to go away but even more so, it was important for others who I am sure are going through similar challenges.
Please know that you are not alone. You are worth it and that every single moment matters. Life is too short to live with regret. I lived a massively flawed life for years, one which easily could have put me in a grave at anytime. I have no one to blame but myself.
I cannot fix the past, all I can do is move forward and live the best life I can.
At the end of the day, others may have opinions on who I am and what I stand for, but at the end of the day, the only person I have to answer to is myself. Allowing other people or distractions to get to me just brings negativity and that is never good for anyone.
In 11-plus years of journalism, I have written thousands of articles on a variety of different things. With no offense to any of these pieces, this, by far was the most important.
I had to look into the mirror. There was no choice. There was no hiding.
Body shaming is a real thing. It does not have a gender, a race, religion, nor an age. Be happy and comfortable in your own skin.
There have been some individuals who have said this has motivated or helped them and that is the biggest compliment I could ever receive. If one person can be motivated by this and take steps towards a healthier life, then this post was not written in vain.
My great-grandfather Joseph Bowman always said “plan your work and work your plan”.
It is a mantra our family lives by and one I thought I swore by.
For years, I was doing this quote a disservice, now I understand its real meaning.
While I have conquered my eating disorder, the journey is definitely not over. It never is. I have beaten it for now but these ghosts will come back.
The only difference is that this time I am ready for them, and I welcome them.