R E H A B - I got more than just a t-shirt (but seriously I did get a t-shirt).
…not sure blog preludes are a thing but I’m making it into a thing.
I have been ‘sitting’ on this post for a while. Not quite sure when the BEST time to reveal this layer of myself and expose something deeply personal would strike. I guess this is me striking.
This past week seemed like a rollercoaster. I started off energized, returning to Saskatoon from Toronto after completing my AAMET International EFT Level 1 & 2 certification with the acclaimed Nancy Forrester. Being surrounded with like minded energy healers for four days really sets you up to feel abundantly motivated and passionate - those warm and fuzzy feelings of love and being understood. As the week progressed my energy, much like many was heavy and saddened as news of 2 suicides hit the air waves.
One in particular, Anthony Bourdain who I was a huge fan of really hit me. I’m sure some of you can relate, my boyfriend and I would thoroughly look forward to nights in, cuddling on the couch while off on an adventure with Bourdain as our guide. Wine in hand we would both agree - he, Anthony, had the best life. We wished we could be him. ‘Him’ is a person I suppose we never really did know. I guess in some small way I can relate to his pain. Maybe that’s secretly why I liked him so much. He was raw and a little dark.
I’m going to start this post off with an intention. If you are sharing in this moment with me, may you accept my story with an open heart, knowing I am flawed and knowing that I am (just like you) always a work in progress. I realize the content of this particular entry is deeply personal to me and holds a lot of emotions so my hope is that if you are reading this now you are doing so out of a place of understanding and acceptance that this is my truth and there is nothing shameful in being open about ones struggles. It has taken me over 10 years to comprehend that, believe that and then start to live it. But as you will also see - infused in this blog post is humour. Laughter is medicine for the soul. I require a lot of it.
Last but not least - I dedicate this blog to a soldier lost in this often times lonely battle - she was a friend and someone I was able to spend a difficult yet beautiful part of my life with. Sky - may your soul live on through the memories of all those who were graced with you in their lives. You were one of the most animated humans I have ever met and no one can attack and kill a bird sized moth like insect with a broom in the middle of the night like you. I smile when I think of you and I am happy your soul can shine freely from a more peaceful space. I still have the sparkly shirt you made me - I’ll keep it always.
R E H A B - I got more than just a t-shirt (but seriously I did get a t-shirt).
This May/June marks my 7 year anniversary of walking in and out of Westwind Eating Disorder Recovery Centre…REHAB! if someone would have told me 10 - 15 years ago that I’d be openly and publicly talking about my battle with ED I would have told them to go eat a dick. I likely would have said it politely because I also suffer from people pleasing so, you know…don’t want to offend anyone!
The truth is, my closeted skeletons are now my most cherished offerings to this world. I am so grateful for my past because without it I would know nothing about compassion, resilience, pain, inner strength, love - for myself and others, true devoted friendships and the depth and far reaching ripples of kindness - how impactful it is and how in its unexpected pure form can completely alter someone’s heart and truly reconnect them with their passion and purpose.
While I talk fairly openly about my relationship with ED (in the eating disorder community we try to offset the crazy shit we say to ourselves in our own minds by offering ‘it’ its own identity so we can identify healthy thoughts vs. ED thoughts) I also have to warn anyone who does not understand or appreciate my humour, please don’t be offended if I use phrases or verbiage that isn’t ‘politically or socially’ correct. Those who know me know that I come from a space of genuine love and concern for others and while I don’t want to offend I also have to openly share my story in a way that is genuine and authentic to and for me. It’s my truth and my perspective so please keep that in mind.
There are lots of difficult parts about dealing with mental health issues - for me in my experience the worst thing is being self aware enough to vastly understand that ED behaviour is a symptom of a much bigger issue but not feeling like you are in the driver seat to make changes, to heal. It’s like watching yourself driving into a brick wall day after day while having your GPS warn you - “bitch (my GPS voice is that of a flamboyant male) you about to drive right into that wall honey, gurrrrl there’s a wall there…BITCH, YOU HEAR ME?…brick wall ahead” SMASH!!!!
I have felt the energy of my soul diminish and my body as a functioning, operating tool deteriorate - and I don’t say that dramatically. I know how it feels to be dead inside, void of emotion, giving up and just going through the motions of life but not being present. I know in my life - my state of being attracted relationships and people who perpetuated the reality I was creating and thus mirroring that chaos in the real world. Heavy shit.
