A little about my journey…
When people ask me about my childhood, my past, my eating disorder, my life, myself- I pause, not knowing how to respond. Where to begin? Where to start? What to say? How to even explain…
I like to think I am an open book, willing to share my story, and be open and honest with anyone who asks… but I have come to realize that this is somewhat of a lie. I have avoided talking about myself, my true feelings, my emotions, my struggles, my life for so long- that I have honestly forgotten how to be open, honest or even just talk to MYSELF; so how can I do that with anyone else?
My life has involved helping, listening, and caring for everyone else- and now my career does too- that, when someone asks about me, I don’t even know how to handle that question. I have come to excel at redirecting that question and putting it back on them (and usually they never challenge me or come back around to their question, so I guess it did not matter anyway right?). I have realized I do this for a few reasons, and all are fear-based
1. I don’t even know how I’m feeling (since I have pushed it aside for so long). 2. Do they truly care about what I have to say/are they even listening (lack of self-confidence)? 3. Am I talking too fast, too loud, or making sense (been told I’m too excitable many times in my life)? 4. Do my problems matter (so many people have it worse)? Etc.
I know I know this all sounds ridiculous, “Emily why would you think such things?” But I do, and it’s hard for me to change, but I am working on it! It has held me back for far too long! I have a huge heart and care about people so much, there are other people out there like this too, and I have to learn to let them in.
All this goes back to my past and my story! I’m not ready to give you all the little details or even admit them to myself again, but I’ll give you a “brief” rundown of my personal journey with an eating disorder, the important steps that I think led up and continued it. Okay, here it goes… (*** This is not comprehensive, this is not black and white, this is not a detailed story… this is a little breakdown of MY story how I AM CHOOSING to tell it at this time!!)
From the moment I can remember, I was not a “normal” child, and we were not a “normal” family. As you know if you read the post about my brother here, my older brother was born 100% deaf and with down syndrome (and we have never met anyone else with both). Constant doctor visits, sickness, PT sessions, special daycares… as well as constant stares, mean words, outside (unnecessary and unwarranted) “advice,” etc.
My brother loved me, and went to me more than my parents, how could I not help? i.e I became “mama’s little helper.” How could I not grow up fast? How could I burden my family with my problems when my brother and my amazing parents had it so much worse? My brother and family gave me a kind heart and a bigger sense of this world- but also, inadvertently, triggered a perfectionism and anxiety that would eventually become my ED; also with my extended family, there was a lot of problems and drama (i.e mental illness with my grandma, drug abuse with my cousin, teenage pregnancy with my cousin, medical issues with a few aunts, it goes on- so I did not want to add to this burden)
Outside of family life, I also played soccer competitively. This was my “me” time, my release, my strength. I played defender, and was with the same team and coach my entire young life. (I played from age 5 to 17). They were my second family (literally- all holidays, b-days, weekends we were together), and I was a freaking good soccer player. We even made it to the California state championship but lost in double overtime.
I’ll never forget my mom telling me one night after a game I was mad about; “I was talking to coach during the game about how mad and disappointed you were with yourself and he turned and looked at me straight in the eyes and said, even at Emilys so-called “worst,” she is still one of my best players and I rather have her on the field damn tired than anyone else, she has more heart and determination than anyone I know.” – I was SHOOK! But then again, I think this was another trigger for my ED to take hold of, i.e had to be perfect, the best, make my parents proud…
Friend life- a part that was a bit tricky for me growing up.
I think it had to do with not relating to “normal” kids at this age; I was going through such different things at home and in life than most people my age. I did have one best friend growing up, one that was pretty much my sister. I went on all her family vacations, and she was on mine. Both our parents kissed us goodnight and knew all our food preferences. It was pretty amazing! But as we got a little older, she moved schools and we drifted apart. Other friendships were a bit hard, I got taken advantage of and not treated the best. I got told by my “good friend,” that no one else likes me, I’m annoying, and talk too loud and too much. Another friend cheated on her HW with mine and blamed it on me. And while other friends talked about makeup, boys, sneaking out, parties, drinking, all things I just did not do and could not relate too… I was home helping with my brother and dinner, doing my homework, and keeping to myself. I mean, I couldn’t do those things, I had to be perfect for my parents. Perfect grades, perfect daughter, perfect sister, perfect soccer player, perfect______. I couldn’t be a troubled child? My parents had enough to deal with… and again, I wasn’t good at talking about myself… all the surface level conceded BS all the other people my age concern themselves with; I just did not understand.
My first real face of reality with my eating disorder was at 13 years old, 8th grade. And it all seemed to happen so fast; I am going to be brief and to the point here (again not comprehensive…)
Within a few months, thinking I wanted to be “healthier,” for soccer/dance/school/teenage life, I started cutting out food groups, eating smaller portions, avoiding social events, withdrawing from family, etc. (Won’t go into my thought process or certain behaviors here… but this was a time of transition- about to go to high school, soccer was getting more competitive, family drama was at a high, I was too “goodie, goodie” to do drugs, drink, party, rebel; focusing on being healthier wasn’t a crime right?)
- The Hospital: (8th grade)
- One day after school my mom took me to the doctor, convincing me to get a check-up for some nausea I was feeling (but really she was concerned about my eating habits, weight loss, and fatigue). I was lucky to have an amazing doctor who saw the signs, called an inpatient facility to give them my vitals and condition, and was rushed to the hospital that night – again my parents convincing me it was a one-night thing.
