Thursday, March 7, 2019

My Struggles with Eating Disorders & Mental Health

I'm usually a pretty open book when it comes to my life. I've shared a lot of my life on this blog in hopes that maybe it'll help someone else that is going through something similar. Every once in a while, I'll share on Instagram about some of my past struggles with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. Those posts usually are reflective for me. After a good work out, I look in the mirror and am amazed at how far God has brought me, and I feel convicted to share.

I started my period today, and felt crappy. My body craves carbs and sugar the day before my period (two things that I rarely ever crave/eat), and yesterday, I gave into those cravings. I had an entire roll of sweet tarts (I ALWAYS crave a sour, fruity candy before my period), and before bed I ate WAY too many pretzels (hello sodium and carbs). I woke up bloated, and kicking myself in the butt for going a little crazy with my cravings. I headed to the gym like I always do after dropping off my kids, and I felt ten times better after my work out. I didn't feel guilty anymore about eating bad yesterday, and was just grateful to be in a place where a simple work out could make me feel this way.

It wasn't always like this for me. 

I am a first generation American. My parents immigrated here in late 70's from South Korea, and I was born in Houston, TX. I grew up in a traditional Korean home. Korean women tend to be teeny tiny. I did not inherit the "Korean girl gene". I'm not a big person by any means, but compared to the "average" Korean girl, I'm considered "big". I was reminded of that my whole my mom, my grandma, my aunts...At family gatherings, women would pinch my arms, stomach, and legs and ask "how much weight have you gained? You look fat." In fact, my sweet grandma (whom I love) told me I was getting too fat. I WAS 20 SOMETHING WEEKS PREGNANT WITH DANNIKA! I know you Americans reading this are probably HORRIFIED at this. My husband was when I first told him. But here's the thing...these snide remarks were not meant to be malicious in any way. I know it's hard to believe, but it came from a place of love. It's a cultural thing, and Koreans tend to be pretty up front and blunt if they feel comfortable around you. I believe the Latin culture is very similar. This could be a WHOLE another post, and there are actual, peer reviewed sociological studies done about this subject, but I won't bore you.

Growing up being told you're getting fat your whole life does WONDERS for a girl's self esteem. Let me tell ya. 
I remember the first time I made myself throw up. 
I think I was 16 or 17. I ate 2 corn dogs, and felt SO guilty about it. My parents were at work, and I was home alone. I remember going to my kitchen and trying to puke into the sink using a chop stick (we're Korean, remember? we had lots of chopsticks). That didn't work, so I ditched the chopstick and shoved my fingers down my throat and made myself throw up. It was disgusting, and I felt worse afterwards. I turned the faucet on, and let the garbage disposal do its' job.

I joined the Marine Corps after high school with a plethora of emotional baggage. That's for another post as well. As a Marine, physical fitness is a big part of "our job".  I used that as an excuse to make exercise a priority in my life. That priority became an unhealthy addiction. I was later diagnosed with OCD. I became obsessed with running. All my miles had to be even numbers. On the treadmill, if I ran 6.1 miles by accident, I'd run another 1.9 miles to make it an even 8. Even the calories on the machine had to end in a 0 for me. 602 calories? Nope. Gotta to get 8 more calories to make it an even 610. For those who truly know what OCD is, people who are ACTUALLY diagnosed with it have control issues. My life was out of control, so I tried to control every aspect of my life that I could physically control, and exercise was it. Also,
it really annoys me when people who aren't medically diagnosed with OCD are constantly talking about how "OCD" they are.
You're not OCD. You're just a neat freak, Karen. (*insert eye roll)

This post is super long already, but for pretty much the rest of my time in the Marine Corps I struggled with this. I was officially diagnosed by a mental health professional with OCD, anxiety, depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and panic attacks, It had all caught up to me and came crashing down (because it ALWAYS does). I was bulimic, addicted to exercise (cardio), counted calories obsessively, obsessed about how much food and what kind of food I ate, and was addicted to diet pills and laxatives (one particular brand that has been banned and outlawed because people were literally dying of heart attacks). After my first child was born, Nick deployed to Afghanistan. I spent that entire 7 months losing the "baby weight". I still remember when Nick first saw me after 7 months at his homecoming. He was shocked. Not at how "good" I looked, but shocked at how thin I was. To this day, Nick says that I was "too skinny", and thought I looked like a "bobble head".
I actually LOVE this photo. 
I have it blown up and framed in my house.
This was our first hug in 7 months, and that is the greatest feeling in the world. 
But I also cringe a little.
I was so tiny, and taking dangerous diet pills...I was not healthy.


I once had a friend comment on this photo, "you look so good! I hope I look like that after I have kids!"
I cringe at that comment.
I do not look good.
I was unhealthy, starving, and still thought I was fat.


This was a vacation Nick and I took to the Dominican Republic after he came home from Afghanistan. 
I remember posting photos after our vacation, and not wanting to post this one, because I felt like my stomach was protruding.
Body dysmorphia.
I look at this photo now, and can't believe that I actually thought that. 

I still struggle with body image every once in a while. There are days (like this morning) when I wake up bloated and feeling bad. I don't want to look at myself in the mirror, and just want the day to end. I think that's normal. But I'm at a place where when I start thinking negatively about myself, I can recognize it. I usually do something for "me" on those days. "Treat yo'self".

Here's my very proud "post gym selfie" today. 
I am no longer a "cardio bunny".
I lift weights, and that has been a GAME CHANGER.
I'm really proud of my little trap muscles and my arms. 
I have better calves than my husband (my bad, Nick!).
I don't have a 6 pack or a 4 pack.
In fact, I am pretty sure it is genetically impossible for me.
My little sister had a C-section, and her doctor told her that she didn't have a lot of muscle tissue in her abs.
I'm assuming I share those genes with her (maybe?).
I don't stress about my food. 
I eat clean most days.
I stay away from foods with bad ingredients....
And I enjoy all the wine when I want it (cheers!)

I also have to say that once I started a path to a healthier me, I chose to become baptized that year! My physical health and spiritual health were two things I had to work on simultaneously. I spent my early 20's so angry at God, and blamed Him for everything that had happened to me. It wasn't until I hit that low point that I found myself begging for God's grace. I had to relive and revisit some things that had happened to me in my past in order to heal, but it is the most freeing feeling to just put it all at the feet of Jesus! 

If you're struggling with any of the things I've written about it here, the first advice I have for you is to go see a counselor! There is no shame in that, and talking to a professional is something that really helped me. If you've made it this far into my blog post, I appreciate it. This is pretty vulnerable (even for me), so it means a lot! Hope everyone is having a great week so far, and you can always connect with me on Instagram @SemperAg_blog