This is the story of a good friend of mine. I have been incredibly blessed to know her and to be a part of her journey. I had asked her if she wanted to share her story and was blown away by the honesty and hope that are so present in her words. I hope that by reading these words you will be able to better understand what depression and eating disorders can look like, and how important it is to share your life with others. She loves dogs, so I thought the photo of mine was appropriate.
Here is her story.
I’m 21 years old, I’m finishing up my third year at the University of Guelph, I absolutely love dogs and I am in recovery from an eating disorder, self-harm and I have depression. I was diagnosed with depression 7 years ago and an EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) a couple years ago.
My experience with depression has been a long, hard battle that has been filled with a lot of darkness, frustration, shame, guilt, and hopelessness. But despite the darkest moments that I have experienced, there have also been moments of hope. By speaking up about my depression and getting help, I have been able to shine a light on the darkness, and where there is light, there cannot be darkness. To this day, I still have days where I struggle….some days I can barely get out of bed in the morning and the thought of getting through the day is too overwhelming. Something I have learned is that I can’t let my depression keep me from pursuing my dreams. So I try and do the opposite of what my depression is telling me to do. I reach out to friends and family when I can’t seem to see the joy in things or the point of fighting it any longer. I speak truth to myself, when the lies begin to creep in. And when I can’t see the truth, I have people who will speak truth over me and fight for me when I can’t.
Having an eating disorder has not always been pretty, it never is. I have struggled with characteristics of both anorexia and bulimia but didn’t meet all of the characteristics, which is how I ended up with the diagnosis of EDNOS. When I was first diagnosed with this, I thought to myself “great, another failure to add to the list. I failed at an eating disorder”. This is not to say that I was striving to have an eating disorder, I definitely was not. But I had not heard of an EDNOS before and I had just assumed that I was both anorexic and bulimic. So when my doctor told me, I felt a lot of feelings of shame, failure, guilt, confusion, frustration. I didn’t understand and I felt like I was the only one with an EDNOS. I now know though that I’m not alone in my struggle and I want you to know as well that you are not alone. That there is hope and recovery is possible. It’s important for anyone that is in recovery to see it as a process and not a destination. I have accepted the fact that I may struggle with an eating disorder for the rest of my life, there will be periods of time where I will be doing really well and will experience freedom from the lies. But I also still struggle and some days are still really hard. There are days where I can barely get through my meal plan but I do it anyways because I know that it will get easier. One of the most important things that I have learned throughout my recovery is to be patient and gentle with myself. I am not perfect, and I never will be. And I’m okay with that. All I can do is my best and that’s okay.
What have been the most helpful things that anyone has done for you throughout your journey?
What has helped me the most has been to talk about what I’m feeling or having a hard time working through and I share it with my treatment team or my friends and family. They support me and love me. They accept me where I’m at and don’t judge me when I’m struggling or having a bad day. They treat me like they used to before I was diagnosed with depression or my eating disorder. My diagnoses have not changed who I am. They should not define the way that people look at me or treat me. When my family and friends look at me, they don’t see my depression, my self-harm or my eating disorder. They see me for me…the loving, caring, strong and fun girl that they have always known.
What do you dream of for your future?
I dream of being able to share my story with others in hopes of it helping even one person. I know that if my story can help someone, then everything that I’ve been through will be worth it. I dream of working in a treatment centre one day for women struggling with eating disorders and other mental health issues. I want to be there for them, to care for them and love them and provide these women with hope when they feel like there’s nothing left. I dream of a future filled with joy and freedom. I know that I will experience freedom, I have felt it before and it is worth fighting for.
(Anything that I say below is from my own personal experience. I hope I can provide some insight and maybe some clarification around depression and eating disorders)
So, what is depression?
Some of you may wonder what depression is or maybe you’ve experienced it yourself or know someone who has. Depression is a medical condition. There are many different forms of depression. Like many types of cancer, there is likely a genetic predisposition combined with certain environmental factors (life experiences) that set the stage for the onset of depression. For many people (including myself), depression can run in the family. Depression is treatable and should be taken seriously. It is a mood disorder and not something that people make up or can snap out of.
Some signs and symptoms of depression:
- loss of interest/enjoyment in activities that you would typically enjoy
- feelings of worthlessness
- trouble concentrating/making decisions
- lack of energy
- thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- sleeping too much or too little
What is an eating disorder? What is EDNOS?
An eating disorder is considered a mental illness. There are different kinds of eating disorders. When people hear that someone has an eating disorder, they may think of anorexia or bulimia. Anorexia and bulimia seem to be the most recognized forms of eating disorders however there are other forms of eating disorders such as EDNOS and a Binge Eating disorder. EDNOS and binge eating disorders are just as dangerous as anorexia and bulimia. Whether or not someone struggles with restricting, bingeing, purging, or over exercising they are equally important and should be dealt with and treated accordingly.
Eating disorders consist of a preoccupation with weight, food and eating-related behaviours that end up taking control of a person’s life. The behaviours used in an eating disorder are used as a coping mechanism. Some people with an eating disorder have looked to food, weight, and body image to avoid having to deal with traumatic events that may have occurred in their life. Maybe you’ve been bullied, or your parents are going through a divorce. Maybe you’ve experienced some form of abuse, or you feel like you are never good enough and are striving for perfection and think that the ‘perfect body’ will make everything better. Whatever your case may be, I want to encourage you to speak up and talk to someone about it. Someone you trust. Maybe that person is a sibling, a parent, a teacher, or your coach. I want you to know that what you are feeling is real and should be taken seriously. Eating disorders are very dangerous and if they are not treated, they can lead to serious medical complications. Here are some brief descriptions and a few signs/symptoms.
Anorexia Nervosa: starvation/limiting your food intake, experience extreme weight loss, fatigue, dizziness/fainting, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stop getting your period, osteoporosis, etc.
Bulimia Nervosa: a cycle that consists of bingeing and purging. Bingeing is when you consume a large amount of food in a short period of time and purging is getting rid of the food that you have consumed either by throwing up, over exercising, laxative abuse, etc.
EDNOS: (a few examples) you could meet all of the criteria for anorexia except you’re still getting your period regularly or you’re considered to be in a ‘normal’ weight range despite the excessive amount lost.
Binge Eating Disorder (BED): frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food in a short period of time, feeling out of control over eating behaviour during the episodes.
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If you have a story to share pleas email me at email@example.com, I would be honored to hear it !