When I was 23 years old, I fell apart. It was inevitable. I had spent years eating less and less while running more and more. I whittled myself down to 95 pounds. My period stopped. My boobs disappeared. My loved ones voiced concern. My doctor urged me to make a change.
This is raw and honest. But, I believe that experiences are worth much more when we share them with each other. So, I share a piece of my story with you.
First, my cat. A while back, we had a black cat named “Bear”. She was the most darling, low maintenance pet ever (God rest her kitty soul.) She was also a free spirit. So, we set up her up with food and water in the garage, along with a hole in the garage door for her to pass through. It was a great system.
One Christmas, we took a week long road trip up the coast and left Bear at home unattended. She had plenty of food and water to last the week and we left the door from the garage to the house open so Bear could sleep inside. We had done this several times before and it always worked out fine. No big deal.
When we returned home from our trip, we found our house covered in cat piss. (I hate that word, but “pee” does not convey the nastiness that was sprayed all over the house.) I smelled it as soon as we pulled into the garage – my cat piss radar has always been right on. There was not a clean place in the house. The piss was everywhere, mostly on vertical surfaces – doors, walls, cabinets, curtains, my closet, our bed, the side of the couch, our fireplace, the toilet, and on and on.
Isaac was claiming Bear’s innocence (she was not in the habit of going pee in the house) as I searched her out with a wild rage in my eyes. I shed a few tears and threw (more than one) adult tantrum. Our wonderfully clean and fuss-free house was ruined. It took us hours to clean up and still days to rid the house from the stench. Even a week later I was finding sneaky piss spots in random places.
As it turned out, Bear was not the cat to blame. A few weeks after the initial incident, I came home from work to find some punk cat in the house. And the nasty animal was pissing on the wall by my kitchen! I screamed in serious horror as I watched the cat dash into the garage and through the cat door. We shut Bear’s door forever and the skank cat never stepped foot in my house again.
Let me tell you, having a random cat spray my house and personal belongings is one of my worst nightmares. It was horrible. I felt violated and disgusted and mad. I wanted to run away from my own home. I certainly considered selling the house, leaving everything (including my cat) behind and starting over somewhere clean.
The thought of living in such a mess was overwhelming.
So, here I was, 23 years old and very unhealthy. Despite warning signs and the urging of my loved ones, I didn’t see it. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle and still had a ways to go. The eating/exercise obsession was a symptom of deeply rooted issues, of course. My entire being (mind, body, soul) was in a very delicate place. I was ready to break.
And break I did. It all started with an injury to my leg during a harmless game with a group of Jr. High kids. Overnight, my running habit was put to rest. Somehow, running/working out several times per day kept my appetite down and I could get by on the smallest amounts of food (& Diet Coke). Without multiple daily workouts, the house of cards did not stand a chance. From a deep place inside, I began to unravel.
The anxiety and subsequent depression were debilitating. I struggled to be in public and found even brief conversations absolutely exhausting. I cried constantly and without real cause. I could barely maintain my part time serving job. Within the span of a year, I gained 40 pounds. From the inside out, I felt totally unrecognizable. I was a mess.
(Aside: during that same timeframe, Isaac and I were engaged and got married. Talk about a wild ride. I’ll have to tell that story sometime.)
My mind and body felt entirely out of my control. I didn’t know how to recover. I didn’t even know what to aim for. Although I could finally recognize how unhealthy my lifestyle was, the anxious/depressed/sick/unhappy state was so dark and unlivable I could barely stand it. I felt paralyzed.
On a daily basis, I begged God to let me start over.
And I longed to jump ship. To start fresh. To sleep the shittiness off and wakeup with a new mind and body.
I felt too disgusted, vulnerable, needy, ugly, fat, unattractive and worthless to think straight.
I wanted to sell the place and move somewhere new. Anywhere. My “self” was too overwhelming to deal with.
I can recall that emotional year vividly. I remember meeting people and feeling traumatized by who I was at the time. I felt ashamed and embarrassed to be such a mess on the inside and out… especially in my new role and fiancé and wife.
Some events, like my wedding day, are like movies playing over and over in my head. With regret, I watch myself. With sadness, I see my pain.
It was hard. Sometimes, even the memories still are.
It’s been almost 10 years since I unravelled. And yet, I am not without shadows of anxiety, depression and obsession with food/exercise/my body. It was my struggle then, it is now and likely always will be.
There are times that it’s not much of a battle and I cruise through days unfazed by my issues. But, other times can be scary and overwhelming. It requires consistent work to manage my emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes it feels too big.
The past few weeks, it has been more difficult than usual. It’s prompted me to revisit my journey and identify the progress I have made. Because I have made huge progress.
I have not moved out, but I have moved on.
Moving on without moving out is the challenge.
Because it’s terribly hard to live in a place that’s under construction. Because it feels hopeless to be in need of restoration. Because shame and devastation are paralyzing.
And yet, we live in the construction zones of our own lives. It’s messy, raw and uncomfortable. But, we must still choose to work on ourselves.
Because we are worth restoration. Because we are not alone. Because we have a life worth living and a story worth telling.