This is a story I have wanted to share for a long time
I have wanted to share this story openly for a very long time but was always hesitant to. Scared that if I did I would be judged or looked as “attention seeking” and full of self-pity. Looking back now though I realize that the reason I never shared this story was because it wasn’t finished yet. I was worried that sharing it prematurely would be as if to say “I’ve won the battle” when I hadn’t really, and to be honest the battle probably still isn’t won. I’ve re-written this story hundreds of times in my head, but it still isn’t perfect. I’ve learned that nothing is going to have a neat and tidy ending, and that’s okay. This is my story, and I am not telling it to please anyone else.
I have an eating disorder.
I use the present tense for that because, even though I feel recovered from my eating disorder in almost all ways, I know that it is a disease which will never be completely gone. There are no pills that can eradicate it from my body, and even though there are countless treatment centres and therapy options available, there is no sure-thing for 100% lasting recovery.
My eating disorder will always be with me in some capacity. Sitting there at the back of my brain, next to all the memories attached to it that I am trying to forget, just waiting for the day. Waiting for that moment where I feel as if everything in my life is spinning wildly out of control and I get scared. I look for something to grasp, something to cling to that will soothe all my pains. That’s when my eating disorder will poke it’s head out and say “I’m here for you Cloe”, extending it’s hand and welcoming me back into it’s warm embrace. If I’m lucky though, that will never happen.
For a long time, when I would think back to the beginning of my eating disorder, I would immediately place blame on the circumstances I was in at the time for being the cause of it. When it started, I was very unhappy with my life. I was going to a high school I was terrified to attend everyday, with no social circle to lean on and feeling completely unconfident with myself. Having been through the counselling and therapy that I have in recovery, I now understand that that is not what caused my eating disorder.
My eating disorder formed through a combination of biological, environmental and social factors. Statistically, I already had an extremely good chance of developing one. Caucasian females from middle class families between the age of 13-25, with divorced parents and a history of alcoholism in their family are the demographic with the highest occurrence of eating disorders.
Check, check, check, check, check and check.
Yep, I met all those requirements, so really the odds were already stacked against me from the very beginning.
Growing up I was naturally thin. I would frequently be told that I would “always be skinny, and never have to worry about my weight” by many of the adults in my life. Being the very observant and over-thinking child that I was, I started to interpret these remarks as expectations. Expectations which I felt I needed to live up to, because if I didn't, well then I would be letting everyone down.
So when things were bad, and nothing was going the way I wanted it to, I turned to the only thing I could control. What I ate.
It became a game for me. Everyday trying to function on the least amount of food possible. Counting calories, avoiding anything processed, and putting all out ban on sugar. It was a game I got very good at, and the better I got the more obsessed I became. After not long, my body started to change too. Limbs got thinner, eyes looked sunken in and hair started falling out. I was always cold and would have to wear big sweaters, even inside during the summer. I had digestive issues, trouble sleeping and was anxious all the time.
Even though I clearly looked underweight to other people, I could not see it myself. When my body changed, so did my perception of it. I had body dysmorphia, meaning that, when I looked in the mirror I saw my body as different than it actually was. This is what made recovering for me so difficult, because I could not comprehend that there was anything wrong. My brain, with it’s lack of nourishment, was not functioning properly.
It took time, but one day I woke up to the fact that something was wrong. Despite my belief that controlling what I ate would solve all my problems, I realized that controlling what I ate was actually the reason for my problems. After a few months and some research, I was eventually able to find help.
Three years ago today (July 15th) I was admitted to the hospital for the physical impact my eating disorder had taken on my body and immediately started recovery. I had a low BMI, low heart rate, low blood pressure and low body temperature. I was put on a meal plan, and remained in the hospital for 10 days. It was a relatively short amount of time, but it felt like an eternity.
When I was in the hospital all I wanted was to get out, but after I did things were even harder. I had weekly doctor’s appointments, regular bloodwork and was still on a very daunting meal plan. I definitely had my ups and downs. There were countless times I wanted to give it all up and dive right back in to the comforts of my eating disorder, but I didn’t, and I am very proud of myself for that.
Now, three years later, I am in much healthier place physically and mentally. I have developed better coping mechanisms for when things feel like they are out of control, and everyday I am working on exercising complete food freedom. Having gone through what I have, I appreciate life more than ever and am no longer afraid to do what makes me happy.
There are a lot of scary things in life, but eating food and treating your body well shouldn’t be one of them.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, I highly urge you to reach out for help. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders, and the sooner action is taken the better. Below are some resources and treatment programs which I have personally benefitted from: