My Recovery Was The Start Of Freedom And Liberation Of My Inner-Self.
by: Galit Osadtsuk
I believe the day I began recovery is the day I started to live and feel again. For many years, my focus and values had been on my appearance and the way people feel about me. I never particularly felt good about my body from a young age and as time progressed my poor body image, combined with the comments from family members, turned into negative behaviour that would cost me over a decade of my life.
The negative jokes at home about food and fat really got under my skin and quickly consumed my life. At school I was not the popular girl, or the skinny girl who seemed to have everything and anything she wanted. At home, there was a family member who constantly teased me about my size, and monitored
every morsel of food I consumed.
I would say we live in a harsh and judgemental society that glorifies unhealthy views and then transmits those views onto the next generation, unfortunately, the way in which we handle the information can be harmful to our own health.
In middle school, I got sick with influenza and consequently lost about 20 pounds in two short weeks (fever, dehydration etc.) I even fainted in the bathroom and was hospitalized. Blood work proved that I was extremely low on iron and considered anaemic. When I got well enough to go back to school the attention and feedback I was getting for my looks was really positive (in my view) and encouraging. I was getting noticed because I was thinner. I was on a mission.
By Grade 9 I was keeping a daily diary of calories consumed and proud of the calorie-cutting techniques I managed to get away with. The longer I went without food, the stronger, I thought, I was. The more stomach crunches I could do the better, I thought, my abs would look and the more my stomach rumbled the happier and stronger, I thought, I would be. I was doing upwards of 200 stomach crunches a day – all laying in front of my bedroom closet mirror and admiring my shrinking tummy. In my junior year of high school, I had nearly fainted in a history classroom; that was the first time any teacher asked me if I was eating enough. I clearly denied anything was wrong and pretended I was just tired.
Things quickly escalated from anorexia to bulimia. I don’t even recall the transition to be honest – the entire decade was a blur. All I remember is thinking that I was always in control and I could stop this whenever I wanted, I just wanted to drop a few more pounds and I would be done. That is the trap. No one should think that they can achieve recovery all on their own, which is nearly impossible.
I held several part time jobs, mostly in retail. I was constantly admired for my modelesque figure; 5’8”, pretty face, dark hair and emaciated-looking. I also worked in the food-service industry as a banquet server, which looking back was not the healthiest environment for anyone suffering with an eating disorder. The job consisted of long hours of cardio rigorous activity which burned calories, and access to food and plenty of it to feed my disease.
After high school I got into the University of my first choice and managed to graduate with an Honours Degree. With my love for travel, I had the opportunity to continue my education in Australia and while sick and often weak, I was stubborn and determined to complete my Master’s Degree. With great fear for my health, my parents were reluctant to let me leave the country to live on my own, halfway across the world where they could not watch over me, but I promised to be “good” and after much convincing I went.
Living abroad was hard. I was alone and I could only find comfort in food. It was difficult to manage an eating disorder while living with two roommates in a bachelor-sized dorm room, but I made it work. My roommates could tell something was up – I was always weak and tired but I had a novel of excuses to use. I met a man and I moved in with him after a short period of time (the roommate situation was NOT working out). After a turbulent and toxic relationship, a completed Master’s Degree and my health in serious jeopardy – I was tired. My body was tired. I returned back home unable to even push my own luggage at the airport.
Today, I know that Individuals restricting and depriving their body and brain of food function at a brain capacity that is 10% to 20% reduced – I am still shocked to this day at what I was able to accomplish against the odds of my eating disorder.
Settling in back at home was not as easy as I thought it would be. My family was there, my friends were around me again, but clearly I was the big elephant in the room – ironically. At first, family tried to overfeed me (which is a BAD move to make on an eating disorder patient), my friends teased and thought that it was funny to humiliate me in public by telling me to eat and calling me a walking stick figure. Even my skydiving was the butt of jokes, “Oh you didn’t just fly away with the wind?” I was determined to hold on to my disease, it comforted me, I felt in control. Meanwhile, all control had been lost. My life was consumed; physically, emotionally and mentally with my disease, my addiction, my eating disorder. I felt alone in all other aspects of life, I was a soldier fighting my own war and losing the battle.
Many times, I would sit at coffee shops and people-watch. I was so jealous of curvaceous women and their confidence when they walk, they seemed so happy to be enjoying food with others, sharing sweet indulgences, and there I was just mad and upset at the thought of “why can’t that be me?” I felt punished.
As time went by, I continued to grow tired, and weak. Often I would faint or black out. I left the job and by this time I was at an all-time low weight and had also lost my menstrual cycle. I hit rock bottom. My mother was going out of her mind trying to help me – she was devastated, I was wasting away. I was devastated at what she was going through and her own deteriorating health. I felt like such a burden – this is when the depression kicked in to top off my wonderfully miserable life.
I had to take control of my life, the threat of being sent to a far-away treatment facility where I would be alone made me feel scared was unappealing. My mother treated me like an adult, she let me have multiple chances to take my health into my own hands and I didn’t. I constantly lied about getting better. That was just not working, the frustration was building and I didn’t know how to handle it. More importantly, my mother never gave up on me. I agreed to attend support groups at EDOYR and met with some wonderful people; who along with my family, helped me realize that life is worth living and living well.
Today, I hang on to a phrase that helped me through my recovery. The phrase, “It’s just a feeling” is both so powerful and so simple but so gentle, meaningful and comforting.
I am thankful, every day, to my mother who supported me (and still does) through my disease and recovery; dedicating her time to help save her child and never giving up, no matter how mean, difficult, obnoxious or rude the child can become. She recognized and nurtured me back to health. She made every step of this difficult journey feel better. When I saw my body start to go through physical changes, we embraced it together as a positive thing- that I was filling myself out and growing into my own skin. It also helped that she encouraged me by taking me shopping for new clothes to make me feel comfortable at whatever size I was. The most interesting thing that my close friends have told me is how bubbly, happy and beautiful I am now that I am healthy, and I couldn’t agree more. Today, I don’t people-watch and admire. Today, I people watch and feel just as good about myself as anyone should.
Throughout my recovery I began to feel things again. I felt my inner-self coming to life again. I felt joy, anger, love, peace, energy, satiation and most importantly hunger (a feeling I had lost). I began to rediscover what I am all about – I think I am pretty interesting. I like certain things, and really dislike other things – and that’s ok, too! Today I can reflect and appreciate all that life has to offer.
Click here to read an article about Galit's story.