Nilsson, who starred on Chris Soules‘ season of The Bachelor in 2015 and later faced-off against Kaitlyn Bristowe for the lead of season 11 of The Bachelorette, recently shared a candid video blog on her YouTube channel in which she discussed her struggles with everything from alcoholism, drug abuse and eating disorders.
“I’m going to talk about addiction,” she started. “It’s a big part of my life, and it’s good to share.”
“My makeup is basically that I just want it all, all the time,” she explained. “That’s what makes me a really joyful person … I really like experiencing life, I really, truly enjoy life so much — but I also don’t know when to stop.”
Nilsson revealed that she’s struggled with binge eating disorder (BED) since she was young, and later developed bulimia in college.
“I had a lot of shame, and that just kicked it up,” she said. “All addictions are pretty related to shame and pain avoidance, in my experience. The years after college were really dark years. I was binging all day, throwing up. I was hiding it because I was so ashamed — I was just mortified with myself. I would spend my days eating food in secret, throwing up in garbage bags in my car, throwing up in dumpsters, throwing up behind bushes, in the shower.”
“This was going on for years,” she said. “And I didn’t tell anyone because I just thought it was too shameful.”
When she began filming The Bachelor, she relapsed.
“For me, having tons of food everywhere … it just became too much,” she said. “I had pain and anxiety, I felt insecure, I didn’t feel pretty enough, I didn’t know what was going on, I missed my family.”
“I was totally terrified that it was going to be caught on a mic and that millions of people were going to know that I just couldn’t control myself,” she said. “It was really, really hard for me, and it just kept going and going.”
“You’re mic-ed 24/7,” she continued. “I would take my mic off and try to hide it under towels so they wouldn’t hear me throw up, because then that was going to be on the show and that was going to be a plot line. How horrible would that be, to be the girl who has an eating disorder, who can’t stop eating and throwing up? I mean, I had broken blood vessels. I would throw up until I was bleeding out of my nose. I just couldn’t stop, and that’s kind of been a theme in my life.”
In addition to her experience with bulimia, Nilsson also touched on her struggles with drug and alcohol abuse.
“I’m an alcoholic,” she said. “Meaning not that I was drinking a bottle of wine by myself in the bathtub, or waking up and taking shots, but my personality, for better or worse, is a personality where little is good, all is best, and more, more, more. … That’s just something that I’ve had to navigate throughout my entire life. Alcohol has been part of my life off and on, but whenever it is a part of my life I try to control it and I can’t.”
“I also was addicted to drugs in college — I used to be addicted to cocaine,” she added. “I used to smoke weed every single day in college. I would be high giving presentations. I basically didn’t know how to live without drugs.”
Now, Nilsson says she hasn’t consumed alcohol for the last year.
“It’s really changed my life,” she said. “I’ve reconciled with my dad, I’ve gone back and made amends with most people in my life. I called all my roommates that I’ve ever lived with. That was hard and embarrassing, but it was a really beautiful process.”
Nilsson also credits her fiancé Jeremy Byrne for helping her battle her eating disorders.
“The first person that I ever told [about my bulimia] was Jeremy,” she said. “It actually was a huge release. He just stuck by me with it, he would ask me about it, he would keep me accountable, and it actually got much, much better. I started talking to people about it, I started going to groups about it. … I learned a lot. It wasn’t completely eradicated, but it wasn’t this shameful, horrible secret.”
“Right now, I feel healthier,” she said, noting that she made a vow to “never throw up again” after the show and has stuck to it.
“I’m not perfect, at all,” she added. “I still struggle. It’s still hard for me to know when I’m hungry, when I’m full, when to stop … I used to be embarrassed about this, but it is what it is.”
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“I slipped back on the show and thank the Lord that that did not become publicized,” she said. “But I do want to talk about it, just in case anyone is struggling with that … I want to be totally vulnerable here, so if you’re going through the same thing, I know what that feels like — to feel completely out of control and ashamed and scared at the same time. I know exactly what that is. But there is hope.”
Nilsson urged anyone struggling with similar issues to “tell somebody.”
“Not someone online, not [in] a chat room,” she said. “Tell someone that you know, because just letting the secret out is the biggest part of it. We’re only as sick as our secrets.”
“That’s been my journey,” she concluded. “I used to think it was a curse, but now I see it as a blessing. It keeps me vulnerable, it keeps me dependent on God, and I can constantly check in with him.”