I was seven when I first became aware of my physical being. I remember looking at my mom and twin sister while playing at the park and wanting to disappear because I thought life would be better without me in it. My seven-year-old brain felt panic for thinking that, so I ran to my mom and continued to play at the park. When I was twelve, my body began to change and thoughts of wanting to disappear and be small started to arise again.
I was “popular” in comparison to my twin sister. It was a case of nature versus nurture in my eyes. There was my sister, a shy tiny thing. Then there was me, loud and playful, and developing faster physically than she was. I felt like my body changed quickly, especially in comparison to my twin sister. I was often called “the pretty one” and I felt like I had to live up to that, especially with how much pressure there was in the media and the society we lived in. When I had a bigger chest and butt and was taller than my sister, the boys in my class seemed to be fascinated with my body. My twin sister, much more shy and quiet than I was, got a lot of attention from my mom instead. That was what I felt I needed, though I couldn’t voice it at the time. The attention I received for my body shape and size ended up giving me some sort of validation even though it wasn’t what I truly needed.
Another factor that played into me developing anorexia was when my older sister was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I was five at the time and food was a matter of life or death in my eyes, especially to my sister. If my older sister didn’t eat a certain amount of carbs, proteins, or fats, it felt like the world was going to end. My mom never really handled hardships well, so any incidents within the family were usually catastrophized. Meals were stressful for us all for a long time. My older sister took it all like a champ and she still is my best friend today; she is just the epitome of pure sunshine and I am grateful for that connection still going strong.
When I was thirteen, my team and I were preparing our floor routines. Another teammate suggested we only eat crackers so we could stay light on the floor. It made perfect sense to me at the time. I had already been tossing my lunches in the bin before that, as a way to exert control. I really had no idea the harm I was doing to myself at the time.
Something is my mind truly shifted then and my need for controlling food and exercise really took over my life. During track practice one day, I was running my seventh lap when my gym teacher caught up to me and sent me home. She called my mom and shared that she had suspicions that I had an eating disorder. By fourteen, I was in B.C. Children’s Hospital being treated for my eating disorder, having been diagnosed with anorexia. When my body began to shrink, my smaller frame seemed to call for more mocking, pushing, and teasing.
I was often called the “pretty” one growing up. I was praised for my blonde hair, athletic build, and for having boobs by the age of twelve. I was quickly sexualized by my peers at school. I wanted to be popular and liked so when boys touched me, I kept my mouth shut. A part of me wondered how they were to know better given the twisted society and generation that we grew up in. In church youth group during a movie night, I remember being felt up by two boys at once. I was pressed against lockers and groped.
As hard as it was to be in the hospital for 6 months, I can look back now and feel grateful for how much love and support was given to me by my family and therapists in order to get my life back. As hard as I pushed my mom away, she continued to show only love, kindness, and support. She really took care of me. My dad was another big source of support (I have played so much cribbage in my life, thanks to him).
I remember feeling angry at the fact that I needed to be “distracted” in order to focus on recovery because I felt like I was manipulating myself at the time but they actually helped a lot. But now, I see it as a form of caring for myself. If something is unsettling to me now, I can shift the energy by going for a walk, watching a funny movie, watching the ocean, or focusing on anything that brings me peace.
When I was nineteen, I relapsed terribly and was back at my eating disorder. Again, this meant treatment for me. This time, I did treatment on and off for a handful of years, with both inpatient and outpatient programs. I was really not in a good place and struggling deeply with anxiety and depression at this time.
When I was twenty-three, I realized how sick and tired I was of being physically and mentally drained. I decided to seek treatment outside of the hospital and enrolled in a school to study holistic nutrition. I started doing body work and practicing yoga. Nothing with recovery happened overnight for me but it all made a difference and ended up saving my life. I found a community, met my best friend, and learned so much about nutrition and food through my journey, realizing how it can be fun, nourishing, and celebratory instead of something to fear and control.
It was a rollercoaster of a journey to grow up with an eating disorder and to work on my recovery but I am proud to say that I feel quite free from the grasps of anorexia now. For myself, it was about finding community (outside of the eating disorder groups), understanding nutrition in a more holistic and wholesome way, individual therapy, movement, yoga, and walks while listening to podcasts that really helped to shift my relationship with myself. During my recovery, anything that felt unsafe when it came to food or eating, I would talk through with my best friend or therapist. It was hard learning to trust my body at first but over time, I found movement so powerful and healing. I was able to direct my energy to being present in my body before allowing myself to fully rest. When I rested, I found that I could hear what my body was asking for much more clearly, whether that was sleep, a hug, a meal, or even a good cry.
Our bodies are marvelous, spectacular, beautiful, and always changing throughout life. Speak kindly to yourself because your body really is your home, taking you through the journey that is life.
Come back to it again and again and trust you’re safe in its hands.
About the Author
Our guest author has requested to remain anonymous by going with their initials, D.G.N., for this article.