I believe there is no better time to share this personal experience of mine than during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Almost six years ago, actually to be exact–on June 4, 2011–I departed Baltimore, MD to head to Atlanta, GA. I had signed myself up to attend, what I knew would be the most grueling and challenging nine days, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) “A” license course. I had managed to pass the previous four courses (E, D, C, and B), and felt prepared and ready to conquer the final, most prestigious coaching license in the U.S.
I landed in Atlanta feeling grateful to have coordinated with a close friend to attack this challenge together (though she was taking a different course). I thought that by having a roommate I knew and felt comfortable, my time spent there would pass quicker and the stress would not be as great. However, that first night there something in my body changed. I knew it. I felt it. And, I couldn’t stop it. My heart began to race uncontrollably. I was literally jumping out of my skin, and I panicked. I would call it crisis.
I had only been married a total of seven months. This man, whom I referred to as my husband, knew of my past history. It’s one thing knowing–it’s a whole other seeing. It felt as though my insides, which seemed to have been put together before this course, crumbled–into tiny little pieces. We were states apart in distance, but it didn’t take long before phone calls and FaceTime revealed this tumultuous breakdown.
The overwhelming stress and pressure to perform, score well, and blow my final session out of the water became too much. Up to that point, in high pressure situations, I was able to persevere; fight through, succeed, and, then, glue my fallen pieces back together when it was over. But, this time, again, was different.
With a perpetual lump in my throat, bursting at the seams, and in tears at the drop of a hat, I felt inconsolable. In a fifteen hour day, I spent my two one-hour breaks hiding… pulling out my phone and speed dialing my parents. I was calling for help. To be saved from the feelings I was experiencing; from the evil voice in my head berating me for who I was and what I was doing. It was back. I stopped eating. It hurt to swallow anyway since it had to pass the enormous lump on its way down. And, having not been able to sleep a wink-and I mean a wink (ask my friend-she was privy to this trepidation), I was guzzling as many cups of coffee as I could get my hands on.
I suffered from an significant eating disorder when I was twenty years old. At the course, I was twenty-six years old. Without a doubt, I was not in the clear. Will I ever really be? If triggered, I was susceptible to redeveloping unhealthy feelings and behaviors that I had endured just six years prior. And, that I did.
I became so depressed. I was scared to face my husband–in fear he would run from this crazy person he hadn’t known or agreed to love “til death did us part.” I desperately held on to every word I could when hearing my mom’s exhausted, terribly worried voice in the wee hours of the night. I was terrified of being left alone in the dark with those irrational, obsessive thoughts I couldn’t shutout. And, for the first time in my life, I felt I would have been better off in a hospital room being monitored and treated.
When asked if I have ever relapsed, it is this time of my life that repeatedly comes to mind. After nine days of what I call hell–physically and emotionally–my husband picked me up from the airport to greet a malnourished, underweight, and severely depressed wife back home. I had lost ten pounds in just that short time. I couldn’t eat. I wouldn’t let myself eat. I trained for hours a day. And, never slept. I literally couldn’t think of anything unhealthier.
For the first time in nine days, my heart finally stopped. Shit. I missed my period. Did I lose it because of my poor eating habits like I did when I had an eating disorder? Or, was it something else? It was something else. The two lines showed up clear and bold on that test, and it confirmed I was pregnant with my first. I looked in the mirror that night. I saw a glimpse of what I had looked like when I was truly ill. And, I cried. This was not the way I envisioned my first pregnancy would begin. Not even close.
I hadn’t eaten in days. I was surviving on only caffeine. And, I was anxious as hell. All of which are listed under, “What not to do or be when pregnant.”
And so, my pregnancy began. Did I already screw this child up? Had I done permanent damage? Would my new marriage survive if I continued in that condition? And, the more frightening question of them all… would my behaviors and feelings I had with my eating disorder return?
During a time I should have embraced my body changing, food cravings, and life, I was depriving myself, over exercising, and stuck inside my own head. I felt like I had been detached from my own skin and launched out of it. I reverted back to my old ways; ones that I worked so hard to overcome. Now, it wasn’t just me who would suffer…this new child I was carrying would, too.
To be continued…