By summer 2010, I knew I wanted to write a book on my experiences with an eating disorder. People often ask what got me started in the process, or how I became a writer. I started writing because I stopped “therapy” and craved a safe outlet. I was already in school and working as a personal trainer. At the gym, I started writing notes in my phone. Short notes on breaks, which evolved into note taking on the train, in a parked car, while waiting in line at the store, etc. I additionally started blogging. I shared the blog with some people. But blogging was difficult. What I wrote was of a very personal and exploratory nature. So, I stopped blogging and started writing for myself. That was where the challenge began!
I dropped my job at the gym then undertook a new position for school credit. I did not take summer classes and lived at home, which gave me an opportunity to write. In the fall, I continued with my “new” position (not for school credit) and an additional independent study along with taking classes at school and online. I actually took quite a few classes of the master’s level such as food policy and behavior change, alternative medicine, anatomy/physiology, behavioral medicine and advanced online courses in nutrition. There were also various classes in health communication and programming plus women’s health.
Overall, it was the motivation to write my own story that kept me focused and interested in school. Through my college education I studied eating disorders from a variety of perspectives ranging from beauty ideals to eastern philosophies and ultimately realized sharing my own growth and experiences connects with me more than continuing to study or becoming a scientist or social worker, for instance. Thus, by senior year I mostly had electives to fulfill, general education and lower level courses. At this time I stopped all other outside work to focus on my book and enjoy new movement forms rather than train others.
The last semester of college, I took six courses, including electives in cross training, walking/jogging (which was really running), fitness or aerobics plus a night class in stress reduction. My general education courses were in anthropology and literature. Thankfully I got “honors” statistics out of the way my first semester at school. Still, I thought I might drop the honors program then ended up receiving credit for it through the grad-level classes I took. I had no idea I was going to graduate “summa cum laude” and did not quite know what that meant until my dad made a deal of it. This type of distinction is cool; it makes me feel more competitive than confident.
Outside of school, being in the gym and working with women a lot I realized how much of an issue body image is. Before turning twenty-one, I did not wish to talk about my experiences with an eating disorder. I felt people would judge me or not want to work with me anymore. Some clients even joked around about eating disorders, but I never said anything. This is part of the reason why coming out with my book was difficult, albeit glad I did! I’ve changed so much over the last few years and imagine that without writing there would still be so many secrets and so much pain and more holding in. I harbor respect for my self as a storyteller. I think there’s a lot of pressure, though, like more “higher” education somehow makes you a better person but I am creative, disciplined and hard-working enough on my own.
During the time period of writing my book and being in school I spent time in nature often. I also walked quite a bit outside or foam rolled in the fitness center between classes to clear my head. Today, I likewise focus on keeping my body happy and functioning well. When I get too caught up in my head or spend too much time on the computer is when I start to “get OCD” as some people say. Keeping a nice environment for myself at home tells me I care. I also eat when I am hungry and keep food as simple as possible.
Generally, I did not find a spark with guys at school. Numerous girls in my classes were athletes or involved in campus activities I wasn’t. In many of my classes I was open about my book and eating disorder. Being opinionated related to health issues that are important to me personally kind of made me stick out at times, but not in bad ways. Thankfully, I also met people through blogging and my career field. Education hasn’t necessarily purified my intelligence; that is however my intention.
Sometimes it can be hard to realize school is over; I don’t need to think in terms of academia. The need to measure up to standards is a huge theme in Sick, along with feelings of inferiority. I don’t want to look back or be caught up in this world anymore. I did good things in school, like creating a support group for a project and being open about my history with anorexia nervosa. When I chose to major in health promotion my dad didn’t get it and now, ironically, he’s coming out with his own book inspired at least in part by the fact that I wrote my story.