Is it fair to say I kept my wits about me? How can I properly communicate I was smart enough to know I wasn’t healthy but also smart enough to mind f*ck myself on a regular basis into thinking I was okay - I can handle this battle solo. The longer I waited to accept and receive help that more I believed what ED was saying about me to be true and the more damage done. It’s likely difficult to comprehend that there can be two conversations happening simultaneously in your head at all times - a constant negotiation with yourself about what is okay to eat, how you look, how people see you, how much you are loved, how much self worth you deserve, how much you don’t matter, how you are a failure, who cares or doesn’t care about you, what you are allowed to do, when you can do it, who can be in your life, how life will be….it’s exhausting. My body and nervous system were in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze - reality is skewed and as a result my physical body deteriorated and I couldn’t escape the world I had created for myself.
As a high functioning person who suffered from perfectionism and likely anxiety issues as a child - hiding what I deemed weak, embarrassing and less than was of the up-most importance. The eating disorder was a weakness, there was something wrong with me - it was an embarrassment for me to even fathom reaching out and admitting I needed help. My immediate family for the longest time were the only ones who knew and while I’m not naive enough to think that people didn’t suspect, I gave an award winning performance of ‘I’m okay - don’t worry about me’. I was fooling everyone even me at times. I was killing myself but the biggest horror in my mind was someone seeing me as being needy, helpless, dependent - a burden.
It’s funny because I see tendencies looking back that I was rewarded for as a child - being independent, self sufficient and excelling in school with little assistance. I was never one to ask for help and eventually people stopped asking me because they knew the answer would be no. I was proud of my self sufficient bubble - false as it was. I was a problem solver and a doer - I’d solve the problem and then do what needed to be done, preferably solo. Seems easy enough. But this was different. It might have looked like I had all my bases covered and even while I was an emotional support to friends and even family - I was a hot mess inside. I could solve everyone’s messes but I couldn’t solve mine. Couple that with my desire to do things 110% - I didn’t just half ass make a mess of my life, no b*tch I wanted to take home the Academy Award for Female Human Bed Sh*tter in a Life Mini Series + Beyond.
Admittedly there was a comfort in being in a constant state of mental chaos. I dated chaotic men. If anyone came to my penthouse suite apartment they would have thought - this girl must have a great life. They should have opened the closets and looked in those dark corners because I was not good. When you get used to chaos you crave it, and then create it. When things were fine in my life I’d self sabotage.
Ed Brain: Hmmm something isn’t right because we don’t have a mass amount of adrenalin pumping through this frail body. Cue in hand grenade being thrown in some direction of my life. *BOOM* Ed Brain: Ahhh yes….hello mess…that feels normal.
I can honestly say I would not wish ED on anyone - for any reason. The impact it has on not only your direct life and everything in it - but also EVERYONE in it is heavy and tiring. Any family member, parent, spouse or sibling who is dealing with or has had to deal with a loved one fighting this battle deserves a pat on the pack and a month long stay at a 7 star resort. It’s a lot. It’s okay not to know what to do. It’s okay to feel like you are helpless. There is no manual in how to save someone from themselves - you just do what you can do out of love and hope and pray for a miracle some nights.
ED is an ongoing battle. For me and likely anyone who has disordered eating or an eating disorder (I would also argue that most people suffer from some sort of disordered eating habits - but I will also say that I am not one to judge or point any fingers). I pick my battles with myself and I know where my limits are. I’m okay with taking baby steps and listening to my body is key. There is no ‘cure’ to this. You can create space in your mind for peace and joy and over time you hear less of ED. It comes knocking on the door less and less but, you don’t ever underestimate its powers and gentle sneaking in. It becomes manageable, you negotiate less in your head, you become in tune with what your body really needs and nourish it properly. If you are lucky (I use that word loosely) you hit rock bottom enough times that you grasp onto something that is more meaningful than ED - your passion, your purpose, the other lives that you affect and potentially the lives you can save with sharing your story.
So I truly don’t believe you can overcome anything as gripping as ED without the support of something much higher than yourself. You can call it Source, Him, God, Buddha, the Universe - I don’t care and I don’t think He cares either. Let me clarify, religion isn’t exactly invited to my healing parties. But what I do know is (and this is a fact) we are all connected by energy - you can all Google that sh*t if you don’t believe me. There is an energy field that connects every single one of us in this Universe. Not only do we directly affect each other in our physical interactions but also in the energy we carry in our bodies and offer to others. I believe there is a higher power and I call Him, Big G, the Universe, the Source, the Gaia’s baby daddy…I call him a few slang words when I feel like I’m get the sh*t kicked out of me in this game of life, too. He always has the final laugh so I’ve tried to be more subtle with my disgruntled behaviour! :D
Okay so looping back around to this stint in rehab in which I so lovingly call it - in reality it was a residential inpatient character home full of anywhere from 6 - 8 REAL interesting ladies. And a black cat that had serious eating issue too - which at the time was both sad and funny. He was less of a therapeutic cat as he was a therapy case but, anywho. The ladies , our ED crew ranged in ages from late teens to early 40s - from every walk of life, career path, culture and province (and out of country). We had a successful lawyer battling over eating, a psych nurse who was battling anorexia and abusing laxatives, we had a young - fairly well known Canadian songstress, a soft spoken - sweet as pie teenage beauty queen, an engineering/chemistry major who was smart AF battling chewing and spitting, and a few more girls who I deeply connected with and think of fondly over the years. Sometimes we connect - but everyone is fighting their battles while trying to move forward in the world - no different from me.
