Sandy's Story: CMHA, Community Based Eating Disorder Counseling
Sandy was 23-years old and a young mother when her world came crashing down. She credits the staff and programs at the Canadian Mental Health Association – Waterloo Wellington Dufferin for saving her life.
Sandy had just separated from her husband, escaping an abusive relationship when her grandmother, who had been more like a mother to her, passed away. At first, not eating was just a natural side-effect of the anxiety, grief and upheaval in her life. But when she began dating an old acquaintance after her separation it got worse.
“I remember him telling me how he liked me better now that I was thinner,” she explains. “That really changed me. Looking back now, I realize that I was perfectly healthy the way I was.”
Sandy started making severe changes to her diet and allowed herself be controlled by eating disorder behavior and symptoms. Her weight dipped dangerously low and she knew that her life needed to change.
“I knew I needed help and tried to change on my own for about six months. I had kept my eating disorder a secret from everyone, especially my daughter. Every time I had a setback, I would picture her and I wanted to be there for her. There were times I thought I was going to die and I knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing anymore or my daughter wouldn’t have a mom.”
Reaching out for help was a huge relief. Her biggest support was the staff at the Eating Disorders Program run through the Canadian Mental Health Association. She learned to work through feelings of shame and embarrassment. And finally admitting she needed help felt good.
“Even at my lowest, my ultimate goal was to find happiness,” says Sandy. “I thought that to do this, I had to be a different person-a better person and tried to achieve that by using my eating disorder to control my weight. I learned a lot working with my therapist and going to group sessions and I fell in love with myself just for being who I am. If you want to be free of an eating disorder, you need to learn to accept yourself and love yourself.”
Staff at the program helped Sandy to face her feelings and develop techniques to manage her stress and to cope when she had a setback. It took almost a year and a lot of hard work to see more good days than bad. Today, Sandy is remarried to a wonderful man and has two beautiful daughters. She has been symptom free for four years.
“Staff there are the most supportive, understanding, and non-judgmental people I’ve ever met,” says Sandy. “I know that there are more people out there struggling and that’s why I wanted to tell my story. It’s important to give back. We need to reduce the stigma around eating disorders and tell people that there are programs out there that can help.”
CMHA’s eating disorder program receives funding through the Waterloo Wellington LHIN and the Board of Directors recently provided additional funding to expand the program with the aim of providing care for additional residents.
For additional information on the program, visit CMHA Waterloo Wellington Dufferin online or contact HERE 24/7 for assistance with referrals.