Hi, I’m Shannon. I’m 32 years old and have suffered from the hell and prison of anorexia for 10 years. I am FINALLY in recovery as of January 2016. It took me losing my job, my income, almost my marriage and almost my life for me to (reluctantly) accept the help I needed.
When my husband and I decided to relocate from Washington D.C. to Cleveland before our wedding… I tanked. It was a steady decline for 2 years. Looking back, it was a slow suicide. Not just a physical death, it was a mental death, an emotional death, a spiritual death. ED literally stole my soul. I lost my joy, my carefree and bubbly personality, and I lost my sanity. I literally almost lost everything I cared most about. I loathed myself, I was a walking zombie, I was a monster to my own family, no weight or pant size was ever good enough… I was NEVER good enough.
So, last summer, I ran myself into the ground. I was a wedding planner under major pressure and I was working another event job during the week. I was restricting more than I already had been, and I started compulsively exercising. I had lost ALL sense of reality. My purpose was to keep losing and achieve this unattainable perfection. I was incredibly proud of my withering body; my sickness was my accomplishment. But my body finally made the decision for me. In every way, it was showing me, “I’m shutting down. I simply can’t do this anymore.” My hair was falling out, I couldn’t remember a damn thing, I felt incredibly weak, my husband would find claw marks, scratches and bruises all over my body, I barely had the energy to get out of bed in the morning, working was becoming unbearable, and worse, I started having severe chest pains. Then, I had fainting spells at work and almost in the car while I was driving home. After a much needed EKG, my doctor told me I had gone into bradycardia. I was petrified. For the first time, I was terrified of dying. But still, I couldn’t stop.
Thank God my family decided to rescue me! At the beginning of November, they took me to a residential treatment center in Florida. I was so sick that I still argued passionately with my husband up until they dropped me off. It was unbelievably surreal; I felt like I was being dropped off on an island and would be stranded. I felt defeated and betrayed. These people were trying to take this away from me and turn me into someone I hated even more. There I was, sobbing, thinking my life was over… when in fact, it had just begun.
They literally saved my life! The place I dreaded most became my happy place; my safe bubble. I actually didn’t want to leave. I had the best therapists I’ve ever had, met the most amazing women I have ever met; it was a life altering experience. Everyone there became my army, and the dining room table was my battlefield. Every morning when I didn’t want to get up to eat, and was so homesick it physically hurt, I fought with every fiber of my being to do this for my loved ones. A picture of them sat right next to my plate and that is what got me through every single meal.
It was nothing short of a miracle! When you hit rock bottom, sometimes you just have to surrender. My obsessive need to control everything had come to a tragic end. I couldn’t manage my life anymore, and clearly when I (and my “false god”) steered the ship, look where it got me! I came home a few days before Christmas, and felt like a completely different person. I had a new brain, a new set of eyes, a clear mind, a clean heart, a restored soul. I could really smile again! My marriage is repairing, my muscles are repairing, my organs are repairing, my friendships are repairing, my family is repairing, my faith is repairing, my spirit is repairing. I have energy, I can remember things, I’m kinder, less anxious, less judgmental, less irritable, more loving, more fun, more open, more present. I’m medically stable, following my meal plan, conquering fear foods, have color back in my face and light in my eyes! I am able to do things I couldn’t have possibly done before: hikes with my dog, yoga, going out to dinner with my family talking and chewing freely, laughing out loud with my sister, really feeling hugging my husband, not taking hours to get ready, actually tasting the food I’m consuming. I refuse to fail at my marriage and my second chance at life! The truth is, the enemy does not stand a chance when its victim decides to survive.
Recovery has become my full-time job and the thing I hated most has become my medicine. There is a quote I recently found that seems to beautifully sum it up, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” Although my actual weight when I was sick was low, the weight I carried around with me was by the ton. You see, anorexia doesn’t just affect eating (like so many think)… it affects everything. Let me repeat, everything. It is not a fad, it is not a diet, and it so not glamorous. Is recovery utterly exhausting? Yeah. Does it feel like I’m mourning a death? Yes. Are mirrors still painful to look in? Yep! Do I often still feel shameful for eating? Yeah. Do I fully love and accept myself yet?? Heck no! But am I actively and vigilantly choosing light over darkness and recovery over my illness? You better believe it!!
I’m choosing my husband’s kisses over calorie counting, a homemade dessert over hiding and compulsively exercising. I’m choosing sunsets over scales, self-care over self-harm. I’m choosing bare feet and dirty paws, less makeup and messy hair, late nights looking at the stars, actually being a wife, feeling like we’re a family again! While the pain is far from over and I’m unfortunately not “relapse-proof”, I am choosing joy, love, freedom, and LIFE day by day, hour by hour, step by step, bite by bite.
Connect with Shannon on Instagram at @feedyoursoulonebiteatatime