The Truth is…I Relapsed

Almost five years ago, I began the journey to recovery from bulimia.

The truth is…recovery is beautiful.

The truth is…recovery is possible.

The truth is…life is much more fulfilling without having an eating disorder disrupt your every thought.

The truth is…life throws curve balls at you at time.

The truth is…I relapsed.

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Do you struggle with feeling depressed and hopeless about life? The answer may be more simple than you think. To JUMPSTART your life, follow this link:
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The Fight for Beauty – Chapter 9 – It’s Only Beginning

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 9 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


 

The end of my 45 day stay in inpatient treatment was coming to a close.  I sat on the wood floors of the dining room with my bags packed next to me as I waited for a caravan to take me to my new home in a semi-outpatient treatment center.  I had come to love this place that I was once so resentful towards.  It became a place of safety and obscurity.  The cares and fears that once overtook my life in the outside became a sort of distant memory.  The last 45 days were filled with doctors appointments, blood draws, therapy sessions, and stale chapel services.  But they were also filled with new friendships.  We understood each other.  We could see each other in way the outside world couldn’t see.  The eating disorders, obsessive behaviors, and fixation on our jean size didn’t matter to us.  I was going to miss the nights where we were all high off ambien, sneaking out in between nurse rounds to smoke cigarettes and laugh at the ridiculousness that we had found ourselves in.  Some nights we would sit outside in silence and stare out at the desert sky, wondering what life after treatment was going to look like. Everything felt so vivid and real, but I knew that over time, the faces of these people would eventually fade from my memory.  I think that hurt more than anything.

I was going to miss my therapist, Katie.  She was the first person I told many of my painful secrets to.  I saw her more as an older sister rather than someone who was being paid to listen to my disfunction.  She felt safe.  She was normal.  I always got the sense that even her own life wasn’t fully figured out yet and that made me feel more at peace with my own.

I carried my bags down to the car and cried as I got in the backseat.  Was I really going to make it?  Could I actually trust myself around food outside of the cocoon of a treatment center?

After about an hour drive, we pulled into cul-de-sac in Chandler, Arizona where my new out-patient home was.  The facility had purchased all five of the homes on the cul-de-sac and in them resided girls of all ages who were trying to figure out what it looked like to live in the real world again where we aren’t under constant supervision.

As I walked in the house, I began to unpack and I was suddenly overwhelmed with the thought of a fully stocked kitchen being just within reach.  Memories of binges and nights spent over a toilet began to flood my mind as I allowed myself to fantasize about how I could get one last binge and purge in.

This was it.

The moment I had hoped would never come.

The moment when I realized that my life with my eating disorder wasn’t behind me.

It was just beginning.


 

Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 8 – The Temporary Escape

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 8 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


 

The first few days of my time in rehab were all a blur, and yet certain moments I remember with great detail.  I remember waking up after my first night where I was instructed to go to the nurses station to be weighed and have my vitals checked.  I remember sitting down to a plate of pancakes with calorie-ridden syrup and a cup of soy-milk.  I stared in disbelief and looked around at the other girls also reluctantly eating from their plates that were surely filled with food most would never dare to touch.  I remember sitting on the couch as I watched the other girls braid each other’s hair and laugh at whatever was on the television.  I remember laying in my bed feeling as if my emotions had been frozen.  I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t laugh.  I felt nothing.  I felt dead.

I tried to pray, but it felt as if my prayers would float into the air only to fall beside me.  I felt like I was praying to a wall.  Did God even exist?  Had I been deceived my entire life?

How did I go from the girl whose dreams seemed so close to coming true.  A life filled with photo-shoots and recording studios to a nobody who sat alone in rehab.

I quickly settled into my new routine that would be my life for the next 45 days.

6:30am: Wake up.

7am: Report to the nurses station where we were weighed and had our vitals checked. 8am: Breakfast

9am: Group therapy where we each had to read off a list of different emotions and say which 4 we related to the most.  The most commonly used emotions were sadness and loneliness.

