My “ED” Story.

“Ok ok, what story could you possibly have that you haven’t told us?”

That’s what you’re all thinking right? Well, this is the story of all stories and not a happy story at that, so if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, this is not it. Though I guess this story does have a happy ending or a somewhat (I hope) positive message.

“So Ashley, what is this story about? What could you still possibly have to tell us that you haven’t posted before on this blog or on some type of social media?”

Well guys, this is the story of my battle with an eating disorder. Bulimia to be exact. Don’t believe me, just take a closer look at my chipped, acid ruined teeth.

Let’s take a quick step back here. Why am I choosing to share this now, and why haven’t I talked about this before? For me, having battled an eating disorder almost ended me. It trapped me in a dark world, without an exit. I lost myself. I honestly thought I was never going to get back to normality. I also never thought I was sick enough or skinny enough for anyone to believe I had an eating disorder. In my mind I wanted to get ‘as sick’ as I possibly could so I could get better (as twisted as that sounds). I wanted to be the kind of skinny, that no one would have to question if I was suffering from an eating disorder, they would just know by looking at me. The thing with bulimia that most people don’t know, is that you don’t always get emaciated. Sometimes you even end up gaining weight.

Bulimia was a lot easier for me to fall into that I thought. For starters, bulimia and self-injury often go hand in hand. They are both about the ability to control something in your life. Self-injury you are controlling what you feel and when. Bulimia you are controlling your food intake and outtake. I also had the added pressure to be skinny, as I was working as a professional dancer at the time in Mexico and in my head purging my food was the answer to these pressures. On top of it all, I was in a foreign country, alone, where I could literally do whatever I wanted, with no one to really monitor what or how I was doing.

I don’t remember why I did it for the first time. I don’t remember how I got the idea to do it and I don’t remember how I got to that place. I do remember crying after my first purge because I was so happy that I had found a way to eat as much as I wanted and still ‘stay skinny’.

There are things you will never forget in live. The things people say. Past events. You remember the good things, but you also remember the bad things. I remember people making comments. About my size, about how much I ate, or didn’t eat. I remember skipping meals so I could eat a cookie. I remember spending hours in front of the mirror, picking out my own flaws, pinching the fat on my hips until I got bruises. To this day I can’t look some people in the eyes, because I expect them to be picking out my flaws and not actually looking me in the eyes.

I used to blame my eating disorder on the pressures around me, but it was so much more than that. This disorder was deeprooted and rotted my mental state. On this blog (where the writing above came from), I blamed my love for dance and my past dance teachers, I blame comments from outsiders and I blame pressures from society. Not until the most recently did I realize that it was connected to the trauma I had endured growing up with an addiction ridden parent and having the sense of no control over this.

When I returned home from Mexico after my first nine months of working, I thought I had left my time with an eating disorder there. I thought it was that simple. Little did I know, that being home was an even bigger trigger than being in Mexico. Addiction still haunted my house and now I felt guilty for leaving my sister there to fend for herself, without me. In my eyes, I had been the target while growing up. I was the teenager that drank too much with friends, that stayed out past curfew and did all those bad things that teenagers do. When I moved to Mexico, my sister was the new target and when I got home, I could see what that had done to her.

After a summer of hatred towards myself, I chose to go back to Mexico instead of enrolling in University. I couldn’t wait to go back to see my friends, to get to dance everyday and even better, to indulge in ED. All I could think about was getting to go back to my old habits and getting ‘skinny’ again. I wanted to spend 6 months getting into amazing shape so I could come home to my boyfriend and my friends and show them how beautiful and skinny I could be.

Returning to Mexico was probably the biggest regret I will ever have, and the only regret I will ever have.

When I got back to Mexico it was different. The people were different. My job as a dancer felt different. People came to work every day dreading it, which made me dread it. The positive spirit I had remembered was gone. I remember getting there, being excited to get back to dancing and I was shot down. The competition between dancers was even bigger now. The pressure to lose weight was higher than I remembered. It got to the point where the choreographer would sit me down and tell me I had to lose weight.

