Photo Credit: Canadian Press
You hear about people who have struggled with eating disorders but you never think you will be the one to hear a SickKids nurse say; “We need to admit you to our eating disorder program.”
Your heart rate is in the 30s because you’ve gone five months without eating a proper meal.
It is easy to get yourselfinto an eating disorder. You tell yourself it’s nothing and convince yourself you are not hungry. It’s getting yourselfout that seems impossible. Trying to convince yourself that it is ok to finish that bowl of cereal and not gain weight.
This is the firsthand perspective of falling into an eating disorder and climbing your way out.
How it started
It starts with one; one thought, one choice, one decision, one meal skipped. Then it grows to two; two meals skipped. Two pounds gone. Three, four, five … Five months.
In the beginning, it was small. Just telling, convincing yourself that you’re not hungry. When someone offers you more carrots with dinner and you say “No, thank you” even though you want them. Looking in the fridge over and over again to see if you can ignore that little voice in your head, take an apple and listen to your growling stomach. The voice stays, and so you go back upstairs, hungry and ashamed for wanting the food in the first place.
Anorexia Nervosa is defined as “an eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.” But it is so much more than that. It is feeling the need to have control over something in this world, when so little is controllable. It seems harmless.
But the truth is, the further you take this control,less you are in control.
The 5 stages of grief
People talk about the 5 stages of grief relating to dealing with death, but no one talks about those 5 stages when relating it to other life traumas or challenges. It can apply to hearing any hard-to-swallow news. In my case, my “stages of grief” happened whena SickKids ER hospital nurse said,“We need to admit you to our eating disorder program”.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
All of these emotions happened to me in about 60 seconds while laying in the emergency room with my mom on one side, and a team of doctors and nurses standing over me using those ‘soft’ and ‘soothing’ tones. However, those emotions presented themselves in a bit of a different order.
Denial. ‘No, you’re wrong. This isn’t happening to me. You mistook me for someone else.This isn’t me.’
Bargaining.‘If you let me go home I’ll eat (lies). I'll get better (more lies)’.
Anger. ‘You are not allowed to keep me here. I’m allowed to leave. You’re wrong.Let me go home.
Depression.The tears streamed down my face and yet not trying to show how devastated I was with my mom right next to me. Her hearing the same news and not holding it together either, just making me feel worse.
Anger. ‘No, do it again. The EKG is wrong. These can't be my results. I haven’t even lost any weight.’
And finally,Acceptance. Realizing that this is real and itis happening to you.
You feel stuck with nowhere to go. Out of choices, out of options. You are forced to be ok with what is going on and what will happen. Accepting realityis how to deal with it.
Never the same
It's taken me since February 2021 to recover, though I never did and never really will. Recovery is a funny concept. Defined as‘a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength’.I disagree as we never really recover from anything. If you burn yourself with boiling oil the scars will fade eventually, but you will always remember that day. No matter how traumatic or not it was. When someone burns them self (oil or not), you will remember when that same thing happened to you and how badly it hurt and how long it took to heal.
With anorexia nervosa you can ‘recover’ but you never reallyrecover. Your weight will balance, your heart rate and blood pressure will return to normal. That's all physical, and important don't get me wrong, but what about mentally? You have to be ok that your weight is ‘normal’, otherwise you will just end up back where you were.
Your stable weight will never erase the memories of you sitting at the dining room table crying over a cup of yogurt and a brownie. Wanting so much to bring the spoon to your lips and quiet that gnawing voice in your head telling you how fat you are. Crying because you are unable to pull that voice out of your head and worry about what will happen to you if you do.
Thatvoice - let's call itAmelia – never really leaves you, you just learn how to take the reins back. Amelia will show up one time or another, but eventually you will regain that confidence to tell Amelia “not now”. Sometimes she gets her way and you put the apple back in the fridge. Annoyed that she’s there and ashamed that you listened.
What takes the longest to understand and accept that you deserve food and nourishment as much as anyone and everyone.
I encourage you to keep going even in the darkest of times. When it seems impossible and there is no way through, the light will come. The sun will shine again whether it takes days, weeks, months, or years. The sun will shinefor you once again.
Written by Hadley Phillipson-Webb age 16.
See the Canadian Press article shared far and wide here.
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