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TW: Mental Health, Eating Disorders, Depression
This is my most raw and vulnerable post to date… If you feel that any of these topics may be harmful to you, please take care of yourself and click away now.❤️
My Year: Month-by-Month, Told Through Pictures
You have been the most unique and crazy year I have ever experienced. Both globally and personally, you have thrown so many unbelievable obstacles.
2020, you broke me.
You hurt me.
You saw me fall to a point that I wasn’t sure I’d recover from.
But, as weird as it sounds, I want to say thank you.
Because, 2020, you made me stronger.
You saw me rise.
You saw me overcome.
This year has changed my life and, as it comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on all the things it has held.
Let’s recap this year, month-by-month, moment-by-moment…
I started this year so motivated.
I remember vividly sitting around the table at New Year’s brunch and giving my family members all a personal letter about my intentions for the year.
January 1st: I promised them all that I was starting my true recovery that day and never looking back.
I broke that promise.
I remember the feeling in my chest taking both of these photos. So broken, so exhausted, so embarrassed, and so ashamed. I took these with the hopes that I could look back one day when I felt happy again and see my progress. But honestly, at the time, I didn’t feel confident that day would ever happen for me…
A Bold Step
In February, I did something SO nerve-wracking.
I shared my story.
February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month and I chose February 29th (exactly 10 months after my hospitalization) to share my story on social media with my friends and family.
The support I got was unbelievable and the overwhelming amount of love I received was insane.
I am blessed and so, so grateful.
The World Goes Mad
Oh, March 2020.
You really were something…
This is where lockdown begins.
When I was looking back at images from this year, the one that screams “COVID quarantine” the most was DEFINITELY this one: 😂
Jokes aside though, this month was hard for me. The extra time I had in lockdown was spent developing increasingly rigid and restrictive routines and bad habits.
I began tracking my food religiously again at this point. It isn’t a coincidence that I also reached my lowest weight EVER during this month.
I felt horrible.
COMPLETELY drained, exhausted, cold all the time, cranky, irritable, mean, emotional…
I had full breakdowns after almost every meal, fearing any slight increase in my weight.
For the first time in my entire eating disorder journey, I became addicted to the scale. If the number rose even a decimal, I freaked.
The ironic part is that I also HATED how I looked during this time.
I remember the moment I took this picture… I cried looking at it because I absolutely despised how I looked. But I felt like I couldn’t stop restricting no matter how much I wanted to.
Physically, this was the worst I have ever felt…
My sister and her fiancé had talked about getting a puppy for a while and now it was finally happening!
I was so sure that this was it.
This was surely the secret to all my happiness. How could I feel down when there was a new puppy to play with?
This didn’t cure me.
Do NOT get me wrong, sweet Molly Mae has filled my heart with so much joy and love! But even that sweet puppy face wasn’t enough to pull me from the monster in my mind.
April 2020, you had so many opportunities for me to feel happy but, still, I wasn’t.
In looking back, I am saddened by the missed opportunities for happiness and the memories that stuck from this month instead.
I remember crying over every picture I saw of myself.
I remember shivering no matter how warmly I was dressed.
I remember my hair falling out in clumps.
I remember being afraid to sleep because of how weak I knew my body was.
I remember dreading seeing anybody (even my SISTER… my very BEST FRIEND) because I was embarrassed by how I looked.
Needless to say, my weight remained frighteningly low, and my mental health was on a steep decline.
Lockdown was really starting to affect me.
May, you are usually one of my favorite months.
The sun starts coming out. Flowers start to bloom. I am excited to celebrate my beautiful mom with both Mother’s Day and her birthday within days of each other!
I didn’t feel that joy this year, 2020.
This month, while it had some highs, was hard.
Most days I did not feel up to getting out of bed.
For the first time, I had stopped feeling outwardly sad.
That’s not as good as it sounds.
May, you are the first time I felt truly empty. I felt blank and lifeless. I felt like the me that I once was didn’t even exist inside me anymore… the Delaney I knew felt completely gone.
Even the people and the things I loved the most no longer mattered to me.
This image was taken at a family dinner. I am smiling and looking joyful, holding sweet Molly girl.
But what you don’t see is the breakdown just hours before because we were having baked potatoes and I was scared.
You don’t see me sitting on the floor crying because I can’t find anything to wear that hides my body enough.
You don’t see me begging my mom to cancel dinner and tell my sister and her fiancé to stay home because I don’t want to talk to anybody.
You don’t see me completely removed from all the dinner conversations because I am mentally calculating the calories on my plate and trying to hide my food scraps.
You don’t see me completely distracted by how frizzy and broken my hair looks in the mirror beside me the entire night.
