A Termination Letter to my Eating Disorder 

Dear ED,

It’s been a long run, but fortunately, I have decided that it is time we part ways. Certain events have led me to decide that you are no longer an asset to the organization that is my life. You have been with me for much longer than I initially realized; we first met when I was a young girl. But despite the length of our relationship – dysfunctional as it is – I stand firm in my decision to let you go. I am going to explain this in detail to you, in hopes that these specifics will avoid me letting someone else like you into my life.

An eight year old girl should not live her life sucking in her stomach. A ten year old girl should not think that the amount of love she receives is correlated to her size. A twelve year old girl who grew very tall very fast should not have learned to fear stretch marks the same way people fear violence. A thirteen year old girl in Florida should not go to the beach in shorts and a tank top because she was scared to show her skin. A nineteen year old girl should not be throwing up her meals. A nineteen year old girl should not be on the verge of passing out in her office because of how hungry she was. A girl on the eve of her twentieth birthday should not have been looking up the calories in food at the restaurant she was going to tomorrow. A twenty year old girl should not have an Internet history full of diets, workout plans and eating disorder communities. A twenty year old girl should not cry at the thought of trying on clothes in a fitting room at the mall. A twenty year old girl should not become paralyzed with fear at the idea of going swimming. A twenty one year old girl should not avoid seeing her friends and hide in her apartment because she thinks she is too fat to be seen in public. Yet these are all things that I was. These are all things that I did because of you.

I made a realization recently, and it was one that brought to light just how long you have been a part of me. I realized that I do not remember a time where I have not felt as big as I am now. The weight I have gained since we began drifting apart may be visibly new, but I have long felt that it was a part of me. Why? Well ED, this is where you come in. You brainwashed me into thinking seeing a false reflection when I looked in the mirror. You told me that losing weight that wasn’t there would make me happier, more liked, more deserving of love. But no matter how much weight I lost you always told me to lose more, or that it wasn’t;t enough. I realize now that the happiness, popularity and love that you promised me were nothing but false promises.

You stole something from me. You stole confidence that I never had the chance to develop. Before I ever had a chance to feel good about myself you were there telling me I had never been good enough and would never be good enough. You were there telling me that everyone around me was judging me, staring at the fat I did not have but you made me believe was there. You were there for birthdays, graduations, prom, school, happy moments, sad moments, embarrassing moments and moments I should have felt proud. You stole memories from me.

I never realized these things at the times they occurred because you made me think that I needed you. You were constantly reinforcing the notion that one day I would be worthy of thinness and all the joys that came with it. But what you did not tell me was that one day would never come. You never told me that you were the most abusive relationship I had ever been in. You never told me that you were a master manipulator. You never told me that you could tell a lie with the ease of an Academy Award winning actress. You never told me that I could have a life without you and now I finally see that I can.

I never thought I would see the day that I would be able to leave you behind. I never thought I would be able to tell you these things. I never thought that I would be able to walk away from you. I never thought that I would love myself enough to say, you’re fired.

I renounce you of any power you held over me. I free myself of any holds you had on my mind, body, and spirit. I am in control now, the way it should have been all along.

Goodbye, and good riddance,
Emma

 

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Power Play

I told them that you did not deserve my forgiveness. I told them that it would seem like I accepted all the things you did: the lies you told, the insults you hurled with the strength of a thousand punches… I told them that I could not forgive you and make those things okay. I thought that if I forgave you then it was somehow providing you with validation that the things you did, that the ways you broke me were fair and respectable; but they weren’t and they never would be. I harboured so much anger and resentment towards you for everything that I could not see that by holding onto so much ill will that I was keeping myself in a cloud of negativity.

But then they explained to me that my forgiveness did not have to be for your benefit. They told me that it could be for me and that maybe it could be just what I needed to finally let you go. That maybe if I forgave you, then I would be releasing you and any power you had or still had over me. They explained to me that forgiving you did not mean that I was accepting your actions, or validating them. They explained to me that forgiveness was not an act for you, but it was for me to be able to admit to myself that what you did to me was not my fault. You chose to control me, to manipulate me, to hurt every part of my being – and that it was not my fault. They showed me that by not forgiving you, I was not allowing myself to also be forgiven.

So when you found your way back into my life after so much time and I saw that you could still install fear in me, I realized they were right. But moreover I realized that I needed them to be right because I had to be able to move on with my life and not have you in it. I needed to be able to move on and to no longer hold so much anger in my heart. So, I forgave you for me. I let you go for the last time, and finally the only person who had the power was me.

