It was story time. I remember sitting on the floor in my Kindergarten class room feeling compelled to make repetitive clicking noises with the back of my throat. My teacher stopped reading and angrily demanded to know who was making those unnecessary noises. I never admitted to it. I was embarrassed, yet I couldn’t stop. I continued with the noises; however, trying to be mindful to do them less frequently. Looking back I can see that this was the beginning of my obsessive-compulsive disorder.
I have a brother, Willy, who is five and a half years younger than me. I have a sister, Courtney, who is eighteen months older than me. She has special needs.
When I was seven, my family moved towns. I left behind two best friends that I was inseparable with. Quickly, I went from a carefree, wild child to a sad, lonely girl. I would cry during class. One time my teacher pulled me into the hallway and started crying, asking if she was doing something wrong. I told her she was doing nothing wrong, but I could not explain why I was so upset. I felt so alone.
When I was eleven, my Pop-pop passed away. This was the first big death in my family. It was an open casket funeral and I demanded to see my Pop-pop one last time. I was overwhelmed with sadness. It was too much for me to bear.
During this time in my life, I became obsessed with cleanliness. Everything had to be in its proper place. I would sit on the school bus and cry thinking about the mess I would face when I got home. A mess could be as small as two shoes out of line or mail on the countertop. I would take my parent’s important bills and throw them in the trash as an attempt to clean.
I took my brother’s clothes and toys that were around the house and threw them out the front door. He was only five. He cried.
I remember overhearing my mom on the phone talking to my grandmother about how I kept throwing out their bills. She was crying. I felt terrible, but I could not stop.
Around this time, I started counting. I had specific sequences I would go through to calm myself. “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,10,11,12” was a set of numbers I frequently repeated, I am not sure why. I just know that I liked the numbers 4, 10, and 12.
When I was thirteen I decided to join the program, Barbizon, a modeling and acting agency. I was always a naturally slender person. At this point in my life, I did not obsess over food or weight. I remember our teacher telling my friend that she needed to lose some weight. She was fifteen years old and what would be considered a healthy weight in today’s society. I remember the shame I felt for this girl. She was so embarrassed. Thankfully, my time at Barbizon was short lived.
A year later (2004) I started high school. I went from a graduating eighth grade class of thirty kids to a freshman class of over four hundred students. I was overwhelmed. I joined the cross-country team and excelled. I received straight A’s.
I had my first boyfriend; however, within a short period of time I realized I could no longer handle the immense anxiety that I felt from dating. I did not know how to tell him at the time, so, instead, I put my focus on a new decision: to eat “healthier.”
Almost immediately my compulsive behaviors took over. Healthy turned into extremely small portions with absolutely zero fat allowed. Every meal involved a wash off in the sink and a pat down with paper towels to make sure no one tricked me into consuming any fat. I was already slender, so my weight loss was noticeable to those around me.
I became obsessed with food. I became obsessed with the scale. Every moment of every day was dictated around the scale and the number I saw.
Throughout the remainder of my high school years, I struggled with restricting and bingeing. I attended an intensive outpatient program, recommended by my doctor, but I did not feel like I was sick enough, so I left. I saw a dietician, dreaded my appointments, and left. I saw a therapist, she was okay, but eventually I left.
I was able to “manage” my eating disorder throughout high school; however, when I left for my freshman year of college the disorder came back significantly stronger and differently.
In 2009, I attended Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. I joined the cross-country team in hopes of staying in shape. I pulled my hamstring, and decided I would not do winter track. I hated track anyways, so it was a win.
I started creating my own workouts. Soon, I exercised multiple times throughout the day. My friends always made jokes about it. My mind was completely fixated on my need to exercise. If I went out drinking with my friends, I’d wake up and run drunk. I thought it was an adventure. I did not realize how sick I truly was.
When I came home for the summer, my parents suggested I need more help. I disagreed. One day at my Uncle’s shore house, I decided I would attempt to purge. I was successful. I was elated. Immediately following this, I decided to take a run outside, during a heat wave, and ended up with heatstroke. A few days later, I tried purging again when I was home, and by the grace of God, my mom had a suspicion about what was happening and confronted me. I confessed.
My parents were terrified and said I needed more help. Finally, I agreed, although I still did not feel that I looked sick enough. I did not return to Lock Haven. I was flown to Arizona and attended my first residential program.
And, so my constant cycling in and out of treatment centers began and continued for the next several years. A few days or months of semi-recovery and then I’d relapse.
I attended Monte Nido Vista and their transitional living program in California. I was hospitalized at Princeton Hospital. on two separate occasions, followed by partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs, only to relapse the same days I left. I went through the residential program at The Ranch, in Tennessee, and then flew to Boston, MA to live at a transitional living house while attending an intensive outpatient program. I relapsed while living in the house.
I finally came home to New Jersey.
Numerous healthcare professionals had told me over the years that I was a lost cause and that I would never get better. I really wanted to get better, but I just could not “figure it out.”
Throughout my years of struggling with anorexia and bulimia, I struggled with severe anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. I struggled with self-harm for a brief time.
A massive shout-out to a therapist I met while inpatient at Princeton Hospital – Jackie. Jackie never gave up on me even after my stay, and with permission, I continued to see her throughout the years. Her faith in me was something that helped me during some very dark times.
Another shout-out to Jennifer, my on and off dietician of over ten years. Thank you for sticking by my side and loving me even when I was extremely difficult to deal with!
And the most heartfelt shout-out to my amazing family that stood by me every step of the way, encouraging and loving me regardless of where I was at.
In 2012, I decided to attend a group at my church called Celebrate Recovery. I went with my father. To make a long story short, my father was an alcoholic, although, I never recognized it because I thought drinking every night was normal. By 2012, he had three years sober. He is, and always will be, my role model.
Throughout the years, I casually attended Celebrate Recovery until I decided to make a commitment to go through the twelve step program in 2014. I have an amazing mentor, Patricia, that held my hand every step of the way. I owe a lot of my recovery to her and the tough love she showed me. We prayed often. I was held accountable to her, something which I hated, but helped significantly. I still struggled with bingeing and purging while going through the twelve step program; however, it lessened over time.
Finally, on November 14, 2014, I binged and purged for the last time. I no longer struggle with exercise addiction. I do not restrict. I do not binge. God is so amazing.
I truly believe I have been fully healed. I have poor body image days, as does every “normal” person, but it no longer dictates my mood and allowance of food.
I am on an antidepressant which has been an extremely helpful component in my recovery. I am still monitored by a psychiatrist. I am very grateful for her support and guidance.
It took me ten years to receive my undergraduate degree in sociology, but I did it! In 2016, I decided to go back to school to receive my nursing degree. I have been a psychiatric nurse for the past two years. I love it.
On June 8th, 2019, I married my best friend, Tyler. This past October we welcomed our first son, Weston James Tracy. He is a miracle from God. Not only did I fear I would not be able to become pregnant due to many years of struggling with anorexia and bulimia, but I became pregnant with an i.u.d.!!
I truly believe full recovery is more than possible. It is extremely hard work, involves many failures and setbacks, but with persistence, love, and support I believe anyone can do it. Please never give up on yourself. You can do it.