Am I smiling?
Am I happy?
Not even close.
Catching My Breath
2020, you gave me a brief break here.
I began to feel a bit better.
I found myself getting ready more often and I spent less time isolated and removed from my family.
During this month, I also had slight glimpses of confidence. Some days I felt like I looked okay and at times I felt alright with being seen. This was progress.
That said, I still was far from myself.
I felt irritable and antisocial. I felt anxious and insecure. And, more than anything, I still couldn’t just EAT.
I had a false sense of recovery this month… I truly thought this was recovery. And, if it was, I was losing hope that it was even worth it.
I started to wonder if I could ever feel “normal” again.
Happy Birthday to Me!
My birthday, falling at the end of July, was incredibly bittersweet.
Leading up to my birthday, I felt overwhelming anxiety. I didn’t want to be around people, I didn’t want to eat my favorite foods that were intended to be special, I didn’t want to be the center of attention, and more than anything, I was pissed off that I didn’t want any of those things.
Birthdays have always been extremely special in my house and I was SO angry that this nasty disorder was taking that pure, genuine joy from me.
But overall, the day itself was incredible. I remember sitting around with my family at the end of the night and crying, thanking them for giving me the first truly good day I had had in a long time. This was huge for me. For the first time in as long as I could remember, life felt somewhat normal. I had a glimmer of hope that maybe I could make it out of this.
August can best be described in one word:
I didn’t feel overly happy but I didn’t feel overly sad.
As someone who typically loves the warmer months, it’s not normal for me to feel underwhelmed by the opportunity to be outside.
I felt happy at times, confident at times, joyful at times…
But, most of all, I just remember feeling drained and exhausted all. the. time.
Hence my description of this month…
Extreme TW: Depression
2020, you beat the crap out of me in September.
I fell and I fell hard.
In September, I hit the lowest I have ever been mentally.
Truly, I hit rock bottom.
I felt unbelievably unfulfilled in my life, like I had no passions, no drive, no motivation, and no source of happiness.
More than anything, I felt like I had ruined all of my most important relationships with how irritable, isolated, and angry I had been for almost two years. I felt like I had done irreversible damage to those I loved most and I could only see myself as a burden.
After one particularly horrible night, I knew I couldn’t continue down this path.
Later that week, I remember curling up in my mom’s lap and finally saying the words:
“I need help.“
My mind was taking me to scary dark places and I didn’t know where to go next.
I remember describing this pain with the words “I don’t think I necessarily want to die, but I don’t think I’d care if I did.”
This is something that, to this day, I have not shared with anybody but my mom and my best friend…
2020, you really took it out of me in September.
But, guess what, 2020?
You didn’t defeat me.
It’s time for a comeback…
Approaching a Corner…
October, you were my damage control month.
September: I had crashed and burned.
October: I was assessing the damage and deciding where to go now.
Turns out “where to go” was Starbucks.
Don’t laugh. I promise it’s not as silly as it sounds…
In October, I began working at Starbucks. I wholeheartedly believe that getting this job, no matter how minor it may seem, was the first step in saving my life.
Starbucks got the ball rolling. It interrupted my self-destructive routine and cycle that I was stuck in. It initiated my next big steps…
Not only was it a concrete reason to get out of bed in the morning, but through this job, I was able to be around people, re-socialize, and form connections. I met some amazing people and bonded with incredible coworkers that I am so thankful for.
That said, I can’t pretend this month was all rainbows and butterflies…
I was overwhelmed with the recurring thoughts of
“What am I doing here?”
“Am I ever going to make it in life?”
I feel that these daunting thoughts are natural for many people still navigating their path. However, mixed with my mental health struggles, eating disorder, and malnourished brain, this was a recipe for disaster (or at least many mental breakdowns).
At this point, I finally accepted that this was more than I could handle on my own. This was out of my immediate control.
It is in this month that I finally initiated getting help for my mental illnesses.
I scheduled an appointment to look into anxiety and depression medication.
I avoided this for so long because of the stigma around being medicated… but why?!
If I was sick with any other illness, I would not be refusing my medicine. If I had the flu I wouldn’t be beating myself up for being “weak” and needing medicine. So why was I refusing this? Just because this illness takes place in my mind and not my body?
Mental illness is not any less serious than other illnesses. It is equally deserving of treatment.
Turning a Corner…
November 2020, wow…
I never thought I could feel this big of a shift so quickly.
Authentically Del was born this month.
And my life changed.
Truly, I get emotional thinking about it…
I had purchased my website months before and drafted a TON of ED-related content but never felt strong enough in my recovery to share it. I was waiting for the perfect time but, as we all know, that doesn’t exist.
