Disclaimer: This story contains details pertaining to anorexia that may be upsetting to some.
Where My Story Started
“There’s this quote from Maya Angelou that states, ‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’ And it’s one I share frequently on my Instagram as I love it so much. Why? Because it describes life so perfectly… it’s not like we come into this world with a guidebook of what is right and what is wrong. We are born into this world, without knowing much of anything, so we are able to live and learn as we go. Sounds great, but what happens when you make a mistake, and what happens when what you learn is wrong? Do you still have the chance to live a life worth living or do you give up?
For those who don’t know me, I’m Michele. I’m a content creator, freelance writer, coach, and the founder of a platform called Not a Standard.
Sounds great on paper, but I didn’t share everything. Because if I did, you would see that I’m also what I call a survivor times ten. My life was anything but easy, and there were so many times when I literally cried myself to sleep wondering if and when all the bad things would stop happening to me. I’d think about when everything went wrong and what I did to deserve it all. And ultimately, I realized that it all started out at age five when my brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Read that again.
Why? Because my brother’s diagnosis didn’t just affect him, it affected the whole family as well. In just a matter of days from when he got sick to when he got diagnosed, we went from eating a variety of foods to just a few select foods.
The chicken fingers that we once ate were replaced with healthier grilled chicken cutlets, the cheesy broccoli was replaced with steamed broccoli, and the maple syrup we enjoyed at breakfast was replaced with the sugar-free version, of course.
Besides these changes, I watched my mom bring out the food scale at every single meal. Instead of serving everyone with a fork or a spoon, she would meticulously calculate what my brother needed and spoon it on a plate while measuring it. When he was done and he would ask for more, she would sadly have to tell him that he was done for the night. And he’d get upset not understanding quite why he couldn’t eat more than what was plated for him on his plate.
As a five-year-old watching this every single meal day-by-day, I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t eat if he was hungry, as before we had lived according to hunger cues.
Learning Unhealthy Behaviors
Ultimately, it led me to want to be healthy as well. But what I hadn’t realized at the time was that his ‘healthy’ was VERY different than mine. Ultimately, learning the wrong way of healthy when I was young led me down a very long and dark path filled with devastation…that I never thought would end.
A dark path which meant…
- Turning down snacks at school… even though no other kid second-guessed it.
- Eating less than I needed at meals…despite the hunger I felt.
- Restricting my fat intake for years to less than 10 grams…despite feeling unsatisfied at meals.
- Over-exercising and later fracturing my foot when I was only in 4th grade…despite knowing it was wrong.
- Restricting entire food groups out of my diet for years and years…while watching others in awe. I didn’t get how they ate normally and stayed in shape.
Ultimately, it was a dark path that just seemed to get worse with time and stress.
And while most focus on food and exercise in the adolescent stage, I started as a kid. For years and years, I lived my life according to food rules and food jags. When low-fat diets and the Special K diet were in, you better believe I was following it as that’s what I thought was healthiest…that’s what was published in magazines.
It wasn’t healthy, especially for me, just growing up.
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I got through but still struggled with body image and food. While I struggled quite a bit, my behaviors were left undiagnosed for quite some time. That was, until my senior year of high school when I went downhill FAST.
My Parents’ Divorce
A day or so before my senior year of high school, my Dad came into my bedroom late at night. I didn’t know what was going on as I had just gotten back from my summer house with my mom. I was already mentally exhausted from all the fighting they have been doing all summer, but in a split second, what I thought was mentally exhausted seemed like nothing. In the few seconds that my dad said that he had an affair, my life changed quite a bit.
That year, the fighting, the drama, and just the pain led me to resort to food and exercise as a way to cope with the pain. Every single day that I’d get home from school, I’d eat egg whites and STEAMED vegetables. Even though I’d still be hungry when I finished, I’d hop on the treadmill at an incline of 10 or 12. I’d run with the music blasting until I couldn’t anymore. Oftentimes when I got off, I’d feel chest pains, and occasionally I wondered if I’d die in my sleep.
During this period in time, I started seeing a therapist, nutritionist, and doctor…none of which helped me. Most of them just threw out meal plans, told me what to eat, and didn’t listen to what I needed.
The First Attempt
As a result, I just kept going downhill and downhill physically… and my weight drastically dropped. My school uniform started falling off of me, and I started looking gaunt. Getting worse and worse daily led me to get an ultimatum. I was forced by my high school to go to inpatient for anorexia.
To make a very long story short, it didn’t help me much. It was more of a ‘bandaid solution’ for me as when I got out, I felt the same as before. I was just as scared or even more so of certain foods. And I was more obsessive with exercise as, during my inpatient stay, they never showed me how to balance food and exercise. I just made it through the summer and was set to go for my first semester at college. While I was already nervous about going to school, it was made worse. My dad intentionally filed divorce papers the day before I went to college to hurt me. And he did.
