Sunday, December 27, 2009

Iron Man-- Male Eating Disorders

Male Eating Disorders
-- Bigger, Faster and Stronger


It was the end to another demanding day for me at Canopy Cove, a residential eating disorder treatment center for both males and females. It was in early April of 2008, and I was desperately trying to recover a life that was firmly in the grips of anorexia nervosa. I was halfway through my 30 day stay in treatment when I received an unexpected email from a former housemate and lacrosse teammate. The title of the email was “Iron Man,” and the message had me reflecting upon my life and a brief story that occurred back in college, which clearly defined my existence.

In short, the story highlighted a competition that was held during my sophomore year of college. It consisted of a three mile run, followed by a thirty minute (45lb) plate weightlifting workout ending with the final “Iron Man” challenge. The challenge was to test a person’s strength, endurance and heart. It was simple; the last man holding the (45lb) plate above their head was the winner. The final test lasted around 25 minutes and it came down to three people, and I was one of them. I was by far the smallest athlete, but what I lacked in size and strength, I made up with perseverance. I was in an extreme amount of pain, but I pushed forward and never gave up and I won the “Iron Man” title and competition. The email I had received that day reminding me of this story I had blocked out during my five year battle with anorexia nervosa purging type ended with this line;

--“Patrick, you were the smallest player on the team, but at the end of the day, you had spirit and determination. You didn’t win the “Iron Man” test solely on strength, you just wouldn’t give up. You have more heart than anyone I have ever met-- take this resolve and fight, and use it to overcome this eating disorder.”

This simple short story has great symbolism and meaning to my life, my struggle with anorexia, and my recovery. I think the best way for me to explain its importance is to share my personal story from the very beginning. I think this will also give you true insight into male athletes and eating disorders. Though commonly perceived as an illness affecting women, eating disorders do not discriminate according to race, gender or class. The latest statistics state that over one million men in the United States struggle with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. This does not include the millions of men out there suffering from binge eating disorder.

My name is Patrick Bergstrom and I am a survivor of a four-year battle with anorexia nervosa. I am a former Division III College Lacrosse player and graduate of Wesley College. I grew up in small town, where I was a record-setting lacrosse player and athlete in high school. You might wonder the same thing I often struggle with; “How could a talented, All-State student athlete, raised in a safe and loving environment, find himself physically and mentally devastated by anorexia nervosa?” There is no simple answer, but my story of success and failure illustrates how I came to live a secret and destructive life with an eating disorder. This is my true-life account of anorexia, survival and hope.

I was raised in a rural town by two caring parents. I was the middle child and was considered the wild one — having extreme potential but lacking direction. I fell in love with sports, and my dream was to become the first lacrosse player in Western Maryland to play Division I lacrosse. I was the typical little boy growing up and my adolescent years were full of laughter and excitement. During my teenage days, everything came really effortless for me. I excelled socially, academically and athletically. Though I was a bit on the small side, I didn’t let this stop me from chasing after my dream to become a fierce athlete. I always wanted to be; bigger, faster, and stronger than anyone else. Athlete’s train, so I pushed myself, worked out six days a week and took supplements to attain the ideal male athletic build.

I was told many times that at 5-feet, 6-inches tall and 135 pounds, I was too small to play college lacrosse. I was driven to prove them wrong. I had to be the best at whatever I did, and my teenage years were consumed with lacrosse, weightlifting and schoolwork. I set numerous high school records in lacrosse and weightlifting, played on the Maryland Senior All-State team and was nominated for the Maryland Public School Player of the Year. When I wasn’t training, I was the life of the party. To those who thought they knew me best, I was a standout student athlete and a ladies’ man. However, on the inside, nothing was ever good enough for me.

I graduated from high school 2001 and went to the University of Tennessee, looking to continue my reign of greatness. But during my college years I attended two universities, suffered back and knee injuries, had two concussions, saw my mom battle breast cancer, dated two girls at once, went through five coaches and drank excessively to numb the pain. My senior year in college is when I lost all control of my life. In an effort to run from my problems, I began working out more and eating less. (one meal per day) I was trying to keep my starting spot on the team, joggle two girlfriends, graduate and deal with a coach who didn’t believe in my ability. Nobody else seemed to notice the chaos my life had become, perhaps because I was still excelling in the classroom and producing on the field. Even I still didn’t see that something was drastically wrong.

