Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sharing Our Recovery Stories, by Emily Doer

In 2011 I was voluntarily admitted to the Health Sciences Centre Adult Eating Disorders Program in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The day I walked into program I wanted help, but I don’t think I realized until that moment just how much I needed. I hoped that this was the end for me – and by end I mean, the day I walked out of the PY2 psych ward I would be leaving my ED locked up behind me forever.

That was true, for the most part. It still is true, on most days.

It wasn’t easy. Treatment only works when you make it work. You have to want to recover and be ready to work at it, and luckily I finally did.

When I went into treatment I was embarrassed and ashamed, so I didn’t really tell anyone where I was going. When I came out of treatment I was completely behaviour free on most days, so I guess you could say I “recovered,” but I still didn’t want others to know.

The secret was my crutch and a way for me to keep one foot in recovery, and one foot in the past – one foot dragging behind me with the fear that I could slip back to that dark time again. I was living with this paranoia that the next trigger looming around the corner would be the one that would make me lose complete control and send me spiralling right back to square one, right back through the doors of PY2 that I promised myself I would never walk through again.

The first year out of treatment, every day I woke up with a goal of staying on track. Most days I did, some days I didn’t. But with each “good” day, each day I was behaviour free, I started to pull that dragging foot, that foot that didn’t quite want to let go of the past just yet, a little closer to the one in recovery. I started to tell others and the support made me realize that I didn’t need my crutch anymore; I didn’t need to hide behind the guilt and the shame of my secret life with ED.

I decided to plan a fundraiser for the program that saved me. I wanted to give back to this program that gave me back my life again.

I started planning Tea for E|D – a tea party fundraiser for the HSC Eating Disorders Program in 2012 almost a year to the day that I was admitted to the program in 2011. My goal was to raise $7,000 and sell 150 tickets. I still wasn’t sure if I was ready to tell my story, but I thought I could plan a small event and just hope that no one would ask why.

Different media outlets began hearing about the tea party and started approaching me asking if they could share my story, and I finally felt like I was ready.

With all of the media coverage, word of the tea party and my struggle started travelling around the city. I could have never dreamed of the overwhelming support I received from friends, family members, and complete strangers.

As the phone calls, emails, and messages kept pouring in, I couldn’t believe that I almost didn’t share my own story.

I couldn’t believe how many people are struggling with eating disorders in our community, and how many others shared their recovery story. Some people had struggled with other addictions and mental illness, and they opened up to me about those difficult times. For the first time in my journey I felt accepted, understood, and most importantly, like I wasn’t alone.

On February 10, 2013 we held the first annual Tea for E|D in support of eating disorders in Manitoba. We had over 450 people in attendance and raised over $33,000 for the program.

Eating disorders matter, mental illness matters, and talking about these issues is key. It is the key not only to encourage others to open up, but to make them feel like it’s okay to ask for help, and to believe that recovery is possible.

Recovery doesn’t come without its challenges, triggers, urges, confusion, and mistakes. But, recovery also means triumphs, growth, self-discovery, new relationships and happiness. Recovery is possible, and even on my most challenging days; I still believe this is true.

It’s not easy to open up, and we are all working at our own pace to get to different stages of recovery. This is just my journey and what I have learned from my experience.

By sharing my story, it finally meant that for the first time I was standing with my feet firmly planted together in recovery. Opening up meant I finally trusted myself and believed that I really wouldn’t be going back to that dark place again. I had finally shut the doors to PY2 with my eating disorder behind them and I can confidently say today, that is where my eating disorder will stay forever.

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