What does it mean to be yourself?

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Be Yourself Blog is a chance for Little Voice to share the stories of those finding their little voice, those struggling to hear it, and those using it to inspire others. These are the stories about people just like you, and how they listened to their inner voice to build, create, explore and discover.

AFTERTASTE is a unique three part blog that shares the personal story and struggle of Little Voice’s illustrator Samantha Clusiau-Lawlor. 

“When Samantha came to me with her story and her hope of sharing it with others, I immediately stood by her like any partner would! Little Voice is more than just a children’s book, we are a movement. Not just one movement, but many movements. Whether we are supporting Alzheimer’s disease or other causes in our community, or even Samantha’s story, we want to use our platform to support every little voice; in times of strength and times of weakness.” – Amanda Bernardo, author

Last week on June 2nd, the world came together to promote the World Eating Disorder Action Day. Today, Samantha is opening up with all of our readers on her own personal experience in an effort to promote a worldwide knowledge of eating disorders and the need for comprehensive treatment.

This is part two of Samantha’s story:

In December 2015, I hit my lowest low.

In October of that year, I had lost my grandmother to cancer three weeks after she was admitted to the hospital. Shortly after that, I had lost my job due to changes following the federal election. I had just bought a house with my boyfriend, and was worried about being able to afford it. The obstacles that were thrown my way made me take vigorous control of my body and food intake in the most punishing of ways. I buried my emotions and masked them with workouts, healthy food and a false sense of happiness. As a result, I was even thinner.

One evening, a dear friend of mine came over to see my new home and cheer me up about all the recent events that were taking place in my life. I could see this genuine concern in her eyes as she proceeded to ask me if everything was okay. I broke down. I couldn’t bear the weight (pun intended) of this obsession that was taking over my life. My little voice was shouting at me, and I could finally hear her loud and clear.

Before anad After

I admitted to her and to myself that I was done living this way.

On that same night, after re-discovering my little voice, I immediately grabbed my laptop and searched for a local eating disorder therapist and booked an appointment right away. I knew that a lot of hard work awaited me; I would have to dig deep and figure out the root cause of my orthorexia. I would have to talk about my feelings, about my insecurities, my obsessive habits, my childhood. I was scared, anxious, ashamed, but at the same time, I was also proud of my bravery, relieved and ready to recover. In retrospect, as much as this seemed hard at the time, it would have been even harder to go on the way I was going. I know that if I had awakened my little voice, this eating disorder could have potentially killed me.

For seven months I was journaling, and while I journaled, I would talk to ED. Who is Ed you ask? ‘’Ed’’ stands for ‘’eating disorder’’. It felt silly, but I was willing to do anything and everything to be freed from this mental illness.

Here’s a sample from my journal:

Ed: You ate way too much chocolate today. Are you nuts? You’re going to have to make up for all the damage you’ve done to your body today.

Me: Actually Ed, I ate what I wanted and it feels so liberating. I feel so energized! There’s no such thing as ‘’too much’’ in recovery. My body needs as much fuel as it can get because of all the damage YOU have done to it over the years.

Ed: I gave you control over the one thing you could control! I gave you the power to cope with your emotions and the things in life you couldn’t control! I gave you a thin body. People love your thin body! You’re going to ruin it by feeding it garbage the way you have today!

Me: Ed, you gave me a false sense of control. You made me weak, bony and miserable. I am not feeding my body garbage. I am simply eating without limits and giving my body a wide variety of foods. Even the foods I had deprived myself of for so long! My body is thanking me!

I had to journal these types of conversations until Ed had nothing left to say.

Recovery also lead me on a path discovery. I had found answers as to why I had this mental illness but also, answers as to who I was as a person. I learned that this obsession with a perfect diet was simply a coping mechanism for my anxiety. When life threw me curve ball after curve ball, I would restrict my food intake as a way to control or ‘’have a handle’’ on whatever situation I was dealing with. But this was not healthy and finally, after six years, I realized it had to stop.

I didn’t want to Ed win, I didn’t want me life to pass me by, but more importantly, I wanted to be happy, healthy and free of Ed.

Read Part Three of Samantha’s three part story today at 6:00pm.