My life took a disastrous turn during my final college lacrosse game. I watched from the bench as my team lost the final playoff game. Despite the determined efforts I made to become a great college lacrosse player, it never happened. This was the day I put down my lacrosse stick for good, or so I thought. I had never experienced anything so painful. For the next four years I would struggle with anorexia, depression, substance abuse, and over exercise. I never once picked up my lacrosse stick.

When I graduated later that month (2005), I was not prepared for what was ahead. I was in and out of a relationship and could not find a job related to my business major. I had no avenue of escape from my problems. When things went wrong before, I had turned to lacrosse. It was my way of expressing myself and dealing with life’s obstacles. With lacrosse absent in my life, I had no way to cope. I began eating less and binge drinking more. I was secretly suffering and dying from anorexia nervosa and I was desperate for some type of intervention. At this point, I was pretty sick and I thought getting married would turn my life around and solve my eating disorder problem.

A month before my wedding, I couldn’t get out of bed; my mind and body were completely drained and weak. I broke down to my fiancé, my friends, and cried out, “There is something wrong with me, and I need help!” I never did get married, but I did get the intervention I was looking for. The simple statement, “I need help,” changed my life and two weeks later, I was off to Canopy Cove. (Residential Eating Disorder Treatment Center) My treatment experience was short lived due to insurance issues but it gave me the foundation I needed to build a successful and strong recovery. I have been in full remission from my anorexia for two years, and I am now back running and playing the sports I love. I had to learn the hard way that eating disorders don’t discriminate, but neither does recovery! I am not wasting my suffering and I am using my experiences to help other athletes and males struggling with eating disorders. Please feel free to visit, I Chose To Live (www.ichosetolive.com) to read my entire memoir and to learn more about my team outreach.

Here is what I believe that everyone should know about male eating disorders based upon my five year struggle with anorexia. The most important thing to know is that there is no simple or clear stereotype for eating disorders. Every eating disorder is different, including those in men and athletes. I have found that most male eating disorders are diagnosed at the end stages of the eating disorder or when treatment or hospitalization is essential. This is because of the extreme stigma males with eating disorders face. Here are some clear signs that could help you diagnosis a male eating disorder.

· Perfectionist attitude
· Over exercise
· Substance abuse
· Strong fixation on appearance and athletic performance
· Isolation
· Mood swings
· People Pleaser
· All or nothing mindset
· Loss of interest in friends and family
· Denial
· Overuse of supplements or performance enhancing drugs

The one fear I struggled with was the reaction others would have when they found out I had an eating disorder. This fear kept me from seeking help for almost two years, and it nearly took my life. After reaching out, that fear I had disappeared because I discovered that most people were very receptive to my illness. Some were not and I did lose my fiancé’ because she just couldn’t understand my disorder. I believe the most important decision for men is to reach out and get help. The sooner the better! It’s normal for men to try and solve all their problems on their own, but this is not possible with an eating disorder. The best way to help a male struggling is to be very patient, loving, stern but supportive, and compassionate.

Male eating disorders are very taboo and secretive illnesses, making it very difficult for caregivers and professionals to identify. In most cases, the situation will be much like mine. The male sufferer will be very popular, driven, and even obsessed at becoming the best in whatever sport or field they are in. The eating disorder for them, like it was for me, will become a way to cope when things start to break down. Also, know that guys do struggle with body image but it is very different from that in women. We want to be bigger and stronger—having a ripped 6-pack and a muscular build. Guys don’t talk about it, but we do compare our builds, our forty times (how fast we are), and our bench presses. Again, most male athletes want to be bigger, faster and stronger. This drive can ultimately lead to disordered eating and or an eating disorder. Eating disorders are very complex, but by being very proactive, they can be avoided! Men do suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders. I hope that my story disclosed essential information that will help you care for another male struggling. Look for the warning signs, and don’t wait until your friend or patient is drastically under weight. Play it safe and address the issue when you sense something is wrong.

Anorexia Nervosa nearly took my life because I was ashamed to get help, and those around me were afraid to address the issue. Use my story and learn from my mistakes and from my recovery. Know that I was a strong and very successful male athlete that destroyed the erroneous stereotype of those who can suffer from eating disorders. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone! I am now a survivor of an eating disorder and my anorexia will never define me as a person. If anything, my struggles have allowed me to become the passionate and beautiful person that I am today.