10:30am: Snack

11am: Art therapy.

12:30pm: Lunch

1:30pm: Private therapy or your weekly doctor’s visit.

3:30pm: Snack

4pm: Chapel

6pm: Dinner.

7pm: Free time where you were allowed a 15 minute phone call.

8pm: Snack

10pm: Lights out.

I quickly grew to love my new routine.  There was a safety in it.  I was free from full-length mirrors and scales.  I didn’t have to worry about what my next meal would be.  I didn’t have to measure or weigh my food.  I didn’t have the temptation to binge or purge.  I felt safe.  I couldn’t hurt myself.  I couldn’t sabotage myself.

About halfway through my treatment, my family was allowed to pick me up and bring me away from the center for a day.  I remember the excitement I felt as we pulled away from the treatment center to head into the city.  I drove my own car and I felt a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in some time.  I was in control of where I was going.

As we pulled into the mall, a sense of anxiety began to overtake me.  I was surrounded by people whose day-to-day lives had remained the same over the last few months, unlike mine.  I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I looked at a magazine or even heard what the latest song on the radio was. I had forgotten that a world outside of treatment existed.  A world that  was fixated on appearance and looks.  A world that didn’t care about my own safety or the condition of my heart.  A world that shamed you if you didn’t fit into a size two.

My family, along with my best friend Kainos, wandered through the stores with me.  My heart began racing as I couldn’t help but catch my reflection in every store window.  Photos of models and mannequins with perfect body shapes bombarded my view.

I’m not safe here.  I’m not enough here. 

As we walked into a Barnes and Noble store, I began to grab at my chest and tears filled my eyes.  My thoughts became jumbled and I fought for the words to say as my family looked at me with confusion.  My vision became blurry and all I could say was “Please don’t look at me. Please don’t look at me.”  I fell to the ground and crawled into the fetal position as I tried to catch my breath and make sense of what was happening to my body.

I didn’t care about the onlookers who looked upon me and my family with pity.  I could feel their stares burning into me and I could see one of my sister’s begin to cry. I knew that I was hurting them, but I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything beyond the pain I felt in the moment.

The pain of not being enough.  The pain of losing control.  The pain that came from realizing that I was no longer the strong and brave girl I once knew.

I laid on the floor that day.  The sound of my mother trying to calm me down, the sound of the shoppers around me and the sound of my sisters crying all were distant noises around me compared to the voice of bulimia that screamed at me in that moment. The voice that I had spent weeks being able to ignore.  It made sure I didn’t fully forget it’s voice.

You will never be enough. 


 

Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty – Chapter 7-The Journey to Rehab

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 7 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


 

“45 days?!? You dragged me to this place to stay here for 45 days??”  I yelled.

My parents and I sat in the office of Remuda Ranch where I was signing paperwork admitting myself into rehab.  My parents had told me I only needed to stay for ten days.

“Sweetheart,” the sweet lady helping us meekly spoke, “we don’t have a ten-day program.  Our minimum is 45 days.”

This is unfair.  Immoral.  Unjust.  My mind couldn’t wrap itself around the fact that I was going to be stuck in a treatment center and cut off from the world for the next month and a half.  I thought about my friends, how most of them didn’t know that I had left because I wanted to keep it hidden.  I thought about my dreams of music and the singing competition I was scheduled to compete at that I would have to miss.  I thought about how my stomach ached from all the bingeing and laxatives I took before coming.  In the days leading up to treatment, I felt as if I had to use all my bulimic behaviors as much as I could before it would be taken away from me.  Each binge and purge was seen as a last “hoorah.” I thought about how I got to this place. Rehab.

I numbly signed the papers and we walked into the main building where I would be spending the majority of my time for the next 45 days.  As I walked inside, the room was warm and open.  Wood panels lined the walls  with photos of horses and the Arizona desert.  Girls ranging from all different weights and backgrounds lined the tables and filled the rooms.  The overly-skinny girls, the girls everyone secretly wanted to be, had feeding tubes coming out of their noses.

