This is where it ends

A few months ago, I had to make a decision. Having undergone treatment for anorexia yet still quite a bit underweight, my therapist recommended that I go to New York for residential treatment. She said she couldn’t treat me any longer because there had been no change in my condition for almost a year.

Petrified and intrigued, I began the lengthy intake process to assess if it was right for me.
On the plus side, it was a shot at a type of treatment I had not done before, it was free and, if I played my cards right, I could earn day passes to visit New York City. Even with Covid, it was tempting.

On the minus side, it would require me to leave my family for at least 10 weeks, I would be living in a hospital setting where privileges like going outside had to be earned through weight gain, and the odds of success were marginally better than the programs I had already complete numerous times.

As much as I was willing to try many things to eliminate my eating disorder, I needed to feel like the odds were in my favour. I read everything I could about anorexia treatment and recovery rates. I researched medical trials and even explored shock therapy. The more I looked and the more I read, the more convinced I became that the treatment I needed wasn’t out there – not for people like me, with severe and enduring anorexia. Not yet.

Residential treatment in NY, while more intense than any other treatment I had done, was exactly the same program I had completed at the Douglas and The Clinic over the past five years. At best, the residential program would increase my chances of recovery by a few percentage points. Not very promising when the success rate for existing anorexia treatment is about 30%.

So we made the decision to forego residential treatment for now and see how things went. If the anorexia increased in severity and my health got worse, NY would be my next step. If, however, I remained stable, we could continue to look for other clinical trials and hope for the advent of new treatment.

I went into this plan expecting the worst. For the past five years, I have ridden a roller coaster that has had me hit huge highs in early summer only to plummet into depression and severe anorexia come November. This cycle has been my pattern every year…for five years…

There I was, at the beginning of September, making the decision to give stability another try without a therapist, while starting a new consulting mandate and heading into my rocky season.

As the days passed, I became increasingly puzzled. I kept waiting for my spirit to start to weaken, kept expecting to feel like getting through the day was a challenge. At the same time, I felt true desires to see people and interact with the world – things I had not felt for years.

And slowly…almost imperceptibly, contentment started to creep in. It is almost Christmas and I have not felt the cold fingers of depression grip me. I now feel something I have not felt in 5 years: happiness….rather, sustained happiness. It feels solid and enduring rather than fragile and fleeting. It is there throughout my days, like a new haircut that I am still getting used to. I do a double take every time I become aware of this serenity.

This is deliciously new.

Even more amazingly, my eating is still ok. It is not perfect and the desire to restrict is still extremely strong. But, at the same time, I continue to find reasons to eat.

A few weeks ago, I was tempted to skip breakfast. “You can’t,” a little voice whispered. “You are hosting a brainstorm and the participants deserve your A game.”

Another morning, I was yet again tempted to skip breakfast. “Hold on,” the familiar voice said. “You are going to read a story to Zoe’s class.  She deserves better than a hungry and faint mom.”

These are small wins. Real recovery will require me to not need a reason to allow myself to eat when hungry. Real recovery will see me eating because deserve better (not just others). Still, I take these moments as victories because, not too long ago, no reason was good enough to eat. 

So, while I know this is not the end of my story, I feel like the journey of the last five years is coming to a close – this Blog along with it. I want to thank everyone that supported this journaling catharsis. You gave me hope and strength,  and allowed me to feel seen.

Am I recovered? No. Do I have the perfect job, body, personality? No. Is anything in my life, perfect? Hell no!!!!

But I am happy. And I cannot think of a better place to start my new Chapter.

The End.

Letter to my therapist

Note: This is probably the most raw post I have written in a while. I did not write it for the blog. I did not put a lot of thought into it. I just sat down and let the emotions take over and sent it to my therapist when I was feeling overwhelmed. I have left it intact…grammar issues and all. Of course, I don’t feel this way at all today but I think it is an accurate glimpse of how my brain works at times.

I am writing and sending this because I know this feeling will pass. By the time of our session on Thursday, I won’t even remember this moment – that is how good I am at erasing my feelings.

