I decided that because it has been half a year since the start of my blog, and much has been happening since I first published the blog post about my life story, that I would write this to update you all on what my life looks like now-a-days. I thought that it would be a good idea because it will allow you to get to know me, the writer behind Balancing Serena, a bit more, and what my life is like outside of my little world here!
I am going to start off with an update on my health and eating disorder recovery journey:
The last major stepping stone in my recovery journey that I wrote about was the deleting of MyFitnessPal, but quite a bit has happened since. I began attending an outpatient program at The Emily Program, an eating disorder recovery program, where I have been going once a week to get help for my disorder. Although, after going there for quite some time, I recently made the decision to end my visits there. I believe that I have been making quite a bit of progress lately and that with the help of my family, my therapist, God, and my own strength, I know I can do the rest on my own. I am a very strong individual, and I did a large amount of recovery on my own before I entered the their system, and I know that I can conquer the rest without the extra help. I was talking with my therapist yesterday and we both agreed that in my past I used to be very deep in the depths of an eating disorder, however, I no longer am suffering from an eating disorder but rather I am battling disordered eating. The two are far different from one another, and because of this, I am no longer in much need of the help from so many professionals and a program that is geared towards eating disorders. I still have much work to do to rid myself of the disordered eating, along with being very conscious and mindful because eating disorders have one of the highest relapse percentages of any addictions and disorders out there, and it is so easy to fall into old habits. I also have some health issues I need to deal with. Among these would be my lower weight, ammnoria, and a few other issues. However, Ashley and I decided that it would be best if I went and saw a gynecologist for all of this. Hopefully, with the help of all the resources I have and a bit of hard work, very soon I will be able to put all of this behind me. All of this being said, there are many days that I still fail. I’ve had many situations in which I decide to not eat enough, or make a disordered decision about what it is that I am going to eat. The difference between now and last year though? I am aware of what I am doing. I know that the decisions I am making are wrong (when they are wrong), and many times I also know what the right decision would have been. This allows me to continue learning, growing, recovering. It gives me the knowledge and experience so that when the same situation is thrown at me next time, I will be able to tackle it and come out on top. I have constantly been finding myself in new situations I have to face: buffets, desserts, eating out, eating late at night, eating when I don’t feel I deserve it, or when I am have a bad body image day, the guilt of not exercise for days in a row, or not exercising on days when I have eaten a lot… I continue to face obstacles that I used to solve by not eating or avoiding those situations all together. However, every time a new challenge comes along, I face it head on. Now-a-days, I wake up ready to gain back the life I once had; A life where food was simple and happy, not complicated and an enemy. The more that I do this, the better I am watching my life become. I could give countless examples as to how my life has been changing because of the hard work I am putting into my recovery. For instance: I have more energy, I am always happy, I am not starving 24/7, most of the time I am able to eat what and when I want, I can go out to eat, I can skip the gym, I have become more social, I can concentrate to think, read, and write again, I have patience, I have motivation, I am learning who I am again… Shall I continue? I believe the most important of all these is that my relationships have begun to become restored. Not only that but, slowly, God is rewarding me with new friends to make relationships with as well. For instance: Last year’s trip to the pumpkin patch went something like me not eating anything there because it wasn’t ‘healthy’ or low calorie, so I packed my own protein bar that was supposed to hold me off for hours or running around. I was freezing, hungry, angry, I barely had energy to take photos, let alone the navigate through the corn maze in which basically took all the strength I had to walk through. I wanted to leave, I had a headache, I needed black coffee to ward off the hunger pains…I think you understand. This year’s trip: An amazing lunch at the farm, cute family photos, adorable animals, a fun hayride, a long and super muddy and adventurous walk through the corn maze that I could’ve gotten lost in for hours, warm snuggles by the bonfire, and ended it all with the most yummy, warm, homemade pumpkin bread I have had so far this season. Bliss. Not to mention the day prior my nephew Jonathan, Lizzy, my sister Bobbie, and I had gone bowling for an hour and a half followed by a heavy dinner at Pizza Ranch (Jonathan’s favorite place). I could go on for hours, (or maybe I should say paragraphs?), about so many bonding experiences that I have enjoyed in the last six months that would not have ever been possible for me the last few years. I have been reconnecting with so many old pals with whom I haven’t had a chance to chat with in quite a while, along with the new friends the Lord has brought into my life. I accredited all of this to my faith. Not only that, because I have always been a Christian, but to the changes I have made in my Christian walk. One of the most noticeable differences is the one I have made in my prayer life, which has gotten so much stronger and more frequent. The more that I talk to God, the more strength I find within myself. He continues to help me grow stronger throughout this journey the more faithful I am to Him. Now, don’t get me wrong, God hasn’t just handed this all to me. I have been working my butt of daily to challenge my eating disorder thoughts, my exercise compulsions, my wanting to stay home and hide instead of putting myself out in the open and build relationships with others… It hasn’t been easy! But, I can say that without a doubt, it has been so darn worth it! And I can also tell you, without God by my side, I would’ve never found the motivation in the first place to work as hard as I have towards being me once again.
