Updated: Jan 1
This is probably one of the most scariest things I have ever done.
But I feel compelled to share this because, not only does it affect so many of us, but also because it is relevant for me right now. This blog is as much for me as it is for you, and yes I do always want to present you with interesting and insightful posts, but this is also my way of processing, of clearing my head. I want this platform to truly represent me as a person, who I am and what I stand for. This story has shaped a lot of who I am and has been a huge part in the learning of myself and my growing up. It's scary to share. To open up. But I feel it is something I need to do. If you have suffered or suffer with mental health or eating disorders please be mindful whilst reading this as I don't want to trigger you. And for those of you who have never struggled with mental health please be open and accepting.
This is my story.
Some people develop eating disorders or disordered eating habits if they go on a restrictive diet to lose weight. The diet can act as a trigger and lead to a very bad or negative relationship with food. Some people develop eating disorders because of mental or emotional stresses. Feeling unhappy, depressed or not in control of a situation or life. For me, my eating disorder developed as an accumulation of emotional stresses throughout my childhood. And that's not to say that I had a terrible or traumatic childhood. In fact the opposite is true. I probably had one of the best childhoods anyone could ask for. I grew up (and still live) with my entire extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents) on a small holding out in nature, surrounded by trees, animals, big expansive skies and large open spaces. My sister, cousin and I were the best of friends and our days were spent playing together, swimming in our dams, building huts, making movies and dressing up. I was home schooled for all my schooling years and never had to deal with peer pressure, bullying and any of the shit that goes on in schools. I'm so incredibly grateful for my childhood and couldn't have asked for a better time growing up.
But everyone has their own shit.
And for me even though I was a happy kid there were some things that made imprints on me that I only ever realised once I was older. My dad left when I was four years old and I've never had any contact with him since. Despite it not really affecting me growing up, I guess I realise now that I simply shut it out so I didn't have to deal with it. When we're young, we're open. We're soft to the influences of what is happening around us. And for me I felt a lot of contempt for my father coming from the people around me. Which is understandable as he was the one who left us. But for me as a young child, I didn't understand all of this, what I ended up feeling was that there was something wrong with me. I thought that because I was related to my father that I had somehow done something wrong. I felt like I didn't belong in my own family. That's a lot to process as an eight year old child and your mind doesn't know how to place these feelings and so instead they are locked away into the cupboards of your brain until the day you are old enough to sort through them.
Changes, puberty and saying good bye to childhood.
Sorry to any guys reading this, please skip or just don't even read this blog post! This is something that I still find very hard to talk about and can still feel ashamed of. I am the oldest of all the children in my family so of course I was the first one to reach that stage when your body starts changing. I started puberty when I was quite young and got my period when I was ten. For me puberty was a very - I don't want to say a traumatic experience - but that's certainly how it felt, and it definitely had a big impact on my relationship with my body. Being so young when my body started changing I had no clue what the hell was happening. I was always surrounded by my younger sister and cousins so I had no one to relate to, and being so young none of my friends were going through the same changes. I truly felt that there was something very wrong with me. I was the only one putting on that "puberty chub" and I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin especially when my sister, cousins and all my friends still looked 'normal'. I remember crying and hating what was happening so much.
I actually didn't even tell my mom when I got my period because I was so ashamed and I ended up hiding my underwear under my bed. I remember the day she found them and she sat me down. I honestly felt so embarrassed and so uncomfortable. I used to cry when I got my period because it felt so unfair and I hated it because it meant that I couldn't swim with my friends. I felt too uncomfortable to go to friends houses or go out on my period, I would even skip my horse riding lessons when I had my period.
Adults just don't think sometimes.
Adults don't realise that kids are so impressionable when their young and I really believe that we need to be so careful when we are around young children and even young teens. It can be so easy for us to pick up on what is being said or thought around us when we're kids and being young we can't quite process what a lot of these things mean. I remember always feeling like I had to be the 'big strong one'. I was the oldest child so I had to look after everyone else and make sure everyone else was okay. I couldn't cry or get upset. And it's not like I was told these things but that was how the adults around me made me feel. They would say things or make little remarks often based on what I looked like or how much I ate (puberty appetite), and it was never with ill intent and mostly more like a joke, but those things stuck out to me and because I was already so uncomfortable in myself they only made me feel worse.
I can remember one very distinct time when my grandparents had friends over and us kids were all playing outside on the lawn. I must have been about nine or ten years old and I can clearly remember hearing them talking about me and how much my body had changed and that I already had my period at such a young age. I felt so horrible and it instilled this idea in my mind that there was something wrong with me and that I didn't belong.
