Without them, and my parents unwavering and often-tested support, I would not be where I am today both literally and figuratively. I am living out my dreams. I’m a flight attendant, somebody’s fiancé and, most importantly, I’m finally me. Becoming Me didn’t happen easily or quickly. I have struggled with an eating disorder for most of my life.

Eating Disorder Warning Signs

By my sophomore year of college, I wasn’t able to hide it anymore. My roommate was concerned and talked to one of the Resident Life staff members on campus about her concerns. Soon after, they called me into the health office.

Of course, I denied everything. The school decided that I would have to be evaluated by my physician and that she would have to sign a medical release before I could return to school. SHIT.

So, I headed home for winter break determined to get out of this somehow. I ended up telling my parents, but I went to see my doctor alone. I kept saying I was fine and that my roommate and the school had overreacted about my “test anxiety”. That was my excuse for my frequent use of bathrooms.

My doctor told me that she would sign my release, but first I had to do two things for her: Get weighed, and get my labs drawn. I said, “Deal,” because in my ED-controlled mind, I was fine and nothing was wrong.

The Day That Changed My Life

My doctor made me wait in her office for my lab results. After what felt like forever, she came back into the exam room and said I had to go to the Emergency Room for an EKG. I was pissed and freaking out! The nurse pulled out a wheelchair and asked if I was ready to stroll to the ER. My doctor, who is friends with my mother, called her to let her know what was happening. My mother is a critical care Nurse Practitioner. If I were any other patient, she would have been the Critical Care Consult called for me when I got into the ER.

This was the day my life would change forever.

My EKG showed an abnormal heartbeat. I had to be hooked up to an IV because I was severely dehydrated.

After my time in the hospital, l I visited a therapist my mom had found for me. The therapist recommended that I seek inpatient treatment for Bulimia. My parents found The Meadows Ranch and, two weeks later, they packed me up and drove me to Wickenburg, Arizona. Little did I know, that this was the start a journey that would take me seven years to complete. Talk about the longest ride!

The Many Ups and Downs of ED

When I first arrived at The Meadows Ranch, I begged my parents to take me home. I told them I would stop. But, my parents hugged me goodbye and I got on a shuttle to go meet my treatment team.

My initial planned discharge date came and went. Thanksgiving turned to Christmas, then to New Year’s Day, then Valentine’s Day, and Ash Wednesday. The days had turned into weeks and weeks into months.

Finally, I was discharged, and filled with hope. I had my aftercare plan set and I was ready to face the world.

But being home wasn’t easy. I started slipping fast. About six months later, I was back on a plane headed to Remuda. I felt like the biggest failure in the world.

While sitting in a group therapy session one day, the therapist started talking about life after an eating disorder and finally letting go. The problem, for me, was that I didn’t know why I was still clinging to my eating disorder like a life preserver. I didn’t believe there was light at the end of the tunnel.

I was eventually discharged again after another prolonged stay and finally made it home. Then, just as I had reached a comfortable spot in recovery, I was thrown a curveball. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which began to serve as a cover for my eating disorder behaviors.

My health insurance had labeled me “chronic.” I felt like there was no hope.

The Next Best Thing

So, I ended up back at The Meadows Ranch again. One day, the theme in group therapy was Next Steps. I had no idea what my next step was. I could only make it so far in recovery before I relapsed. I got annoyed and frustrated with myself because I was stuck in this circle of hell and I felt that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. But again, I kept at it, and I tried to do the next best thing. As my time at The Meadows Ranch wound down, I set up my aftercare and put everything I had into not going back.

I never truly figured out exactly what made me give up my eating disorder. I just noticed small achievements that kept me going. When I noticed changes in my body, my therapist said I had two choices: I could accept my body and myself or I could let my eating disorder win.

I told her that I didn’t have time to go back to treatment and that I was enjoying my life, and that I didn’t have time for an eating disorder. When that statement came out of my mouth, it shocked the both of us. I still remember her saying “I never thought I would hear you say those words.” (She has been my therapist for seven years now.) I replied, “Neither did I.”

My Light at the End of the Tunnel

After that, I finally felt that I had control over my life. I was living to the fullest. The smiles on my face were genuine for the first time. I knew I had finally conquered ED when I was on a beach in Miami, in a bikini, getting tacos from a food truck, and the most pressing thought on my mind was “Do I want to eat my lunch on the beach or poolside?” I texted my mom and therapist. I couldn’t even believe that this was my thought process. I never thought that I could be happy with myself and live in the moment. I never thought it could happen to me. I had found my light at the end of the tunnel.

I was cautiously optimistic about my newfound recovered self. When it came to trying on wedding dresses, I talked to my fiancé, my therapist, and my mother about my fears; I was afraid it might ruin all of the progress I had made.

I am happy to report, that trying on wedding dresses was fun, and nothing during that process made me think about my eating disorder. I guess I can say that I am finally free to be me. The Meadows Ranch did much more than save my life, it gave me life.