Hello all! I’m sorry for the long break! For some reason, I’m finding it harder and harder to mentally pull myself back into my journey in order to get the events and timing In the correct order. AnyWho, I left off in my last post where I was barely able to walk, a loved one of mine had just passed away, I started seeing a counselor who helped me focus on Christ and His hope, and after speaking with my neighbor… I decided to focus my energy in getting signed up for classes at Contra Costa College. Now, I’ll continue where I left off! Fare warning before I begin… if you are someone who gets triggered by talking about food, over exercise, calories, weight, etc. I HIGHLY recommend that you do not proceed as I will be discussing some pretty detailed areas of my eating disorder in this blog post!!!
My Journey Part 14
Christ’s hope is the one thing that shines brightest in dark times! I found that to be true during so many dark periods of my life. As I got things in order to sign up for classes, my neighbor gave me a laptop and Internet access so that I would be able to get enrollment and School work done! What a sweetheart! Finally, everything was in place, and I was set to start school in Spring 2015 with an aim to get my degree in Liberal Arts: Math and Science with an emphasis on kinesiology. Yeah, barely able to walk and I wanted to be an exercise science major! My long-term goal was to obtain my bachelors of science at Cal State East Bay in their wellness program that includes nutrition and kinesiology, then transfer to UC Berkeley to obtain my masters and, eventually, my PhD in psychology. My purpose in getting these degrees was so that I could help people who have been abused and those who have been forced into sex/ human trafficking regain their strength psychologically, physically and nutritionally while including biblical foundations for them to build their platform from. As everything was ready for me to go, there was still the waiting period before I started classes. The months before school included Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they were some of the hardest holidays I have ever had to face! For Thanksgiving, I was housesitting and came home to enjoy dinner with my family and godmother. There I was, in so much pain! I sat there and tried so hard enjoy dinner with my family, but all I could think about was that my godmother got to race that morning and I was trapped like a prisoner pacing back-and-forth in my apartment and in the house that I was housesitting at the time. It was the only way that I could get any form of physical exercise without my body completely acting up on me. I missed the race field, I missed the people, the energy, the food, the social life connected to it all. I felt like a huge part of me died! It was like a part of my family had been ripped away! That’s something I still mourn to this day! On the up side, I used the time of pacing as my declaration time where I would memorize scripture and declare the promises of God over my life.
Anyhow, Still terrified to really eat anything solid, all I allowed myself to eat that day was a mountain of steamed vegetables, some turkey, and some fat free- sugar free pumpkin flan. The eating disorder was taking over my life at this point. I began this ritual of eating two apples for breakfast with two egg whites or half cup of nonfat cottage cheese. I would have snack of non-fat, sugar free Greek yogurt. Lunch would usually consist of just veggies and egg whites or a can of sardines. Sometimes I would have an occasional piece of turkey or some tuna or other fish. Dinner would usually be the same. I began stuffing myself with mini bell peppers and veggies until I would nearly pop. It’s as if I was panicked that I wouldn’t see another meal, I would just eat until I couldn’t eat anymore. At the same time, I still wasn’t getting enough calories in. The only source of healthy fats that I would take in were from the sardines that I would eat every other day.
As Christmas time rolled around, I prepared to do my first acting performance at Hilltop Community Church for their Christmas production! In this, I played a black Friday shopper! Being involved in this production was a total emotional lifesaver for me! The rehearsals, the performances, they were all moments of escape for me from my daily life and the struggles I faced. Meanwhile, I got to be a blessing to the community by helping to spread the story of Jesus Christ.
I mean… think about it, every day was a struggle! Having hard time walking, barely able to afford to feed myself, going to the $.99 store to stock up on the only things I could really afford and was willing to eat which were veggies, egg whites and sardines, stuffing myself into an oblivion every time we had food because I wasn’t sure if we were going to have enough, I was an emotional wreck!
Finally, once the emotional roller coaster of the holidays was over and the show had finished, I started to see a physical therapist and the switch from chiropractic to new therapy placed me in a position where I was in bed for three days and unable to walk. I iced as best as I could. I did as many stretches as I possibly could. I prayed, I cried out to God! I remember sitting down in chairs and standing up only to have my low back and sacrum literally pop right out of place… trying to walk in the parking lot of the grocery store or even through grocery store and my hip and groin area would lock up. I had to shuffle carefully everywhere I went! It was a nightmare! I continue to press on, and prayed my way through as I knew that classes were starting shortly.
