Anorexia and I began our relationship when I was in the 7th grade.
There was a lot going on in my life at the time that made me feel alone, frustrated, neglected, and powerless. I grew up in a family that was very gendered and conservative. I also grew up in a family that revolved around the care of two of my three sisters because of their severe physical and mental disabilities; they were both in wheelchairs, largely non-verbal, and required 24/7 care. I felt forced to grow up quickly into a caregiving role.
My father was a minister of an active faith community so all eyes were on us. I felt obligated to pretend that everything was perfect and I was a good, passive, nurturing, polite, Christian girl; I did what I was told and felt like I had no control.
The initial thing that pulled me out of my relationship with my eating disorder was my first ever boyfriend. He was my first “love” and this relationship worked wonders for my self-esteem. I felt noticed, seen, loved, and desired. He cared about me and made me feel special.
It wasn’t until midway through my first university degree that I finally began being more vocal about my eating disorder experience with my eating disorder and finally dealt with some of the emotional remnants I’d ignored. I was pursuing a degree in psychology and could no longer ignore the role my emotions played in why Anorexia and I were so intimately involved for so long.
A professor of mine, a critical feminist psychologist and scholar named Michelle Lafrance, became an inspiration to me and a mentor. She opened my restricted, strict, and controlled eyes to the world of feminism. She provided a framework for my experiences as a young girl; a lens for why my eating disorder made so much sense in my life and why I felt I needed it so badly.
I did what I was told and felt like I had no control
This professor was the first person who ever made me feel empowered and she reminded me that I did indeed have agency, and that I was worthy of taking up space in this world physically, emotionally and spiritually. While my first boyfriend distracted me from my eating disorder, it was Michelle who helped save me.
I’ve been recovered for many years now. It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I may slip back into a behaviour but I always find a way out. I allow myself to show grace to my body, give it a break, and permission to enjoy the things my body does for me.
On the surface, there are still things I wish I could change, but deep down, in truth, I feel honoured to live in this body. I feel blessed by my body and grateful I have a body to take up an area of physical space in this massive world, to produce sound, music, opinions, passions.
Because of this body, I get to live.
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