Fleeing The Coop

This is going to be a very personal, and emotional, post for me. It is something I have to do to help cope with everything that is happening these next few days. I, I have to say my goodbyes. Not just any goodbyes though. Goodbyes to my family, the ones who helped me move away from my eating disorder.

This is to everyone on my unit. The staff: nurses, therapists, doctors, nurse practitioners, dietitians, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers and child life specialists. This is to the friends I’ve made these past few months, the ones in day treatment with me, and the ones who are inpatient, you all mean so much to me. Most importantly, this is goodbye to Ed, and hello to Melissa, your new life starts now.

To the nurses:

You have done so much for me. You showed me kindness when all I felt was hatred (more last time than this, but you still deserve thanks for it). You gave me sympathy and did your best to understand what I was going through. You supported me in all my hard times. You helped me grow. You helped me to discover what was inside me. You gave me so much information that I will remember for years. You changed my life, and you’ll be in my heart forever. Thank you for your faith in me, and pushing me, even when times seemed hopeless to me. Thank you.

To everyone expecting:

You are going to be great parents. You are caring and so loving, your child is very lucky. I am sad I won’t get to meet your children, but I wish you all luck. I know you will embrace this challenge and raise amazing and compassionate children. Just don’t forget to practice your mom face.

To our retiring head nurse:

Aren’t you a little young to be retiring? I am sad to hear you are going, but I suppose everyone needs a break. Thank you for all your help and support. Thank you for being so passionate in your work and taking time to ensure we were all doing well. It won’t be the same on the unit without you. I hope your retirement helps you to relax and see just how great of a person you are. Now you’ll have all the time to colour. Good luck in the rest of your life. Thank you for being there for me and joking around with us, even when you were strict we knew you were doing it because you cared. You are the unit’s mother. Thank you. 

To my therapist:

I cannot thank you enough. You were always there for me. You always made time for me, and I appreciate that so much. You made me feel like I matter and that I am worth time, I learned to respect myself and not always put myself down. You have been amazing. You supported me more than I could even imagine or ask for. The things you’ve done to help me, how you’ve gone out of your way, I wish I could do more for you than this simple goodbye. I wish I didn’t have to say goodbye. I will always remember you, and never doubt yourself. You helped me so much, and took me out of a dark place. You are the reason I feel confident I can do this on my own. You have taught me so much and now I have confidence. Thank you for believing in me, your encouragement, and for never putting me down. Thank you.

To all the other therapists:

Thank you for the skills you taught me. You helped me find new ways to cope, without using negative behaviors. You gave me a whole new outlook on how to act and taught me to be responsible for myself. Sometimes you weren’t sure of yourselves, but you are human, mistakes happen, and I was always happy with what you gave to me. You helped me to understand my feelings and how to react to them. You taught me to identify my values, which helped me to separate myself from Ed. You taught me how to ask for things, in different manners to obtain different outcomes. You taught me to calm myself down and think before I act. I no longer feel the need to do negative behaviors to deal with my distress and anxiety, I have theraputty now!! Thank you for all you taught me. Thank you.

To the doctors:

Although I didn’t see you long during this stay, thank you for everything. You kept me safe. You kept me from dying. You helped heal my heart and improve my body. Thanks to you, my bones are starting to recover. I am so grateful for everything you did to keep me healthy and alive. Thank you for caring so much for my well-being. Thank you.

To the nurse practitioner:

Thank you for your understanding. Thank you for keeping me healthy these last weeks. You coached me through my recovery and gave me the confidence I needed, even when I was disappointed in myself. You didn’t get angry when I didn’t gain weight, and that was very helpful, as I was beating myself up over it. You didn’t make it a huge deal, you just helped me to prepare for the next weekend. You helped me to understand everything that was happening inside of me. Thanks to your guidance, my blood pressure and heart rate are much better. Better than I would’ve imagined them ever being. Thank you for all your help and support through this hard journey. Thank you.

To the dietitian:

Thank you for helping clear up so many misconceptions I had. You gave me a new understanding of nutrition and what my body needs. You taught me how to manage my meals. You taught me what the myths of nutrition were, so I could make informed decisions. Thanks to you, I know what my body needs. I am no longer afraid of certain foods. You helped me to challenge myself and expose myself to foods I never thought I would be able to again. Thank you for bringing butter, pasta and other treats back in to my life. Thank you for teaching me what I need to eat so that I can grow and repair myself. Thank you.

