You can have results, or you can have excuses, but you cannot have both.
When I turned fourteen, something changed. The bubbly and outgoing girl that everyone knew became more quiet and introverted. They’d ask me, “Tina, what’s wrong?” All I could respond with was, “Nothing.” Because to the best of my knowledge, nothing was wrong. Somehow I had changed…overnight, really. My life as it once was, was gone.
As the years went by, I graduated, married and started a family. Things were “fine” by most outward standards and opinions, but inside nothing was right and I didn’t know why. I started to look at myself in the mirror—really study myself—and I saw something horrible. I was fat and unappealing and felt completely worthless. And, oh yes, I only weighed 130 pounds. I was delusional, my perception of my physical image and the reality were at opposite ends of the spectrum. The mind is very powerful, it feasted and manifested itself on the negativity and inadequacies I fed it, amplifying the hopelessness and despair I was experiencing. I was on a wild roller coaster ride, mixed with all the emotions and unrealistic expectations of the disease. The momentum was gathering speed.
I spent so much energy covering my tracks, thinking I was so clever. You must understand that my purchasing boxes and boxes of laxatives at one time was a stunt act in itself. (WARNING: Do not try this at home.) I’d hide them in my pockets, my drawers, my car, anywhere I could. I’d take a laxative. If I was forced to drink water, I’d take a laxative to avoid that weight gain. I would “laxative” myself down to 100 pounds by ensuring that I was at a maximum calorie intake of 400 to 500 calories daily. I was anorexic and a laxative addict. All I could comprehend was that the image in the mirror was whispering to me, ” Who’s the fattest of them all?”
Then something happened that was hard to explain…
On my way to get a family photo with my children, I blacked out and passed out. Aside from it being amazing that I didn’t drop my small baby, it was astounding that I did not die. I got back up and brushed it off with some quickly thought up excuse (I was good at those), but now I had a fracture in my thinking. In the back of my mind, I thought, what if that happens again and I hurt one of my children? It was unbearable to even contemplate. Finally, I realized I needed help and desperately. I was scared, irrational and out of control.
Nervous and scared as could be, I was at the Kansas City Medical Center filling out paperwork, questionnaires, and all sorts of information. They weighed me and I was only 98 pounds. Then they admitted me into the hospital and began to treat me with a “give her calories and help her gain some weight” approach. I was broken, mentally and physically. Well, I knew how to gain just enough weight to make my goals. This was advantageous because I could manipulate the system to gain just enough weight so I could see my children and husband. I was playing a game with my health, a vicious cycle of going round and round. I knew just how much weight I had to gain to be released. The first step in recovery is admitting I had a problem. Problem not solved!
Fast forward a few months…
I was to the point where I could barely leave my house because of the laxatives and always being on overdrive so I checked myself into a different place in hopes of embracing the possibility of surviving. This place offered counseling as well, so I’d managed to recognize that some help addressing my emotional relationship with food might be beneficial. Even in my perplexity, I was clearly not just physically unhealthy. It was larger than that.
That counselor, an amazing man named Jeff, found a way to tap into my subconscious and suddenly I was transported back to the age of fourteen. A mystery that was nearly a decade old was finally solved. I knew what had happened that had changed everything. I had been brutally raped by a family member. The experience was blocked from my mind and in hiding because I wasn’t able to cope with it then, but it had certainly wreaked some havoc on my life. But now I knew. I could start over and heal and become the person that I envisioned I could be, and my family was desperate to find.
I left that establishment with some parting words from the counselor: “Be careful, Tina, because you have not hit rock bottom yet.”
How could I not have hit rock bottom yet? I was in a constant struggle with physical problems, emotional problems, and this anger that I needed to get over about what had been done to me.
I knew that surviving moment to moment was my goal. It wasn’t about even a minute, an hour, or a day. It was about that exact moment and finding a way to get through it. I was battling the rape, depression, and Anorexia all at the same time, and it was intensely exhausting.
One day while visiting my counselor, I said, “I wish I was dead. I don’t want to fight anymore. I can’t do it anymore.” No sooner than the words came out of my mouth, I wished I could reel them back in. It was like that little devil had popped onto my left shoulder and forced me to do it. I freaked. I ran. And that’s when I got it…that moment was my rock bottom. All I wanted to do was go to bed and forget it happened, but that choice had been taken away from me. I was escorted back to the hospital and placed on suicide watch.
In the hospital again, the therapy was more intensive because of the suicide threat, and they had me on four different medications for all my problems. It struck me as strange on how none of these things happened because of the Anorexia on its own (because without a doubt, anorexia is a slow, painful form of suicide). But such as it was…there I was. There was a mirror in my room and I’d pass it by and actually see the fat on my body moving and attaching itself to me, horrifying me and scaring me, while also repulsing me.
But I had a plan…
They didn’t really pay too close attention to if you really took your meds or not. So when I’d get mine, I’d slide it under my tongue and take a sip of water. Then they’d move on and I’d take the pill out. I saved it. I saved a lot of them. Then one night I took them all. That was it. I’d had enough. I was done. By chance, the hospital had changed its night routine that evening and they found me before it was too late.
At that moment I realized that I had the power to change my destiny. My kids couldn’t do it, the doctors couldn’t do it
—no one could besides me.
I was going to take control. I was not a victim. The years began to go by and I had bouts where it was tough, but I remained committed. I’d be vacillating from an abundance of excitement one moment to self-doubt the next, but I found balance more often than not—moment by moment, day by day.
Since then, I’ve survived breast cancer and have had two major car accidents – one of which leads me to a situation that is laced with that therapeutic fun sarcasm I do love. I quite literally have metal plates in my face and I know it when they are loosening because I start to get a headache. I will meet with clients and say, “I have to apologize upfront, because I have a screw loose.” They’d laugh, I’d laugh. But, the reality was I DID have a screw loose!
Between the accidents and the cancer, there is nothing left to do but laugh at the irony of how all these seemingly terrible things have helped lead me to where I am today, and have actually SAVED my life. When I had the cancer, the scar tissue on my chest from one of the accidents stopped it from enveloping more tissue. It was removed and it came with a bonus—an actual chest (Anorexia wasn’t so kind to me in that way, either).
As all these things were finally working out and I was finding my voice and I was starting to ROAR!
I started to share my story on the stage hoping that people would be inspired and see that it is okay to laugh and accept who we are for what we are. No matter our troubles, we still have value. This realization also led to me entering into the insurance market, and it’s a market that has been very good to me. My hometown is small, but I tell you, it’s my home and my location doesn’t limit what I can do for others. That is a powerful message to have—and one that demands to be shared.
I have a voice and I have the right to speak…
Yes, my “Hear Me Roar” motto is inspired by Katy Perry’s song. I play it every single morning; it is my reminder. I remember my mission, I know my purpose, and I am motivated by it. I’m a survivor and I’ve developed what it takes to get where I want using my adversities as my strength.
There are no excuses, only actions toward success.
I believe that adversities are put in our pathway so we can learn and grow from them, and that’s the message I’m taking to the streets through my coaching and public speaking. It’s so important to know. Negative thinking is a tragedy, too. It stops success and that’s a travesty, because success is beautiful and comes in many forms. It means something profoundly different to everyone who takes the time to define their own authentic vision of success. With my help, we’re going to break it down and get real. Then I’ll help you hone the tools to keep it real, because like I said, only we can really do it in the end!