Archives for category: recovery

photo(248)The first person I ever told was an anonymous voice at the end of a 1-800 number I never thought I would be calling.

I remember sitting there on the curb in the middle of that September night. Feeling like I was coming apart at the seams. Scared that I was about to blurt out The Truth About Me.

I remember the voice of my eating disorder (which I hadn’t yet learned to distinguish from my own) so fucking loud I couldn’t even hear my own heartbeat.

I remember my finger pausing before I hit the ‘call’ button. Maybe death would be simpler than asking for a lifeline.

Some automated message asking me if this was an emergency to hang up and dial 9-1-1.

I stayed on the line.

Then, a stranger’s voice. Calm. Asking me questions I can’t remember anymore.

I couldn’t speak at first. I just cried.

And then, suddenly, before I could stop the truth from falling out of my mouth, the words I never thought I would be saying.

“I think I have an eating disorder.”

I waited for the stranger to hang up.

I waited for the word to end.

But she stayed on the phone and the earth kept spinning.

In the weeks and months following that midnight admission, I would discover that the voice that had convinced me that I was alone, was wrong.

The family I was certain would disown me, the friends I assumed would abandon me, the job that would fire me and the boyfriend that I knew would run if they ever found out The Truth About Me, did just the opposite.

Instead of running, they stood with me in the broken.

At the time, I didn’t think I deserved it. And not just because being hungry all the time had made me a bitch to be around.

That is the terrifying power of mental illness – it strips away your self worth. Reduces you to a shadow of all the wonder and beauty you are capable of. And you don’t even know it – because it shows you only the darkest parts of yourself.

It tricks you into believing that you are on your own.

But all that darkness thrives on secrets. The light floods in when you break the silence.

Three years ago, that light was an anonymous voice at the end of suicide hotline, a family who loved me anyway, a doctor with a wake-up call, an army of friends who accepted me for all my crazy, and the list I owe my life to goes on and on.

Because in standing with me and loving me through the broken, I discovered that I was not alone.

These past few weeks, as I have encountered some speed bumps along the road to recovery, you have stood with me once again. And in holding the space for me to speak the truth and share my story, you’ve reminded me that I will never have to fight this battle on my own.

And yes, there is a part of me that wants to believe I don’t deserve it. But that would be letting my eating disorder win. And there’s no way I’m about to let that happen.

This week happens to be Eating Disorder Awareness Week. To honour the people in my life who create the space for recovery, I am wearing a purple wristband in support of the Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness (PEDAW) campaign’s Love Our Bodies, Love Ourselves initiative.

I am wearing a purple wristband in gratitude of the loved ones, physicians, counselors, nutritionists, activists, lobbyists, agencies, media outlets, helplines and fellow survivors dedicated to ensuring that recovery is never a journey anyone has to travel alone.

dec 22For those struggling with disordered eating and for those working at their recovery, the holidays can be a particularly challenging time.

Not only because most gatherings revolve around food, but because emotional triggers are everywhere.

From financial stressors to navigating relationships with family, to not having enough time to unwind and recharge, the opportunity for relapse is ever present.

Like many who struggle with E.D., I am a perfectionist.

If you’ve ever watched television during the holidays, you’ll know that this time of year is about getting it right.

Every advertisement that flashes across the screen is a how-to guide on how to acquire the perfect gift, the perfect table setting, the perfect turkey, the perfect tree, the perfect dress, the perfect holiday experience.

Each ad is a reminder that you’re not perfect. Because, shit, you didn’t buy the right gift, your napkins are mismatched, your turkey is overcooked, and half your family isn’t speaking to you.

When things go wrong around Christmas time (and they inevitably do) it generally leads to me having a meltdown. Sometimes in the privacy of my own room. But more often than not, it’s in a shopping mall.

Which then leads to me eating too much to numb the shame and embarrassment, feeling angry that I don’t have enough time to work out after consuming an entire batch of sugar cookies, lamenting my lack of perfection, eating more to deal with that…and cue the relentless cycle.

Yes. The holidays are ripe with opportunities for that nagging voice that tells you you’re not good enough to rear it’s ugly head.

So, in case you’re struggling to quiet that voice too, I’m going to tell you what someone told me today:

Be gentle with yourself.

It’s so simple. So hard. And so true.

Christmas doesn’t care whether or not you’re perfect. That sweater you bought your mom in the wrong size? She can return it. That batch of cookies you just devoured? They were delicious. That turkey that’s overcooked? The dog will love it.

So when shit starts hitting the fan (’cause it inevitably will) take a deep breath, and be gentle.

