Recovery is Beautiful | Jennifer’s Recovery Story
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Jennifer’s Recovery Story

In honor of next week being National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Recovery Is Beautiful would like to highlight Jennifer’s story from the National Eating Disorders Association:

Push it down…pretend all is well…crack some jokes…smile…repeat.

That had been my mantra for most of my teen and adult life. As a young child I was funny and really outgoing. But then I started to gain weight and it became a constant issue in my house. I believe I was put on my first “diet” at the age of 8. To me it was a sign that there was something wrong with me. I put on a happy face and smiled my way through the years. I was made fun of for my weight. I laughed with them… but inside I cried. It seemed my weight was the only thing that people paid attention to about me. The rest of me was ignored. At about 13 I had enough of being made fun of so I started to exercise regularly. As I lost weight I was starting to get attention…the attention that I had longed for. But then my family started to come unglued and what was a healthy habit became a dangerous obsession. If I missed a workout I panicked. I became an expert at hiding my food and disposing of it. I lived by the numbers on the scale. But I finally had control over something again…or did it have control of me? At school I had friends, was on the dance team, and was a peer tutor. But I didn’t go out much because that usually required eating in some way. All appeared fine on the outside since I had become a master of hiding my feelings and putting on an act.

Push it down…pretend all is well…crack some jokes…smile…repeat.

I majored in Physical Education because it is my passion and I wanted to help others. But my passion was my poison. I was enabling my eating disordered behavior under the guise of education. This continued on when I went on for my master’s degree. My thesis was on body image and eating disorders…I was basically studying “myself”. This is when I first dabbled into bulimia. I didn’t do it a ton at first but as family problems continued it increased in frequency. It served as a release when it all became too much. Push it down…pretend all is well…crack some jokes…smile…repeat. I was living a double life. There was Jen…the always perky fitness girl. And then there was the real Jen…who was slowly killing herself from the inside out. I managed to keep my disorder at bay for years…but it was always there. Always making me analyze what I ate. Always making me workout at an unhealthy level. Always there to remind me that I wasn’t good enough the way I was. I was married to a wonderful man, had two beautiful daughters, and a job I loved…but under the surface was so much pain and anger that had been building for 25 years. I started to suffer from anxiety attacks and severe bouts of depression. My weight dropped and I was spiraling out of control. Somehow I managed to keep up the “I’m fine” act and do my job, but it was getting harder and harder to do.

I couldn’t “push it down…pretend all is well…crack some jokes…smile…repeat” anymore.

A friend noticed my struggles, listened to my story, and encouraged me to go into therapy. Without his support I would not be where I am today and I am so thankful that he has been there for me throughout my recovery journey. And I was blessed to find a therapist who I was comfortable opening up to. It felt so good to talk about all the things I had kept hidden for years! I started to see the real me…and I liked her. I didn’t have to be perky fitness girl who did crazy physical feats to prove my worth. I am enough. I am worth it. I thought that I would always have to live with my Eating Disorder. And while it will always be a part of me, I now have the coping techniques to fight back and not let it control my life. For the first time in my 38 years on this planet, I feel a sense of inner peace, happiness, and excitement for my future. I wouldn’t change anything about my journey because it brought me to my current location and is leading me toward a new destination. From Struggle Comes Strength…Don’t Give Up!

To read more stories or for resources related to National Eating Disorders Week, please follow this link to be taken to the National Eating Disorders Association website.