As you can imagine, going to college was anything BUT easy for me given what I had been through. Instead of having a normal college experience, I’d say that I survived the first semester. I ate just to get by rather than for enjoyment. And I exercised just as much, if not more. As the semester went on, I started to worry more and more. And as the stress got worse, so did the struggles with anorexia.
By the time the semester was done, I was relieved to be home. Yet, for me, that meant walking in to meet my mom’s (now-ex boyfriend) at the door. What I didn’t realize at the time was what stress would await me… this situation was anything but optimal. And as a result, I decided to take a medical leave from college and go back to inpatient to see if it would help if I did another round.
It didn’t. I walked out with the same mindset as before. Not only was my mindset the same, but this time I had a bad situation to live in at home. This time, unlike the last, I was living with my mom’s boyfriend who was unemployed and an alcoholic. He was mentally and verbally abusive to me nearly every single day, and he used my eating disorder as a way to attack me. Oftentimes he’d cook for everyone but me, put plates out for everyone but myself, and/or label the foods in the fridge with names in a method to ‘break me’ and to get me out of the house. It was a bad situation to be in for anyone, but for someone with an eating disorder, it was worse.
And while there’s a lot more to the story and a lot more than I HAVE to share about this situation, ultimately after months and months, he was cuffed out of my house and we were given a restraining order. It took a while to get past everything that occurred, but eventually, I went back to college at the University of Vermont and proved everyone wrong. I graduated with a pre-medical background, took courses simultaneously that I was told by college counselors not to, and passed them all with a 4.0 GPA and an award.
Screw it. If everyone told me that I couldn’t, I would.
Feeling Lost And Confused
In spite of this, I was still in a bad place. Because I never truly dealt with the eating disorder, I slowly started to deteriorate yet again, losing more and more weight. I went for outpatient help, but to make a very long story short, as I started eating more, my metabolism shot up. I lost weight, and I was kicked out of getting outpatient help due to hospital guidelines and health insurance guidelines (and for being honest) pretty much to fend for myself.
At this point, I was angry, infuriated, and upset. I felt that I had been through so many situations before this point and that none of it mattered. I felt as if I was just a number rather than a person within the medical system. I felt like a LOST CAUSE. I mean, even the medical systems that were in place to help people, gave up.
And while it’s crazy looking back, seeing how I could have died (as many others before me have), this is the point where I said screw it and did the things I feared. Instead of relying on medical systems to heal me, I healed myself mentally and physically using what I learned at school.
My Healing Process
I started using fitness and food as a way to heal my body. And slowly, I started fighting food fears and finding a balance with exercise that I never had before. It took years, tears, and quite a lot of patience, but it was all worth it in the end. Why? Because this is the first time since I was five that I’ve been able to truly live.
What does that even mean? For me, it’s been eating dark chocolate every day without fear. It’s about going on vacations for the first time in my life being able to eat out and having some kind of flexibility. It’s about being able to come home to a place that I feel safe in, which I hadn’t for quite a while. It’s about doing exercises and workouts that make me feel good, and knowing that rest days are oftentimes necessary. It’s about doing more than surviving, but thriving. It’s about:
- Mentoring others as a coach to #screwitdoit to become their healthiest and happiest selves
- Using my experience and my story to inspire others to #screwitdoit on my Instagram and my blog. Using my pre-medical background and education as a freelance writer to educate others about proper nutrition
- Starting a platform called Not a Standard where others could share their stories of struggle to inspire others, connect with those who can help, and educate each other a bit more to END the stigmas associated with struggle. To be announced…
But you get it, it’s crazy. I’m doing everything I thought I never could do and more. And it’s all because I said screw it and did the things I was scared of. not just with food, but with everything. I’ve flown to California despite not flying for 9+ years due to flight anxiety, I’ve gotten a Goldendoodle in my 30’s because it’s what I wanted to do (not because everyone else agreed), and took a one-way flight to California (without any sense of certainty). And I’m happier than I’ve ever been because of this #screwitdoit philosophy.
And that’s just it. Going back on what I said at the beginning of my story, I’d have to say one thing. It’s never too late to re-learn everything you once learned before. It’s never too late to make your life better than it was before. It’s never too late to say screw it to the past (or even the odds) and get the life you want. All it takes is one ‘step’ at a time.
Let’s do this, let’s say #screwitdoit and get the lives we deserve.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michele Christine Weinstein. You can follow her journey on Instagram accounts here and here, website, and on LinkedIn. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories like this here:
‘You’re embarrassing to be seen with.’ My BMI was too high. He told me, ‘I want to break up, I’m bored.’ I began starving myself for his attention.’: Woman urges ‘never let anyone determine your worth’ after nearly-fatal eating disorder
‘Half my bowel was coming out of my body. The doctor said, ‘Hannah, I have no idea what to do with you anymore.’: Woman survives life-long battle with eating disorders after trauma, ‘There is always hope for change’
Help us show compassion is contagious. SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.