The Many Faces Of Perseverance Blog Series. I thought it would be nice to take the filter out of our daily lives and to be able to relate to many different people about struggles that we each face. I am learning everyday to embrace the struggles we go through, instead of fearing them. I am learning that everything we go through is putting us on our path and helping us grow. I am learning that even when its uncomfortable and hard that we are learning so much about ourselves and that our struggles are shaping us into a better version of ourselves. I hope you gain guidance, inspiration, and support from this series – Alexa
Megan’s Story is about her experience with mental illness starting at a young age, and her struggle with body dysmorphia and binge eating.
Megan, Why did you want to share your story?
“I just know how alone I felt, especially recently with my body dysmorphia and binge eating. Sharing my story has shown me that more people go through this than I realized. If I can help even one person by sharing my story, I feel complete”
My Past Won’t Define Me, But Instead, Develop Me
I sat here trying to think of where I should start, because when you share your story, you want people to try and understand in full how you’ve grown in to who you are today. Do I start at the beginning of 6th grade, when I would cry every single day, begging my parents to come take me home because I was “sick”, but in reality, it was just overwhelming anxiety? To be honest, I actually suppressed that memory until writing this and it gives me chills to think that my mental illnesses developed earlier than I remember.
My journey with mental illness was your stereotypical, “but how could she be depressed, she has the perfect life” story. I have two incredible parents who provided (and still provide) me with more than I could ever imagine. I wasn’t the most popular girl by any means, but I never experienced the bullying that some girls do. But for some reason, I was so SO unhappy. In 8th grade, I remember sitting in science class playing “ABC” with my friends. For those of you who don’t know, this is where you take an eraser and essentially give yourself eraser burn on your arm while saying the ABC’s and seeing who could make it to Z. Not many people did, because it hurt. I made it to Z and then continued to use this as my form of self-harm for several years. Looking back, I justified this by telling myself I was cutting with a razor, so it wasn’t a real problem. But as soon as I filled up spots on my forearm, I moved to my stomach. My thighs. Even my ankles. Some of my first paycheck I spent sneaking away from my mom at Walmart to buy Mederma to try and cover the marks, because my parents would be distraught. If they read this, this will be the first they ever hear of it.
My parents didn’t understand why I was acting the way that I was. They told me to snap out of it and that I had to reason to be sad. After years of fighting them, begging them to understand that I honestly could not control it, they took me to a counselor to get help. My freshman year of high school, at age 14, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I went through counseling for a couple of months and was eventually put on antidepressants and anxiety medication- medication that 11 years later, I still rely on. To spare all of the details, the next few years consisted of sporadic episodes of mental and physical abuse, getting so extreme my freshman year of college that I genuinely believed that my only way to escape the constant harassment would be to die.
When I was able to escape the abuse, I finally was able to enjoy college. And by enjoy college, I mean food and boys. I let myself go in all aspects and it wasn’t until graduating college that I took a hard look in the mirror, literally and figuratively, and said “no, no more of this”. By trial and error, I stepped in to the “fitness world”. I emphasize this because I honestly feel like within the past few years, those of us who truly value fitness have unconsciously put ourselves in our own world (This is both a blessing and a curse, but that’s for a later discussion). I saw that I was capable of change. I physically felt better. I remembered the days that my mom would try to “cure my depression” by telling me to go for a walk in the sunshine. Maybe she was actually right?
Fall of 2016, exactly one year ago from typing this, I had reached a standstill in my fitness and craved more. I wanted to be challenged. I decided that I would compete in my first bikini competition. My depression and anxiety were more manageable, but little did I know, this prep would develop an illness that I would have no idea how to cure. 24 weeks of extreme dieting and exercise taught me so many things about myself, what I value, who I value. It also taught me to examine my body. A lot. Any time I pass a reflective surface. Lifting my shirt every time I use the bathroom to check for abs. Obsessively thinking about food, what I eat, when I eat, the nutritional value. If it was related to what I put in to my body or what I looked like, I became completely consumed. I thought that when I stepped off of that stage in April, I would be able to go back to a normal life. But as I type this, I cannot begin to tell you what normal is, because I don’t know anymore.
I have developed an extreme case of body dysmorphia. I am a binge eater. I have the worst relationship with food; I literally live in fear. I often wonder if this is because I am subconsciously so afraid of going back to where I was. Like gaining weight will bring back the deep depression, anxiety, abuse, overall unhappiness. I am currently in graduate school to become a Clinical Mental Health Counselor and I ask myself daily, “if I can’t figure myself out, how am I supposed to figure out other people?”
But that’s the thing. I don’t have to have all of the answers. None of us need to have all of the answers. What good does that do if it can’t change what has already happened? I wake up every morning choosing to not allow this to define me. I was “Megan in prep”. Then, I lost that identity and seemed to lose myself in the process. But I won’t keep searching for reasons why and trying to find a new identity, because I never really lost myself. I am still here, I just need to allow myself to heal. To remember that I am more than a body, I am a soul. I am a friend, a sister, a daughter of Christ and a daughter of two parents who love me too much to see me suffer. I am making a choice to use my past to develop me, not define me.