Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness Week approaches

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Douglas student and alumni raise awareness of disorders

By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor

Provincial Eating Disorder Awareness Week (PEDAW) will be taking place from February 1–8, with activists hoping to bring more awareness and education to eating disorders.

Tayler Fuller, a current Douglas student studying business, and Susanne Carlson, a Douglas graduate, have shared their personal accounts in order to provide more insight on what it’s like to experience a disorder.

Like many, neither Fuller nor Carlson received much, if any, education surrounding eating disorders until they suffered from them personally.

Carlson developed a disorder after experiences with bullying and family difficulties.

“I think the eating disorder came about as a way to manage a lot of feelings that I was having,” Carlson explained. “I didn’t feel properly equipped to deal with it in a healthier way.”

Fuller’s battle with “eating disorder not otherwise specified” (EDNOS) spanned throughout her teen years. She received a diagnosis in October 2012. Consecutively, she was also diagnosed with depression.

Although many would believe that eating disorders come from a perspective of body image and vanity, they actually involve other mental health problems. Anxiety, depression, and stress have often been linked with eating disorders.

In their recoveries, Fuller and Carlson faced different challenges. For Fuller, fears of gaining weight proved to be most challenging. As for Carlson, she had difficulties finding a support program that worked best for her.

Both Fuller and Carlson accessed therapeutic services while recovering from their disorders, and both partook in group and individual therapy. Carlson also tried out an intensive stay-program.

Carlson praised the work of the Looking Glass Foundation and the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre for their work with those recovering from a disorder, while Fuller praised her local centre, Delta North Mental Health.

As well, both women had a healthy support network of family and friends, avoiding those who proved to be an unhealthy influence.

While they did receive the healthy support needed in their recovery journeys, it became apparent to both that the community needed to learn more about eating disorders, and how to approach them.

“When I was not well, people tended to walk on eggshells around me,” said Carlson. “They didn’t really understand what it was that I was dealing with, and it made them apprehensive… they didn’t know what was going on, so they just distanced themselves from me.”

“A lot of people thought that I was just dieting and exercising, and they were congratulating me,” said Fuller. “It wasn’t until the end of my Grade 12 year that I came out and said that I had struggled with an eating disorder.”

Some of the most common public misconceptions surrounding eating disorders include body type, and that the symptoms are mainly physical. Eating disorders occur in people of different body shapes, and manifest themselves as a mental health problem. Many believe that anorexia and bulimia are the only eating disorders, yet those disorders are only two on a broad spectrum.

On February 6, The Looking Glass Foundation is organizing the Something’s Gotta Give Campaign Rally in Vancouver, which will involve performances and speeches. Looking Glass hopes that the rally will result in a greater conversation about eating disorders.