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For so many years, I struggled in silence. I refused to admit to myself and to others that I had a problem that I couldn’t fix on my own. I knew for a long time that I should have gotten help for my eating disorder a lot sooner than I did. What held me back? Pride. Fear. Shame. And above all, I was held back by a lack of information about the resources available to me.

One of the many important lessons that I learned during my time at The Woodstone Residence 2012 is that eating disorders don’t happen overnight. There are so many factors that contribute to this disease and it often starts small. It could be skipping a meal or two, a new health craze, or an obsession with going to the gym. Many girls, whether they ever develop an eating disorder or not, engage in disordered eating and this is the ideal time to start seeking help.

For me, I should have sought out support before my eating disorder took over my life. But like many of my peers, I believed that I wasn’t sick enough to get help. Let me tell you now though that no matter what your stage of illness or recovery, there are resources available for you. From empathetic friends and family to private counseling and organized support groups, there are people that can help. For example, I was able to attend private therapy sessions for several months to work through the root causes of my eating disorder. My doctor also referred me to a community-based program for people with eating disorders and I participated in several outpatient groups where I worked to develop coping skills and build my commitment to recovery.

Other programs that I’ve found helpful are ABA (Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous) and OA (Overeaters Anonymous), which follow the 12-step model of recovery from addiction. The meetings are open to anyone and you are welcome but not required to share your story. What I found in ABA and OA was an incredibly supportive community of people who knew exactly what I was going through.

If you are still working up the courage to share your struggles in person, then online forums like the one the Looking Glass Foundation hosts four times a week are a great place to start. You can join a discussion anonymously and contribute or just follow along with other people’s conversations. However you choose to engage, you need to know that support is never too far away. Everyone’s road to recovery looks a little bit different, but the thing that everyone’s journey has in common is that no one does it alone. I would encourage you to plug into the resources in your local community. If you need a place to start, check out this list.


Alison1This Is What We Learned

by Alison E.

Experience has shown that in many cases, recovery (especially in its early stages) can be hardest when you are caring for close family members. It seems the enmeshment between parent and child is too great, the emotional investment too profound, their relationship too jarred by the mental illness that surrounds the entire family with fear. Anorexia and bulimia are insidious diseases that can poison and distort even the most loving and devoted family dynamic. And while no parent can single-handedly rescue their child from anorexia or bulimia, recovery is still a family's responsibility. There is no clear-cut, fool-proof guide out there for supporting a child with an illness as pervasive and baffling as an eating disorder. But what we do have is the experience, strength, and hope of those who have already done so.

To write this post I sat down with my family and we talked about everything we went through as I battled my eating disorder. So, from us to you, here is what my family has learned…

This is what we learned about anorexia and eating disorders…

This is what we learned about recovery…

This is what we learned about maintaining relationships…

This is what we learned about meal support…

To this day, my eating disorder seems baffling at times, and my recovery, overwhelming. But those times are much fewer and far between, thanks to the family that never gave up on me. When times are tough, we know we can go back to what we know works for us - and I hope our insight can help you, too.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

by Jenna S.

People say that when you leave residential treatment for an eating disorder, the journey of recovery is not over. And, in fact, the journey is actually just beginning.

Now, don’t let that scare you. Of course we’d like to hear that all the hard work is behind us and that now we can really start living our lives, but let me stop you right there. Life is a journey and even while you’re in recovery, you’re still living your life. This is your life. You can exist or live. You can survive or thrive. And recovery is all about learning to live and thrive again.

I think back to the day that I graduated from the Woodstone Residence. It was so joyful. I was so proud of myself and how far I had come. I had every right to be. That day really was the first day of the rest of my life!  Throughout my five months of residential treatment I had been encouraged and loved, comforted and supported by staff who told me I was worth it. I trusted them with my whole heart, but I didn’t completely believe them when they told me that the journey really only begins once you leave treatment. Now, having been out of treatment for a year and a half, I can say that they were definitely right.

When I first left the Woodstone Residence I realized quite quickly that there was a lot of adjusting that needed to be done. In order to do this I knew that I needed a solid support system around me. I found that this technique of reaching out was of great importance. Even though there wasn’t a nurse or mental health worker around whenever I needed to talk at home, I was still okay because I had built up my own army of supporters around me: trusted friends who knew my story. I created a long list of names and phone numbers so that when I did need to call, someone would always be available.

