I was a highly sensitive kid. Since adolescence I felt like I didn’t fit in, and I couldn’t relate to the other kids in my school. I was extremely sensitive and self-conscious. I tended to take everything that was said to me to heart and turn it inward.
Around the age of 16, I started a “diet” with a friend. After about 2 weeks, she was able to stop the diet and return to normal eating, but I was not able to stop. For me it turned into an obsession. Restricting my food gave me the illusion that I was in “control” of something, which at an unconscious level, helped to ease my inner turmoil.
My self-worth was so low that I thought that if I was thin enough, or smart enough, then I would be okay. But no matter how thin or how many A’s I got in school, I was still full of fear and inadequacy.
I have also learned that I’m not alone in this journey. When I am feeling “out of sorts”, a recovery warrior is just one phone call away.
I started to isolate myself from friends and family and lived in a world of secrecy, hiding the fact that I ate very little, exercised and studied to extremes. Once I got into University, I “switched” from the “drug” of anorexia to the “drug” bulimia. In my last year of undergrad, I was overwhelmed with fatigue and depression and was no longer able to concentrate on my studies. I finally admitted that I needed help. I was put on the waiting list for the eating disorder clinic and prescribed high dose antidepressants. The antidepressants helped to stop the binge and purge cycle so I thought that I was “cured”. However, I was not cured. I started using alcohol and drugs as a means to cope. I had no idea at that time that the drugs and alcohol were just another coping mechanism that I used to numb myself and avoid feeling my feelings.
Over the years, I relapsed with my eating disorder many times and I continued to try many things to make myself feel better. I tried different medications, I saw psychologists and psychiatrists, I read self-help books, I saw a naturopath, I tried changing jobs, moving cities, getting a divorce, and many other measures, but nothing seemed to help me. I felt lonely, depressed, inadequate, full of fear and terminally unique. The drugs and alcohol pushed me to the point of contemplating suicide. Out of desperation, I admitted defeat and found help through a 12-step program.
Shortly after I stopped using drugs and alcohol, my eating disorder quickly returned. Since I was familiar with the 12 steps, and it helped me with my drug and alcohol use, I was happy to find an online 12-step program for eating disorders. In this group, I was able to meet others who suffered from the same disease.
After struggling with this disease for over 20 years, I finally discovered that I wasn’t alone. I listened as others spoke of their recovery and I found hope in their messages. In this group, I found a mentor who guided me and helped me through my recovery process. I was provided with the tools that I needed in order to start and continue on my recovery journey. For me, this includes prayer and meditation, journaling, reaching out and helping others with this disease.
It has been a long process of “unlearning” for me. With the help of my mentor, I became aware of certain limiting beliefs that I had held inside of me for most of my life. I’ve learned that it is okay to cry and to feel my feelings. I have also learned that I’m not alone in this journey. When I am feeling “out of sorts”, a recovery warrior is just one phone call away.
I no longer turn to my eating disorder to cope with my emotions and life. I now have the gift of awareness. When I hear the nagging voice in my head whispering “you’re not enough”, I know that this is NOT true. I know that I AM GOOD ENOUGH. I never thought that recovery was possible for me. I thought that I was doomed a life of depression, anxiety, misery and loneliness. But I was wrong. There is hope. Recovery is possible. My healing journey was not fast or easy, but it has been most rewarding and I am grateful for every step along the way.
Eating disorders are serious, complex mental illnesses that can impact anyone. With support and treatment, full recovery is possible.
Eating Disorders Awareness Week is a nationally recognized week designed to raise awareness of eating disorders. In Canada, it is held February 1-7, 2020