Facing Fear by Christine

Pre-Mountain Climb

Last summer, I traveled to South Africa on a three week mission trip. At the end of the trip, we had the opportunity to explore Cape Town. As a group, we knew we had three days to soak up all Cape Town had to offer. We learned about a popular landmark called Table Top Mountain. After we researched what we could do on Table Top Mountain, we found out that we could take a cable car to the top of the mountain where there were shops, snacks, and a restaurant. I was nervous from the start to even go to the top of the mountain due to my fear of heights. Once I heard about the cable car I was a little relieved because I knew I would not have to hike up the mountain and deal with my fear of heights.

Morning of the Climb

As a group, we were dropped off at the bottom of the mountain. It was a beautiful sunny day outside with no cloud in sight. Locals mentioned to us to go to the top of the mountain on a non-cloudy day to get the best view of Cape Town. We were blessed with such a beautiful day. Once we arrive, we found out that the cable cars were out of commission due to yearly maintenance. That meant one thing, we had to climb up to the top of the mountain to see the breathtaking views that everyone talked about. As a group, we decided to climb. I had one water bottle and was wearing non-hiking shoes. I knew it was going to be a challenge for me due to my fear of heights. There was nothing to hold on to as we were walking up the mountain. Just you and the ground. My shoes slipped on some of the rocks and my heart stopped.  An hour into the hike I finish my water and realize how scared I actually was. I did not look down because I knew it would freak me out and the fear would make me want to go back down. Let me tell you, it got harder and harder to breathe as you walk up. Two hours into the hike I wanted to quit and go back down. I saw how far up we were and I was scared. I told myself I couldn’t do this anymore. With encouragement from my boyfriend, he told me, “You have to step up to the plate and swing the bat.” I decided to continue up and not look down. I finally made it up the mountain after three long hours of climbing. It felt so good to be on flat land.

After the Climb

This hike was a challenge mentally and physically. Three hours to get up the mountain and two hours to get down. My stamina was challenged along the way and I’m glad I was able to push through the negative thoughts of wanting to quit.  I was not prepared at all for this adventure, but I am glad I was able to make it to the top and face my fear of heights. I learned I can’t go through life letting negative thoughts stop me from challenging myself. Today, when I start to doubt myself I say, “You have to step up to the plate and swing the bat”.

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You Are Enough By Zyann

Hello , my name is Zyann Walker and I am 16 years old. I attend John Marshall School of Engineering and I am honored to give a little detail about my personal issues I dealt with in the past to help other girls that may be going through the same or similar problems. To begin with, first I would like to apologize to each and every female who has been through or is currently going through bullying issues or insecurities within themselves. You are beautiful and strong and there is nothing wrong with you at all. You are going to get older and realize you are better than some nasty words that are said or written about you. I learned to love myself no matter what people say about me or how they make fun of me because words are just words. I used to be bullied about my height because I was very short and how my ears were so tiny for my head and how my nose was too big for my face. Those were insecurities that I always had until now. I learned to accept the fact that I am beautiful just the way I am, and so are you. Dealing with those insecurities, I always wanted to get surgery when I was older to fix those problems. As I’ve grown, I have realized words are just words said out of a bully’s mouth. I don't ever want you to change how you look because of another person who makes fun of you. The best way you can deal with a bully is to talk to an adult you trust like a teacher or parent or to simply just ignore them. Thank you for your time and for listening to my story. I hope you are able to read this and realize your own worth and beauty.      

I Am Worthy By Karen

I once thought I was unworthy.  I wanted to be like someone else.  It’s not so much I did not like myself, I assumed that other people wanted me to be different, including my mother.  Growing up I dreamed I would have a zillion friends and I would be the person others would turn to. However, I spent so much time dreaming and thinking about who I wanted to be I didn’t take the steps into the journey that would lead me there.  I kept recreating my story but never put it on paper or into action. However, now that I look back I did accomplish a lot despite the fact I did not give myself credit for my efforts.

I got married at the age of twenty-one believing that if I was a good wife and made my husband happy, I would be happy too. Unfortunately, I spent so much time trying to please him; I became angry, bitter, feeling like a loser as I found myself divorced.  Evolving into a single mom and not knowing how to live my life without a husband and father was terrifying because I had to be me!

