When I really think about why I wanted to start this blog, and share my story, it all comes down to one day that truly changed my life… when I hit rock bottom.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. That’s the sound my alarm made at 7:08am on January 25, 2004. I was 20 years old. It was a cold, wintry, Saturday morning in East Lansing, Michigan. With a sigh of relief, I knew the sound of that alarm meant it was time to head back home for the rest of the weekend. I threw on my running clothes, knowing the quicker I completed my workout, the sooner I would depart campus, a place I’d grown to dislike just from living there.
Our annual Michigan State University Women’s Soccer Banquet was held the previous night. The timing of the event obliged me to sleep on campus that night; which is something I had opted not to do on weekends. So, much to my dismay, I had to wait until the morning to leave. I gave myself two hours to satisfy my obsession, which at this point was my body and staying thin.
My path, from the time I stepped out my door, was precisely planned. I, first, pulled out my scale from my bathroom closet. I knew that heading out to run was only going to help maintain this low number — which I had watched go down over the previous several months. Before reaching the door, I stopped, I stared in the mirror, flexed my stomach, and just confirmed I wasn’t able to grab any excess skin or fat. And I did it again..and again…and again.
I shuffled quickly down the steps to arrive at the fitness center. I hopped on a treadmill, and robotically entered my age and weight before pressing “start.” Off I went. Another day. Another run. Another opportunity to burn calories.
A shower being a necessity, I had the chance to examine my bare body again in my full length mirror. I flexed. I touched my bones. It was easy to do since so many were showing. I stood on the scale one last time to make sure nothing had changed in the past hour. That’s how sick I was. It didn’t matter the number, it never seemed low enough for my liking.
After my workout and feeding my obsession, I headed down to the parking lot. While unlocking my brand new SUV, I gazed at my personalized license plate: ERIN8 next to a Michigan State Spartan “S.” My parents had promised that since I earned a full-ride athletic scholarship to college, they would get me a car to bring on campus my sophomore year.
My thoughts were interrupted when I heard my cell phone rang. It was my mom. She was calling to remind me to drive very carefully; that it’s a “white-out,” and several car accidents had already been reported all over the news. Road visibility was minimal because of the swirling snow and sunshine. I reassured my mom that I would drive slowly and carefully.
I opened the driver’s side door, reached across the middle console, and swapped my bags for my sunglasses. I inserted my key, turned on the ignition, and I was ready to head home.
At that time, I had reached my lowest weight; one that I had not seen on the scale since I was 13 years old. I was now 20 years old–surviving at the SAME weight. When it came to food, I was living on next to nothing. This was a sick, but proud moment for me.
I remember getting sleepy. Like when you are in a movie theater, and are trying so hard to stay awake, but your eyes are so heavy, you just can’t keep them open. I noticed the exit number off the highway, and thought to myself, “You can make it, Erin.”
And, that is all I remember thinking before hearing a knock on my window.
“Hi. I am an off-duty firefighter. I am here to help you. Are you able to open your door?” My face was embedded in airbags, I couldn’t find my cell phone, and I noticed my sunglasses were shattered across my front windshield. But, somehow, I opened the door.
I went from unconsciousness to panic. What had I done? It was in this moment that two words came to mind, “I’m sick.” I had completely lost my way and turned my life over to a disease – a sickness called anorexia nervosa.
The firefighter sounded muffled, but I was able to hear him say that he had already called 9-1-1. He asked me, “Do you have your cell phone? I would like to call your mom and dad.” Scrambling to find my phone, I pulled it out from under my seat, and saw blood dripping from my face.
I remember the sound of the firefighters voice saying, “She is very lucky to have survived this crash.”
I’m not sure in that moment I felt “lucky.”
Rock bottom. This was it. I was a depressed, anorexic college student-athlete with a brand new car–totaled. Bruised from head to toe, with possibly a broken nose, my body ached. My mind ached. I continued to cry; literally sobbing harder and harder, and loud enough for the world to hear me. I was hoping the world could hear me, because I had certainly been ignoring my own internal cries for help.