by Leah Hantman (Founder of Empowered RX)
Today I woke up and meditated, poured myself a delicious cup of coffee, and stepped out onto my beautiful rooftop patio overlooking the city to write. One of the perks from running a virtual business is that I can take those small moments for self-care and as a result I am so much more focused and efficient at work.
I have so much gratitude in my heart sitting here realizing that none of this would be possible without recovery. It took choosing courage over comfort every day for years.
Seriously... without recovery I would have not been able to have a day like this.. at all, not even close. This 10 year journey was so worth it!
Back when I was 16 red flags started popping up that I had a problem... but I ignored it. The red flags filled my day and looked something like this (PSA: We do not condone any of the below. In fact if you can relate... please reach out for help to your Doctor.)
🚩 Wake up 5 am
🚩go to the gym before school
🚩Eat a much too small breakfast
🚩Always tired, grades slipping, no focus, lack of motivation
🚩head to volleyball practice
🚩head to the gym for a class OR isolate in my room
and here I was thinking I was in control... CLEARLY I was not.. because this was just the beginning.
After I was assaulted everything spiraled overnight. I not only lost control, I lost myself completely. I quit volleyball, I stopped hanging out with friends, I grew cold and angry as my body and spirit withered away.
My days started to look something like this:
🚨Wake up, weigh myself and force myself to the gym
🚨Come back- make a poor excuse for a breakfast
🚨 Feel guilty several times for not moving more
🚨Restrict as a result
🚨 Mid afternoon nap (1 hour minimum)
🚨Feel lazy- head to the gym or do yoga
🚨Eat a small dinner
🚨Nurse my injuries
🚨Crash by 8pm
My energy was fading.... I no longer had the ability to hold it together. I was injured constantly, I was tired and distracted with constant ED thoughts and nightmares of the assault. Sitting behind my rapist in my Math class for the rest of the year was truly horrendous. I'll never forget being called on to answer in algebra. I had no idea what was going on. My teacher told me I was never going to be anything with the way I was showing up in class. Little did she know I was slowly dying.
You can guess that this wasn't sustainable for long... it got to the point where my body was falling apart... my days got worse and shifted to:
🛑 Wake up- feel like I was hit by a truck... press snooze as much as possible
🛑 Crawl out of bed- brush my teeth- get dressed- head out the door
🛑 Brain fog, headaches, enlarged lymph nodes, constipation, irritability, aches and pains... all day.
🛑 Freezing cold
🛑Sleep or go for a 10 mile run
🛑Come back and sleep the rest of the afternoon
🛑Wake up 6pm have dinner
🛑Lay awake tossing and turning in pain and anxiety til the early morning hours
🛑Fall asleep eventually, wake up, repeat
IT WAS LIVING HELL!
I held such cognitive dissonance with the state of my health and the actions that I was taking. I would make doctors appointments every month or so to get checked out. Something was "wrong and it was interfering with my running!" <----😳 YES that was my biggest concern.
Now this is where it get's scary...
☠️My resting heart rate was in the 40's
☠️I was pale as a ghost
☠️I lost my period
☠️I was always injured
☠️My lymph nodes were enlarged
My Doctor who I loved and had seen for over a decade told me I was SO FIT! She said she was jealous of my body. She weighed me and noted how good I was keeping in shape when she saw I lost weight. She noted my heart rate was low because I was such a good runner. My blood pressure wasn't a big deal... if it didn't impact my running then it wouldn't be too much of an issue at rest. She told me to take Miralax for my constipation and sent me to get an MRI for my shoulder, hip and back pain. She said my iron was low because I was a vegetarian but that my cholesterol and blood pressure were "WICKED GOOD!" (they were wicked low...)
I kept going back... I kept saying something was wrong. Deep down I knew I needed help but I didn't know that trauma could cause Eating Disorders. I thought I was just being super healthy. I mean, everyone including my Doctor was giving me positive reinforcement.
One day I was sitting in my psychology class and I remember feeling so drained that I had to sit on the floor against the wall. I was really tired. Dead tired. Dead inside. I thought I had the flu. When it didn't go away the doctor diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Secondary to Mono... even though my bloodwork came back with no signs of EBV.
EVERYTHING INSIDE ME SAID TO KEEP SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS... you might be sitting here thinking, "Man what a fool. How could she not see what she was doing to her body."... But... that is how these things work. Eating Disorders sneak into our brains and take up residence rent free.
