February 22nd, 2007 I took a detour from my immaculately planned out life and confronted my darkest secrets head on. In turn, I changed the course of my life forever. It was the scariest moment going through it, but I am afraid where I would be now if I didn’t. Here is my story, and what happened ten years ago.
This article shares my story regarding recovery around sexual abuse and eating disorders. Though I am not graphic in the article, if you are triggered by these topics, feel free to skip this one. If you are seeking help, please feel free to see the references at the bottom of the page.
I was a Sophmore in college 3,000 miles away from home. I had a scholarship to my first pick school. I declared my major, was part of a sorority, and held many positions within the community. Just the semester prior, I was in the running for homecoming queen. People knew who I was and I seemed happy. But moments alone, I was quickly crashing. I barely slept, I took diet pills to keep going during the day and sleeping pills to fall asleep at night. I barely ate and exercised like a fiend. I would slip into the communal bathrooms to cry. I would cry all. the. time. I began skipping classes to drive aimlessly around town. I was so hazy, I barely knew which way was up.
All of the many years of being sexually abused and the betrayal had finally caught up with me. All my old numbing tricks stopped working. I couldn’t simply “push down” the feelings anymore. I was killing myself in the process of trying to get away from the pain that lived deep inside. I had only one sensible idea left, to ask for help.
In a 72 hour whirlwind, on February 22nd I walked into a rehab in the middle of Arizona. After several signed papers, a routine evaluation, and my bags thoroughly inspected, I was officially checked in and given a bed for the next 6 weeks. Though it was a beautiful facility that resembled a nice resort, I wasn’t thrilled to be there with a bunch of addicts and a fence around the perimeter.
But that is where I began my journey of recovery. I never had a drink or did drugs, never even smoked a cigarette up to that point, but I was just as bad off as any addict detoxing. That is how powerful sexual abuse affects an individual and how devastating an eating disorder is to our bodies.
I was terrified out of my mind, not know what will happen next. So many questions swirled in my head. What am I doing here? What about school? What about graduating on time? Where will I go after this?
I am like everyone else, a human being with a plan and had feelings of remorse and guilt not living up to everyone’s expectations. But know what I discovered? Life isn’t perfectly planned. If it is, then I’m living too small. I also learned that people will always judge things they don’t understand, and to accept that part of life.
I eventually moved to New York City where I started a life all over again from scratch. I worked every single day to heal. It is a lot of work, dedication, time, patience, and financial resources to recover. I am not sure it is said much, but it is work. I am proud of the work I put in. I am proud of the work others before me put in.
The most healing moment was listening to another survivor of sexual abuse share her story. She wasn’t crying. She instead had a happy life. She lived in abundance and love. 10 years ago, I was so broken that I didn’t even think that was possible. Seeing her and listening to her gave me so much hope. It allowed me to see that I too can heal, it is possible to not cry every single day.
The journey wasn’t always easy. I had people judging on the sidelines as they watched. I had doctors wanting to load me up on pills as an answer. I had people wanting me to stay mute and not talk about my experience because it was an inconvenience to them… What I did through and through that saved my life was listen to my instincts. I lived by the direction I got from within, I trusted people who had the recovery I wanted and was humble enough to be teachable. I worked hard every day for the last 10 years, doing things I probably didn’t want to do but knew it would help heal me.
Guess what happened? Things began to turn around. I began to have a community who knew me, all of me, and still loved me. They were behind me and supported me when I had moments of hardship and doubt. I could walk down the streets of New York and run into people who had my back. My eating disorder lifted.
Overall, my life has become big. Bigger than I ever imagined! I laugh so hard I cry. I know what love is. I have experienced amazing life moments because I am able to be present and say yes. I am no longer in fear and I feel safe today. I go months (sometimes years) without even think about the abuse or the abuser. I am grateful for the help I received and the hard work I put in.
If you are struggling with an addiction, abuse, trauma, or feel trapped in any way, please give yourself a chance and seek help. There is no shame in finding recovery.
If you are in the beginning stages of recovery, please promise me you won’t give up on yourself. It takes a lot of work and I know you have it in you to do it.
If you are on the road of recovery, keep going, keep sharing inspiration, keep shining your light! You are amazing and I am so proud of you.
If you want to give up, I love you and many others love you. You have more to give in this life and more to experience than ever imagined. If I was able to do this, you certainly can too.
Thank you for reading this message. If you have been sexually abused, you are not alone. Here are centers that are available to help:
WOAR– free individual and group counseling
The Refuge- A Healing Place for child sexual abuse
The Freedom Institute– NYC based