My parents tearfully said goodbye and they left.

I sat at an empty table while I waited for a nurse to come take me to begin running tests on me.  I looked around at the girls that filled the room and couldn’t help but feel out of place.  Many of them were frail and thin.  They were adults, yet it was as if they retreated back into children as they sat around the tables with coloring books and activities in an attempt to help them escape from the torment of their own mind.

I wasn’t really sick.  My bulimia had made me gain weight at this point.  I wish I was as skinny as these other girls. 

I quickly learned that despite the fact that we were all there because our lives had been taken over by the monster of an eating disorder, everyone’s body types and stories were different.  Some developed anorexia after being sexually abused, others fell into binge eating when their husbands left them for younger woman, and some became bulimic after a friend mentioned that they seemed to have been gaining weight. The stories were all different.

The only thing we all had in common was our eyes.  Everyone had a certain sadness in their eyes.

“Hi, I’m Samantha.”

My thoughts were quickly interrupted by two blonde girls who joined myself at the table.

“I’m Megan,” Megan quickly added.

“Hi.”  I quietly responded. I couldn’t be bothered to socilize. I didn’t want to be here and I didn’t want anything to do with these girls.

“So, what are you?” Sam asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You know, what are you?”

I stared back in confusion.

Sam chuckled to herself as if she could see the confusion plastered on my face.

“What are you? Are you anorexic? Bulimic? A binge eater?”

“Oh…” I mumbled.  “Um, I’m bulimic.”  I paused as if waiting for a reply before adding, “I don’t want to be here.”

Both of the girls laughed.

“No one does, honey.” Megan confessed.  “But let’s be real…you get great accessories to spice up your outfit” she joked as she pointed to her feeding tube.

I forced a laugh for her sake, but the reality of where I was suddenly laid heavy upon me.

Images of the last few years began flooding my mind.  The first bottle of exlax I purchased, the diet pills, the feeling I had when I was singing on stage, the music I had yet to create, the nights I spent in my basement devoting mile after mile on the treadmill, the nights when I would wake up from nightmares of bingeing.  It all came to a screeching halt in that moment as I sat surrounded by nurses and girls who knew the hell I had been living in for so long.

“Rihanna, I’m ready for you” a young nurse called as she entered the room.  She was young and didn’t walk with the same confidence and ownership that the other nurses did.  I came to find out that I was her first patient she had to do an intake evaluation on.

I was led into a back bedroom where they had a doctors station set up.  The intake is all a blur now in my mind but I remember being cold and being asked detailed questions about my disorder, my food intake, exercise habits.  They took my blood, tested my heart, and I kept laughing throughout the intake as the shock of where I was kept hitting me.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “But if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry.”

I later was led into a room where I would sleep until a bed opened up for me.  The nurses gave me an ambien to help me sleep.  I laid in bed as my mind raced.

Where am I?

What am I doing here?

45 days?

My mind began to drift off to sleep and I saw images of myself sliding down a long and twisted slide. It felt like a waterslide that I often went on as a child in the summer. Except everything around me was dark.  I kept expecting it to be over soon and to find myself at the end smiling and laughing.  But it never ended.  I just kept sliding deeper…and deeper…

I just want it to end.

 


Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 6- Living with a Monster

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 5 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


“I don’t know what you’re so worried about. I mean, I can see your hip bones through your shirt” my co-worker said to me as I looked over the menu of the cafe we worked at.

It had been two months since I met with Jeff and I was about to fly out to Atlanta to record a new demo.  Despite working out for three hours a day, I was only able to lose a few pounds.  I counted every calorie and was careful to not exceed 500 calories per day.  In fact, I still remember my exact diet day in and day out.

Breakfast: 1 Cup Decaf Coffee with Sugar Free/Fat Free Hazelnut Creamer and 3/4 C Special K Cereal.