When I met my best friend, my husband of thirty-five years I was given the opportunity to be me.  Not knowing how to be me I struggled until my youngest son brought to my attention that I would never be happy if I didn’t make myself happy.  He told me I could not live vicariously through him, and making his dad smile was not a guarantee I would smile. He pushed me to turn obstacles into challenges that I could meet.

In 2013, just shortly after completing my advanced college degree with honors, I fell into a depression.  Although I did not understand it, this was my turning point. It was like I allowed my body and mind hit rock bottom, so I could begin the climb out of the pit.  I began making choices that would make me happy, “If momma is happy, everyone’s happy.” I chose to use my degree and the compassion I have for broadcasting to formulate a podcast(s) that would allow me to share my experiences in a way that someone else may benefit.  I accept that it is not my way or the highway, nor do I have to follow the road that other’s may be speeding down. I chose forks in the road; some were good choices, others were not! However, each choice was a lesson to learn and become more educated in learning about myself.

Life is not perfect; we all suffer along the way.  But, we have the choice on how much we will allow the pain to interfere in our journey to wellness.  It is our emotional wellness that we can control or receive the guidance to control. No one can do this for us; we must do it for ourselves.

Recently I chose to reach out to women (and men) to share empowerment strategies.  It begins with identifying what is important in your life, and what is important in mine is to lessen the burdens I have put on myself.  I lived most of my life believing I was not “good enough for my mother” only to find out in her last weeks of life that I was. I refuse to live with the regrets of my thoughts. Instead, I can live with the knowledge that came from caring for her when she was in need.  Empowerment allows us to chose the right and left turns in the maze of life. Doing so with a free heart has provided me with happier days, and smiles even when the sky is gray. I have become intentional, and even when I am not, I intentionally know that it’s OK.

Today I like me.  I may not always like my hair, make-up or my reflection in the mirror, but I like the person I have become, facing challenges as obstacles along the way to push to aside, jump over, or when push gets to shove, hit it straight on!

My mission is to share in the dialogue, yours, mine and ours.   When this is accomplished, we will bring the circle of life together creating a beautiful tapestry.

Struggling With Stress? Try Sleeping on It by Sara Westgreen

When you get stressed out, everything seems a lot harder to deal with - from the source of the stress to having to cook dinner. That’s because stress actually does make it harder to deal with everything, as does a lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep is so common in young adults thanks to the large amounts of schoolwork, social activities and extracurricular activities. One study found that 7.5 percent of adolescents met the criteria to be diagnosed with a clinical mental health condition and that those problems were also exacerbated by the lack of sleep.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that study participants who only got 4.5 hours of sleep a night for a week reported feeling “stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted.”

However, they were able to turn that around after only a week of getting a full night’s sleep. Since more than 35 percent of American adults and approximately 67 percent of high schoolers don’t get a full night’s sleep, we are all probably a little more stressed than we need to be, and  lack of sleep can be making people significantly more stressed.

This is especially important to recognize when it comes to young people; like the preteens in your life.

A 2013 study that was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that just after a few days with a little bit shorter sleep, teens’ ability to regulate their negative emotions decreased significantly and they had a pretty bad mood in general, generally because of the lack of sleep.

This makes their stress significantly harder to deal with, and it makes it easier for them to become stressed if they aren’t already.

If you or the preteen in your life is struggling to fix problems that are complicated and stressful, it’s recommended that they sleep on it. Sometimes, even a nap will do.

Not only are naps great for boosting your problem-solving skills, but they also give you a boost of energy while you’re trying to finish a project.

A 1993 Harvard study found that half of the people who asked themselves the question before bed were able to dream about the question and find a solution that seemed reasonable for their problem. Plus, those few extra minutes of sleep can actually help your preteen function better in the long run.

However, stress can also keep you from sleeping, so it turns into a bit of a cycle where you are stressed because you haven’t gotten any sleep and then you don’t get any sleep because you are stressed.

Tips to Help Your Preteen Destress & Sleep Better:

Have them keep a regular bedtime whenever possible

This may not make you a cool parent, but it will make the preteen in your life feel a whole lot better.

Allow naps after school

If your child knows that they are going to have a late night, make some time for an afternoon nap to replace the sleep that they’ll be losing later that evening. This will give them a burst of energy and keep them out of the caffeine.