In the hour it has taken me to be able to sit down and write, the level of despair I was feeling has already started to fade…as though a wave of “Suck it up” has washed over me and I can no longer connect to the feeling…it is a bit like when you wake up from a vivid dream…in those few moments after becoming conscious, everything feels so real, so strong.

Sometimes I try to go back to sleep and get back into that dream only to find that my brain can’t quite grab onto the thoughts and feelings…it is as though it is just out of reach. A ghost of a feeling…

Sometimes I try to go back to sleep and get back into that dream only to find that my brain can’t quite grab onto the thoughts and feelings…it is as though it is just out of reach. A ghost of a feeling…

That is how I feel right now. Like the passion, the thoughts and the feelings are lingering but not clear enough for me to connect to them. My protective shell has already taken over and, as much as I feel the after shocks of the moment, I can no longer tap into the panic I felt an hour ago.

Was it panic? I can’t remember now. I only remember a sense of overwhelm, like when you are about to faint and you look up at the ceiling and all you can see is the world swimming and swirling above you. I remember thinking: THIS…THIS IS HOW I FEEL. Passionate, angry, frustrated. It made so much sense in that moment, like I was having an epiphany and my manifesto was being composed in my head….

Anyway, while I can no longer connect at all to the feelings I had. I do remember the thoughts. So here they are…as random as they came to me.

The last few days have been tough. Like really tough…well, not comparatively to many; but in my mind, it has been tough. Nothing is going as I planned…not my weight…not my mission to break free from the desire to rewrite history…not my plan to love myself and be compassionate and stay in the moment…not my plan to figure out what I want to do next professionally.

Things not going to plan never seem to phase me. Not for long, at least. I usually pick myself up, come up with a revised plan and throw myself at it. This is what I did this morning…while doing errands at Walmart, my head swirling with thoughts (you gained weight WHEN you were restricting! you lost everything you had at Bombardier!! your life is garbage!!!…) and I felt a moment of calm as my new plan took shape. A slew of to-dos merged in front of my mind and I felt everything go quiet. “Yes…that is what I will do.” And I felt great…strong…ready to keep moving.

It wasn’t until I was watching Netflix later in the day when I heard a line that stopped me dead in my tracks.

“It is so hard having to try so hard all the time.”

…yes it is…..

And this is where things actually went wrong. Not only did I feel a moment of pure empathy for the character I was watching…(I know you…) which was painful, I also felt completely hopeless.


Because I don’t know how to try less… I have been going to therapy for years, reading self help books, working at this for what feels like a lifetime. Stop trying and just sit with it. How many times have you told me this? How many times have I told myself this?

I just don’t know HOW. And I don’t think I ever will. Shifting into planning mode is my default. It comes to me as naturally as breathing. To stop doing it feels impossible. But even more impossible is to do anything else. I don’t even understand how. I cannot visualize it, I cannot imagine it. It is not like seeing something in your mind and trying to replicate it…adjusting as you go. I. HAVE. NO. IDEA. WHERE. TO START. I really don’t. I cannot get my head around it. It is foreign…and I cannot watch anyone else do it and try to copy. I literally have nothing when it comes to this.

STOP!!!! Sit with it…do nothing…seriously??? That is like suggesting I start breathing with my ears. I cannot compute. I am not trying to be difficult or stupid. I honestly just don’t understand how to sit with something and not come up with a plan. I don’t know how to function that way. What do I do?

…and this is when my brain tells me that the only way to stop coming up with a plan in order to keep going is to no longer keep going.

Don’t worry, I am safe. Unlike in the past, when my suicidal ideas came with an emotional certainty, today it is more of a hollow realization…one that has me simply concluding that the peace I seek will never be attained, not for me, because – while I cannot change how I am, I also cannot take my own life.

So…I guess I will just have to keep trying really hard.


Earlier this week, while driving, I asked Zoe to remind me to close the sunroof when we got home.

I have a bad habit of leaving it open – sometimes overnight – while parked outside. I have been lucky, it has never rained but I know that if I do not change my ways, my luck will run out.

“For some reason, Zoe, I cannot seem to learn this lesson.”

