standing-ovation-for-an-eating-disorder-survivor-300x111Twenty-two-year-old Kelly Yantzer gave a speech earlier this month at the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America conference in the Ramkota Hotel on her long, intense struggle through addiction and eating disorders.  Yantzer spoke from the heart about her recovery from the eating disorder that has controlled her life since the seventh grade.

Not only did she make them laugh, she made them cry. Not only did she get a standing ovation; several girls lined up to meet, hug and take pictures with her afterward. Not only is she sharing her story; she’s influencing the lives of other people.

For the first time, Yantzer revealed all of her destructive behavior to people she didn’t know. Only a few years prior to her speech, she had been lying to nearly everyone about how she was living her life.

As a seventh-grader, Yantzer’s obsession with weight began in earnest and became gradually worse, until her life revolved around it.

As her Eating Disorder progressed, Yantzer stopped hanging out with her friends and hated going in public so much that she eventually went out as little as possible. She hated when people stared at her, especially when her hair started to fall out.

She cried, watched movies and counted calories. She was miserable and depressed and cold.

She layered clothing because she was so cold all the time. She slept with a pillow between her legs so her bones wouldn’t lay against each other; she avoided sitting on the floor because her bones would cause her extreme pain.

She was in the doctor’s office all the time; she knew that everyone knew what she was doing to herself. Her throat was swollen and raw from the acid burning it. She dismissed the advice she was getting from her family and professionals, until she finally snapped one day.

“I heard a girl in front of me say ‘Doesn’t she understand how gross she looks?’ I immediately ran out of the school in tears, called my mom bawling telling her, ‘I don’t want to live like this anymore. I’m sick of being sick I’m sick of being so unhappy and I’m so sick of being depressed,’” Yantzer said during her speech.

“I went back to class and as soon as school got out I went to my therapist and told her everything. I told her all the lies I’ve been telling her all these years, I told her how I’ve thought about suicide multiple times and I wanted it to end. I was ready to get help.”

Yantzer was sent to an inpatient clinic, where she says the older women she saw there in treatment not only made her work towards recovery, but also made her want it.

“I said to myself, ‘That will never, ever be me.’ They had grandchildren and were stuck in this hell-consumed life of an eating disorder. I said to myself, “I want to live my life. I want to have kids and I want to see them be happy instead of worrying about how unhappy I am. So after two months of tough work and really getting to know myself I got to finally come home,” Yantzer said during her speech.

“I was 17 years old with the bones of a 70-year-old woman, and I can never make my bones better again. So I kept that thought in my mind and in my heart to do what I had to do.”

Today, she lives free from her Eating Disorder and says, “I do what I can, I do my best and that’s all I ask from myself. And that’s all anyone should ever ask from themselves. I do believe it is very important to always, always talk to someone about how you feel. Hiding feelings and stuffing them away lets your brain tell you lies, lies that you eventually start to believe,” Yantzer said.

She looks back on her experience with a healthy attitude, “I have  learned from every minute of it, and it makes me the exact person I am today and I am no longer ashamed. We get this one life, one body and one family, and I no longer take advantage of it. I embrace it and I love it. And that’s my story,” she told the FCCLA audience.

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Canopy Cove’s Christian Based Eating Disorder Treatment Programs offer compassionate, comprehensive treatment for females, males, adolescents, and adults, who are struggling with Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorders and Co-Existing Diabetes, Depression, and Anxiety. Equine-Assisted Therapy is an weekly part of the Recovery process at Canopy Cove.