The final three months I spent living in Mexico was definitely the worst times I had suffering from bulimia. I literally woke up every morning to binge and purge. Work was on the back burner during this time. Dancing was easy and mindless for me. By this time I knew all the secrets of bulimia, what I could eat and easily purge up, how to time everything out perfectly and how to do this all without any of my roommates ever hearing or knowing. The only thing I hadn’t realized (or chose not to see), was that I was actually gaining weight and not losing. This weight gain brought a lot of unwanted attention to me from my bosses, like I mentioned above. I remember the exact comment that pushed me over the edge and that was enough to send me spiralling.

I went into a dark hole. The only time I would leave my house after this point was to go to practice in the mornings, to eat in the staff kitchen or to go to the grocery store. Every day I would wake up at 6am to go get coffee, buns, donuts and other pastries from the staff kitchen. Bring them back to my house eat them all, plus a few bowls of cereal and purge it all up while I showered before work. On my way to work I would walk across the street, buy a sandwich, some chocolate and a yogurt drink. I would eat and drink these things during practice. I convinced myself that since I ate them in practice I would burn off the calories of the food, so I didn’t have to purge them up. After practice I would eat with the other dancers and sneak desserts and other food back to my house. Before eating this stolen food, I would walk across the street buy a couple more sandwiches, ice cream and chocolate bars. I spent my afternoon binging and purging, watching reruns of English shows with Spanish subtitles and sending my long distant boyfriend sad, depressing texts about how much I hated it in Mexico and how much I wanted to come home. I continued to gain weight which provoked my boss to pressure me eat healthier, go to the gym more often and lose weight. This only made me binge and purge more. I would chew up to 10 packs of gum a day, trying to distract myself from binging and purging. At this point I was binging and purging 5-6 times a day.

If you’re reading this and can take anything out of my story, it would be to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak or broken if anything it shows your strength. I wish when I returned from Mexico, I would have asked for help. I wish I would have opened up about what I had been putting myself through. But I didn’t. I went back to wearing my fake mask I had put on the last time I returned from Mexico, telling everyone about what an amazing time I had while living there.

This disease cost me a lot of friendships and relationships. I pushed anyone close to me away. I let depression take over me at this time, and I drowned myself in work and school. I wasn’t able to look people in the eye, because all my brain could do was think about how they were looking at my flaws or judging my imperfections.

It wasn’t until the following year that I began to purge and binge again. Which is a weird coincidence because it was also the last time I put a razor to my skin. I figured out how I could throw up at home without my parents catching me. Binging and purging in the basement after they went to bed and hiding the evidence.

It’s funny because now, looking back, I have no idea how long it’s been since I last binged and purged. It got to the point for me that I understood it wasn’t so much about the actions, it was more about the abuse I was putting myself through. About all the hate I felt towards myself and all the blame I carried. After I got myself out of the routine of binging and purging daily, I started working on loving myself again. For me, sharing my story of self-injury really helped me. Finishing school and achieving something that at one point I didn’t think I could do helped. Realizing that no one is perfect and I don’t need to perfect. These are all things that helped me let go of this disease that was trying so hard to hold on.

There are plenty of parts I’ve left out of this story, parts that I originally wrote in my anonymous post, that I no longer see a need to write about. My original post, like I said, was full of blame I put on the wrong people. It was written in a way that made it seem like I was trying to convince someone about how sick I was, and I wanted sympathy from the anonymous people that read it. But the truth is, I don’t need sympathy and I don’t need reassurance that I was “sick enough”. These were all tricks that kept me trapped in this disease.

Eating disorders are a tricky thing. They’re not like other addictions where you can cut the addictive substance out of your life. Food is something you need to survive. I couldn’t take food away to stop myself from binging and purging. I needed to figure out, why I was doing this to myself. I needed to understand it was more than just to look a certain way, it was about forgiving myself and letting go of a lot of things I was holding onto.