Be gentle because you’re human. Be gentle because you can work out in January. Be gentle because there is no such thing as a perfect body, a perfect Christmas, or a perfect table setting.

 

 

 

dec 16As I approach the end of my ‘Wunder Year’, I’ve started thinking about 2014 and beyond.

When I began writing last January, I assumed that by the time December 31st hit, I’d be a whole new person. Turns out, I didn’t need to become someone else, I just needed to learn to accept myself.

350 days in and I’m only just beginning to sort my sh*t out.

Yes, this life seems to be a series of quarter life crises and mental breakdowns. And I’m okay with it. Because the more things get shaken up, the more my fear and doubt and shame get broken apart, and the real me finds the space to break through.

Survival, as defined by dictionary.com, is “the act or fact of continuing to remain in existence, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances.” A survivor is then said to be “a person or thing that survives.” Or “a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks.”

In this sense, we are all survivors. I’m fairly certain, that there isn’t a human being alive that hasn’t faced some sort of hardship, and against the odds, prospered. (Functioning is okay too I suppose, but I prefer to prosper).

Some of us have survived earthquakes and storms. Some of us have survived divorce, illness, or war. I have, and continue to, survive myself.

Now, I may very well have no idea what it takes to survive anything other than the war I’ve waged against myself, but whether my hardships were real or a figment of my own creation, the threat I posed to my own survival was (and occasionally still is) as deadly as any raging storm.

Survival is a promise I have to make to myself every day. I make it every time I take a breath, with every bite of food, every downward dog, every step forward, every step back. I make it every time I look in the mirror and choose to love the image I see. Even today I struggle to remind myself that having an extra bite of my sushi doesn’t mean I’m unworthy of living.

Survival may have begun with me, but it has taken an entire community. It has taken the help of my physicians and counselors, the understanding of my friends and family, and courage of other survivors who have shared their stories and given me hope.

Which is why the words I write here, are really the story of how I survived myself.

And I hope, when you read them, you can see that there is a survivor in you too.

 

nov 28I was going to get it right.

I was going to do recovery so perfectly, that my disordered thoughts would have no choice but to stay the hell away.

I was going to fill my life up with so much love and sunshine and happiness that there would be no room for my former crazy.

Years ago, on the mend from a broken heart, I learned that my former boyfriend had found somebody new. Like best friends and sisters are required to do on such occasions, L spied on my replacement with the intention of reporting back to me with the gruesome details.

“Well, she’s not as pretty as you.” she said (which I’d later learn she made up for my benefit), “But, she’s probably not crazy, so I can see the appeal”.

Her words were like a knife plunging between my ribs, ripping apart my flesh, tearing apart everything that had been keeping me together.

Beautiful would have been alright.

But those words and this stranger’s obvious sanity proved what I already knew. He’d ended it for the same reasons all the others had. I was too hard to handle.

If there was one thing I had prayed for every single night of my life, it was to wake up ‘normal’.

I would have sold my soul to be content and pleasant and predictable.

Because, for as long as I could remember, there was always a storm brewing just beneath the surface. Sometimes you could sense it coming. You could feel the wind pick up, the air grow cool.

More often than not, I would transform without warning.

My depression was like being in the eye of the storm with no way of of controlling the damage or destruction. I could see everything I was doing – the hurt I was causing, the way they’d pull away from me in fear – yet there was nothing I could do.

Until I met J.

J, who could clearly see that I was mad from the day he met me, and decided he was up for me anyway. J, who not long after we met, declared he found sane girls “horribly boring”. J, whose unconditional love relinquished me from having to prove myself to be anything other than what I was.

And when the inevitable storms did appear, he wasn’t afraid. He’d stand out there like a madman and weather them with me.

Being the kind of woman who refuses to believe in knights in shining armour and any of that affiliated bullshit, it pains me to admit that a boy had anything to do with my recovery, but when he looked at me, I saw myself.

More than that, I saw a way out.

The funny thing is, the only way out, was to start letting love in. And the more you let love in, the less room there is for the sadness and the anger and the shame and the despair. So they hit the road.

I just assumed it was for good.

It is perhaps the hardest thing to own up to. My failure to keep them out.

I wanted to be so good at recovery. I wanted to be so good at being “normal” that I’d never end up back in the eye of that storm.

I never again wanted to be too hard to handle.

So last night I told him the truth.

I told him that I’ve broken all my promises. That my E.D. has waltzed back in and made itself at home. That I’m a little bit scared and a little bit lost and whole lot angry at myself.