To the psychologist:

Good luck at your new job. You will be missed, but we all appreciate what you did for us. You taught us how to focus. How to be mindful and be at peace. Everyday I wake up and go for a walk, to be mindful of my surroundings. It is the perfect way to start my day. When I listen to music, I am able to give it my complete attention, and hear the song for what it truly is. I take in the world around me, instead of rushing through life. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate the beauty in nature. Thank you.

To the psychiatrist:

Thank you for helping me to manage my symptoms and urges. You helped me to understand what was going on inside my head. You helped me comprehend that I wasn’t crazy or anything of the sorts, but rather a child in need of help. And everyone on this team gave me the help I needed. Though I didn’t get to see you often, I know you were a big part of my recovery and helped prepare me for discharge. Thank you for getting me the help I needed and putting me on the right medication. Thank you.

To our first teacher:

Thank you for getting me started. Thank you for your words of kindness. Thank you for helping me get through the hard subjects. Thanks for all your words of encouragement and promoting my work. You made me feel confident in my intelligence once again. I hope you are doing well. Thank you for helping me continue school. Thank you.

To our current teacher:

Although I didn’t get to see you too often, I found you a fantastic teacher. You kept me interested and gave me some very awesome facts. You had to go through a lot to get this job, and I thank you for sticking with it. You have put a lot of effort into keeping me up to date and helping me be prepared for school after all this. I am sad I don’t get to pick at your brain for much longer. Thank you for giving me a reason to look forward to going to school, even when I’ve lost all motivation. Thank you for being open and honest with us, and treating us as equals. You weren’t as much a dictator, as a comforting teacher who I am proud to say I met. Thank you for respecting us. Thank you.

To the child life specialists:

Wow. Just wow. I can’t believe I won’t be seeing you anymore. My day will feel like it’s missing something when I wake up and don’t get to see your smiling faces. You brought me a lot of joy. Thank you for giving me a reason to get up in the morning. Thank you for helping me figure out what I wanted to do with my life. You inspired me and gave me hope for the future. You became a part of my family. Although I’m sure I annoyed you at times (yes, I became very loud), I thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for being there for me and offering an ear any day. Thank you for giving me the chance to be creative. You let me do so many crafts and it felt amazing to embrace the inner artist in me. I have a lot of new hobbies now that I know I will continue for ages. Thank you for giving me the distractions I needed to keep myself from negative thoughts. You helped me build mastery and feel confident in my abilities. Thank you for helping me get in touch with my real self once again. Thank you.

Every single member of my team played a huge part in my journey to recovery. Everyone made a grand impact on my life. I won’t be able to forget any of you. It is very sad for me to have to leave you all. You are my family. You are people I am so grateful came into my life.

To the day patients and inpatients:

You are my sisters. I consider you more than my friends. I know all of you can beat this and I will be over the moon when I hear you are discharged and doing well. You all work so hard and I am amazed at everything you’ve done. I am proud to have you in my family. You are supportive and kind to me. You made me feel welcome, when I thought I was an outsider. Thank you for staying with me, even though I can be very loud and annoying. You are all beautiful and so incredible. You all have come so far. Don’t ever give up. I know each of you is strong enough to get over this. I can’t believe I won’t see any of you, in person, for a very long time, or sadly, maybe forever. I wish I could stay with you forever and be that little giggling girl colouring away. I want all of you to know, I believe in you. Even when times seem rough, I never have any doubts in your abilities. You are the most terrific girls I know. Don’t change for anyone, you are perfect just the way you are. Thank you everything. I will truly miss you. I wish you all the best.

To the master:

You are the master. It’s true, and there is no way I can deny it. Thank you for trying to teach me piano, it’s a skill I want to continue practicing. That you for being so supportive and being there for me. I will miss you so much, I can’t even put it in words. I will always be here for you. I will talk to you every night, as long as you reply. I will give you any encouragement or advice you need. I will listen to whatever you have to say. Rant to me if you need to. Don’t give up. I know things seem really rough right now, but I know you can do this. You are stronger than you’ll ever know. You are beautiful. You are brave. You are smart. I know you can beat this. You are the master after all. I won’t forget you. You really helped me get to the point I am at now. I don’t want to leave you, but I realize I can’t stay here forever. You are amazing. Sandwich Sisters Unite! Thank you. Just thank you.