Friends and family began to put more faith and trust in me as they realized that I would ask for help if I needed it. Silent secrets no longer had a place in my life when I began to include others in my freedom journey. Remember to reach out in times of need for the sake of accountability and staying on track.

The second thing that I found and still find most helpful in being successful after leaving residential treatment is having structure in my life. This summer, the days that I work have been easy because there is a schedule set out for me. But if I don’t have a plan for my days off, it is easy to have a late start, miss breakfast and therefore feel like I’m struggling to keep up with routine for the rest of the day. On these days off I like to plan coffee dates or appointments late enough that I am not rushed in the morning, but early enough that I get going at a reasonable time of day and set myself up for success. Don’t be too rigid, but don’t exclude structure all together. Finding a balance and planning ahead can be a great thing when it comes to success in post-treatment recovery.

Thirdly, it is crucial to have not only coping tools and skills to get you through the tough moments, but a healthy outlet of some sort - something that releases tension throughout your day or week. That way those hard moments come less often. For me this has been music because I love to play guitar and write songs. Creating music has always been something that I enjoy, but since leaving treatment it has become something I absolutely need. The combination of having time to myself and the simple act of strumming my guitar can cause worries and stresses to melt away. Now for you it may not be music, but I assure you there is something out there that will work for you. Find your passion and go with it. Make time for you and be sure to include self care in everyday life.

Life after treatment for an eating disorder is hard work, but it is worth it. Take advantage of every opportunity to discover more about yourself. Learn from your mistakes and rejoice in every accomplishment. Your recovery journey is yours alone, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Surround yourself with love and reach out in times of need. Add structure in your day, set yourself up for success and find a healthy outlet that allows you to explore your passions. Eating disorders are not a choice, but recovery is. So choose life, over and over and over again.


Family-photoA Brave New World

by Whitney

As a young woman living existing with bulimia, I held onto a lot of fear and shame about my eating disorder. I had been struggling with my weight, self-esteem, and mental health issues for over twelve years but my fears and concerns kept holding me back from getting the help that I truly needed. When I finally decided to take the first step towards residential treatment for my eating disorder, I knew I was going to have to face those fears in order to truly overcome my illness.

My first fear was the fact that, while I felt crushed by the weight of my eating disorder, I was often told that I wasn’t sick enough to get the treatment I truly needed. My size often changed dramatically but I was never considered underweight and I definitely did not look like the stereotypical eating disorder patient.

Knowing that I needed help and thinking I could actually get it seemed miles apart in my world because I often questioned whether I even deserved help. One of my biggest fears about seeking treatment was that I would be the largest girl in a program. I was already brutally hard on myself at home as I was always comparing myself to others - I even believed that I should make myself more sick before seeking treatment so that doctors would take my issues more seriously. To me, residential treatment felt like a place where these comparisons would be magnified beyond what I could handle.

When I arrived at the Woodstone Residence in May 2012, these feelings surfaced on multiple occasions but I soon learned that many of my peers were battling the same feelings. No matter their size or shape, every person had insecurities and, over the course of my stay at the Woodstone, many people around me expressed the same fears that I held onto so tightly. Although treatment is an individual journey, it is also a shared experience and residential recovery taught me that I was not alone on this road to recovery and knowing this, the whole process didn’t feel so scary anymore. I had an army of supporters walking through the trenches with me - we were all fighting the same battle.

The other significant fear that I had to overcome when taking the step into residential recovery was the anxiety that I was going to lose control of my circumstances and be forced to trust others to take care of me.

Even though my current state of life with my bulimia was completely out of control, I still worried about my new environment. The day I was accepted to the Woodstone’s recovery program, my mind was flooded with a myriad of questions about everything from my daily schedule, access to Internet, rooming arrangements,  and what I was going to eat every day.

I was completely overwhelmed and feverishly scoured the Woodstone website for every scrap of information I could find; I needed to know everything. I needed to be prepared; I wanted to be in control.

Thankfully I was able to call the nurses and get many of my little logistical questions answered. Yes, I would have an assigned laundry day. Yes, I could check my email. But some of my questions couldn’t be answered. Would the program make me gain weight? Would the other residents like me? Would residential treatment work for me? Would I be able to leave my battle with bulimia behind? These questions nagged me at first but as I embraced my brave new world at the Woodstone Residence, they gradually began to slip away.

