Sunday July 31st, 2011:
I’m trying not to feel guilty about what I ate today, or rather how much I ate. I shouldn’t because I know I barley ate anything, but it feels like I did. What I ate today was: a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, an apple, a special k bar, 3 baby plums, an egg, salad, and stuffed peppers. Okay…when I write it all down it seems like a lot….
Tuesday August 2nd, 2011:
I hate not knowing how many calories are in this bread. At least it’s whole wheat. I just ate yogurt with bread and I didn’t know the calories in the yogurt either. Ugh. I feel fat. I don’t know why but I do! My thighs look bigger, my abs are disappearing and my arms are getting chubbier. I DON’T WANT TO GAIN WEIGHT.
I could just tell you what an eating disorder feels like, but it’s better if you got inside my brain instead. Those were two entries from my personal journal. If you didn’t guess from the obsessive thoughts over food and my body, I suffered with an eating disorder for the majority of high school.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. Who does really? I grew up in a family who reminded me every day of how smart I was, how beautiful I was, how much I had to offer to the world. I never had any problems growing up; I was an adventurous girl who wanted to live her life to the fullest. I think that’s the greatest thing about being a child- you are so carefree, so naive, so pure. No influences from the outside world or pressures by society to bring you down.
I was pretty confident in who I was; I was an active girl and a model student. I had a loving family, amazing friends, and a great future ahead of me. So you would think- how did this girls life go downhill? Quite frankly, it’s even hard for me to pinpoint the exact time when it did. Insecurities don’t happen overnight; they slowly build up until you get to a point where you ask yourself “how did it get this bad?”
I was very unhappy with the girl I saw in the mirror. Was it my own self-perception? Was it the media’s influence on what a ‘perfect’ body should look like? Whatever it was, I wanted to make a change- and that’s exactly what I did. I began an uplifting journey, changing my life for the better. I started eating healthier and exercising regularly, and I felt like a million bucks! But little did I know that it would soon get out of hand.
In a blink of an eye, it was too late. An eating disorder was subtly hovering over my head. I was obsessively counting calories and exercising every single day. If I didn’t, I would feel like a failure. I HAD to work out, I HAD to eat healthy. The longer time passed, the more this dark cloud thickened. Calories dropped every day, calories burned every day. It got to a point where I was eating 700 calories a day and burning 1000.
Thoughts about food and my body took control over all other aspects of my life. I wanted to be perfect. Soon enough, I became someone else. From being fun, positive and healthy, to an anxious and irritable girl who was thinning away. I pulled away from my family and friends, staying by myself all the time. Both the colour and life drained from my face, but I didn’t think I had a problem. Ironically, that was the problem.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had an appointment at 10am at Sick Kids Hospital for something completely unrelated to food or body issues. I remember the doctor checking my pulse with a confused look on her face. She then told me that my heart rate was a little low and to get it checked out in the cardiology ward. So I did. I was hooked up to wires and I just laid there while I heard beeping in the background. I remember that I kept looking at the clock, because it was almost lunch time. I had made a sandwich with these new roasted turkey slices that I was dying to try. Little did I know that I would never try them. The doctor came in shortly after, not looking too happy. She turned to my mom and said “Her heart rate is severely low. It’s in the 30s. We’ve admitted her to the hospital for a minimum of 6 weeks. It’s too dangerous for her to leave.” There I was, sitting at 5 feet 6 inches, and 98lbs, shocked. I screamed, I cried, I was downright traumatized.
Hospitalization was a long, grueling process. I had to learn to eat all over again, just like a baby. I drank milk 50 times a day, ate fear foods like burgers and fries, and overall, I had no control. I hated it. But deep down, I knew I had to be there. If it wasn’t for Sick Kids, I probably wouldn’t be here today. My family kept me sane while I was ‘locked up.’ They visited me every single day, watched movies and played board games with me, just keeping me company. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
I took it day by day, putting my health first. There slowly came a point where I realized that I was better than this. I was tired of being my own worst enemy, putting myself down, constantly telling myself that I wasn’t good enough. I began finding myself again. Recovery starts within; I realized that no one could help me better than I could help myself.
I am still fighting. An eating disorder doesn’t develop overnight, and it doesn’t go away overnight. The feelings and emotions still linger, holding on for dear life, trailing along behind. But they will let go. They will let go when they realize that you’re not paying attention to them anymore. They will let go when they realize that you’re better off without them. They will let go when you do not give them a second thought, let alone a first. And finally, they will let go when you do not face them anymore. But the only way to not face them is to turn around, and at this point, the only way to move is forward.
It’s been a long journey, and a lot has changed over the years. I have faced my deepest fears and have discovered more about myself than I could have possibly imagined. I now live a happy and healthy life, with more confidence that I have ever had. I have a passion for fitness and nutrition that is turning into a future career path. I eat healthy, but am not afraid to swallow down a pizza when I want to. I let go of compulsive exercising and found a love in weightlifting.
I use my story now as a reminder of hope: a reminder that no matter how hard life gets and no matter how low we may feel, there is always a chance to move ahead. I use my story to remind myself of how far I have come, and how I won’t let anything hold me back from the life I want to live. And finally, I use my story as a small piece to a larger puzzle, for any chance of inspiring, motivating, or encouraging others to let go of the part of them that’s holding them back from greatness. One day at a time, one recovery at a time, we will finish the puzzle and finally realize that we cannot be defined by a mental illness.
This is why I chose my platform to be eating disorder awareness. There’s a lot of misinformation about the illness and a lot of stigma around it. “Why can’t you just eat? It’s not that hard.” Yes, to someone suffering, it is hard. I want to use my knowledge and experience on eating disorders to help others who are going through the same thing. I’m not perfect, I’m still learning. By regardless, I inspire to be a positive role model to younger girls who are being impacted by the media’s stereotypical “perfect” portrayal of females and I hope to embody health and happiness as much as I can, promoting active and healthy living. I want to show everyone, especially young girls and teenagers, that the key to life is balance.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please refer to these helplines:
- Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668 6868
- National Eating Disorder Information Centre: 1 866 633 4220
- National Eating Disorders Association: 1 800 931 2237
- Eating Disorders of York Region: 905 886 6632
- Sheena’s Place: 416 927 8900