“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.”
-The Scarlet Letter
The most important day in baby Declan’s life was not the day he was born. It was three years earlier when his mother, Shannon, returned home to Rocky River, Ohio from a treatment center in Florida.
That day was December 23rd, 2015. Millions of people around the world were celebrating Christmas and enjoying a holiday synonymous with eating. Shannon was doing the opposite. She was learning how to eat again.
The Mayo Clinic defines Anorexia as an eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight. It may be hard to believe, but it is also the deadliest of all mental illnesses (Arcelus, Mitchel, Wales & Nelson, 2011).
Shannon, a fashionable and charismatic woman, lived a vibrant life on the outside. Yet, on the inside, she was imprisoned because she was suffering in silence with the secret of her eating disorder. “I had been struggling with the disease for nearly ten years. It eventually got so bad that if my family didn’t intervene, I may not be here.”
“I was in bad shape”, Shannon said fighting back tears. “I’ll never forget when my doctor looked into my lifeless eyes and told me I had gone into bradycardia”. Bradycardia is a condition where your heart beats so slowly that it may not be delivering enough oxygen to the body. “If I wasn’t hospitalized or went into residential treatment right away, I could go into cardiac arrest.”
What Shannon didn’t know at that moment, was that baby Declan’s future was at risk. Luckily, her loving husband and family intervened.
“My family researched some of the best facilities in the country, and literally, took me kicking and screaming to the airport. Thinking back, it’s exactly what I needed. The disease became so powerful that it just took over my life. I was a completely different person.”
It was by far the scariest time of her life, not only to leave her husband for over ninety days, but worse, leave her disease. What most people don’t realize is when a disorder like anorexia takes over, you will choose it over anything else. Even the people that love you the most. Ironically, it had been her comfort, her accomplishment, what she believed made her special. But, while she was holding onto it for dear life, her body was telling her in every way that it was shutting down.
After ninety days at the treatment center, Shannon made it back home.`
Since then, although relapse is high among this disorder, Shannon has not gone backwards. You see, there was something deep inside her that started to emerge again. Hope. It may have always been there, but for years it was drowned out by the doubt and anxiety associated with her eating disorder. It was this hope, dedication to her recovery, support from her family and a promise she made to herself that ultimately secured a future for her future child.
On September 16th, 2017, almost two years after she began her road to recovery, Shannon found out she was pregnant.
”My son Declan is my little savior, and fills me with a joy I’ve never known”, Shannon said. “For so long, my illness was my trophy, now he is. I have found my new identity, and it is being his mom.”
This is the promise Declan’s mom made to herself: “I promise to feed myself and my soul everyday.”
Shannon’s continued recovery is the most important thing in her life. It’s a choice she makes everyday.
*If anybody can relate to this story or knows somebody who is struggling with an Eating Disorder, please visit National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) ‘s website.