This post discusses mental health, specifically eating disorders, in a way that some might find triggering. Practice self care while reading.
I’ve been taking a break of sorts since my surgery last April. I wrote so much about what it would be like after, how I’d get to get my life back, but then I realized I had absolutely no clue what that looked like.
Adding this surgery’s benefits to my current regiment of chemotherapeutic agents and blood thinners has made me relatively stable. Now I’m looking into an experimental treatment that could guarantee a future, something I quite honestly never believed would be possible.
I like to say that for the first time in years I’m in a committed relationship with life and just like in any new relationship, we’re still figuring each other out.
I realized that over the past few years my identity had become entirely centered on “Sick Chick” and while trying to live up to all of the expectations tied to that, I lost “Shira.”
I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect all of the time; to always have the answers, to be a role model, to be strong, to be beautiful -- things that, in my mind, I can’t live up to. I feel gross, like a hypocrite, constantly preaching about self love and body positivity yet hating myself so much. I spread myself too thin and felt that everyone had a right to a piece of me, but I gave away so many pieces I had none left over for myself.
I have an eating disorder. The lack of control and pressures in my life from various aspects, including my physical health and a bad relationship, led me to finding something I could control: food.
After dealing with this for over four years now, I’m finally actively working towards recovery -- I’ve fought too damn hard for life to let my eating disorder get in the way -- but it is a long road with many, many bumps. Most recently, I was told I need to prep for this experimental therapy by going on a new, extremely limiting diet in addition to keeping a strict workout schedule. Needless to say, this has been a massive trigger. I feel like I should be able to simply “handle” it, but just like I can’t control the fact that my blood doesn’t clot properly, I can’t control the intrusive thoughts.
A couple of weeks ago, my therapist brought up the possibility of needing to go inpatient. As scary as that was to hear, it put into perspective just how serious my eating disorder has become and I can’t continue to pretend I’m okay. My health has taken so much from me over the years, but I’ve never allowed it to take my voice until my eating disorder diagnosis. And I’m learning that staying silent just feeds the shame cycle, whereas speaking out has the potential to feed hope.
I used to feel pressure to share my story, to “be an inspiration,” but now I’m sharing for the opposite reason. I’m sharing to show that you never know what’s going on behind the facade of social media. I’m sharing to show that I’m not perfect, hell, no one is, and I’m still figuring things out. I’m also sharing as an explanation.
The reality is, I don’t owe anyone (besides myself) anything, but this community has been a part of my life since the beginning of my journey nearly ten years ago. You’ve all watched me grow up, you’ve laughed and cried with me, and you’ve been my biggest cheerleaders. You’ve trusted me with your deepest fears and hopes. For that, I’m beyond grateful and honored. However, I am realizing that in order to be there for all of you in the way I want to be, I have to start prioritizing my own self care. Like the stewardesses on airplanes always say, “Put on your own mask first before assisting others.”
I want to be more authentic. I want to be Shira, not just “Sick Chick.”
I want to be the girl that fucks up. I want to be the girl who sits in bed watching trash reality TV for hours in a stained t-shirt with greasy hair. I want to be the girl who uses avoidance as a primary coping mechanism. I want to be the girl who is uncomfortable with the phrase, “I love you.” I want to be the girl who is stubborn as all hell and has a hard time admitting when she’s wrong. I want to be the girl who enjoys late night drives down Pacific Coast Highway listening to Vance Joy’s “Nation of Two” on repeat. I want to be the girl who proudly proclaims C’s get degrees. I want to be the girl who can quote practically every cheesy 90’s rom-com. I want to be the girl finding faith and loving every damn moment of it.
I don’t want to be the girl constantly walking on eggshells. I don’t want to be the girl so focused on everyone else’s happiness instead of her own. I don’t want to be the girl always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t want to be the girl who cringes every time someone tells her she’s beautiful or is “body positive goals af.” I don’t want to be the girl who feels like she can never say no. I don’t want to be the girl obsessing over social media appearances and engagement. I don’t want to be the girl who feels like a fraud 24/7. I don’t want to be the girl living up to everyone else’s expectations, while never even knowing her own.
I get to have a future, and not simply a future, but a beautiful, bright potentially healthy one. And part of making that a reality is coming clean and owning myself. Everything I listed about the girl I want to be, even the things that need improvement --especially those -- are the things that make me, me.
And you know what? I’m learning that I actually like me a lot. And I hope y’all will too.
Sharing this post is one of the hardest things I have ever done (and I’ve re-learned how to walk five times, so that’s saying something). I’m scared to admit my brokenness, and not just admit it, but put it on full display for the world to see. I’m scared I will be taken less seriously and viewed as fragile. I’m scared I will be a disappointment. I’m scared that the knowledge of my diagnosis and its implications will offend my Sick Chicks Sisters who would give anything for a functioning GI system and adequate nutrition. I’m scared that the friends and family who are hearing this information for the first time right now will be angry at me for keeping it a secret. I’m scared that people will question the validity of my physical illness because of my mental illness. I’m scared that people will stop viewing me as a positive role model.
But I can’t live in fear anymore, so today I take the first step: I say, “I have an eating disorder.” And for once I don’t feel ashamed. I feel empowered.
Thank you to Kendall for being my person. Thank you to Amy for always reminding me that I’m worth it. Thank you to Sarah for making me feel less alone. Thank you to my parents for pushing me to reclaim my body as my own. Thank you to the Rat Pack & Sister Wife Squad for helping me learn to prioritize my mental health. Thank you to Savannah for always letting me word vomit without any guilt. Thank you to Ally for cake and boba by the ocean. Thank you to my whole support system for keeping me going.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder you are not alone and there are resources that can provide immense support. The first step to recovery is reaching out: