This is me.

I’ve officially been on summer break for 5 days now and I’m finally getting caught up on my sleep! That has been the one thing I have been looking forward to the most that is for sure!! I figured since I haven’t had anything school related going on, I should write a little about myself to fully and finally share with all of you who I am. Whether it’s 100 people who read this or 0, I thought it would be good to share with you my story.

My name is Lisa, I’m 24 years old, and I am from Minnesota, born and raised. (I know I have made many references and posts about that before but just in case it wasn’t that obvious…) I grew up the next town over from where I am currently teaching. I had the opportunity to attend elementary school at the same place my mom worked at. At the time, she was a 3rd grade teacher as well. When I was in 3rd grade, I got to have my mom as my math and spelling teacher. I loved it! As I’ve said before, my mom is the main reason I wanted to become a teacher. Growing up she was also my track and field coach and my cross country coach. She was, and still is, my idol. Because of spending so much time together, we became super close.

With my mom, I grew up with my dad and my sister Lea all in the same house. We were a close small family of 4. I had the best childhood growing up. Family was always number 1 for my parents so we spent a lot of time together. My dad was an activities coordinator at the local jail for the next county over. Growing up all I knew was that he worked in a jail, it took years for me to actually understand what he did. When I was 13 he had an accident that shook our whole world. From the accident we discovered that he had a disease called Myasthenia Gravis (MG) which shuts down his immune system and deteriorates his muscles. Because of his diagnosis, he was put on disability leave from his job. This summer will be 11 years he has been out of work and “retired.” That was hard for us to handle but in the long run it made us stronger.

My little sister Lea is 20 years old. She has had her own struggles as well. I’ve posted about this before in my National Eating Disorder Awareness post, but when she was 15 she was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. She has struggled with this for almost 6 years now. As a family we had our own ups and downs understanding her struggle and adjusting to get her the help she needed. She is a HUGE part of my life, I love her more than anything else in the world. She is my best friend and in a weird way, I’ve always considered her to be my own child.

Between my dad and my sister, my life has been shaken up many times. I’ve had to understand that even in the most stable and loving households, terrible things can still happen. I’ve struggled understanding this, however. I have gone through my own rounds of depression. I struggled for most of my college years understanding my family while also trying to find myself. It was the hardest 4 years of my life.

I am not ashamed to admit that I have had issues with mental health and ideas of self harm. Through everything that has happened, I have also dealt with the loss of family members, friendships, and relationships. All of those had an impact on my struggle. When I was a junior in college the second boy who had ever shown an interest in me, ended things and I was not okay. I got very upset and tried to do things to myself that I wish I wouldn’t have tried. But I realized my struggle and sought the help I needed. After many MANY discussions with friends and family I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and have been on antidepressants ever since.

I did okay for a few years and then my world became a mess and I went through the same cycle again. I had many highs around the time I turned 22. I graduated from college and gotten my dream job. I also found someone who I thought I had a big connection with and lost my virginity to him. It was a big deal. A few short weeks later though, I found out that boy didn’t feel the same way about me and I was not strong enough to handle that. I made the choice to be intimate with a person I adored and then I found out it wasn’t a mutual feeling. I struggled that summer with dealing with that event on top of getting ready for my first year of teaching. I was so thrown off by a boy that I couldn’t even enjoy my first few months of teaching ever. It got to the point that I threatened to end it all. I’m not proud of myself for those dark days and moments but they did happen and got me to the point I am at now. I did and said things I never should have said and almost lost the best friend I ever had by doing it. The boy was my best friend and I almost ruined that relationship by trying to manipulate him into wanting to be with me. It took many months but we worked through it and he helped me get the help I needed.

Besides that, my first year teaching was amazing but stressful (as all of you teachers know.) This also took a tole on my body. Summer 2018 came and I knew I needed to make a change in myself because I was tired of feeling so stressed, anxious, depressed, and tired all the time. This was when I discovered therapy. My doctor originally had advised going to talk to someone when I was first diagnosed but I was too afraid and ashamed. I finally took the step 3 years later and it has been a life saver.

I have been going to therapy for one whole year now to work on my anxiety and depressive tendencies. It has helped me accept who I am and has taught me how to cope when things get to be too much for me. It has also gotten me to start writing on here and to find joy in my life. I still struggle from time to time when things at home or at school are over the top but now I have ways to work through it.

I never wanted to share my personal life on here before because I don’t like talking about myself and I wanted to keep my page light but I thought it was about time for me to open up to anyone who decides to read what I write. I also wanted to share my story so anyone who has struggled with the same things can see that there is hope and ways to work through it. I would love to hear any other stories from those of you who have found peace and joy and who have advice for someone like me who still needs reminders every now and then. Struggling with mental health is not something to be ashamed of. It is something that needs to be shared and talked about to help others.

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So that’s me. I know this is not a normal post but I think it is fair to anyone who reads my blog to know the true me. Thank you for keeping up with me these past 6 months. I hope to continue to share about my life inside and outside of the classroom. I have some new blog ideas that I want to share this summer. They may or may not be school related but I think it’s time to add a bit more flavor to my topics.

NEDA Awareness Week 2019

For those of you who are used to my posts, this one will be a bit more serious than my normal ones. I’m not one to promote major things but this post will be about something near and dear to my heart.

Today, February 25th, is the start of the 2019 national eating disorder awareness week. About 6 1/2 years ago, when my little sister was 14 and just starting her freshman year of high school she was diagnosed with anorexia-nervosa. This was a huge moment in my family’s lives. Our small family of 4 has suffered over the years helping her and watching her go through this incredible trying time. I want to share our story with you so you can maybe see the signs that we missed and to give you a look at how someone so confident can fall into the belief that you need to be a size 0 to be pretty and to fit in.

It all began a little over 7 years ago. My sister and I come from a very fit and active family. Our mom is the cross country and track coach in our town and runs all the time (seriously, ALL the time) and our dad wakes up at 4 in the morning to go lift for a few hours at the local gym. This is something my sister and I thought was the norm. We would spend a few hours everyday after school going to practices with our mom and knew that our dad would be in bed by 7:00 every night so he could get up and work out early. When my sister was going into 1st grade and I was going into 5th grade we started competing in gymnastics. We never knew anything different. So, when we were old enough to officially join high school sports, it was a no brainer.

My sister, Lea, and I are 4 years apart in age but were 5 years apart in school because of our birthdays. When I was a senior in high school, Lea was on the varsity cross country team as an 8th grader. Because of our mom being the coach and an avid runner, we would train with her in the summers before season would start. My sister ran so much that summer that when the season started, she was talented enough to be on the varsity team. I, being the annoying older sister, was jealous that she was that talented (better than me) and did NOT understand her liking for running so much. The season ended and we had a few weeks to rest before gymnastics season began. The only problem was, my sister didn’t rest.

A normal high school athlete who goes season to season is supposed to spend the little time they have between sports, saving their body. They are given those weeks to do nothing because they physically need the rest and a break. When the season ended that year we had about 3 weeks before gymnastics started and my sister continued to run large amounts of mileage a day. By the end of the cross country season, varsity runners on our team could run up to 7 miles a day because they had built up their endurance so much. No matter what time it was or what the weather was like, Lea would go out for 3-7 mile runs every single day. I thought this would end when gymnastics started because she LOVED gymnastics but running slowly began to take over the one thing she truly loved.

Our practices would go from 3:00-5:30 everyday. If the clock said 5:31 and we were still practicing, she would begin to stress because she needed to go for a run (she also had a touch of OCD.) This happened all season long. Slowly but surely her favorite thing in the world (gymnastics) turned into a burden keeping her from running. By the end of that gymnastics season all she cared about was going for a run.

Her running became so obsessive towards the end of her 8th grade year that she was running a minimum of 10 miles per day, EVERYDAY! This was red flag number 1.

The next red flag came when she started watching the food channel and got interested in healthy cooking. She would meal prep with my mom on Sundays and taught my mom how to exchange normal ingredients to a healthier substitute for every meal we ate. (Needless to say, I HATED eating the food at my house because the “healthy version” of these meals were disgusting!)

This obsession continued as the school year turned into the summer. She would eat as little as possible while also only eating “healthy” foods for her body. It got to the point that she wouldn’t eat anything unless she prepared it herself.

**Side note: I don’t find anything wrong with eating healthy but I also believe that it should be done in a positive way and not as a way to lose weight. My mom always taught me that anything is good in moderation and I’ve always believed that.**

Between the running and the diet, during that summer she dropped significant weight. Being her big sister, I was extremely concerned but I could only say so much without being accused of being “dramatic” or “jealous” of her healthy lifestyle. Towards the end of that summer, right before her freshman year started, her hands began to turn purple. Now when I say purple, I mean PURPLE! Not the purple your hands get when they’re cold but a dark violet that never went away. Obviously, this was pretty concerning. She went to the doctor multiple times to figure out what was wrong. (The part of this story that gets me every time is how did those doctors not see how underweight and malnourished she was!?) Finally, after 2 months of visits, her pediatrician made the concern verbal about her weight. After that first comment, it was only a matter of weeks before she had her first stint at the Minnesota Children’s Hospital.

Throughout the years, my sister has been in 4 different treatment programs. Some effective and some that hurt her more than it helped her. She would have good months and then fall 10 steps behind and would end up in another inpatient facility. We’ve had some scary episodes with her heart and her breathing. She had to wear a telemetry pack around the hospital whenever she was admitted because her heart rate was dangerously low and the abnormalities with her heart were alarming. Her teenage years were lost because of this disease.

As the years have gone by things have dramatically changed because of this. My family is completely different. Our traditions and dynamics have changed because of having to make room for treatments and meal plans. Our sister relationship is also different. We have had so many highs and so many lows. We still go day by day sometimes because, I’ll be honest, I can’t handle the change that has happened. Lea’s personality was lost during those years of treatments. The sister that I knew, is gone. In her place is a new person that I’m still learning to be around and get to know. I love my sister more than anything else in the world but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that I love every change that has happened.

After 6 1/2 long years of watching her go through this rollercoaster, I have a very hard time with anyone making comments about other people and their weight. I also have a very hard time when people make comments about their own weight and negative body perception. When someone makes a comment about going on a diet it makes me wonder what they may be thinking when they say that. We live in a world where we think that we HAVE to be a size 0 to be pretty. That is the most ridiculous thing in the world to me! Every person and every body is different. We all come from different places and are a combination of many different ethnicities. We’re not meant to be the same!

I shared this story because I hope that you can see how the signs were there. I hope that you can use what Lea went through, to help yourself if you need it. I shared with you the signs of anorexia in case a young student in your class needs someone to talk to and be there for them. I also share this with you because as the years have gone by, I have become much more aware of unhealthy relationships with food and working out. I hear little comments and see little actions that could possibly result in something much more serious. I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Look out for yourself and look out for those around you. Stop the stigma of the size 0 model who only eats kale for breakfast and spends 4 hours a day in the gym. That’s not normal or healthy. Be a shoulder for the ones who need you and stop the negative talk you may hear about anyone else. Be happy, love yourself, be proud of who you are and what you look like!