National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016

Today marks the 6th day of NEDAW this year, and I’ve been silently watching all of the posts of Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Thankfully, I have seen this link about how low weight pictures don’t help to raise awareness for eating disorders going around more than I have seen any “before and after” pictures.

Most years, I’ve been right in the thick of it too, changing my profile picture of Facebook, tweeting statistics about how eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and how research and treatment for eating disorders are severely underfunded. This year, however, I’ve kept quiet.

I have been afraid to say what I want to say, but right now, seeing as I have the worst case of laryngitis that I’ve had in a long time and feel very silenced, it feels appropriate (and necessary) for me to share this.

In the Fall, my health got pretty bad. I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the autoimmune form of hypothyroidism, and I was referred to a gastoenterologist to deal with the gastro symptoms. I was gaining weight and having migraines all the time. My class attendance was pitiful, and I nearly failed a class because of it. My depression came back and hit me like a freight train, and I was very isolated. I wasn’t eating much – primarily because I didn’t feel good and before my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, I would often get physically sick when I would eat. As the semester progressed, my health started to improve little by little, but my eating stayed the same. I started using being sick as an excuse for restricting, and I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing until I went home for Christmas break and my eating got even worse. I convinced myself that I still just wasn’t feeling very good, and once I got back for my last semester of classes, things would be much better.

Shortly after I got back, I realized that I was fooling myself, and that I was trapped in a downward spiral and I needed more help than I was getting. I found myself sitting back in the living room of Monte Nido at Laurel Hill admitting that I had been out of residential for almost two years, and I was struggling. It was an incredibly humbling experience, because the last time I had sat in that room, I’d announced that I thought I could safely call myself Recovered. As I looked around the room, I saw the faces of girls who’s worlds had shrunk so small, and I remembered that’s where I was two years ago too.

I thought to myself, “I might be struggling right now, but it’s so much different than this.” I realized that I was living into a pattern that had been developed over the years. Every two years for the past decade of my life, I would end up in treatment of some sort.

2006 was the year of experimental medications, crisis counseling, and Children’s Aid referrals.

2008 was the year I was referred to the Eating Disorders Program at my local hospital.

2010 was Mercy Ministries.

2012 was Credit Valley Hospital Day Program.

2014 was Monte Nido, Cambridge Eating Disorder Center, and Eating Disorder Center of Andover.

2016…is the year I’m graduating from college with my Bachelor’s in Social Work.

So…after I realized this, I realized I had to reach out for more support. I had to use my voice and actively choose to break that pattern. I spoke with my wonderful dietitian with whom I had broken up last May, and I’ve now been seeing her again for a short time. She’s providing me with just a little bit of external accountability and a lot of ass-kicking. She downright refuses to call my slip a relapse. According to her, I stubbed my toe and I just have to remember that I can walk again without it hurting.

And I remember now. I remember why I am doing this. I remember why I chose to fight so hard two years ago.

I’ve got a life to live. On behalf of the (probably more than) 7% of eating disorder sufferers who die from their illnesses, of the families who lose loved ones, of the 60% of people with eating disorders who don’t have access to treatment.

I’ve got a life to live. Because of Kelly, and Amanda, and Rachel, and Moriah, and Alyson, and Sandra, and Karl, and all of the other friends and family members I’ve lost to their mental illnesses.

I’ve got a life to live. For my future clients, for the people who will hear my story and find hope.

I’ve got a life to live. For all the people who love me and have supported me all the way through this process. For all the people I’ve hurt along the way, and all the ones who gave up on me and told me I’d never make it out alive.

Most importantly, I’ve got a life to live. For me. Because I deserve to live. I deserve a life filled with joy, freedom, laughter, and hope. I deserve to live to feel the pain of heartbreak and to put the pieces back together again. I deserve love and be loved, and to one day, hold my children in my arms and rock them to sleep.

The theme for this NEDA Week is  “3 Minutes Can Save A Life”, and it’s true. The first step to getting to where I am today is recognizing the issue and reaching out for help. No one deserves to live through the hell that I did before I finally got adequate treatment. So if you think you, or anyone you know, is suffering from an eating disorder, click here. Get screened. It’s worth 3 minutes of your time.

Choosing recovery was the hardest choice I ever had to make, and sometimes I still need small reminders of why I chose it in the first place, but I am here to say that my life is so much bigger than I ever could have imagined.

I am living the future that I dreamed of for my whole life, but never believed I would actually attain.

And if I can do it, so can you.

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At the Ice Castle in Lincoln, NH yesterday afternoon! So much fun!

**Feel free to contact me if you would like additional resources or just a listening ear. I would love to hear from you!**

When life is just life…

What’s past is prologue, and the world awaits.” 
― Lisa Mantchev

A lot has happened over the course of the last few weeks, and at the same time, it seems that I am just living. Living a normal human existence – complete with bumps in the road and victories to be celebrated; with miscommuncations and conflict resolution; illness, and well, more illness. Given the circumstances, I’m living my life the best I know how.

