I grew up in the competitive cheerleading world. I was in that environment since fifth grade, and it constantly forced me to strive for perfection, realizing that I would never achieve it. We were taught to execute skills perfectly, that our best was never enough, and to always push the limits no matter what we did. I was already innately a perfectionist, and being in that competitive of an environment didn’t help at all.
My journey with anorexia started when I was a Sophomore in college in 2012. I had stopped cheering at my local gym, Haydens in Augusta, Georgia, and moved away to attend college at Georgia College and State University. I was upset to leave the cheerleading world, but I still had two goals that I wanted to accomplish: I wanted to go to Worlds, the largest competition nationwide, and I wanted to do this by cheering for the Stingrays Coed Open Level 6 team in Atlanta, Georgia.
So that summer before try-outs, I practiced as much as I could and I was in the best shape of my life. I felt incredibly confident walking into try-outs, and afterwards I knew that I did well. I did everything that I needed to, even skills that I had never previously attempted before! Even though I felt so good about it, I found out two weeks later that I didn’t make the team.
I was so bummed because it was the first time that I felt like I had failed. I had never missed a team before, and I didn’t know how to react to it. I found out later that, if you weren’t dating someone who worked for the Stingrays or if you weren’t married to someone who worked there, you were never going to make the team. I talked to one of the coaches later, to see what I could have done better, but she just basically gave me a bunch of excuses. It was political, and I had never been exposed to anything like that before.
It felt like a big step back for me.After that, I was determined to make myself feel good enough. I became heavily involved in working out and eating better, thinking if I was smaller I would have made it. I thought I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to work out more, to run more, to push myself more. Missing the team only accelerated my drive to be better.
At the same time, my parents were getting divorced. This was after over 30 years of marriage, and during this time my dad moved to New Jersey. While this was going on, my high school sweetheart, the first guy that I ever dated, broke up with me. And then my sister, whom I’m incredibly close to, moved away to Tampa. My whole world was changing, and I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t have any control.
But the one thing that I did have control over was what I put in my body and how much I exercised. This was how I finally felt in control of my life.
That next year I was asked to cheer for ACX, another team in Columbia, South Carolina, and I ended up achieving my goal for going to Worlds! I remember being so happy, but that void was inescapable. I still couldn’t stop working out heavily and obsessing over what I eat. It felt like a downward spiral.
It wasn’t until the end of 2014 that I knew I needed to get help. By that time, I had been sick for two or three years. No matter what I did, it was never enough. I never felt good enough. There was a literal voice inside my head that obsessed over food. Even when I was achieving a 4.0 GPA I still felt like it wasn’t enough.
None of it mattered. From the outside, it looked like I had it all together: I was the President of my business fraternity, I worked on campus, I was involved in a ton of clubs, I had perfect grades, but the only thing that I thought about, that I cared about, was food.
I was so scared of food that I couldn’t even go out to a restaurant. During different business events, luncheons, or dinners, I was anxious the entire time because I knew that I couldn’t eat. I had to pretend to eat, or make some weird excuse as to why I couldn’t finish my food. I couldn’t eat around anyone, even though I knew that I was sick and that I was too small. My veins were sticking out of my body, but I couldn’t tell anyone that I had this problem. I was afraid.
My life was so wrapped up in the disease. I had to take sleeping medicine just to get some sleep because of my anxiety, but I also enjoyed being asleep because I didn’t have to deal with the constant battle inside of my head. I just wanted to go to bed all of the time.
I was so depressed that I would just sit in my room. Looking back, it’s all a blur. I don’t even remember my life from ages 19-21 because I was so wrapped up in myself. I lost all of my friends and I became antisocial. I only wanted to be on my own, and this was the worst thing for me because I would just get lost in my thoughts. I would sit in my apartment all weekend by myself, completely isolated, because I didn’t want to freak out about food or extra calories.
I’m normally such an outgoing and energetic person, and I didn’t know who I was anymore. My life was being taken away from me.
During the last few months of my disease, I started experiencing chest pains. I would tell my mom that my chest was hurting, that my heart was beating funny. Even though it didn’t happen all of the time, it happened enough to wear it started to frighten me.
I remember one weekend that I was back home in Augusta. I was driving with my mom in the car, and the pain became so unbearable that I thought I was going to faint. She took me to the emergency room and I couldn’t even walk. When they took my heartrate it was shockingly low; it was barely beating.
I honestly thought that I was going to die, that I would die in the waiting room of the emergency room all because I wouldn’t eat a bagel. I remember the moment where I realized that something needed to change. It was November of 2014, and this was the Fall semester of my senior year in college. I was so sick, and at that point I wasn’t eating anything. Surprisingly, I wasn’t one to weigh myself obsessively, but by that time I was at my lowest weight of 90 pounds. I had just come back from my first HR internship with Walmart, and I had recently decided to go to graduate school. So I was also applying for, and studying for, the GRE in just one month so that I could apply for admissions. I was so overwhelmed! There was so much stress and pressure building up, and it made my eating disorder worse. I remember the day. I was walking back from a really busy day on campus. I hadn’t eaten anything, and I was so drained and so weak, I couldn’t be my whole self anymore. I was so dizzy, upset, and unhappy. Even though all of these great things were happening, none of it mattered to me. I finally called my mom and told her that I would go and get help.
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