To the Queen:

You know who you are. I know I picked on you a lot, but that’s how I show I really care about someone. Thank you for putting up with me and joking around. You brightened my day. I know you’ll be through with this soon. You have made huge steps that I never could’ve imagined you thinking you could do. You are really putting a huge effort into beating this. I can’t wait to see where your life takes you. If you ever need advice or encouragement, I am always here. I will not forget about you. I will do anything to help you. I know you’ll succeed. Thank you for being my friend and making me laugh. Thank you.

And now I have to come to the hardest part. The goodbye. I don’t want to do this. I suck at goodbyes. You all are so important to me and I can’t fathom life away from my home, our unit. I will miss you all so much. I won’t forget anyone or anything you taught me. You are locked in my heart forever. I hope to see you in a few years when I come to work at McMaster. It will be a great day when I get to reunite with everyone. I miss you all already just writing this, and I still see you tomorrow! Wow. This time went too fast. Thank you. I wish you all well. I wish for happy and healthy lives. Now for my least favourite part. Goodbye. The next time we meet I hope things will change for the better for everyone. Goodbye.

Bye.

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A Friend In Need, Has A Friend In Me

Now, I’m not saying this is right for everyone. It’s just something that would’ve worked and helped me, when my friends were trying to help.

How do you talk to a friend who is struggling? You don’t want to say something that sets them back, but you don’t want to be silent and let them crumble. You know in your heart, you have to do something.

What kind of things can you say? What kind of things can’t you say?

WHAT NOT TO SAY

  1. You look healthy. This could set them back. They may take this as, I have gained weight, I am fat, I need to lose more weight.
  2. You don’t look skinny enough to have an eating disorder. NONONONO. This is unacceptable. Anyone, of any size, gender, race, etc. can have an eating disorder. Ed does not discriminate. Never assume. I saw this as a challenge. If I didn’t look skinny enough, then I had to eat even less. Never. ever, say this.
  3. Why don’t you just eat/Why don’t you just stop purging? (Two common examples, many more could be said involving other behaviors). This isn’t a choice. We don’t ask to have an eating disorder and force ourselves to hate our bodies. Ed does this. We can’t just stop everything and go back to eating properly. It takes a long time and lots of professional help (usually) to get to a point where you can eat and love yourself. It’s like telling someone with cancer to just stop having cancer.
  4. Why are you doing this to us? We aren’t choosing to make everyone’s life harder. We just want an escape and to feel better about ourselves. At the time, we didn’t know any better way to accept ourselves. Don’t act like they are attacking you.
  5. You look terrible. Most of us have body issues already, and this doesn’t help. We want to feel good about ourselves, and this makes us feel like we are completely worthless. We want to feel pretty, not be told we look like death.
  6. If you think you’re fat, then what am I? Don’t compare our thoughts to how we see you. That isn’t fair to us. You increase our anxiety and we could seriously panic, which can cause a lot of harm. We see ourselves different than how you see us, and it takes a long time to take off the blurry glasses. I know I hated being approached with this.
  7. I wish I could lose weight like you/I wish I could be anorexic for a day/I need to lose a few pounds. These make us feel like we are doing something really good for ourselves, and honestly, we aren’t. You normalize the eating disorder, like everyone should have it, and everyone needs to lose weight. If you have been told by a doctor you need to lose weight, an eating disorder is not the way to go. Don’t talk about losing weight around us. It made me feel like I had to lose more because everyone else was going to become as skinny as I.
  8. I binge all the time, it’s fine! (Or something of this manner). Don’t make the eating disorder behaviors normal. No one needs to do this. There are healthier ways to deal with emotions and problems. Do not promote an eating disorder.
  9. Don’t you know how much you’re hurting yourself? Please, once again, we are trying to get rid of pain. This only adds guilt and shame. Don’t be telling us how wrong we are for having an eating disorder. It wasn’t our choice and we have no control over it.
  10. I ate so much and now I have to skip [meal] or eat less today. Nope. No one needs to cut down on food just because they ate a little more. And if you do, by accident or so, don’t talk about it around us. It will make us feel guilty about how much our body needs to eat right now, and we’ll want to stop eating altogether.
  11. You brought this on yourself; you made your bed, now lie in it. Ah, this is my favourite. Well, it’s one I heard a lot and I hate to hear. My favourite least favourite. If you even think about saying this, stop. This is never okay to even think. WE DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS LIFE!! IT FELL UPON US. We didn’t actually want things to get this far. We didn’t know how much control Ed gets over us. Stop blaming us. This is not our fault.

