Trigger warning: this article does contain discussion of disordered eating. Please read at your own discretion.
I spent months praying for something bad to happen to me; waiting for the day that I would pass out and end up in the hospital, or behind the wheel and accidentally crash my car, or maybe my heart would just give out on me. I was waiting for my rockbottom “moment” to find the will to recover, the motivation to truly fighting my illness. Little did I know I was already at rockbottom, I had that trip to the hospital, I was struggling to concentrate while driving, I was having blackouts and almost passing out while standing on my feet all day at work. I was there and I couldn’t see it.. I haven’t been able to see it, because of the illness taking over my mind.
I am currently in treatment for an eating disorder, an eating disorder in which over the past year (plus) has stripped so many things away from me. It has sucked my soul away and robbed me all of my happiness, all my values and goals went out the door and my focus changed. I have always been a person who likes to be in control whether that be a small action or a life changing action. Whatever it is, I like to know that I can control it! So, as things started to slip away from me, I turned towards things that I could control in a physical sense, such as alcohol, substance abuse, exercise and food. But truth is, life isn’t really in our control. So when something gave me that sense of control, I would go with it, but in reality I was under the thumb of my eating disorder.
When I say I am currently in treatment, people may read that and think I am in a hospital bed hooked up to a feeding tube. That can be an initial reaction or thought when it comes to eating disorder treatment; it’s something even I used to think. Reality is, I portray an image of a healthy person from the outside: I work, I meet with friends, I run my own blog and side business, I make it through a couple workouts each week. It all looks normal. But the image we portray to the world and what is behind closed doors aren’t always the same. What people don’t see is the amount of time I spend laying on the floor in pure pain and sadness, the struggle of pushing myself to eat food throughout the day, the amount of hours I have had to spend in therapy at the hospital, the loss of connection I have within so many of my relationships, the arguments I throw with my parents because I am constantly on edge, and the darkness that lives in my mind, the cruel and hurtful words that it has said to have pushed me to live in a constant state of starvation.
Treatment and recovery from an eating disorder may look different for everyone. My journey is not over; I believe that I will constantly be in a state of recovery, and everyday this will be something I have to deal with. The difference is that when I am further into my recovery, it won’t be so consuming; I won’t be constantly seeking restriction as a form to numb my feelings, I won’t be so hard on myself when I don’t live up to expectations, self-love and worth will be something I truly believe in, I will be living a life that I want to show-up for every morning. There will always be hard days, that’s inevitable for everyone as a human being. We can’t live in a world full of sunshine and rainbows because when we do, we are refusing to feel our true feelings, refusing to see our true selves.
Seeking help and support is hard, standing-up for yourself in situations like this is hard, allowing yourself to recognize that needing help is hard, but it is all worth it.
The thing with eating disorders, and any mental illness in general, is how unpredictable it can be. Life is unknown; we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Spending time to understand why my sickness robbed me, I created so many scenarios in my head as to how I let this happen, how and why I did this to myself. I may not be completely free, but I do believe that when I came into a position of acceptance of my illness, it started the healing process. I’ve had to learn that this wasn’t and isn’t my fault, and that living in the past wasn’t going to help me move forward. All together this has helped me realize the severity of my illness and has really pushed me to seek help. It’s not easy to navigate or live through, coming to acceptance with anything is difficult and I think self-acceptance is even harder; this will be a constant battle I live through, accepting where I am in my life, who I am and what my future has set out for me.
Seeking help and speaking up when it comes to mental health or mental illness has been my game changer. I don’t say this lightly, but I wouldn’t be here today sharing my story if I didn’t seek help, if I didn’t find the light within myself to keep going when I thought life was too unbearable. Seeking help and support is hard, standing-up for yourself in situations like this is hard, allowing yourself to recognize that needing help is hard, but it is all worth it. Having someone validate your feelings, your way of life, your behaviours, having an open conversation without feeling any form of judgement is rewarding. Starting the conversation is worth it, it will give you hope and a sense of strength within yourself.
If I could help someone who is questioning their inner strength or their voice when it comes to seeking help, sharing their story, reaching out or maybe it is just standing up for yourself in a tough situation, my number one goal for you would be: tune into your inner voice, call it your intuition, your soul, your inner child, the one that is always in there and you might hear but are too scared to listen to or have been silencing, do what it says. It is always right! It’s the one who will hold you up, it’s the one who will continue to mold you into the person you are, it will always want the best for you, it knows what you desire and what you truly want to get out of life and the world we live in. Listen to it and once you hear it, and trust me you will, do what it is telling you. Take that day off, sleep in, skip the gym, eat that cookie, stand up for yourself in your relationship, tell someone how you feel, and I mean how you really, really feel. Whatever your inner voice tells you, run with it and while you’re at it, speak your truth! The world wants to hear it.
I am a true believer of everything happens for a reason. I had always loved this saying but it took me years and a lot of hard moments for me to actually believe it. Whenever we go through something hard, we don’t want to believe that there is a reason why it has to be a part of our life. We don’t want to believe that being mentally ill and fighting an invisible disease is fair, or that living years-on-years with demons within our minds is creating purpose in our lives. But, it is! We are all on a path for a reason. So, for myself, being presented with my current illness will, someday, give me purpose in my life. Maybe it will make me learn why I am on this Earth in the first place, maybe I am set out to help other people fight through similar situations, or maybe I am being forced to learn my own strength and reconnect with my body. There can be so many reasons and when we see it all come together, that’s when we live to our fullest potential, that’s when we realize why we were thrown curveballs over and over again, and that’s when we learn that we are enough!
I am 24 years old, and within my lifetime I have had to go through a lot of changes that most 24 year old’s wont ever have to go through. I have experienced a lot of personal development, especially over the past year. I have been engaged in treatment and through this time I have learnt a lot about the world in which we live in and how it directly affects our every move, how the standards that society holds us to can be damaging, and how all those outer voices and critics in our lives can impact us to a point where our inner voice is silenced. You may relate to some of my story or you might not, but whatever you take away I appreciate. I hope you know that you are not alone, your inner voice will forever be with you and everything will happen for a reason. You are enough! So, don’t wait for your rockbottom moment because you don’t know how far down you will go before you must take the right steps. Don’t wait to make change; do it now and your soul will forever thank you.
A few things that have really helped me throughout my recovery journey are due to the credit of NEDIC, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre in TO: the therapists and professional team I have, the online resources available on their website including therapists and programs to help you within your treatment and recovery from your eating disorder. I found a great therapist through NEDIC who has really helped me this past year. Someone else who has been a major supporter in my life and throughout my recovery is Pam Fountas, founder of Limitless Living. She is an amazing mentor, life coach and friend. Having a support system is also huge for my recovery, but I also lean on books, music and essential oils. Music is key for my everyday life: in the car, at night and through highly anxious times. Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton is a book which spoke to me so much from the beginning to end. As well, Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Souls by Danielle Laporte is an amazing book to help guide you through your negative emotions while also helping figure out how you truly want to feel within your life.