February 26th through March 4th. National Eating Disorders Week. A little known week of awareness I’m sure, but one I could not let pass by without some acknowledgment.
20 million women and 10 million men of all ages suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders do not discriminate, and every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. As a result, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Why do I bring this up? Why do I care so much? Because I am an eating disorder survivor, but, like any addiction, every day is a step in recovery. And I’ll be the first to admit, every day is NOT perfect. Some days I take steps back and fall into the trap of my eating disorder, succumbing to the voice of negativity that exists in my head. Some days, I lose power to the sickness. An eating disorder is an especially tough addiction because you can’t go cold turkey. You cannot cut the trigger, food, out of your life. Well, you can, but that’s what makes this illness so deadly…
To the outside eye, I look every bit as normal as anyone else. I am not gaunt and weak. I maintain a full-time job. I pay my bills. I socialize on the weekends with friends and family. But on the inside, I work really hard every.single.day. to make choices to not let my eating disorder win. And, honestly, it’s really flipping hard and really flipping exhausting. But, it is worth it. I am worth it. I am worth the fight, and so are YOU.
Eating disorders, and addictions in general, hide, and that’s often what makes them so difficult. They are not easy to talk about candidly. They are taboo. Many people see an eating disorder as an act of vanity, a choice a person makes because they want to look a certain way. While some choices early on brought me to this journey, I would never choose to continue on this path. That, I believe, is a common misunderstanding. There’s a physiological and psychological wiring inside of me, and any person with an eating disorder or addiction, that makes it feel impossible to stray from this path. It is more than a choice.
What is a choice, though, is working towards recovery. Medication, regular therapy, journaling, self-care, exercise, family and friends, all of these things take work and effort, but they also make recovery possible.
I hope, that by sharing my story, I am putting a human face to eating disorders. They come with so much shame and hopelessness, but the reality is, we all likely know someone who has been affected by one. Someone who is hiding behind this thinly veiled mask, wishing they could come clean about their personal battle. And if that someone is you, you are never alone. If you don’t think you have anyone in your life to talk to about this, talk to me. I’ve been walking this path for 11 years, and will for the rest of my life. It is a badge, perhaps not of honor, but one that I wear proudly.
I am Katherine. I am a college graduate. I am a Financial Analyst. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I am an avid Tar Heel and Panther fan. I am an Instagram fanatic. I am a volunteer. I love Trader Joe’s. I believe walking is a sport. I am so many things, and I wear so many hats.
I am Katherine, and I have an eating disorder. And every day that I am lucky enough to wake up and experience the world once more, I am working to not let my eating disorder overtake me. I am nowhere near perfect in this, but as long as I live, I will try.
There’s nothing like a long car ride (or shower for that matter…) to really get you thinking. This past weekend, I had the pleasure (seriously) of babysitting my adorably wonderful niece, Avery. During my 2-hour journey home, my mind wandered, as it so often does.
I thought about how absolutely flipping grateful I was to be able to drive not too far to be able to spend the weekend with Avery. How down to my core, I could not be more thankful to be a car ride away from all of my favorite human beings. Seriously! I’ve got my parents and one sister (and her fiancée!) in Charlotte, and another sister, her husband and their sweet angel baby just down the interstate. I’ve got my closest friends around the corner (or quite literally, in my apartment). Life is pretty dang good.
I had been thinking, as well, about my blog and how I haven’t written here in quite some time. I mentioned this to my girlfriend, Kenan, and she suggested it’s because I’ve been too busy enjoying and living my life to want to sit down and document it. And admittedly, I think that’s exactly the reason. I find it easier to express myself in written word when I am down, and perhaps I don’t even find any need to express myself when “up!” I know I appreciate these “ups” because of all my “downs,” but I think it fair to myself to document the highs as well.
I won’t say that getting to this point of sheer gratitude and overall happiness has been a walk in the park because it certainly hasn’t. For those of you who know me, or perhaps have even just had the slightest of interaction with me, you know that I tend to be an anxious individual. And by “tend to be anxious individual” I mean I am probably one of the most anxious people you’ve ever had the joy of encountering. So, for me, being content and having a true sense of peace may look a little different than others, but gosh it’s a welcome frame of mind…that’s taken work to get to.
