When did my eating disorder start? It’s hard to say, exactly. I remember watching a Britney Spears video when I was about 11 and thinking that she looked really skinny. Then I started noticing my hip bones. But it was in high school that I really started engaging in eating disorder behaviours that went on for eight years.
My eating disorder was my obsession. Everything revolved around it and it was all I could think about. There is this strange conflict in having an eating disorder – in one way, there is so much shame. But there is also this sense of comfort – a misplaced pride – in being able to maintain such a rigid way of living.
Then one day I was standing in the shower and almost passed out. That really scared me. I felt like I was losing that sense of control that felt so good. I knew I needed to change something, so my anorexia shifted to bulimia. I was well into the next stage of my eating disorder when my then-boyfriend found my journal. He confronted me, and I saw that I was affecting more people than I realized, that people cared about me and that I had to get better.
But it took me a long time – a few years – after that to really get things under control.
The thing that got me through was actually a promise I made myself when I was 17 or 18 and right in the middle of my eating disorder. In a moment when I was feeling really frustrated, I realized that I wanted to find a way to help people who were struggling and experiencing the same things I was. At the time, I had no idea how I was actually going to do that. I felt like I couldn’t do anything at all.
But that one idea became my shining star – a light that I was always reaching toward. It was a goal. Something to live for. And when things got really hard, which they did – relapses are common for people experiencing eating disorders – I always went back to that idea. That I really wanted to help people. That’s what got me through.
I’m recovered now and I can see clearly all of the things my eating disorder took away from me – the happiness, the fearlessness. And there’s this whole list of wonderful things that have happened since I started to get better. I can see the potential I have. I feel like I have even more control – that I can rationalize and make decisions for myself. That I can be with people again.
Now I’ve almost finished my psychology degree. I did an independent study last year that looked at restrictive eating and I presented those findings at a national conference. I’ve applied to a couple of master’s programs and ultimately, my goal is to specialize in eating disorder research or counselling.
It feels like that little light that got me through is even brighter now.
– Maureen, Bachelor of Arts, Honours Psychology student and co-director of the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta (EDSNA)
The first week of February is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder/disordered eating, please reach out to MacEwan’s Wellness and Psychological Services or EDSNA.
The Changing Minds program connects students, faculty and staff with training opportunities, support services and resources related to mental health.
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