Lunch: 1 slice of ham on lettuce with 1 tbsp of fat-free Italian dressing.

Dinner: A can of green beans. 

Despite my limited diet, I became even more obsessed with food.  I loved watching other people eat and I found great joy and satisfaction out of cooking and baking high calorie meals for others.  I would bring home shakes from the cafe I worked at for my sisters and watched them as they drank it.

“Is it good?” I would ask.

“What does it taste like?”

It was as if I was overwhelmed with living vicariously through them, wishing I could eat what they did while at the same time being disgusted by them for taking in so many calories in one sitting.

People at church began noticing my weight loss and simultaneously praised me for it while secretly asking my mother if I was okay.

I was tired, yet the attention I was receiving for my weight loss made me feel more alive than I had felt in years.  Perhaps ever.


 March 22, 2006

Here I am in Atlanta.  I can’t believe I’m going to record with Mariah Carey’s producer! He’s so nice.  I went to his house last night and I think we are going to record tomorrow.  I’m excited but at the same time I’m scared.  What if I don’t ever become a famous singer? After I left his house I went to Walmart and I bought a huge bag of almond M&M’s and I ate the whole thing in the car. Then I went to Chikfila and ate waffle fries.  I bought water pills and ex-lax.  Now I feel sick to my stomach.  I hate myself soooooooooooooo much. I’m so disgusting.   I wish I could just be like a normal person and never eat sugar. Lord help me not eat bad foods and help me lose weight so I can be a singer. 


They say that everyone reaches a breaking point. Mine was in Atlanta.  I made the trip alone and I stayed there for about a month driving back and forth from where I was staying to the house I was recording at.  From 12am- 6am we would record. I’d sleep from 8am-2pm where I would then awake and be forced to find ways to occupy my time.  My days normally consisted of working out and then fighting the urge to binge.  The first few days, I was successful, however it became clear that my body had lived in starvation mode for long enough and it was retaliating by giving me urges to eat everything in sight.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like.  To be out of control of your own brain, your own body, your own actions.  Most people who have never struggled with an addiction don’t understand that you can’t just stop.  You can’t just “not do it.”  When I would confide in friends or family members who’s only token of advice was to just ask God to help me stop, I would want to scream, “DO YOU THINK IT’S NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO PRAY? DO YOU THINK THAT IF I COULD JUST STOP THAT I WOULD? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT I LOVE LIVING FEELING LIKE I CAN’T CONTROL MY OWN GOD-DAMNED BODY? DO YOU THINK THAT I LOVE WAKING UP FEELING AFRAID OF MY OWN SELF?”

It’s hard to explain to someone that you feel as though someone else, something else has taken over your entire body.  Your mind becomes fixated on this one thing it wants.  Just one more time. Just once.  And everything else around you fades into existence until you can get your hands on this one thing.

For some it’s drugs and alcohol. Others it’s sex.  Mine.  It was food.

It goes without saying that going to Atlanta did not catapult my career of being a famous singer.  It’s hard for me to look back on that trip without flinching as I remember the days and the nights where I drove around crying because I felt out of control of my own body.

I came home from Atlanta, broken and depressed.  I continued to spend my days fighting the urge to binge and purge. I woke everyday with food being the first thing on my mind.  I would have dreams about working out at the gym only to ruin it by eating large amounts of pizza.  Each day started and ended with a promise to myself to do better next time. I never did.  I began smoking because I read that cigarettes helped curb your appetite and make you lose weight.

“What are we going to do about Rihanna’s eating disorder?” my best friend asked my mom one night.  The anger and annoyance I felt was only overshadowed by the fact that I secretly loved that she thought I could possibly have an eating disorder.

She was wrong.  I didn’t have an eating disorder. I wish I had an eating disorder because those girls are beautiful and are so thin that you can see their rib cage! I could only wish to be that thin!

