What I Found on the Other Side
When I was fourteen I developed a silent, but severely damaging condition where my body stopped properly digesting gluten, a protein found in the majority of food. This condition would, four years later, be diagnosed as celiac disease, but when I was fourteen the only thing I knew was after every meal I became unbelievably sick and bloated. It was christmas of grade eight when I remember my first ‘flare up’, I was baking with my friend and eating quite a bit of cookie dough. About halfway through waiting for the cookies to be done my stomach became bloated and I suddenly felt like crap. I gathered my things and went home. I remember sitting on my bed and innocently googling “How to make myself throw up” because I felt so sick, and yet my body wouldn't puke. I walked to the bathroom, stuck a tooth brush down my throat, as google had so easily suggested, and puked up the cookie dough, which I just had assumed was bad. At the time I hadn’t thought anything of it, but that would soon change. After about a week of constantly throwing up after every meal, as I had genuinely felt sick, I lost about ten pounds. I had always been a chubby kid, and I was at the age where body image and weight was becoming more and more important. Ten pounds lighter was an awesome weight for a 160 pound eighth grader. Week after week my routine becoming more of just that, a routine. I would eat, wait about twenty or thirty minutes and then go upstairs and throw up my food, just before I would start feeling sick. To me it seemed like a win/win I was losing weight, and I was making myself feel better. By march break I weighed about 130 pounds, I had started going to the gym with one of my girl friends, and eating healthier. When I ate fruits and vegetables I didn’t get sick, so I stuck to what wasn’t making me sick. I stopped losing weight as drastically because I wasn’t getting sick as often. From March to about June, My body weight stayed at about 130, which was perfect for me, until about June, when my grandmother said to me something along the lines of:
“OBESITY IS SOMETHING OUR WHOLE FAMILY STRUGGLES WITH -DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT IT.”
Which, as many of you could imagine, made me very self conscious. I didn't see myself as “obese” and I know now that she meant well but at the time that was probably the worst thing she could've said to me. I was a loaded weapon, I knew a way to lose weight fast, and after talking to my grandmother that day, I had a reason to lose the weight I still had. Between June and September I lost 20 pounds. I didn't eat anything, which my body got slowly used to, suddenly it became harder to lose weight, so I started running, once a day, then twice a day. Every week it was just “one more pound”, until about February of grade nine rolled around and I weighed in at 92 pounds, which I’m sure you can all assume was extremely dangerous. I could see every bone in my body, and yet I could still see room for improvement, in the mirror all I could see was fat. Over the course of about a year I had lost about 70 pounds, and only continued to lose more. I had developed a serious and an out of control eating disorder – Bulimia.
Journey & Recovery
In September of Grade Ten, I found a beautiful human who gave me incredible support and a reason to become healthy. His name was Neil. He was a football player with a very high IQ, a characteristic we both shared. We started dating October 18th, 2014. And without relapse, I had stopped making myself puke by March, 2015. Neil had been there for me in ways that no one had ever been, and for that I am forever grateful. Our relationship may have stopped my bulimic tendencies, however it did not address my seemingly never ending issues with self-love.
Learning to Love ME!
Shortly after I finished suffering the withdrawal from bulimia it became clear something else was going on. I continued eating healthy and started eating more everyday and yet I only started getting more sick. After a year of testing, missing over a month in total of school, and suffering from excessive amounts of depression and anxiety, I was temporarily diagnosed with celiac disease do to a blood test ruling me positive for having a genetic component required to have celiac disease. My doctor immediately put me on a gluten free diet and within a week I started feeling better, however within a year I gained back all of my weight. Which really bugged me. My face became to look bloated in every photo, I looked unhealthy, inactive, which was true. Gluten free foods are stuffed with sugar so they “taste” better, and due to the side effects and symptoms of celiac disease being active was really hard. I spent a lot of time sick in bed, or catching up with school, and all the time I had free I put into my romantic relationship as oppose to becoming fit, or resuming other relationships with friends who had slipped away over the previous years. I was in love, which at my age was fun and should've been healthy, but because of my self loathing, it couldn't be. I finished high school in February of my graduating year, and spent the first two months of my new found freedom really focusing on me. I caught up on sleep, watched movies, and caught up with friends. I participated in community activities, opened a small business, and started running again. I was feeling better, and one day towards the end of April, I was walking into the bathroom to grab my phone when I happened to look into the mirror and I smiled. Something I couldn't even remember the last time I had done. I liked how I looked, I liked my curves, I liked my smile, I suddenly realized that I liked me.
I liked the young woman who I was becoming, which was an incredible feeling.
Around the same time my romantic relationship was becoming more strained. Neil was in his senior year and becoming more stressed, and I was busy living a new and exciting life, outside of the small bubble which they call high school. In the middle of May I attended a life changing leadership program. The program I participated in was life changing. I met hundreds of people who all were a lot like me. My specific group that I spent the time with were meant to be. We all instantly connected, our lives were similar and yet different, and we complimented ourselves perfectly. Upon returning from the longest and most exhilarating four days of my life, I ended my relationship with Neil. The program gave me a level of support which I cannot explain with words. Although I love Neil, and always will, I was a very different person when we started dating, and the person and I am now no longer compliments him the way he needs to be complimented in a relationship. Over the last year I have embraced who I am and to come home from the program and to have a level of support that i had never felt before it was easier to go home and fix things that weren't the way I needed them to be.
“Meeting a group of people with experiences like mine gave me back my wings, that I needed to soar.”
My Advice to You
The journey to finding self love was not an easy one. Through my adventure I have met really wonderful people, but I have also met some very negative ones. Anyone with a negative past can have a positive future. If there was one piece of advice I could give anyone it would be to say YAS.
Say yes to as many opportunities as you can. I’m not telling you to spend
thousands of dollars on leadership programming and conferences,
although if we all had the money too- that would be my advice. What I am telling you to do is to hold doors open for strangers, smile even when you're sad, and buy flowers for you and others. Take care of YOU before anyone else, even if they seem to need it more then you do.
Never let yourself be put down by anyone, and if you feel put down by specific people or situations, be honest about that with yourself and them.
The journey to loving yourself is a long one, my journey isn’t over, but I am very happy with where I am. Stay positive, keep your head up, walk in the rain, go to the beach, and cry.
One day you will wake up, look into a mirror and feel an overwhelming acceptance and happiness. I promise you'll get there one day. Until then, keep saying Yas.