Trigger warning: This story contains descriptions of eating disorders, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts that may be triggering to some.
“I first started to struggle with my mental health at school. I noticed something didn’t feel right as I walked up the stairs of my high school. I had gotten to the top and my heart didn’t slow down… In fact, it sped up. As my breath shortened, I became scared and I couldn’t control my own body. It felt as if someone else had just stepped in the driver’s seat. I asked myself, ‘What is going on?’ But there wasn’t an answer.
I didn’t take this incident too seriously, as I wasn’t really aware or educated about anxiety or good mental health, but I did tell my family that night. I want to be clear—I love my family and everything they do and continue to do for me. But that night, at the dinner table, I was brushed off as being a ‘dramatic teenager.’ I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what had triggered this and, thinking about it, I still can’t. So it was swept aside until a much later date.
Around this time, I also struggled with my self-confidence and I started to feel like I wasn’t a person anyone would want to hang out with. When you don’t even like yourself, why would you expect anyone else to? My first failed attempt at suicide occurred when I was 14 years old. I swallowed what was left in a bottle of Advil and locked myself in my room as I bawled my eyes out. I remember feeling a weight on my chest and a pounding in my head. People who know me would never think this happened. I always portrayed myself as a kid with a good head on my shoulders, happy, and content with what was going on in the world. I bottled my negative emotions.
That day, it was as if someone had taken that ‘bottle’ and shaken it. Imagine coca-cola and mentos. I could not find the strength to keep the cap on, the mess was too much to clean up. I didn’t reach out to anyone about this except my close friend at the time, who had no idea how to handle the message. As I saw him the next week at school, I felt a wave of embarrassment come over my body and my response to him was, ‘Sorry, I was on my period. You know how girls can be.’ That was all there was to it. I pushed my emotions right down the neck of the bottle.
Throughout high school, I became even more self-conscious. I hated my looks compared to my friends. In my mind, I was a short, chubby, ugly girl who no one would ever ask on a date. ‘Why would they? Especially since my friends are so much prettier than I am.’ Now, looking back on my photos from high school, I realize how much body dysmorphia played a part in my life as a teenager. I threw myself into sports, mostly rugby and powerlifting.
As a child, I was fortunate enough to be very encouraged and supported by my family to live an active lifestyle. Movement has always been nurturing to my soul. Now I know the science behind active flow! Daily movement, people, I’m telling you it’s the best medicine. As graduation approached, so did my worst fear… other people taking pictures of me. I set a goal for myself to get ‘skinny’ for graduation, thinking maybe if I was skinny and pretty enough, I would like the way I looked in photos. Newsflash, I STILL didn’t like the way I looked in my grad photos and this, my friends, is where dieting culture ruined my metabolism.
I was introduced to macro dieting through social media. I had no professional help in any of this. I just did what the people I followed did. My initial calorie goal was 1,600 calories a day. For a 17-year-old high school athlete who was practicing at a provincial level, that’s not very much at all. After graduating, my body adapted to 1,600 calories. I started to plateau and as a result, I lowered my caloric intake again and again until I was only eating 1,200 calories a day while exercising twice a day. I had a set 300 calorie cardio burn in the morning and strength training for at least an hour at night. Due to my calories being set so low, I couldn’t eat very big meals, so I started feasting and fasting. To get rid of the hunger pains throughout the day I would chug on a vape, which gave me a hit of dopamine and a sense of relief. This habit is still an issue for me today.
A typical day in the life of 18-year-old Skye entailed waking up heavy-eyed with a lack of inspiration at 11 a.m. or later followed by fasted cardio. At 5 p.m., I’d work as a waitress, at 11 p.m. or later I did strength training, and from then until I went to sleep at 1 a.m., I would get high and eat all of my 1,200 calories for the day. I dropped to my lowest weight at 125 pounds, which may not seem like a low weight, but it was for me and I was so proud. I remember the instant gratification feeling of stepping on that scale and seeing the number go down again. I did this for 9 months straight until I changed jobs, so you can imagine how strong a habit came from this. During this time of my life, I was extremely irritable, moody, and not a nice person to be around. My best friend ended up moving out of our basement suite and I don’t blame her. I was starving myself, but if anyone were so much as to mention that or question my methods, I would become outraged. In my eyes, I was ‘finally taking care of myself’ and anyone who thought differently was just trying to tear me down. I now know this was not the case.
A combination of being on such a low-calorie diet, continually fasting and feasting, and the anxiety I didn’t know had a name, provided the perfect storm for binge eating disorder. I would have cheat days as a reward for not ‘messing up’ in the week. This usually consisted of eating until I couldn’t anymore. Because I told myself I couldn’t have those things, I craved them so much more, so instead of having one or two oreo’s I’d eat the whole box, two pints of Ben & Jerry’s, 12 cookies from the bakery, half a box of Dino nuggets, a whole bag of salt and vinegar chips and those were what I considered SNACKS alongside whatever take away meal I was feeling. I remember strategically planning ‘cheat days’ so the next day, I wouldn’t have to see anyone. Purging on all these foods gave me the sensation of a dissociative state where nothing else mattered in the world but me and the food in front of me. At this point, I had completely lost my period. Today, thankfully, I have it back but I still struggle with the regulation and consistency.
