My partner told me I should write ‘my story’ on my blog.
I sighed. “But it’s so boring and I tell everyone!”
I’ll be honest. It’s not very exciting, crazy weird, or entertainingly traumatic–because sometimes we love a good trauma story, admit it.
No siblings passed away, my parents live a happy marriage, no long-term breakup happened.
Then HOW did I end up with an eating disorder??
Sometimes I really don’t know why.
But something I DO know is that it can happen to ANYONE. Something I DO know is that there is no eating disorder too small. Every one is valid and should be treated with the greatest respect. When you have it, you have it. And it’s annoying as hell.
Let’s go back about about three years.
I ran cross country in high school. I was pretty OK to.
I received comments about how much potential I had. I got compliments about how dedicated to training I was.
I kept running.
I kept getting praise.
After I graduated from high school, I decided to take a gap year. This allowed me time to put good efforts into my college applications, gain some income, spend time with family, and travel. It has been one of the best decisions in my educational career. Except for one caveat: that I developed a full fledged eating disorder.
Graduation, Class of 2016; Daddy and I.
I worked part time at a local bakery and part time at a vegan health bar. As much as I respected my boss and fellow co-workers at the health bar, the vegan, 100% organic, non-GMO diet mentality influenced me in a negative way. I realize now that the work environment at the health bar was destructive to my health.
This was where I did my first cleanse (three days on nothing but fresh pressed juices aka, fruit water).
This was where I became a vegan who didn’t eat grain. (so I didn’t have much other than vegetables and peanut butter).
This was where I attended workshops on how to take sugar 100% out of your life.
This was where my eating disorder mind thrived and soon took control over my life.
In addition to a personally toxic work environment, I was restricting, binging and purging. My weight was dropping and I was proud of it. I was getting compliments at how ‘good’ I looked and I was loving it.
BUT, my sister’s did what sisters do best. They were the ones who took first action when they noticed my obsession with getting in a run before a night of drinking and my restrictive food habits on a Monday after a holiday weekend.
I was confronted (in the most loving and caring of ways, bless them) by sisters, parents and boyfriend.
“McCaleb, remember that your body NEEDS calories. You expend MORE than the average adult and in addition to that, your caloric intake is LESS than the average adult. You need to remember to get into a balance of caloric input and output”.
“Sure sure sure”, I said.
“OK, I get it”, I said.
I tried…a little.
Working out less AND eating more?! Isn’t that what you AREN’T supposed to do?
So I didn’t try anymore. Mentally, it was too hard and went against everything I had learned…..from Instagram or something informal like that.
And I only kept going down the spiral. Down down down. My binging and purging habits increased. My rigidity in my workout regime increased. A balanced diet and portion control were at a nada. And I was miserable.
As time continued to pass and I continued to live in my misery, I eventually came around…as one does. I came face to face to what was fueling my torment. With the help, support, and encouragement of family, partner, and the internet, I admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder. I voiced that I needed mental and physical help ASAP. I was DONE.
After a long, teary, talk about next steps, my dad summed the conversation up with, ‘McCaleb, you know, admitting you need help and that you are suffering means that you are already half-way there”.
Family: one of my biggest support groups.
Half-way there. Half-way there. I knew I had a long road of recovery in front of me, but knowing that someone believed I was half-way there pushed me through the moments when I thought I was at ground zero. Which was more days than others.
Two months later, I was admitted into a facility for Intensive Outpatient Treatment in Seattle, WA. I simultaneously studied at the University of Washington as well as participated in therapy five days a week.
It wasn’t easy, but I bless this time in my life, with all its traumatic and beautiful days.
I was discharged from IOP in March 2018 (totaling a sum of 5 months in therapy) and have been trucking along ever since. I have good days, awesome days, numb days and destructive days. I have support, resources, tools, and faith.
I have the inspiration to grow and the motivation to recover.
I don’t know where I am going or what recovery looks like (do any of us?), but I DO practice living a life that is wholesome and satisfying.
And that is something I am proud of.
My eating disorder story isn’t something traumatic or dramatic.
It is simple. I was chosen by fate to bear the weight of a mental health disorder. It sucks. I often wonder what I did to deserve this. They say there is ALWAYS an underlying reason as to why and how one develops an eating disorder–you just have to search for it.
My best guess is this. It was thing, after situation, after comment, after event, all piled up onto each other, forming one ugly pile of behaviors, that fueled my eating disorder. And it has brought me to where I am today–for better or for worse.
My good friend reminded me of something critical in recovery:
“Trauma looks and feels different for every individual”. My trauma (or whatever we are going to call it) is not the trauma you read about in the news. It was little thing after little thing, ultimately leading to a reason grand enough to bring upon an eating disorder and generalized anxiety.
Sometimes, the reason is just how we see and view life. It is our environment. It is social media. Scary to say it, but something as small as an Instagram feed can perpetuate mental health issues. Believe me, I am a victim.
And that is my story.
So be careful out there, dear ones. Live your days mindfully and never, ever, ever forget to have self-respect. You deserve your own love more than anyone else out there.