Schedule time in for de-stressing activities like yoga, meditation or reading

Make sure that there is some time in their day that is purposefully left alone for non-stressful activities. Something like yoga or meditation could be great for your preteen’s psyche and mental health. It can also help them solve the problems that they are stressing over without focusing on them.

Let them vent to you about their problems

If the preaching in your life is having some problems, let them vent to you. You might not have a solution, and that’s okay. Just listening and acknowledging their struggle can help them with the stress of the problem.

Help them re-organize their room to be more comfortable

Take a look around their bedroom and asked them what usually distracts them when they are trying to sleep - is their bed uncomfortable? Does light leak in through the window? Is their phone distraction? Help them to rearrange or reduce the distractions in their room to help them get a good night’s sleep whenever possible.

Talk to a doctor

If your child is struggling to sleep for more than a week straight, talk to a doctor. There may be an underlying cause that you don’t know about that a doctor could diagnose and solve.

If you notice that your whole family is struggling to sleep well, check your carbon monoxide detector and make sure that it’s functioning properly.

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Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.


Loving Learning By Tiffany

I was home-schooled from 1-12th grade and I had always wished I could go to public school. Being able to have teachers, classmates, prom and a cafeteria. I wanted the full experience that I’ve only read in my many fiction books. Our homeschool curriculum was book based. The Internet had not really taken off yet and if you needed information you went to the library to find a book.  I loved the library and I would read at least two books a week, I had ample time to do so as I had no friends and helicopter parents who were afraid of the world and everything in it.

Growing up I was known as the quiet and shy girl. I never spoke unless required, never contributed to conversations. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say it was that I didn’t know how to say it. One if the things that I had trouble with was efficiently expressing myself through speech. Trying to contribute a conversation felt like trying to Double Dutch and tripping over all of the ropes!  One day I was in the grocery store eavesdropping in a conversation. I then found myself starting to listen to the “technique” should I say of the conversation. How they started the conversation, added to the conversation, ended the conversation and transitioned to a new topic. I took mental notes and tried those techniques out to see what worked and what didn’t. I then, feeling really awkward, tried practicing on people! Sometimes the conversation would be about the weather and other times the person would simply talk about themselves and their life. I definitely felt awkward bleating my conversation starters, which, would often end with that awkward silence that everyone dreads, until I asked another question. I also realized communication is mostly nonverbal my facial expressions and body positions were just as important to what I said.  I realized that I am still a better listener than speaker, but just getting myself out of my comfort zone felt really good and exciting!

About 15 years later I still dissect conversations in my head leaning from calming techniques to facial expressions. I also joined and online speaking club named “Speaker Sisterhood”. Public speaking is the number one fear in America! Practicing public speaking helped me to organize my thoughts and present them so I could feel more comfortable and make connections to others. Everyone has a story and what they have to say is valid. Realizing this in myself is one thing I am consistently learning and practice implementing in my life. I too have thoughts and ideas that are valid and relevant in this world.

I love self-improvement and learning outside of the classroom! Not only am I consistently learning how to improve my speech but also one of the thing I am constantly working on is being brave. Being brave to me is simply doing the things I am fearful to do, the things that are out of my comfort zone such as starting conversations with others. Stating my opinion even if it is not commonly accepted. Through being open to speaking and being brave, I have meet some wonderful people that I may have never meet and have relationships with people I may never have had if I never tried the things that I was scared to do. I am challenging myself every day not to say, “I could never do that” and instead say, “I can give it my best shot!” I try to remember to pat myself on the back for the things I have accomplished and also always try to improve on the things that need work.

Everywhere is a learning opportunity, every interaction and every day is a giant schoolroom. I encourage you to be brave, do the thing you may be scared to do and live your life to your fullest!  

The Rising by Emily

Some time when we are very small, we learn to fear pain. Even though our parents promise us lollipops after the doctor, or a trip to the toy store after the dentist, we would rather miss out on the reward if it means skipping the discomfort.

Then we get a little older, and we come to understand the power of preventative medicine, so we suck it up. More importantly, by this point we’ve probably experienced a broken bone or a few stitches or, at the very least, strep throat and the chicken pox.

When you experience, you learn you can survive.

