Let's give our December Empowered Member of the Month, Anne Nyland, a round of applause!
Anne is a magical human being! She is what we refer to as a unicorn in the recovery world. Having struggled with trauma and an eating disorder for a long time, she is now devoting her life to helping other women through the same. She is becoming a nurse! As an advocate for the underdog, women's health and underserved populations, she knows she needs to fortify her recovery so she can help others do the same.
She is empathetic, loving, caring and strives hard at everything she does. Anne came to us needing help and applied for our scholarship graciously provided by ERA Key Realty.
Anne has whole heartedly committed to our program and makes an effort to engage in the ALL IN CLUB on a near daily basis. In fact, after the first time we met she committed 100%. In celebration of starting this new phase of recovery she and her roommate had a party! They poured a drink, took a sharpie and crossed out all the food labels in the house! How could I forget, her adorable rescue dog who serves as a great source of comfort for her recovery was there participating too!
I could share more about her story, but who better to share it than Anne, herself.
*TRIGGER WARNING* Below is Anne's ED recovery story. These are her own words. Raw, untouched and specific. Often times numbers are left out of the story. While the numbers don't matter, Anne's story DOES. For this reason we have left all details.
Anne's ED Story
Quiet, organized, particular, and health conscious, these are words that I would use to describe myself. Those around me knew me as an introvert, a petite distance runner and figure skater who ate only gluten-free, plant-based foods. However, those perceiving me did not know that I was struggling with an eating disorder… Anorexia Nervosa. I have struggled with disordered eating and negative body image since I was eleven but my distorted thoughts were winning as I was getting older causing me to restrict. I wasn’t diagnosed with anorexia nervosa until I was sixteen but in hindsight, I was struggling for a much longer time before the diagnosis.
Eating disorders are diagnosed following a certain criteria following the DSM-5. Depending on symptoms and behaviors, patients will be diagnosed. However, some eating disorders are not specific in perhaps certain behaviors such as primarily restricting and purging. These patients are classified as having an Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED).
Furthermore, anyone in size or shape of body can experience an eating disorder which is why there are so many types of eating disorder diagnosis.
In fact “less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight. ”Eating disorders include: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Pica, Avoidant- Restrictive, Binge-Eating Disorder, and Rumination.
Eating disorders occur due to various factors such as genetics and environment. However, “twenty-eight to seventy-four percent of risk for eating disorders is through genetic heritability”.
Due to genetics, some individuals are simply at higher risk for eating disorders. In my case, my mother and grandmother struggled with disordered eating, then I was a competitive figure skater, I strived for perfection, very rigid in my routines and schedules, and a distance runner which is all a combination of perfect factors for developing an eating disorder.
I was weighed and measured for skating dresses for competitions. Girls would compare sizes such as their waist and hip circumferences. I found success by getting recognition for being, “skinny”, “fit”, “tiny”, and “in shape”.
At the same time, I was especially surrounded by comments made by my grandmother and mother. My grandmother made comments about the clothes I was wearing, perhaps “too tight”, or how much I ate a lot, or that I needed to lose weight. My mother at the same time was trying new diets, talking about losing weight, and talking about needing to be skinny enough to wear a bikini. In addition, I was diagnosed with co-occurring disorders such as: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), I had an extreme need for order and for example, I could not leave home at times until certain objects were in a certain place.
I was so busy, I never had time to rest, and when I felt out of control, I would restrict and hurt my body to help me feel in control of my life in which I felt so unbelievably stressed. With time, I saw that excessive exercise and restriction, and avoidance of mealtimes became a weight loss option which made me feel successful and accomplished.
My eating disorder that I developed controlled me to the extent that I could no longer be considered healthy.
At my lowest point, the summer before senior year of high school, I would eat no more than six-hundred to eight- hundred calories a day. I ran five miles everyday, along with hours of yard work. I would walk everywhere and never drink calories. I stayed away from oil, sugar, corn, eggs, peanuts, dairy, white potatoes, and white rice. My treat was dairy free butter, and occasionally some protein balls. I was depressed, anxious, suicidal, sad, anemic, and could only focus on losing more weight.
Other symptoms of my eating disorder that I experienced were: weight loss, dieting, control of food, preoccupation with weight, calories, refusal to eat certain foods, uncomfortable eating around other, food rituals, skipping meals, small portions, withdrawal from friends and social events, frequent dieting, concern with body size and shape, body distortions, frequent checking in the mirror, and extreme mood swings.
Due to my eating disorder, I was not obtaining the proper nutrients needed for my body to perform. I hadn't had a period in almost eight months, medically known as amenorrhea. My body finally had enough in October of 2016’s cross-country season. I doubled over in pain and was rushed to the emergency room. My eating disorder took my last few practices of my running season away as well as the rest of my figure skating season.
I was diagnosed with mesenteric lymphadenitis (inflammation of the lymph nodes in the abdomen), which caused me chronic pain. Not eating, bingeing, or sometimes purging, using laxatives and appetite suppressants, my body’s natural gastrointestinal rhythm was disturbed. My ascending colon was impacted by constipation which led to an enlarged colon. Along with the inflamed lymph nodes, and my colon, I was in chronic pain. My anxiety and depression worsened. My weight went up and down throughout the year until I was a concern. I was then receiving comments that I was too skinny. At 112 pounds, someone noticed that I was thin. My gastroenterologist told me if I kept losing weight, I would have to have an endoscopy and colonoscopy to see what was causing the issue.
I knew those procedures were a waste of time, I knew exactly why I was losing weight. At first I denied it, I was happy that I was thin, I enjoyed hunger, it was a pain that made me feel accomplished and in control.
My intentional weight loss was something that I celebrated even though I was hurting my body. I didn’t care that I had nutritional deficiencies, or cystic acne, or that my relationship at the time was suffering, I wanted to be thinner.
As I go through recovery, I meet more and more women impacted by anorexia nervosa and other classifications of eating disorders. It is comforting to meet women and girls who understand how having an eating disorder impacts one’s relationship with food, body, self, and others.
Sometimes, I think about what life would be like without an eating disorder. I can’t change the past, but my eating disorder recovery journey has taught me that I am a strong, competent, and intelligent woman who is needed, loved, appreciated, and has a purpose in this world.
To bring awareness to eating disorders, I must acknowledge diet culture. I think it is important to focus on diet culture and educate others on the topic due to its influence on consumers’ health. Struggling with an eating disorder myself, and going through recovery, I have learned a multitude about diet culture, where it originated from, and how diet culture impacts each person on a daily basis.
I want to help other women and girls who struggle with eating disorders and those navigating their eating disorder recovery. I have learned with my eating disorder recovery, that I am needed on this earth and my purpose is to help others. I want to help debunk beauty and dieting myths, standards, fads, and misinformation. I want to be there for the patients who are struggling with their recovery, and feel like giving up.
Nevertheless, I especially want to be there for the patients who feel like life won't ever turn around or those who are struggling with suicidal ideation. In fact, eating disorders, second to opioid overdoses, are one of the deadliest mental illnesses, as one death every fifty-two minutes is due to an eating disorder. Twenty-six percent of those deaths are suicide.
Nursing will help me accomplish this goal of helping eating disorder patients. I want to help every patient that I ever meet in some way or another. I am determined, and excited for my future.
If you are struggling, you don't have to go through it alone! Relapse rates are highest in the first year out of residential, Empowered RX helps you transition back into life routines and gives you further tools to Empower and Inspire your recovery!