Today is World Eating Disorders Action Day….
World Eating Disorders Action Day is a grassroots movement designed for and by people affected by an eating disorder, their families, and the medical and health professionals who support them. Uniting activists across the globe, the aim is to expand global awareness of eating disorders as genetically linked, treatable illnesses that can affect anyone. The Fourth Annual World Eating Disorders Action Day will take place on 2 June 2020 across the globe. This year the focus is “Eating Disorders Can’t Afford to Wait”!
As part of this initiative the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador we reached out to individuals to share their POSITIVE story of recovery and how EDFNL has played a role in their recovery. Today we share those stories with you in hope that these stories would help motivate and empower others who are struggling to come forward for help and start their own journey towards recovery.
If it weren’t for the EDFNL, I’m not sure if my recovery journey would have taken the same path, and I’m so grateful that I had somewhere to turn when I needed help.
The earliest I can remember struggling with my body image and disordered eating behaviours was around 11 years old. No one around me seemed to think that the behaviours I was engaging in were problematic. In fact, they looked quite “average”. We live in a society that glamorizes restriction and normalizes being unhappy in our own skin, and it was hard to tell that the way I felt went a lot deeper than anyone could see.
My eating disorder got worse and more intense over a period of 10 years, until it was taking up nearly every waking moment of my life. Through conversations with some very good, close friends, I realized that I was even more sick than I thought I was. I wasn’t able to do the things I needed or wanted to do, because I was in the depths of my illness. My life was completely consumed by my eating disorder, and I was so tired of being so unhappy.
Step one was a conversation with my family doctor. It didn’t go well, and they didn’t understand how serious it was – I couldn’t just “eat more”. I needed help.
I had heard about the EDFNL when they did a presentation at my place of work, and I figured if anyone could understand, it would be them. I sent an email to Patricia Nash, who invited me into her office to have a conversation. I cried in the parking lot, terrified of what it meant to be sitting outside the building of a place designed for people just like me.
That was the conversation I needed to have that day. Pat helped me realize that help was available, and if I thought I needed it, I needed it. I didn’t have to be any more sick than I already was. I was sick enough. Pat offered to help me take the steps I needed to get treatment, and after yet another conversation with my family doctor, I was referred to the HOPE program. A friend of mine held my hand and waited in the lobby on the first day while I shook with anticipation, terrified of getting better, and terrified of staying sick.
It took a year of three days a week of outpatient treatment for me to be in a place where I felt like I was in a good place of recovery. It was one of the hardest years of my life, but it was worth every challenging day, uncomfortable conversation, and difficult meal. I credit the EDFNL and the staff at the HOPE program with helping me take back my own life from the illness that had robbed ten long years from me.
It has been nearly four years since I walked out of the doors of the HOPE program for the last time. Since then, I’ve been able to work towards the dreams I’ve always had – meeting the love of my life, getting my Master’s degree, starting the process of starting a family. I didn’t think any of those things were possible when I was sick – if they were possible, my eating disorder was the way I thought I’d get to them. But I’ve learned that my eating disorder only stands in the way of me being happy and healthy.
Recovery is not easy, and it is not linear. I have hard days. I have hard weeks. When things are scary and feel out of control, my eating disorder tries to claw its way back into focus. But I have a support system, and a tool box filled with ways to take care of myself and handle the hard things in a healthy way. I have found food freedom and body acceptance, and most days I feel good in my own skin. I have learned to see the signs of my illness and intervene. I have learned to ask for help when I need it, and to advocate for myself when I’m not taken seriously. I have found community, and support, and more love than I ever thought possible. I am able to use my own experiences and story to help others in the way that so many people have helped me.
So no, recovery is not always easy, and it’s not always perfect, but it is worth it.
I write this note to all eating disorder survivors, those currently in relapse, and anyone who lies in the no mans land thatʼs somewhere in between.
I write this from a place of perspective and true self worth as I navigate my second relapse after surviving 10+ years of hating my body & therefore at times hating myself. After making it through a 3 month long eating disorder treatment program, and a 2 year relapse prevention program in subsequent years.
After 7 years of therapy for the torment caused by an eating disorder, I write this not from a glamorous or enlightened experience, but from a place of current high anxiety, at the injustice I see in the projected through recent world news.
Today marks my 75th day in COVID isolation. My family lives on the other side of the country. I have no roommates (apart from my cat) and it seems that at 33 years old, I am the only single-ton on the planet.
And somehow, by the grace of the universe and mostly due to my relentless (read; stubborn) consistency, I have not given up hope but have actually become more resilient. My guilty pleasure these days seems to have switched from Justin Bieber to inspirational quotes. Not the “live laugh love” kind, but the “You have to have control over your mind, not the other way around. Be the captain of your own ship” kind … or the “when someone shows you who they are believe them the first time”, kind. My personal mission within the past 2.5 months has been to take control over my negative thoughts, and to start seeing triggers as tests. To recognize that I am not my mind.
When a trigger arises & I have no one to talk to or no where to go, I talk myself through it. I question what birthed the trigger, what it represents & I change my scenery. Just the other night I watched a documentary that was intensely triggering (testing) for me, and while at 3am I didn’t feel safe to go for a walk by myself, I walked to the living room. I methodically turned on all the lights in my apartment and then turned them off. I gave myself a pep talk, imagining that my best friend was saying those words to me and that she was crawling into bed by my side until I fell asleep, like she did so many times before recovery was the word that predominated my personal language.
When things get loud, I get quiet. I have miraculously found a beautiful lush ravine within this concrete city of almost 3 million. I have walked the trail alone for 75 days straight. No headphones, no company (except for if itʼs getting dark, then I call my sister who lives more than 3,000 km away because you know, she will be able to come to my rescue if something happens).
I write, I read, I dance to Whitney Houston on maximum volume in my living room with a wine glass full on kombucha. I practice yoga. I talk to my mom every single day, because for me she is my guiding light; my lifeʼs metronome.
I feed myself by cooking “elaborate” dinners. I wear comfortable clothes, like a tank top that was my late fathers, and sometimes I get dressed up just to go to the grocery store. All because it makes me feel good.
In all, you have to know yourself.
The mission of unraveling our history to better inform our future is individual and unique. Our stories of recovery are complex but if you tune in to what your heart is truly longing for, and if you give that to yourself as often as you can, in big ways and small, you have taken one big step towards salvation & reclaiming your life as it should be.
Mental health is not a choice. We do not choose anxiety, despair & depression. But we do get to choose how long we allow it to occupy space within our lives.
Picture your dreams. My dream is having a family. A dog named Frank Lucas & a son named Jesse & a loving partner who brings me coffee in bed every morning; a cozy home where I can host friends for dinner parties, and a mind free of the prison that is an eating disorder.
Do you want your dreams to live in 3D or do you want them to remain a fantasy that lives in a cloud, played out over your head while you sleep at night?
Eating disorders are complex, so ask yourself, whoʼs driving this ship? That ass hole E.D, or me?