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Learning to love yourself

I don’t have an eating disorder.

If you have an eating disorder you are skinny, you are a young girl, you have self-control.

These are the myths I believed for years while I strictly controlled my intake of food only to binge on anything I could get my hands on whenever I felt down or anxious. These are the ‘truths’ I told myself while I purged the only way I knew how. These are the reasons I knew I didn’t have an eating disorder while I exercised to the point of exhaustion for the body I’d never have.

I was a 24 year old woman. I was an average size for my height but I hated every inch of my body.

I had an eating disorder. I still do.

The first day of therapy I cried. I bristled when they told me I had an eating disorder known as binge eating disorder, as well as bulimia. I whined when they told me that I had to start eating three meals a day and recording everything that made it past my lips. I groaned when they told me I needed to learn how to love myself.

I was determined to lose weight and obsessed with the idea that curing myself of my binge eating disorder would help me to do so. But my bulimia? What was the harm in that? Why should I give up the one thing that I had control over – the one thing that helped me to maintain my average weight? And learning to love myself? What kind of new-age hippie rubbish was that? Nobody really loves themselves…right?

I threw myself into therapy anyway. I wrote down everything I ate and recorded every time I binged or purged. I realised quickly that I was an emotional eater. I ate more when I felt down or anxious and mostly when I was bored.

But I was still bingeing and purging. Why?

Because I still hated myself. I hated the way I looked, the way I talked, the way I was. I needed to learn to forgive myself for slipping up and bingeing on the weekend, for purging when I said I wasn’t going to, for eating more than what I had planned to eat. But it wasn’t easy. My therapists told me to find something outside of myself to gain an interest in…to be good at.

So I started blogging.

I created a blog about my struggles with my mental illness, with my eating disorder, my anxiety and my depression. I opened up about my low self-esteem and my social anxiety. I created a space where people could join me to talk about their own struggles and their own daily frustrations about their mental health.

Suddenly, I felt better. I felt lighter and free. I felt like I had opened a door to something inside myself that I had been missing – a care for other people. And a genuine love for helping others.

So maybe I still need to learn to love some parts of myself – my thighs and my belly rolls. But so far I’ve learned that to open yourself up to others is to learn to trust yourself and I love that part of me that is learning those lessons.

Contributed by Rena

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Through a lack of intervention, I have moved from one eating disorder to another over the last 11 years. This is why it is imperative to seek help for yourself, or for someone you care about, because it isn't going to end on its own.

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"If you’re suffering from an eating disorder this Christmas, stay strong."

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Growing up, Christmas was my absolute favourite time of year and now that I am rid of my eating disorder, I am free to enjoy the festivities once again. However, I spent two awful Christmastimes, the first with bulimia and the second with binge eating disorder.

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