A few weeks went on and my family and best friend both pleaded with me to get help. I finally agreed to begin seeing a therapist who later insisted to my parents that I needed more help than she could provide.  My mother, knowing that I would not agree to go to a treatment assessment, told me that she had arranged for me to meet with a dietician who would give me a meal plan that could help me lose weight.

Finally!  Finally someone was willing to help me the way that I needed. A little self-control was all I needed to get back on track.

I drove to a little office where I met with a middle-aged blonde woman who gave me pages of paperwork to fill out.  She seemed to watch me as I filled everything out, and not in a way I was used to.  It was as if she was studying, analyzing me.

When I was done, she took me into her office where I was excited to finally go over a list of foods I can and can’t eat.  She began asking me questions and I felt comfortable around her.  I confided that I had recently learned how to make myself throw up and how I seemed to have lost all control when it came to food.

She left the room for a bit and when she came back, she sat across from me and said, “Rihanna, it’s clear that you need impatient treatment.”

My head began to spin and my heart started to race.

“Wait…why?” I asked.  “I thought I was here so you could give me a meal plan.”

She explained how my behaviors and my food obsession were not normal.  How girls who use laxatives as much as I do often times end up with colostomy bags. She went on to say how it’s not normal for people to weigh themselves multiple times a day.  She explained how I’m not normal.

I drove home with a rage inside that I hadn’t felt before.  My ears burned and my eyes welled with tears as I thought about having to go into inpatient treatment.  I didn’t have an eating disorder.

“Ten days.”  my mom pleaded. “Just give us ten days and you’ll be done.”

Ten days.  I agreed to ten days.  I packed my bags, got in the car and blissfully began my journey to inpatient treatment.

Ten days, I thought to myself.  All of this will be over in ten days.  Little did I know that the journey was just beginning.

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Stay tuned for the next chapter!

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The Fight for Beauty- Chapter 4- From High School to Hollywood

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 4 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


 

I remember waking up the day after I first binged.  My head was pounding and my entire body felt lethargic, however no feeling was greater than the shame I felt.  I laid in bed as I looked at the magazines besides my bed that were filled with photos of pop stars and celebrities with tiny waists and a thigh gap.  All the messages I had received since childhood told me that my worth was little to none if I didn’t have a perfect body, and I felt the closest I had ever felt to worthlessness in that moment.

I made a promise to myself that I would never let it happen again.

I made a lot of broken promises.

I spent the entire next day eating nothing except for decaffeinated coffee (I had read an article that said caffeine prevented weight loss) and fat-free creamer. I tried going for a run in my neighborhood but quickly lost my stride due to lack of food and energy.

The next day I allowed myself one bowl of Special K cereal with skim milk.  I was beginning to feel more in control of myself and I went about my day as though I was walking on air.  The feeling of hunger made me feel hopeful about my future.  It gave me a strange sense of euphoria where I felt as though I could accomplish anything.  Saying no to food meant saying yes to happiness.

I could only go a few days eating little to nothing before I would eventually break.

Binge. After Binge. After Binge.

Starve for two days. Binge for one. Starve for three days. Binge for two.

I felt out of control.

As the days turned to months, I slowly began putting on weight from all the binging.  I became depressed and being anywhere in public gave me anxiety. One day as I sat in the girl’s locker room at school, I overheard two girls gossiping about one of their friends.

Have you seen how skinny Christina is now? I heard she started taking exlax, water pills, and taught herself how to throw up. She needs help.

Maybe this was my answer.  To be honest, the thought of taking laxatives was nauseating but I was desperate at this point.  I’d do anything to lose weight.

Within two weeks, I could tell I was losing weight.  Others would make comments which only gave me more determination to continue losing weight.  I convinced my parents to buy me a treadmill for Christmas and I would spend hours in our basement running mile after mile.

I finally was able to stop bingeing so often and limited my calories to 500 per day.  As I continued to lose weight, people would approach my parents to ask if I was ok.  Hearing their concerns didn’t scare me, but instead made me feel on top of the world.  Peers would ask me for weight loss advice and praise me for my obvious triumph.

