I remember my first successful surf fondly. I was so eager to stand up that eventually I did, but I also remember feeling as though I stood out for the wrong reasons. Not for being uncoordinated and unbalanced, but because I was older and not exactly athletic. The anxiety I felt when being handed my wetsuit (would I have to change in front of these buff surf coaches?) and feeling weak as I carried the huge foamie to the beach (cue out-of-breathness). It made me want to be “good” at surfing all the more, just to prove to any critics that I could.
Ultimately, BED hit me after my first successful lesson and I got even fatter. But when you’re severely depressed and grieving, you really don’t care how you pull yourself through each day. We all need comfort. Unfortunately, mine turned into an eating disorder that made me even more depressed because I hated the way I looked (and felt). I hated myself enough to stop eating, and that’s when I knew I needed something else to focus on – other than hating myself.
That was when I decided to get healthy and see a psychologist, and go out on a limb and commit myself to surfing by buying my first surfboard. I’ve learned a lot about myself since deciding to surf. I know I have someone inside me that is confident and able to paddle through the impact zone, but also someone that feels confident enough to change into a wetsuit in front of buff surfer dudes (albeit awkwardly). Surfing has given me endurance and strength I never would have found in the world. I have my rough periods; the day the doctor “updated” my eating disorder was a day I felt like I had tinnitus – the words Bulimia Nervosa rang in my ear – in fact they still do because it doesn’t feel right. I am not Bulimic, yet I have Bulimia. I feel very disconnected from this diagnosis. I do not throw up food so how am I Bulimic? Again, the surfing has helped me re-establish my sense of identity and give me a place where I am safe.
Now I am fitter and healthier than ever before. I surf and I workout. I still struggle with eating like a normal person, but the important thing is that I try. I’ve given my psychologist the sack and I’m relying on my own strengths to heal myself, because thanks to surfing, I have power.
My journey is still just beginning…