** Disclaimer – this blog is my personal experience/journal related to addiction and eating disorders, which may be triggering for some. If you yourself, are struggling with any form of addition I encourage you to reach out to those you can confide in. **
I am here for you.
written April 12, 2019. 4:39pm
“Tell Your Story… My Psychologist Said…” & I’m here thinking, where do I even start. Do I even remember the details?
2018 – Starting counselling has made me realize why I fell into an Eating Disorder, who I am NOT that I thought I was and helped me understand where my shift in thinking can change. As I begin to write my story today, it’s 2019 exactly one year to when I realized I was walking into something scary, confusing, and completely life threatening if I let it.
But also… something that never really left.
Through this part of my life I have read and watched so many books, blogs, vlogs, movies, studies & gained loads of knowledge about Eating Disorders. Learning that no matter where in the world a person who is struggling with Body Issues resides, a lot of the habits and/or emotions are the same. They say there is no DNA/Genetic abnormality that causes Eating Disorders, that it’s something developed through your upbringing at a very young age or those “perfectionist” type people. Eating Disorders, commonly co-occur with other mental health conditions like major depression, anxiety, social phobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
From what I can remember it really grew in grade 8 and for six years I had anorexia… and all throughout high school. Understanding that all Eating Disorders have one of many things in common and that’s control, “you are in control” – or so you think.
But you’re not.
Going back even further when I was around 5+ years young, my mom had been diagnosed with cancer and battled a pretty serious battle, my parents decided their marriage wasn’t for them, my mom suffered with severe depression, I moved across the country leaving my dad/my best friend who I would visit twice a year in Nova Scotia and my grandparents tragically passed in a car accident all in such a short period of time.
… Remember when I said Eating Disorders stem from a young age and with this feeling of gaining some sense of control?
From the time you are born until you are 7 years old, you are programming your brain and storing experiences, beliefs and teachings to take with you as you grow. I didn’t have much control with the above life experiences mentioned, all of which happened around that age.
When I was young, I moved & was the new kid 3 times at new schools, I was shy and awkward and needed to feel comfort knowing “someone would be there for me, someone would be my friend” – I would cry and beg my mom to stay until I felt comfortable. Needless to say, a lack of confidence &/or doubt was showing at a young age for me. I remember when I was around 10-12 years old I wanted to be everyone but myself, all my best friends had it all and I thought maybe if I eat a little less, lose a few pounds and get to a number on the scale I’d be happier with myself. “I’ll only do it for a short while, then start eating regularly again.” I would use the fact that my dad was his own chef & cooked such healthy meals as to why I was losing weight that summer — Well, that was a joke.
Something I think people with this Illness or not can relate to is this — The “Food and Weight” Focused Society that we live in today. It is everywhere.
Summer of 2018, I asked one of my Childhood best friends what SHE remembered when I was in the early stages of my Eating Disorder. It was kind of sad to hear and remember that I had struggled with Low Self Esteem, acceptance from others and confidence at a VERY young age. She reminded me of a time in Elementary school when my (at the time) best friend and I got into a fight and she called me f a t. Now, I don’t remember that moment like it was yesterday but I do vaguely remember that fight. Apparently, when being told this I cried in complete belief that she was right and that I was fat. I was different.
I had already felt different & abnormal taking Antidepressants, I guess this was just another thing to add to the life of a High schooler and really the rest is history.
High school for me was a positive and negative experience, positive because I had the best friends in the whole world, I was competing in Cheerleading and gymnastics and had a great social life! On the flip side it was rather negative because by grade 9 I was battling an eating disorder alone, I had a boyfriend for three years (most of my high school career) that was nothing but verbally abusive and brought me lower than I ever thought possible.
I was so ashamed of who I was & “why couldn’t I just be & do better to make him happy.”
I was never one to take a million selfies in the mirror but I was pretty close friends with the Scale. I would eat either one big bowl of Cereal for the day or at lunch have two cookies, a chocolate bar and chocolate milk. I experienced comments and concerns from the staff at my school and they would offer me their lunch each day, my lunch with friends turned into lunch in the staff room or lunch with friends AND staff supervision. I was also very OCD and somewhat of a perfectionist with my belongings at home and note taking in school, needless to say I felt like half a troubled child with a secret and half a “normal” bubbly, happy go lucky girl.
