Hi, I’m Micheleen – IIN Certified Health Coach, Mom of Three, and Survivor!
Once inflicted with anorexia and bulimia, I battled binge drinking, debilitating migraines, and depression until ultimately attempting suicide at 19 years old. I faced a sexual assault and a verbally as well as physically abusive relationship all before my 21st birthday, and in 2015, I underwent explant surgery to remove ruptured breast implants.
From these times of struggle, I arose a fierce warrior, knowing my purpose. The pain I’ve endured fueled my passion for living a healthy lifestyle and, by the grace of God, led me down a path of helping others. By sharing my experience, I hope to provide a light in the darkness of negative body image. Know that you, too, can be a peace-eater.
My Survival Story
I grew up with an amazing family, surrounded by friends, I was an active and involved teen. My experience with fitness began at a young age but really started blossoming around the age of 16 out of desperation to feel worthy, I’d begun developing low self-esteem and poor body image. Working out made feel strong and gave me an outlet where I felt like I fit in and belonged.
At 17 years old, I was hospitalized with severe anorexia and placed in a psychiatric ward for rehabilitation. After my release, the fear of food controlled my lifestyle. I obsessed over food, only wanting and allowing my mom to buy me fat free foods. Although I was now eating, my relationship with food remained dysfunctional.
It worsened when I was raped by a classmate two weeks into my freshman year of college, unraveling my life overnight. I stopped going to class, failed out of school, and locked away the horrors of my sexual assault by relying on my ability to control food and exercise. Quickly bulimia, binge drinking, debilitating migraines, and depression set in, ultimately culminating in a suicide attempt at 19 years old.
Merely three months after hoping to end my life, I prepared to bring a new one into the world. My pregnancy gave me focus other than unhealthy thoughts about food. However, motherhood also pulled my attention away from my personal healing. Instead, I constructed a “normal” facade and underwent the steps of life while allowing myself to remain in a verbally and physically abusive relationship. At 22 years old, I divorced my abusive husband and fortunately met and married my current loving husband only a few years later. Together, we’d have 2 more beautiful kids, and in 2005, he adopted my oldest when she was 8 years old.
Even with a happy family life, my eating disorder, disordered eating habits, low self-esteem, and body image issues constantly lurked. No matter how great of shape I got in, it would never be enough. It was never a number game with me though, I wasn’t obsessed with a number on the scale (we never owned a scale and I always stood backwards at my doctor’s visits), I didn’t count calories, or go on diets. I did however become victim to living by some pretty insane restrictive eating rules I established for myself. Rules that I’m oblivious as to where they came from, rules that held me prisoner to enjoying life. I was positive I had found the answer, the missing piece that would make me whole again, something therapy, restrictive eating, or running couldn’t fix. If I just loved myself, the eating disorder, the disordered eating, the self-hate, the depression would all just magically fade away - breast implants were the missing piece and I finally had T.J. on board. I could have never been more wrong about something, what I thought would make me feel better about myself actually made me feel worse.
Not even one month after surgery and my health started to decline, running injuries and a spike in my migraines which led me to being admitted to the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago. We just chalked it up to my migraines were just taking a turn for the worse and this was just the hand I was dealt, something I needed to learn to live with. Thirteen months after my initial surgery I had to undergo a revision on my left breast. After this surgery I was stricken with a barrage of strange symptoms - migraines worsening, swollen lymph nodes, drenching night sweats, tingling, burning, joint pain, blurry vision, extreme fatigue, anxiety, depression - the list goes on and on, even my eating disorder came back with a vengeance. I was seeing doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist and getting no answers just more medication.
I had spent the last two decades promising myself tomorrow, tomorrow is a new day, the day I’ll let go of my eating disorder and get healthy - I wanted so desperately to be the person on the inside that everyone raved about on the outside. But it wasn’t until 2015, God sent me a final wake-up call as my health progressively declined and that’s when my interest in nutrition and healing blossomed. I began with small changes - more water, less coffee, more real food, less snacks, quit smoking! My transformation happened gradually and naturally. One small change led to another. I was finding peace with food (and still am) at a pace appropriate for me.
They say the greatest hopelessness attacks just before the rescue and I have to say I have become a firm believer in this. There had been so many times I had been paralyzed with fear and doubt and I just went through the motions of pulling myself out of the battle but this time I felt prepared and armed to fight. Just as I began to find peace with food and make peace with my body the war began. My health, although for a short period seemed to get better, rapidly declined once again. I was back to seeing specialist after specialist to diagnose a condition that mimicked Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS, Thyroid Disease, Fibromyalgia, Lyme, Raynaud's, you name it they thought I had it. I didn’t know what was happening to me until an ultrasound of my breast confirmed two ruptured silicone breast implants, leaking outside the shell, my immune system had been under attack and I needed surgery. My “safe” implants that were only 6 years old were ultimately killing me. It was in that moment I made the decision to once and for all change my life.
In the process of focusing on clean eating with the aid of inspirational nutrition support groups, I discovered a passion for helping others. Enrolling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition was truly a gift from God, helping me heal physically, mentally, and spiritually. The most important thing I learned on my journey to wellness is that health isn’t just about nutrition, there is more to a healthy diet than the food you put in your body. You can be eating the cleanest diet in the world, going to the gym everyday but if you don’t have balance in your life you won’t heal. IIN introduced me to the mind body connection - things like Reiki, energy healing, meditation, yoga, journaling, and deep breathing. I had spent decades in talk therapy but IIN nudged me to gently learn balance in all areas of my life. Pushing me to integrate these practices into my life was truly the turning point for me, slowly I became stronger and more whole and found Micheleen again. I signed up for IIN expecting to learn about nutrition and in the end I ended up with a complete lifestyle overhaul, ultimately what I had been in search of.
I am not perfect and I still have struggles. I don’t consider my journey complete, I continue to work on making peace with food and my body every damn day. All I know is if I can heal from everything that’s happened in my life, so can you. It’s my goal to provide you the tools necessary to lead a happier, healthier lifestyle. Everyone starts somewhere; your journey can start here where you, too, can find your peace and heal from within.