After college, I had an incredible job with Comcast/NBCUniversal. I lived in two incredible cities and made countless incredible friends. In addition, I had a plethora of incredible opportunities at my fingertips from this job. On all logical accounts, I had it made and I was set. But, I found it next to impossible to connect this logic with my emotion. At every turn, with every new and exciting development, my heart was still pulling me far away from this incredible job in these incredible cities. Once my emotions took hold of me, my mental health suffered, my eating disorder crept back and my heart felt as if it were shattered. I no longer even felt like myself.
Truth be told, and again from a logical standpoint, it makes NO sense. Even to me. How could I be unhappy with all that I had? I was not without – not without employment, shelter, food, love, friendship, etc. I had it all, but something about it was not right. But in order to make things right, I had to make a difficult choice – to leave the incredible job in the incredible cities with the incredible people. Let me tell you, it hurt. It stung like hell. I’m an overly self-critical person, and this was a blow to my pride. I had given up. I was weak. I was stupid. I had let go of the greatest opportunity I’d ever been give because, plain and simple, I was a frickin’ baby. Or, at least that’s how I felt.
When I arrived in Charlotte, I was unemployed and felt life had beaten me at the ripe old age of 23. Wonderful. I managed to pull myself up by the boot straps (barely) and set out interviewing and found a new job that was just as incredible, with equally as incredible people. I still judged myself, though. This wasn’t Comcast/NBC, and Charlotte isn’t NYC or Philly. I let self-doubt creep in. I worried others must be thinking the same – what a loser that girl Katherine is. Blah, blah, blah, on and on and on.
I don’t know when it hit me though – when it hit me that #1 no one gives rat’s behind what you’re doing, Katherine and #2 you don’t give a rat’s behind what other people think about what you’re doing – but whenever those 2 things clicked inside me, I felt pure contentment. So content, in fact, that I didn’t even realize just how content I was…know what I’m sayin’?
I made, in my opinion, some pretty tough choices and took, for me (aka one of the most risk averse humans to walk this planet), some pretty big risks to get to this point. I worked hard to settle back into Charlotte, to reintroduce myself to my beloved hometown and to get involved with people I loved so dearly, but hadn’t regularly interacted with in person in years. While making these decisions and doing these things wasn’t always easy because of my self-doubt and quite frankly, self-pity, doing them is what got me out of my rut, and got me to believing in myself.
And, even though I keep telling people “I just moved back to Charlotte,” I’m coming to the realization that it’s almost been an entire year. An entire year for which I am utterly, unabashedly grateful and have become utterly, unabashedly happy.
Charlotte, you’ve really got a lot, and for that, I am thankful.
Admittedly, I have had this title in my head for a couple of weeks since I first heard I might have Celiac Disease. Two weeks later, I am writing with an official diagnosis .
So, I guess this means I’m now that girl. That girl who can’t eat gluten and requests a special menu and refuses to eat your (delicious and tempting) pizza. Curse you, gluten!
Back in December, I had some routine bloodwork done which showed heightened liver enzymes. Given my history of eating disorders, I felt it necessary to look into this, as my behavior certainly has internal (and unseen) consequences.
In January I had a liver ultrasound which showed that my liver was normal (thank goodness!), so my doctor thought it wise to see a gastroenterologist to get to the bottom of things. After a few more vials of blood were drawn, they told me my bloodwork tested positive for Celiac antibodies. Excuse me?!
This was such a shock as I felt totally fine (I feel very lucky about that!), and I know that often people who find out about their gluten intolerance feel utterly awful. But, I marched on and today had an endoscopy/biopsy of my small intestine which showed that I have Celiac Disease.
It’s crazy to find out such a thing at 23 years old, as you wonder how long this has been going on/how it just developed. And it’s also crazy that even though I felt fine, internally my body was struggling. I’m SO grateful for the medical care I received, including the encouragement and insistence that I look into the issues found in my bloodwork.
Now, I know this all seems kind of odd considering my eating disorder history, but I was told the Celiac Disease is likely unrelated. And, I know that people will say things like “well now you have an excuse to be more restrictive,” but reality is, I have to avoid gluten for my health, and I am not purposefully doing this to “cut carbs.” Like anyone, I want to do what’s best for my body and for me, that means cutting out gluten (per doctor’s orders).
