Growing up, a teenaged girl is faced with the pressure to have a perfect body image. They have learned to put their value in the way they see themselves in the mirror. This was true for me as well. By the time I reached my senior year I was already an obsessed exerciser, I was especially addicted to running.
As the days drew closer to my high school graduation I was overwhelmed with the decisions I would soon have to make and the biggest one of all, “What was I going to do with my life”? I was becoming really interested in fitness and being healthy, so I decided I would test my hand at becoming a fitness trainer. As I began school in May of 2008, I realized that if I was going to be a fitness trainer I had to look the part, so I began making different choices that would soon cause some drastic changes in my life.
As I learned more about how to live a healthy and fit lifestyle I began applying the tools to my daily routine. After 2 months of being exceedingly strict with my diet and exercising to the extreme, I had lost approximately 20 lbs and I was feeling great about it, so I decided to push even farther. As time went on it became easier and easier and I loved being able to feel in control.
I had convinced myself that if I could just lose that extra weight I always hated, then I would be happy, then I would fit in with everyone, and then I would gain the self confidence I’ve never had. But it was all a lie. I became more depressed than ever, I began abandoning my family and friends, I had lost myself.
Yes, I was finally thin, but I had to sacrifice my happiness, my social life, my personality, relationships with my family, and eating the foods that I once enjoyed. I also had reached my third month with an absent menstrual cycle, I was worried about it but I figured I was just overdoing it with the exercise load. As if this wasn’t hard enough, I had no idea what I was about to endure.
Another month passed and I lost another 15 lbs, I went from a size 8 to a size 0 within 3 months. I became so obsessed with my body image that I never allowed myself to have a break from working out because I couldn’t imagine gaining the weight back. My diet was exceedingly strict and usually contained very few calories.
During the summer months I noticed a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, which also caused a metallic taste in my mouth. It wasn’t anything major but it sure didn’t feel very good. At the end of November that sick feeling had become worse, so I made an appointment with a natural doctor in Bluffton. Mom took me to my visit and we talked about my recent weight loss and what kind of discomfort I was experiencing. They drew some blood before I left and sent it to the lab for a food allergy test. At this point I was at 117 lbs and there would be nights that I would dream that I gained back my weight. It was a nightmare and it freaked me out.
That week I got a phone call from the doctor’s office. They faxed me the test results and it revealed a very slight allergy to almost everything. After a week of attempting to eliminate those foods, I called the doctor back and told him I couldn’t do it because I knew this wasn’t the issue. He agreed to order an upper GI and on December 31st, 2008, I was diagnosed with a small gastric ulcer. I was then put on antacids, Zantac followed by Prilosec. He said if I stayed on them for the next few months it should heal my problem.
March hits and not only were the antacids not helping, but I was feeling even worse. I knew deep down that it had to be something more than just a small ulcer because I felt miserable every day. I just had no idea why. By the end of March I was miserable and I couldn’t stand living inside this body anymore. I felt like I wasn’t alive. I would spend all day alone in my bedroom because I no longer wanted to be around people. I just wanted to figure out what was wrong and feel normal like everyone else.
I was so uncomfortable all the time that I would do whatever I could to try and ease the discomfort, which for me, the only thing I could do that would change the way I felt, was to eat. My stomach was such a mess that I began binge eating, but instead of relief, it caused me to throw up. Whatever I could eat, I would. I just wanted it to help but of course it never did. It would end up coming back up and then it would start all over again and continue all day long.
Although the tests showed my ulcer was not caused by the bacteria, H. Pylori, I became so desperate that I asked the doctor if I could try the treatment in case the test was wrong.
I was going away on a family trip for a week and was willing to try anything, so I was started on triple antibiotics which included clarythromyacin, amoxicillin, Prilosec and Pepto Bismol 4x a day to coat the stomach. Nothing would stay down and I spent the week throwing up everything I ingested including water. The week came to an end and on our 9-hour drive home we stopped at the emergency room a half an hour from where we lived.
I was X-rayed and then I talked with the doctor about what was going on. They showed us the X-ray and my intestines were compacted up to my ribs from taking so much Pepto Bismol. It was so severe that I couldn’t even keep liquids down. I was given sodium citrate and was told to wait until I arrived home to consume it otherwise we would be stopping for a bathroom. The sodium citrate didn’t work and after attempting everything you could imagine, I ended up back in the ER and was given some advice on natural things to try.
In the meantime an appointment was set for me to visit a gastroenterologist. So April 4th my parents drove me to my appointment. I was already nervous because I absolutely despise seeing doctors. When we got there they took us to a room and the nurse had me put on a gown and then we did some waiting. Now I was even more on edge because I’m sitting on a table with just a gown and haven’t even met the doctor yet.