The Sunday prior to my first day at school, I made sure I went to church despite the pain. I filled up on as much biblical truth as I possibly could by fellowshipping with my beloved purple book Bible study class and attending the Sunday service. That week, on January 12, 2015, I stepped onto the campus of Contra Costa College in faith. I shuffled my way through each appointment with EOPS and my counselor, shuffle from class to class, and finally made it successfully through my day! There I was, with a full 12 unit schedule that included Theatre Appreciation, Education For Healthful Living, Intermediate Algebra, and Beginning Fitness Center (so I could do core and balance work to regain my strength). I plowed myself right away into studies! This time, I was determined to not fail!
A few weeks into the semester, my theater teacher had caught wind from one of my former theatre professors that I was “one of the drama kids.” She quickly invited me to audition for the Spring show, “All in the Timing” which is a compilation of several short plays. Each actor would take on several different characters. At first, I was almost bitter that my professor would want to add more to my plate! I was already having a hard enough time walking around campus let alone getting my studies done through the chaos at home (my nephew was still dealing with temperamental issues and screamed A LOT). The thing is, I felt that art bug just tug and tug at my heart, so I took the dive! Thankfully, I was cast originally for 4 different characters and ended up doing 3 due to one of the plays being cut from the show. It’s amazing how God uses people to really help pull you into a direction that will help you find who you are created to be! Doing the production meant that I literally spent nearly every week day on campus from about 8:30 in the morning till almost 10 or 11 o’clock at night.
This time kept me focused on my studies, helped me get away from the chaos at home, and really helped me just heal emotionally giving me something good and hopeful to focus on! I continued to juggle classes, counseling appointments, doctor appointments, physical therapy, homework, family life and I still have no idea how in the world I managed to push through! Being a part of that production was such a blessing because it brought back several people who have become very much like family to me during some of the very darkest parts of my life! It also brought new people into that family! Just like running, there’s something about the performing arts that just really brings people together! It’s just so healing!
As the show was beginning to come to an end, the money that I had received from grants had run out, and as a college student, unless you’re working 20 hours a week, the government will not provide food stamps. So, I was facing some serious financial difficulties! Mom and I had no gas money and we barely had anything to eat. As a result, I started looking for work. The production went on, and it was such a wonderful show! I was so proud of all my fellow cast members and how well they had transitioned from character to character!
On top of it, I was exhilarated by having my acting skills challenged and built through my character transitions as well! What an exciting show!
One day, as I walked out on campus, I looked over at the school newspaper stand and… there I was!? Me? On the cover of the school newspaper? What a blessing! I was so humble yet excited at the same time!
The high from all the show excitement went down, spring break approached, and I began hard-core searching for a job! Finally, I landed a job at Kmart and I slowly started seeing my life come together! With hopes of getting promoted and working my way up to management, school going in a hopeful direction, progress in physical therapy to point where I was actually running on a treadmill at some points again, I was eating better well rounded meals again… hope helped me stay focused on moving forward and not the pain that tried to distract me from my school work each day. I’m talking pain when I stood up, pain when I sat down, pain when I walked, pain when I did anything. It was the hope that Christ placed my heart (and learning to take on campus naps lol) that helped me stay focused! Mind you, there were times I found myself crying in the bathroom during finals from the mental and emotional exhaustion mixed with the pain.
Finally the semester had come to an end. There had been a several week break between switching physical therapists and the stress from everything had taken its toll on my body. On top of it, I didn’t realize that my summer class was an early start, that meant I only had ONE week between the end of my spring semester and the beginning of my summer. I went to see my new physical therapist for the first time that week she informed me that she was going to have to completely take exercise from me for a while. Back in prison! The new diagnosis and form of therapy technique that she introduced landed me in bed for another three days. It’s as though every time my body had to adjust to a new way of healing, it would go into a bed ridden state. There I was, just finished with finals and all the craziness only to end up back where I started! I wept hysterically! Again… anorexia beckoned. I cried out to God and told him that I needed a sign to help me move forward! I needed to know I was going in the right direction!
The first day of my summer class, my mom dropped me off in front of the biology building and I carefully shuffle my way into the lab with a special foam roller for me to sit on, terrified of everyone and everything that I was about to face. Now, I was always told to never take a MATH class during the summer due to the amount of content that you have to cover in such a short period time. Little did I know, biology was just the same! Upon arriving, I was handed my course syllabus and was faced with a quiz every single day of the first week, three chapters of reading, our first of three major exams was after the first week and a half and a lab nearly every day! All of our labs had to be typed up! To add to the pressure, I was informed that the professor that I was working under was one of the hardest professors to get a passing grade from let alone an A. My gut sank, and I automatically felt like I was in prison! Finally, After several hours of class, we were released and I carefully walked down towards the transfer center where I checked my email and prepared to meet my mom. There, I received the greatest news and the sign that I had asked God for! Apparently, my grades from the previous semester had come in, and I had not only receive straight A’s, but I was also on the Dean’s list!!! I screamed out loud in the middle of the transfer center and began to cry! ME? The kid who could barely pass anything in elementary, middle and high school? The one who knew the “isolation table” in elementary school allll too well! The one who could barely walk during various points of the semester? The who was just trying to get their life back together? The one who had such a hard time focusing due to the pain that I was in half the time? I WAS ON THE DEAN’S LIST? That was totally by the grace of God! I took the energy and exhilaration from this and used it to help propel me through the rest of the summer semester.