WHAT KIND OF THINGS TO SAY

  1. Let them know they aren’t alone. This is a hard illness. We feel like we’re the only ones struggling with our bodies and we aren’t normal anymore. We think of ourselves as freaks (I am proud to say I am a weirdo and there’s nothing wrong with that) and outcasts. We want to belong. Knowing we have support from you can really help.
  2. Tell them they are beautiful and don’t let them say no. They need to know they are worthy and beautiful no matter how they look. No one needs to lose weight (unless a doctor medically says you should) and everyone should be kind to themselves.
  3. Try to encourage them to seek help. I personally can say I never wanted to listen to this when I was deep in my disorder. After a few years of having no life, I decided it was enough. And I asked for help. I can say the help I received (specifically from McMaster) really made a difference and I don’t know if I could’ve done it without professional help.
  4. Ask them what they need. Sometimes we don’t want to be told what to do. We want to have some decisions in our life. This validates us and makes us feel like you really care.
  5. Let them vent. We all are holding stuff in. And it only causes problems. Let us say everything that’s on our mind. But there are rules when we are being open and talking to us:
  • Be supportive
  • Don’t be judgmental
  • Don’t approach us with food
  • Definitely don’t force us to eat or make it your job to solve all of our problems
  • Be patient
  • Be calm
  • Do not say anything that you think will be hurtful (anything from my list, or anything that you even have the slightest doubt about saying. Filter and think before you react)
  • Everything has consequences, chose your words wisely.

THINGS TO DO TO HELP THEM

  1. Help them distinguish Ed from themselves. They are two different beings. We are not our eating disorders.
  2. Once again, let them vent without judging.
  3. Give them a hug.
  4. Have them write down their values.
  5. Tell them to compliment themselves everyday.
  6. Have them write down things they like about themselves, but nothing to do with weight.
  7. Say you are their Ed, and let them talk to you to get out what they want to say to Ed.
  8. Take them to a spa. Show them they can love their body and praise it, even if they don’t feel they’re worthy.
  9. Introduce them to new music and hobbies to distract them.
  10. If you are sitting with them while they are trying to eat, it’s good to eat something yourself, so they don’t feel like they’re the only ones who have to eat.
  11. Tell them to write positive messages on all their mirrors.
  12. Or, tell them to get rid of their mirrors.
  13. Tell them to get rid of the scale (hard to do, but it really is a step in the right direction).
  14. Start slow with them. Introduce new foods at a steady pace, don’t do it all at once. It is a scary thing, but it has to be done.
  15. Delete old Ana and Mia sites from their bookmarks.

Sometimes you want to say you understand what we’re going through. But no book, not even I, can say what anyone is going through. It’s different for everyone. I will say what it felt like for me.

I thought I was being buried alive. Everyone kept pushing me closer towards the hole and eventually I fell in. Every time I tried to climb out, someone threw something at me. Every hurtful word or phrase was another clump of dirt. I was dying. Eventually I gave in and decided it was my time to die. I hit rock bottom. I never thought I would get out of that hole. I knew I had friends with this disorder, but I didn’t believe I had it. Ed convinced me I was just eating healthier and losing weight to make myself look better. I trusted him. At times when I started to feel like maybe something was wrong, I felt like no one was doing anything to stop me. Everyone was letting me overexercise and under-eat. I was alone. It was always dark. I never wanted to see my friends, because they knew what was going on and wanted to help. I was sure I didn’t need help, I just needed to lose another 5 pounds. Then ten, and it never stopped. I had no hope. I wanted to die. I wanted to starve myself to death and leave everything behind. Life was like Hell. Everything was always on fire and I was being beaten down everyday. Soon I stopped going out altogether. My life ended up consisting of me, and a garbage pail (either filled with vomit, or the lunch I was supposed to eat). I wouldn’t even call what I was doing ‘life’. I was not living. I was practicing for after my funeral. I started planning my funeral. I wrote suicide notes. I said goodbye to my friends. It was the end.

I am no longer in that place. I met a group of people who, instead of throwing dirt at me, threw me a ladder. I climbed out. I am almost happy. I can stand up for myself. I have self-respect once again. I want everyone to be able to feel this again, and it is possible.

Please get help if you need it, if you have a friend with this problem, try to get them to read this. Drowning isn’t fun. We need a life preserver. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, I will respect you if you reach out (I respect you no matter what, but this is an incredible step).

Don’t give up, there is hope for everyone.