Shame, eating disorders and being Māori

 

If you have ever experienced or done something that you’ve never told anyone because of shame, then this is for you.

Today I am going to shed a little light on shame and eating disorders.

I had an eating disorder labelled as Bulimia.  It is a mental illness where the sufferer has a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight. This results in bouts of extreme overeating followed by fasting or self-induced vomiting or purging to prevent putting weight on.

This disease of the mind tortured me for years, especially because I suffered from it in silence.  I didn’t tell a soul for over eight years because I was so embarrassed and ashamed of what I was doing to myself. I thought people wouldn’t understand.  I didn’t want others to think I was weak, crazy and I didn’t want to be judged. So I kept it all to myself.

I didn’t know anyone personally that had this problem. I was also of the mind (influenced by the media) that it was something only white females suffered from. Being half Māori made me feel even more confused about the situation.  I thought to myself, Māori aren’t meant to be like this.  Māori love to eat lots of food and we don’t care if we put on weight. My distorted views about what was "normal" made me feel even worse about myself.  I was already confused about my identity and what it meant to be Māori.  It just confirmed in my head, that I was weird, different, and that no one would get me.  The very thought of telling someone made me want to curl up and hide. At that time, I would’ve rather died than have my secret exposed.

Some common traits among those who suffer from eating disorders are perfectionism, self-doubt, anxiety, and obsessiveness. There is an over concern around what other people think of them. As I reflect on my upbringing, I was a very shy child growing up. I suffered from social anxieties, I had feelings of self-loathing, self-doubt, and depression, but I hid it all.  I didn’t tell anyone; I buried my feelings alive. I ended up using substances (food, alcohol, marijuana, drugs) as a way to numb out. This led to dropping out of high school, dysfunctional relationships, criminal convictions (which lowered my self-esteem even more) and the idea that I had nothing good to offer the world.

I share this message because I am sure there is an experience that each and every one of us in this world has been ashamed of. At some stage of our lives, we may have thought about getting help or telling someone. However, we are overridden by shame, fear and the thought that no one could possibly understand our situation.

I want you to know that there is no experience, mistake, mental illness, or situation that you cannot overcome. You’d be amazed by the amount of people that are experiencing something similar to you.

The sooner we confront it and tackle it head-on, the sooner we can heal, grow, expand, and become our best selves.  The very thing you are struggling with can be conquered.  Often it takes courage and vulnerability to get there, something a lot of us aren’t willing to do. We have to humble ourselves. We have to be willing and want to change. We have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

I eventually reached out. It was so hard, but I’ll never regret it. It has made me stronger. If there is something that is holding you back, something that you want to get off your shoulders; there is no better time than now to do it.

Seek guidance only from people you trust. Sometimes all it takes is sharing your burden with someone that is non-judgmental.  It can lead you to a path of discovery, a path of strength, hope, and joy.

P.S If you don’t know who you should reach out too, please feel free to PM me.  I don’t want you to suffer in silence like I did.xx

Please share this link if you think this may help someone. If there are any Māori out there who have had an eating disorder, I 'd love to hear from you too.

2 comments

  • I can relate to this .I am glad to have stumbled upon this and feel a common understanding of a eating disorder and suffering mental illnesses .It dus help to talk and open up to someone you can trust.🤦‍♀️💙

    Alicia kiwi
  • Amazing sharing Julie! I love the whakaaro behind what you are doing with Puhi & Toa – what an awesome thing to do together as mother and son.

    The courage you’ve shown to be so vulnerable in your sharing will definitely give others the courage to do the same.

    Lots of aroha to you and Manaiah from the whānau and I.
    Tukara Matthews

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