Due to my courseload and pain issues during this time, I had to cut my workdays at Kmart to one day a week. Thankfully, I was asked to do a few housesits which gave me the ability to make money, some friendly critters to keep me company and quiet places for me to do my schoolwork!
Each day, I looked forward to seeing my classmates, two of whom I ended up being very close with as we formed a study group. I loved learning about the different ways that humans, plants, and animals are made! I loved learning about the ecosystems, photosynthesis and cellular respiration and so many more facets of basic biology!
To keep it short, my semester went like this… four days a week, I would go to school about 8 AM and class would be finished around 1 PM. Would usually take about a half hour to an hour break, then head straight back into the homework box to finish my labs, homework and study for any test, quizzes, and/ or exams that we had. One by one each quiz was tackled, each exam finished, each homework assignment completed, and each lab typed to near perfection!
(I found sooo much joy learning about basic biology)
A quarter of the way end of the semester, the computer that I was gifted fell off the bathroom counter and onto the floor. It was already having issues running and kept glitching but this made it worse! Thankfully, my grant money came in just before it actually crashed and I was able to get a tablet to finish the remainder of my coursework on. During the semester there were two field trips. The first one, I did get to attend, but it was also a very bittersweet moment for me. The location was at regional park that I spent countless hours training for races at. There I was, given walking sticks by my professor to help me along the journey, and I was about to walk into the very park that I used to spend hours upon hours pouring my heart out to God as I trained. Upon my arrival, I ran into somebody who used to see me running all the time. I was given a moment to briefly speak to her and then we headed as a class into the park as I swallowed back my tears. Halfway into the field trip, my professor decided to have me take the lead and show them around a bit. By the power of God I was able to help the class maneuver around on some of the trails, passed where at the Monarch butterflies hang around during butterfly season, and made our way back out to the parking lot. I felt alive again! In total, we covered about 4 miles of land! This is farther than I had walked in a long, long time! Afterward, as I went on to eat lunch with one of my lab partners and another class mate… The locking in my sacrum began again!
That week, I went and saw my physical therapist and we started from the ground up again which meant that I had to do an alternate project for the next field trip. My heart sank as my class went on to do an outdoor hike through some of the hills that I first started running in while I had to go to another location alone. Right around the same time, the same neighbor who helped me get signed up for classes allowed me to borrow a car that she had bought originally for her daughter. I went down to the other location given to me by my professor so I could do my sign meant. As I was gone observing various parts of the ecosystem and taking notes, someone broke into the car! I was mortified! Thankfully nothing was stolen, and I brought the car home and explained to my neighbor what it happened. I offered to pay for it, but by the grace of God, she refused. Wow… grace! As I continue through the semester, literally studying day and night, taking only Sundays off, I found moments of relief in the pool at one at my housesits. Finally, my body had allowed me to swim a bit here and there which was such a mental release considering all that I was dealing with! However, as the semester came to an end, the pressure from all the coursework and constant studying until nearly midnight some days along with family struggles (including the news that my sister was about to have ANOTHER baby) my body was beginning to show signs of having enough!
As the semester ended, I was relieved to have the work load lifted from my shoulders! I spent another three days in bed due to the pain that resulted from stress, and as I was carefully walking through target, I received an email from my professor letting me know that I had received one of four A’s in her class! Again, I was humbled by God’s grace and sovereign hand over my studies! I thanked her for all that she did, but then she reminded me that while she did teach me, I was the one who did the work! I then had to remind myself that it was God who gave me the grace, power, and determination to finish the work! So, another victory helped give me the strength and determination to just. keep. going!
Once again I find my post getting lengthy, so I will leave it here for now! I hope that those of you who have been reading my story are encouraged to continue pressing on no matter what you face! Know that God is with you, He sees what you need before you even need it. Never give up! Never lose hope! Until next time… GOD BE WITH YOU!
(Me with my nephew celebrating school victories! Despite the chaos, he and I have been like little buddies through it all!)