fall down seven times, STAND UP EIGHT

On this day, eight years ago, I was hospitalized for cardiac instability after losing a large chunk of weight, in a short chunk of time. I spent the following year almost exclusively in treatment for anorexia, anxiety and depression, and suicidal ideation.

On this day, seven years ago, I’d come a long way from the year prior. I was one month into my junior year of high school and getting back into a rhythm of being a “full time” student. My goal was still to run at the collegiate level, and in a few, short months, I would be offered a full-ride scholarship to do so. I would be unable to accept this offer due to an ACL tear I would incur while skiing that season. I was doing okay in my recovery, physically, but still very much struggling mentally and emotionally. Seeing three to four healthcare providers at least once a week had become my normal, all in an effort to keep my health stable.

On this day, six years ago, I was enjoying my last year at home before I would move away for college, as a Senior in high school. I felt pretty good in my recovery, but still had a ton of support and supervision that ensured I wouldn’t slip backwards.

On this day, five years ago, I was experiencing the newfound freedom that comes with being a college student. Slowly but surely, I began my descent back down the slippery slope that I’d worked so hard to overcome.

On this day, four years ago, I was two months away from being sent out to residential treatment in Tallahassee, Florida, where I would begin (again) the long journey of recovery. The following year was spent back in treatment, and out of school. I began journaling (and subsequently, blogging) this year. My first entry is here.

On this day, three years ago, I had once again graduated from treatment, moved back to Corvallis part-time (commuting to and from Portland three days a week), begun my junior year of college at OSU, and wrote this blog entry. It’s amazing to me how much has changed in just the last three years!

On this day, two years ago, I was entering my last year of college at Oregon State. I was the healthiest I’d ever been (mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally) and would go on a first date with my now husband three days later (10-14-17). I only went home to my mom twice that year, which was a huge milestone for me. I also got my period for the first time since I was fifteen, which was a physical milestone, of course, and had weaned off of seeing my providers, with the exception of a check-in once every few months. You can find my blog post from October 11th that year here.

On this day, last year, I was planning our wedding. I was living with my dad for the first time since middle school, and experiencing a season of what felt like floundering, having just graduated from college, adapting to a new (and rather inconsistent) routine, but managing to stay stable in my recovery. Despite recurring feelings of anxiety and depression, I was committed to not letting my feelings dictate my behavior and reverting to coping skills that I knew were unhealthy. With a lot of emotional support from Cody, my family, and close friends, I was able to handle that unstable season without being self-destructive. Time, and space, and grace, (and a LOT of communication!) has brought Cody’s and my marriage to a place I never knew one could be, full of intimacy, trust, and the inexplicable feeling of another human knowing you better than you even know yourself. The feelings of anxiety and depression began to slowly dissipate, as I eventually developed a new sense of normal. In April, I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker at St. Vincent’s Eating Disorder Center, where I’d been a patient. You can read my speech here.

On this day, today, I am truly in awe. The Bridgette I know today feels lifetimes away from the one I knew eight years ago.

I’m not going to say that I don’t struggle at all anymore. As much as I would like to paint the picture that I wake up with a big smile on my face everyday, get out of the shower and say, “DANG, I look good!” as I pull on my jeans that are sometimes just a liiittle tighter than I’d like them to be, head out into a gray, rainy, Portland fall day (which, I will say, has been BEAUTIFUL thus far), and arrive at my desk job, chipper as can be, that’s not the case. It’s also not a realistic expectation. For anyone.

What I am going to say, is that the days that I don’t struggle are far outnumbered by the ones where I do. My perspective and appreciation of my time on this earth, the blessings I’ve been given, and the love and support of the people I get to do life with, has grown exponentially. I’ve learned multiple ways that I can cope with depression, anxiety, and disordered thoughts. And, more often than not, I’m able to abstain from destructive behavior.

Up until about a year ago, I was very set on the idea that I would not have biological children. There have been quite a few studies that have shown the genetic component to mental illness, and I’d spent such a large portion of my life fighting the battle, that I didn’t want to put that on one of my own children.

Over the last year or so, my perspective on this has changed as I’ve seen how fruitful my life can be without having the cloud of anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder constantly hanging overhead. While I know that Cody’s and my children will be predisposed for any and all of these conditions, I also know that with the right support, skills, and work, they can get through it and live a fulfilling and fruitful life.

pumpkin patch 2019

I know there’s a famous saying to “not look back, you’re not going that way,” but I think that sometimes it’s necessary to look back, to reflect on how far you’ve come.

When I look back at the way my life has evolved over the last eight years, I can see how nonlinear, and messy the process of recovery was. I am so much further, today, than I could have EVER imagined to be eight years ago. Fifteen year old Bridgette didn’t think she’d ever make it to 18, let alone a married, 23 year old woman with her whole life ahead of her. Yet, if I knew just how many times I would continue to fall down, only to have to stand back up again, I don’t know that I would’ve been so enthused about the journey. I don’t even know that I would have had the courage to take the next step forward.

I don’t like to post pictures from when I was sick, because I think it promotes the concept that you have to look sick to be sick, which could not be further from the truth. Throughout the many times I’ve been in treatment, I’ve seen the whole gamut of patients: girls who look like they have it all together but are suicidal, boys who are bulimic, overweight individuals who are anorexic, young children who are self-harming, and everything in between. Mental illness (depression, anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.) does not discriminate. Not only that, but it can often be very well disguised by its victims. The girl that you babysit is not excluded from having an eating disorder, just because she’s “only” ten years old. Trust me, I’ve seen it. The fact that the pastor of your church is a pastor, doesn’t mean he isn’t severely depressed and struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Yesterday , Thursday, October 10th, was “National Mental Health Day,” which I have always found quite ironic (it being one day shy of my hospital anniversary). I don’t post a whole lot of content that’s related to mental health anymore, but I wanted to take a minute today to recognize the journey that everyone who’s struggling with something (AKA: everybody!) is facing. Life is hard! The journey is hard! I know that a lot of the time, it can feel like you’re falling down a lot more times than you’re standing up. But, I PROMISE you, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day you’re going to look back and be so, so proud of the things you’ve overcome, and grateful for the path that got you to the person you are today.

Fall down seven times, stand up eight

Japanese Proverb

There are so many more things that I could, and want to say. HOWEVER, I am trying to write a book about this very subject! So, given that I don’t want to spew my entire book onto the contents to this blog post, I will refrain for now, and cap it here for today.

More than anything, I am so thankful to Jesus for helping me get to the place that I am today. I have been provided with more resources, grace, and love to propel me through this life than anyone could ever ask for.

-Bridgette

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, check out a list of recovery resources I’ve compiled here.

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