I was a girl obsessed.  If I ever felt tempted to eat a “bad” food, I would write with a sharpie on my hand “You are fat! Do not eat!” I kept photos of popular celebrities like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera taped to my mirror to help motivate me and discourage me from eating if tempted. For the first time, I felt in control of my own life.


Two weeks after my high school graduation, I packed my bags and moved to Denver, Colorado to work with my vocal coaches and pursue my dream of music.  Arriving in Denver was exciting and helped fulfill my need for adventure.  After my parents helped get me settled in, they drove away and reality hit.

I didn’t know a soul there.  I kept myself busy working and practicing at the music academy I was studying at and while I made a few friends, I found myself spending much of my time isolating.  My obsession with my body grew even more as I entered into a music competition that would take place in LA.  The mix of my own self-induced pressure and the loneliness I had from being away from home threw me into another cycle of binging and purging by spending hours at the gym.

When I finally arrived in LA, I was met by my mother at the hotel.  She was always supportive of my dreams and so she thought that helping me stay thin would only help me.  Her intentions were good, however damaging.  Every time we would eat, she would comment on my food selection if she felt it was too fattening.

Rihanna, you’re going to regret eating that and you’ll feel sad when you have to perform tomorrow. 

She was right.

While in Los Angeles, I was approached by a talent manager who wanted to represent me.  I remember driving to his private office and meeting at a long conference table as he looked at my head shots and listened to a few of my demo recordings.  He continued to name drop a few of his clients and friends in the industry.  During our meeting, he mentioned that he had just missed a call from Kevin Federline, who in 2005 was widely known for his ill-intentioned marriage to Britney Spears. He kept saying that I had a marketable look and good talent and then asked if I could drop ten pounds in the next two weeks and be back in LA for a photo shoot and a recording session at Paramount studios.

My mom and I looked at each other in amazement as I shouted, “YES. I won’t eat for two weeks if that’s what I have to do!”

He laughed and joked about how I just needed to do whatever it takes because I was headed for the big time.

As we drove home, my head was spinning.  My dreams were actually going to come true.  The only thing that stood between me and my dreams was ten pounds; and I wasn’t going to let that happen.


Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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The Fight For Beauty – Chapter 2 – Beware of Men

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 2 of my story.  To read chapter 1, click here.


“I think Reed likes me. Kristin said he’s going to ask me to be his girlfriend.  My mom will kill me but I’ll have to keep it a secret.” Helena confessed to me as we sat in the backseat of my grandma’s car on the way to the mall.  It was my thirteenth birthday and she was taking us out for an all day shopping trip to celebrate. It didn’t surprise me that Reed had a crush on her.  It seemed that every guy in our class did at one point.  She was the type of girl that guys seemed to be drawn to and she loved every second of it, even though she pretended not to.

As our day of shopping came to a close, my grandma needed to make a quick stop at Target.  Helena and I wandered off into the jewelry department where we tried on sunglasses and bags.  Eventually we began wandering the store in the hopes to meet up with my grandma.  As we turned into an aisle, my heart stopped. I took a quick step back and pulled Helena by the arm as I tried to get out the aisle without being seen.

My heart was racing as I quickly walked through the store to find my grandma.

I have to leave.

I can’t be seen.

Don’t say a word.

When I found her, I lied and said I felt sick and needed to go home immediately.  She quickly paid for her things and we left.

The entire car ride home, I began to actually feel sick to my stomach.  Anger rose within me as I could feel it burning in my chest.  When we got home, I ran into my room and laid on my bed as my mind replayed over and over what I had seen.

My grandpa, hand in hand, with another woman.

