Each year from February 1 – 7 is Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Canada and each year there is a different topic or focus – this year’s topic is that Talking Saves Lives. This is something that hits close to home for me so I thought I would share!
When I first started realizing that I had a problem with food it was October of 2007. Carson and I had just started dating and I was in full swing of my eating disorder which started taking off in November of 2006. When Carson and I started dating he was noticing how little I ate, something my ex-boyfriend never noticed, and at one point he asked me when the last time I ate was. “3 days ago…” I sheepishly answered. He was shocked and immediately started trying to convince me to eat something, I was very resistant – this was the first time someone noticed that my eating habits were abnormal and tried to talk to me about it and I didn’t know how to tell him that I couldn’t eat because of the drill sergeant in my head, I didn’t have the words and couldn’t talk about it. It was late at night so nothing was open and the only thing I felt I could eat safely was soup so we went out to try and find soup. The only place that was open was Subway and all that was left was the dregs of the soup pot but I promised Carson I would eat something and this was my only option. We sat in the restaurant in silence for over an hour as I tried to eat my soup, pressing napkins to the top of the bowl to soak up any floating fat and slowly sipping the broth; carefully avoiding the noodles, meat and vegetables in my paper bowl. I looked up and saw Carson’s face – desperation, fear and shock stared back at me. I realized how much my food rules scared him and told myself I would do all I could to get it under control. I ate as much as I could, probably about half a cup, and promised Carson I would eat the next day.
Carson started telling me that I had an eating disorder and needed to get better, but I couldn’t talk about what I was going through, I could barely admit to it myself. I have always had trouble vocalizing my troubles and this was no exception; I couldn’t say the words “eating disorder”, “anorexia”, “restrict” or anything else to express what I was going through. Carson and I started developing our own language so that we could talk about my troubles. He would say that I was suffering with “ana-tyrannusaurus-rexia” which made me laugh and helped me say the words I needed to say. He would ask how the dinosaurs were that day or if I was having a hard T-Rex day. For years we used these words to help me tell him when the dinosaurs were angry and I needed some extra help.
Shortly after the soup incident I started trying to recover, I started to gain weight but it didn’t last for long, I was battling my own mind and even with Carson’s support I was slowly losing the war. In 2008 I started seeing a counselor at my university, I tried my best to tell him I had eating problems but he wouldn’t understand the dinosaur talk and I couldn’t say the real words so I tried to tell him how little I ate, how much I exercised and what a problem it was in my life and my relationships. He told me I wasn’t too thin and that I shouldn’t worry too much – I felt unheard and I couldn’t say the words I needed to let him know how much trouble I was in. In 2009 I went to my doctor and asked her to fill out forms referring me to local eating disorder programs, she was also pretty surprised but after asking me about my eating habits she agreed and I started seeking professional help for recovery.
Over the next 5 years I worked really hard at trying to express my troubles and get better, but I still didn’t have the words. Learning to say the words is one of the most powerful things I did for my recovery – it was only through learning to say the words that I could face my problems and ask for help. Anorexia, bulimia, purging, restricting, fasting, laxatives, diet pills, weight – these are all words that I had to learn to say out loud and still work hard at talking about whatever is going on in my mind.
Through learning to say the words I was able to share my story with people that could help me, I was able to be honest with my therapists and really tell them what was going on. I was talking about my issues instead of talking around them and hoping someone would be able to read through the lines and help me.
Talking saves lives and if I had the ability to talk earlier maybe I could have saved myself and my loved ones a lot of pain. If I was able to tell someone about my problems with body image and weight in 2001 when I first started worrying about my weight and tried to purge and restrict to manipulate my weight maybe I would have avoided the last 14 years of struggles. If I could have found the words when my 21 year old self was sitting across from Carson sipping at soup shaking in fear maybe I could have saved myself numerous relapses and found happiness in recovery sooner.
It’s too late to save my 21 year old self but it’s not too late to save others. That’s the whole reason I write this blog and advocate for eating disorder awareness, ending the stigma and shame surrounding eating disorders.
Talking saves lives – learning to talk saved my life and dispelling the secrets can help save the lives of others. So, for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015 talk about eating disorders – be open and available to discuss them with anyone who will listen.