In her previous article, Sydney shared with us the beginning of the eating disorder that overtook her life. Her story picks up here:
So here’s where the story really takes a turn.
It is clear that for most of my middle school and high school life I was conscious of my health both in terms of what I ate and what activity I did. Thus, there was really no surprise with what occurred in the summer before senior year. Given that my years at sleep away camp were over, I decided to go abroad with a a few of my friends on the typical, post-camp, 4 week teen tour. While my friends pictured a trip filled with fun, flirting, and endless nights of partying, I was worried about embarking on a journey that would allow me to be continually active. We had several trips in mind but the consensus came down to a four week trip to Europe, one that certainly was not on the top of my list.
Now that I was going on this trip I had to do my research. I remembered talking to older girls I knew that had gone on the trip in previous years so I decided to look at my conversations with them. Not surprisingly, the first thing that I asked was “did u do a lot of sightseeing or could u do like activities and be active and workout too.” I was embarking on a four week trip to four different European countries and my one worry was whether I could continue my exercise routine. I did extensive research, not on what places we would be going, but whether each hotel we would be staying in had gyms! For the places that did not appear to have workout facilities, I figured that I could run outside. In the weeks leading up to the trip I spun, ran, and/or lifted every day and ate what I considered to be “healthy.” Notice how I said not only “or” but also “and.” One workout in the morning was simply not enough for me. Whether it was a power walk, lifting session, or on some days a second spinning class I had to do more. In conjunction with this I began to cut even more foods that I considered not to be “healthy.” Days that I would snack extra or eat something on the “disapproved list” I had to exert more energy and burn more calories. Exercising became my sole focus, especially now that school was over for a few months. Although I had prior health concerns in the past, my mom started to worry about me leaving for four weeks without her.
I was excited for both going to Europe for the first time and being able to control what I got to eat. I saw this as an opportunity to completely shut out all the foods I considered were “unhealthy.” Come on, I was going to England, Switzerland, France, and Italy. Italy! I was going to Italy and I was worried about eating less while I would be surrounded by some of the most delicious foods I would ever see.
The day of the trip had arrived and I was so excited to go away with my friends. In the back of my mind, though, I was worried about the amount of exercising I would be able to do and with that in mind I brought a jump rope, weights, and workouts planned by my trainer. The first four days of my trip were in England and luckily for me there was a gym in the hotel. I ran every morning before we would leave for the day and at meals I would order either a salad or grilled chicken (two meals that I found satisfactory for my diet). I also did not realize the amount of walking that would be done during the trip although for me walking miles a day was not considered a “workout.”
After our time in England we moved on to France. As soon as we got the first hotel we’d be staying in I immediately went up to the front desk asking if they had a gym. As soon as I heard the word “no” my stomach dropped. I started thinking about what I could do to exercise, going up to different people on my trip asking if they would want to run with me.
Unlike a normal teenager, I was expecting to wake up at the crack of dawn to run outside and when none of my friends agreed to run with me I panicked. I begged my counselors to let me run by myself but when the answer was “no” my anxiety spiked. This continued on for a little over a week. I would go days without working out and mentally and physically I could not handle it. I would sit in my room crying, blaming my mood on missing my dad when I really knew the source was my lack of exercise and my body image insecurity.
Yes, I did enjoy the trip at certain points, mostly when we were doing activities like bike riding in a small village in France and skiing the Swiss Alps, but on the whole I was miserable. I wanted to enjoy myself but I could not control what was going through my head. While I thought I was gaining weight, I was really shedding pounds between the walking, certain days of exercising, and lack of eating full meals. After two weeks of countless breakdowns, I decided that going home would be the best thing for me. My mom and I decided that upon my arrival I would immediately speak to my therapist that I had spoken to once before after my father’s passing. While coming home was supposed to help my mental state the complete opposite occurred, and I will discuss this in my next article.
If you or someone you know is suffering with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association (nationaleatingdisorders.org) supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Call their toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. In addition, Project HEAL funds inpatient, residential, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment for applicants suffering from an eating disorder who want to recover but cannot afford treatment. Go to http://theprojectheal.org/apply-for-grants/our-scholarship-progra/ for information about how to apply for a treatment grant OR VISIT WWW.THEPROJECTHEAL.ORGRead more by Sydney, click [here]