Of All the Hats I Wear…

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…

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August 2007

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.

April 2013

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.

April 2017

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.

XOXO

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The Truth Will Set You Free…

It always upsets me that there’s such a stigma around mental illnesses, especially as they are so common. Despite the fact that I am upset by this, I still refuse to openly talk about my own battle with mental health, simply because I’m embarrassed and afraid to be judged. Quite the contradiction – I hate the stigma, yet I clearly let it live on by not talking about my own battles.

In the spring of my freshman year of high school (2007), I decided to give up sweets for Lent. Innocent, right? Well one thing led to another and I was no longer avoiding sweets, I was avoiding anything I deemed “unhealthy” and overly restricting my calorie intake. I was exercising excessively and dropping weight extremely quickly.

My poor, sweet friends confronted me with their concerns, and I agreed, I had a problem and told them I would stop. Inside, though, their comments only fueled my fire. I accepted their concerns about my weight as a compliment, and used this to drive me to more weight loss.

As school let out for the summer, I had more or less removed myself from any relationships I had with people. I spent my days working out, restricting food and being utterly miserable. I can still picture the meals I ate. 3/4 of a cup of Special K (no milk of course). A can of tuna (no mayo) with pepper and a sliced tomato. Minimal intake of whatever my mom cooked for dinner. Writing that brings me to tears, because I feel the misery and hopelessness I felt back then. And it’s suffocating.

I vividly remember getting up from a chair by the pool, and blacking out and falling to the ground, because my blood pressure was so low. At my worst, my heart rate was 44 and I weighed 88 pounds. Keep in mind I’m 5 foot 5 inches. Terrifying.

After being told if I didn’t get better (by the 3 doctors I saw each week) that I would be sent to treatment, I had hit rock bottom. And I was able to heal and move forward, with the help of my family and friends and a great team of doctors.

Fast forward to junior year of college (2012-2013). My life felt like it was falling apart. My dad was undergoing chemo, my grandmother was dying of ovarian cancer and I was utterly devastated. I turned back to the control of the eating disorder to avoid the hurt.

I would wake up at 6 am to workout before class. I would barely eat at (delicious!) sorority meals. I blacked out at parties. I removed myself from friends, and I know I scared people. Some sorority sisters of mine reached out to my parents, who once again came to help.

I sought treatment at school and seemed to be getting better. Better enough, in fact, that I moved to LA to complete an internship.

I was doing well, but I missed my parents and sisters. I worried about my body, because I didn’t belong to a gym. I felt out of control, and that’s when the anorexia morphed to bulimia (as it often does). After one particular episode that summer, I ended up in the hospital. You’d think that would be rock bottom, like when a drug addict OD’s, but even that didn’t stop my behavior.


And, to be frank, it still hasn’t. I still struggle. To this day. It has been 8 years, and I know it will be a lifelong struggle. Which scares the bah-jesus out of me.

I’m writing this today, after 8 years in this battle, because I am determined to do something. While I’m still figuring out what that something is, I’m calling on you all for help. Help to remove the stigma around mental health. Help and support as I make my decision for what’s next. Prayers for recovery.

Most immediately, I’m asking for donations.  On Saturday, November 14th, I will be participating in a National Eating Disorder’s Association walk in West Chester, PA. You can access the donation link here: http://neda.nationaleatingdisorders.org/site/TR/NEDAWalk/General?px=1547384&pg=personal&fr_id=3910

I want to show that I have accepted my problem, and I’m ready to raise awareness and start a dialogue that needs to be started. We as a society have to change, have to stop putting pressure on people to look and act a certain way. We have to stop perpetuating the belief that there is norm we need to prescribe to. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and I’m damn sure there’s not just one best way for us to look and act.

Yet, while I’m damn sure, I’ve still fallen victim to this belief and I fight a daily battle as a result. And I know I’m not the only one, despite often feeling so alone. So please consider giving in some way, even if it’s just saying a prayer. It all matters. Not just for me, but for the millions of people who suffer.

This is the scariest, most honest piece I’ve ever written. I’m fearful of the judgment I will receive for being so open. But I know, the stigma won’t end without the conversation and, let’s be honest, when do I ever pass up the chance to start a conversation.

XOXO.