Now let’s go into an update on school and my future plans:
I have always been the odd-ball who loved school. This school year in particular! I have received so many blessings in every aspect. Let us start with the small things: It is my senior year, I will be graduating with a diploma and an AA, and my grades have stayed extremely high from all the hard work I put into making them that way all of my years. Not only that, but somehow, I magically was given all of the best teachers for this semester. They are all so passionate for their areas of study, and I have been so lucky to get to learn from them. As for the big blessings, I suggest you pop some popcorn and get cozy, because you have some reading ahead of you! Now, as most of you may know, I have had my mind set on becoming a nutritionist for a long time! About a month or so ago back, when the inquiries from folks about my future plans began to become more frequent, I realized after rambling off the same answer for so long, that that wasn’t the answer that I should have been giving. Why? I did not want to spend the rest of my life thinking about the science behind food and how I should be eating! After coming to that realization, I fell into what most teens face as the are getting ready to graduate, which was a pit that asked the question, “What the heck do I want to do the rest of my life?”. I have always been confident that God would lead me wherever He wanted me to go, but I still didn’t want to walk into the future with no plans at all. I needed something to go off of. Well, it only took about a week or so for God to reveal to me what I love to do, and what He is leading me to, which I wrote a post about awhile back. He revealed to me that I belong in the field of journalism. I love to write, as I also love taking photos! And everyone knows that I have become a foodie as well, so maybe I will join the Bon’ Appetit team? Or Tastemade? Who knows! The point is, is that I have some plans for my future that I am very excited and confident about. Next came the big question of where do I want to go to school? The answer has always been pretty clear to me: That I belong in NYC. The first school that I applied to, NYU, has not yet gotten back to me, but, I have had some more interest come about. My father and I were down in The Twin Cities one day so that I could tour Bethel University and The University of Minnesota, just for fun and to see some MN options if all else fails. Well, it just so happens that when I was at Bethel, I discovered, while looking at their study abroad options, that there is a Christian college, The King’s College, in NYC, where Bethel currently has a female student at for journalism studies! Is that not a crazy coincidence? So immediately I researched King’s when I got home. A bit of research was all that I needed to fall in love with the school, so I applied. Just days later, I got an email that King’s was having a visit weekend at the exact time that I was planning on going back to the big city (which I will talk about later). I got a follow-up email from my admissions counselor at King’s that my application and grades impressed the college. I had been selected for a small, but competitive, scholarship competition. I have to write an essay that corresponds with a prompt they gave me, and then the day before my weekend visit I have to come and speak in front of a few judges. I love writing and speaking both, and did I mention that four students are chosen as winners? What do they win? A full-ride scholarship for four years at the college. Wow. I am still speechless everytime I talk about it, and although I know that it is a long shot that I will win this competition, I am so honored that I was chosen to participate. However, even though it will be tough, I have an unwavering trust that the Lord is going to guide me through the whole process, and that if He wants me at King’s, He will give me the strength to compete at my highest level. After I got all registered for both the visit weekend and the competition, I received a call from Sophia, my admission counselor the next day. We talked for at least a half an hour; She answered some questions I had, and then we just chatted about all sorts of things. As it turns out, she was also from Minnesota and has been to Bethel. She told me she knew the exact map I was looking at in the study abroad office hall at Bethel when I first heard of King’s, because she had had the exact same experience. At that point, and still to this day, I just feel as though this has all been way too crazy and perfect for it to not be a gift from the Lord. I really feel as though He is calling me to this specific college. I, of course, still have NYU on my radar, as well as Columbia University, another NYC college that I plan to apply to, but King’s is really starting to look pretty promising. Then, to top it all off, I was accepted into The King’s College just days ago! This means that no matter what, starting in the fall of 2018, I will officially be able to say that I will be a New York City girl!