Recovery is possible!!
Patrick Bergstrom

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Day 2 of ED Treatment at Canopy Cove

Day 2 of Treatment at Canopy Cove—
Focus of the Day: (in the morning before heading to the center)
3/30/2008


--Be open to new things and give the program a chance

--Don’t let the past dictate my future. Never forget where you have been, but do not dwell on it-- learn from it and become a stronger person.

--Remember, this is not your fault, but I do have the power to change this.

Questions running through my head:

--Can I relate to this program being a guy?

--Will she ever understand my disorder, and will she forgive me for losing myself to my ED? (referring to former fiancé’)

--How can I use this experience to better my future and to possibly help others?

--Can this program really help a broken male athlete?

Random Thoughts—

God only tests those he knows can handle it…right?? Everyone fails; however, this does not make you a failure. Failing is a part of life, and how you react to failure predicts your future.

Day 2:

Spoke with the founder and voiced my concerns about the program. It’s really hard being the only male, and struggling with an eating disorder. At times, I feel like I am the only guy in the world going through this. It seems like this program is more tailored towards females, and not for men. Again, I just don’t see them helping an athlete. All of us here suffer from some type of eating disorder but my issues just seem so completely different. Will I be able to fit in and get the support I need to get healthy?

Overall, it was a pretty good day. Started working on my article I spoke with the group about. This could be my calling, “A Fallen Athlete.” I could move from failing backwards and falling on my face to failing forward. Success is in the eye of the beholder. So I am here to at least Tuesday, (its Saturday) as I told them I would stay a few more days to see how I liked it. We will see what happens…only time will tell right?? My full focus the next few days has to be on my recovery, breaking down the walls, and finding out who I really am. Today needs to be the start of the rest of my new life.

Reflection: (Present)

Lots of good stuff showing up here and its only day 2 of my stay at Canopy Cove. Let me first do a quick recap of the day’s events. It’s so crazy how the mind works, as after reading this post from nearly two years ago, I can remember it like it was just yesterday. So this day was pretty eventful, and it was a beautiful sunny Saturday in Florida. My ED was in full force and the Founder had to make a special weekend visit just to talk me into staying. I was causing quite the stir up and I had only been there less than 48 hrs. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted recovery, but I was just having trouble letting my ED go, and I just thought this place was way too feminine for my taste. After a long talk and a battle with my ED mind, I made the decision to stay until the following Tuesday.

Being that it was a Saturday, we picked up lunch and went to some park close by. (Saturdays were low key and field trip and meal out days) We ate lunch, talked and sat down by the water. I had a great conversation with one of the Team Leaders about sports, which really got my mind off my very unfortunate situation. We also tossed a Frisbee around which also helped me to clear my mind. It was at this point, that I decided I would use my athletic prowess and background to share my story and fight my ED. Somehow I came up with the title “A Fallen Athlete” and well that stuck, as I later poured my heart out in a very lengthy memoir of my life with that title. Here is the link if you care to read it. I have been told it’s quite a good read but for me— it was all about putting my life onto paper so I could uncover who I really was.

http://www.ichosetolive.com/files/A_Fallen_Athlete.pdf

So now let’s move onto my comments from my journal and the questions that were frantically running through my mind.

Can I relate to this program being a guy? At this point, I really had no clue as it was so early on in the program. I still was very shutdown and broken. I should have been getting ready to get married but I was in treatment for anorexia. I can say now that I was very sick and confused. It was a blessing that I was there because I had no idea what I needed to save my life. Though this program was more for females, it had everything I needed, and you will learn more about that in later posts as my days in treatment go on.

Will she ever understand my disorder, and will she forgive me for losing myself to my ED? (Referring to former fiancé’) At this point, I was still completely devastated that when I chose to go into treatment, my fiancé’ chose to walk away from the engagement and wedding. I remember thinking that if I got healthy I could win her back and we would live a long and wonderful life together. Yeah, apparently that was some of my crazy ED thinking. I don’t know if she ever really understood my illness, but I do know that while I was suffering, she just sat back and did nothing. I have not spoken to this person whom I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with since I went into treatment. I do hope that she was able to forgive me, and I hope she is happy. I was not healthy when I dated this girl and I thought marriage would save me, wrong! The only way to fight an eating disorder is to reach out and get help! I now know that this girl was not right for me, and that it was a blessing that we never got married. Today, my social life along with dating isn’t the best, but I am more than okay with that because I am happy with myself and living free one day at a time.

