I’ve spent the better part of 40 years trying to hide or change part of who I am for fear of being judged or rejected.
 
And I’m really tired of it. Something happened this week and I realized…ENOUGH!
 
So, if this stuff makes you think less of me, that’s okay….this is the stuff that makes me feel grounded and real. This is the stuff that makes me who I am today and makes me good at what I do. You can’t love yourself and hate the parts that made you who you are.
 
So this picture of me is from (maybe) the early eighties? I might have been about 7 yrs old here.
 
I remember being told OFTEN that I was chubby, that I “still” had my baby fat, and that I was “soft”. “Aren’t you cute with those big cheeks”…they would say.
 
I remember extended family members pinching my cheeks til they hurt and I was supposed to pretend it was cute. I hated it. No one ever stepped in to say “she doesn’t like that, thanks”.
 
I was forced to hug and kiss relatives even when it felt uncomfortable because I was always supposed to show respect to adults. Even though some of those hugs and kisses felt inappropriate. No one seemed to be paying attention.
 
I would get in trouble for playing with the boys in the summer bc I was supposed to play with the girls. But I liked to build forts and spend the day in the forests at the cottage. I fit in better with the boys but I’d get in trouble for it and would be made to sit quietly on the patio with the girls and the moms while the boys ran off.
 
I was quiet and introverted, so much so that I was forgotten on the school bus one year bc the driver didn’t know I was even there. No one knew where I was for hours….
 
I was praised for being the “good girl” at home and at school.
No one ever thought I might be anxious.
No one ever thought to ask why I was so sad or why I barely spoke.
 
By 12, extended relatives told me I had gained weight and I worried about my belly because it wasn’t flat in pictures. When I look back at those pictures, I see that I was an average sized child. No one said, you are a strong and smart girl. No one told me that it is normal for body weight and shape to change in adolescence. No one told me about menstruation either.
 
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the actual moment things changed. I was 13 and had started grade 9.
 
We were at the cottage.
 
“You’ve got such chubby cheeks” they said. “Still all that baby fat on you” they joked.
“Are you going to eat all of that?” they chided.
 
And something switched inside my brain, within my soul.
I was so angry and hurt and ashamed of my body and myself. So I made myself the
promise that I would not look the same the next time I saw my cousins.
 
I look at this old photo and I wish I could tell her that she was a great kid, that she was so special, & that she was loved no matter what she looked like. I wish I could sit down and teach her about what she was feeling, about how her body needed to be nourished, and that the belly is such a sacred place that shifts and changes; that a belly is not meant to be hard and flat. I would tell her to go build forts and play with the boys. I would teach her to say “please don’t pinch my cheeks” to the old Italian men. I would teach her how to find her voice. And I would tell her that she holds within her everything she would ever need, that she doesn’t need to seek approval from anyone outside herself.  And I would have done everything in my power to have stopped her from dieting that October….
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Dear Canada,
I am watching my patient die. Week by week, I watch her body deteriorate, shut down, collapse into itself. I watch as her thoughts become diffuse, no doubt due to atrophy in her prefrontal cortex.
The family is watching their child die in the prime of her life. Labwork shows us that her heart is weak, immune system shutting down…her bowels barely function, her hands cold to the touch and purple from lack of circulation.
There is treatment that would save her life but we can’t access it and while she sits on several waiting lists, I’m afraid she will die waiting. If this was cancer, I don’t believe we would be in this position.
My patient has anorexia nervosa, a brain-based disease with the highest mortality rate (next to the opioid crisis) than any other psychiatric illness.
I could get her to the USA tomorrow where she would be treated but the costs are incredibly high. OHIP won’t cover it. The insurance company won’t cover it.
While my patient’s story is not unique (there are thousands like her, dying, families helpless) I cannot be silent. I refuse to be silent.
Please share. Maybe someone, somewhere, can help us.
Sign and share our petition.