Six years ago my sister stopped eating. It started after she began experimenting with dieting and seeing some results. First it was just cutting out all junk food, and then the portions of her food kept getting smaller and smaller until she was barely consuming anything in a day. And where was I? In the middle of the chaos that was going on in my home, feeling a mixture of a bunch of emotions that I wasn’t very proud of, and felt unable to express. You can almost think of it as getting a new member of the family.
It is my sincere hope that everyone spent the last holiday ensconced in a cozy cocoon of familial adoration and delicious, well-savored meals. If, however, you found yourself trapped in your childhood bedroom, shoving fistfuls of mashed potatoes into your mouth just to make the crying stop, then friend, come sit by me.
The weigh in has to be, like most things in my life, perfect. I walk to the scale, carefully being watched by the nurse assigned to observe. I pull in all my breath and step onto the scale, eyes glued to the numbers facing me. I needed a perfect number to get weekend pass. I needed to leave this place. I needed perfection. The number reached its stopping point, one pound short of my goal for that day. Ms. Perfect on my one shoulder leapt forward, screaming failure, while Ed on my other shoulder jumped for joy at still having control.
I’ve struggled with accepting my body the way it is now, and at times I still do. It can be hard for someone with an eating disorder to see and feel their body changing. This is made worse when I feel full after eating, if I wear clothes that feel a little too tight, or if I am having a bad day and look in the mirror.
James S. Bell Junior Middle School in Toronto has banned “junk food” from lunches. Students who bring items such as candy or even granola bars will be asked to take the items back home. The reasoning behind this decision is that the school styles itself as a “sports and wellness academy”. They further reinforce these values by sending kids back to the cafeteria line if they do not have enough vegetables on their plate. Although the general population may perceive these initiatives as positive and healthy – they do not sit well with me.
I was going to college for health and fitness in Toronto when my behaviours became extreme. As my weight and health quickly plummeted no one asked me what was going on. Even at my physically worst I was only ever asked about drug use by doctors, but never a question about food or exercise. Hidden in plain sight, I was a man with an eating disorder.
“Chocolate!!” exclaims my 6 year old nephew Jesse as my sister and I are discussing the preferred flavour of cake for our annual Turkey Tea party. “I want chocolate turkey cake with brown icing!” Ok. Ever since he was a baby we have been having tea parties for special occasions and holidays, keeping celebrations short to match his uh, time-challenged, attention span. Thanksgiving always includes a cake decorated as a turkey from the local grocery store.
Your body gets you around. Your legs keep you walking – even running when necessary. Your heart pumps blood night and day to keep you alive. Your liver metabolizes substances and excretes toxic chemicals through your kidneys. Your lungs supply the much-needed oxygen. Your arms lift, and your hands write or type. Your eyes see the beautiful things around you, and your ears hear the glorious sounds of nature. Your lips allow you to communicate, and your nose allows you to smell. Your stomach digests the food that you eat. Your reproductive organs allow you to create life.
My journey through recovery thus far has most definitely not been a smooth one. There have been many ups and downs. I will start off first by saying that I don’t personally use the term “recovered” or “recovery” or even “E.D” for that matter. I believe those terms can limit and label us. To me, life is a process and I believe that maintaining health is a lifelong practice which requires daily work in order to balance. Balance is something that I believe we all struggle with from time to time; or at least I will admit I do.
This past week I reached a fork in the road of my recovery. Panicked and overwhelmed, I had to make a decision I did not want to make; to put recovery first or to put my eating disorder first. I had to choose whether living on my own in September in my student house was really the best decision for me, or if I should move back home. A tough decision for anyone, I had Ed (whom I refer to my eating disorder as) yelling in my ear telling me what to do, plus all the legalities of being in a one-year lease. To say the least, I was stressed.