So I ripped the band-aid off.
Taking this leap was the best thing I have ever done for myself. As someone who has dreamed of writing my entire life, this blog has been the MOST incredible outlet for me.
Even more so, the insane amount of support and connection I have experienced through this community has left me feeling the most loved and supported I have in as long as I can remember.
Good Lord, I am just so unbelievably thankful.
After starting at Starbucks, I felt like I had broken the depressive, stay-at-home-and-isolate-myself cycle. In fact, the pendulum swung the entire other way and I wound up with too much on my plate.
I ended up starting freelance work and, in the process, was offered the opportunity to be a virtual assistant for a vet. This job included some of the work that I hope to do as my career one day…
I chose to pursue this job and, as a result, gave my notice at Starbucks. As sad as I was to close that chapter already, I was so thankful for it and so excited for my next steps.
I LOVE my assistant job and still sometimes wonder how I got so lucky with this opportunity.
2020, Thanksgiving this year was memorable.
You may have been a disaster of a year in many ways, but your Thanksgiving was incredible for me.
Even though this Thanksgiving looked much different (no big family gathering), the pure gratitude that I felt while reflecting this year was overwhelming.
My life has always been filled with blessings but, after hitting rock bottom just over a month before, I felt the most thankful I ever have.
In addition to that, for the first time in YEARS, I was able to enjoy myself at Thanksgiving dinner. The food anxiety was there, yes. But I was able to silence it enough to enjoy the holiday.
And for one WHOLE DAY, I felt HAPPY.
That was a huge win for me.
The Closing Chapter
This December, my focus has been on two things…
Happiness and Recovery.
I took HUGE strides in my recovery in November and I made it my mission to not let myself fall back, physically or mentally.
I also made it a goal to be present and ENJOY holiday festivities for the first time in years.
For the most part, I achieved those goals.
I am so proud and thankful to say that, for the first time in a long time, I felt present during the holidays.
The extra energy I had from not counting calories, obsessively exercising, and restricting my food was put towards good conversations, laughing with loved ones, and making irreplaceable memories.
2020, thank you for offering me such an incredible Christmas season.
That said, I don’t want to sugar coat this…
While there have been so many perks to my recovery progress, it is still HARD.
I have still cried over my jeans not fitting and had breakdowns over “scary” meals and holiday treats. I have felt self-conscious, insecure, and embarrassed by my weight gain and appearance. And, honestly, I’m still struggling with shaking food rigidity, restrictive tendencies, counting calories, and fear foods.
Yes, the steps I have made are huge…
But I don’t want to make it seem like the steps were easy or my work is done.
There are still moments, hours, days, or weeks that are abnormally difficult. The nasty voices of my eating disorder, anxiety, and depression still get unbelievably loud sometimes… usually for no particular reason and with no warning at all.
It is scary to feel out of control when these emotions creep up. I am not going to lie, the thought of falling back to a place where I didn’t see the point of living absolutely terrifies me.
Trust me, I am not naive to the fact that I still have a journey of ups and downs ahead of me, but I am determined to not fall back to that same place.
I am working to remind myself that one hard day does not have to be anything more than that…
ONE hard day.
For the FIRST TIME in a long time, I am feeling more happiness than sadness.
The good finally feels to outweigh the bad.
I am noticing countless incredible benefits of recovery already.
I’m able to have meaningful connections and relationships again.
I can be NICE to the people I love.
I have the energy to walk through a store.
I have the mental capacity to focus on work or watch a TV show.
I am warm. I can sleep through the night. My skin is brighter and my eyes have a sparkle again. I can brush my hair without it falling out in clumps. I have a personality again. I can partake in holidays and celebrations!
Most of all…
Life feels worth living again.
Recovery is HARD work… in fact, this journey has by far been the hardest thing I have ever had to face.
But, for the first time, I feel that I can make it out of this place…
And I know that I will.
You have been the most unique year of my life, to say the least.
You have tested my strength, knocked me down, and saw me to a place I was unsure I would make it out of.
You have also taught me lessons, made me count my blessings, and watched me pull myself out of that dark place.
From my lowest of lows to my incredible highs, thank you for all of it.
It is because of you that I now see how strong, resilient, and powerful I am. I now know, because of you, that there is nothing I can’t tackle.
You gave me health, you gave me strength, you showed me passions, you offered me opportunities, and you taught me the power of community through Authentically Del.
No offense here, 2020… I can’t say I’m sad to see you go.
But I also can’t say I don’t appreciate you.
Thank you for this CRAZY year.
You have set me up for continued success.
And, with that, all I have to say is…
2021, BRING IT ON.
I am ready for you.