As I heard these words, I suddenly saw a pattern emerge in front of me. This is not the only lesson I have struggled to learn.

Recently, I’ve started to think about why some changes are harder to make. Why some life lessons seem to take much longer for me to learn.

Over the years, I have found myself falling into similar traps over and over again:

  • I am extremely trusting – despite having been fooled many times by others.
  • I notoriously make things worse by not knowing when to stop trying to fix them. This is particularly dangerous for others when I am cooking.
  • I am easily distracted while driving (accident-free for 18 months now).
  • I seek external validation in order to feel good; and
  • I restrict my food intake to deal with feelings of inadequacy, shame and disappointment as well as to cope with stress.

I wish I could say that I have finally freed myself of at least one of these traps, but alas, the journey is still in progress.

Some days, I have a hard time accepting the fact that I am where I am in my learning and growth. I chastise myself often, asking “what is the matter with you? You know better!”

You know better…

This is a sentence I use often when I am frustrated and exasperated with myself.
I do know better. I know what I should/shouldn’t do, what I need to let go of and hold on to. “What are you waiting for, I ask?”

Here too, I wish I could say that tough love worked and helped get me closer to change.

Self-reproach comes to me as easily as breathing, so it would be really helpful if my instinctual response to my perceived “failures” actually helped. It doesn’t. At best, it has no impact. At worst, which is most cases, it creates a vicious cycle of self-blame that causes me to turn to the same maladaptive coping mechanisms I am beating myself up about.

Oh dear…another lesson I am working on learning! Is it just me or does this sound exhausting?

So, what keeps me in this cycle? The answer is as simple and as daunting as this: my core beliefs about myself.

In my eyes, if you are good, smart, strong, all it takes is knowing. The rest is up to true grit, effort and motivation. And so, when I engage in activities which are not in my best interests, I feel broken, lazy and stupid. I categorize myself as a defective machine in need of the best Help Desk possible – you know the one; the lemon that every users wants to replace.

This brings us to the most important lesson I am trying to learn: I do not need to be fixed.

I do not need to be fixed. (I may need to say it a few more times before it sinks in).

I am me. I am good. I am more than enough.

There are reasons why I do certain things – the root causes of which I am working on healing in order to pave the way for new truths for myself. There is a place for marks and judgement in this world (academics, competitive sports, etc) but human beings should not be graded as individuals.

This is a hard one for me. 

And, while I have made great inroads in accepting that I will not always earn an A+ in life, I have determined that acceptance is not what is required anymore. My entire grading system for myself (and only myself) needs to be scrapped altogether. There is no letter grade for a person; no established scorecard of life. If, like me, you operate under the firm belief that we carry around our own self metrics, this is going to be hard to accept.

Ouf…I am going to just sit with that for a moment and breathe.

There is a lot to learn, even at 42. And while I have relapsed recently, it is never too late to start your education afresh.

So after a few months of losing my way, today I ate breakfast and started learning again – hopefully this time, with no report card.


“Forgive, sounds good

Forget, I’m not sure I could

They say time heals everything

But I’m still waiting”

– Dixie Chicks

Forgiveness has never been difficult for me. As a conflict-avoiding people pleaser, I have always found it easier to forgive and move on than to hold a grudge. In the fight-flight-freeze reactionary model, running has always been my first instinct. So letting others off the hook and removing any source of conflict in my life has long been my preferred Mode of Operation.

While a great plan in theory, the truth is that this way of being does not work quite so well in daily life.

First, blind forgiveness – in order to avoid messy emotions and unpleasant discussions – doesn’t work. It requires a great deal of denial and often requires choking back hurt, anger and feelings of betrayal.

If I have learned anything in the past few years, it is that pushing your emotions away rather than dealing with them comes at a price. Running from your feelings often leads to substance abuse, depression, self-harm, eating disorders and many other mental health issues.

A long history of avoidance is what brought me to a breaking point a few years ago; and it continues to be an obstacle to my wellness and eating disorder recovery. Working on staying in the present, sitting with my feelings and expressing them in a healthy way remains a big part of my journey. It is slow and extremely difficult work, to be honest. And I am probably only able to stay still and feel my feelings about 25% of the time. Hmmm. Actually, probably less than that.

