It has taken writing my memoir to finally acknowledge that, yes, I did have an eating disorder. I was anorexic.
When I was young, (about 10 years old) I felt different and like I did not fit in. I felt very alone and developed eating disorders, which was a struggle I battled with well into my late teenage years.
I remember my best friend at the time asking me, "Can you just get over this not eating thing?" For me, anorexia was a very isolating period of my life.
After I recovered (early university years), I learned about Sheena's Place which is a support centre for individuals, families and friends affected by eating disorders. I wanted to help other young people, but every time I tried to walk into Sheena's Place, I turned back. I could not bring myself to admit that I had an eating disorder.
After university, I left Toronto for my first job in New York City. I brushed my painful past under the rug and convinced myself that "Anorexia is my past, it has NOTHING to do with my present."
As the years went on, I told myself that "I can't really help" in attempts to hide the fact that I was too ashamed to share the fact that I once had eating disorders.
I have spent over 14 years hiding this "tiny" part of my life.
I had created a brand new life for myself, moving up the corporate ladder, living and working in different cities around the world. I became a sales director and I felt others would feel sorry for me or deem me weak if they knew about my past. I wanted to be seen as a successful business woman -- period!
I have spent over 14 years hiding this "tiny" part of my life, and it is now, only after writing my memoir, that I've realized that by hiding, I've been chipping away at my heart.
I decided that I didn't want to hide anymore and wanted to find a way to help out at Sheena's Place. I reached out to the chairman of Sheena's Place and scheduled a meeting with Deb, the executive director.
That day, October 2016, I parked about 15 minutes away from Sheena's Place. As I got closer to the address, I walked slower and thought it would be best to just turn around. My heart started beating faster and there was a ball in my throat. I took a deep breath and mustered up the courage to walk up the steps and open the door. As I waited for Deb, I saw paintings, beautiful pictures across all the walls and quotes that resonated with me.
(Deb & I, Oct 2016)
I realized something that almost made me start crying right in that room. I never had a "me too." I did not have a friend at that time that understood what I was going through. I did not have a group of other girls who were anorexic to confide in. I didn't get to talk to someone my age about the devils that taunted me, how much I wanted to die, how sad I was and how bad I felt to be doing this to my family.
My family was incredibly supportive and I feel lucky for that, but I did not have a friend who really understood the struggle. I realized in that moment that I should have gone to a place like Sheena's Place and SHARED my pain instead of hiding.
I always felt alone and isolated as I struggled with anorexia silently. As Deb showed me the centre, we sat down and shared ideas of how I can help Sheena's Place and build a long-standing relationship. A huge weight had FINALLY been lifted.
I got home and immediately called my mom. I wasn't sure why, but I wanted to call her and hear her comforting voice. As soon as I told her I just got back from my meeting at Sheena's Place I started sobbing and I couldn't stop. I could feel her giving me a hug as she spoke. Even though I was crying, it wasn't tears of sadness. They were tears of relief.
I finally realized that I don't need to be ashamed anymore.
I had a mental image of complete shame that I held in my head for about 14 years. I hid for years and never dealt with the incorrect perception that other people would see me as weak.
I finally realized that I don't need to be ashamed anymore. I have tried so hard to ALWAYS be strong, never (ever!) letting my guard down.
I realized that if I have the opportunity to help another person to feel like they have a "me too" and are not alone, writing my memoir and sharing my story at Sheena's Place will be worth it.
I also felt comforted, just being in that safe space at Sheena's House. I don't feel alone anymore.
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