My life always a party complete with networking, fundraising, and gala dinners. I enjoy the social aspect of the territory but fear the dreaded diet related questions. I am a vegetarian who tries to maintain a vegan diet. I avoid talking about my diet; because I hate being asked why I'm vegan. I wish I could say that I was vegan because of environmental, or social causes; I can't, however. I am vegan because in many ways it is a socially acceptable eating disorder (orthorexia), one that grants me enough control over food to avoid the panic of post anorexia and bulimic guilt.
I bring this topic up because a local Calgary philanthropist, W. Brett Wilson, has chosen to benefit eating disorder related charities at an upcoming function.
There is a lot of stigma involved in eating disorders, and a lot of misconceptions about the problem. An eating disorder is not necessarily about the desire to be thin or skeletal. An eating disorder is a mental obsession that can hijack your life. There is nothing glamorous about being either anorexic or bulimic. I know, I spent the better part of my teens and early twenties in the trenches of an eating disorder. There is help available for people struggling with eating disorders- help that is confidential and anonymous such as Juno House or BodyWhys.
My eating issues began in elementary school. I hated seeing my body grow and fill out before a growth spurt. By Jr. High I was counting calories, popping laxatives, going for midnight runs, and in a deadly competition with myself to see how many days I could go with out eating. I looked horrible, felt horrible, and CHOSE to have no life because I FEARED that it would interfered with my diet. Yet, somehow, I felt victorious, because by forbidding my self nourishment I was the only person capable of hurting myself and therefore invincible. The constant starvation lead to inevitable binge eating, and subsequent laxative an diuretic use. The binges were shameful and disastrous. Every binge felt like a failure. A failure that left me frozen, panicked, and emotionally beaten.
The laxatives always left me bloated, and the starvation screwed up my metabolism. I was always cold, always shaken, always looking for an excuse not to eat or to skip a meal. I knew that what I was doing to myself was not healthy, but it seemed so hard to ask for help. I didn't want to let go of the only control I thought I had. I tried to reach out for help, using an alias. The first time I sought help; I learned how to stick my fingers down my thought to erase the damage. Learning how to vomit gave me the freedom to have more of a life. I could go out armed with knowledge that a trip to the bathroom could be arranged. Bulimics are not always skinny, and during my bulimic stage of life I put on weight and risked my body to injuries. An ex boyfriend of mine called me out on my bulimia. He berated me, and forced me to seek counseling. I hated him for it. My eating disorder was MINE: my refuge, my safe place.
Through counseling I was able to work through my eating disorder. I recognized that my issue came from fear. I realized that my competitiveness was self destructive. I starved and binged because I could ration that by hurting myself, I made it impossible for others to get to know or hurt me. I prevented my self from feeling. Today, I am grateful for my ex. I am now nearly 3 years free of binging or starving. I take each day as it comes, and ask for the strength to overcome my poison one day at a time.
There is nothing glorious about having an eating disorder. They are painful, emotionally draining, and body damaging. Eating disorders are preventable. There is help. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder seek help. No one should suffer the isolation of an eating disorder.