WYL: Tell us a bit about yourself!
JB: My name is Jory, I am 25 years old. I grew up in Miramichi, New Brunswick in a family that includes my mom, dad and older brother. After I graduated high school I moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick to attend St. Thomas University for four years, where I completed my Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Criminology and Sociology. I then went off to Halifax, Nova Scotia to attend Dalhousie University for two years and completed my Bachelor of Social Work degree. Post graduation, I moved to Sussex, New Brunswick where I currently live with my boyfriend and our two golden retrievers (Gunner and Gwen). I work as a youth counselor at a residential facility. I really enjoy spending time with the people I love. My family and friends are extremely important to me, so I am always talking with them and visiting when I can. My guilty pleasure is definitely watching Youtube videos. I will also admit I am always taking pictures of my dogs and posting them on Instagram.
WYL: What is the most difficult thing about living with an eating disorder?
JB: The most difficult thing about living with an eating disorder was that it was a part of my way of dealing with all of my other mental health issues. It was also very difficult to put myself back together after destroying and depriving myself not only physically but mentally as well. Eating any meal was a struggle because I was so used to my body not having the nourishment it needed so it became easier as I was never hungry. At this point I was so consumed by this unhealthy way of living that it felt "normal" to me. Once I had progress with my other mental health issues, my eating disorder began to progress as well. It took a lot of baby steps with fear and tears but I took every step with a bit of courage and hope along side the people who supported and loved me.
WYL: What stigma (if any) have you experienced with your eating disorder?
JB: For as long as I can remember, I have always experienced negativity about my weight and eating disorder. It happened before, during, and after (currently) my eating disorder. I was always the tiniest one out of all of my friends, which I often got bullied for. The bullying really started when I was in high school. People would often say things like “go eat a cheese burger” or “you must not eat much” or “you need some meat on your bones”. I had constant body shaming because I was tiny and it really hurt me. As I started gaining weight and growing into a woman, I still never felt “good enough”. Influences of the media and how women are portrayed was another factor that was a constant reminder of how “imperfect” I was. The media constantly sensationalizes women and looking a certain way… which is “thin” = “beautiful”. I wanted to look a certain way to think I was worthy. Because of these factors as well as other negative, personal experiences in my teenage and early adult years, I had bottled all my feelings inside and it got to a point where I no longer wanted to live. In 2013 after finally seeking help from professionals, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. During this time there were people who thought I chose to be anorexic. People would always say to me “people would kill to have a body like yours”, “there is no reason why you should starve yourself” or “you’re crazy for thinking you’re fat”. I did not choose to be anorexic. There are psychological, environmental and social factors that contribute to eating disorders. Now that I no longer live with anorexia, I sometimes get the same comments about my weight as I have in the past. Luckily, I have learned how to deal with these comments. Unfortunately, some people cannot cope and have to endure feeling unworthy and ashamed of their bodies. People are body-shamed and stigmatized no matter what size they are. With negative thoughts and lack of understanding surrounding mental illnesses like eating disorders, there comes stigmatization. It is important that we educate people on eating disorders and other mental illnesses so we can eliminate negativity and stigmatization.
WYL: What is your favourite method of self-care?
JB: I am so big on self-care! I think being kind to yourself is most significant for positive mental health. My ultimate favourite method of self-care is taking a hot bath. I light up some candles, throw in a bath bomb or some bubbles, shut the lights off and just indulge in a relaxing time. I always try to stay away from technology so I one, don’t drop my phone in the tub, and two, take time for just me and take a break from the outside world. When you identify positive ways to nurture yourself, it’s really the best feeling!
WYL: What does “recovery” look like to you?
JB: “Recovery” to me, has been built off of the foundations of: resources, empowerment and hope. When I first noticed my mental health was deteriorating, I was in my fourth year of university. I had extreme suicidal ideation; I was self-harming, not eating and un-motivated. I took a big step by going to counseling services at my university with the encouragement of an amazing friend who knew I just was not myself. I was then put on an emergency list to see a medical doctor to assess me. When assessed, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and was prescribed medication. The doctor told me I would feel worse before I felt better, which in fact, I got to my very worse point a week later. One evening I lost all hope for myself and contemplated suicide. I called CHIMO helpline (a provincial crisis helpline), to talk and try to change my mind but I was in such a state of mind that I only heard my own thoughts. I attempted suicide that night and was unsuccessful. What I was not aware of was that CHIMO had sent an emergency team to me. The emergency team, as well as an ambulance arrived and I was taken to the hospital and admitted into the Psychiatric Unit for almost two weeks. Within these two weeks I was monitored and assessed. I was then diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Clinical Depression and an anxiety disorder. After I was released from the hospital I began counseling and therapy from a psychiatrist that my university offered. I was later diagnosed with my eating disorder due to the fact that there was so much focus on my other mental health issues that I was in denial I even had anorexia. Without the immediate mental health resources that my university offered when I came out of the hospital, I do not believe my outcome would have been the same. I believe that if I did not have these resources, I would have been put on a waiting list to see a private professional and would not have been able to afford these resources. A lack of resources, waiting lists and costs of resources is a issue for many people in our communities.
One of my biggest struggles was learning if I was worth recovery. The amount of love and support I had from my family and friends was incredible. They ignited so much empowerment into me when I had none for myself. They stood by my side through my most challenging and painful moments and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. Without them, my recovery would not have been the way it was. Almost 3 years later, I am no longer on medication and no longer receiving mental health services. I still have days where I feel down or think poorly about the way I look, but I have learned to cope in healthy ways because of the help I received. I will always be on a journey of recovery because my mental health is forever growing and improving. Recovery to me is the most amazing journey you can give yourself.
WYL: Who is a Role Model to you?
JB:I do not have one role model in particular, but I look up to the people around me who have resiliency, empathy and hope even on the darkest of days. The people who talk about their mental health or just mental health in general and want to help others, are so inspiring. It is so refreshing to see open-minded people who want to be educated and aware about mental health. These are the people whom I admire most.
WYL: If you had 30 seconds to share one message with the whole world, what would you say?
JB: Life can be tough, but so are you. Never, ever underestimate the strength inside of you.