I remember very vividly walking up the steps to Westwind and the first person I saw was a very frail looking female standing outside smoking. She was wearing layers upon layers of clothing. She was what you would typically assume someone with an eating disorder would look like - to the extreme. It was a huge wake up call - in that moment I felt like I didn’t belong there. I didn’t look like that. I wasn’t that far gone. I was in shock as I toured around the house - my parents did most of the talking as I was replaying my life up until that point wondering how the f*ck at 26 was I entering into rehab. What did I do to deserve this? Why me?
Again, it was the optics. I was concerned with how people would see me, what they would say, what my family would think, what my friends were saying about it all. I felt like my story had just been plastered on the cover of some gossip magazine. Of course my mind was coming up with any and all strategies to get the hell out of there. Holding the hand of ED was my very present OCD tendencies (I’m constantly disorganized but cleanliness is very different) - almost like pseudo parents, but these two were in cahoots to get me out of there. The reality was very different.
Funny thing, my Dad almost folded in taking me back home - which was the opposite of what I would have thought. He could see the discomfort and fear in my eyes as I scanned my new room floor to ceiling. I brought my own pillows and blankets - obviously. My mother was the stern voice of reason I later learned when they were back at their hotel room - “she’s f*cking stay there”. I’m sure it was hard for my pocket mom to be so strong in her convictions - I can almost see the seriousness in her little tanned Czech face. My mom has really small ears. That’s not relevant to this story but when I picture her I always giggle about that. How does she even hear out of those little guys?!
Truthfully, I often think how f*cked up that was for them. Sometimes I laugh because when I replay things in my mind I give them a funny narrative to lighten the trauma but, it must have been hard for them and for that I appreciate their presence and guidance in that moment. It likely was very hard to leave me there. At the time I’m sure I was angry AF out of fear and embarrassment but compassion overrides that now as I can’t imagine being parents and having to walk that road, after at that time being 10 years of fear and uncertainty while they watched me sink deeper in my ED. I have good humans in my corner.
The first day after my parents left was a group sharing session. Of course I was still frozen from the fact that I was actually there and when it was time for me to introduce myself I did something I hadn’t done openly in public for years. I broke down and sobbed like I had never done before. I remember thinking I wasn’t quite sure if the tears would stop. Crying wasn’t a thing I did. It was a joke that Candace was a robot. I barely cried at my grandma’s funeral. I was ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin’ when my mom called me to tell me Grandpa Johnny passed - infact I flew to Las Vegas the next day with friends and numbed the pain of losing an important man in my life. I had a very special relationship with my Grandpa and I don’t think there is ever a day I don’t think of him or regret that decision not to honour him with my family. But I wasn’t making great choices then.
But here I was - uncontrollably crying. I had been numbing myself for so long - bottling up years of emotions and in an attempt to be this strong strong girl I was truthfully a lost soul. I had no grasp on who I was, what I wanted to be or where I was going. The first person who immediately shot to my side and held me close - comforting me was the girl I looked at with judgement eyes as I walked up the stairs to Westwind. With her frail body she wrapped her thin arms so tight around me I was scared she would break holding me. It was the most beautiful moment of compassion and kindness offered by someone who didn’t know me - yet, completely knew me. It was Sky. I get emotional when I think of her leaving this world - and the so many who like her didn’t win the battle.
The two months I was in rehab my body seemed to be against me. I became extremely ill and was bed ridden for nearly a week - I lost control over my bodily functions (TMI but it was actually quite horrific - I was scared to sleep for fear of what I’d wake up to) and although my ED was rejoicing in the little food I was consuming I was so weak. I was dizzy. I couldn’t sleep. It was the perfect opportunity for me to make excuses to leave the centre but I didn’t - I was proud of myself and eventually got better.
I had to sit with sensations of food in my stomach for long periods of time when all I wanted to do was avoid eating or bring it back up again - and being with females going through similar struggles is both amazing yet difficult all at the same time. I wish I had some of the tools I have now back then, I know I would have been able to adapt quicker and easier to my surroundings if I was able to trust myself and my body more. I went through intense talk therapy with amazing experts in eating disorder recovery - again, it was a place where I could give myself permission to feel feelings that I had not felt, to talk about some underlined issues I hadn’t before and to also share in the healing energy presented by my house mates.
