A little off the topic of fashion (but not really), I have been inspired by many bloggers in the online community who have come together and shared their stories, in order to help those with eating disorders. If you are out of the loop, this week (February 23-March 1) is National Eating Disorders Awareness week, which is trying to raise awareness about eating disorders, educate those who have previous had misconceptions about eating disorders, and provide help for those currently suffering. As such, I have decided to share my story, and get it out there.
Where do I begin? It was the middle of grade 11. Spring break, to be exact, and my best friends had both left for China on a two week exchange. To top it off, my dad had just moved away from my home town, quite suspiciously, to God knows where for God knows how long. Needless to say, I was feeling a little (if not really) down. So I conjured up this amazing idea that I, all 115 lbs of me, was going to lose weight. Not a lot of weight, but I wanted to be fit. To be smaller. That was my goal.
So that’s how it started out. I started following fitness blogs on Tumblr, started eating healthier, started running on our treadmill. It was all good in the beginning. My mum, who is a huge fitness guru herself, was ecstatic. She would come home from work to find me making myself a salad with chicken breast, or just finishing up a run. In the beginning, I lacked the capability to run more than 15 minutes. But I continued to go a little further everyday, run a little faster every time. After 5 days, I found myself running 3 km in 20 minutes, and intaking 1200-1000 calories a day. All seemed fine, in the beginning.
But that’s when it got worse. You see, those fitness blogs that I followed quickly started to turn into “thinspiration” blogs. The calories began to decrease. The exercise increased. Soon, it turned into a fixation. All I could see on myself was mounds of weight that made me horrendously atrocious. I literally could not stand the look of myself.
So I started to work harder.
By this point, it had been at least a week and a half, maybe less, and I had already dropped down to 107 lbs. I was cold all the time, and I had given up all the foods that I had once loved. Nothing tasted as good as skinny felt, right? Each time I would rub my now protuding hipbones, I would remind myself of that. I had a goal, and that goal was to be as skinny as I could possibly be.
Food, of all things, was now my enemy. I kept a folder (which, until recently, was still on my computer) that I titled “cravings”, where I would save photos of all the food I found on Tumblr that I a) would never allow myself to eat, and b) looked beyond delicious. That folder tormented me and comforted me at the same time. It read: I may exist, but you are so much better than me. You want this. The picture, I convinced myself, satisfied all my cravings.
By this point, I was running 4 km in 20 minutes, going to the gym every weekend, and my clothes were drastically shrinking. I did not realize afterwards what a toll the weightloss had taken on my appearance. My mum didn’t either. No one noticed until I was at my best friend Nina’s house, the day she got back from China, and her mother offered me a glass of my favourite beverage: cranberry juice. The first notion to enter my mind was 60 calories. I cannot afford to waste 60 calories on one drink. That’s when my best friend knew that there was something significantly wrong with me, both mentally and physically.
So school started up, and everything seemed to be normal. That is, except for the fact that I was only eating grapes for lunch, and I never wanted to hang out with my friends, or even my boyfriend. I was literally a walking zombie. I was crying all the time, never had any energy to contribute to conversation, I was hitting the gym every Saturday for 3 hours, and worst of all, I was shrinking as the days went my.
One of the most vivid memories I have of between the start and when I decided to get help was when my mum and I were in the car, on our way back from shopping, I believe. I remember telling her how much I wanted Subway, how much I wished I could just eat Subway. We were almost near home and she offered to take me there for dinner, because that way she knew I would eat. I told her no. Then yes. Then no. Then yes. Then I started to cry. She pulled the car over and started to tear up, too. I was crying because inside of me, I wanted that food so badly. I wanted to just be normal, to be able to eat something that I absolutely loved and not regret it during the process. But I was crying because I also knew that I could not. I physically and mentally could not allow myself to fall into the trap and consume the calories. Everything in my life was measured in calories. My mum was crying because she had no way to help me, could not calm the internal struggle I was facing, and, worst of all, she could not cure me. It was in that moment that I knew my eating disorder had consumed me. I believe it was also that day that I decided to not only get counselling, but to also see a dietitian. By this point, I was surviving on 5 apples and 4 diet Cokes a day. By this point, I was weighing myself 3 times a day, my collarbones were jutting out, and my cheeks were sunken in. By this point, I was 96 lbs and I began to have suicidal thoughts. By this point, I was fainting after exercising for more than 1 hour. By this point, the eating disorder had practically destroyed my relationship with my best friend, M, to the point where to this day, we don’t really talk about what happened to me. It pushed me away from the ones that I loved the most. My mum, my dad, my boyfriend, my best friends. My thoughts were so consumed with self-hating that no one, not even those closest to me, could penetrate through. I was left to loath myself for not only my appearance, but also my mental state.
Though counselling and seeing a dietitian inevitably did not help me to recover (if anything, I think they made the entire situation worse), when the end grade 12 came along, I started to see a shift in my behaviour. Yes, I was still counting calories and exercising excessively, but my mental state began to improve. It was not until a year later, a year after it all began, that I actually had to stop and look at what I was doing. I was eating. I was eating and not regretting it right away. I was gaining weight, and I was not hating myself for it. I was exercising, but only every other day. I was happy. I was warm. I was getting better. By the beginning of my first year of university, through the love and the support of those around me, I had almost come full circle. Yes, the occasional negative thought would pop into my head, but overall I was looking healthier than I had in months, and I was feeling better than before. Though I can’t say what the exact turning point was for me, or what it was that made me overcome my illness, I can honestly say that I would have never gotten better if it weren’t for Nina, sitting me down one day and telling me “Hey, I’m worried about you and I know you might think that you’re fooling everyone, but you’re not fooling me. I know you’re sick. And I want you to know that I’m here for you.” Those words meant the world to me.
Eating disorders are one of those things that I for the life of me will never be able to explain to someone who has never had one. I cannot convey the feelings one has while suffering, the internal monologue one has with themselves over their next meal. This testimony cannot relay the complexity that encompassed my eating disorder, nor can it describe to you the sheer fear that engulfs one who is resisting the food on the plate in front of them. But I hope it gave you a glimpse into something that has made me not only stronger as a person, but also understanding of all mental disorders that plague society today. Before, I could never comprehend my father’s depression, could never understand girls who did not want to eat. But coming out of it, after finding myself submersed under a sea of self-doubt and self-loathing, unable to break the surface for over a year, my eyes were opened. This is virtually one of the hardest things to talk about, as I believe you can understand, but I feel it is necessary to share my story because it, along with all the bright, positive things that have happened to me, is a part of my life, and a part of what makes me who I am today. As well, I want to show to those suffering that they are not alone in it. As cliche as it sounds, it will get better. It does get better.