For Kira, Sheena’s Place was a lifeline when she had nowhere else to turn. This is her story.
From an early age, Kira used food to try to control others – including her parents when she was a toddler. It wasn’t until her 30s that she realized how disordered her eating was. “I got tired of feeling numb all the time and using food to achieve that.”
Her first group at Sheena’s Place that gave her the tools and guidance she needed to commit to recovery. But Kira credits the facilitators with saving her life. “I was given that extra support I needed to get well. I wouldn’t be alive without them”
“One facilitator helped me realize I could make a life outside of my eating disorder, that the eating disorder is not who I am – I am separate from my illness.”
Kira, a special education teacher in her 40s, says the most important groups she’s taken since first coming to Sheena’s Place in 2014 are the self compassion, mindfulness, and relapse management groups. “The other people in the room get it and that’s very powerful. Getting the support is great because this illness is isolating. It was so important to feel surrounded by people with similar thoughts and behaviours, and to know I am not alone.” Kira says, adding that since everyone is at a different point in their recovery it creates a dynamic learning environment. “I was terrified to speak in the beginning, but now that I am further along [in my recovery] I can share my skills and help others who are new.” She adds, “You’re only new the first time.”
Overall, Kira believes the skills and tools she’s accessed at Sheena’s Place have been invaluable – and can be applied outside of eating disorders. “Eating disorders are about much more than just food.” Group discussions often focus on anxiety and depression, and other experiences that commonly co-occur with eating disorders.
“Eating disorders are still not seen by some (even in the medical profession) as a psychiatric illness, but rather as vanity or a diet taken too far even though eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.”
We live in a world of comparison – and it’s a slippery slope to relapse – that’s why Kira recently made the bold move to delete all her social media accounts. She says seeing all those overly-cheery ‘highlight reels’ isn’t helpful to her in moving away from comparison and towards self-understanding. “It was REALLY hard at first. You don’t realize just how much comparison there is until its gone. I’m much happier not comparing myself to people I haven’t seen in person since I was 10 years old”
Although deleting her social media accounts has been a game changer she says that learning self compassion is the biggest game changer of all – and she would never have been able to achieve that without her groups at Sheena’s Place. “Of course my own therapist has a key role to play, but it’s that skill building and mutual support that comes with a group setting that has really helped me build up my self-worth. There are realizations that would be less likely to come up if it weren’t for the others in the group…because they get it,” she says.
Kira curates the blog for Sheena’s Place with contributions from other participants and people with eating disorders who, like her, are willing to share their stories with the goal of reducing the stigma around the serious but common mental health issue of disordered eating.