Kelly’s Story

I was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, on March 11, 1982. I grew up in Western Massachusetts with my mom, my dad, and my two younger brothers. When I was 10, my family moved from Massachusetts to Melbourne, Florida.

My dad was killed in a motorcycle accident on February 11, 1995, one month before my 13th birthday. It wasn’t very long after I lost my dad that I realized I could control my emotions with my food. What I thought would help me cope during a tough time ended up being an eating disorder that I struggled with on and off for almost 20 years.

After high school, in 2001, I moved back to Massachusetts because I was homesick, and because I needed to get away. I stayed there for 6 years, but much of that time was spent in treatment for my eating disorder. I wanted to get better, but I didn’t want to feel anything, so treatment became a revolving door. Every time, I was given the tools to make it on the outside, and every time, I exchanged them for the familiarity of being numb.

I started dating someone, got married and had three kids. My oldest son was born in July 2005. I fought to stay healthy for him, but when he was only a few months old, my stepdad, who had been in my life for the last 11 years, passed away. He died of a heart attack on Easter morning – April 16, 2006. I struggled a lot with losing my step-dad after already having lost my dad.

My second son was born in April 2007, and when he was only a couple months old, we moved back to Florida. We knew my mom was struggling and wanted to be close to her, and I knew I was unhappy in my marriage, even though I couldn’t pinpoint why.

I got into nursing school in 2008, and right after graduation, my third son was born in March 2009. Things went well for a little while. I started working as a nurse both in my kids elementary school and in assisted living, and I loved both jobs. In March of 2011, I found out I was pregnant with baby #4, but I had a miscarriage at 8 weeks. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through, and I went through it alone. I turned back to the one thing I knew that could protect me from everything I was feeling: my eating disorder. I think it was also right around this time that I realized my marriage was over. I had been fighting to keep my family together, but I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t doing my kids any favors by postponing the inevitable. I liked the idea of the perfect little family, but the reality was that it was far from perfect – it was unhealthy, and it was destroying me.

I was killing myself to save something that didn’t need to be saved. I spiraled back down the familiar rabbit hole of my eating disorder, disconnected from everything I cared about, and nearly killed myself. Dying truly felt easier than living. I didn’t really want to be dead, but it hurt so much to be alive that I didn’t know how to keep living. After fighting my team for quite a while, I finally agreed to go away to treatment, and a few days later, I boarded a plane to Denver. I fought the team there until my insurance threatened to stop paying if I didn’t make progress. I got scared and came to a place of complete surrender. I gave up everything – including my shoes – to my team (they took my shoes so I couldn’t go for a run when I was unsupervised in the evenings). I talked about the state of my marriage and how I had to stay sick to survive, and I felt all the pain of all the losses. I cried all day every day for weeks. I was encouraged to leave my marriage, but not right away. Apparently, the worst thing to do when you get home from treatment is to make any big life changes.

I was home for two weeks when I realized I couldn’t do recovery if I stayed, so I made a plan, packed my things, took my kids and left. I got a new apartment, and a new car, and drove myself full speed ahead into a relapse. Leaving was the right thing to do. I knew it at the time and I know it now. But when it was only me, I had to be strong for my kids and strong for me, I had to work and then come home and be mom, without a break. I burned out, and numbed out.

In the summer of 2013, I went back to Denver for a few weeks to get myself back on track. When I came home, I was better able to manage my new and different life. This was also the last time I went away to treatment.

I had a team at home – a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a dietitian – and there were times I saw them weekly, and times I saw them three times a week. They helped me through smaller relapses and struggles, and even though I never would have made it without their support, I ultimately found my recovery through allowing myself to be myself.

If you hear one thing, hear this: I spent years trying to fit into the mold of who I thought I was supposed to be. I tried to be thin enough, good enough, pretty enough. But when you’re chasing an impossible perfection, it’s never enough. An eating disorder is literally a quest for an impossible, unattainable perfection. It supports your theory that you’re not enough and becomes a vicious cycle of self-hatred and self-deprivation. Once you can look back, you can see that what you are truly chasing is death. You play with fire and try not to get burned, but you always get burned. I tried hard to die, and I don’t know how or why I didn’t, but I’m here and I’m alive and I have a story to tell.

So if you’re reading this, and you’re thinking that it’s different for me, and that you can’t recover, hear this: You can. Your eating disorder is a liar. Challenge it. Fight it. Take the next bite. Stay out of the bathroom. Commit to stay here. Commit to LIVE. The world needs you in all your beautiful imperfection. Someone, somewhere needs to hear your story to know they’re not alone.

My dietitian used to tell me that my eating disorder was a terrorist. And, we don’t negotiate with terrorists. Even if it feels like you can’t, you can. Even if it feels like the end, it’s not. It’s always darkest before the sun comes up. Broken bones hurt the most when they’re healing. Do. Not. Give. Up. I promise, it’s better on the other side. And once you feel all the bad that you’ve been pushing away for so long, you start to feel all the good again, too. And here’s the thing: life goes on. And it goes on whether you’re living it or trying to escape it. So, you might as well live it.

I have since fallen in love, gotten married, used my story to help others, and had some really amazing experiences, and met some really amazing people. But, this is where my story becomes our story. To read more about how I found recovery, and my life since then, check out Our Story.

Also, I love quotes. Here are a few of my favorite quotes…

“Frostbite hurts the most as it thaws. Broken bones ache when they begin to fuse back together. An eating disorder is most painful when you cannot necessarily see it anymore.” ~Jena Morrow, Hollow

“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.” ~Saint Bartholomew

“Love is really just vulnerability. It’s showing someone where they can hurt you most and then trusting them not to do it.”

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.” ~Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls