WØLF's founder Alexandra spoke up on eating disorders
Eating disorders are serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person’s life. This is a conversation about the founder’s experience. As published May 2018 on Shine A Light.
What is your relationship with food?
It is the most difficult addiction to treat, as you need to establish a positive relationship with your drug of choice, food. You can’t just cut yourself off from it. My relationship remains complicated, is either a bothersome necessity to run the machine aka my body; or at good times it is celebrated as a ritual to fuel me, to engage with friends.
Did you seek professional help, and how was the experience?
I have this massive dark space of non-existent memory. It is like my mind is saying “you don’t wanna go there, trust me”.
It was only back two years ago when I felt the urge to stop running and facing the unknown dark cloud. I started with cognitive therapy and remembered the day clearly when some of the memory came back. I experienced a substantial physical reaction. Hard to put into words, but it was if for the first time my body connected to my conscious. Cell memory is fascinating and very powerful.
It was that day I faced that I had been sexually harassed as a child age 8. Something my mother confirmed on what was the most surreal conversation. In comparison to what I learned happens to women on a daily base, it was nothing, but to me, it disrupted everything to this day.
What followed was counselling with Abigail Peters in London, as well as still ongoing treatment of my ever low immune system and malnutrition by Dr Damien Downing. Years of starvation had led to a weak immune system and with it too quickly prescribed antibiotics. In turn, this led to brain fog, constant tiredness, damaged cell membranes, etc.
How do you start healing such incredible mess?
I have come to love the wonder of the body and the mind. Reading Bruce Lipton’s “Biology of Belief”, Dr Estés’ “Women Who Run With the Wolves”, and listening some of Dave Asprey’s “Bulletproof” podcasts, made me realise that nothing changes unless you change on a cellular level. The memory is not only stored in the brain but every single cell of our body. I figured I have to look at this from more than one angle and if I heal the body, I can heal the trauma.
Would you say you lack self connection?
Jane Fonda calls it the “disease to please”, and like many women, I blame myself for the abuse I suffered at the hands of others.
Another thing is the fact I operated for years, and still often do, on another dimension to reality. People often described me as a floating balloon, hardly ever fully present and impossible to pin down. To protect myself I learned to disconnect my feelings from my body.
This disconnectedness was my state of being the past 24+ years. Working with my friend and dancer Helena Dowling in London was a start and supported my journey to the self, as well as making peace with the gym and being in nature as much as possible.
Do you feel ashamed?
I understand that this one incident followed further abuse by men. I was stuck on the wrong path. Altogether I learned, that it is not my shame to carry and that has never been the case.
I now can assign this overwhelming feeling of dirtiness to what happened to me. Sexual harassment does often come as an extensive experience of a domino effect of unacceptable male behaviour. (This is clearly not gender specific but speaking from my personal experience.) “You do attract the weirdos.” A dangerous and insulting joke at the cost of someone violated. It is a topic no one wants to talk about in the open. Hence we make silly comments to make reality easier digestible; myself included.
How did you grow up?
I grew up in a very loving family in a small town in Austria. My childhood could not have been more protective and more fun. It shows how lucky I was! I took a course at Stanford about Women’s Rights and Human Rights this year and realised how much work needs be done so every child in this world can feel so loved.
Do you remember how it all started?
Yes, I decided I did not want to continue to live, but as my parents would have been too hurt to see me die, I figured — at the age of 12 — if I stop eating, I will fade away like Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter. When they made me eat I felt so dirty I had to get rid of the food, it was a way of keeping some control and some connection to reality.
Tremendous guilt and the longing to just drop dead. It is like you die a little, and then you get up, brush your teeth, have a shower and are reborn again.
It very quickly became an addiction to deal with problems and a way to stop the noise and the world for a moment.
In what way has bulimia affected your relationship with yourself and others?
I worked in fashion and art. Everyone was skinny, so it was not a topic. And you become a perfect project planner. Weirdly it helped me stay connected to myself and not get defeated by the recurring bullying and abuse. Others never knew.
Have you lost anything or anybody because of it, and where do you stand now?
My health. I am now, thanks to the right protocol as healthy as I have not been throughout my entire teens and 20s! It does make me angry to realise that no one ever thought of maybe giving me the right supply of minerals, vitamins and fats for a consistent period. For all those years I accepted that I was the fragile type. I had no idea how it feels like to not to be weak.
Having a weak body makes you feel vulnerable, feeling fragile makes you a perfect target for people that get a feeling of empowerment by pushing you down; a vicious circle.
Some people told me to leave all this in the past, that I don’t do myself any favour regarding my career and public image, telling this story of mine. It saddens me as our society encourages us to shut up about issues like this. I find myself lucky to have been in a loving family and later on, surrounded by a strong network of friends. There are others I met and have spoken to, that aren’t that lucky.
I do not want anybody to have to feel lesser, because of something someone once did to them.
Anything you would like to add?
Those people beings so quick in judging you and pushing you down, are in a negative place. You do not have to take their negative vibes and criticism.
Now has already passed, the past is only as big as we make it be. And with the next breath, you take, there is a new now to reclaim your life. You’ve got this!