And then the shit hit the fan.
These feelings were once again locked away into my mind's cupboard until a later a day and my early teen years of eleven till about fourteen were pretty good. My friends went through the same changes and I looked just like everyone else my age. But looking back I definitely wasn't comfortable in my skin. I compared myself a lot to the people around me and I always felt like I was chubby. I felt very uncomfortable in a swimming costume and only ever wore one pieces with a pair of shorts on top. I hated changing with my friends or even in front of my mom or sister.
And then I turned fifteen and that's when everything changed. I suddenly outgrew hanging out with my younger sister and cousin. I couldn't relate to the things they were into and didn't find the same things funny or interesting. My passion for the environment and my awareness for all the problems in the world grew, but with that came a very heavy seriousness. I felt like nothing was light anymore, nothing was lighthearted, how could it be when the world was dying? I split from my friends, they didn't understand what I cared so much about. I felt isolated and alone.
And this slowly spiraled in on itself until it began to consume me and I developed anorexia - a restrictive eating disorder. This was the darkest most painful time of my life. All the emotional trauma that had collected over the years, from feeling like I didn't belong to all the self hate I had felt since puberty. I was depressed and nothing anyone did or said helped.
I don't want to get into too much detail as I don't want to cause any triggers, but I was severely underweight and just a hollow empty shell of a person. Nothing brought me joy, nothing made me laugh. I barely talked to my sister for an entire year.
My wake up call.
Came at the end of 2018. And thank goodness it did because I wasn't far off from being hospitalised (which luckily never happened). I realised that there was so much I wanted to do. So much change I wanted to make in the world. I remembered my childhood dream of being president when I was older so that I could create that change. And I realised that if I carried on like this none of that would be possible. There was so much more to life and I had so much more purpose than being this empty ghost of a person. And, frankly I started to get tired of the constant restriction of food and the un-enjoyment of life. I wanted to be able to do everything I wanted to do. But its easier said than done and despite slowly getting into a better space mentally, my eating habits didn't change much, I still restricted, ate far too little and was extremely thin.
The decision that changed my life.
I realised I needed help. And so we contacted a nutritionist who specialised in eating disorders and plant-based nutrition (as I am vegan) and as of November 2018 I had regular consultations and was put on a meal plan to restore my weight to a healthy place. I am forever grateful to my nutritionist, Nina, for everything that she did and helped me with. It was never just about the food and nutrition. Coming from a background of an eating disorder herself, she understood exactly what I was going through and helped me so much mentally and emotionally as well. I honestly don't think I would have been able to do it without her and so please if you are struggling with your mental health or an eating disorder, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Go see a therapist or nutritionist to help you in your healing because sometimes we just need that other person. Someone to guide us, push us when we need it, listen when we have troubles and to help us on our path.
And here I am today.
A whole year later since having my first nutrition consultation. From receiving my first meal plan. I never ever would have believed you if you told then where I would be today. I have grown so much as a person, I've truly grown into a woman, something I never accepted or wanted to be. I have so much more self respect, love, and value. I know myself, my true inner self. My relationship with food and my body is so much better and there is so much more freedom. I have achieved things I never dreamed I would achieve. And this isn't a story to brag about the things I've achieved or to showcase how far I've come. This doesn't mean that I don't still get bad days or feel like shit. Because I do. In fact it was a really bad down day on Sunday that inspired me to write this blog post. I still get restrictive thoughts sometimes. I'll look in the mirror some days and not feel happy with the way I look. I'll judge myself. I still get those voices that tell me I'm not good enough. But I'm learning that this is okay. It's a journey and I'm learning everyday. And even though it was horrible and I would never want to go back to that dark place, I really don't think I would be the person I am today if I hadn't gone through this.
Its scary. Its hard. But when you face whatever it is that is holding you back from life you will only grow. You will only find light. You deserve to live your purpose.
I would like to thank you for reading this, whether you resonated or related with it or not. If you struggle or know someone who struggles with their mental health or an unhealthy relationship with food please know that you're not alone and you deserve to get better. I really really encourage you to talk to someone, a friend, family member or professional, reach out for help because you are worth it.
with love and gratitude,
*If you're needing help with healing your relationship with food, I highly recommend Nina Gelbke, she is an Australian based qualified vegan nutritionist. She does consultations worldwide through, Skype, phone call or email. https://www.naturally-nina.com/