LOG CABIN CHRONICLES

EDITOR'S NOTE: Alex Liepmann is a brave, courageous, and strong young woman who has faced, and coped with, more than her share of challenges in the last half-decade. Here, she shares her story in the hope that perhaps it will help others deal with their own particular circumstances. My hat is off to this young athlete.

My Story
Eating disorder/depression trigger warning (01.10.2011)

Posted 01.25.16
ALEX LIEPMANN
Ottawa, Ontario

I was in grade 7 and had turned 13 a couple of months earlier. I was still using MSN and was the biggest fan girl on Justin Bieber, but here I was starving myself, worrying about my weight when really a 12-13 year old girl should only be worrying about how's she's going marry Justin Bieber.

Five years ago, on January 10, I was admitted to the CHEO hospital in Ottawa, Canada's capitol. I was diagnosed with a severe eating disorder -- anorexia nervosa. My heart was working so hard to maintain my body, I could have had a heart attack any moment.

My body was eating itself for energy because I wasn't eating enough fuel. My body, my brain, and my mind were so malnourished.

I was admitted immediately and spent a full month in a wheelchair. I didn't go outside, I didn't walk -- I stayed in my wheelchair and I stayed in bed. I was hospitalized for around two months. I was fed liquid food for about three weeks because my body was in starvation mode. Every couple of days they would increase the amount of energy I got. The amount I started with was equivalent to the energy in one muffin.

Throughout the two months, i had therapy 2-3 times a week, in groups with other patients to learn about healthy eating and learned how to self-care. I regained my physical strength, my skin and my hair regained colour, and my body gained weight which put me at healthy weight.

I was put on antidepressants which helped a lot. But my mind was still sick. I was dismissed from inpatient to outpatient where I was to see my doctor once a week and my therapist once a week as well.

A year later, my eating disorder morphed into a horrible depression, where I was self-harming every single day -- I had many suicide attempts and was again hospitalized at CHEO. I was diagnosed with severe depression and severe anxiety.

I was there for only two weeks (the time is much smaller for depression because there are so many people with mental illnesses that they can't keep you too long as there are always beds needed). I was put on anti-anxiety meds, which were very helpful.

After leaving hospitalization for the second time, I was put into a day program with the eating disorder program because my anorexia had morphed into bulimia as well.

I was in day program for a couple months, but ended up leaving because personally it was making me worse (it has helped many of my friends but for me it didn't help). I changed schools and the change helped. I graduated from grade 8 that year. I started grade 9 and changed therapists but was still seeing my physical Doctor every week or two.

I loved grade 9, but I had turned to bulimia. That year I stayed on the verge of an unhealthy and healthy weight -- I was still depressed and was self-harming on a regular basis. My meds were changed again.

At the end of grade 9, I started rugby. It was the beginning of something that I truly believe saved me. Rugby taught me that what my body could do was more important than what it looked like. Rugby taught me that being strong was so important. I truly believe rugby saved me.

Alex

I started lifting weights. I wanted muscles, I wanted to feel strong -- my mind changed from wanting to be skin and bones to wanting to be strong and to be a strong rugby player. Grade 10 came and I was stronger, but I had not gained much muscle. I had played club rugby all throughout the summer. My grade 10 year was when I started to really turn to rugby.

I was put into a therapy group with CHEO that was once a week and I was seeing my therapist every two weeks and seeing my physical Doctor every two weeks. I was training with touch rugby Ottawa in the winter and played school, club, and provincial rugby. Don't get me wrong -- I was still battling the ups and down, but having rugby to turn to as therapy really helped.

Grade 11 came and this year was harder -- my anxiety was very strong and I was struggling getting through the day. I missed 43 classes out 90 classes the first term, I had begun to pull away from friends. I was struggling with my depression again. Half way through second semester my doctors and my parents pulled me out. My bad habits were coming back and they were worries about my safety. The school was really understanding.

The summer of grade 11 was better -- I played lots of rugby, my anxiety was at bay, but I was scared to have the same feelings for the next school year. I ended up changing schools. I moved to a small private school called Blyth Academy. My days are short and I have time to do things that make me happy and less stressed out.

In the fall of 2015, I made the long list for Team Canada Rugby U18. Rugby has saved me. I still see my therapist every couple weeks. I've come so far but I still need to work on a lot of things.

For a long time I was scared to share my story, I was scared that people would judge me or accuse me of only telling my story for attention. These worries still are in the back of my mind, but I realized that I wanted to show others who are going through something similar that this will not last forever.

I want you to know that some days may be harder than others, but I promise you that it will get better. Do not give up, you will get through it. You will survive whatever comes your way. You are strong, you are worthy and you will always be enough.

Weight does not define you, the scale is never your friend. You are beautiful no matter what, never doubt yourself because you can do it.

I can now say I have had five years of therapy, five years of struggle, five years of victories, five years of recovery. Therapy has helped me tremendously, I want to say thank you to my wonderful parents, and my amazing brother, who have been through so much with me.

john@johnmahoney.com


Copyright © 2016 Alex Liepman/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.16