This is the crux of the work I need to do now. As much as I hate to admit it, this means that  things will have to get messier before they can truly get better. I can feel mild panic rise just thinking about it – before I quickly shut the feeling down. Sigh…this will not be easy.

Blind forgiveness is problematic for another reason. When you operate under the mode of brushing things aside to keep the peace, you don’t actually learn how to forgive. Sure, you go through the motions of turning the page but you don’t actually live the process. You are merely sleep-walking through it.

So now I have a new challenge. Learn to forgive the one person – who I not only expect the most from but who has also let me down more than anyone else I know.


While attempting to qualify for disability insurance recently, I was forced to recount everything that has happened to me health-wise in the past few years. Seeing it all on paper, a chronology of bad decisions and desperate acts, threw me. A wave of shame washed over me and continues to ebb and flow at my feet. Memories of driving myself to the Douglas Emergency room because I was suicidal; spending days in a Crisis Center because I didn’t trust myself to stay safe; telling lies and saying hurtful things; trying to rewrite the past as I spiralled out of control; relapsing again and again…..

These memories haunt me. They shame me because they reflect a person that I don’t recognize, a person I am embarrassed by, a person I refuse to accept : a vulnerable, imperfect person who has done things that dramatically conflict with the person I thought I was.

And so begins the next chapter in my story: self-acceptance and forgiveness – acknowledging that I am human and recognizing that being imperfect is truth for everyone rather than a disappointment for me.

If you know me, you won’t be surprised to learn that I have already googled books on the topic. They will help, at least at bit.

But they will only pave the way for the real work – which needs to be done with the heart – not the mind.

Faulty Wiring

I may have to quit LinkedIn. It is something I have been toying with for a few years – ever since I first took a professional step back to focus on my health.

Up until then, work had been my biggest priority – despite the many other things in my life that warranted more of my attention. I was completely unbalanced, stumbling through life with my phone fused to my hand at all times and my mind always on work.

And, I loved it…

I felt great about my achievements, my professional title, the prestige of my work – and of course, about my weight. You know the rest. Life happened. I made the wrong professional decision and accepted a role that no one cared about in the large machine I worked for, sending me – who longed to be important, who had grown emotionally attached to being a top executive’s #2 – into a tailspin of invisibility.

Then my reprogramming began. Suddenly, the thing I had neglected for decades came sharply into focus: “hello me”. Slowly, I started to better understand what I truly needed and my priorities started to shift. I put myself first to ensure my survival and discovered that I was a pretty cool person. I found joy again and became a better version of myself. I became a better mother – a role I had hidden from because I felt completely out of my depth – choosing instead to throw myself into my proven role of professional overachiever.

The past few years have been a tipsy-turvy journey of self-discovery, emotional reconnection and moving forward…and back…and forward again.

Which brings me back to LinkedIn. As much as I have transformed in the past few years, I still get upset when I feel others are performing at a faster rate, when others are moving up, while I am standing still. This feeling usually triggers moments of panic.

“Do something! Get a promotion! Go back to Bombardier!!!” I scream to myself. Usually, the feeling is short-lived and I remember that these things do not define me. But I remain shaken.

So why do I still, after everything, still have this reaction to my perceived stagnation?

I blame faulty wiring.

For all sorts of reasons, I have been firmly conditioned to measure my worth by 2 things: my achievements and what other people think.

To be clear, I do not measure anyone else by these things. I know that people are far more accurately defined by their heart and by what they bring to the universe. On a deeper level, I also know that I should not tally my worth – regardless of the criteria used – but rather embrace and accept who I am. I am not a sum to be added up and compared.

But the wiring in my brain runs so deep that it has taken me years just to fully understand my ways of thinking. It will take a lot more to permanently change them.

Positive signs of change are there – if I look hard enough. Whereas I could only ever hear a singular voice telling me where I fell short in the past – particularly with respect to my mental health and my professional status – I now find myself making decisions that put my growth, happiness and well-being ahead of my achievements. And, even though these decisions sometimes cause me severe embarrassment when my old ways of defining success kick in, I know I’ll keep making them.

