Every now and then I’m blessed to meet people who help shape my outlook on life. They instill a sense of honor, pride and overall toughness. This is the reason for the Warrior Wednesday series. As we embrace each other as women who adapt different trials, this becomes our source of strength as a united sisterhood.
I want you to meet Aubrey. This story is told from her view with raw and very real details of her trials in life. I’m so proud of this girl and where she’s come. This story reminds me that no matter how difficult life can get, one can rise from the ashes. Here is her story:
“My name is Aubrey. My favorite word is majestical and I love rainbows and unicorns…. I am not good at this whole introducing myself to people so I typically just say something really random to break the ice and lighten the mood. (Plus I really do love unicorns.)
I share my story with others not to get sympathy or pity. I share my story to give people hope. Hope that life will get better. Hope that there is life after tragic events.
Sometimes hope is the only thing that keeps us going when we want to give up. This has been true for me. There have been many times in my life when I wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits but hope kept me pushing forward. When I tell people my story people sometimes seemed shocked. Shocked at how happy I am and how full of life I am now even after all these horrible things have taken place in my short but challenging life. It has taken me time, faith in God and lots of prayer. I am grateful for everything I have lived through because it has made me into the strong woman that I am today.
As years passed, I became worried. I am not naturally stick thin and never have or will be. I was a chunky child (which is totally okay because everyone has a baby fat stage.) I had people make comments about my body and compared me to others.
My negative body image and disordered thoughts began in the first grade. I remember standing in front of a mirror. I stood in front of the mirror and just looked at myself with disgust. If others thought they were fat, what did that make me?
As I got older the thoughts and behaviors increased. I had ordered diet pills when I was only 12 years old. I started counting calories and spending my nights doing sit-ups and jumping jacks. When I hit age 14, everything I knew was changing, and I had no control over any of it.
My parents were officially getting a divorce. I felt confused and lost. I needed to find a way to have control of something in my life. I turned to food. I still had control over that. No one could tell me what or what not to eat.
It started as simple as not eating dessert. It didn’t stop there. I started cutting out certain food groups and eventually meals in general. I started purging. It didn’t matter what I consumed, I wanted to purge. I was even to the point that I was purging water because I was scared I would gain water weight. I hated the feeling of having anything in my body. My weight dropped rapidly.
At first, people wouldn’t stop complementing me. I was told I must have had a lot of self control to lose the weight that I did. No matter how much I lost, it was never enough for me. The complements stopped and people started to refer to me as the girl with the eating disorder. That became my identity. I was Aubrey the girl with an eating disorder. I thought I was nothing without it.
I spent high school in and out of hospitals and treatment centers. I got so sick that a doctor told me that I had less than two weeks to live if I didn’t start eating and gaining weight. I would gain some weight to get people off my case and then go back immediately to my old behaviors. I didn’t want recovery. I didn’t think it was possible. I wanted to die.
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I gained the tinniest bit of hope that pushed me to fight for my life. I gained something even more important than weight. I gained a testimony of God and Jesus Christ. I was baptized when I was young but never really believed in God. How was it possible for there to be a God when all of this was happening to me?
I was that one girl who mocked people of faith. I even considered myself atheist at one point in my teenage years. When I was in treatment I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I talked to my brother on the phone asked him how the heck he was so happy when we had such a crappy life. His answer was simple, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
At first I laughed at him. How was God going to help me recover from my eating disorder? During this time, my roommate in treatment was this cute little nine year old girl. She loved God and would talk about him every single night before we went to bed. She told me that God was going to heal us and that one day we would be free from this horrible monster. She told me I should pray to Him for help. I was at the point when I had nothing to lose. I was locked in a treatment center being forced to gain weight, with no hope of a future.
That following night I decided to pray. I asked God if He was really there and if He was, if He could help me. I was overwhelmed with peace and comfort. This was not a feeling I was used to, I felt loved and hope. Soon, I was praying to my Father in Heaven before every meal asking for strength. Every bite was a struggle. Before I knew it, I was getting stronger and healthier. My motivation for life was stronger than ever and I knew it was all because of my Heavenly Father.
I wish the story ended here with “She lived happily ever after and never relapsed or struggled again.” Sadly, that is not reality. I came back from treatment weight restored and determined to take on life and my senior year of high school. ED already took so much from me, I wasn’t about to give it my last year of high school.
Life was exciting. I was able to eat food that I liked and I actually had boys interested in me. I no longer looked like a bag of bones. I had a very womanly body. I liked all the attention I was receiving from men. I wasn’t used to guys being attracted to me. I honestly did not care about what guys thought of me when I was in the depths of my eating disorder.