The D Word

I want to talk about depression. 

I was first told I had depression when I was around the age of sixteen; this was not news to me. By the age of sixteen I was (thankfully) about two years free of self harm but I would be lying if I said that my life had gotten significantly easier. I was living with my mind being in a constant overdrive of feelings. I was experiencing these intense emotions that I just could not understand. I have memories of crying fora seemingly endless amount of time and having no idea what was making me so upset. When my family doctor listened to things I was telling her and them presented me with depression, I was not surprised, but I was scared. I didn’t tell my parents she had said this to me. I didn’t think I could. I was scared that it wouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone: friends, family, teachers, or coaches. I was worried that people would think I just wanted attention, or that they would think I was just weak.

That was six years ago. I wish I could say that things have gotten better for me; sometimes it really feels like they have and at other times I feel like I’m worse off than when I started.

Depression, at its core, is a chemical imbalance of the brain. It has been proven that depending on the levels of certain chemicals your brain produces can have a huge effect on someone’s likelihood to develop depression. Now this is not to say that there are not other factors that play into someone developing depression; there are likely going to be emotional factors, environmental factors, certain circumstances or perhaps even genetics. All of this to say- having depression does not make someone weak. I (now) personally think it’s quite the opposite.

Within the past twelve months, my depression has unfortunately been extremely present in my life and I’ve encountered some stuff that just bothers me. Considering depression affects over 5% of the Canadian population aged fifteen and older, I thought I’d share these things in hopes that someone takes them to heart and avoids some potentially awkward interactions.

  1. Just because I live with depression does not mean that I do not have other feelings. What I mean by this is that let’s say I (a person living with depression) get hurt or offended by something, it does not mean in any way that it is because of my depression. Now for a drastic comparison take someone with a cold/sore throat and let’s say someone punches them in the throat and says that it only hurt because they have a cold? Does that make sense? No. So if you do or say something to me and I get hurt or offended and I try and explain that to you, please do not say that it’s “just your depression acting up.” What I interpret that as is someone saying to me that my feelings are not actually valid and that were I not a person living with depression, the thing that someone did to offend me wouldn’t matter.
  2. Depression is not all that I am. I get that people like to talk to me about my mental health, in fact I love being open about it and doing my part to create conversation surrounding mental health. However, I like it to be remembered that there is so much more to me than just my diagnosis. I’m a social service worker, a daughter, a sister, a proud cat mama, a writer, a fiancé, a graduate and so many other things. So next time you’re telling me a story about someone else you may have met who also lives with depression and refer to them as “someone like you,” please just take a beat, and reconsider your wording.
  3. Please stop suggesting ways for me to feel better. Look I appreciate it when people try to help me. But the amount of times I have had people tell me that exercise is going to magically cure my depression is so frustrating. I have an academic and professional background in social work, I’ve read the studies and understand them. I know that physical activity can sometimes be a huge help for people living with depression. But what I also know is that when I am at my lowest points of depression, I have little to no energy and the last thing on my mind is exercising. The thing that is hard for people to grasp is just how debilitating depression can be and that a lot of the suggested remedies are the very things that depression makes it hard for me to do. If you know someone living with depression and they come to you for advice, that’s one thing. But giving unsolicited advice is ridiculous. Unless you’re a doctor of some sort, if I haven’t asked for it, maybe I don’t want your advice.
  4. Understand that taking medication is acceptable. I’m sure you’ve all seen that picture on Facebook- a split screen image where the top has a picture of a gorgeous forest and says “This is an antidepressant” and the bottom image is of some pills and says “This is shit.” I have so many issues with this image that it would take me countless pages to describe. Depression is so much more than just being sad, for me it is sometimes the inability to get out of bed, the inability to properly take care of myself in so many ways. Getting out into a forest would do nothing for me when I am in those states. Medication helps with what depression is at its core- a chemical imbalance. Please do not belittle someone for taking medication for an illness; you wouldn’t say that to someone receiving treatment for a physical illness and this is no different. Someone taking medication is trying to get better and trying to recover and it is a hard enough road without those kinds of comments. (See image below for reference.)Anti

All this being said, remember that depression does not look the same in everyone. If you want to be the best possible friend/loved one/partner/supporter etc., to someone living with depression, the best thing to do is to ask them what they need from you and really listen. Understand that sometimes they may not know what they need because navigating a chemically imbalanced brain is hard and that’s okay. Be an open ear for them and do your best to be what they need; they’ll thank you for it one day.