I really, really love my hair like this. Apparently so does everyone else. ;)

I really, really love my hair like this. Apparently so does everyone else. 😉

Part of me feels like I have nothing important to say, and another part of me is yearning to shout from every rooftop I pass that life is so much better this way. I’m doing all of these really normal things that wouldn’t seem like a big deal to most people, but to me, I feel like I’m doing them for the first time. For instance, I handed in an assignment on time and I felt like there were fireworks going off inside my soul. I coordinated the Welcome Tent at Homecoming for nine hours and when I got back to my room (despite having incredibly sore feet and being completely exhausted), I had a dance party for one. I’ve called and made difficult doctors appointments, gone back to see the family I lived with in New Hampshire, coordinated transportation for my church, and spent a weekend house/dogsitting. I cut my hair short again. That’s really just a snapshot of what my life has looked like since I went back to school in August. Most of that seems pretty ordinary, but for me it was so much more than that.

hbd lexI also turned 22 a few weeks ago. (I tried to write a blog on my birthday, but no such luck.) 22 was by far the most meaningful birthday I’ve had yet. My family came down and surprised me with my best friend. We share our birthday, and it was the first time that we were both well enough to celebrate it together. That weekend will forever go down as one of my favourite weekends of my Gordon experience even though it really had nothing to do with Gordon at all. I will never forget leaving the Rend Collective concert during intermission to go meet my family who had roadtripped down to spend the weekend with me and then having Sarah get out of the van. They left on Sunday, the night before my birthday, and that gave me plenty of time to reflect (a.k.a. cry). Throughout the week, my friends continued to celebrate me and I felt so loved, simply because I’m me.

22 is significant because it’s the first year that I’m actually looking forward to. It’s the first year thatnew beginnings ocean I can trust that I won’t spend it trying to destroy my body, and subsequently my life. It’s the first year that I’m allowing myself to own my life and everything that comes along with it. I’m realizing that growing up is not as scary as I thought it was. That realization might have something to do wth the fact that I live on a floor full of 18 year olds while I’m 22. I’ve so appreciated my floor this year though. Those girls are fantastic. 22 is a year of embracing possibilities and savouring the present moment, because there will never be another time in my life that I am filled with such wonder and pride with every little thing that I accomplish.

It’s quad break now, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more thankful. Although life is good, I’m facing some challenges healthwise, so I was more than ready for this weekend to come. I’m actually home right now. I decided that I wanted to come home for break. This is the first time I’ve ever been excited about the the prospect of coming home. Home is a safe haven, finally. It feels right. I fit here in my house with my family and my dogs and my bed. I fit here with Sarah. I don’t want to stay, but this is now a place I can trust will be here waiting for me no matter where I go. After years and years and years of aching for home, I can finally appreciate it for what it is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that right now, life is just life. It’s spectacular and awful and everything in between, but mostly it’s just going on.

I can finally resonate with that frequently overused quote by Robert Frost.

“In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on.”

Sometimes a change of pace is the best thing in the world.

It’s 6:30am and I’ve been laying awake since 4. I feel like I should be tired, but I’m really not. My brain has been swirling with thoughts as I lay here in the dark stillness of my new friend’s bedroom.

I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to spend the last two nights here in this big comfy bed. Last night, I slept better than I have in weeks. I’ve met many incredible women, and I’ve seen community lived out here in The Beaches of Toronto in a way that I rarely witness back in Hamilton.

I’ve had so many new experiences as well. I ate king crab legs for the first time. They are very expensive and even more delicious. I walked to a cute all day breakfast place and bought freshly squeezed orange juice. I accompanied my new friend while she went to show houses to her clients and met the cutest puppy named Steve. In my humble opinion, he was the best part of that house. I went to get ice cream with the cutest little boy ever (even if he’s a handful…). This may not be a new experience, but I’ve looked at all her books and I want to read them all.

Out of all the cool new experiences, my favourite moments have been the evenings we’ve spent sitting outside sharing our lives. We have much in common, so it’s nice to sit and talk with someone who’s a bit further down the road of life and, as such, has come to possess incredible amounts of wisdom. I feel safe to ask questions that I would never ask anyone else.

When this woman speaks, people hear her. It is evident to me that is she loved by so many, because she loves so well. She’s a strong, confident, powerful woman, but she is also intimately acquainted with pain and suffering. She understands the concept of authenticity in a very practical way. This woman is a Truth speaker. She is a woman of integrity; someone who is true to her word. She calls bullshit on people while at the same time identifying their strengths and building them up.

I’ve talked to a few people who know her well, and they confirmed to me everything that I have noticed as I’ve watched her life play out for the last 38 hours. She is both highly respected and deeply loved by everyone around her.

We were talking last night before bed and I asked her if she was proud of herself for how far she’s come. She told me that she is, but sometimes she forgets to reflect on where she’s come from so she doesn’t necessarily feel it on a daily basis. I want to make it known right now that I am so beyond proud of everything she’s accomplished and the woman she has fought so hard to become.

I’ve only been here since Saturday afternoon, but I am leaving a changed woman (Note the word woman…). I am inspired, empowered, and encouraged. This was just the boost I needed to help me get back on track, and I so appreciate it.

She’s a good friend of my mom’s but I wholeheartedly feel that this is the beginning of a really wonderful relationship.