I started writing this blog entry months ago. I wrote most of it, then didn’t have the guts to post. Fear arose in me- do I really want to put that out there? Do I want to share that?
Fear is funny like that. Most people who KNOW me, know this about me; and I vowed years ago to use my story- use my experience. If I can reach one person, if one person decides to get help, it’s totally worth sharing the parts of my past I’m not too proud of….
All that said- here goes:
February 28th will forever be an important day in my books…
February 28, 2006- 10 years ago- I voluntarily checked myself into a treatment center for an eating disorder.
I remember the car ride vaguely. I remember choking back tears, trying to pretend I was strong- that I knew I was doing the right thing. In honesty, I was terrified. Mental illness was something I knew about, had studied about, was passionate about helping others- but did not want to admit within myself. I didn’t want to admit that I had been defeated- that I had lost control. That I was slowly slipping away.
Even today, it’s sometimes hard to admit that I was as sick as I was. There is such shame that coincides with mental illness. Shame that further perpetuates the illness, making it stronger.
Yet today, I know, that was the best decision I ever made in regards to my health. I know that everything I have today is a direct result of taking care of myself, of standing up to myself and admitting that I needed help- that I couldn’t do it alone.
The last week of February was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It always runs parallel to when I went to treatment. I make sure to try and promote awareness of eating disorders, and the many mental illnesses that often join along.
It seemed the month of March, we got about every respiratory virus, stomach virus, and ear infection that was running around. It was a tough month. There was little sleep on our part. Little exercise. Mainly, just trying to get through the days. Last week, I was finally feeling up to running again. I’ve been wanting to complete a 5k, without pushing the babies, so I wanted to get in some prep runs. For the first time since having the babies, (or since April 2014, I was able to run 3 miles under 30 minutes- about a 9.46 mile. Pre-baby, I would have scoffed at that and been upset that it wasn’t closer to 8 minute miles… That day, however, I celebrated. I celebrated because my body continues to amaze me- through all I’ve put it through, all it’s been through, it continues to show me just how strong I can be.
I believe that God does for me what I cannot do for myself. After years of struggling with infertility, He blessed me with quadruplets. Recovery of an eating disorder is on-going, or at least it is for me. I still have my moments- moments I have self-defeating thoughts, frustrations, fears, insecurities..times when I get overwhelmed. I remember, before getting pregnant, the thought crossed my mind- I’m going to have to gain weight, and my body will be changed forever. The irony I felt when I was told I was expecting quadruplets is unreal. Any ideas of exercising and eating healthy were thrown from my book. I was consuming upwards of 4000 calories a day, high protein shakes made with massive amounts of ice cream, french fries for days…Pretty much all food that I rarely ever ate- was my daily norm.
And I saw and got to experience my body doing something pretty, freaking incredible. Carry 4 babies to 31 weeks. That was over 14 pounds of baby, not counting the weight of fluids, 4 placentas, enough blood for 5 people, and 5 feet 9 inches of baby. I don’t always love my body. Let’s be honest- as if I weren’t already insecure about my body, I’ve now added to the mix that I carried all that amount of baby for 31 weeks- which meant intense stretching…With things that will never return to how it was. Some days, I’m sad about that- then I look at those miracles- and it was all worth it. I’d go through much more for those beautiful babies of mine. I can appreciate my body- and all it’s been through. All it’s accomplished. All I know it will accomplish.
It’s hard to believe: 10 years ago, I was getting oriented into a mental health facility. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum, from being given a diagnosis to diagnosing others. I’m so grateful for all that I’ve been through that’s gotten me where I am today, including that very difficult time. And I’m grateful for my body- for not giving up on me and for continuing to amaze me with all it can do.
A couple weeks back, a local mom from the stroller workout group I go to, asked for moms to “model” for her. She was working on a portfolio of “strong moms”. My first thought- I’m not “strong”. All these fears, insecurities, doubts went running through my head. Many are in such better shape, prettier, smarter, more confident- all those old scripts that used to play and hold me back. So I took the challenge. I realized, I have to start having better scripts, as I know I have 4 little ones watching everything I do. I want them to know they are strong. I want them to know their momma is strong. I want them to be proud of themselves- and of me. I want their scripts to be positive and strong.
Though my body isn’t where I would like it be, it’s where it is. And it’s strong. It has been through hard times and overcome them. It’s carried 4 babies for 31 weeks. It fed 4 babies, and continued to supply most of their milk for 15 months. It rocks them to sleep, comforts them, carries them up and down stairs, picks them up, totes them, cares for them, pushes them in their 85b stroller. This body works out alongside women in much better physical shape, survives off minimal sleep and less than healthy meals at time. And it keeps going. This body is strong; every pound, every inch. I am strong.
As ashamed as I sometimes am about my past, I’m also grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve learned so much about myself, how strong I truly am, and how blessed I’ve been. Spreading awareness about Eating Disorders is near and dear to me because of what I’ve been through, because of friends I’ve known who’ve struggled, and now, more importantly, because I have 4 beautiful children. While there appears to be both environmental and biological factors that play a role in eating disorders (as with many mental disorders), I hope to do all I can to show my babies how to appreciate their bodies- How to live a healthy life and find balance. And always remind them- they are strong.
If you are struggling, or know or suspect someone who is struggling, please- ask for help and do not be afraid to talk about it. You are strong. Recovery is possible.
(And there’s the blog that’s taken over a month to write and publish. I promise myself, I will get better at blogging in the future.)