Like the face and voice of the Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health Campaign (music super star Demi Lovato), Taylor Stout is in recovery from Bipolar Disorder and Bulimia.
We are grateful for the opportunity to publish Taylor’s courageous and inspiring story:
I’ve been diagnosed with an eating disorder since I was fourteen. My disordered eating and self-hatred began much before that, when I was five. I grew up in a wealthy area, attended church since I was a baby, suffered no trauma, and had a stable home life. I had no ‘real’ reason to dislike myself so much, but it was one small voice in the back of my mind that slowly beat me down until I developed my eating disorder.
From the ages of fourteen to eighteen my eating disorder had pushed my authentic self so far down that there were only small fractions left.
When I was in high school my parents took me to see my therapist, psychiatrist, family therapist, doctor and nutritionist every week for four years. I started on a meal plan, eating a specific amount of servings of each food group along with two glasses of milk and two meal replacement shakes a day. My parents made every meal for me since my eating disorder was too powerful for me to attempt to prepare food for myself. I had an hour to eat my meals, and if I didn’t I would have to drink another meal replacement shake. Every meal was at a specific time every day and it didn’t change for a long time. That rigid schedule caused me to miss important things like movies with friends, youth group, birthday dinners and many more things every ‘normal’ high school kid should experience. I was constantly uncomfortable, tired, and irritable because my body was repairing itself and regaining needed weight.
My first signs of motivation to eat came from a sport, tennis. I began playing when I was eight so when my doctors told me if my resting heart rate didn’t rise, then I would have to sit out my freshman season. I was at war with myself. I was constantly being bombarded with thoughts of self-hate and doubt by my disorder, but I also wanted to do what I loved. That’s when the bargaining began. I would eat my snack but throw half of it away. I would pour out half of my Gatorade before going to practice. I did anything and everything to be able to play but also please my disorder and it wasn’t balancing well.
Throughout high school I found myself constantly having to choose between my authentic self and the person my eating disorder turned me into. During that time, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My eating disorder served a purpose, it gave me a false sense of meaning so when food became less of a struggle, I felt like I had no meaning. I was told from a young age that God will love me no matter what, but it felt like God had abandoned me.
At the end of my sophomore year, I isolated from my loved ones and became defiant and rebellious. I snuck out, I was promiscuous, I was doing so many things that were so out of character. I was trying to grow up, make up for lost time, get approval from my disorder, and find a new purpose. It wasn’t mixing.
This false personal growth steadily continued until I went to college. I attended Fort Hays State University from August 2014 – November 2014 on a tennis scholarship. During that time, no one made me go to appointments and occasionally someone would ask me to attend church. When they did I would decline. I completely fell off the wagon.
My bulimic tendencies became the worst they’ve ever been and I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I was hopeless. I dropped out of school and took a couple months to work and try to start the spring semester at a local community college. But I needed more help.
In March of 2015 I took the step to be admitted to the Eating Disorder Center of Denver. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made but I was finally ready to take in treatment and live a better life. The emotional and physical transition didn’t happen overnight. It required a huge amount of energy, perseverance, and hope.
To conclude, since March 1st of 2015, I have been without symptoms. What I have learned since that day is that yes, recovery is a choice, but it won’t last if you aren’t ready. It might take nudges from loved ones, a sad story on the news, lots of prayer, or rock bottom. Once I was ready to put my authentic self first and nurture that person, I was transformed.
Throughout my journey my faith wavered tremendously and I suffered greatly. I always thought that that God had nothing to do with my recovery because I didn’t feel His presence. When I talk to loved ones or family friends they were constantly praying for me, my family, and my healing.
Although my faith was hindered during that time, my stretcher bearers, that support system, prayed without ceasing. And I truly believe that contributed to my recovery.
There are still some days that are hard, I wish I could say it all goes away, but that is when I use the skills I learned in treatment and in fellowship. My relationship with God went from almost nonexistent to now taking a Bible Study with my dad, enjoying Sunday services, and leading a small group for high school girls. God did so much more for my recovery than I will ever be able to wrap my head around. And because of that I have a tremendous amount of hope for people who fight battles toward recovery.
We’re not alone.