Now that I’m all done climbing the mountains, and have accomplished what I set out to do, what do I do now? How do you come down from such an extreme high and incredible journey? How will I adjust to going back home to a regular life? These are the thoughts that I’ve had, but are also the thoughts of my friends and family. They’re all concerned that I’ll crash and burn I suppose, biting their nails to see what happens. Well guess what, I’ve thought about this, a lot lately. Believe it or not I’m a planner and have thought everything through.
While I feel like I’m in a place where I have forgiven myself for my past, I still have more work to do on self-acceptance. It sounds like the same thing, but to me, it’s not. These are the things that I still struggle with: my body. This trip has been tremendous in helping me in this area. Yes, I did lose a little weight, but that’s not why I feel differently about myself. I haven’t had mirrors around me, I haven’t been body checking, and I haven’t been comparing myself to others while I’ve been out here and it’s brought me to a level of contentment. Yes, I see my photos of me on the mountains, and I might not love what I see, but I let it go quickly. As I go home, I know that this is going to be a much, much tougher situation to avoid. I will have to work really, really hard not to go back to doing those things and keep telling myself that I am blessed with this body. It is a strong, able body that I have a lot to thank for. That’s all I want to think about when I see or think about my body. I don’t want to think about it’s imperfections and how I don’t have model legs.
With all that being said, I know my journey with treatment is not over. I know that when I get back home I will have to go to Melrose Institute and see a dietitian and therapist regularly to keep me on track. I wish I could say that this journey was my ticket to being “cured” from my eating disorder, but if I did say it, I would be lying. I know that recovery is a journey in itself. For me, and for many others who struggle with an eating disorder. I have been eating more food than I typically would to stay active out here, and that’s going to change and I know I’ll need help with regulating my eating. The truth is I’m still scared to death of gaining back any weight I lost on this trip. Even two weeks on vacation in Montana I had a breakdown at the end because I thought I had gained back some weight from all the eating out. I have a battle ahead of me.
I will also start working again. I am so thankful that I get to work with my PCA client, Cassie again. Being a PCA has been the best job I have ever had. Not only does it pay decent, I have a blast every time I’m with her. We shop, take walks, visit coffee shops and see movies. I’ll have to find something else since it’s part time, but at least this won’t be a huge adjustment for me when I get back since it’s so fun!
As far as what to replace hiking and climbing with and the high it gives, I’ll start playing my love, volleyball again! It’s something that I’m constantly working on to get better at, and will give me the motivation to stay active and workout to gain power and a better vertical. If I get a gym membership, it will not be to do cardio machines just to burn calories. That is very dangerous territory. With my recovery, working out can never be about manipulating the shape of my body or burning a certain amount of calories. It destroys me quickly, but thankfully this is an area I have been the strongest with in my recovery.
To continue my spiritual growth, I’ll get involved with Substance Church once again, most likely as a greeter every other weekend. I owe much of where I am today because of Pastor Peter Haas and his church. He’s funny, passionate, intelligent, and always brings it home. The church itself has been the most accepting, connected church I’ve ever been to; “Come as you are” they say. I’ll also find a small group to stay grounded and connected to other believers. I think this is so important, almost more important than attending a church service because it’s a time when you can get real with people.
Last but not least, it’s important that I state that I will not go back to the life I was previously living. What do I mean by that? It means I won’t go back to living my life for someone else. I’m going to continue what this journey started for me and that is to live a life I imagined for myself. I must do what makes me happy because it allows me to be the best me; one that can love others better. So, what does that mean? It means I’ll be saving up every penny until mid winter so I can move to California. It’s always been a dream of mine, so I’m going to do it. Every winter I struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and it keeps me from finishing anything I start. While I love my family and friends dearly here in Minnesota, they must understand that this change could make me the happiest they’ve ever seen me- consistantly.
If you love someone, let them go free, right? The friends who love me and cherish me will continue to make an effort to see me, and the ones that don’t, well I’m grateful for the time we had together, but their season of friendship will end. I’ll get immediately connected into a church and start the process of developing new friendships all over again, which thankfully, has never intimidated me. I’ll be able to play outside year round! I’ll be more active than I’ve ever been in my entire life trying new sports and playing sand volleyball on the beach by the rolling waves of the ocean. I’m not saying it’s forever, but I am saying it’s what I need to try right now. I’ll start community college out there to gain the credits I need to be accepted into nursing school and I’ll be a nursing assistant until I graduate building experience.
