I truly and firmly believe that God can heal the most broken and the deepest of wounds. I know that He is a Heavenly Father who does not WILLINGLY afflict as in the words of Lamentations 3: 31-33, ‘For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.’
Anorexia is a sad idol, a terrible disease, but I have seen some INCREDIBLE recovery stories come out of the darkness and ashes. The few girls that I have in mind along with MANY others that are encouraging others to FIGHT anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, and other mental diseases are Emmy, Julia, Alison, Alison, and another blogger that I am going to highlight today!!! This is Alyssa, a blogger who God literally put in my path about a week ago. Alyssa has a story, a precious story, a hard story, a story of brokenness and of healing, and I’m really grateful to be able to share it with you for today’s Thinking Out Loud with Amanda!
Before you read this, I want you to know that I am grateful that Alyssa shared so much of her story here. She was transparent in an amazing way, and I hope that it is encouraging to those of you who are walking this journey to recovery.
From Brokenness to Life: Alyssa Cristadero
“I’m here to tell you that if you get broken, it’s possible to put yourself back together. I’m here to tell you that if you get lost, it’s possible that a light will come, dancing, on the horizon, to lead you home.”
Entering into my freshman year of high school, I was very unhappy. I was doing phenomenal in gymnastics and was keeping up with my clean-eating regime, but all I could think about was food and calories and when my next meal would be. I was so fixated on how my body looked that I lost some important friendships in my life and the relationships with my parents. Little did I know that these relationships would worsen as time would progress. In the all of my freshman year, I began restricting far more. I wanted to keep up with my “perfect” body and get rid of every ounce of fat on my body. I thought that there would always be ways that I could look better, and I would never be good enough or skinny enough. So I reduced my intake, kept up with the strict calorie counting and long hours in the gym, and made sure to stick with the clean eating.
Comments from my coaches began to arise, but this time instead of comments of praise, they were comments of concern. “Alyssa looks so, so thin. And her face is so pale.” I overheard one of my coaches saying. Another one said to me, “You’re such a little twig now!” These comments should have led me to take a step back and reevaluate the situation, but instead they just added fuel to the fire. I was so unhappy at the time and felt that being the skinny girl was all I had, so I continued on with what I thought I could do best-lose weight. At my next doctors appointment a month later, the doctor looked at me in a very concerned way. After stepping on the scale, his face looked shocked. I was told to sit down with my parents as we needed to discuss my weight. “Yes, I thought. Finally not a gross, disgusting girl as I was a few years back!” The doctor explained that he was pulling me from gymnastics until I got my weight up. I would be putting myself in danger and due to my dangerously low weight, he also wanted me to seek some sort of help. “Screw that, I thought. I need to be back in the gym training and exercising!” The ride home with my parents was filled with tension. My parents were crying, yelling, and just so confused. How could their daughter manage to lose so much weight in a matter of a few months? They went and bought me ensures, called my coaches, explained the situation to them, and said that it was time for me to put some weight back on. But my mindset? It hadn’t changed in the slightest way. “Time to fight against my parents. No way am I putting on any weight at ALL.” This began a vicious cycle with my parents. A vicious cycle of arguing, throwing food, swearing, more fights than I could have EVER imagined. I lost all close relationships with friends, was extremely depressed, stressed with school, and just unhappy with life in general. This cycle continued for about a month until my mom forced me into therapy and then forced me to an eating disorder clinic. I HATED the clinic at the time and wanted nothing but to stay in my own, disordered ways. I came home yelling and screaming and said I would not go back. So I didn’t go back there, I didn’t go back to my therapist, and I continued to stay underweight, sick, miserable, unhappy, depressed, and angry. About a month later, I completely lost it. I cried to my mom, I said I couldn’t go on like this. I wanted to change, and I didn’t know how. I opened up to her about not missing gymnastics and the stress of it, I said I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to be happy again, I wanted to be normal. So in the spring of my freshman year I made a change. I saw a therapist and nutritionist and tried to get on the right path. I gained some weight, but not enough. I made some changes, but still was locked into a disordered mindset around food. This little grain of hope for me lasted about 5 months. That fall, I started my sophomore year in high school. I was still not free from my eating disorder, as right when school started, my ed came into full force. I stopped eating breakfast, I joined my high school’s swim team which was not healthy for me at the time, and had a very unhealthy relationship with food. I was not necessarily afraid of eating unhealthy foods, but more about how much I was eating-the calorie content, etc etc. I was also always concerned about not feeling bloated and full. Those feelings were equivalent to torture in my mind.