The first time I got drunk was welcome weekend of college. I drank to become courageous and beautiful and fun, and then I drank to forget who I was becoming. I was drunk when I kissed my best friend’s boyfriend; I was drunk when I cheated on my own boyfriend; I was drunk when I hurt someone I cared about beyond reparation. I drank before I went into work and I drank when I got home. At the time, this did not feel like alcoholism. My mom constantly warned me against addiction. My father, who did not often offer his feelings up to us, lovingly encouraged me to be careful.

I drank before I made myself throw up food I just ate. I drank enough to feel calm and then I drank more until I felt more anxious than before I started. I felt normal drinking at bars with my friends but felt sick drinking at home by myself.

When I was a senior in college, I laid in bed at night and counted my ribs to help me fall asleep. During the day, whenever I felt anxious, I would wrap my hand around my wrist and make sure my thumb and middle finger could easily touch. I tried to see how far up my forearm I could go before my fingers couldn’t reach each other anymore. That moment always felt like failure. I went to the gym six, sometimes seven days a week, but no amount of exercise could compete with the war my mind was waging on my body over food.

I have been addicted to so many things—love, lust, exercise, alcohol—but the one constant through those things is my addiction to self-loathing. I used to weigh 112 pounds at age 20 height 5’4”. I was muscular, fit, healthy, and wore a size 0 jean. I was miserable.

Mental illness receives much more attention today than it has in the past, and that is a very good thing. But for me, it felt like I was hopping on the anxiety bandwagon, and I hated it. Everyone I knew was sharing memes on Facebook about dealing with anxiety and hundreds of articles, the authors of which always seemed to think they were the only ones who knew what anxiety or depression was really like. Most of what I read did not resonate with me. I had a career, a good amount of friends, and did all my housework and paid my bills and did not hate to make phone calls. I did not have insomnia and I definitely didn’t prefer cats to humans.

Please do not mistake my intentions—I am not making fun of the above symptoms. All of those things can be difficult for people struggling with mental illness, something I knew all too well from watching my sister battle her own fight against depression and social anxiety.

The fact that I resisted my therapist’s diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder had everything to do with my own limited understanding of a multi-faceted illness that manifests differently in each and every person. Even a year after beginning therapy, I still hesitate to name my own symptoms as anxiety-related behaviors, mostly because they are what I have always done. They are as much a part of my personality as my sarcastic humor and as much a part of my genetics as my hazel eyes. I didn’t want to face my diagnosis because I wasn’t ready to acknowledge my pain.

Self-doubt is painful. Anxiety is painful. Eating disorders are painful. Loneliness is painful. Alcoholism is painful. Shame is painful. Naming your demons out loud is painful.

Glennon Doyle Melton said, “First the pain, then the rising.”

Sweet sisters, we need to feel our pain. We need to say: “Here we are. We are ready to feel crappy. We are ready to embrace our past in order to become our most beautiful selves.” Because that’s what life is. It’s crappy sometimes. And then it’s beautiful. In order to become who we were created to be, we need to experience all that was meant for us. We cannot avoid the lesson, we cannot abandon the calling because it looks messy or uncomfortable or just plain hard. We need to feel the pain so that we can rise.

I hope, I truly, truly hope, you choose to rise.

How Physical Fitness Improved My Self-Esteem by Rachel

Last semester, I had the privilege of hearing Leah speak at John Carroll. What a motivating talk! I was so inspired by Leah's obvious passion for not just physical health, but emotional health as well. She made it clear that there is a strong link between taking care of one's body and having a healthy sense of self-esteem. As someone who is particularly passionate about women's health, I found Leah's focus on empowering girls very admirable. When I was in middle school and high school, and even afterwards, I really struggled with low self-esteem. I looked at myself and saw nothing special. I genuinely didn't feel any love for myself. Thankfully, my self-esteem has increased a lot since then, and I think taking care of my body more has really influenced that.

After hearing Leah's talk, I began a morning workout routine that I try to do 5 days a week. I do two sets of pushups, crunches, lunges, squats, planks, etc. I also life weights. It's a very basic routine, but in the mere two weeks since I began it, I already feel better physically and emotionally. Working out has also encouraged me to maintain a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and limited in added sugars. I find that, the more I take care of my body, the more I love it and the less I care about all the petty body insecurities I have held for far too long. I realize that taking care of my body should be something I do for me, not just to impress other people.

During her talk, Leah mentioned that in her work she seeks to show girls effective workout routines that they can perform in their rooms. When she first mentioned this, I was a bit confused. I thought, "why is this relevant? Why can't you just go to a gym if you really want to work out?" Little did I realize how exclusive gym memberships can be. This has made more sense to me in recent weeks. After some changes in my life, I have decided to relocate to New York City this summer. After calculating my costs of living compared to my income, I've realized that I will simply have no money left over to afford a gym membership in such an expensive city. So Leah's in-house workout routines have become very relevant to me.

Furthermore, it is certainly true that many girls do not feel safe walking alone to a gym or a workout center of some sort. This is very sad and messed up, but it's a reality that we cannot deny. In so many ways, women are still disadvantaged in our society, and so it is completely common for a girl to have reservations about walking to and from the gym in the dark after a day at work.
I firmly believe that taking care of one's body helps lead to emotional health. Once emotionally healthy, a girl is more likely to see and understand the great beauty, individuality, and worth that she has, and always will have. 

Finally, in addition to Leah's message being inspiring, Leah herself is inspiring. She is a young woman who has decided to mold her career and her passion into one, and to shape a career not just for income, but for a positive social impact. I personally was very inspired by her. Seeing Leah follow her convictions to spark change in society, I was encouraged to hold onto my own dreams, which also revolve around changing this world for the better. My hope is, when other girls hear Leah talk, that they also feel encouraged, and that they recognize that the power to change the world is within them too.

Grief & Loss by Jane Arnoff Logsdon LSW, ACHP-SW

Let’s talk about grief and loss. And death. Not popular subjects and different from most of what I have seen on the blog so far. What I have seen is women who are embracing and sharing their talents and gifts. Working with grieving individuals is empowering, profound and allows me to use my gifts. I have also found that working as a grief support professional challenges me to look within myself and continually grow.

I am the School Liaison with Western Reserve Grief Services, which is part of Hospice of the Western Reserve, Inc. My job is coordinating and ensuring delivery of grief services in the school setting. We serve any staff or student at a Northern Ohio school who needs grief support due to a death in the school community.   Current affiliation with Hospice of the Western Reserve is not a requirement. 

We listen to painfully sad stories. We sit with students and staff as they cry and begin to mourn both sudden and anticipated deaths. We gently offer words of comfort or we just provide presence.  We explore ways to remember and honor loved ones who have died. We guide students to create and remember and grieve through art or drama or music. We offer suggestions to help them cope and we encourage them to use their own innate resources, which they may not even realize exist.

The work breaks my heart sometimes, but it also expands it. I can hold pain and sadness that I take in, but then eventually let it flow through me like water. Otherwise I would not be able to do this job. And I am grateful to have the ability to connect with students and staff so that they feel accepted wherever they are in their grief journeys. 

Despite the extremely difficult nature of grieving, I am inspired by this work. I give middle and high school students perhaps their first chance to explore and discuss death in an open and supportive environment. In our S.T.A.R.S. (Supporting Tears, Anger, Remembrance and Sadness) grief support groups, I have sat with students of all ages as they talk, create, cry, and sit with fellow grievers. It’s all profound, every moment.

Recently, I spent Children’s Grief Awareness Day (CGAD) at a local middle school.   I worked with a group of friends at this school last year whose friend had a life limiting illness and died a few months later.    This year for CGAD, I manned a table during lunch with activities students could do to honor loved ones who had died.  I didn’t expect many students due to the nature of the subject but the table was flooded with kids! Student after student honored loved ones and pets (and even Stan Lee, the King of Marvel) with focus and feeling. And afterwards, I felt joyous and honored. To provide an opportunity for these young people to work through a few moments of grief, to bear witness without judgement to their experience is remarkable.

Grief, loss and death work. It’s often intense and challenging. Yet I have found it to empower me in ways I could never have imagined.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with grief:

Remember, there is no “magic wand” or solution. Sometimes you just have to let yourself cry and be sad. You may need to do this alone or want a supportive person with you. Listen to your heart.

If you are supporting a grieving loved one, presence is powerful. Sitting next to someone with few or no words for as long as needed is often the most supportive gesture we can offer.

If you are grieving, make sure to take care of yourself. Get extra sleep, eat well, do what you enjoy and let yourself be loved by those who care about you.


Jane Arnoff Logsdon, LSW, ACHP-SW is the School Liaison for Western Reserve Grief Services. You can find out more about Hospice of the Western Reserve’s School Program at:


Hard Work Pays Off by Kayla

Being the baby of the family, everyone always says that you have things easier and that you get away with a lot more. That might be true in aspects such as being in trouble and discipline, but not when it comes to working hard to build a future. I come from a family of five and yes I am the baby. I have an older brother and sister. Ever since I was little I remember my life has revolved around sports. Whether it was playing in the yard with my brother or on an organized team. I was always doing something to be physically active. There wasn’t a time in the summer that I wasn’t outside doing something. That’s really rare to see now a day. Drive down the road and look around. You don’t see the kickball games, the basketball games or just kids outside playing. It’s a really sad thing but it’s true.  I played softball, gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball. Going into high school, I knew where my heart belonged and that was with basketball. I decided to give up all my other sport teams and focus mainly on basketball. I did still play them with friends but it wasn’t for a team or organization. I played AAU basketball, I went to camps and I had a personal trainer that I worked with before practice and on weekends (7 am to be exact). I knew that nothing was going to be given to me I needed to work harder than my teammates and even harder than the other teams. It came to the point I would have a basketball in my hand working on my skills and knowledge of basketball at least 6 days a week. I kept pushing myself to be better and achieve my goals. I set some pretty hard goals for myself as a freshman, and wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. Some of the goals I set were to become a varsity starter, to lead the county in threes, to become an all-state basketball player, and last but not least to achieve a basketball scholarship. I am not going to lie there were set back and hard times, but I never took my sights off the prize at the end. Those are some amazing achievements but the biggest achievement that I accomplished was becoming the first person in my family to go to college and earn a degree. At the college of Edinboro University, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education, with a minor in athletic coaching. With that degree, I was able to become a Physical Education teacher; I can now share my passions of health and fitness with my students. I am lucky enough to have a teaching job at one of the most prestige all-girls school in the area, Hathaway Brown. I think it is amazing to teach at an all-girls school because I have been where they are. I have done what they have done and can help lead and guide them in a way that is unique to each girl. My passion for sports, fitness, eating healthy, and having a dedication to hard work, has led me to this life that I would not change for anything. In high school, I heard a saying that I will never forget. I apply it to almost every aspect of my life. I hope that you can use it too: “Remember no matter the job big or small do it right or not at all”. This goes with school, life, jobs, and friendships. You have to put in effort, dedication, and work to make it successful and blossom. 

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Recovering from Body Image Issues and an Eating Disorder: My Health Journey By Elissa

My struggles with body image and insecurity started young, probably in the third or fourth grade. That was when my parents were the midst of an ugly divorce and, unfortunately, I was also going through my “chubby” pre-adolescent years (you know, the “baby fat” you have right before you hit a growth spurt?). I think this is when my self-esteem issues took root. Not only was my home life fractured and messy, but I was no longer “cute” or “pretty” like the other girls in my grade. I felt clumsy and awkward, uncomfortable in my skin. Once highly outgoing and talkative, I withdrew socially and lost several close friends.

Elementary school ended and I entered the sixth grade---middle school. I don’t know if anyone really loves middle school (if the number of horror stories written about it are any indicator), but I had a particularly hard time. As a people-pleaser, I was taken advantage of frequently and even bullied by a group of girls I had called my friends. Now I know that many kids are bullied in middle school---but at that time I didn’t know whom to talk to about it, and I kept stuffing the negative emotions in---priming me for the disordered eating patterns I would soon enter into.

The summer before eighth grade I grew five inches (to my current height) and, as a result, lost all of my “baby fat” and then some. Now thirteen, I was becoming increasingly aware of what people thought of me and was elated to find that, since that I was thinner, I was getting a lot more positive social attention. Because I was so afraid of regaining weight, I started severely restricting what I was eating. I remember that all I would bring for lunch most days was a “100-Calorie” packet of dried cranberries because I so badly needed to control what I was eating, down to the Calorie.