Because, however scary it may be and whatever shame is triggered, putting myself ahead of all the other things I thought mattered – for the sake of the things that actually do matter – is worth it.

Return on Investment

Happiness is a chore.

When I say this, I don’t mean that it is a dull, unpleasant task. Rather, my statement is meant to convey that it takes a deliberate time investment and sustained focus.

Depending somewhat on personality and circumstance, I believe happiness comes more easily to some than others. In my case, ensuring my happiness levels remain relatively stable requires consistent effort. Failure to do so results at best in emotional numbness – at worst, in mild depression.

To be clear, I do not believe that there are happy people and unhappy ones. I do not believe things are that binary or that happiness is down to luck. Still, I do believe that certain individuals have to work at it a bit more – whatever the reasons.

I didn’t always see things this way. In fact, prior to completing the ‘The Science of Well-Being’ course at YALE, I believed happiness happened naturally and that there was something wrong with me when I just wasn’t “feeling it.” At that point, I had read books on self-love, had practiced saying affirmations in the mirror (cue Stewart Smalley from Saturday Night Live) and had stood in the shower imagining the stream of water as drops of love until the water went bitterly cold – all with little effect.

Since then, I’ve learned that no matter where one naturally falls on the happiness spectrum, everyone can up their joy quotient.

While there are some basic concepts that contribute to one’s well-being, the happiness formula is different for each person. I know this because I have tried pretty much every recommended technique thought to increase one’s contentment – with mixed results.

What has fallen flat? Journaling for one – which I find ironic since writing generally gives me joy. Other than this blog, which I put together when I have a point to make, I’ve never been one to write just for the sake of it. Some might argue that I only enjoy the type of writing that I can “control” – but let’s leave my therapist out of this.

Exercise has been off limits for so long that I have grown both fearful of it and apathetic to it – though I do remember the powerful endorphins jogging used to give me. To this day, I am convinced that running helped fend off my deep depression 4 years ago for at least several months.

So, what has worked to elevate my level of joy?

Meditation. Not the typical meditation where you focus on your breath or affirm love and acceptance. My mind checks out of those meditations by the first exhale. Still, I have found a form of meditation that works for me. It works so well, in fact, that I fall asleep most nights doing it. I count… Backwards… By set intervals… It relaxes my brain while keeping it just focused enough to prevent my mind from wandering.

Gratitude Journal. Again, I don’t follow the standard practice of starting or ending my day by writing down things I am grateful for. Rather, while Lily drifts off to sleep, I think about the things that made my day special. It could be something as simple as the sunshine or warmer temperatures, a nice walk at lunchtime, or hearing my favorite song on the radio. I embrace my list for what it contains – not in order to convince myself I should be happy or to shame myself for being unhappy in that moment.

Sunshine & Luminosity. Sitting in the sunshine has always been my happy place. It helps me feel energized and fuels me. I go out of my way to seek it out. Even if I am working or if it is frigid outside, I will do my utmost to sit in the rays flowing through the window. On overcast or short winter days, I use a luminosity lamp to give my soul what it needs.

Quitting Social Media. I quit Facebook for a few months…long enough to break the habit of scrolling through my feed multiple times a day. While I did come back to it in order to promote awareness about Eating Disorders, I have managed to keep it contained and at arm’s length. It is not accessible on my phone and I don’t pay much attention to my feed. In pulling away and changing the focus of my social media use, I have reduced its power and boosted my happiness.

These things, when done together, have proven to positively contribute to my mood and general happiness level. But they require consistent effort. If I skip one or more of these for a few days, I notice. Hence my opening statement about having to work at happiness.

It is a chore – at least for me. But, given the benefits, it is top of my list.

Beats cleaning toilets!

Don’t Look Down

“I weigh 100 pounds!!!!”

I look down at the 11-year old girl in front of me. She is beaming with pride as she tells her friend how much she weighs. For a moment, everything seems surreal to me.

She is eleven. She weighs 100 lbs. And she is happy about it.

I’m 42 and 100 lbs is my target weight. A target I have done many things to move away from for during the past 3 years. A weight I cannot imagine maintaining, even less to proclaim publicly. The same weight a young girl, not much taller than me, embraces with confidence.

There are times when my body size surprises me. Don’t get me wrong, I am acutely aware of my weight at every given moment. But, usually, my mindset is firmly set on the fact that I feel my weight is not low enough. And, then, something happens to knock my perspective on its head.

I weigh less… than an 11 year-old…a fair amount less…than a child. And I still take steps to become thinner…

A few days after my encounter with this beautiful pre-teen, Zoe walked into the room and I did a double take. She was wearing one of my old sweaters from the days before I went into treatment. The sweater fit her 9-year-old frame perfectly. I looked at her and could not believe that I used to fit into the same hoodie 18 months ago.

In these moments, I am snapped into attention. In these moments, I am firm in my belief that I have to change, that I have to find a way to be comfortable in an adult body. The conviction in those instances is strong but the longevity of it is fleeting. Auto pilot takes over quickly and I easily revert back to my restrictive routines and patterns without questioning my actions – almost like I am just following my mind’s commands.

This duality is, I believe, why anorexia can be so enduring. You can know in your bones one thing (my weight is too low) and yet still firmly believe the opposite as an irrefutable fact that must be fixed.

Anorexia is like a clever computer virus – which these days would be powered by AI to “talk to you.” It is very much like HAL9000 in 2001: a Space Odysee . And just like in the chilling film, where HAL 9000 did whatever it took to maintain control of the spacecraft it powered, anorexia will leverage the brain it inhabits to issue commands to ensure its survival.

And this is where the battle with the illnesses needs to be waged – in redefining truth. It requires trusting the voice that speaks up in moments of real perspective. And, when you cannot give that voice credence, trusting that the people around you are not trying to trick you when they encourage you put on a few pounds.

It takes continuous and relentless reconditioning to redefine reality through an unbiased lens. It requires ignoring what you believe to be true and trusting what your loved ones and medical team are telling you is real. It requires blind faith and relinquishing control. It requires ignoring “your” survival instinct, recognizing that is has been overpowered by the illness’ need to survive. This is especially hard hen you have spent a lifetime holding onto the belief that only you know how to best fix things.

It can be done. I know it can. I have proven to myself that I can let go and trust the process. I have done it several times in treatment. The pattern I have to break is in taking over too soon in the process, saying “I’ve got this; I know how to take it from here.” History has shown that I don’t. It is easier for me to listen to the counsel of others and ignore my instincts when I am struggling. My next challenge is to ignore my instincts even when things are going well and restriction seems to have disappeared.

This is where I need to close my eyes, listen to my team and leap one more time.

The Crux

“Do you think your work and your eating disorder are linked?”

When I was first asked this question, I had no answer. I blinked…thought for a few seconds, and blinked again. I rewound the movie of my life to see what I could find. Were there any connections? Did one “feed” the other?

The truth is hard to uncover. For one, I developed anorexia less than a year into my professional career. I have never known a working life without its – sometimes dominating and other times fainter – presence.

Now to be clear, I am not suggesting that work causes eating disorders. But I have to admit that, as someone whose self worth is so inextricably linked to my professional achievements, the work environment is filled with situations that trigger my disorder and lead me to use maladaptive behaviours such as restriction to cope. 

Surprisingly, after 20 years, I still do not know the precise thing/s that my anorexia helps me cope with. Stress? Maybe… Anxiety? Perhaps. The self-imposed pressure I feel to get A+ in the work that I do? Perceived rejections (past or present)? Anger? Sadness? Failure (minute or grandiose)? Ouf… do I have to pick just one?

Reading this, you are probably thinking the same thing I often tell myself: “all of these things are part of life. You cannot avoid them like a turtle hides in its shell to wait out the danger. Of course not.

I don’t “turtle”. Not because I don’t understand the desire to shut down and wait things out. I very much do. However, I’m wired in a different way. I am programmed to take action. When faced with a challenge, I move. This may seem like a good way to live. And, often, it is. But, there are times where I move, and then move, and then move again – almost desperately throwing noodles at a wall in the hopes that something sticks.

