TRUTH TELLER: Mandi
This is the Story of My Eating Disorder
Trigger warning: this article does contain discussion of disordered eating. Please read at your own discretion.
Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to be an actor. The feeling of stepping into the light and becoming another human being, taking over their soul, is thrilling to me. By the time I was finished high school I truly loved the art of acting. With the encouragement of an amazing teacher and the support of my family, I decided to pursue acting as a career. Upon graduation, I moved to Los Angeles for acting school. I had taken the leap of faith. I was doing it, following my dreams. My new address was Hollywood and to many people back home in Canada, I was living the ‘perfect’ life.
But in a world driven by the number of ‘likes’ on social media and the vanity of the acting industry, I didn’t feel like I was perfect. Slowly, I started to lose something of myself. Instead of loving the craft like I had, I became fuelled by rejections from all the auditions, being told that “you should lose a few”. Today’s social standards of beauty made me start to second guess my own ability, but more specifically, my own worth. I started placing unrealistic expectations on myself and I wanted to be the perfect student, the perfect actor, the perfect client, the perfect daughter. As I struggled to control my life, I felt like my own life was no longer in my control. (I know, that doesn’t make sense, but to me it did.) Little by little, I was being swallowed by an unknown dark and lonely hole filled with insecurity that I just couldn’t escape from. I wasn’t enough.
Standing in front of the mirror, I would pick apart every aspect of my body, mentally criticizing each inch for its role that it played in my overall image. I began to hate what I saw, slowly falling out of love with my skin. This unhealthy pattern of numbing, restricting, obsessing, led to a life of indulging and purging. This was my eating disorder. For years, I was seduced by this behavior, and it was an addiction. My eating disorder would speak to me and it would make me listen. It would promise me that if I controlled what I ate, I could become happier, more popular, book the job, become thinner. I listened to my eating disorder, and I was rewarded with praise. But all good things never last long. The securities that an eating disorder provide are quick to disappear. Before I knew it, I started to make excuses in social situations, overextending the truth to the point of lying to the people that I love the most all to ensure that my routine stayed in my control.
But was it ever really in my control? I mean, this disease, for the better part of its time, promised me a life full of fulfilment but it had to remain a secret. My secret. It provided me with the sensation that I could be in control when really I was on the path to self-destruction. I was living a life full of secrets and lies and this life suddenly was no longer my own. I can’t say whether I was just too scared, too ashamed, and simply just not brave enough to reach out for help. I didn’t want to be viewed as weak, or incapable. I didn’t want my family to worry about my wellbeing, and I definitely didn’t want people to hear that I really didn’t have it all together.
Well, what a crock of shit. Let’s be honest here, do any of us really have it all together? (If you do, amazing. Please share all secrets in the comment section below).
Eventually, I did reach my rock-bottom. I am extremely lucky that when I did, my family was there to pick me back up again. They supported me in every way that they knew how. At this time, I was thankfully living with my sister and I firmly believe that without her, my health might have suffered. She helped save me. My family’s love and support is what drove me to recovery. I not only wanted to get better for myself but I needed to get better for them.
If you know me, I am the first to exhaust how beautiful and magical life can be. I mean, have you ever swam in the ocean, hiked a mountain, held a newborn baby, or my ultimate favorite, have you ever watched the sun rise? But, I will also be the first to admit that it can be really hard; life isn’t always wonderful and it definitely doesn’t always look like what’s portrayed on an Instagram feed. What I eventually came to realize, however, is that that is okay. That things aren’t always going to go as planned, that there will be hardship, goodbyes, and tears. But, I also have come to see that through all of life’s difficulties it is also full of sheer beauty. Life can be filled with love, passion, happiness and that there are truly good hearted people walking amongst us.
Through my journey to recovery, unintentionally, I discovered running. My first step in my recovery was therapy and becoming healthy, to finally talk about my disorder to slowly but surely stop my purging. It wasn’t until I realized I was enough that I discovered running. Running was my personal accomplishment and enjoyment and it was less about controlling my weight. It was a sane place for me to clear my mind. When I first started, I ran short runs but once I started running distances with ease, and getting faster and stronger, I realized I loved the feeling of a strong body, instead of a sick one. There’s something remarkably healing about putting one foot in front of the other. Running is now my safe place. It keeps me in control of my mind and my body - a healthy release, a way to work through my insecurities, a chance to clear my head, and it is my way of maintaining my recovery. It makes me happy and I do it, to feel alive. And as crazy as it sounds, it’s what has truly made me fall back in love with myself; it has made me love the skin I am in, again.
So, why am I sharing this story now? Well, at exactly this time last year I began training for my very first marathon. Running for a team called ‘Team I Will’, we raised money in support of the Toronto Rehab Foundation. This was revolutionary for me because I was given the opportunity to run for someone other than myself. Sparking a fire in my heart, I decided that this year I wanted to dig a little deeper, be brave, and be part of a change that truly meant something to me. So, this year I am running the Scotiabank Charity Challenge at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for NEDIC. If you haven’t heard of this organization, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre is a non-profit organization that provides supportive resources on eating disorders, and food and weight preoccupation. They not only have additional educational programs that target children and youth and professional development, but they are Canada’s ONLY National Toll-Free Helpline. They provide information on treatment options, and support to people across Canada either directly or indirectly affected by disordered eating. Had I known earlier that there is an organization such as NEDIC available, I might have asked for help a lot sooner than I did. With the help of my friend, Kelsey Sick, we have created the slogan and forum, UR Enough, so that we may use it as a platform to inspire other individuals to share their own stories, and run with us.
Because, we are all ENOUGH. Everyone is magical in their own special way. And if you are struggling with finding your magic, I promise you there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Thank you for taking the time to read, it means more then you know.
All my love,
An actress and producer in Toronto, Mandi Nicholson’s drive and passion come straight from the heart. Being an advocate for mental health and co-founder of UR Enough, she focuses on inspiring and lifting others who may be struggling. She wants to continue spreading her thoughts of embracing everyone exactly the way they are, and firmly believes that everyone is exceptional in their own special way.