I found myself looking in the mirror today, and was absolutely horrified by the image staring back at me.  This has not happened in a very long time, and it scares me.  I know my perception of my appearance is distorted from what others see (this I learned a long time ago)….but suddenly, a wave a fear that I have not felt in a long time overcame me.  I quickly turned away from the mirror, promising to myself that never, never again would the word anorexia enter my mind, or my life.  This is a battle that I fight on a daily basis, one pattern of behaviour, that when life is getting the better of you, is so, so easy to fall back into.  I must remember the promise I have made to myself, my husband, and especially my children……never again!!!

I can not exactly pinpoint when my obsession with body image began.  If I think long and hard about it, I would probably surmise that junior high (grade eight), would be it.  I remember being told and ridiculed by Fred Corbett, a classmate, that “who would want to be seen with you, you are ugly and fat.”  Did this one comment start a downward spiral….no, did it set into motion years, and years of insecurity about my looks and weight, I would probably say “yes.”

I have always felt like the “akward duck”……short, weird hair, and teeth that could stop a bus.  There was nothing about me that was special or unique.   I found myself surrounded by beautiful, thin women, wishing someday to look something like them.

Fast forward to my twenties…..after the breakdown of my marriage, my friends and acquaintances thriving in their careers and lives, and me still and utter failure,  my life spiralled out of control.  Everything I had once known as “normal”, no longer existed….I could not function, and found myself at the bottom of the well known as depression, with no way out.  I tried taking my own life, but at the last moments, realized I didn’t want to die, and was blessed to be given another chance.  This is me writing this now, but at the time, although I realized that I didn’t want to die, I saw my failed suicide attempt, as yet another failure to add to my ever growing list.

When one realizes that they have no control over anything in their lives, you are very quick to grab onto something that you can control….in my case, this was food, or lack of it.  Before I knew it, pounds were melting off, and people began to notice me;  the akward duck was finally being noticed!!  As with any addiction, the more attention you get from your behaviour the more you engulf yourself in said destructive behaviour.

I walked 2.5 hours a day, ate laxatives like candy (I had to spread myself over several pharmacies, as to not draw attention to what I was doing), ate puffed wheat and drank ensure.  In my sad, delusional mind, as long as I was not vomiting, and putting food in my body, I had no problems.  The fact that I could not lay comfortably in a bath tub, because of my protruding bones, should have been a warning sign, but that is how immersed in the sickness I was.   Thankfully, I was surrounded by individuals, my mum, and my boss Dr. M.J. Willard (a Veterinarian and MD), who knew better than I did.  Through a heart felt plea from my mother on our dock at Lake of the Woods, I saw the head of Psychiatry at Victoria Hospital on the following Monday, and was promptly hospitalized that very day.

When I entered the hospital, I weighed in at 101 pounds.  Those who know me today, let me  state that that is 20 pounds less than I weigh today.  My first meal in the hospital was supervised by a nurse, and after my “move it around the plate and hide it technique”…..was bluntly told “Karen, I know all the tricks, you are going to have to be a lot better than that!”  I ate, until I thought I was about to rupture, and the nurse gave me the a-ok to head to my room.  Never had I been in so much pain after a meal.  I felt sick to my stomach, and all I could do was sit in my bed and cry.  I cried over a marriage gone bad,I cried that I never amounted to anything, that I was such a failure,  I cried that my life had fallen apart, but most of all I cried, because I had food in me.  They were trying to steal my control back.  I cried myself to sleep.

Day two began with bloodwork and a weigh in as did every day.  I met with a nutritionist who planned out my entire life.  I was not able to go to exercise group, could not go to the cafeteria (all my food was personally delivered)/  There is nothing quite as humbling, as having someone sit with you as you eat, and accompany you to the bathroom. I was a prisoner of a hospital, and my own mind.  Fortunately, my blood work always came back fine, but the first week I can not say the same for my weight.  My Doctor gave me two more days, and very firmly told me that if improvements were not noticed, I was scheduled to get a feeding tube put in my chest.  Thankfully, this drastic measure never came to fruition, but the daily blood work and weigh ins continued.  After a month in hospital, I was allowed to go to the cafeteria by myself, and to walk around the grounds……as my body became stronger, so did my mind. Through very intensive therapy,  I soon came to realize, that I was a fighter, not the “loser” so many in my life had labelled me, and I was about to show everyone a better, more caring, insightful me.

Two and a half months after my admission to the hospital, I was allowed to go home.  I was 111 pounds, still very slight, but on the road to recovery. I went to therapy weekly, stopped the exercise regime, and began eating on my own again.  I met a wonderful man, Michael, we married, and through a miracle, have two beautiful children.  I was told that because of the damage I had done to my body, my chances of ever conceiving were very low, I guess once again I showed them!!  🙂

Twelve years after being released from the hospital, I am proud to say, I have not had a slip up.  Pregnancy was a challenge for me, not the gaining weight (as it seems to be the time my body can/will gain weight) 196 pounds with our daughter and 184 pounds with our son…but the after birth experience…..losing the weight, new body image;  but I seemed to have handled it pretty well.  I realized that I was a mother, and I was now responsible for raising healthy children, with a healthy mother.

It is funny how I always tell my children how perfect they are JUST the way they are, and I truly mean every word I tell them, when deep inside I am so neurotic about my own image.  I never want my daughter to feel the way I did, I never want either of them to worry about body image….as long as the lead a healthy life style, are active and eat well, how they look is DNA playing out it’s tightly twisted link.

I have had people approach me about working out, joining this or that, but for someone like me…this could be the start of a downward slide, and this I know.  I worry about fitness plans, crazy “protein this/fruit that” eating regimes, I worry about food……constantly. I worry about my friends who get wrapped up in crazy workout schedules and eating……it only takes one time, and now along with your exercise addiction, you have an eating addiction also.  I worry about the scale, this is why we don’t own one in our home, I worry about 5 pounds (up or down), and 12 years later, this I still have not yet figured how to wrap my head around.

Anorexia can be beaten, but in my opinion never truly cured, even the specialists can’t agree on this. Food is and will always be an issue in my life, although those who have dined with me, may question that!   I begin every new day, looking at is 24 hours more under my belt that I have taken back my control, my life, my health and my future.

Embrace who you are, love who you are, there is only one of “you”, and you are brilliant!!!

I was going to post a photo of me post hospitalization, but remembered about 2 years ago, I destroyed all remaining evidence.  So a happy one it is!!  🙂

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