I’ve been thinking about my journey over the past 2 decades. Like most people, no matter what life threw at me, I just kept going. To be honest, that wasn’t very difficult to do since I have not faced much hardship in my privileged life. What I haven’t done is taken a step back and listened to myself. Like many, I have spent most of my life doing what I thought I SHOULD do rather than what I wanted to do.

And, for the most part, that is a wise approach. Our adult lives flow with an undercurrent of obligation and responsibilities. Where I believe I got it wrong was in allowing the SHOULDS to be the only input into my decision making. Over time, I have become so disconnected from what I want that I no longer even know. This applies to small decisions such as what I want to do with my free time as well as to larger ones such as what do I want to accomplish next. A few years ago, I thought this only applied to decisions related to my eating disorder. After all, with my anorexia so ingrained, a simple question such as “what do I want to eat?” – always lead to an endless dialogue in my mind…never being answered by my preferences or desires.

Having undergone 2 intensive treatment programs, I have been forced to devote a lot of time to introspection – all with the hopes of determining what purpose my eating disorder serves. Doctors, psychologists, nutritionists and the client herself don’t even know for sure. But the general consensus is that – since my eating disorder is so persistent and resistant to treatment – something in my life is incongruent with my needs and I use restriction to cope.

And that brings me back to the question that started this post. Having explored various theories and scratched them off the list. And having noticed a pattern where my eating disorder makes a resurgence every time I return to work, I have been forced to at least contemplate the answer.

I refuse to jump to conclusions. I learned long ago in statistics that correlation does not mean causation. More investigation is required. And, maybe, for the first time in my life, it is time to sit still for a while. Or, at least slow myself down to a turtle’s pace.

Make Some Noise

A few week’s ago, I organized an event for parents to raise awareness about Eating Disorders. I prepped for days, carefully curating every slide to arm parents with insights into one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses in our society.

I was nervous and excited as I logged on to the virtual session. And then, one person showed up!

My audience of one was great. I knew her well and was happy to share my spiel with her. I’ve always said, if I can help just one person – impact a single life – then I have served a purpose.

Still, the lackluster attendance frustrated me – not because I needed a large audience to make me feel good. Rather, I was disappointed that the awareness I sought to create remained unattained.

Eating disorders – as well as all other mental illnesses – are on the rise in the province, as people struggle to cope with the effects of the pandemic. And, while we are all on high alert for the Coronavirus, other dangers still lurk in the background.

“How,” I asked myself, “do I help warn people about the devastating consequences of Eating Disorders.”

This morning, as I lay in bed, I felt a sudden rush of panic – a deep-rooted desire to warn others. “For god’s sake,” I thought to myself as I planned my restriction for the day. “I have powered through 20 years of hunger and restriction. 20 years of anorexia keeping its unrelenting grip on my day-to-day. Years of therapy and intensive treatment. AND…IT…IS…STILL…HERE.”

F*****************CK! I have to stop others from falling prey to it! I have to prevent anyone from years of battle.

Anorexia is brutal. It chips away at your confidence; it takes over your thoughts; it isolates you; it sucks your energy and your ability to feel joy; and it slowly kills your spirit and, in many cases, your body.

As I write this, I am struck by how tired I am. Tired of the illness; tired of blogging about this never-ending battle; tired of being this way. I’ve lost interest in the never-ending merry go round. I’ve lost interest in my own story. And yet…

In possibly a very misguided way, I still hope that I can somehow save someone from falling into the trap I did. Or, at the very least, help someone get the support they need before their Eating Disorder firmly takes root. In that vein, if I could plant 2 thoughts into everyone’s mind, it would be these:

– Eating Disorders are extremely dangerous – partially because they are the only illness where at least some part of the patient doesn’t want to get well. Even at my most motivated, I was petrified of recovery. You are not just battling an illness, you are battling yourself.

– Eating Disorders are extremely resistant to treatment. And the longer it goes untreated, the lower the probability of recovery.

These are serious illnesses. I am not only relying on what I have read or on my own experience. Over the past 4 years of treatment, I have seen first-hand how they can break a person.

