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. This is part 2 of my recovery story series, read part 1 here.
As I mentioned yesterday, I was free from anorexia nervosa for a full 4 years until it crept its way back into my life… and this time, it had a stronger hold on me than ever before.
Age 15 was a tough year, I lost my great grandma and my grandpa within 6 months of each other and I was extremely close to both of them. My grandpa’s death is what caused me to relapse.
I remember the week my grandpa died as if it were yesterday. I was sad, the most sad I had ever experienced in my life, and I held a belief that if I carried on with my life as though nothing happened, no one would know or understand the sadness I felt. I also developed a belief that if I ate as I normally did, I wasn’t sad. So, in order to prove my sadness and hurt, I slowly began to change my eating behaviours.
I grew up eating until my plate was clean. I loved food and I didn’t believe in wasting, so I would always finish my meals, every last morsel of them! This all changed after my grandpa died. One of the first things I remember doing was beginning to leave bits and pieces of each meal on my plate to “prove” my sadness. For those of you who do not know or understand eating disorders well, an eating disorder was the source of all of this – causing me to believe that I had to change my eating patterns in order to prove my sadness. This was eating disorder rule #1: never finish your meal.
Never finishing my meal, quickly progressed into having only one piece of fruit for breakfast, then no breakfast, and so on. After a month or so, I was eating substantially less, losing some weight, and realizing the changes that were happening to my body.
As a young teen with extremely low self confidence and going into grade eleven, the changes I was seeing in my appearance were very much welcomed. The little roll I used to have over my jeans disappeared, my face looked thinner, and I felt as though I would be more accepted with this new look I had going, so I continued. No breakfast quickly turned into no breakfast as well as throwing my lunch out at school, and lying about eating dinner. Some days I was surviving off of a couple of carrots and even feeling guilty about that. The eating disorder had complete control over my life.
These days were all extremely dark. My parents knew I was relapsing, confronted me many times, but I was in denial so I lashed out on them, screamed, and denied that there was a problem at all.
I was convinced that I didn’t have a problem. The eating disorder led me to believe that I only had a problem if I ever purged my food, which I never did, so I never thought I had a problem. There were many times I came close to purging, but never did, so I believed I did not have a problem whatsoever.
Throughout this time, I felt extremely alone and as if the world was against me. I didn’t like hanging out with my friends because it usually involved food and I hated being at home because I couldn’t avoid food when my parents were around. So, I spent most of my time lying to my parents and out with friends, feeling extremely uncomfortable, judged, and self conscious. It’s hard to even imagine I lived my life this way for almost an entire year.
Thankfully, one night it hit me hard. I was watching a movie with one of my cousins and we had a huge bag of Cadbury mini eggs beside us like we always did. The bag was open and my cousin was taking handfuls out, eating them, and watching the movie. Me? I was just staring at the bag, almost in tears. I wanted some chocolate so bad, but there was a force within me preventing me from having any at all. I just couldn’t. And that’s when I knew – I definitely had a problem.
That’s the thing about eating disorders, the people who are battling them can’t eat, even if they wanted to. Just like me and the mini egg story, I wanted to have some so incredibly bad, but I just couldn’t, the eating disorder had such a strong hold on me, I just couldn’t bring myself to break the eating disorder rules.
That night I confessed to my parents about what had been going on. As I said, they knew all along, but being the stubborn person I am, I had to admit my struggle on my own terms.
As they were the first time, my parents were on my side, supporting me all the way through recovery. The day after I admitted my eating disorder to my parents, I began recovery. Despite going through recovery once before already, it was much harder this time around. I was older, I knew more, I had more fears about food, and the eating disorder definitely had a stronger hold on my life.
I was told by a psychiatrist that I would have to be hospitalized immediately, but, like I said, I was an extremely stubborn and determined teen and told my parents and the psychiatrist that there was no way I would be spending my final year of high school in a hospital. My parents knew what I was capable and what a determined person I am, so they put all of their trust in me and I began outpatient recovery, despite what the psychiatrist thought was best.
On a weekly basis, I would see a registered dietitian, social worker, and psychologist. I would also have regular check ins with my doctor and psychiatrist who were a couple of hours outside of my hometown. My dietitian provided my mom with a meal plan and helped monitor my intake. My psychologist helped me with everything else. My parents were my caregivers, my everything. I truly would not be here today if it weren’t for them.
Recovery was long and hard. I had some extremely good days like when my mom and I went shopping for groceries after meeting with the dietitian for the first time – I was so beyond excited to pick out food to eat after starving myself for so long! However, most of the time it was a battle. Increasing my meal plan was always a huge bump in the road, leaving me feeling uncomfortable, but I was persistent, determined, and never let the eating disorder win me over.
After a full two years of recovering, my psychologist and the rest of my support team agreed I was recovered. My weight was restored, but, most importantly, my mental health and wellbeing was healthy once again. I no longer feared food or suffered from extreme body hate. My second battle with anorexia nervosa was over and I was ready to move on with my life!
In tomorrow’s post I will continue my eating disorder recovery story with part 3.