After a very unpleasant appointment he said he wanted me to have an endoscopy for the ulcer and a colonoscopy because I was constipated. I was not happy, because I knew my constipation was from the Pepto Bismol, but he wouldn’t listen. At this point I had put back on about 15 lbs and yet he still had asked me if I was anorexic.
Mom and dad said, since I was 19, I could decide whether I wanted to have the colonoscopy done or not. So I called the doctor and told him I only wanted the endoscopy. I had the procedure done that next week and when I woke up in the recovery the doctor said my stomach was completely clear from ulcers but had slight inflammation.
The doctor was angry that I refused the colonoscopy and he wasn’t sure what to do for me so he decided I should go a month on Prilosec. Well, like I said earlier, I had been on Prilosec for months and I only felt worse. So I told him that I couldn’t do it because I knew it wasn’t going to help and I couldn’t waste another month feeling like I did.
As mom and I continued to do our own research, we came to believe something was possibly wrong with my gallbladder. So we called him back that week and asked if he would order a Hida scan. He reluctantly agreed, but the scan showed no problem with the gallbladder’s function. Because I refused the colonoscopy and the continued use of antacids, the doctor told me that he would no longer help me, and that he was dropping me as his patient. Blacklisted was the term his office-help used. I remember I looked him in the eyes trying my hardest not to cry and asked, “Who’s going to help me then?”
I walked out of the doctor’s office that day feeling hopeless. I was just fired from a doctor who was supposed to be able to help me, what was I supposed to do now?
I spent the month of April visiting doctor after doctor, but yet still had nothing figured out. At the end of the month, I remembered a doctor my sister went to when she had appendicitis. All of her tests came back negative, but he didn’t quit on her. He pressed in until he found the problem. Finally I could see a speck of hope. To this day I believe God brought him into my life as an answered prayer.
We were convinced by now that it was my gallbladder so before my visit with him he ordered an ultrasound and I was to bring the copy to my appointment for him to check out. If I had gallstones or any other abnormality, the ultrasound would likely reveal it. The day of my appointment arrived and he looked at the test, he said the gallbladder looked fine, other than that it was slightly contracted. Yet that still didn’t convince me. I still believed it was my gallbladder and I made sure he knew that.
I spent most of that month at the hospital having every possible test performed and still he found nothing. After a couple more tests including a colonoscopy, which revealed a healthy colon, he agreed he would go ahead and remove my gallbladder.
April 30th, 2009, my gallbladder was removed. I woke up in recovery and felt worse than ever. All I could ask myself was, “What did I get myself into?”
The doctor confirmed that my gallbladder was bad and the scarring indicated chronic inflammation. As I began healing up I noticed a difference. The sick feeling that I once had wasn’t there anymore. But something still wasn’t quite right. I found myself still overeating and because there was still this discomfort, I would continue to eat in hopes of feeling better. But there was still no change. I would eat and then throw up constantly. It went on for so long, I eventually reached a point where I wasn’t even sure why it was still happening. Was there really something still wrong? Or was it me?
This question continually ran through my mind for the next year and a half. October, 2010, I was finally able to allow myself to come to the truth that the biggest problem interfering with my healing was me. Yes, my stomach still had some discomfort, but instead of giving it time to completely heal from all the damage it endured, I still resorted to binge eating to ease the discomfort.
So what do I do now? I knew the truth but I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t control it. I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know, but I knew if I wanted to get better I had to tell someone. I brought myself to tell a close friend over Facebook chat what I was dealing with and asked her to pray for me. I was going out of state for a week to visit a friend and my friend told me she was going to be praying and fasting for me the day I left. I went a full week and didn’t struggle with it once. After almost two years of throwing up at least several times each day, I knew God had healed me and it was no longer going to control my life.
I was now free of this physical problem but I still carried the shame around with me daily. Six months later God brought a good friend into my life that encouraged and pushed me to confess my past and share my struggles with others. Since that day I have had a complete sense of freedom.
I’m so thankful for the incredible family I have that helped me through all of my struggles and the friends that He placed in my life in order to overcome all that I have. No matter what anyone ever suffers through, it’s never too big for God. If you rely on Him through the tough times He will provide what you need in order to defeat it, and He will use it to shape you into what He wants you to be.
When I think about all that I had to bear, it makes me angry that it was all because of wrong choices I made. But if God didn’t allow me to go down that path, I wouldn’t be who I am today or even close to as strong as I have become. I realize that true joy cannot be found in any earthly desire, but in our only true source of hope which is Jesus Christ. If God can use me to help even one other person to overcome something similar to what I went through, then it’s worth every second of my suffering.
Note: Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation/infection) can be brought on by rapid, unhealthy weight loss and can also cause anorexia.
Jordan A. Momyer is a certified personal fitness trainer who began writing professionally in 2010. Her writing has appeared online at LIVESTRONG.COM. Jordan specializes in youth fitness and is pursuing certification in complete nutrition through International Sports of Sciences Association.