And he’s clearly still a madman, because he just stood his ground. And as he stood there, I saw what I was really seeing all those times I looked at him and thought I saw myself.

I saw love.

The kind of love that every person is capable of. The kind of love that looks beyond the beautiful and the crazy and sees only more love.

We are not our eating disorders or our depression or our so called “normal”. We are not the words of our sisters or the men who left us or the number of times we got it right or the number of times we failed.

We are the love we let in and the love we give out.

We are the compassion we offer each other, and first and foremost, the compassion we offer to our selves.

 

 

 

 

 

nov 19According to my dodgy internet sources, it has been scientifically proven that the skin cells on the human body have a monthly turnover rate. Which means the face I saw in the mirror today, may not be the same face I saw yesterday.

Of course, the caveat is that this science pertains only to the epidermis or surface layer. The cells below are impervious to the constant change.

According to the not so dodgy sources that are my old blue jeans, it is not just my skin that has been transformed over the passing weeks.

This body, with it’s calves, and thighs, and stomach, and hips, is a certain sort of stranger to me.

Where once I was sharp corners and protruding bones, my edges are softer now.

I caught a glimpse in the mirror as I slipped back into a downward dog today. Breasts, spilling out of the fabric that used to contain them with no great effort.

I am taking up more space in the universe.

And I like it.

The cells below though, the voices that whisper from the pit of my stomach, they are more resistant.

You’ve lost your mind. They hiss.

You’re in places you don’t belong.

But I strike my warrior pose. My thighs are sturdier than they’ve ever been.

My resolve too, is stronger now.

It is the constant battle. The line between holding on and letting go. Accepting that my body was bound to change when I stopped starving myself.

It is a choice. A choice I make a thousand times a day. A choice to love myself no matter what number I imagine shows up on the invisible scale.

Because it is not about the number. It is not about the food.

It’s not about the space between my thighs that’s been filled in or the clothes that I can’t fit in.

This is about me owning my fucking worthiness.

This is about my soul.

It’s never been about the intake or the output or the way I measured my value in the weight of bones.

This has always been about me claiming my life as my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oct 29My mother likes to joke that when I was a toddler, she could have left me on a blanket in the middle of a park and come back six hours later to find me still there.

I guess I have always liked boundaries. I found safety and security in the adherence to guidelines and rules.

In the chaos that was sometimes my childhood, having rules allowed me to feel like the world wasn’t spinning out of control.

Years later, I shoved my love affair with rules onto my dinner plate.

Food (and it’s movement in and out of my body) was the one thing I could preside over. And the laws I created were supposed to keep me safe.

I had rules about everything. And when I couldn’t control my impulses, I’d rid my body of my failure with laxatives or a finger down my throat.

Almost two years ago, I gave up the rules.

And oddly enough, my life didn’t spiral out of control.

In fact, it did the opposite.

At 25 years old, instead of letting my eating disorder run my life, I began to take responsibility for my thoughts, my actions and my relationship with myself and other people.

Sometimes it still feels like a miracle.

The trouble is, when I through out the rule book, I never actually took the time to learn to nourish my body.

After living under a dictatorship for so long, I kind of just went “Fuck you Eating Disorder, I’m gonna eat pizza!”

And candy bars, and cream cheese bagels and ice cream and nachos and beer and coffee whenever the heck I want.

And now, my body is finally saying, “Enough already. It’s about time you started treating me with some respect”.

Because I’ve got one body. It’s mine for the rest of my life, and I’ve already put it through some serious abuse. It doesn’t need a daily dose of refined sugar and salt.

I want to be healthy – eat fruits and vegetables (which quite honestly I have always found disgusting) and be free of my dependency on sugar and caffeine. I want to be my own source of energy and my digestive system to finally be free to function properly. It’s just that given my reputation, I’m really scared about giving myself rules again.

Then, as if by fate, a message landed in my inbox (an intentional one – not some crazy diet spam) that made me realize that I’ve still got a ways to go when it comes to transforming my relationship to food.  So, for the month of November (and then probably for the rest of my life) I’m choosing to honour, nourish and revitalize my body.

Because, let’s get real here, choosing to eat vegetables instead of french fries doesn’t mean I’m saying “fuck you” to recovery.

photo(273)I have come to believe that there is nothing that a little sweat can’t fix.

I have come to believe it, because after three days spent wallowing in a pit of misery and self pity – all the while trying to convince myself that I had every reason to be happy – the only thing to cure my sour mood was some good old fashioned sweat.