I wanted to write this post because I want to hopefully help at least one person who reads it. I was in the darkest of all dark places. I didn’t believe that I could ever have a healthy relationship with food or with my body. I was at the point where I had written suicide letters to all my family and loved ones. And you know what? I came back from that dark time in my life and you can too. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I promise you that will be one of the hardest steps, but you will not regret it.

5 Things To Remember When Your Life Is Falling Apart

“Can’t Tell By Looking” Short Video

All the love,

A

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Scar Removal #4

*Photos may be triggering

Update #3
Update #2
Update #1

I am so sorry I have not updated those of you who are following along with me on this journey. I actually posted a story and made it into a highlight on Instagram if you want to watch my latest update at ash.bernstein.

The treatments have been going well. After the micro needling session which is the last time I updated you all, we have been sticking strictly to lasering. More intense lasering on my arm and less intense on my leg, because the healing process has been taking a little longer on there.

The picture above shows how my scars are looking right now. They are red/pink due to healing. The texture of my skin has greatly approved and many of my friends who have seen the scars before I started my treatments, say they look a lot better. My scarring on my leg is being quite stubborn so I will need more treatments in that area.

Since I am open to sharing my journey with the public, during Mental Health week in February, I was asked to talk about my experience with mental health and self-injury. I was extremely lucky enough to have shared my story on CTV, pairing with Nu Image (link here) and on CBC during the early morning radio talk show (link to the article here).

Regardless if my scars ever completely disappear, I am forever grateful that I was able to share my story. I don’t care if it reached one person or 10. I got to bring awareness to self-injury, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve also had a handful of people reach out to me, including one of my favourite professors from university, professional athletes I look up to and young students I hope to inspire. Being so transparent about my struggles has been hard and has made me feel extremely vulnerable at times, but every time I get a message thanking me for sharing my story, it makes it 100x worth it.

-A

My Favourite Black Mirror Episodes

I LOVE Black Mirror. I could go on and on for hours about this show. I’ll start by telling you a little bit about it.

Black Mirror is a Netflix series, classified as a “British science fiction anthology”. It takes on modern society, specifically technology and takes it to the extreme, often turning it darker and placing each episode in the future. Each episode is standalone, meaning they each have completely different characters, storylines and topics. The series has four seasons but just released that there will be a fifth one in the future.

The Black Mirror is said to be based on movies like “The Twilight Zone”, but without the need for censorship.  Each episode focuses on the human beings dependency on technology and what may happen if this dependency continues to grow.

The creator, Charlie Brooker explains: “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”

Here are my Top Five Favourite MUST WATCH Episodes (SPOILER ALERT**):

1- Hang The DJ (Episode 4- Season 4)

DJ(Image found here)

Of course, this episode is about dating (cue all of you rolling your eyes), but I think it has a great story and lesson behind it (and a happy ending, which a lot of episodes don’t have). This episode takes a look at dating using technology and right away will make you think about apps like Tinder and Bumble. The two main characters, Amy and Frank, are matched together right off the bat but find out via “the Coach” they only have 12 hours to spend together. Right away, you see the two of them click, joking and laughing with each other, but after the 12 hours are up they are forced to go their separate ways. Next, you watch as the two of them are matched with different people through the system, Frank is matched with a long relationship that he noticeably despises and Amy with a string of short flicks that she quickly gets sick of. Luckily, the two of them get matched together again. This time falling head over heels for each other. Frank breaks the rules of the system, causing their predetermined long-term relationship to be cut short. Again we watch as the two of them go from relationship to relationship, clearly unhappy and thinking about each other. In the end, Amy and Frank decide to rebel and be together against the system, and the two of them are zapped from this alter universe back to the real world. Did they end up together? I guess you’ll have to watch to find out. Regardless if they did or didn’t, this episode gave me hope that love still exists, despite this crazy world of cyber dating and hook-up culture.

2- Be Right Back (Episode 1, Series 2)

brb(Image found here)

This episode is devastating (in my opinion). This one plays on the idea of technology saving the memory of a lost one, but of course, takes it to the extreme. Now a day in our world, if someone passes away, you can look back on countless photos and videos of this person keeping the memory of them alive far past their death. In the world this episode creates, you are able to literally make an actual physical replica of the person that died. You quickly learn that in doing so, problems arise and this android version of your loved one may look and sound how you remember them, but they are missing pieces to them. To me, this episode is devastating because you watch someone try and hold on so tightly on to someone they loved, instead of focusing on healing and letting go of them. I am leaving a lot out, especially the corky, kind-of twisted ending, trying to make you all go and watch it because it is definitely worth it!

3- White Bear (Episode 2, Season 2)

white(Image found here)

Okay, let’s get into some darker episodes. I made my sister and her boyfriend at the time, watch this episode because I thought it was so good. They were both creeped out by it, so I’m not sure if that says more about me and my weird addiction to scary movies and TV shows or about the Black Mirror.  This episode reminds me of “The Purge”, in a way. A women wakes-up, not knowing where she is, and quickly realizes the neighbours she’s surrounded by, are all taping and watching her. When she speaks to them, everyone ignores her and no one responds. She begins to be shot at by a gun and chased after by people called the “hunters’, which she finds out are being brainwashed by a signal. She sets out to find the transmitter of this so-called brainwashing signal but finds out the truth instead. She is trapped in the “White Bear Justice Park”, as a punishment for something she has done. Every day her memory is wiped clean and she is forced to relive this very same day, time and time again. People are able to come watch as they please, like a zoo, as this woman gets psychologically tortured. Hold on a second, before you start to feel bad for her, maybe find out what she did to get this punishment.
**Another episode that is quite similar and also worth watching is, “Shut Up and Dance”- Episode 3, Season 3. Like White Bear, this episode stays away from technology, which is sometimes refreshing when it comes to Black Mirror and focussing on the effects of blackmail.

4- Man Against Fire (Episode 5, Season 3)

fire(Image found here)

I read a lot of articles about the top Black Mirror episodes and this one was not mentioned in any of the articles I read and I was very surprised by this. I think this episode has an extremely meaningful message behind it (it is also quite frightening, which means I automatically liked it). I don’t want to give too much away, because I would love for you all to go watch this episode, but basically, it is based on the idea of soldiers fighting against mutated humans called “roaches” in a foreign country. The soldiers use implants, that enhance their senses and provides instant data to them. One soldier, Stripe, begins to have problems with his implant and starts to see the roaches, as humans.  Stripe then begins to start looking for his own answers. He finds out that the implants the soldiers are given may have an alternate reasoning behind them, such as: dehumanizing the enemy. Please watch this episode to help understand all the confusing information I just gave you. I think this episode is very relatable to not only our history but our present and most like future. The ending is equally as heartbreaking as the realization of what is happening in the extermination of the roaches.

5- Play Test (Episode 1, Season 3)

nose(Image found here)
This one was hard for me to chose, because I have a few other favourites that I could have easily put in this spot, but since this episode has been talked about a lot quite recently, I thought I had to include it. This is an episode that doesn’t need violence to scare you, the fact that it is so close to reality, is scary and uncomfortable enough. Play Test takes a play on how we allow people on social media to judge and rate us. In this episode, people have a rating out of five, which allows them to do or not do certain things in society. The perfect selfie, clothing and appearance, working out, what you’re eating, who you’re dating, hanging out with or even talking to are all things that can either up your rating or decrease it. The lower the rating, the fewer friends you have, jobs you’re applicable for and nice things you can have. The scariest thing about this episode is China is starting to use a rating system very similar to the one displayed in this episode. A company in China is giving out personal credit ratings using Alipay, which is the main mobile payment form used. Users are given ratings between 350, which is considered low, and 950, which is high. If you have a high rating, you are eligible for perks and rewards such as favourable terms on loans and being showcased on dating apps. If you had a low rating, you can only book lower class seating on slow trains and you must put down deposits for things that are usually given away for free. More can be found here on this new experimental rating system.