- This night was a bit of a blur; I got to the hospital at midnight- but I do remember getting immediately hooked up to an IV, and a million other monitors, with nurses gasping and talking in hushed tones with scared faces, all while my parents were taken to another room to talk to the doctor. I was woken a million times that night due to my heart rate dipping as low as 20 BPM!
- The next morning- one that I will never forget- the doctor came in and told me, blank face, “your heart rate, blood pressure, and weight are so low, you probably would have died if you did not come into the hospital.”-and of course, I burst out crying. Want to know the doctor’s response? “Why are you crying?” Like WHAT! Yah, there is your bedside manner for you.
- I was on complete bed rest for 2 weeks, wheelchair for 1 week, and regular for 1 week before I was discharged. I’ll save you from the detailed hospital experience. (maybe another post down the line
- Day treatment: (high school senior)
- I coasted through high school at a “stable” weight and mindset (pseudo-recovery). Was on the varsity dance team freshman-junior year; soccer all four years (MVP sophomore year), and played competitive soccer outside of school… all was “fine” until senior year, again, fear/overwhelm of transition? (college)- I had to take most of my first semester of senior year off for treatment- lucky to have amazing teachers who helped me complete school in treatment (and of course got all As, lol)
- Not going into detail of this time, but I went downhill fast and was admitted into an actual day treatment facility: meal support, individual and group therapy, nutrition session, etc. Here is where I actually learned what an ED was, why I possibly got it, and what I needed to work through.
- As hard as this time was, I am thankful for it because it brought my dad and me closer together. He was my ride to and from treatment. I was always a “daddy’s girl.” Wanting so much to impress him, make him proud, get him to notice me… but he was always a more closed off, emotionally cut off, hard to read, strict father. At first, we never talked, he was almost mad at me for having an ED and not “recovering” fast enough. I wrote a letter to my dad for therapy, and my therapist made me read it to my parents. My mom and I balled our eyes out- my dad’s response… straight-faced, “okay.” However, after having it sink in, I think my dad realized something, not sure what, but he started opening up to me. Asking me questions about life, my ED, food; telling me stories of his childhood, his troubles, his life! This time changed our relationship, we continue to be close and have a special bond, and I will always be thankful for it. Love you daddy!
The continued struggle…
After all this experience, I KNEW I wanted to work in the ED field one day. Since applying for college, my one and only option was dietetics! I was going to work as an RD specializing in ED/mental health; and from age 13 until now that never changed- rare in a person. But that is why my only choice for college was Cal Poly- San Luis Obispo. A learn by doing school, start your major classes first semester, and a well-known nutrition department.
My ED ebbed and flowed through undergrad- a lot of personal growth during this time.
I also worked as a peer mental health counselor, was president of active minds (mental health awareness club), coordinated the first-ever NEDA walk in SLO (national eating disorder awareness walk).. See links below, and got a minor in Psychology (since government nutrition education has NO PSY requirement- PISSESS ME OFF- eating IS PSYCHOLOGICAL)!
….I’ll write another post on my undergrad experience one day with more detail! **
SLO NEDA walk: 1. https://www.facebook.com/events/112458265563285/?active_tab=about
After graduating from undergrad, I eventually got a job at a residential ED facility in Monterey. I wanted to see if I could really work in this field and if my passion still thrived in the mental health environment.
Well…. I LOVED IT! It was emotionally hard AF- but I was damn good at it and it sparked my passion and fueled my desire to go back to school (something I never wanted to do, I never wanted to get a master’s degree) and finally get my RD license.
So after only 6 months at the ED facility, I left to focus on getting into grad school/dietetic internship.
Grad school: keeping this short and sweet…
I went cross county (by myself without knowing anyone) to Grand Rapids, Michigan to go to GVSU’s combined Clinical dietetics grad program combined with a dietetic internship. I focused all my papers, assignments, and masters project (Ill link my master’s project below if you’re curious) on eating disorders. I even joined the Southwest MI ED professional association group as a student member to continue being involved and learning about this field.
Masters project: Here
Real Adult life: Oh, adulting…. It’s…. Rough…
I’m not going to focus on this time…. Here is the link to my “life update” I wrote last year to give you some insight…
But I’m FINALLY starting to accomplish my dream goal. I’m working at Shoreline eating disorder treatment center as their dietitian and loving it! I’m learning so much, growing as a professional and person, and increasing my confidence in this field- but I’ll always be learning and growing, always wanting to learn and do more!
I’m also working with substance abuse recovery as an ED specialist and teaching nutrition education classes; something I never even considered but absolutely loving it and learning so much.
I’m also trying to grow my website and private practice focusing on ED, disorders eating, mental health, and body kindness.
Lastly, I’m getting some college speaking/teaching opportunities as well- another route I would love to explore and get more involved in! Becoming a resource for college students (and their mental health/medical department to have a referral to. Something I wish my school had more of back then)!
Well…. That’s me, a small overview of my story, and where I am now.
It’s not everything, but it’s real.
My recovery was not linear, no ones is.
My recovery is not over… I do not think anyone’s ever REALLY is…
My growth is ever-evolving
My story is just that, MY STORY!