As cliché as it sounds, time really did begin to heal me. Slowly I began to trust the recovery process. I leaned into the discomfort of recovery and began to experience a life that I hadn’t dreamed was possible. I realized that I had to let go of a lot of habits, beliefs, and expectations to truly find freedom and joy. It wasn’t until I took the leap and stepped outside my comfort zone that I was able to see that I could have more.

Life is uncertain. Recovery is not linear. I still don’t have all the answers but I am okay with that because the risk is worth the reward. Embracing vulnerability and not letting my fears dictate my choices has saved my life. In fact, I actually HAVE a life now. Everything that I was scared to lose means nothing when compared to the life I have gained today.





Alison1Help That Lasts by

Alison E.

One of the most important lessons I've learned in recovery is that no one can recover from an eating disorder alone. I would know; I’m an anorexia survivor. Without hospitalization, residential care, the support of health practitioners, and other resources in the community, I would not be in the state of health and vitality that I am today. Truthfully, I might not even be alive.

My hospitalizations, the shortest of which lasted three months, were an essential part of my early recovery from anorexia. Under the acute care of an eating disorder specialist and a team of nurses at Lions Gate Hospital, my vitals stabilized and my body weight returned to normal. My physical health, which had reached near critical condition, was restored. However, the anorexic obsessions in my mind remained relatively unchanged over the course of my hospitalization. I left the hospital physically better but with the same devil on my back that had landed me there in the first place.

That mind-body disconnect was the key difference between hospitalization and my experience in residential care for my anorexia. While the hospital focused primarily on physical rehabilitation, my treatment in residence took a holistic approach. I lived in a beautiful home with a number of others whose bodies were no longer in critical condition, but whose lives were still being ravaged by eating disordered obsession. With my fellow residents and the guidance of a dietitian, counselor, and psychologist, I learned to plan and prepare meals, dine in a social setting, cope with overwhelming emotions without turning them on my body, and ask for help when I needed it.

The residence provided a safe place for me to address the many underlying issues that perpetuate my anorexia, without using anorexic behaviours to cope. Finally, I could share openly about both my struggles and breakthroughs without fear of judgment or abandonment. With the one-on-one support of a counselor, I also learned how to shop for groceries—a simple task that up until then had rendered me paralytic with fear and anxiety. In this way and many more, I regained the skills and tools to reintegrate into everyday life. For the first time in years, I could shine with authenticity untainted by anorexia and engage with the world in a way I had never believed possible.

Today, my recovery is by no means perfect. But my life is no longer ruled by anorexia or compulsive exercise. Thanks to what I learned in residential treatment for my eating disorder, I've learned to read and trust the signs my body gives me, and to address them appropriately. I've also discovered a new compassion for those who still suffer, whether from anorexia, bulimia, addiction, or other mental health issues. Residential treatment and the unbelievably patient practitioners that worked there, did for me what I could not do alone.

Truly, all I had to do was ask for help. I've realized how much can be gained from shelving both my pride and my fear, and reaching out for the help I never thought I deserved. To this day, my recovery is the greatest gift I've been given—and I'm immensely grateful for the support that has made it possible.





Jenna2What a Thing to Choose

by Jenna S.

The days seemed long. Hours dragged on and on. Tears always felt as if their presence was welcomed and it was as if there was a fog over my eyes, keeping me from seeing clearly. School was impossible, friends were shoved aside. I trusted very few people.


However, in my grade twelve year a few very special people came into my life. People that I felt like I could talk with: my music teachers, Jenn and Linsay. I could talk to them without fear of judgment. They listened to me and encouraged me. They loved on me and gave me so much of their time and, after a while, I trusted them enough to open up to them about my eating disorder.


When I told them this secret I had been carrying about my eating disorder, Linsay nodded, as if she had already known and had chosen to love me anyway. Jenn also responded slowly and with grace, her blue eyes overflowing with compassion. After that, I talked with Jenn and Linsay often, leaning on them for support as I battled the fear, panic, depression and obsession that clung to me day in and day out.


