It was 1998, and I was working on getting a masters in secondary education with an emphasis in political science. All that was nonsense though, I was wasting a year before I started law school. I had started college with the intention of going to law school. Somewhere along the way, I had decided I should conform to a more traditional female role so I could land a husband at my ultra conservative Christian university. Then when I was a senior and still not wed, I had to decide what the hell I was going to do upon graduation. A professor suggested that maybe I go ahead and go to law school even though I had ended up getting a bachelor’s in child development. So, here I was with a year in the interim, I’ll take some grad classes, I first thought. That soon became, well, I could get an actual master’s degree in three semesters if I take the max credits. And that’s what I did.
It was that year that my eating disorder blew up. I was no longer just playing around with some poor “dieting” ideas, I was scheduling my days around classes and purging. It was almost all encompassing, except for the school thing.
I was good at the school thing. It was one thing I knew for sure I could do. In fact, during my master’s work, I had to up the ante. I knew getting a 4.0 was doable, easy, not even a challenge at this point. I needed a challenge, so my goal became getting the highest grade in each class. First semester down, goal reached. Again, I was bored with it. Even physically depleting myself and growing weaker and weaker, which I was totally getting off on, it was no big thang. So, I had to get the highest score on each test or assignment. Now, that proved to be bit of a challenge. I missed a few, and then I’d get a fire in my belly to make sure it didn’t happen again.
That’s what I did that year. I pushed myself for perfection mentally. I was stagnate spiritually, and I attacked myself physically. Hardly a nice balanced existence of body, mind, and soul. However, in my mind, my physical goal was perfection too. Perfectly petite! Perfectly frail. I loved only taking up half a chair. I loved how cold I got in class because I was so tiny. Finally, after all the ups and downs and diets and runs and attempts to stop eating, this binging and purging thing was working. I was on my way….to what, I’m not sure.
It all fell apart when my mom realized what was going on and told me I was going to see one of the psychology professors at my university for help. I don’t remember much about that conversation, but I know I didn’t deny anything or wiggle out of it. There was a bit of denial on my part, and of course, shame. I remember finding one of Daddy’s counseling books later that night and looking up bulimia, because, come on, I was just fooling around. I just needed to get skinnier. I had got legit fat a few years ago. I just needed to drop some weight; I’m not sick. It just got a little out of hand, I told myself. I read the text, and being a good student, I got it. I was legitimately scared at what I had become. It shook me up, because past all the self-hatred, I was actually working toward something I truly wanted (law school) and in that moment, I knew I was slowly dying and I didn’t really want that. I didn’t want to fade away. I just wanted to be free of the voice that told me I wasn’t worthy of existing.
Now, that’s not to say, I happily went off to counseling after that night and suddenly stopped all my destructive patterns, ha, far from it. But I had a “coming to Jesus” moment and realized I was sick.
This picture is from my graduation party. This is one of my nieces. She turned two on the day of my graduation. I went home with her to Dallas to spend the summer before I started law school. I was still sick in this picture, but I was getting better. I still struggled that summer, but I had a little buddy to keep me smiling. It was a special time, and I’ve always felt a special bond to her because of it.
My fitness family that I have now talks a lot about our “why.” Why we put in the time to get better. Our trainers stress how important it is to have a why that is stronger than your excuses. Like a lot of moms, my why is to be a healthy, energetic mom for my kids. I have a goal of being strong enough in myself to say that my why is me. That I seek to improve myself daily because I am enough. But having a little person is a good, solid why. And that summer of 1998, I had law school on the horizon as a why, but I also had this little person. She was two, and she had chubby two year old cheeks, and why would I not want to live for that. She was two, and mispronounced words, and I didn’t want to miss any of that. She was two and when she’d make a mess, she’d blame me very unconvincingly but adorably by insisting, “Becca do’d it!” And that was so much of a why that I had to do the hard, and it was so fucking hard, work to get better.
Find your why. Find two or three or four of them. Find one with chubby cheeks. Strive to believe that you are worth making changes to improve your life, but until then, fill your life with goals and people who make the hard work worth it.