Fast forwarding to my last years of High school I was watching Dr. Phil (my fav at the time) and there was an Episode about a Girl with a severe Eating Disorder of nothing but skin and bones, that was my light bulb moment and I was scared. period. I ran up the stairs to my mom in tears, I told her I was terrified to get to that point and I needed help!! I don’t think my mom fully knew at the time I was struggling with Anorexia, I mean it’s not something you think your child will deal with. At this time however, my mom was sick too with her own Mental Health so she wasn’t always 100% present.
& that is when counselling began. I don’t exactly remember WHEN I started talking to that woman. All I remember is I doubted it at first, I fell in love with her second and I came out on top in the end.
Moving to my college days — I went to college for 2 years and ate my meals, I enjoyed my party years and everything College had to offer. I recovered from the Eating Disorder I had in High School. However, during College what I didn’t realize was body checking in the mirror was disordered behaviour, overthinking what I’m eating, why I’m eating and when I’m eating were all ways of disordered thinking. Although I was physically healed (meaning I never skipped a meal or a snack when I was hungry) I didn’t realize until years later how much of my disorder affected me mentally and created daily habits that became my normal.
From 2011 to late 2018 I was thriving in life and loving it. Of course I had my ups and downs, being away from my family because I moved across the country – but I had accomplished more than I ever thought I would. Although still battling those “normal” habits, living in Alberta was my realization that these unhealthy habits weren’t fully gone nor normal and a lack of confidence, self-criticism/destruction and restriction became more and more… Yet I loved my life and all I had experienced and achieved.
** The reality is I have lived with Disordered thoughts, feelings & behaviours for well over 10 years of my life ** But I don’t think back and regret anything knowing how much I have gained, accomplished and experienced. The Sport of Cheerleading was the best thing that ever happened to me and I’m so blessed to have found not only that gym, but my best friends/my family and having a Father who supported me through it all allowing me to partake in this sport. Without those practices I truly don’t know if I would be alive today. Perfect Storm Athletics made me feel welcomed on day one, that place became my saving grace and taught me more about what I was capable of. **
When I lived alone nobody could judge or question me so I lived with these unhealthy habits for over 10 years. It was summer 2018 that I knew something was wrong with my mental health, I couldn’t exactly figure it out but I knew I was losing my self control & feeling ashamed more & more. It was August and I was visiting my Dad in Ontario that I realized I was struggling with what would be the definition of Bulimia, I felt a loss of control and I started to get scared. I didn’t understand why I was doing this to myself, so I called upon a family member that I knew I could trust who also went through something similar to where I was when she was in her teenage years. After opening up about my “craziness” she recommended I speak with someone who specializes in Eating Disorders, so I reached out to a Psychologist that I knew as soon as I got back to Alberta.
Bulimia who I now called “ED” slowly and silently became my tiny little secret. I restricted and binged for months prior and ate everything I could in my home in a matter of minutes, I would drive out of the way to get whatever I was craving and felt so much physical pain and discomfort I would purge to get relief. From what I could remember, I started this pattern over a period of 6 months before I chose to get help from a professional. It didn’t just stop once I started to speak to someone, I relapsed too many times to count & the disorder still hung strong if not more but I was learning more & more about who I was AND who I wasn’t. I can confidently say seeing a psychologist saved my life, any form of an eating disorder is a life-threatening illness especially when you are purging as it puts so much pressure on your body.
The Relapse —
Relapsing in my very early months of recovery will make you do some pretty crazy shit if you let it. It will also tear you down and make you feel like the most worthless, shameful human being that should be nothing but embarrassed. In those moments, relapsing meant you were a failure, a liar & a fake. The term itself kept me sick, mentally. It left me crying on the bathroom floor, stuck inside for hours at times. It pushed me to leave my home at all hours of the night just to park the car somewhere hidden so I could relieve myself in secrecy and be free from the enormous amount of food I had just eaten. My past yet newly surfaced eating disorder would occasionally redirect me from going home to the Dairy Queen Parking lot to order 4 different kinds of Blizzards, 7-11 gas stations to pick up some baked cookies and continue on home, knowing I had plenty of time alone.