Fast forward to the spring of my sophomore year. I got my first job at a grocery store bagging and doing the cashier. I was also continuing to exercise four days a week at this time. The long shifts made me exhausted. Bagging for five hours took a toll on my body. Also, during this month I started to abuse laxatives even more than before. Dulcolax become my eating disorder’s partner in crime. I abused Dulcolax as well as Miralax (which was actually prescribed to me by my doctor), but was taking double the amount of Miralax I was supposed to. My laxative use became out of hand- If I didn’t feel empty and light, then I would just continue to take more and more until I accomplished that feeling. As each month passed, my ed became stronger. I remember going on a vacation to Aruba with my family. A time that was meant to be fun was in fact awful for me. I was exhausted the whole trip and focused on the food rather than the beautiful weather, my family, and how grateful I should have been to even go on this trip. I continued abusing laxatives during this trip and the addiction with them became worse and worse. I finished my sophomore year of high school, and I thought that once school was out, things would get better. Little did I know I was completely wrong. Time not spent in school gave me more time to focus on my ed. I cut back my calories even more, continued to go to the gym when I felt like I was going to faint, and became even more fixated on food and how I looked. I was 16 and a half and STILL without a period my entire life. My mom took me to the doctor, and yet again, a second diagnosis of anorexia nervosa was made. She said until I gained weight, there was no way I would ever get a period.
My relationship with my mom, dad, and brother was at an all time low. I became violent. If my mom cooked something and there was an extra tablespoon of rice, I became furious. The house was like a battleground. My parents were extremely depressed all the time-they were watching their daughter die again for the SECOND time right before their eyes. My brother didn’t know what to make of it all-he saw his sister becoming a walking skeleton and just didn’t understand why it was so hard for me to eat. I thought of committing suicide many times. My pillow became the spot where all the tears fell at night. I remember crying to my mom and saying I didn’t know what to do. In July, the summer before my junior year of high school, I started to have seizures from not eating enough. My laxative use was out of control, to the point where I was taking 10 Dulcolax pills a day. I had a hard time sleeping as my bones stuck out to the point where it was painful to move around on the bed at night. I tried seeking help and going to a nutritionist but remember seeing the meal plan and thinking “No way in can I do this.” So I had my mom contact an eating disorder center and had an evaluation with them. I thought I would just enter the intensive outpatient program but little did I know, I dropped even more weight and was at an all time low.
July 19, 2013. A date I will remember forever. A day filled with tears. The day I was sent to a residential program. I was committed this time to finally change my life for the better. I spent one month at a residential program and a week at a day program. Following the day program, I was immediately transferred to the intensive outpatient program, which I did for two months. After being discharged from IOP, my ed started to kick back in. The relationship with my parents was still not good. I started restricting again, yet something clicked in December. I thought, Why am I doing this to myself STILL? I fought like hell and from that day on, I did not restrict. I ate everything I was supposed to. I stopped counting calories, I stopped having to follow my exchange meal plan, I regained relationships with friends and family, I ate intuitively, I got into my top college, and I genuinely felt happy. I still see a therapist and psychiatrist; however, I consider myself to be recovered. I am at a healthy weight, I do not fear food anymore, I do not push myself too hard with exercise. I consider myself to finally be free from my ed. Of course I still have bad days, days where I do not feel good about my body, days where I feel guilty for eating certain foods.
But I fight. And I do NOT give up. I am stronger than my eating disorder. I preach a balanced life style-one filled with nutritious foods but one also filled with treats. I believe that no one should deny themselves from certain foods. I believe that exercise is a gift-it is not meant for something to be stressed over or simply done just to burn calories. I believe exercise is not meant to take over your life. I am a self-love advocate, and believe that loving your body is extremely important. I believe that everything happens for a reason in life, and through my struggles I have stumbled upon my strength.
Today, I am currently a college freshman studying psychology with hopes of becoming a therapist in the future. I consider myself to be fully recovered. I live a balanced life where food and exercise are NOT the main focus. I enjoy food, I eat “treats.” Yet I also love wholesome foods. I believe in nourishing your body, yet also nourishing you soul. I love exercising, yet I also love sitting on my couch and watching netflix with a warm cup of coffee. I have discovered that I carry more of a purpose than being the “skinny girl,” than being the “clean-eating girl.” I have realized that I am far more than that; I carry the capacity to help others; I am worth of being loved and being happy. I am incredibly grateful for the life that recovery has given me, and for the future I have for myself that would have not been possible with anorexia. Full recovery IS possible, and I hope my story can show you that and give you all a glimpse of hope. Keep fighting: it is worth it.
I’ll end with saying that life is SO precious. Human beings were created in God’s image with a mind, body, soul, and spirit, and because of that each person is a gift, and no life can EVER be taken for granted.
Today I’m thankful for each breath we breath. They are gifts from God!