I work as a personal trainer, so naturally I encounter people all the time who need help managing their weight. The exercise part is pretty straightforward - give clients a program, encourage them, and keep an eye on their form. However, the food piece - that urge you can get as a binge eating to overeat until your stomach hurts, until your brain goes numb, until the rest of the world fades away for that brief moment and you forget everything that is wrong - can be harder. You forget everything until the binge is over, and then everything, including and mainly YOUR SELF, feels so horribly wrong that sometimes you wish you weren't even alive. Because living with self hate is not really living at all.
So, I get it. I get the fact that it's a natural human coping mechanism, especially in today's society, to overeat. To choose the wrong foods. To go for convenience, for taste, for the easy way out. To mindlessly graze through the day, figuring "you'll start again Monday." To decide you'd rather numb out than actually live, even just for this one moment when it's just all too much to stand. Whether your drug of choice is food, or alcohol, or actual drugs, no matter. The abuse of all of them are all signs that you have lost your way. Just because it's common doesn't mean it's normal.
I help people deal with these things as a personal trainer, but I also volunteer as an eating disorder mentor. I do this because I had a very special mentor myself who helped me recover. This mentor was there for me and believed in me during times when believing in myself seemed like a truly absurd proposition. I had several other mentors in my life who helped guide me in finding out why I wanted so badly to run from myself and what I needed to change about my life so that I wouldn't feel the need to escape anymore. I needed to learn to forgive myself when I messed up. I learned that it's OK to have needs and ask for help. Most of all I needed to find and use my voice, and realize that even if everyone did not like it, agree with it, or hear it, using my voice was the only thing that was going to heal me.
I had been waiting for a few people in my life to love me in a way I so desperately craved, and it wasn't happening. But no matter. I needed to love and nuture myself, even if no one else did.
In the past, I was so desperate to attain the love of others that I forgot to love myself - and that was the one thing that was going to make things OK. At first I did it for my mentor, because he wanted me to get better. But then, as time went on, I wanted to get better too.
Several important people in my life have recently "gone public" about their struggles with food, substance abuse, and mental illness. I also have some family members and friends whose lives are affected right now. Seeing others share tales from their darkest days led me to feel driven to share my story as well. I am ready to share it widely in the hopes that more people will see that we truly are all human and everyone has their own struggles. I believe that if we find some answers for our own personal struggles we need to pay it forward to hopefully help pull someone else along who might need a little boost. Sharing gives meaning to our struggle, and meaning is what fuels us to greater and greater things in life.
I truly believe that my eating disorder could have cost me my life if nothing had changed, but because I was willing to keep fighting and try to find a way out, I escaped the cage of a life it had me locked into. I stopped waiting around for certain people in my life to convince me I was worth it. I decided I was worth it. I decided to take the self destruction I had been engaging in and use that effort towards good. I woke up one day and decided to make a different choice. The choice didn't mean I was better overnight, but it set me on a path to healing, and one that ultimately led to me being healed.