BY NICOLE CHRISTIANSON/FORM/ 15 April 2016
I remember my eating disorder like it was yesterday. ED (my eating disorder voice) was not a very nice person, always berating me, reminding me that I was never going to be enough. I would never be skinny enough, pretty enough, or loved enough. I was not worthy of those things. ED was so loud in my head, always reminding me of how undeserving I was of anything good in my life. I would restrict my calorie intake to 500 calories a day and then I would workout until I felt sick or passed out. I felt sad, lonely, inadequate, confused, and helpless. I felt out-of-control and the only thing I could control in my life was my weight. I used my eating disorder as an escape, an escape from some very deep rooted wounds. In hindsight, all I wanted was to stop the pain of not feeling that I was loved enough, understood enough or just enough. Today I understand that I was using my body as a cry for help.
In 2008, I was admitted into an eating disorder clinic. I walked in feeling scared, angry, and ashamed. I did not have a problem. It wan’t until noon that day, that I realized how sick I really was. I could NOT eat the food they put in front of me. I starred at the spaghetti for about 5 minutes, working myself up into a panic attack. I started to sob uncontrollably for two reasons. One, I was terrified of eating anything outside my comfort foods in fear of getting fat, and two, I could not believe how sick I really was. I finally got it. I finally realized I needed help. I finally stopped resisting and started accepting.
It wasn’t until day 3 that I was introduced to yoga, and to be honest with you, I was not very excited about it. I was a cardio nut, always punishing myself with intense, high impact workouts. This whole yoga thing was NOT for me. Unfortunately, I had no choice, so I went; begrudgingly.
My first class was an instant release. For so many years my mind was preoccupied with rigid and relentless food rules and constant negative thought patterns. ED controlled my life, but for that one hour I was able to put those thoughts aside and JUST BE ME. I remember standing in Tadasana (mountain pose) outside in the sun, hearing the soft voice of my instructor, and feeling the dewy grass against my feet. This was the first time in years that I began to connect with my true, genuine self, which had been buried for many years. I didn’t know who I was anymore, but deep down I knew that healthy and happy Nicole was in there somewhere. I instantly just began to cry.
Yoga saved my life. It helped to restore the imbalances in both my body and my mind. Yoga had a profound affect in helping to balance my emotions, which in turn dramatically decreased my anxiety and depression symptoms. Overtime, my mind became more calm, clear, and focused. ED’s voice became much quieter. I started to find my healthy voice again and with Yoga I was able to regain my self-esteem and positive body image through cultivation of non-judgement, confidence, self-acceptance, openness, and inner strength.
Today I teach Yoga everyday. Yoga IS my therapy. There are still days when ED’s voice is loud and usually that’s when I’ve had a tough day. Today, though, I know how to quiet ED’s voice and cultivate my healthy voice. All I need is my mat and my practice. My two points of concentration become my body and my breath, and everything else just goes away. It’s just me and my mat.
Yoga was and still is an instrumental piece in my recovery. For so many years, I hated myself and yoga taught me how to love ME again. I learned the beauty of imperfection. I began to accept my defeats with my head up and my eyes wide open. Yoga helped me to build my roads on today, because tomorrows ground is too uncertain for plans, and futures have a way of surprising us. I learned that I really can endure....that I really do have worth....and that I really am enough.