“If we walk far enough,” says Dorothy, “we shall sometime come to someplace.” ~ L.Frank Baum
This week in Canada is Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW), an annual event led by the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). While anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder are the more commonly known EDs, there is a wide spectrum of experiences, with varying complexities, and a straightforward diagnosis is not always so clearcut. Add to that the realization that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses and it’s important to release the stigma attached to EDs, to talk, listen and ensure that everyone has access to support. As the EDAW tagline suggests: Talking Saves Lives.
Back in 2013, I exhaled the details of my ED story to all of cyber space, here on the Define Me blog. It wasn’t easy to do but it’s all part of the process. At the beginning of this post I quoted one of my favourite movies of all time – The Wizard of Oz. When I reflect on my ED story I see the parallels of mine and Dorothy’s journey. Recovery was a big part of my yellow brick road where I met face-to-face with my battling mind, my delicate heart and a source of courage I never knew I had.
It took me a few years of counselling and personal work to recover from the eating disorder that consumed me throughout my time as a competitive athlete. Do I still have feelings of self-doubt, resentment towards my body and feeling out of control? Sometimes. I would be lying to you if I said otherwise. The difference is I can recognize when those harmful thoughts and feelings start to surface. And I have found less destructive methods for soothing those negative feelings such as positive self-talk, affirmations, engaging in self-care activities or speaking with a close friend, family member or therapist.
I truly believe each of our life’s path, our yellow brick road, is pre-set in a way. The trials and tribulations are part of some universal plan that lead us to just the right place, at just the right time. Not all of us will follow that blueprint though. It is the choices we make that determine whether our destiny will be fulfilled.
Yes, there was darkness in my personal struggles with my eating disorder. But it ultimately brought me towards this personal and professional trajectory that I now know was meant for me. Here are 6 beautiful gems that my ED journey has granted me:
- The principles of intuitive eating: They have guided me towards a healthier relationship with food, exercise and my body.
- Long distance running and triathlon: Finding a new form of exercise soothed my goal-oriented, athlete-self with a safe (for me) activity that does not involve focusing on weight.
- Pregnancy: Realizing the importance of nurturing my body to support the development of my babies while also letting go of anxiety around weight-gain.
- My children: Pivotal in so many ways, they have kept me honest so to speak. I don’t diet, I don’t own a scale, I engage in regular self-care and I talk positively about my body. I do so mainly because I want to model for them a healthy, respectful, integrated mind-body-spirit approach to living.
- My business: Taking the leap over 3 years ago to start Define Me brought me even closer to my life purpose. I have discovered a network of like-minded people (ASDAH is just one example) and gained more clarity in my message with my overall mission to helping others find balance, joy and a newfound intuitiveness to living.
- My Yoga practice: Through coming to my mat regularly, slowing down my movement and breath, I have found a stillness within that has connected me to a deeper state of self-awareness and love.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or engaging in disordered eating behaviours, know there is hope and possibility beyond what you are enduring now. Find just a little bit of courage and seek the help you need to heal. Make the journey on your own yellow brick road towards The Emerald City, that will ultimately lead you back home to yourself.