Forest is a dear friend of mine who I met when I first moved home to Toronto from New Zealand. She was behind the counter at a cafe I walked into, in a state of low, really ungrounded and upset. She immediately took me to the back kitchen, leaving the front counter, and sat me down for an hour without blinking an eye, wordlessly signalling to the staff to cover for her.
She is one hell of a woman, and has founded the wellness initiative Her Habitat, a safe space for anyone to share their struggles that accompany our belonging to this collective human condition called Life. She connects people and helps the world feel supported; her purpose is brilliantly described in the powerful statement;
You are not alone.
Bless her soul.
She is a warrior of a myriad of Life’s journeys, and battles on while dancing, singing, and doing really cool shit.
Here is her story:
My Eating Disorder Journey:
For a significant part of my life, foods purpose wasn’t to nourish me. I used it to mask, unplug, hide from my feelings. I fluctuated constantly between states of starvations and near illness from binging. I hated my body because I was always tired and never felt good, I hated my mind because I felt weak for giving in to either side of such an intense spectrum, and consequently I hated my friends who had healthy relationships with food. I hated my clothes that never consistently fit me properly, I hated the emotions I was hiding from instead of dealing, and more than anything I hated anything that challenged my way to cope.
I am not proud to say that I actively chose to stop eating. I willingly chose Anorexia over health. I did this with the knowledge that it would get the attention of those around me, and that this would be an easier task than asking for help or doing the very hard work of implementing what I had learned in my years of therapy. I often found myself bingeing and soon my middle ground became Orthorexia instead of Anorexia. I was obsessive about eating healthy. It completely consumed me. And I was still bingeing – now I was just extending my stomach with fruits, veggies, and whatever else I had deemed healthy enough to be able to enter my body.
My breaking point mentally was in Wal-Mart. I was staying with my grandparents for a summer in British Columbia after I had finished high school, and they watched me suffer through hours of running, strict meal plans and timing, and forcing myself into yoga positions that didn’t heal me because I didn’t understand. I was grocery shopping and my grandmother asked me if I wanted any cookies.
Do you know what it’s like to be 18 and having a tantrum in Wal-Mart because your Grandmother asked if you wanted cookies?
I’ve never felt so ashamed in my entire life.
Not just of the reaction, or that situation, but also at my cart full of unsatisfying foods that were not healthy for my mind, not healthy for my soul, and ultimately not even balanced or nutritious enough to give me proper nourishment. I was withering away, moody, disrespecting those that loved me, and fighting against a body and a mind that were desperately needing to heal.
I spent hours meditating in the woods trying to find answers to this longing I had. This void I needed to fill, while simultaneously being terrified of what would happen if I was full. If I did feel joy. If I allowed myself to be human.
The answer was simple, and because of this, so much harder to face:
I was looking for attention.
That’s all it came down to for me. Even though I tried to make myself and my habits invisible I felt offended and unimportant that no one had intervened. I was upset that no one could see that I wasn’t healthy, I was hurting myself. But then I realized I could see it. I could see what I was putting myself through and it was only my job and responsibility to deal with that.
It still took me years to get out of the habit of purging and bingeing. I still fall back on it sometimes. It’s an easy way to remind myself of the “power” I have. It’s also a slap in the face when I feel like shit and realize that there is no one to blame but myself. Not my stress, not my work load, not my roommate or partner or friends. The way that I choose to deal with things, and also the things I choose not to face are not exempt from my hand just because I don’t feel up to dealing with it.
I think the biggest and most important part of my recovery was being accountable.
Yes, all of the tools I learned to avoid bingeing and purging are invaluable to me, and my own intuition and understanding of my body’s signals and messages are paramount. But just how I can take pride in what I am doing right and how far I’ve come, this also comes with the acknowledgement that sometimes I don’t do right by me. Sometimes I do give in to that cyclical pattern. But now I understand what it is, am learning more and more why. I’m finding that the more I’m aware of my triggers and emotions that sway me, the more inclined I am to be conscientious of my eating choices without being paranoid or obsessive about them either.
I can eat a slice of cake without worry about eating the whole cake, or about needing to starve myself before indulgence.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to her on any of her links for connection:
Jah bless xo