TW: This post talks about my painful experiences with eating disorders. If this causes distress, please make contact with your trusted resources or contact the National Eating Disorder Information Centre Crisis Line: 1-866-NEDIC-20 (1-866-633-4220) or 416-340-4156.

To those struggling and feeling so alone, you are not. I know that you will have a very hard time with that last statement, just as you are having a hard time now. You probably don’t know me, but know that I see you, I hear you and I understand you.

This week, I took a huge step and started attending a drop-in session to help get a handle on my eating disorders. It’s through Body Brave in Hamilton, and I have committed to attending weekly virtual sessions every Tuesday evening. So far, I feel a big shift in my thinking

Yes, you read that right. I unfortunately said “disorders”, not “disorder”. I’m pretty open about my anxiety disorder, but the eating ones are ones that have been my own private version of Hell since 2009.

Without going into too much detail because it’s painful to fully get into outside of a counsellor’s office, I’ve dealt with anorexia and bulimia and have been dealing with binge eating for the last 12 years. Maybe even longer than that, if I’m being honest.

So, everyone that has gotten to know me personally or professionally since 2009, which is my entire academic and professional career, has known me with an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s had major impacts on my life, put me in the hospital once, and has lead to a lot of social anxiety around any occasion to do with food. Again, most networking events and social events involve food, which is hard for someone who’s mind is juggling the networking and making connections while being pre-occupied with the food being served.

For many years, I thought that I was “fixed” or “recovered” from all this, and that I had successfully done it all on my own. I remember the day that I started to eat properly again after years of not eating more than 900 calories a day. I consumed a whole loaf of bread in one night and my Dad said “good, you’re eating again”. I remember my bulimia starting just after that day because I was terrified of gaining weight and began experimenting with laxatives. That ended with me in the Picton hospital after I passed out while walking my dog.

The binge eating part is more difficult to talk about because I am still in the depths of it, but I think it started around the time that I entered the workforce full-time. It was an easy way to calm my fears or to de-stress for a bit. Then, things calmed down. I wanted to lose the weight I had gained from bingeing, but couldn’t resort to my “old ways”, so I did eat a lot healthier for a few years and thought I was recovered. Then a bunch of stuff happened that I can’t get into on a public forum, I felt lonely and unvalued in my new place of work & home, so I turned to food…again and tried to simultaneously “burn it off” and also not give a damn. Now, after a few years of this, I’m fed up and it’s time to recover properly and learn how to recover again should I relapse.

WHEW. Now that is all out, let’s talk about how you can help someone you love that you think has an eating disorder or who has disclosed to you that they have had one in the past or may have one now.

The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) has the best information I have seen when it comes to helping someone trying to help someone with an eating disorder. Rather than re-hashing it all out, I’ll leave the tips to the experts.