“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one every come to you without leaving happier.”
– Mother Theresa
This years National Eating Disorder Awareness Week goes from February 26 until March 4. I feel that this is the right time to share a little bit about my personal journey evolving through my own ED and were it has left me:
*warning: if you are in the early stages of recovery or are easily triggered, the following paragraphs may not be suitable for you to read.
Since before I can even remember I’ve never had good body image – and that’s no exaggeration. I have memories of wearing baggy clothes to school in second grade because I wanted to hide my thighs. By the time I reached age 15 I had already started secretly engaging in bulimic behaviors which continued on for the next 5 years of my life.
I wasn’t “scary skinny”, and I never let it effect my school work or extracurricular activities, I even started college while I was in the midst of it all. Not a single person knew.
By the time I reached age 20 it had gotten out of hand. My lifestyle had become completely unsustainable. I was teeter-tottering between bulimia and orthorexia every 90 days or so and the extreme cycles of intense binging and purging followed by starvation and over exercise began to wreak havoc on every aspect of my life.
I was in college and it was effecting my grades and performance in my job as well as my relationships with my roommates, friends, and family. I was acting selfishly. I would black out every time I drank any alcohol because I never had any electrolytes or nutrients in my system. I began to isolate myself. It wasn’t until I started experiencing some scary physical side effects that I realized my “bad habit” was an ED that needed to be dealt with.
It was at this point that I opened up to my Mother and a few close friends about it, and made the decision to put my life on hold to pursue treatment. I left college and moved home to heal, I also got my Yoga Teaching certification and became interested in new age spirituality at this point.
Eventually I entered residential ED treatment in San Diego (where I now live) and worked my way through Intensive Out Patient (IOP) treatment before officially “graduating”.
Although the initial and hardest phases of recovery are behind me, I consider it a lifelong process. Every day is a new opportunity to grow in my self love as well as an opportunity to forgive myself if I struggle.
Through this journey I have learned an incredible amount about life, spirituality, and interacting with others.
I have a distinct memory of the first time I went to the doctors office for an “Eating Disorder Consultation”. I asked the nurse who was taking my vitals not to say my weight out loud, I did not want to know. She ignored my request. She then noticed what my appointment was for and told me to go home, get on with my life, and “cut it out”.
She told me “you look fine, you don’t have an eating disorder”
Thank God I ignored her.
This experience stuck with me, it opened my eyes to what it can be like for all the different kinds of people who struggle with things you might not expect or understand.
Awareness needs to be raised for eating disorders as well as all mental health ailments and addictions. As a community, we need to be more respectful of our fellow humans – allowing them the right to their feelings without judgement.
Having only walked in our own set of shoes, none of us have the right to judge another person based on their feelings or circumstances or to feel that we are superior and could better handle what they’re going through. We especially do not have the right or authority to invalidate someone elses feelings by telling them what they’re feeling is wrong, how they should feel instead, or that their feeling or circumstance is a choice.
It is not our responsibility to judge, it is only our responsibility to love. Period.
Love and compassion is the only way – and this includes yourself. Think of how you would treat your very best friend if they were experiencing whatever it is you’re going through and treat yourself and all of your fellow humans that same way.
It’s time for mental health stigmas to end and for us to be more educated on the reality and facts about all mental health ailments. It all starts with movements like NEDA Week and people like us speaking out.
You can make a difference today by reaching out to someone with some kind words, or even just sending out love and prayers during meditation. It all start with small steps, for me it’s always all about small steps.
If you would like to learn more about this topic or feel that you or a loved one may be experiencing an ED, don’t hesitate to visit the NEDA Website or call their HelpLine at (800) 931-2237