So, while this will be a major lifestyle change for me, I’ve tried to thing of a few pros (and some cons) of this diagnosis:
I HATE beer (always have), and now have a legit excuse as to why I refuse to drink it!
Gluten free pizza dough is available at so many yummy places (lookin’ at you Mellow Mushroom & Papa Murphy’s)
I prefer corn tortillas to flour – long live my Mexican food addiction
I truly love fresh, natural and whole foods – fruits, veggies, meat, etc.
One of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats, is now exclusively gluten-free after author Kristin was diagnosed with Celiac (“later” in life like me!)
I will have to become an avid label reader (not totally bad, but may slow down my grocery trips)
I will have to be very vigilant when out to eat/at social events
Biggest of all, I love baking and will have to learn how to whip up some gluten free goodies (although, I did see that Pillsbury makes gluten-free Funfetti mix – PRAISE!)
All in all, I feel content about this diagnosis. While it is definitely not ideal, it is not a death sentence and it is doable. I am grateful that we live in a world that has adapted so much and now has so many gluten-free options. And, most of all, I am grateful to know what was causing the crazy results of my bloodwork because it is never fun to drive yourself insane and wonder what’s wrong with you!
So, now I must begin my gluten-free journey! I have to educate myself on all the dos and don’t’s, and all of the gluten-free options out there. My hope is that I can find some delicious recipes and restaurants with gluten-free offerings and share them with you all! And, if you have any advice or tidbits you’d like to share with me on Celiac Disease or gluten-free diets, please let me know!
While this post has very little to do with the upcoming holiday centered around luck (hello, St. Patrick’s Day!), I’ll pretend that I’m posting it in honor of my Irish heritage.
I will flat out say that I have terrible luck. Really and truly. That’s not to say I have a terrible life, it’s just that I often find myself facing circumstances or events that make me think “why me?” Luckily (!), though, after a small pity party, I can usually laugh these things off.
I’d like to give you a brief sample of some of the “unlucky” things that have happened to me over the years.
I tried out for the middle school and high school cheerleading squad 3 years in a row and was cut every.single.year. #LOL
I went to the doctor in the summer of 2012 thinking I had a cold, and ended up learning I had to have surgery to get a cyst in my neck removed. #likewhat
I went on a business trip (my first!) in December of 2014 to LA, and American Airlines lost my luggage…and never found it. #stillmissthoseclothes
During the time I lived in Philly + NYC, I was on a total of 4 Amtrak trains that completely broke down. #whataretheodds
And, lastly and most recently (and looking back the event I laugh at most…yet went full-blown panic mode about when it happened), I spent the last 5 years with a suspended driver’s license WITHOUT.EVEN.KNOWING. #nojoke
Let me take a quick second to explain that last one because now it is fully hilarious to recount.
Like most, I got my license when I turned 16 (summer of 2008). I was a good driver, or as good as any 16-year-old can be, but then one day in the spring of 2010 I got pulled over. Can you imagine?! I really had no idea why I got pulled over as I was obeying all laws, and needless to say I was annoyed. Turns out, my registration was expired (which I will 100% blame on my parents who constantly reminded me the car I was using belonged to them) and I got a ticket.
Fast forward to August of 2010, I went on my 18th birthday to the county courthouse alongside my best friend Nick to expunge the ticket. As I was told by the county clerk, all I had to do was provide them with my updated registration and boom, ticket would be cleared. So I did just that, and followed it up with lunch at Nothing But Noodles (thanks for the great memory on that lunch date, Nick). Happy birthday, clear record.
Fast forward to January 2016, I had just moved back home and needed to get a new license in order to properly register the car I bought. I went to the DMV feeling confident and ready to go, when I was suddenly halted (after waiting in that hellish line) and told that my current license was suspended. Um, perdoname?!
My mind raced, but I knew the only time I have ever been pulled over was after that registration scare in 2010. I thought surely this could not be related. I wondered if I had done something and not known! Or, if my identity had been stolen! These are the thoughts were going through my emotionally hysterical, always anxious head. Because I am rational and all that jazz.