It all began on Saturday when I was cleaning out my closets and decided to try on the blue jeans that I had packed away at the start of my Wunder Year. The jeans I decided to try on weren’t even my “skinny” ones. They were the jeans I wore before I got really dedicated to my eating disorder.

So when I couldn’t even slip them over my thighs, I had a meltdown.
There are some parts about recovery that I’ve realized are probably never going to be easy. Realizing that in the course of six months I’ve gained twenty pounds, is one of them.
To be entirely honest, I probably should have worn a “Caution” sign around my neck to warn the people around me (specifically my boyfriend) to tread lightly. Unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way and you can’t just give everyone around you a memo that you’re in the midst of a somewhat irrational breakdown.
Which means somehow, you’ve got to will away the demons that are whispering in your ear and do your best to avoid crying in public at the drop of a hat or lashing out at your boyfriend for not answering your text.
Unfortunately, spending all my energy on reminding myself that I’m still beautiful, is a little bit exhausting. And when I’m exhausted, I have a nasty habit of taking it out on other people.
More specifically, I have a nasty habit of taking out my own sense of failure, fear and shame on the people I love. It’s probably the single ugliest thing about me – if only the people I love took it as a compliment that I trust them enough to show them my worst angle.
But they don’t. And rightfully so.
I’ve got some pretty extraordinary people in my life and they deserve to be treated with love and respect. Unfortunately without loving and respecting myself first, I lose sight of what it truly looks like to love another.
What I’ve learned, is that I can’t always talk my way in to loving myself. Because I’m really good at talking my way back out.
It’s been a long process to find this out, but I can’t always trust my mind. There is however, some serious wisdom in my body.
Today, I took a barre class after work. With each bead of sweat, I felt the anxiety over everything that my too tight jeans represented melt away. The sense of failure I’ve been trying to convince myself out of, suddenly just disappeared.
When I left the class, I felt my heart open up.
Who knew that a little sweat is the best defense I have against fear, shame and doubt.

oct 5The thing they don’t tell you after you’ve spent years starving yourself, is that the second the taste of forbidden flavour hits your tongue, you will become undone by your taste buds.

The salt, the sugar and the fat that you’ve deprived yourself of for so long, will suddenly become irresistable.

The pursuit of forbidden fruit will become all you can think about.

Like Eve in the garden, your temptation will consume you. Until one day it hits you that you’ve replaced your obsession with starvation, with an obsession with food.

You spent so long being in control, that when the time comes, you surrender to the chaos. The rulebook you carried with you is thrown out the window and suddenly, nothing is off limits anymore.

For a while, the forbidden sustains you. Until one morning you wake up and realize that you’ve swung the pendulum too far. In your desire to be set free, you stopped listening to the wisdom of your body.

I haven’t been taking care of my body. I’ve been reckless, impulsive, stubborn.

I’ve let myself eat anything I want – and made the excuse that I spent so long abstaining from everything that I deserved to consume whatever toxins I wanted.

The thing is, none of the choices I’ve made about what I eat have been about what I know is best for me.

I’ve been determined to prove to everyone around me that I’m fully embracing recovery. And I’ve been proving it by not caring what I put into my body.

I convinced myself that if I set any restrictions on my diet (even if the restrictions actually supported my recovery) the people around me would think I was still battling with disordered eating.

Here’s the thing; I am.

Two years since beginning to come out about my eating disorder, I am still struggling.

Today I realized that the problem isn’t that I’m still struggling. The problem is, that I’ve been making that struggle wrong.

I’ve been ashamed that even after all the help I’ve received and the support I’ve been given, I still don’t know how to fully love and accept my body.

Which is probably inevitable considering I’ve been playing by everybody else’s rules. I’ve been convinced that if I say no to bread and candy and cheese, everyone will assume that I’m back on the E.D. train again.

So from here one in, I’m committed to not giving a shit.

I’m going to eat kale smoothies and say no to M&Ms if I want to. I’m gonna treat my body like it’s vital to my health and happiness.

Because, it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sept21Some days, I have to remind myself that my thoughts aren’t real.

Some days, I have to cut them off at the jugular, punch ’em in the solar plexus and knock ’em out before they knock me down.

Some days, I fail.

Someone once told me that some day, I’d be free. Free from the voice of my E.D. Free from the constant chatter that likes to interject itself whenever I’m beginning to feel “normal”. Free from the fear that if I make one wrong step, I’m going to fall back down the rabbit hole.

Some days, I have to remind myself that whatever it is I’m going through now, is just a little speed-bump on the journey to what’s possible.

Some days, the knowledge that I’ve got to show up to this page is the only thing that reminds me to stay accountable.

