As it is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week February 21 – 27, I wanted to take the time to share my recovery story with you in hopes that it will provide at least one person with hope and courage that recovery is possible.
If you’ve sifted through this website, you would have come across my about page and learnt that I battled two eating disorders throughout my life. However, I have never gone into depth about my personal story with battling this mental illness and my journey of recovery. Since it is NEDA Week, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my full story with all of you.
My first struggle with anorexia nervosa came about when I was only 10 years old after losing a close family member to cancer. This was the first death of a close relative I had ever experienced and I didn’t know how to deal with it at such a young age.
Most often, people who struggle with an eating disorder feel as though they cannot control some aspect of their life, so they turn to food as it is something, maybe the only thing, that they feel is within their control. This is exactly what happened to me. After the passing of my family member, I began to unintentionally control my food choices because I felt as though other areas of my life were out of control.
On top of dealing with the death of my family member who I loved very much, I was also being bullied at school. Being bullied caused me to have very little self confidence and self esteem. I felt uncomfortable in my skin and progressively developed an intense fear of gaining weight.
Despite having the nicknames “feather” and “bug”, because I was always small for my age, I began to slowly restrict my food intake.
It’s hard to say exactly what possessed my young 10 year old mind to restrict how much I ate in the first place or what lead me to believe that the less I ate, the thinner I would become, and the happier I would be, but, looking back on the situation now, I would say it was a combination of losing a family member to cancer, being bullied at school, being a ballet dancer and feeling “less than” the other dancers, and the natural changes a young girls body goes through at that age.
Regardless of the cause, the small restrictions I began to make, spiralled into a big problem, an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa.
It took a while before I was diagnosed as I was always complaining of stomach aches, so the doctors told my parents it was only a viral infection, however, my parents knew it was something much bigger than that. As I was progressively getting thinner, fearing food, and begging my parents to “promise me they wouldn’t let me get fat”, they knew I was being controlled by an eating disorder.
Fortunately, my parents were by my side the entire time and got me the support I needed to recover. I worked with a team of health professionals, doctors, psychologists, and social workers, and conquered the eating disorder before returning to school for sixth grade.
To be honest, recovery from this eating disorder is all quite a blur. I didn’t know much about food, calories, fat, carbs, or protein, so overcoming specific food fears wasn’t an issue for me. As I was so young, I recovered by eating whatever my parents served me and, eventually as my mind became nourished once again, I was able to think properly and completely let go of my fears of becoming fat and fully recover from the eating disorder that could have taken my life.
You will hear a lot of people say that once you battle an eating disorder, it never fully leaves you, but honestly, after recovering from anorexia nervosa the first time, it was years until it ever entered my mind again. From grade 6 to grade 10, the eating disorder that once ruled my life, didn’t ever enter my mind. I lived a balanced life within those years filled with healthy homemade dinners to ice cream as an after school snack with my Mom. I enjoyed life, didn’t fear food or weight gain, and I was free from anorexia nervosa.
In tomorrow’s post I will continue my eating disorder recovery story with part 2.