So, I called the county clerk. And, she tells me that sure enough, my license had been suspended back in 2010 as a result of this registration incident, despite having gone to the courthouse to clear my record (and my name! and my glory! and my honor!). Still crazy to me because, in the meantime, I was issued a new license on August 13, 2010 (2 days after my birthday), I had rented a car in Philadelphia and I had purchased a car when I moved home. How does all of that happen with a suspended license?! And how does someone not know their license has been suspended for that long?!
I may never know, but I lived it. And, now that my shortness of breath/tears are gone, I can laugh about this.
What’s this got to do with anything? Honestly, not much. But, sometimes I will sit around and wonder why I have to deal with so much BS when it seems like everyone around me just breezes by. Why do I have this horrible luck? Why do I have an eating disorder? Why, why, WHY?
But, no sooner do I let myself slip into these thoughts do I remember that every last living person on this planet has SOMETHING they have to deal with that they absolutely hate. No one of us is perfect or living these phenomenal lives 24/7. Life has its ups and downs for everyone. And everyone has some sort of struggle, whether you see it or know about it.
I think a lot of this pity party mentality is brought about because of social media. We see posts of people doing all these wonderful things, and look up to find ourselves in a windowless cubicle knowing the most exciting part of our day might really be the fact that the Real Housewives comes on that night. All too often, though, we forget that social media is a one second snapshot of someone’s life, often bogged down with 19 filters from 3 different photo-editing apps.
I’m not saying you can’t sometimes feel sorry for yourself, I do it! But, just remember, everyone struggles and falls and feels helpless at times. What matters is working hard each day to pick yourself up, and reminding yourself of the things in life that you are grateful for. I’ve found that focusing on these positives, even if it is as silly as looking forward to the #RHOBH, make getting past these pity parties more manageable.
Everybody’s got something, and there’s always someone who’s got it worse than you do. So, pick yourself up, and someone else who might be struggling!, and keep moving forward because, while life can be pretty sucky at times, there’s usual a bright spot at the end of the tunnel (a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?).
**PS: The county clerk ended up clearing my record as they realized they had made a mistake, and I now have a fully active license. Phew!
It’s midnight on a Wednesday and I have to be up at 6am, but I can’t sleep. It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this week, and I feel compelled to write. So many thoughts swim in my head (daily) and this week seemed like the perfect time to put pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard) and let them out. Yes, I know I’ve already discussed my struggle, but one blog post doesn’t encapsulate a years long battle (that I’ve been fighting since 2007).
I’ll tell you straight up, just because I’m willing to talk about my eating disorder, doesn’t mean I’m “cured.” And, quite frankly, I’m tired of this notion that I will be “cured.” That’s not to say I feel that this battle is hopeless and I’ll never overcome, it’s just acknowledging that like any addict, once I reach “sober,” I’ll forever be in recovery. Some days will be harder than others. Some days I will want to slip back to bad habits, but my hope is that I’ll be able to use different coping mechanisms and techniques to get by.
So, like I said, I still struggle. A lot. Some of the most difficult aspects of this disease are that it is often unseen. Of course, when I was severely anorexic both in high school and college that was noticeable, which made people more sympathetic or understanding of my plight. As I sit here with this newly morphed eating disorder (manifesting itself as bulimia), I’m faced with the troubling reality that I look fine. Truly, I do. You’d never know by looking at me that I obsessively think about/panic over every morsel of food that I eat. You’d never know that it takes every ounce of my being not to try to count every calorie that enters and exits my body. You’d never know that I arbitrarily label foods as “good” and “bad,” and that the second I eat something “bad” I through all caution to the wind and eat everything “bad” in sight, just to get rid of it all later. I can’t even bring myself to say the word purge without feeling utterly ashamed and disgusted.
And that’s just it, eating disorders breed so much shame because they’re so wildly misunderstood. We see them depicted on TV as a mere choice a person makes, as if an eating disorder is like a light switch I can turn off and on as I please. Dare I quote Cher Horowitz and say “as if!”
What person would ever choose to live a life such as this?! That’s not to say eating disorders don’t sometimes begin with a choice to lose weight, but what person would really choose to try to lose weight by completely starving themselves or by binging just to purge? That’s just not how it works.
Now, I’m going to sound cocky here, but bear with me. Why would I choose to have an eating disorder? I grew up in a middle class family, living in the suburbs with my married parents, two sisters and a dog. I went to Catholic school. I got a great education, graduated top 10 in my high school class and went on to study at the best university in the country (in my eyes at least – #GDTBATH). I had a post-grad job before I even began my senior year of college. I have amazing friends and have been enriched by many life experiences. Why would I choose the kind of pain that an eating disorder causes? WHY?
Answer: I wouldn’t. Every person is wired differently, and you know what, I was wired in such a way that I have a mental illness. I suffer with gripping anxiety, and it manifests itself through this eating disorder, this need to control something and to be “perfect.”
Let’s quickly pause for a minute here. Can I ask, who the hell decided how we as a society define “perfect?” Because I’d like to have a word with said person. I’m sick of this notion that you’re only perfect if you look and act a certain way. Newsflash: there’s over 7 billion people on this earth. Do you really expect 7 billion people to look like the celebrities we see in magazines? Do we expect every girl & woman to have a thigh gap, big boobs and a flat stomach? Do we expect every boy & man to have a chiseled jaw line and a six-pack? We must be out of our GD minds. But, reality is, it’s everywhere around us. We are perpetuating these toxic beliefs. And every day, women and men are belittled and bullied to believe that unless they look and act a certain way, they are not good enough. I mention men here, too, because newsflash part two, men can (and do!) have eating disorders. There’s no gender discrimination here.
So, I’m wired in such a way that I have an eating disorder. Many people are like me, and often, just like me, you can’t tell just by looking at them. Doesn’t make their problems any less real just because they’re not visible. It’s almost scarier because it makes us easy to hide, easy to get away with not getting help. “Certainly I don’t need to seek treatment if no one even notices I’ve lost weight or have abnormal behavior.” << that is an eating disorder thought, and it’s pure danger.
Another dangerous belief? Thinking this is all about will-power. People think that if you have enough “will-power” to starve yourself or to binge and purge, then certainly all it takes is will-power to stop doing these things. Ha! If only it were that easy. Many addicts know they have problems yet can’t stop on their own. We know the behavior is damaging, yet we continue to do it. It’s not that we lack will-power it’s just that we are sick. We are sick and we need help.
I struggle knowing that my addiction to food is a bit different than an addiction to alcohol or drugs. See, I’m addicted to something my body needs to survive. I can’t just cut food out of my life. That’s not to say my struggle is harder than other addicts (not at all!), it just requires different treatment to tackle. I’ll never be able to go without food, but my god, I long for a day where every my other thought isn’t about the dang stuff and how I look as a result of that dang stuff!
I know this is an overwhelming amount of text. For some people, not only is it too long to read, but the content is too touchy or too personal, and it’s something they can’t relate to. And for those of you who can’t related, I think that’s great because it likely means you yourself don’t have an eating disorder. But, this isn’t something that you can turn a blind eye to just because you’re not personally affected. So many people struggle and never get the help they need and deserve. Some cases are more extreme than others. But most often, people struggle in the darkness, afraid to let go of this control they’ve long sought after. Afraid that getting healthy means admitting defeat and getting fat. For someone with an eating disorder, getting help can be just as scary as dealing with the disease every day.
Most people don’t want to (and won’t) touch mental illnesses with a ten foot pole. We prefer to ignore mental illnesses, because they’re “not that big of a deal” and “just a bunch of crazy people who make their own problems.” Trust me, I’ve heard it all. But mental illnesses, and eating disorders in particular, are no joke. This is not some BS to get attention. This is a disease with a laundry list of health complications and long-term damage (which I’m having to come to terms with myself).
So, I beg of you, don’t pretend that mental illnesses don’t exist. Don’t pretend that eating disorders don’t exist. These are real illnesses and they deserve real attention.
My advice? Seek help. Offer help. Pray for those struggling. Change the conversation about body image. Hell, stop talking about looks altogether! Start the conversation about mental illness and eating disorders. And, most importantly, work hard every day to love yourself because gosh darn it you are WORTH IT.
No one can fight this battle for you, but by no means does that imply that you have to fight it alone. Let this National Eating Disorders Awareness Week be the start to taking back your health and your happiness. Rally for yourself and others knowing that you are never alone.
