Life With Anorexia & Life in Recovery
I’m Joanne but most people just call me Jo. I’m 27 years young and live in Toronto Canada. My love for literature and language has had a huge impact on my life. I aspire to one day be a famous novelist. I taught English as a second language in Reno, Nevada up until I went into treatment. I have suffered from an eating disorder since grade 4 and I didn’t recognize I was sick until I was 25. Death was knocking at my door and my heart was giving up. At the hospital doctors couldn’t comprehend how I was still alive. I had a path to choose… Life or Death. I chose LIFE. I decided to seek treatment at Center for Hope of the Sierras. Today I can say I have persevered and continue this daily battle. This is a fight I believe in.
Let’s backtrack a little. Anorexia has impacted my life since I was 11 years old. It started with restricting food; years later I found purging was a tool I was able to use as well. I can say that there were a handful of times where I liked the way my body looked, but no matter which way my weight fluctuated I was never happy. ED would scream at me and tell me that I was fat or that I needed to lose a few pounds. Around my teen years and early adulthood my life revolved around the idea of becoming thin. Sometimes the hatred towards my body was so terrible that I would avoid leaving the house for the day. If a guy took interest in me I would sit there and question what he saw in me because all I saw was a fat worthless nothing. Being thin became the most important priority. My health, family, and friends became second. I became so preoccupied with the idea of being thin that I isolated myself which slowly led into losing many relationships and that slowly dug me into a deeper depression.
I had convinced myself to believe that the thinner I became the more beautiful I would be. I thought that if I controlled what foods I put in my body the more in control I was of my life. Rationally the thinner I became the more sick I got. ED is this awful drill sergeant that tells you anything and everything to keep you under his control. To keep you wanting him. Getting his approval became so important to me because he made me feel like I was enough. But did I really need the validation from my eating disorder? I was stuck in this vicious cycle of the thinner I was the more beautiful I was and the more beautiful I was the more people would accept me and the more people accepted me the more I would feel like I was enough, but how much longer could I hold on to anorexia to make me feel like I was enough before my heart gave out?
As I got older I kept finding new ways to restrict, lie, and hide my food. My behaviours were becoming more and more horrific. At 25 I went into cardiac arrest in the middle of my work day. That same day I needed to make a life changing decision. I decided that I wanted to live. I wanted experience love and to have a family. I wanted to see all the beauty that the world has to offer. I needed treatment and stayed at the treatment facility for 7 months. Although I consider myself to be in recovery I still have many lapses but it doesn’t mean I’m failing at recovery. I would only fail if I didn’t continue trying. The voices are still there and probably always will be but in time they have gotten quieter. Even in recovery I still find myself jealous of those who are not affected by disordered eating. I wish my mind wouldn’t start racing at every meal. I believe that the biggest struggle I face in recovery is that others believe I’m better because I physically look better but mentally I still struggle every day.
It’s hard for me to pick a time I was proud of my body but I can tell you I was always embarrassed by it. I was the most embarrassed when I was working on weight restoration in treatment. I never felt confident in any of my clothing and I felt empty and worthless. At this point in treatment I wanted my eating disorder back. Currently I am still working on weight restoration and it’s so incredibly hard. I sometimes feel helpless because I can’t change my body back to the way it used to be without going back to my maladaptive behaviours. I loved being able to fit into my smallest clothes and having it still be too big. I loved looking at a low number on the scale and feeling like I was on top of the world. Although relapsing is always very tempting I can’t imagine going back and putting myself through hell again.
I have always asked the question “why me?” Why am I the girl with the eating disorder? What did I do to deserve this? For a long time I would blame myself for not being strong enough. For being weak minded to allow such thoughts to control my life. For not being “cured” and relapsing after leaving treatment. I even went as far to blame my parents for my upbringing. Not that I had a bad childhood but there was always this strive for perfection and always being the best at everything. At a young age I wanted to find a way that I could be in control and sometimes I think that may have been part of what stemmed my eating disorder. Now I don’t blame anyone. I know it’s not my fault nor my parents fault. No one wanted me to be anorexic. So I still have a hard time with “why me?” but I feel like that’s a question that will never be answered.
I could choose to view this experience as something awful that happened to me and have to continue battling, but I want more out of life than to be bitter about my eating disorder. The most positive spin I could come up with is that I was given this life and this disease so I can learn how to fight, find strength in myself, and discover who I really am. With these attributes I have made it my mission to help others struggling with an eating disorder. “With every negative there comes a positive.” Yes my illness is a negative but in order to live a happier life I decided to pursue the positives that come with it.