I knew who she was.  We all did.  My poppa, try as he may, was never successful with hiding his affair.  He would sneak to the backroom of their house multiple times a day where he would call her.  Sometimes, I would stand by the door and try to make out what he was whispering to her.  He would lie to my grandma and say he was taking us grandkids out for breakfast.  When we got there, she would be there waiting to join us.  I remember seeing him reach across the table to grab her hand.  My stomach would knot up and my heart would break as I thought about my grandma sitting at home alone.

She was young and blonde and had a Russian accent so thick that I normally would just smile and nod as she spoke because I couldn’t understand what she was saying.

That night, my parents were taking me out for my birthday dinner and my grandparents were joining.  As we waited for my grandpa to arrive, everyone was growing increasingly frustrated and concerned because he was over an hour late. They couldn’t imagine where he could be, but I knew.  He was with her.

When he finally arrived, we all went to dinner.  I remember feeling like I was betraying my grandma as I watched them sit together because I knew he was about to leave her. At the end of dinner, he and my grandma began arguing about something where he made a jab at her weight.  My heart stopped.

Is that why he is cheating on her?

I don’t remember the exact timeline, but shortly after my thirteenth birthday, my grandma came home after work and all his stuff was gone. I couldn’t help but feel as though I had let her down. I kept this secret from her.  I knew he was preparing to leave since the day I saw them purchasing pots and pans at Target.

I remember seeing my mom and my grandma cry.  It was a scene that I had seen played out time and time again.  Uncles, family friends, and now my grandpa leaving their wives for a younger, more attractive woman.  These women in my life, who I viewed as beautiful and powerful, suddenly became broken and used all because someone failed to see and treasure their beauty.  If they couldn’t keep a man, how would I be able to?

I made a vow to myself to never become like them. I would never allow my body to be the reason why someone couldn’t love me. I was never going to allow a man to hurt me in that way.  “Perhaps it’s safer to just never marry,” my thirteen year old heart reasoned.


Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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The Fight For Beauty

I’ve been putting off creating this series of blogs for a while now.  I came up with every excuse imaginable to avoid having to put in the time and effort, however I was recently challenged when I was praying one night.  I was asking God what my purpose was here.  What is my next step? Am I wasting my life away living day to day with no real goals or vision? The answer: yes.  After finishing BSSM and having to go through the process of grief after losing family members, I found myself just taking one day at a time.  For a season, that was exactly what I needed.  However, I’ve felt a shift and the Lord gently reminded me of a promise I made to Him when I first moved to Redding, CA just four years ago.  When I arrived, I was deep in my struggle with bulimia and couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked.  I lived guarded and insecure.  I would cry before God asking for freedom from this life-consuming disease and promised Him that if he would set me free, I would give my life to help others find their own freedom.  Since my recovery journey, I’ve had many great opportunities to share my testimony and see it give hope to others and my prayer is that the same continues.

I welcome you to join me as I share my story of my own fight for beauty!  I’ll be posting once a week a new chapter of my journey, from beginning to end.  I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the embarrassing.  My hope is to remove the veil and misconceptions that people have about eating disorders while offering hope to those struggling that there really is a way out.

With that said, here is Chapter 1 of my story.

“What is it that you want?” She asked as she sat leaning on her worn-down desk. Her office always smelled of old potpourri and hand sanitizer combined.  The lights were always dim. I assume to give the person sitting across from her a feeling of comfort and coziness, but I instead always felt like I was sitting in a police interrogation. My eyes scanned across her walls and I briefly remember seeing pictures of her family, her degree set on display within in an overly-gaudy frame, and her bookshelf was packed with books entitled, “Family and Depression” and “The Monster Within.”  The monster within. I knew that monster all too well.  That monster is what got me here in the first place.

“Rihanna,” she interrupted as I stared blankly at her. “What do you want?”

“To be skinny.” I replied.

Her eyes grew narrow as she stared directly at me…or through me.  I couldn’t tell the difference.

Silence.

“What do you want?” She asked again.