I was restricting so much that I was moody and chronically hungry. By the time I reached high school, I felt like I was barely keeping it together---my overexercised sense of self-control was slipping. My social anxiety started to kick in within the first few months of ninth grade. Not only was I in a new environment---a huge high school (there were over 500 kids in my grade alone)---but I was dealing with change at home, too: my dad had recently remarried and moved us into a new house out in the country. I experienced anxiety attacks. I remember thinking that I just needed a release, an “out,” an escape---and I found that in food. My first binge ever (which happened one day after school, when I was home alone) felt like pure euphoria---I ate just about everything that I hadn’t allowed myself to eat for so long. Pretty quickly, bingeing (without compensating) became a regular activity for me, anytime I needed some emotional comfort or a distraction from the stress of life. One binge won’t affect you much, but frequent bingeing will---by the time spring rolled around, I had put on twenty to twenty-five pounds and my self-esteem, already low, fell even further. This disordered eating continued into the tenth grade.

Eleventh grade was another year of great change for me and my family. Within a year’s time, my mom met, got engaged to, and married my now-stepdad...who had signed a contract to work for three years in Germany only months before meeting her. It was after moving to Germany that my self-esteem finally started to pick up slightly. Moving there was a huge adjustment, but it had also helped me to become more independent (I biked to and from school and could take the train into town to explore or go shopping). Unfortunately, I soon reverted to some old behaviors. Towards the end of 11th grade, a classmate started showing interest in me. I hadn’t really had this happen before, and when I returned to school in the fall for my senior year, I felt super motivated to lose weight “for good.” To accomplish my goal, I started off incorporating a moderate amount of exercise and keeping tabs on what I was eating---but, as the months passed, became increasingly restrictive. From September to December of that year, I lost thirty-five pounds, which off my 5-foot, 5-inch frame was extremely noticeable. I got a lot more attention at school and felt much more outgoing, but I was also miserable because I was so fearful of losing my self-control and having another binge. I remember breaking down one night because I accidentally ate “too much” at dinner and had had dessert and the feeling of being full for the first time in awhile was too much for me to handle.

In December I flew back to the States to spend Christmas with my dad’s side of the family, and that’s when my fears of bingeing again were realized. Surrounded by cookies and other sweets---my weakness---I ended up bingeing at my grandparents’ holiday party, first on Christmas cookies and then on a whole box of chocolates that I had gotten as a present. Long after everyone had gone to bed, I was in the bathroom, throwing up into the toilet bowl---I was so nauseous. I felt disgusting, regretful, and ashamed. The next day, I ended up bingeing again. This pattern continued over the break, and I felt powerless to stop it. I was terrified of returning to school, to my friends, having gained weight in only a month’s time. To compensate for the binges, which continued into the spring of my senior year, I began forcing myself to vomit and over exercising on a regular basis. At my worst, I was throwing up three to four times a day, then going to sprint up and down my street because I naively thought it would eliminate any remaining Calories in my system. These compulsive behaviors affected everything---my friendships, my family relationships, my mood and energy levels, my sleep.

Today, in my last year of college, I can truthfully say that I am a much healthier person---physically and psychologically. I may not be slim like I was for a short time in high school, but I feel much more at peace with my body now. This is the first time I’ve ever shared my story in a written way, and I think that’s a testament to how far I’ve come. In middle or high school, the shame would’ve just been too much for me---I never would have felt okay opening up about my struggles. Now I place an emphasis on developing my spiritual and emotional health, trusting that good physical health will follow. If I feel emotionally stable and spiritually sound, I am more likely to act in self-respecting ways such as working out and eating healthily. My spiritual walk has been a source of strength and comfort---praying and reading the Bible reminds me how God views me and how I should view myself. I’ve also adopted a much more moderate mindset---instead of cutting out all sweets or carbs or whatever it is I used to restrict, I now try to include those in my diet in small amounts, especially when I’m craving them. I’m not an over exerciser anymore, either---which is good, because that always made me hungry and crabby. Now, more in tune with my body, I am free to enjoy the benefits of exercise without straining myself. Trust me, if someone who has cycled from binge eating to severely restricting to engaging in harmful compensatory behaviors can recover and come to a place where she isn’t perfect, but enjoys life and doesn’t hate her body, but appreciates how much it does for her---then you can too. Never forget that you are worthy, loved, and amazingly unique.

Empowered & PoisedComment