Tomorrow will be 265 days of blogging. It will also mark 265 days of eating what I want and not purging.

265 days ago, I didn’t believe any of those things were possible.

This morning, I put on my winter Wunder Unders and discovered that after five months of sitting in my closet, they don’t fit me anymore.

Cue what should have been a swift kick to my thought’s jugular.

Except this morning, when I could barely pull my Wunder Unders over my new runner’s thighs, it really fucking mattered.

I started calculating all the ways I could get back to my pre-Wunder Year weight again.

I thought about all the rules I could subtly add in. I began to fantasize about tearing off every new part of my body, which according to my E.D., just doesn’t belong. I began dissecting myself in front of the mirror – a behaviour that has been perhaps the toughest one to break. For a second I even wondered if I could get away with purging again.

Sometimes it takes hours to remember that my thoughts aren’t real.

What’s real, is the fact that I can now run half marathons. What’s real is that I am surrounded by love. What’s real is J’s sincere appreciation for the curves I’ve gained. What’s real is the fact that I really, really love chocolate. What’s real is that my life started seriously kicking ass the day I abandoned my eating disorder.

What’s real is the fact that if I’ve gone 264 days, surely I can go 264 more. And 264 more after that and after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snip20130906_2As I crawled into bed to write my daily post tonight, it dawned on me that in the hustle of the day, I forgot to take a picture of my Wunder Unders.

So instead, I’ve decided to share a little bit about why my black stretchy pants are so important – and why, when I’m wearing them, I am the truest version of myself.

When I began “coming out” about my battle with disordered eating, it became very clear, very quickly that there was no hope of me finding my way back to health and happiness by myself.

As I witnessed my family and friends struggle to try and solve things for me – because I certainly didn’t have any answers of my own – it was evident that when it came to my E.D. they were just as lost as I was.

As I watched their sadness and their frustration, I knew that staying sick was not an option. I also knew that if I had any hope of recovery, I’d have to call in the pros.

The trouble is, when you’re twenty-five years old and living in a country with a strained mental healthcare system, even the pros don’t know what to do with you.

The first GPs I went to looked at me like I was crazy. Which wasn’t exactly helpful considering at the time I thought I was. I’d sit in their cold, white offices with a sheet covering my nearly naked frame and feel nothing but shame as they poked and prodded. I knew I didn’t look thin enough to have an eating disorder, and so would have to justify why I was in their office. They’d listen to me with glowering eyes and say they could refer me to a specialist – but it would be at least a year and a half before I could get in to see anyone.

My memories of this time are hazy. I’d learn later that that’s what happens when your brain isn’t receiving any nutrients. The days all kind of blurred together and I’d find myself getting lost a block away from home. I’d lash out at the people I loved and could barely find the energy to wake up in the mornings. No matter what I did I couldn’t keep warm and what little food I could eat, I refused to keep down. My throat would ache from the constant burn of acid as it all came up. Simple tasks had become nearly impossible and the lie I was living was eating me up.

A year and a half wait was too long. If ED didn’t get me first, I was ready to end the pain I was in on my own.

I was living on my own in a relatively new city and the hunt for services was exhausting. I spent weeks scouring the internet looking for programs that might aid me in beginning my recovery. After discovering that any health care-covered services are pretty much cut off after the age of 24, I went in search of local counselors who might be able to help me. I finally found a therapist who was willing to see me at half her usual cost. At nearly $100 a session the reduced cost was still more than I could afford, but something told me it was worth the splurge.

I also happened to break down to a friend at work who just so happened to have an in with local doctor who specialized in ED treatment. She reached out to him, and I owe her everything for that.

I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I have a supportive system of friends and family who have stood by me in this journey. I found access to care much faster and with less financial hardship than most. Even so, there have been so many times along the way that I wanted to just give up. The shame of my ED made it nearly impossible to continue to search for resources – even though I knew without them I wouldn’t be able to go on.

My recovery hasn’t exactly been conventional – sometimes the only thing that gives me hope is putting on my Wunder Unders and laying in child’s pose on my yoga mat for a while. Sometimes, it’s writing a few short words on a blank page. And sometimes I worry about what would happen if I relapsed.

If there is one thing I know for sure though, it is that I do not want a single person to experience the overwhelming fear that engulfed me as I blindly searched for treatment that didn’t exist. I believe that everyone -regardless of age, gender, race, religious belief or location – has the right to recovery and access to safe and supportive treatment.

Which is why I’m wearing my Wunder Unders every day and why I choose to volunteer at an organization called Project True.