If you are reading this and believe you may have an eating disorder, I implore you to get help – reach out to someone you trust. These are illnesses that feed off shame, fear and secrecy. Confiding in just one person is a critical first step.

If you are a parent reading this, I urge you to educate yourself. The signs can be more subtle than you think and the misperceptions out there are rampant. It will be my pleasure to point you toward the information you may need.

As for me, I remain undeterred. I have contacted the Lester B. Pearson school board as a first step toward establishing Eating Disorder Awareness as part of the curriculum in grade school and high schools. With up to 30% of girls and 25% of boys aged 10-14 in Canada currently dieting to lose weight, one cannot start the education process too early.

In parallel, I plan on contacting a few treatment centres to see how we awareness can be raised and how I can help. These organizations typically require that you are fully recovered before you can get too involved. I’m hoping that my grit, determination and sheer stubbornness can somehow compensate for the fact that I have not yet won the battle.

To be continued.


I used to say that my body was my security blanket. This claim was based on the fact that in times of stress or anxiety, I often found myself seeking out a jutting bone or turning to the mirror in order to calm my emotions. For years, this was a subconscious act. Then, as I embarked on my recovery journey and became far more aware of my actions and emotions, it became a glaring one.

As my weight went up during my most recent intensive program, I learned to stop relying on the size of my body to walk me off my anxiety ledge. To be honest, as my weight grew, I had to learn to cope with the additional anxiety brought on by looking in the mirror. My body no longer was a comfort to me; worse, it was a intense source of distress. In the name of recovery, I had chosen to give away my “blankie.”


I had forgotten about using my body size for reassurance until recently. I had just bombed a workshop and was feeling particularly troubled by it. Failure is my greatest source of shame and self-loathing. I tried breathing, meditating, distraction, but nothing worked. Until I looked in the mirror. See, I’ve lost some weight in recent months. Not enough for anyone to really notice; enough for me to like what I see in the mirror. So there I was, a cocktail of negative emotions bubbling inside and flailing. One look in the mirror – with the words “at least I’m still thin” whispered in my mind – and I could breathe again.

In that moment, everything I had learned about how Anorexia resists treatment because it serves a protective function in the brain clicked into place.

I have spent 20 years using my Eating disorder as a coping mechanism for life. I have spent my entire working life with it. And it has been a constant throughout every adult milestone.

I moved to London without a friend in the world – Anorexia was there. I travelled the world for work – it was there. I climbed the corporate ladder and became one of the youngest senior leaders in my company – Anorexia was there. I became a mother and was completely out of my depth – my old “friend” came back with a vengeance to help me cope. And, when depression hit, I gave the keys to my kingdom to my Eating Disorder and, it not only moved in, it took over.

I have worked extremely hard over the past few years to regain my life, only to discover that I have forgotten what life was like without my Eating Disorder. It is petrifying to have no idea how life turn out when you remove one of its biggest constants. How on earth will I cope without the one thing I have always relied on to get me through the tough times? Will I really be able to hold down a job without Anorexia there to calm my self-doubts and soothe my troubled soul when I fail at something? Can I really function as an adult without it?

My therapist says I can.

“But how do you know for sure?” I ask.

She tells me that she has seen it happen in recovered clients. She also reminds me that most people live fully functional and happy lives without an Eating Disorder.

“But they are not me!!!” I want to scream. “They have not carried around this security blanket for half of their lives. They are not crippled by the fear of their own self mediocrity. They do not restrict their food intake as naturally as they breathe just in order to get through the day.”

I don’t say any of this. Because I know she is right. I know that it is fear holding me back. Palpable and uncontrollable fear that, on the one hand, I desperately want to overcome but, on the other, I am immobilized by.

This is why recovery is so hard. Battling a mental illness means having 2 opposing factions in your brain. The one that wants to kick the eating disorder to the curb. And, the other one that is desperately begging it to stay.

It is a seemingly never-ending battle.

Luckily, when I see my girls smile or I feel the sun on my face or as I look out across the lake as I type now, I am reminded of the many reasons to keep going.

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