When I was in the 10th grade, like most students, I started thinking about what I was going to do after high school. However, unlike many high school students, I was concerned about who was going to help me get ready every morning once I moved out of my parents’ home. I have muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle wasting disease that impacts the muscles in both my legs and arms. I had been just two years shy of using a wheelchair at that point. Going from standing to sitting all day, I had gained some weight. And weight gain for a disabled woman, I learned, was not an option.
When she told us of her newfound wheat allergy we accepted it for what is was and began on the road to helping her adjust her life and be wheat free. This was our first mistake.
Talking to a friend recently about what it means to have an interior life, I realized how seldom this phrase is heard nowadays or used outside of clinical circles. Yet, having a rich “interior life” may be key to finding meaning and happiness in our existence and undoubtedly promotes emotional health and “normal” eating.
All survivors have their war stories and I am no exception. In my case, the battlefield was my body and the enemy was the bully in my head, the mean girl who told me I was fat. Today she is known as #Mia – Twitterspeak for bulimia.
My eating disorder wasn’t a phase. It was a disease born in the corners of my mind that caused me to cycle through endless episodes of bingeing, purging and starvation. I could talk to no one about Mia, because the injurious words that she could wield were still better than the label I would be assigned if anyone knew my secret.
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, you may be able to relate to constantly feeling numb. Personally, making decisions and identifying my feelings became so difficult in my state of neutrality that I wasn’t really living, I was merely coasting. While this blog post may not reign true for all individuals suffering from an eating disorder, this is my story on how I am recovering from anorexia. It took time, but learning to accept love is what wrenched me out of the depths of my eating disorder and back onto stable ground.
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.
When you’re younger, you’re told you should follow your dreams. I always took that to heart and believe that if I had the power to do anything, than why not spend my time doing something that I love? Part of following your dreams means taking risks, and when I was a kid I was teased and I had practically zero self-confidence. Additionally, I was also slightly overweight at the time, which caused me to analyze and pick apart everything about how I looked. So even when opportunities came my way, I was too self conscious to even think about going for it.
I have always been a small guy. Genetically, I will never be bulky or muscular… it’s just not in the cards for me. Throughout my school years, I was always referred to as “that really skinny guy” or “skeleton.” Some people even questioned if my parents were not feeding me enough. Even today, when I am twenty four years old and at university, one of the first things people notice about me is how thin I am. I’m certainly not the skinniest guy out there, but in an age where guys are expected to be big and muscular, I am an outsider.
We preach patience. We preach life. We preach recovery. As someone who has recovered from an eating disorder, a lot of the work I do is in helping others to get better. Clients touch base with me, expressing their stresses, concerns, and feelings over their bodies, and improving their life. I respond to questions by sharing my experience but the most common question I am asked, the one that I cannot always answer simply is “What is recovery?” While in the midst of a struggle, through all of the hard work, people want to know what recovery means. “What does it feel like?