This is one of those posts where I’ve waited to collect my thoughts.
The easy post would have been to say I was honored, humbled, grateful etc. to have had the ability to visit Ontario Shores, to come on as a guest of their pod telling my story, + to tour the Eating Disorders Unit. That’s easy because there’s nothing vulnerable, raw or transparent about it. It’s the media-trained, PC answer we’ve all gotten really good at providing.
Here’s my Truth. This visit was exceptionally difficult for me. I’m 13 months in Recovery. Flying, by most accounts. Pushing myself, probably harder than I should. Why? Because I’m a do-er, Type-A, a perfectionist. But also because I’m a GIVER + someone who’s seen the depths of hell + feels compelled to relay the message for anyone else who’s suffering: you’re not alone.
This ED Unit was built in 2014. A prerequisite for patients is to have had 3-4 failed stays in other treatment facilities. These people are sick, like I was + they’re fighting for their lives.
I spent 90 mins of my morning speaking with the staff, asking them about their stories, their fears, their concerns, + how WE can do a better job of understanding + relaying this illness to others. I spoke my Truth. Told my Story. Exposed parts of myself I had started to put away; my triggers, my patterns, my behaviors, my successes + my failures. I relived my story viscerally. It was important so that the staff could understand me.
They did. All too well. “Yes, like our girls. Them too.” I nodded, suddenly realizing the gravity of my own situation as their validation of my illness settled into me.
I walked through the sleeping quarters + the classroom. I waved + smiled to the girls in the room. They looked at me lifeless. As I used to look too. “It’s okay,” I thought. “I’m not here to boast that I’m recovered. I’m not. I’m just like you. I see you,” my eyes pleaded at them. “Do you see ME, too?”
The staff thanked me + we set a goal for me to come back. To speak with the parents of the girls + to recreate our conversation for YouTube. Because that’s the only way we’ll create change, or provide HOPE for a better future.
Only when we start speaking openly about what it is that is going on INSIDE of our brains + our bodies even if it doesn’t make sense - especially when everyone else thinks what we’re saying sounds crazy. Only when we have the conversations we have “privately”, “publicly” without fear of judgement or saying the wrong thing...only then, will we truly understand the gravity of the situation + will slowly begin to lift the stigma so that we can HELP those in need.
I was asked, “what helped you transition back into the real world?”
“I’m still transitioning. Every day is a new battle. But what I have is a check-in system. What I have are tools. What I have is support. What I have is my Story, which I tell over + over + over again. NORMALIZING it. Making it OKAY to feel all the things I’m feeling. Making sure to surround myself with those who are willing to see ME for ME. And having those V V hard conversations with myself, like ‘Alyonka...what’s the underlying cause that is making you want to restrict right now? Okay. Let’s feel this + move through it’. And then it’s my writing. My walks. My music. My movies. My conversations. Which ease my mind at its most tense, slowly putting things in perspective, simultaneously activating my sense of gratitude. Practicing kindness for yet another slip-up, cuz slip-up I do. That’s how.”
So in a long way, short, thank you Ontario Shores for hearing me story, for giving me a platform to speak my truth, + for providing me the opportunity to GIVE back in whatever ways it is needed. I am ready + willing to spread the word in order to get the helped we need. Thank you.