My name is Emily W. Locke and I am a 23-year-old woman born and raised in Portland, OR.
I am a writer/blogger, dancer, and an advocate for mental health. I have battled mental illnesses from a young age, and as a result am very passionate about raising awareness for eating disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression, as well as promoting a positive body image.
I am an undergraduate student at North Carolina State University majoring in English with a creative writing concentration. I hope to someday be a published author, and eating disorder activist.
I have written several guest blogger articles for the National Eating Disorders Association. My writing has also been featured on Women You Should Know’s website, and most recently I was a part of a collaboration with Healthline.
To read more about my personal experiences with mental illnesses here is a summary –
Content Warning: eating disorders, anxiety, body image issues, depression, suicidal ideations, suicide attempt.
Ever since I can remember I’ve struggled with body image issues. Whether it was through bullying, thinking I looked fat, or never feeling good enough, I always felt bad about my appearance. I have been a dancer since I was four years old, and I did primarily ballet for many years. The toxicity of the dance world greatly impacted my mental health. I was naturally “too big” for the dance world, so I tried several diets from a young age, and like most, none of them worked. When I got to high school, I was still determined to change the way my body looked.
I began exercising excessively, restricting food, and later, purging. Several months went by until my parents confronted me and made me get help. I was 15 at the time, in denial of having a problem, and did not want help. But I didn’t have a choice, I was diagnosed with Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). I began day treatment at Kartini Clinic. I was there for a couple of months, but once I left I went back to my eating disorder behaviors. I began experiencing depression, so much that I didn’t see the point of living anymore. I battled those feelings for a while and eventually couldn’t take it anymore. I was 16 at the time, and I tried to end my life.
Thankfully, my attempt failed. While at the time I was very unhappy that I failed, eventually I became extremely thankful that I could continue my life and get the help that I needed. I then very shortly after went to Center for Discovery (residential) and had a life-changing experience. I got weight restored, had confidence, and had a pretty good relationship with food and exercise.
Several months passed and I became unhappy with my body again. I was feeling depressed and ashamed about other parts of my life and so my eating disorder became present again. Only this time, it was different. I was terrified of getting physically ill again. So afraid that I stayed away from exercise. I developed a fear of exercise, something that used to be such a big part of my life. Something that was a release, something that was considered to be a standard part of life as a dancer. I was so afraid of getting back to where I was before treatment, and before my suicide attempt. I needed comfort, a way to cope with the pain. That’s when I turned to food. Instead of food being terrifying and a huge fear, it became a huge comfort.
As several of my therapists have said, “My eating disorder is a pendulum. I was at one side and swung to the other.” I went to the other extreme of how my eating disorder initially began. I didn’t even think it was considered an eating disorder. I thought it was just emotional eating and gradual weight gain. Come to find out, I had developed Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
I had no idea that was an eating disorder. I had no idea eating disorders could completely transform and turn into the opposite of what they used to be. But sure enough, it is possible. It’s actually quite common.
At 18 I began day treatment at the Eating Disorder Center of Portland. I had a complex experience there. It was very difficult for me to open up around the shame of bingeing. I tried so hard to make progress, but it wasn’t enough. I then went to Center for Discovery again, only this time the adult chapter, rather than the adolescent one. I had one of the most influential experiences of my recovery process. I made so much genuine progress on my body image issues. More genuine than ever before. I learned a very real and helpful philosophy around food and exercise. I felt amazing, and I returned home.
I kept up my routine with food for a while, had a positive body image, and tried to stay with my exercise plan. But going from what feels like a treatment bubble back to the real world, is extremely hard. I did okay, but when it came time for me to start school at PCC is when I realized I wasn’t stable enough. That’s when I was referred to the Portland Dialectal Behavioral Therapy Institute (Portland DBT Institute). I started there in early March of 2016. It’s an outpatient program, so I was able to go a couple of times a week while doing school full-time. It’s been an incredible program. Between seeing my therapist (who I’ve seen for several years) and having the support at Portland DBT, I’ve made a lot of progress.
I graduated from Portland DBT at the beginning of May in 2017. The program is phenomenal, very different from anything I’ve tried before. I’ve made the most consistent and stable progress out of any treatment I’ve tried. Since it’s outpatient, I did the work while still living my life, and I think that was one of the most helpful parts.
Since then I have still been seeing my primary therapist and maintaining my recovery with the help and support of my friends and family. I still have things I’m working on and goals I want to accomplish as a part of my recovery, but I’m stable and feel capable of fighting through the rough patches that still come my way. I feel stronger than I could’ve imagined. While I’m not exactly where I want to be, I’m significantly closer than I was in the past. This is my journey and I’m proud to say that it’s something I feel comfortable sharing. I don’t feel ashamed of what I’ve been through anymore. I know I wouldn’t be nearly as strong or as in touch with my mental and emotional side without everything I’ve experienced. I’ve also learned that while my eating disorder is a large part of my life and may always be, it doesn’t define me.
I’ve learned to make myself a priority. I’ve learned that getting help is extremely important, and nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve learned that recovery is an ongoing battle. I’ve learned that I have the strength inside of me to fight my eating disorder. I AM stronger than this mental illnesses, and I will continue to fight for my recovery, no matter how hard it gets. Recovery is worth it, and I know that it always will be.