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Blossoming

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Jilisa Chenard Headshot

Jilisa Chenard

I grew up imagining life like most do… get through high school, choose a career path, go back to school, get married, have cute kids, and live happily ever after. Call me old fashion, but that’s how I envisioned it all happening.

Fast forward to my adult life – half of those things happened…I got through school, chose a career, went back to school, got married…

But instead of the rest unfolding as I imagined it would, I developed severe anorexia and an all consuming exercise addiction. One that would hang on for a long, long time. One that would change the trajectory of my family’s future.

My focus had shifted. It was no longer on what was best for us, our family, but instead I became completely and fully consumed by the need to accomplish whatever my eating disorder asked of me. I was no longer in control of my actions. I got to the point where my body no longer belonged to me. I was convinced my body would never be mine again. I was convinced here was no hope.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

May 3rd marked 11 years of marriage for my husband and I. The majority of those years were spent surviving, followed by years of healing. Healing wasn’t linear. It often felt like one step forward, two (or three or four) back. It looked like many days and nights of tears, but never ending support from my husband. It looked like practicing rest days, and facing fear foods. It looked like finding a tribe and community that would support and encourage me to find the real me again. And slowly, oh so slowly, I did.

The body that I once abused, tortured, and almost let go of in the name of thinness, control, and restriction, now carries our first child. The energetic, full of life, and joyful Jilisa found her way back, and replaced that once hopeless, manipulative, deceitful, selfish, and controlled shell that I inhabited. I used to believe that allowing a life to grow inside of me, and change my body, the body I had worked so hard to achieve, was a horrific and tragic idea. Such a tragedy has become the most beautiful miracle as I stare down at my round, blossoming belly.

My body belongs to me again.
Me, and this little life that endlessly kicks, grows, and constantly reminds me of my strength.
The strength to challenge the questions that likely torment the minds of anyone that has walked the same journey I have.

Did I do too much damage? 

Will I even be able to carry a child? 

How will my body respond? 

How will my mind respond? 

How will I handle comments about how my body looks, changes and grows? 

What if I grow too much, too little, too fast, too slow? 

Will people be kind, and know how fragile I am?

Am I strong enough to do this? 

Do I even deserve to carry a child? 

What if something goes wrong? 

How will I cope with that?

What is my risk of relapse?

How will this impact my marriage? 

How will it feel to lose control, again? 

Now I know the answer to most of these questions.

I can tell you that not every day has been easy. There have been many moments of fear and uncertainty, and many more moments of learning to accept and have grace for my imperfect thoughts. I’ve learned how to stand guard against the small voices that linger, whisper, and taunt me, trying to convince me to submit to them again. But I hold tight to the simplest, most beautiful advice I’ve been given. “What if you wake up every day and simply decide that you’re going to love your body, no matter what it looks like?”.
And so I do.
I choose that.
Every day.

For more information on pregnancy and eating disorders please visit https://www.www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/pregnancy-and-eating-disorders.

Jilisa is a Registered Nurse, Gym Owner, and recently graduated from the Carolyn Costin Institute for Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching, and is working on building her coaching business in hopes of helping and inspiring others in their recovery. Jilisa is passionate about health from a holistic perspective, and continues to raise awareness in her community about eating disorder recovery. Jilisa and her husband are excited about this next phase of life, and are ready to welcome their first baby.