I’ll also itch the scratch I’ve had my whole life and make time and resources to travel the world. I look at the world and I see it as a color crayon box filled with the most beautiful, vibrant colors. Staying in one place your whole life is like only using one color! God created this world for our enjoyment and it has beautiful and magnificent things for me and you to see. Being in the mountains was a taste of it, and I want more. Ever since I was little I used to say that I wanted to see the seven wonders of the world. I would say a lot of people have this passion, but it’s another to act on it, and I will be one of the few who do.
Lastly, I will continue to follow my calling which is to help others struggling with an eating disorder. I’ll get involved in an organization and help any way I can. I’ll do public speeches at high schools, treatment centers, churches, and conferences; whatever I can do, I’ll do. People have been encouraging me to write a book and it’s something I’m going to seriously look into. While being on the news was an amazing opportunity, they cut out anything I said about my faith- which was the foundation of my recovery process and it’s so important to me that others know that. Perhaps my path will inspire others to try God, or reconnect with God which would be the greatest accomplishment of my life. I can’t tell you how much I want to live my life for God!
I haven’t told that many people, but I have had the intent on moving after my adventure. I was almost sure that I was going to move to California, but now, Colorado is back on the table. Here’s my essay:
I have hope for an amazing future. It hasn’t been the most concise path thus far, and wouldn’t be considered the most prized way of building a future, but I wouldn’t change it. Every path is unique and beautiful and every decision can be made into something unique and valuable.
Like most, I thought I had a solid plan leaving high school and was looking forward to starting my life. I entered UW-Stout to pursue my love for art and passion for playing volleyball. However, my sophomore year, my identity was crushed. I was cut from the Varsity volleyball team, and came to the rude realization that my art wouldn’t lead me anywhere that offered safety or security. I then spent the next 3 years trying to discover my calling and didn’t have much success.
In 2010, I decided to move to Colorado to try something new. As one of my gifts, I have never been afraid of starting over, or been afraid of the unknown- in fact, it excites me! After a year of working at restaurants, I had the urge for more meaning in my life. I loved coaching, and had coached volleyball for four years including a year as Head Coach of the Junior Varsity volleyball team at McDonell High School in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where my team earned the title of Conference Champions. I also loved the study of nutrition and the human body, so with my strengths in mind, I decided to apply at 24 Hour Fitness in Highlands Ranch, one of the top gyms in Colorado. I received the position as a personal trainer, and also earned the title “Rookie of the Year”, of the entire company.
No one knew, but I had been struggling with depression since I was nineteen (with the loss of identity) and at the age of twenty-four, was also struggling with an eating disorder. These struggles eventually brought me back to Minnesota where I became deeply involved in my faith. I continued as a trainer for the next year and a half, and eventually broke off and started my own personal training business. It was going well, but my eating disorder and depression sabotaged everything. I was at the point where either I got help, or I died. By God’s grace, I found help in Belleview, Washington at a residential program called “Center for Discovery”. That place changed my life entirely. I was finally on my way to finding my true self and healing.
I went back to personal training for a while at Life Time Athletic, but having an entirely different view on what truly fulfills life, I didn’t find the work as rewarding. I wanted to help people find balance, not make them believe that they couldn’t live without me, or that their life wouldn’t be as valuable if they weren’t at a certain weight or performance level. Those beliefs nearly destroyed me.
A relapse in my eating disorder sent me into a time of deep reflection. I have always been a purpose driven person, but I was having a hard time finding my place in the world. I was also reflecting on how much the eating disorder had stolen from me, and wanted to regain my zest for life. Those two things combined sent me on the amazing journey I’m currently on. June 3rd, 2015, I left for Colorado in hopes to conquer climbing all fifty-four fourteener mountains, strengthen my relationship with God, and gain direction on where to find fulfillment in my career life.
It’s been an incredible journey which I have been blogging about in hopes to help others who also struggle with an eating disorder and those in general who need a pioneer to chase after their dreams despite the fear of the unknown. I came up with the slogan “Faith>Fear”. I’d be honored if you read some of my entries at sunshineof1985.com. This trip has been the motivation I needed to start living the life I had imagined for myself. A life of giving and of adventure.
How does Metropolitan State University of Denver fit into this equation? By helping me become an angel of the people, a nurse. Nursing fulfills my needs for helping people and using my God given intelligence. My now clearer vision of my future and grasp on my identity gives me motivation to complete the program and to do it well. Along with becoming a nurse, I also envision being an active advocate for people who struggle with eating disorders. I want to help society become more aware of the true definition of what it means to have an eating disorder. I have big plans for my future, and I hope that your esteemed college becomes a part of my future and life story.
Keep your fingers crossed and prayers of course are always appreciated!