Some of my fondest memories being at Westwind included all of us ladies sharing our most f*cked up ‘EDisms’ - weird quirks, habits, thoughts. Of course playing the board game ‘Therapy’ and going to the male strippers at a dodgy bar in Brandon, Manitoba topped the list. Those who know me best know when I’m extremely uncomfortable I laugh uncontrollably - it’s like a hyena laughing with full body convulsions, non stop shoulders moving up and down. We were almost kicked out of the bar because I was laughing so hard until one of the dancers brought me on stage to ‘calm my nerves’ - he did his job, and then some. Anywho…where was I. Oh yes, we were all perfectly dysfunctional, my ED recovery crew.
I’d love to tell you that I walked out of Westwind and the road to and on recovery was smooth sailing for me. Coming back home was hard. I felt more alone than ever. The dynamics of my life had to change and that was a hard adjustment - one that took a lot of time. When I returned to Saskatoon there wasn’t nearly as much support or programs set up for out patient care and after in patient care. It forced me to get creative with my recovery. But I’m a resourceful b*tch, remember!
Like any major obstacle to overcome in life, there are some highs and some lows - I hit a few lows, a few more rock bottoms but the rate at which I bounced back from those kept getting easier and quicker. I learned to use ED as a thermometer and gauge for unhealthy people, jobs, relationships, friendship - the stronger, more red hot ED would reappear the more I knew I needed to make significant changes. Sometimes it would catch me off guard - I was almost cocky in my recovery and then like a piece of humble pie I’d be shattered on the ground completely side swiped. I’ve had to let go of friends, jobs, acquaintances, triggers, lifestyles choices, romantic partners in order to protect and preserve my recovery - my sanity - my life.
I would say the hardest part of recovery for me is has been managing the onslaught of emotion that I had buried deep inside of my body for so long. As a child I had wild outbursts and such negative self talk when I didn’t achieve something, lost my keys, didn’t get to bed on time or wasn’t the best at a new activity. Acknowledging and releasing negative energy, traumatic experiences and horrible thoughts and beliefs I carried about myself have been a constant learning.
I have been lucky enough to explore a path of self discovery that is open and welcoming to new ideas and concepts around healing the mind, body and soul. I chose a path that incorporated many healing modalities so when I found or find myself in a precarious situation or emotional state I have more than one thing in my tickle trunk - this includes meditation, hypnolinguistics, mindfulness, visualization tactics, talk therapy, EFT tapping, reiki, yoga, spirituality - connecting with the Source and I’m sure it won’t stop there.
The greatest gift I have given myself along this journey has been permission to leave - anything, anyone at anytime. Which I have done, more than a few times. It’s hard but I always know it’s for my self preservation. With that, the most profound thing I have learned about myself through all of this is how much I love to help others, connect with others and assist in their growth and healing. It is so rewarding to be another person’s cheerleader in times when I know I could have benefited from one. Life takes on a new meaning and purpose as I continue down this new path I’m carving - incorporating more healing activities and techniques so that I can too offer those to anyone who may be suffering the same road bumps I have, or can relate in some way to my struggles - or even someone who just knows there is more to life than being in ‘auto pilot’ mode and wants to explore and do some self discovery. Anytime you are deciding to invest in your heart and soul you can take comfort in knowing the Universe is in support of you and will send guidance in various forms.
We are all human beings experiencing this planet in very different ways - and even though I have had some very very dark days I can honestly say I have really begun to enjoy the journey. Discovering my passion and purpose in life and being okay with the lessons I have learned and continuing to learn doesn’t mean everyday I’m putting on a happy face - and that won’t mean the same for most. What it means is having the strength to pick myself up - and for you to pick yourself up after a nasty fall, recognizing the lesson, showing gratitude for that moment and that growth and then applying it in a meaningful way to help you and others. In a time where we are all connected - I feel like we are all so disconnected, from ourselves and each other. In the end it’s not about the disorder, addiction or self harming agents we do to ourselves, it’s about our open wounds, vulnerabilities, broken hearts and programming. We all have our damage - it’s how you perceive it, what you do with it and how you move forward that’s the most important.
Everyone loves a great story…I encourage you to open up, share and inspire others with your wounds. Be the light in someone’s darkness and remember the ripple affect kindness can have. Also please remember that it DOES get better. I know it might not always seem that way in the mess and chaos but I can say from experience that the bottom is a blessing you will understand and appreciate when you are looking down from a higher perspective.
Thank you for stopping in and listening to mine <3