If There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Whenever I felt sad, whether it was a bully at school, a fight with my sister or feeling unloved because I was a middle child – Mom would always make things better. My mother taught me patience and how to be the bigger person.

During my Grade 9 summer, Mom caught a cold. She started getting canker sores all over her mouth, limiting her ability to eat any solid foods. She felt embarrassed and ugly with the significant weight loss.  She then moved onto developing an itchy rash. The rash became so severe that it started to burn and peel.   Still, at this point the doctors had no idea what was wrong.

After 10 enduring months, I lost my mother to Lupus. I lost all meaning to life and was no longer afraid of death. I cried until I realized that eating was able to stop my tears. Food was my solution and soon, I developed an eating disorder (ED).

Fighting to survive, I got a job in high school, put myself through University away from home, got my Masters too, and then finally found a job. Although I seemed so strong and put together, I was very much broken inside.  I tried to find new meaning to life, but I always wondered why was I working so hard yet slowly killing myself with my ED. 

My ED was once an escape – an escape from reality, an escape from always having to be strong. It allowed me to be weak for once, but it became so severe that the effects were no longer an escape but a reality. I had developed an addiction.

Addiction. One word that has so much power to it.  The consequence of addiction is dependence– our body depends on the addiction to survive and our mind takes over, where it will do anything necessary to sustain and feed the addiction.

For me, ED is an addiction. Social media sometimes labels ED as something of vanity – one’s desire for perfection, beauty, thinness, and social acceptance. The truth is, vanity is only a minor part that can contribute to an eating disorder. Unlike many addictions – smoking, substance use – eating disorders are not socially acceptable unlike many other addictions. And this prevents those suffering from seeking help.  Instead, we choose to hide, feel ashamed, keep it a secret, and protect ourselves from accepting the facts.

I fell deeper into my addiction and lost control of my ED. It started to become a big expense that I couldn’t afford, but more so that I didn’t want to waste money keeping up with. The solution – I began stealing food to feed my addiction. 

Change is definitely not an easy process; change is risky. It puts you in an uncomfortable and vulnerable place, exposing you to an opportunity for failure. It is so hard that although I knew the consequences of staying the same, I was still reluctant to change. I always pushed my health to the last priority; it was my responsibility to piece my family together, putting their needs before mine, and putting my education and career before my own health. It hit me hard when I realized I was soon turning 30 with dreams of starting my own family one day, and it was all about to go down the drain with a criminal record. I had spent 13 years living with ED, nearly half my life. I was determined to take control of my own life again.  I owed it to myself and my mother to get over this once and for all.

I spent all of 2013 seeking help, finally sharing my secret with the loves of my life. I needed all the support of family and friends to prepare myself for success in the treatment program. I eventually found a job in Toronto at North York General Hospital where my mother died. I started work on the anniversary of her death, and in the same hospital where I started my treatment program. This was my calling from her to come home and get better.

It has not been an easy process, but I am very proud to say that I ended the treatment program.

Without an eating disorder, I realize I truly do have a passion for food. I love to cook, and I enjoy cooking for others while maintaining an active healthy balanced lifestyle. Today, instead of resorting to an eating disorder to cope with negative feelings, I find myself channeling them through cooking. I never thought this day would come, but all the hard work and the exposing of my feelings to heal inside was definitely worth it. 

I thank God for helping me refocus on the inward beauty of your creation. I will to see myself as someone unique, worthy and precious. Thank you for helping me love myself again. I finally feel at peace.

Picture of Laura.

Laura is 30 years old, happily engaged and living in Toronto close to family and friends.  It’s been four months since her last episode, and life has never been better.  Laura feels renewed and is never turning back!