In the summer of 2018, I started a new job as a beer cart girl at the local golf course in an effort to fund my trip to Australia. Since the shifts at the golf course varied so much, I fell out of my previous routine and that led to me completely succumbing to my cravings whenever I felt them. I was running the beer cart, which was literally a wagon full of chips, chocolate, baked goods, and beer, though I didn’t drink while working. With snacks always available to me, I found the cravings growing stronger and stronger until I completely ditched tracking every ounce of my food because it was inevitable I would ‘fail’ in a day.
I started to gain weight, my negative thought train added a few more carts, and the anxiety bottle was expanding. My second attempt at suicide came while working my day job that summer. I made the decision to take a bottle of Tylenol to work that day and every time the pain in my head became too much, I would pop a pill or a few to ease the pain. I almost finished the whole bottle before reaching out to my best friend. She had no idea I was in such a bad place and tried her best to help me. She told my boss I was not feeling well and drove me straight to the emergency room. Thank you for that.
I still didn’t know how to manage all the thoughts inside my brain. A day after my 19th birthday, I flew to the other side of the world and I realized no one knew me there, it gave me a blank canvas to paint on, giving me a big sigh of relief. As I traveled up the coast, I fell in love with a little place called Arrawarra and ended up staying for 7 months. At that time, I never could have imagined the amount of growth to come in every aspect of my life. Immersing myself in nature had me feeling a whole new type of awareness and the ocean became my friend. It was my most valuable teacher and still is. The ocean humbles you—you cannot control the weather, the waves, the peaks, or the riptides. You do not conquer the wave, you have the pleasure of riding the wave the ocean has decided to give you. And you choose to make the best of whatever you are given. The ocean taught me many lessons. Letting go is one of them.
When I got home from my adventures, I not only returned to my Grande Prairie but my old negative habits as well. In July of 2019, I felt comfort in knowing I came back as a different person than I left. Slowly, though, my old thought patterns started to creep back into my life. As I got my first 9-to-5 job, I was so delighted to know I had a career in front of me. 3 months down the road, I was tired and done. The feeling in my chest was so unbearable it felt as if the ‘bottle’ was getting shaken up again and the internal pain was too strong to suppress. I thought I could distract myself from the internal suffering by physically harming myself. I tried to help myself by suppressing my emotions yet again, only this time my body physically reacted by having an anxiety attack in the workplace parking lot. My hands went numb, I was screaming while curled up in a ball. I melted onto the ground in pain all over my body. At this turning point, I had realized the effects of suppressing my emotions and how they affected my physical state, revealing half the answer to my internal struggle.
Not long after we were all sent home for 10 weeks due to COVID-19, which in my situation, was a perfect time. During this time, I did a 200-hour yoga teacher training for myself. It educated me on how the human mind works and how to manage it. Not only did it help with awareness of my thoughts, it brought a new perspective, helping me realize I am not my thoughts. Instead, I notice my thoughts. Moving meditation helped bring my head out of the clouds and my feet back on the ground. Consistently getting on my mat and breathing taught me self-discipline.
I now know life is happening for me, not to me. I got back to work after COVID was restrained with the tools to help me when my old friend anxiety crept back into momentary thoughts helped me out immensely. I was still experiencing anxiety attacks. My current mental state brought the question to my head—is this really the way humans are supposed to live our lives? One day, I was driving myself to work and I told the universe, ‘SEND ME A SIGN!’ Coincidently the song ‘Bang!’ by AJR was playing and the lyrics ‘go out with a bang’ spoke to me.
Maybe it was the universe, or just me, but either way, it inspired me to go to my boss and deliver my 2-week resignation. I realized if I didn’t align myself with what was right for my mind and body, I wasn’t going to go anywhere. The universe had my back and before I knew it, three new job opportunities aligned with my goals were gifted to me. Thanks, universe. Every day is a struggle bringing suffering with it, but I use my suffering to grow, and that’s the biggest change as of now. In my journey, I use my failures as stepping stones to my inevitable success.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Skye Goose. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about mental health here:
‘Don’t try to fix me, or tell me it’s in my head. Just show up. Just love. I promise I’ll do the same.’: Woman pens letter to friends explaining anxiety, ‘true friendship is loving each other in ups and downs’
‘Your son cut class today.’ I got the phone call no parent expects. ‘Excuse me?!?!’ I was LIVID.’: Mom comforts teen son battling depression, ‘we should treat mental illness the same as physical ailments’
‘My psychiatrist said, ‘Technically, you’re on the highest dose I can legally prescribe you…’ At 8, I’d had my first panic attack. I didn’t want to live life this way anymore.’: Young woman details journey with anxiety
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