PART I: THE BEGINNING YEARS
I came into this world healthy, feisty and with a full head of hair. This full head of hair would soon become my security blanket. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my health journey started as a child. Growing up, I was that kid that was always sick with chronic flus and colds. Each bout leading to the use of antibiotics. This would continue well on into my teen and adult years. Aside from that, I was a pretty healthy child on the outside. Internally, my inner battle was beginning to brew. At school, I was bullied daily about my weight and my race. At home, my weight was always a topic of conversation. When others told that I was fat and ugly, I had a hard time disagreeing with them. I too felt that this was the truth. This would be the start of my struggle with self-esteem and body image. I turned to food for comfort and food soon became my best friend. This would also be the start of my struggle with disordered eating. I used food to cope and to have “friends” at school by sharing my brownies, chips and Twinkies. One of these friends ended up being my best friend. We bonded over three things: being bullied, our broken relationship with food and cancer. When I was ten years old, my mom was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and given a two-year survival rate. The later a fact that I was never supposed to know. Thankfully, she defied the odds and won her fight! The thought of losing my mom was too much to bear and lead me into my first bout of depression. At the age of ten, I had to take on the responsibilities of my Mom. I had to suppress my emotions and become an adult. I would make it through the day until I was safe in the arms of Mrs. H., my elementary school teacher at lunch time. Here I cried and allowed myself to express how scared I really was. Simply put, my childhood experiences laid the foundation of what become a life long battle with my mental, emotional and physical health.
By the time I reached my early teens, my inner battle had grown stronger as a result of the negative and emotional experiences around me. I absorbed the problems and bottled the emotions inside of me. Figure skating was my one and only escape from life and that too was taken away from me after sustaining a serious knee injury. This would be the start of my battle with injuries and chronic pain. Overtime, all of this accumulated and transitioned into severe disordered eating and deep bouts of depression accompanied by frightening suicidal thoughts. Depression not only ruled my life, it also introduced me to its cousin anxiety, who would continue to control my life. I fluctuated between binging and purging, avoiding food and engaging in excessive exercise. All the while, my depression worsening leading to emotional breakdowns frequently. I learned to hide my inner battles by showing everyone that I was fine on the outside. All the while, my health was starting to spin out of control.
While I struggled with my mental health, my physical health started to get worse. From the get go, my menstruation cycle was irregular. My cycles were characterized by heavy flow and severe cramping to the extent that I often missed school and even fainted from pain a few times. Deep down I knew this wasn’t normal but my doctor assured me that it was indeed normal. I had developed what I was told was typical teenaged acne on my face and cystic acne on my chest. Each of these were treated in isolation through the typical treatments including creams and pills. None of these treatments worked but did enough to mask the presence of the acne, so as long as I continually took and used said pills or creams. Despite my inner battles and knee injury, I continue to participate in figure skating and dance as it was my one and only escape from life. I learned to push through the pain, which would be the start of my journey with minimizing pain or what I like to call my high pain tolerance. I started experiencing difficulties breathing when I was engaging in physical activity which lead to a diagnosis of asthma. True story, one doctor though I had a hole in my heart when really it was asthma! Internally, I was struggling and grasping at anything that would give me some sort of purpose to live. I was starting to have a hard time hiding my depression and would break down at school, often hiding in the washroom or in the safety of a teacher’s classroom at lunch hour. I didn’t want to see a counsellor because admitting that I was not okay was just not possible. So, I continued to battle my demons in silence for the rest of my high school years.