That October I turned the big ONE EIGHT and was finally an adult. I wanted freedom and to not be treated like a little child. I was finally able to enjoy a real teenage life full of friends and parties. I started drinking and sneaking out. On the night of November 11 my life changed forever.
I snuck out that Sunday night because there was no school on Monday due to Veteran’s Day. The plan was to get all dressed up and go clubbing. This was my first time at a club, I was excited. I was living what I thought was a “normal teenage life.”
The club didn’t check female IDs, so we got in easy. Suddenly all my friends disappeared and I found myself alone. I soon began dancing around with all sorts of men. I got tired and stepped over by the bar to catch my breath. A man soon approached me with a drink and told me he got it for me. He said I looked like I needed it and a girl like me should not have to buy her own drink. Before he gave me the drink he asked if I was over 18 and I said proudly that I was by just a few weeks.
I only remember bits and pieces of the night after this. I remember feeling so out of it. I couldn’t move my body and this man was on top of me. I remember the stubble on his neck going all the way down my body. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t do anything. I was a lifeless body that was being taken advantage of. I was drugged and raped that night.
The next morning I woke up so confused. I thought that the previous night was just a bad dream. I soon realized that it wasn’t. My underwear was missing and I was in a lot of pain and had bruises. I felt so ashamed and scared. I went home immediately and showered. I threw away what I was wearing that night. Just looking at the clothes made me physically sick to my stomach.
I had work that day and just told myself that it was my fault and I should pretend like it didn’t happen. That only worked for so long. I spent countless sleepless nights awake in fear. If I was lucky enough to fall sleep I would wake up screaming in terror.
My eating disorder came back in full force. I didn’t tell anyone except for a few close friends. I still blamed myself. Before I knew it, I skipped my period. Was I pregnant? I was terrified that I was going to give birth my rapist’s child. That day I skipped school and went to the doctor. I needed to know if I was pregnant or had any STDs. I was very vague with the doctor at first because I didn’t want to tell her I was raped. I was so scared and finally broke down. I told the doctor everything.
Luckily I wasn’t pregnant, I only missed my period because I was starving myself again and that was just one of the symptoms of malnutrition. I was so lost and confused. The doctor assured me it was not my fault and advised me to go the police.
The detective that was working with me was patient. He took my statement and I talked to a sketch artist and described the man. Before I knew it I was getting called out of classes to talk to officers. They needed me to go into extreme detail about everything. I couldn’t take it. I got up, screamed and cursed. I through a clip board at one of the police officers and told them I was done re-telling and re-living that night over and over again.
There wasn’t much that I remembered and the things I did were difficult to find words for. I wasn’t going to talk to them anymore and told them to leave me the F*** alone.
I felt like a chewed up dirty piece of gum. The feeling of shame and hopelessness overtook me. I lost the desire to live and attempted suicide that weekend. I knew God was watching over me. I was unsuccessful. A close friend found me and took me to the ER to get my stomach pumped because I had overdosed.
I found my way back to treatment again and started to address all the trauma that had taken place. I realized the life that I thought was a normal teenage life was not bringing me happiness. No amount of alcohol could take away the pain I was experiencing. I wanted happiness. Was there ever a time in my life when I was truly happy?
When I was in treatment the previous summer I gained a testimony of God’s love for me. My happiness was not just a mask I put on for others, I was genuinely happy. I was determined to get that happiness back. I became active in church and strived to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Fast-forward to today, many years later. Life has not been perfect. I have had my slips and challenges. There are some days when I miss my eating disorder and days that I am filled with pain. What keeps me going? Faith in Jesus Christ keeps me filled with hope and strength. Nothing is impossible with God on your side. I know that I have a Father in Heaven who lives and loves each one of us. He doesn’t give us trials that we can’t overcome. If we turn to Him we will see so many miracles take place in our lives.
I have been so blessed. Not only did I gain empathy and strength from my trials but I have gained so many close friends. I have crossed paths with many people that I would not have met if it wasn’t for these hard challenges in my life.
I now live with a wonderful family who I call my own. The Barnes family are truly all angles sent from God. They took me in when I was broken and helped rebuild me. “For after much tribulation come the blessings” (D&C 58:2–4).
For anyone out there who is struggling turn to your Heavenly Father. He loves us all so much and will help us through trying times in our lives. I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel. I am living proof of it. You are worth the fight.”
I echo Aubrey’s words, you are worth the fight! Thank you Aubrey for sharing your empowering story of hope and endurance. You truly are a warrior!