I’ve shared openly about my journey with PTSD, recovery, trauma, and mental health. All of these things happened TO me, and I found a way to cope through them.
What I still find tricky to navigate is talking about my journey with body dysmorphia and disordered eating.
I honestly don’t even really know how to start, because I think most people wouldn’t even remember me going through anything like that. I was ALWAYS verbally adamant that I was completely healthy and fine, that I wasn’t struggling. Every now and then someone would make a comment that I was smaller than they thought, ‘skinnier’, and I would take it with such pride as confirmation that I was doing the right thing.
Here’s the thing; I was never bulimic, and I don’t think I was anorexic? I definitely went for very long stretches of time without eating. I was constantly finding ways to ‘earn’ eating. But I don’t think it stemmed from wanting to be smaller at all.
For me, it was a way to control my body, maybe even punish my body. When I was 16 I stopped dancing because I had become so riddled with injury I couldn’t move without being in pain. I was also highly anxious, and leaned towards some obsessive behaviours (that I really tried to keep secret). So for a time, it felt like the only thing I had any say over when it came to my body was food intake.
I remember making up calorie counts in my head, looking at my body in the mirror and saying horrible things to myself. I once went through a period of time where I set alarms on my phone to remind myself that I didn’t deserve to feel good.
I actually have only ever shared that with one other person, so we’re getting really vulnerable on here today.
I have learned through all my accident related recovery stuff that sharing is important, community is important.
I started seeing a councillor at my high school, but after a particularly hard assignment I didn’t go back.
She asked me to write a list of 5 things I liked about myself.. I couldn’t do it. I had to text a friend, who sent me a LONG list of reasons why I was fabulous.
I felt like because I was never ‘as bad’ as other people who I knew were suffering with EDs, that it meant I was different. Controlling maybe, obsessive maybe, but I wasn’t where they were which made me okay.
I have been learning a TON about eating disorders, and especially treatment in Ontario recently. I have been learning that it has the HIGHEST rate of mortality out of all mental health categories.
After the accident I was in, I gained a little bit of weight. I had a moment where I was looking at myself in the mirror, completely unable to fit into my clothes. At first glance all I saw was rolls of flesh bunching up on each other as I tried to squeeze myself into my jeans.
Then I looked again
I saw a leg that was slowly working on building muscle.
I saw a foot that wasn’t even able to weight bear yet, but that still moved perfectly.
I saw a chest that had been bruised and smashed against concrete, but could still support my breath and spine.
I saw a head that although has been split open, held the face of a strong, beautiful woman.
And that’s when I decided it didn’t matter. Fitting in to a pair of jeans didn’t fucking matter.
I had survived something so incredibly dangerous, that most people die or are paralysed.
My body didn’t deserve mean words, it deserved love- I deserved love.
Everyday I work on making sure I send my body only lovely thoughts and vibes. I eat food that makes me feel nourished, which sometimes even means brownies and chocolate covered almonds.
I make sure to laugh, and to moisturize, and use sunscreen.
I notice when the negative thoughts creep in and CHOOSE to change them.
The power of change really comes from choosing.
I choose to notice the moments when I don’t feel my best, and ask myself why.
Sometimes its because I’m really tired- so I go take a nap.
Sometimes its because I haven’t moved my body in a loving way- I go and take a class.
Sometimes its because I’ve been obsessively watching instagram stories about people doing cool things, and not doing my own cool things.
But mostly I just talk to myself the way I would talk to a young girl who I loved.
Remind her that she is powerful, loved, amazing, brilliant and beautiful.
And my friend,
So are you