What do I want? I thought to myself. I want to be skinny.  I want to be able to have a conversation with my parents without it turning into an argument about food.  I want my sisters to stop thinking I’m crazy.  I want to go out to dinner with my friends without leaving in a nervous breakdown. I want to eat cake on my birthday and not think twice about it. I want the dreams about working out and bingeing to stop because I can’t even escape this disease in my sleep. I want the kids at church to stop treating me like I’m a lost cause. I want my sisters to be proud of me. I want to sing and travel the world.  I want the sadness in my parent’s eyes to go away.  I want a boy to chase after me as if I’m the only girl he’s ever laid eyes on.  I want a friendship so deep that we finish each other’s sentences.  I want to be loved. None of this would have even happened if I could have just lost weight. None of this would have happened if I was skinny.

“Rihanna, bulimia is just a symptom of something lacking in your life. Now, I’m going to ask you again, what is it that you are looking for? What do you really want?”

The silence of the room was only broken by the sound of the clock on her wall.

“I want to be skinny.”

It didn’t start as a sickness.  It didn’t start as a disease.  I couldn’t honestly tell you when my obsession with my body began.  My earliest memories consist of watching my mom do Jane Fonda workout videos in our living room and overhearing conversations about diet and exercise.  My mom, aunts, and their friends always seemed to be strange around food. While serving us macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches, they would comment on how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such a luxury while they had to endure celery sticks and rice cakes.  I never understood why they felt that eating cheese would be the end of their world, but I remember thinking that if their lives would be ruined if they wore a bigger size jeans, then surely mine would be as well.

I remember hearing my parents fight one night.  They seemed to always fight about money or the fact that my mom would spend hours on the phone at night with her friends and I guess my dad didn’t like that.  This particular fight was different though. I remember my mom yelling, “I’m sorry that I don’t look like Cindy Crawford!”  I remember my heart sinking as I wondered, “Does my dad not think my mom is pretty?” I remember thinking about the times when everyone would tell me that I looked just like my mother.  Ever since that night 21 years ago, I have yet to see a photo of Ms. Crawford without being brought back to that moment.

It was in the sixth grade when I made the first real effort to lose weight.  My friends and I all began noticing our bodies changing and while my friends were going shopping for their first bras, I was going shopping for bigger jeans.  I was developing curves and everyone noticed.  My friends started calling me “JLO” and I remember coming home from school crying because everyone thought I was fat. Since I didn’t have a clue about dieting, I decided to stop eating breakfast.  I loved the feeling of being hungry.  It gave me a sense of control and power.

As I entered into Junior High, everything began changing.  My friends, our bodies, our lives, our interests.  I never felt like I could fit in anywhere.  I desperately wanted to be accepted by the cool girls in my class, but everything felt off.  I remember sitting in Heather’s bedroom listening to Blink 182’s Enema of the State while she and Cara were modeling their new bras that they filled out perfectly and talking about the boys in our class that they wanted to make out with and eventually marry.

“Rihanna, who do you want to make out with?” Cara asked.

I immediately felt uncomfortable in my own skin because not only was I still stuffing my bra with toilet paper, but I wasn’t particularly interested in marrying anyone in the seventh grade. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of crushes and had an undying devotion to Craig Johnson who made me weak in my gangly knees, but I’ve always had different goals.  Growing up, I fantasized about being a rich and famous singer who traveled the world but lived in my humble 20 acre ranch in Nashville, TN.  Boys always came secondary to my dreams of singing.  Although to be honest, I do sometimes feel that I have a better chance of joining the ranks of Taylor Swift than accumulating my MRS degree, but that’s for a different blog.

“Umm, maybe Troy?” I quipped.

“Well you better hope he likes girls with a fat butt like yours!” Heather laughed.

I immediately wanted to shrink away.

Fat.

Disqualified. 

Not good enough.

I walked home that night as those words echoed through my mind.  I vowed to not only cut out breakfast, but also lunch.  That will show them.  Then I’ll find a guy to like me.


Stay tuned for the next chapter next Wednesday!

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