But then, one night everything changed. That particular night, my body was in survival mode and my mind was panicking. More than any other time, on this particular night I truly didn’t know what to do. Sobbing, I picked up the phone and dialed Jenn’s number. A soft and gentle voice answered and without a moment’s delay my crying escalated. All of me wanted to give up. I felt hopeless.


But Jenn told me I was worth it, and alluding to a conversation we had earlier that day she said, “You need help.” I didn’t believe her that I needed to go to inpatient treatment for my eating disorder, but I was beginning to understand that I did indeed need help. She told me I needed to talk to my parents about what I was struggling with, but I refused. She told me to apply to a residential treatment center that specializes in helping people overcome eating disorders but I refused. I didn’t know what to do and I knew I needed help, but I didn’t have any interest in taking her advice either. I was stuck. So, I went to bed.


Restless as I was, I decided to listen to music to calm down. My song of choice was “Heartlines” by Florence and the Machine. I cried as I listened to the verses and chorus, but found comfort in the hard-hitting and powerful rhythm. When the song’s bridge came, she sang:


What a thing to do,

What a thing to choose,

But know, in some way, I’m there with you,

Up against the wall,

On a Wednesday afternoon.”


My thoughts about seeking help came to me slowly and almost exactly as the lyrics say. What a thing it would be to reach out to those around me. What a thing it would be to choose to ask for help in battling back against my eating disorder.


So I reached out and found out that I wasn’t alone. Linsay showed me each and every day that I had someone in my corner who would listen. Jenn promised that she had my back and said that she would support me in any way she could as I sought help. In my world, I realized that I had more than just people behind me – I also had the support of Jesus – the God I believed would stand with me through it all even if I was up against the wall even on a Wednesday – which it was.


At this point, I was too weak and exhausted from crying for so long to even walk down the hallway. But somehow I got up, floated to my parents’ bedroom, woke them up, and with all the calmness and confidence in the world I sat down in the dark and said, “I need help.” It was at that point I knew that I was ready for residential treatment for my eating disorder. I was a mess and my life was falling apart. It was time for things to change. It took a lot of courage, help from friends and the power of God for me to realize this, but it happened. My whole world flipped upside down that night and it was all for the better.


I knew that I was ready for residential treatment because I wanted and was willing to accept help from others. When I talked to my parents there were many doubts filling my mind, but I managed to push them aside long enough to be brave and ready myself for recovery.

If you are considering residential treatment for your eating disorder, let me tell you this: you will never be one hundred percent ready to take this next step. You need to stop waiting for that perfect moment. Act now. As humans we are meant to live in community. We were never meant to walk through this life alone, especially when we are struggling. You don’t have to hide anymore. There doesn’t have to be any more secrets. You can and will be free. Just take that first step. Tell someone that you need help. Residential treatment for my eating disorder saved my life. And it can save yours too.


When treating a person with an eating disorder, healthcare professionals need to realize the long-standing affects, issues and challenges that the person might be dealing with, even after successfully completing a program at a residential treatment facility.

Cockell et al, for example, studied 32 women who had been admitted to (and completed) a 15 week residential treatment centre for eating disorders. After the treatment program was completed, all of the women reported a decrease in eating disorder symptoms, but they continued to meet the criteria for an eating disorder.

This is just one example about the cognitive symptoms – such as thought patterns – that a patient still needs to deal with even after some of the behavioural issues have been treated.

How to Find Support After Treatment 

As a healthcare professional, you need to make sure that your patient has the right after-care support when they have completed a program at a residential treatment centre. Help your patient find eating disorder support groups and make sure they continue to visit you, a psychologist and / or doctor. Advise their parents on how they can stay attuned to their child’s illness, needs and what they can do to make any transitions easier. Make sure the client has enrolled as an out-patient at the residential treatment facility where they completed their eating disorder program.

Information for Healthcare Professionals

There are some things that your client needs to do in order to maintain the positive changes that came as a result of their residential treatment program. You should encourage your client to maintain their social connections for support, continue to apply the skills they learned during their eating disorder treatment and be aware of other psychological triggers and issues that could affect their treatment.

The Looking Glass Residence is a place for young people suffering from eating disorders [anorexia, bulimia, or eating disorders otherwise unspecified] to begin or continue their process of recovery. Learn more here.