My name is Sarah Blanda, and I’m 37 years old. I’m also currently in recovery for an eating disorder that I was treated for at The Center for Balanced Living in 2009. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and had no idea that the Center for Balanced Living was in my community, but wound up needing their services and treatment expertise at the age of 27. Looking back on my youth, I realize that I had disordered thoughts and red-flag eating behaviors as early as elementary school, but my full-fledged eating disorder didn’t take over my life until I was in my 20s.
I grew up a very active and athletic child. I played soccer, did gymnastics, ran track and field, and eventually began cheerleading both at school and for a competition squad locally. The gym has always been a “safe” place for me. In middle school, I found myself working out with my fellow soccer teammates instead of staying in the cafeteria, where I was often teased for body traits that were out of my control. In high school, I started working at a local gym and loved the atmosphere—food, body weight, and exercise were all forms of control that seemed to calm the anxiety and OCD my mind was managing on a daily basis.
Upon graduation from The Ohio State University, I started working full time as an engineer, and with the extra income, I decided to hire a trainer from my local gym. My training resulted in changes to my physique that led my trainer to think that I could do figures competitions within the bodybuilding circuit. I went on to compete in several competitions around Ohio over a two-year period until I decided to stop in 2007. I thought I was in the best shape of my life and had to maintain that weight forever.
Those shows set an unrealistic standard. My weight began to dictate how I treated myself and my loved ones around me. Every morning, the scale determined my day and the target was ever changing. I was fortunate to have a trainer who recognized some warning signs—who held me accountable for my weight and wouldn’t train me based on my condition. He supported me, along with my husband, on my journey to seek treatment. I can now look back with appreciation for that accountability.
My eating disorder (known as ED to people battling the disease) started with restriction, but quickly developed into Bulimia Nervosa. My ED quickly spiraled into something so big, I couldn’t regain normalcy in my life, and my spirit and quality of life began to suffer. I no longer wanted to be around friends and family because the fear of gaining or being “found out” became so strong. It was clear that I was at a low weight, and friends and family made comments about changes in my body—but ED is pretty sneaky and is able to hide from friends and loved ones.
I went on to suffer for two and a half years with a severe case of Bulimia. I was extremely embarrassed and ashamed of my behaviors and thought others would see me as a failure for not being able to handle ED on my own. I remember telling myself daily that tomorrow would be different and I would take better care of myself—but tomorrow came and went, and I would be in the same boat again and again.
I hit a breaking point over Labor Day weekend in 2009. Through tears, told my husband that I needed help. We were eager to start a family together, and I knew that I needed professional help in order to get to a better place and regain control of my life. I desperately wanted to become a mother and that was my “light at the end of the tunnel.” I held on to that “light” anytime I felt the urge to go back to my old ways.
I searched for eating disorder treatment facilities in Columbus, and The Center for Balanced Living popped up. I still vividly remember my phone conversation with the admissions therapist. It was painful to talk about, but I was honest on the call and it was at that time that I realized how bad things were. I was required to wear a holter monitor prior to being placed in the appropriate level of care.
I was diagnosed with three different heart conditions.
Needless to say, I was lucky to be alive and needed to make changes in order to continue on. The Center could only offer me the Partial Hospitalization Program, due to my heart conditions, which would require a short-term leave of absence from work for at least four weeks.
Treatment was one of the hardest leaps I’ve made in life because I gave up my control and allowed a team of professionals to guide me through what I needed to do in order to get back to living a life worth living. I was lucky enough to have the financial resources to pay for treatment, and friends and family to support me emotionally. Others are not so lucky. More often than not, many people are held back by financial troubles and are unable to gain the treatment they so desperately need. So, they continue to struggle with their ED. That’s why my husband and I support The Center as our major charitable contribution each year. We know firsthand how effective the treatment is, and want to do our part to see that someone without the financial resources has access to it.
The Center for Balanced Living gave me the tools necessary to navigate through life’s ups and downs. I’m constantly in recovery, trying to make healthy decisions, but The Center armed me with the tools to do the right things. When recently asked for a comment regarding my recovery, my husband told them, “I observe Sarah utilize techniques and strategies she learned while in treatment still today. The treatment really seems to arm patients with the tools to not only recover, but thrive.”
Listen, I’m not going to sugar coat things: treatment was tough and recovery is just as difficult. I’ve had curve balls thrown at me since walking through the doors of Building M, but I make it a point to reach out when I’m feeling down, and verbalize my anxiety or negative thoughts in order to work through them in a more positive way. I’ve set limits for myself with movement and remind myself often that what others are doing may be okay for them, but for someone with my history, those behaviors are a slippery slope.
I now share my story with pride because I am a survivor. I beat ED, and now I hope to inspire others by being open about my struggle. I no longer feel ashamed of the time in my life where I needed The Center for Balanced Living to guide me. I’ve found value in other character strengths I possess outside of the number on the scale, thanks to The Center and my incredibly supportive family and friends. I still remember the day my mom told me how wonderful it was to have me be present at family gatherings and truly smile again.
I hope that you feel inspired by reading my story. If you or someone you know is struggling with ED, please reach out to someone you can trust to be there as a support system. Life is worth living, and you don’t have to walk the path towards recovery alone!
To learn more about the The Center for Balanced Living, click here.