Contrary to my typical school days, I had several good guy friends while in college. These enthusiastic guys were genuinely smart, humorous, truthful, and tended to make certain group gatherings more fun. They were a lively asset to football-watching parties, board-game-playing potlucks, and recreational sporting scrimmages on campus. They were pros at crafting a clever joke, and willingly contributed to thought provoking conversations minus all the nagging female drama. Needless to say, I greatly valued their friendship, encouragement, and personal opinions for that matter. One afternoon after a routine ultimate frisbee session, one of my guy friends, Ken, mentioned that he had seen me running around campus earlier that week (a daily activity for which I quickly became known.) Attempting to compliment my physically active lifestyle, he proceeded by saying, “Amanda, you’re one of the healthiest persons I know.”
Conflicted by his politely intended comment, I remember thinking sadly to myself, “If only you knew, Ken…if only you knew the truth.”
The ironic truth was that back in college I did know–I knew all about my history, and knew that I was still regretfully hanging on to painful pieces of my past. With my academic major of choice being Exercise Science, I had acquired a substantial amount of insight on how the magnificent human body operates. From my own experience and educational influences, I knew all about the foundational idiosyncrasies of my specific condition and was highly aware of what I should be doing to combat it. I knew about many intensive biological processes and detailed components pertaining to anatomy and physiology. I was rehearsed in the guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, and was well-trained on how to properly lead others towards adapting healthy choices and developing a balanced lifestyle. I knew all of these concepts like the back of my hand…I just frankly wasn’t applying them to myself. On the outside I may have appeared fit and healthy, but on the inside, I was deniably still struggling beneath my protective fitness persona.
Reflecting back to my ignorant 13-year-old self, however, I didn’t know. I didn’t know the difference between carbs, fats, and proteins. I didn’t know that there was a such thing as too much exercise or nutritional control. I didn’t know how foods were broken down in our bodies, or that words like “calories” and “metabolism” even existed. I didn’t know anything about nutrient timing or hormones. And of course I didn’t know at the time that all of my intentional efforts to improve my athletic ability and conscious focus on physical enhancement were unintentionally eating up my body. Literally.
Yet instead of translating this lack of knowledge into a prime teaching opportunity, the majority of what I absorbed fell within the spectrum of crucially labeling foods and habits as either “good” or “bad.” Despite the attempts to facilitate matters, everything suddenly added on to my pre-existing set of rules. This observant, reserved, intuitive young girl only wanted to become the best all-star athlete out there, and instead accidentally took her competitive perfectionist personality overboard. I “learned” by my own observation and perceived judgement, disappointedly losing the very control I set out to attain in the beginning. I wanted to get things right; I didn’t mean to cause my body harm…but at the same time I also wanted to understand why I was suddenly being forced by doctors to confide in a new strict and monitored lifestyle. In spite of my inner will to improve myself, I was constantly overpowered by the regulations of my treatment team, and my own eating disorder voice telling me everyone else was wrong.
Thankfully now, I know. I now know the severity of the disease that consistently won the battle for nearly ten years of my life. I know the mental and emotional toll that tags alongside the obvious physical toll. I know the meaning behind terms like “triggers” and “tendencies,” and how to monitor them. I know now that if I want to be able to continue to engage in the physical activity which brings me so much joy, I have to strategically fuel my body with the right sources. I know that food is my muscle’s best friend, and that it provides substance, energy, and natural healing remedies. I know truthfully just how vital it is to have loving moral support during such a darkly rough time. Additionally, I have no doubt that with my passion for learning, this large knowledge base will only continue to grow. And with this knowledge, I know deep down that recovery is possible. I know, again, a life of vibrancy, contentment, and peace.
In times of confusion, discouragement, and affliction, I remind myself of this gift of the present. In all circumstances, it helps to know there is someone right there on your side. Someone rooting for you each step of the way. Someone who will walk with you, cry with you, and stand strong with you. Someone who values you, admires you, and cares deeply for you. Someone who would drop everything just to sit quietly with you…to patiently wait in silence with you, aspiring to bring comfort and assurance in reminding you to simply
…”be still and know.”
Be still, be calm, and be brave. Be still and know that there is such a thing as hope. Be still and know that it can indeed get better. I know, because I’ve been there. I know, because I’m here.