I was 16, I had been assaulted, people were congratulating me on my fitness and my Doctor didn't catch it either. How was I supposed to know? When you are deep in the dark you don't realize how much you are fumbling.
I started to research and learn everything I could about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the pieces didn't fit. I kept digging. Researching the low blood pressure and anemia lead me to learning ways to reverse it through nutrition. I started to learn more about nutrition and stopped long distance running. I began replacing it with weightlifting instead. I still had urges to restrict and I still had some unhealthy behaviors but I just wanted to feel better.
Knowledge was power. It lead me to answers. I saw a Dietician. They told me my diet was great and to keep doing what I was doing. I kept digging. The stronger my nutrition became the more I healed. I was able to learn about the psychology behind Eating Disorders.
I started to embrace mindfulness and worked hard to grow and understand my own pain. Meanwhile I was getting stronger, I was lifting heavy and I was enjoying fitness for the first time ever. I was healing...
I was far from perfect but I started living again...I was asked by the local YMCA to teach fitness classes and the rest was history. I went on to get my personal trainer cert by age 18 and headed off to sunny Colorado where I continued to find healing in the mountains and nature. The earthy-crunchy lifestyle out there was more focused on adventure and energy than it was on looks... that continued to lead me down the path to healing. Every single day was uncomfortable. I had to override my natural instinct to restrict and self-sabotage. Loving myself was a foreign concept. While I didn't feel it, I just started acting as though I did.
A big recovery lesson here is that action precedes confidence... not the other way around. I didn't realize how much anxiety I had. I didn't realize how abnormal my experiences were. I thought everyone had a strained relationship with their body. All the women around me did, anyways.
I went on to study Clinical Exercise Physiology in College and from there on out my healing skyrocketed. I was living. I was determined to help other girls and women do the same. At age 22 I had dreams of opening my own business but had zero confidence. It would take me 8 more years to build the courage.
Over the next 8 years I hit more trials. A close and dear friend died from Leukemia (RIP "Sunshine" ☀️). Another assault, a relapse with the ED, dropping out of UMASS Medical School... etc.
I ended up so jaded that I worked for myself for a very brief time before my NOW business Partner, Mike Collette reached out and asked me to work for him. I was skeptical. BUT the values based business model he had along with their unique entrepreneur program allowed me to see potential and freedom for the first time in the workplace.
He encouraged me to do what I wanted and to seek out programs that would help people first and then be profitable. I learned A LOT! He and I are pretty polar opposite in a lot of ways and that forced me out of my comfort zone. To be honest, some days it pissed it off. It forced me to look at my weaknesses and to closely examine my values and dreams. My dream to start this business grew to the point where it became inevitable.
When he approached me to start what is now Empowered RX with him, I didn't believe in myself. I reflected on how far I had come. If I could recover from multiple assaults and an Eating Disorder... I could do this... and here we are a years later (WHERE HAS TIME GONE??? 🧐). Thank you Mike for believing in me and giving me that nudge!
Empowered RX is thriving. We have helped hundreds of girls and women navigate the complex world of medical treatment and Eating Disorders with our Empowered Recovery System. Every day is so rewarding.
Not a day goes by where I feel totally comfortable. I am constantly striving to heal further and help others. Growing this business is hard work. It takes learning, failing, pivoting, failing...it is endless but it is SO WORTH IT!
Recovery is a lifelong journey. It requires us to choose courage over comfort every damn day. We don't have to do it in massive leaps & bounds. We just have to do the next right thing, even if it's scary. Even if we think we can't. Because WE CAN! I know because that's what I did and will continue to do through tough times.
If you are STUCK in your recovery or feeling held back by a lack of confidence YOU... YES YOU... do not have to live that way. You are worthy of everything you want in this world and more. You are worthy of a thriving, healthy and happy life.
If this is you and you are feeling called to open those doors to freedom. To find health and healing... click below and apply to our Eating Disorder Recovery Accelerator Program. We have a few spots open.
Sadly those spots fill quickly. Since Covid 3/5 women are struggling with disordered eating. Eating Disorders have increased over 300%. You are not alone in this struggle... and you don't have to be alone as you heal either.
You just have to keep choosing courage over comfort. You just have to do the next right thing.