I would now like to go into another update. I am not sure that this necessarily corresponds this one specific subject. It is mostly just a general life event that is happening and very exciting!:
I do not like to be extremely repetitive as I know it can get annoying to hear the same thing over and over again, but I love NYC. Not only that, but as you just read, I have some major plans to be going there for college next year. Everyone knows that touring a college is a very good idea, that way you know if it is a good fit for your taste! After talking with my dad on a few occasions, it was confirmed that for my 18th birthday he would be sending me back to NYC! The only catch was that I needed to tour NYU, The King’s College, and Columbia while I was there, which is no problem at all! It is something I was dying to do anyways! Very recently I finalized my trip plans, which look something like this: I will be departing from Minneapolis on November 25th, in the morning, and will get to New York City that afternoon. I am there for 7 full days this time, along with the two half days of traveling! I will be staying with the cousin of Lizzy’s boyfriend, Brittany. Connecting with Brittany was quite a stroke of luck. Originally, going back to the city was not an option because hotel prices are crazy high. However, somehow, it came into a conversation one night between Lizzy and Joe’s mother, Natalee, that she had a niece in the city who she wanted to get me connected with! Quickly, after talking with Brittany, (via text), I had plans to stay with her during my time in the city. Brittany told me that she would like to introduce me to her friend Sarah, who just happens to be the senior editor at health.com and who was a graduate from New York University! My trip was just falling together perfectly! I was then able to take the amount of time I was going to spend with Brittany and extend it by connecting it to the time I was going to spend at King’s for the competition and the visit weekend. It also just-so-happens that Brittany is one short subway ride away from the college! She is living in Brooklyn, and all of my colleges are in Manhattan. The commutes between all my different destinations are very simple and quick. Along with all these amazing blessings, my trip is right during the holiday season, aka the most magical time of the year! Not only that but I will also be there on November 27th, my birthday! Then I found out that the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is lit on November 29th, which means that this girl knows what she’ll be doing during that evening! I have been able to coordinate time to spend with Allie, the friend I have made who is attending NYU for journalism and food studies that I previously wrote about. I was also able to schedule time with Sam, the face behind @healthfullysam, the first account that I stumbled across that first introduced me to the idea of recovery from an eating disorder, who I have also mentioned before. So, although it is quite obvious and I am not sure I need to elaborate on it, this entire trip is going to be one of the most exciting and special times of my life. I absolutely cannot wait!