Honourable mentions:

San Junipero (Episode 4, Season 3)- This episode takes a break from technology, and takes a spin on the idea that there might be hope for people dealing with dementia or a kind of therapy for people with mental illnesses. A heaven-like world is created using your own happy thoughts and memories to help with current suffering. This one has a happy ending and is a good contrast to some of the more negative episodes.

Arkengel (Episode 2, Season 4)- This episode is based on helicopter parenting and what happens when it’s taken too far.

Crocodile (Episode 3, Season 4)- This episode is based on a troubled past of a woman, and what she’ll do to keep it hidden.

-Ash

The Lessons of Love

I think this post is going to be a lot more for myself, than for you guys (I’m sorry!!). But stay with me for a second. I want to go through all my old types of relationships, and explain what I learned from each of them.

“But Ashley, isn’t that a little cruel and harsh to your exes?”

Well for 1) I won’t use their real names and 2) I have nothing against the people of my past. I’ve come to learn that everyone enters your life for some kind of reason. I think all of them come with some kind of message or lesson.

Let’s begin!

My first love. Everyone has a first ‘love’. That first person that makes your heart flutter, your knees weak and your brain cloudy. I think this one for myself, was full of an important lesson. I wasn’t ready for love. I didn’t love myself enough, to be in love with another. I also couldn’t love someone else, into loving myself. If that makes sense. No matter how much love I could give another, if I couldn’t give that same amount of love to myself it wasn’t going to work. Simple as that. This first love for me could really have been two people from my past. They both taught me this extremely important lesson.

The love that got away. I truly don’t wish this kind of feeling on anyone. I think I could have fallen deeply in love with this person from my past, but my mind was to sick at the time, I didn’t treat them or any other people involved fairly. From this love, I learned that an unhealthy mental state makes you selfish, harsh and cold-hearted. It not only breaks your own heart, but it breaks the hearts of those around. I learned that loving someone with mental health problems is sometimes unbearable and isn’t always fair, especially when the person isn’t ready to get better.

The wrong place, wrong time love. I fell hard and fast into this love, engulfed by the perfect life we had set up for ourselves abroad. This love was in paradise, away from society, away from pressures and away from reality. This love taught me that I didn’t know myself well enough yet. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted my life to go in and I wasn’t ready for that amount of love and commitment from another person. I learned that I hadn’t given myself enough time to learn who I was before I could possibly learn who I was with another person.

The love that tries to change you. This is still a tough love for me to talk about and reflect on. This person tore me down continuously and I don’t think they will ever really understand the damage they did (the fact that I am still in a negative mindset about this person, proves that I still have healing to do). This is the type of love that you never feel good enough for. You never feel pretty enough, or pure enough, or smart enough, or successful enough. This is the type of love that tries to mould you into the person they want you to be instead of loving you for the person you are and the potential you have within your own vision. This love caught me a lot. It taught me that I am enough. It taught me that if a person really wanted to change me that much, they didn’t deserve me. And it taught me that no person should ever feel that they are not good enough for someone.

The empty love. This is the type of love I’ve found myself in time and time again. It’s the love that you continually give more than you receive. You put this person first, make time for them in your busy schedule and often get lost in. It’s the type of love that you float blindlessly through, hoping that they will one day give back to you what you’ve given to them. These people left me feeling more empty. They play mind games. They trick you into thinking there is a future and they tip top around the word “commitment”. These people may not think they are doing anything wrong because “we’re just hanging out and having fun”. This type of love is tricky. You can’t convince them to want you as much as you want them. But you also can’t wait around forever. This type of love taught me, that sometimes the only company you need is yourself. Filling voids with people will not do any good in the long run.

I have a hard time letting go of things. I struggle holding grudges against people who have long gone forgotten about me. Holding onto lost love, hurt feelings and other negative things does nothing but hurt yourself. Reflecting on the types of love I’ve endured and felt has helped me realize the type of love I want. It has helped me move on and understand why things happened the way they did, and why certain people entered my life and then left. As hard as heart break is, I think one day it is something I will be grateful for. Thankful that I can share my lessons with you all and appreciative of the love I hope to one day find.

“There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.”

Ellen Goodman

-A