by Andrea Lewis
I was never officially diagnosed with an eating disorder (ED) because I was too ashamed to tell my doctor, family and friends. Shame had me suffering in silence for most of my life until one day I found the courage to confront it.
My journey with ED began when I was 14 years old, I became obsessed with losing weight and not because I needed to—I had a girlish figure and I am still very petite. It was just that my family put a lot of emphasis on how people looked so I had an image of perfection to uphold and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Besides feeling pressure to be perfect, I also needed to control my food intake to cope with living in a dysfunctional environment.
When I moved away from home I still continued to abuse my body physically and mentally.
By the time I was in my early twenties I learned that I have always had a genetic predisposition to mental illness and a family history of suicide, either from anorexia or manic depression.
I didn’t tell anyone about my behaviour. Instead, I went to the library and borrowed books on mental illness to gain understanding. I also had regular appointments with my doctor for talk therapy to face aspects of my life I had been running away from.
When the doctor diagnosed me with bipolar depression, I was not surprised. I knew the risks yet I refused the antidepressants. I thought I could try to fix my life and myself, but the symptoms didn’t go away and so I self-medicated by binge eating and purging.
I just wanted to be “normal” because I felt unbalanced. This led me to see a naturopath who customized a nutritional plan and prescribed supplements that had me feeling immediate results.
Though I felt some relief my shame still had me hiding as I continued to binge eat, purge, frantically weigh myself and cautiously watch what I ate. When my naturopath suggested that my imbalance was emotional I was in my early 40’s—that’s when I ended my journey with ED.
What I did - the road to my recovery
- I wrote a letter to myself listing the reasons I felt ashamed. Then I wrote another letter to myself apologizing for denying myself happiness.
- I wrote a letter to my body listing the reasons I loathed it. Then I wrote another letter to my body apologizing for abusing it.
- Then I went to a secluded wooded area to burn the letters. Before setting them up in flames I would affirm aloud: “I release this, I am no longer angry, love will heal this.” The burning of the letters was a symbolic way to release toxic energy. When I let go of this energy, the pain lost power.
- I sat in a meditative state and visualized myself at 14 years old. I then repeatedly said internally, “I forgive you Andrea”, until I felt a sense of peace and calmness. I waited for the younger version of myself to nod to accept my forgiveness. I released her by seeing her wave at me and walk away.
Healing is not an overnight process
- One letter is not enough! The pain comes in layers and this requires patience with yourself. Take the time necessary to feel your emotions and grieve.
- Keep forgiving yourself as many times as needed—it sets you free!
Not easy but worth it!
Two years ago my bipolar symptoms dissolved. I stopped binge eating and no longer have cravings. I am healthy and whole because I finally uncovered the buried secret—the root cause of my distorted body image.
Only then did I find the self-love and self-compassion I needed to view my body as sacred and to honour my body by nourishing it with healthy foods, eating regularly and exercising by practicing yoga a few times a week and taking daily walks in nature.
I now help women lead empowering lives by taking a holistic approach to their wellbeing as a Certified Wellness Coach.
It’s been a long and difficult journey and there were many times I didn’t think I would make it. But I always had HOPE!