Onto yet one final major life update:
After having been the owner and content creator for this blog of mine for 6 months, I got my first major inquiry for a partnership! I have been contacted quite a few times through my Instagram, @balancingserena, but most did not work out due to my being a 17 year old minor, or the fact that I did not truly believe in the brand and their mission, or I had an allergy to their product. All happened several times, unfortunately. However, one afternoon while I was on a walk, I got an email from Healthy Human Life, a company who sells water bottles, coffee tumblers, and other products. I have loved their products ever since last December when I got a coffee mug from the brand as a Christmas gift. Not only do they have extremely high-quality bottles and tumblers that keep your drinks hot or cold for up to 24 hours or so, their mission is absolutely incredible. “We believe that we can improve our health and the health of the planet with every sip of water we drink. We believe that by mindfully focusing on our hydration we can dramatically transform our own well-being while eliminating unneeded waste at the same time.” How amazing is that? My email stated that they love my blog and what I stand for! They asked me to become apart of their team by becoming an ambassador. That means that I get occasional free products, I have a coupon code, I get to do giveaways through Instagram, and I get sneak-peeks and first-dibs! It was such an honor, and I am so thankful to be working with such an amazing brand! If anyone is interested, their site is www.healtyhumanlife.com and my coupon code is: balancingserena15 . By using the code, you can get 15% off any purchase!
Needless to say, there has been much happening in my life as of lately! I have had so many blessings coming at me! These are just some of the largest updates that I felt I wanted to share with you, I have had many other exciting life experiences but most of them have already been mentioned in previous posts. As I said before though, please do not be fooled. More than anything, I want to be completely open and real with you all. I have had a great few months, but there have been many bad days within them. Many days full of tears, frustration, sadness… Not only that, but this wasn’t all just gifted to me. I have had to work my butt off. I have been spending lots of time writing for my blog, writing for scholarships, filling out applications for colleges and scholarships, studying for school and doing homework, battling and challenging my eating disorder at every single meal, working hard to go out of my way to spend time with others and make plans with them, making myself vulnerable, doing lots of planning, playing with numbers and schedules, figuring out how to adult at 17… the list goes on! It has been one of the toughest six months of my life. However, it has also been the most exciting and rewarding six months of my life to date. I have been happier than I ever remember! I have been eating more food than I ever remember, and enjoying it all(;. I have become closer to all four of my sisters than I have ever been before. I am now closer with both of my mom and dad, and I have made them some of my best friends. My relationship with God has become so much stronger, with all the praying I am doing privately and with my dad, along with the morning devotional that I have implemented and almost never miss; I am feeling more connected with my Creator than ever. I have friendships that are stronger than they have ever been before because I am taking time to spend time with others and putting them before me.
There is one lesson I would like you to get out of this if you do not get anything else: It can, and it will, get better. I was in quite a hopeless place for a long time. I did not look forward to anything aside from hitting new P.R.’s at the gym and dropped pounds on the scale. But fast forward to today, and some nights I can hardly sleep because I am so excited for the following day to arrive! Life is so beautiful and it is such a gift, but the hard seasons hit us all. Some get hit harder than others, and sometimes it can feel extremely bleak, but it can get better. Many times though, it takes some work, it takes some trust in God, and it takes some stepping out of your comfort zone. You will most likely, (I never say never because there are always some exceptions to every situation), not just wake up one day to the life that you are dreaming of… You need to make a decision. When you finally realize that you aren’t where you want to be, that you need hope, or that you can’t keep on living the way you are much longer, you have to take that realization and decide you are going to make a change. Take the feeling of wanting more for yourself, the feeling that there has to be more than this, the feeling of hopelessness, and use it to decide that you are going to do something. You are going to work to turn your life into what you want it to be. This can be especially tough when you are at the point where staying in bed seems like your only option, but trust me, it gets better. There is so much more out there for you. I am living proof. Maybe I was not on my death bed, or a seriously addicted drug-user who made some amazing comeback, but I was in a dark place. I was at what was my lowest, which may be much darker or much less dark than others, but it was my own darkest point, and I came back. I not only came back, but I am now thriving, and I am living. I am happy, and I am so full of hope that it is bursting out of my ears some days. I was once the girl who was searching for her beacon of light, but I’ve since found it. And now, I, myself, am a light for others.