a personal page from Shannon's story.Mon Oct 22, 2018
Let me start out by introducing you to my “ex-friend”. Throughout my life, I constantly had negative thoughts about body image and food. The ex-friend was by my side, guiding me through these tough times. She would remind me that I was never enough, insecure, too fat, and self loathing. She was around 24/7 and wouldn’t allow for any inner peace. She would constantly remind me that if I got down to double digits on the scale, that it would be one of my proudest accomplishments. I didn't know she was an enemy at first. I thought that she was my friend and had my best interests at heart - boy was I a fool. She told me daily that I didn't need to eat certain foods and placed limitations on the foods that were permitted. She would tell me that going to bed without dinner was the COOLEST thing to do. She made me irritable, lonely, hungry, and delusional. I used to jump on the scale up to four times a day with her encouragement. We both had to keep up with the numbers and get to double digits - oh and I got to those double digits. But it was never enough. She hid quietly and blended in when I was around co-workers, friends and family. While she would hide, she was still very present in my mind, persisting that I skip meals, throw food away, make myself sick, among other things. She was exhausting. And I was tired of it. That's when I realized she was not a real friend. She was a true enemy.
I can't really remember a time that food and body image weren’t an integral part of my life. Growing up, food nurtured me. Feeling low? A brownie will help! Better yet, make it two! I would sneak food too (sorry mom and dad, confession time). When I was a child I was super active, so the binge-eating wasn’t as noticeable. I honestly didn’t think twice about grabbing two desserts. There were zero repercussions that went through my head. As I grew up, things began to change as I dealt with the challenges of being a teenage girl. I have memories from high school of friends checking in with me about my eating, and rumors circulating that I was anorexic, but I never considered my behaviors irregular.
Time went on and I lived my “normal” life none the wiser. The disorder really came in to play when I had major life changes. I moved in with a boy, purchased a house, and started my “adult” life. Little did I know, my mind was freaking out about the chaos that I had just signed up for. What do I do in chaos? Control everything regarding food. This is where it got bad, real bad, Michael Jackson bad.
I remember my boyfriend and I were on our way to the movies and were discussing where we were going to dinner. Not even answering his question, my overwhelmed and exhausted mind just blurted out - "I weighed myself 4 times today, and it's only 2:00 PM". Not knowing what to do with that information, who can blame him, he just called me "crazy". But that was the extent of that conversation. We loved to ignore the chaos. I know now, that was my cry for help.
I received an answer for that cry for help when I was forced to showcase my eating habits to my parents. Anyone else move back in with their parents after having already moved out? Hands up! One night for dinner, I made my own meal - naturally. They both sat down beside me and said “we gotta talk.” I knew what was about to go down before they even spoke another word. I started crying. They started crying. I blurted out that I was “so tired” of being in my head 24/7. My mom kept saying that I needed to get help. It took many years, and a move back into my childhood bedroom for me to finally agree with her. Yes, this is in writing - mom, I agreed with you - you were right.
From there we went to therapy together (my mom was my accountability partner - don’t leave the house without one). I was very receptive to speaking with someone. When you don’t express your true emotions for so many years, at some point you’re going to just share everything - with anyone. The first few sessions were about getting to know me and my habits. The next few sessions provided some homework. My therapist asked me to take a rest day one week. Was she out of her mind? But I did. Fun fact for everyone - a rest day is needed. This was news to me. Soon I was trying new food, going to restaurants without looking at the menu prior, eating multiple meals, trying new workouts, or incorporating rest days - it was so freeing but so nerve racking too. I was in my head the whole time, but I also knew that I was tired of feeling the way I had been feeling - so I had to embrace the little changes.
I started working out with a trainer and learning about being strong over skinny, and as a result, my whole mindset shifted. Funny concept here guys, muscle weighs more than fat. The scale doesn’t tell the whole story. I became enchanted by the whole fitness scene. This is when I found Zengo Cycle. I knew instantly that Zengo would hold a special place in my heart. I remember during my first few classes, I would cry during zen. All of these emotions would flood my body during those minutes and I would just explode. I could vibe with the music and forget about all the commotion in my head. Zengo is a place that helped my mindset change - now, my brain is telling me that being strong is the COOLEST.
Zengo isn’t the only person, place, or thing to which I can contribute my recovery. My family and friends were by my side 100% of the way. They may not have understood what was happening, but that never caused them to run the other way. My journey also led me to my husband. I was able to be more honest with him than I have ever been with anyone - including myself. I told him everything from the start, which in turn made our relationship blossom. He may not have fully understood what I was going through, but the fact that he acknowledged my thoughts and helped me work through them meant the world to me. Had he not been so understanding, we might not have gotten married. I say that not to be funny, but to be honest with you. This is not who I am, but this is something that I am constantly dealing with. For recovery to be successful you need people in your life who will show you empathy and stand by your side. Who will listen. What you and your support system decide to do with those thoughts are what make the recovery part successful and beautiful.
I chose to open up about all this because it’s time. It’s time we focus on being healthy - physically and mentally. In no way am I fully recovered, and I’m not sure if I will ever be. But I’m in a better, stronger place. Over the years I’ve worked to gain muscle, confidence, mental freedom, and to be stronger than ever before (cue Britney!). This story never gets easy to tell; but if I can inspire even one person to get out of a negative headspace and join me on the other side, I promise you, it’ll be worth it.