Helllllo my internet friends! I hope you didn’t think that I fell off the face of the earth, or that I’d forgotten about you. I merely took some time off from blogging to completely enjoy being at home in the interim between graduating from UNC (Go Heels!) and moving to NYC to begin work with NBCUniversal. Now bear with me, as this is an aggressively long post.
My, oh my, how busy I have been! I spent May and June trying to get myself organized to make the big move from my hometown of Charlotte, NC (born and raised, baby!) to the Big Apple. Basically that consisted of me stressing about all the things I had to do, but waiting until the very last minute to do all of them. Typical. So, I passed time lounging by the pool, reading Gone Girl and hanging with my friends and family. ‘Twas lovely, truly.
On Thursday, July 3rd, I flew from CLT to LGA with a heavy heart. Yes, of course I am thrilled about this new adventure – I am in the capital of the world with a big girl job right out of college – but nonetheless, it is hard to say goodbye to those you love. With tears in my eyes, I hugged my parents and boarded my flight. And, honestly, there were more tears in the cab to my apartment. Like my beloved Mimi, I am just not one for goodbyes. I am sad to leave the South, where my parents, sisters and closest friends live, but I am looking forward to the fun to be had in the Big Apple!
You’d think that once I arrived at my apartment that I’d unpack, but alas, my “stuff” (AKA bed, dresser, hangers, EVERYTHING I OWN) doesn’t arrive until July 14th. Sigh. So, for now I am living out of two suitcases and sleeping on an air mattress. Could be worse – at least I’m not homeless!
The very first night I got to the City, I met up with my best friend from UNC, Tara, who is a native of New York. She had invited me to go on a river cruise around the City with her and her friends from home. Knowing I would have nothing to unpack, I attended and had a blast. Also on the cruise was our friend Emma who also went to UNC – bringin’ the South up North.
This July 4th was not quite the Independence Day I am used to. My roommate, Kelley, and I spent the day tackling a rather long t0-do list trying to get some items together for our apartment. We visited Kmart and Bed, Bath & Beyond, which are conveniently located near our apartment. We got everything from a kitchen trash can to a window AC unit for our main living area. We walked blocks and blocks and were utterly exhausted, but managed to shower and head down to the Manhattan Bridge to watch a spectacular fireworks display. Then we crashed.
The following day, I went on an excursion to Queens to purchase a love seat. After having THE WORST shopping experience with Ashley Furniture Home Store in Charlotte, I had to start from scratch in finding living room furniture. Ugh. So, I decided I’d make the subway trek to the Macy’s Furniture Showroom out in Queens. After having a bit of trouble finding the right subway entrance (and getting laughed at by a subway worker) I finally found the correct “R” train headed to Queens. I hopped off the train and found that the Macy’s Furniture Showroom was in the same complex as a Target #blessed. I found a darling love seat that is set to arrive soon and spent some more dollars in “The Red Mecca” (which by the way has an escalator just for shopping carts – lolz!).
Again, I was dead after that excursion, so I came home, had some dinner and watched Netflix on my little air mattress. I promise I’m not really this lame (well, maybe I am?).
Today (July 6th), I woke up early and went to church at 9 a.m. Conveniently, there is a Catholic Church right around the corner from me. However, it is a Polish Church that only offers two masses per week in English. I checked it out, and while it is a beautiful sanctuary, I had such difficulty understanding the priest that I may have to continue “church shopping.” Still, though, it is nice to know that there is a church very close should I ever want to pop in for some quiet prayer time.
After church, I unfortunately had to haul myself to the Walgreen’s Health Clinic. Like a five-year-old, I woke up with an outrageous ear ache, and sure enough, I have an ear infection. I thought people were immune to those after, like, age 10? I’ve officially been proved wrong and now have some antibiotics in my arsenal.
Post doctor’s visit, I had some lunch and tooled around my neighborhood aimlessly. It was so lovely to just be able to stop and look around, without any true place to be. The highlight of my day was visiting Washington Square Park, which is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. It is quite the destination for people watching, and it is truly a beautiful park. I really do love that, despite being such a “concrete jungle,” New York does have some stellar community parks.
Tomorrow I’m off to Philadelphia for the week for training for work! The real world is officially knocking at my door – I can’t believe it!