ED allowed me to believe it’s okay to eat everything and let it out because you were getting the best of both worlds of eating all the things you shouldn’t with a guarantee of not gaining… until you did the deed and felt horrible. ED would always sneak his way into your mind to fully make you believe it would be worth it… but it never was.
To have dealt with Digestive Distress for a solid 6 years when I moved to Alberta, I was in and out of the hospital with chronic bloating, pains, constipation and truly didn’t know why all this was happening and what was going on inside my body. It took some time for me to realize that my digestive organs and bowels were experiencing upset likely due to my past, not to mention during the time I had Anorexia I stopped getting my period. Countless times I would drive myself to the hospital with my stomach in pins and needles and demand an Enema because I was so constipated and if I didn’t want to drive myself I would use a suppository to help give me some relief because I didn’t know what else to do.
Those who deal with constipation on an abnormal basis likely have different stories to tell. Through my experience some of the consequences to severe constipation, when constipated for a long period of time it can cause you to develop hemorrhoids or worse a rectal and/or Vaginal prolapse (look it up, it’s not pleasant).
Unfortunately I was a lucky candidate during this time to develop both and had NO IDEA what this thing was, to my scaring surprise I learnt a Rectal Prolapse is most commonly found in women who have had 1-2 kids, over the age of 60 or experience severe constipation, so needless to say I was devastated. Going to my family doctor and explaining my situation, I got every test and scope done in the books and everything was coming back clear, completely embarrassed and feeling so lost with zero guidance.
During this time around 2014-ish, I was told I had “IBS” (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) AKA we don’t know what’s wrong with you and spent the next 3 years taking what was meant to be a lifelong Laxative every night. I lost countless opportunities to go out with friends, was losing friendships because of it but was too embarrassed to tell anyone the truth. It was taking my life away so I eventually decided this wasn’t a way to live and I WOULD be off these Pills.
I went to see a Gastrologist to get some tests done which came back clear, so he put me on a Probiotic – I started taking this pill every morning and slowly started to take LESS of my lifelong prescription to the point that I got myself completely off them.
Bringing me to the present moment, August 2019 – I have heard about others with Eating Disorders hitting rock bottom and it was only until that moment of trauma something changed for them and they decided to get help. I’m blessed that I have always been pretty aware of my situation and although it only takes that “one time” to reach rock bottom, for the most part I try to be preventative to not get to that level — I’ve continued with counselling and openly communicating to those I trust and doing my best to push myself with the “hard stuff”.
An Eating Disorder is yes, revolved around Food but the cause of it is generally around something else – for me it was my self worth, confidence and seeing no value in who this person was that I didn’t even recognize anymore. The Eating Disorder was the consequence so what was the “hard stuff” to push through on this journey of healing –
For me it was;
- Eating Food I feared, in case it caused me to relapse, eat more or gain weight.
- Wearing clothes that felt tight or showed parts of me I “hated.”
- You’ll think you want to get better, then get scared and won’t. Fear was a friend constantly on your shoulder egging you on to plan your next relapse or stopping you from letting go of ED.
- Eating three meals a day, overthinking and over planning your food for the day.
- F.E.A.R of who was going to win that day (ED or Cassandra) and trying to differentiate who was really in control.
A Year into seeing my psychologist I was able to better understand myself, gain tools to help me on this “recovery journey” and had a list of tasks to practice self-confidence. As much as I was hoping the process of healing would be easy and only take about a year…. I remember my Psychologist tell me “You’re waiting for someone to come save you and nobody is going to save you but you” – Tears in my eyes because I knew he was right, it was that moment that I knew this wasn’t going to end unless I fought for myself and put in the work to be free.
“Recovery is not linear but it’s possible.”
As I begin to write my story at this very moment, I’m 27. I’m more aware of my Mental Health and realizing just how much I have lost myself – I was put on this earth to overcome something that will make me stronger in the end, we were all given life to love & be kind to ourselves and my goal as I go through this process is to share my story with love, in hope it will help others see the same light that I do at the end of the tunnel.
“Let fear guide you into the direction you’re meant to go. Most often it’s where you’re meant to be.”