How can I use this experience to better my future and to possibly help others? At this early stage, I really had no clue on how to better myself, let alone anyone else’s future. Though anyone that has struggled with an ED knows that we are people pleasers and we will try to fix the world before looking at ourselves. My first step to answering this question was by making the decision to fight, stay in treatment, and to write out my story. I wrote out my story for the sole purpose of finding out who “Patty” was, and it eventually worked. It has also been read and shared all over the U.S. which has been a true blessing. My point here is that we can do anything if we first take care of ourselves. I am nothing to the eating disorder field, to my family, to my friends, and to those still suffering, if I am not first taking care of ME!!! Changing the world starts with changing “YOU.”

Can this program really help a broken male athlete? If I would have answered that question back then, the answer surly would have been NO!!! However, that was my ED personality controlling every aspect of my life. Today, I know that this program was a blessing and it really gave me the foundation to a strong and successful recovery. This program was individualized and it will meet you right where you are, and that’s what it did for me. It took a broken athlete, and uplifted me. I learned to destroy the walls I had built, and to express and share my thoughts and feelings. Guys aren’t very good at this kind of stuff, but this is exactly what I needed. I am happy to say that Canopy Cove now as a Male Residential Program. www.canopycove.com

Well I am going to end this post because it is getting a bit wordy. Thanks so much for spending the day in treatment with me and I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and support. This was a big day for me, as it marked the beginning of my battle to destroy my Eating Disorder!!

Believe,
Patrick
www.ichosetolive.com

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why did I have to struggle with an Eating Disorder?

Why me….why did I have to struggle with substance abuse and anorexia nervosa?

After having a conversation with a friend in recovery yesterday, she asked me that similar question. “Why do I have to struggle with an Eating Disorder?” My response was simple; “it’s not why me, but why not me.” Of course she was very confused by this response and wanted me to explain further.

Here is my thinking behind this bold and seemingly outrageous statement—“why not me”

I truly believe that anyone who struggles with something as painful as an eating disorder has at some point asked this same question. Why me?? Why was I dealt this terrible hand of having to fight something with such a negative stigma and that is so misunderstood by the world? I have asked this question so many times in my young life that I seemed to have lost count. (I am only 26) Most of you know me now as Patrick, a very loud spoken and passionate eating disorder activist in recovery from a four year battle with anorexia nervosa and substance abuse. Some words associated with me might be; swagger, passion, heart, positivity, faith, hope, courage, etc. No, I am not here to toot my own horn, if anything; I have the complete opposite intentions in mind. I have not always been this caring and passionate person, and I believe by sharing a bit about who I was will back up my statement of “why not me.”

Pre-Eating Disorder

For the majority of my life I was never challenged and well I really didn’t care too much about anything other than myself. The first 21 years of my life to most would be described as “picture perfect!” I grew up in a very loving environment and things just came easy for me. I had great and loving parents, a role model big brother, and an awesome little sister. I was an excellent student and a stand out athlete. I grew up being very popular and well I wasn’t afraid to let others know it. I was very arrogant, cocky, and short-tempered. I thought I was entitled to everything. My life was all about me, and what you could do for me!! I walked over those who weren’t athletes and didn’t associate with those who weren’t in the popular crowd. I was the typical male jock and I was a big follower. I dated the typical attractive popular girls, and the relationships were mostly for show. At certain times in my life, I had several girlfriends. This is something I am not proud of!!

During my high school years, I set many lacrosse, and weight lifting records. I was all about sports, partying, and getting girls. I was that typical guy that you wouldn’t want your daughter dating. Though on the outside, I looked like the perfect gentlemen! I was all EGO and only into myself!! I did later on in high school meet a wonderful girl whom I dated for over 6 years. She was an amazing gift to my life but I just didn’t see it.

Eating Disorder

Moving onto my college years, my reckless and wild behaviors really didn’t change. I was still dating that wonderful girl I mentioned but you really wouldn’t have known it. I was all about partying, playing lacrosse, and just living my life. Eventually that perfect life I had going began to break down. Looking back, it really wasn’t a perfect life at all. Anyways, I will make this short for the sake of time. In my four years of college; I was arrested twice for drinking, lost my lacrosse coach and mentor in a freak surfing accident, abused alcohol, didn’t eat, cheated on my girlfriend, dated two girls at once, and sat the bench my senior year. Talk about four years of chaos. The thing is though; nobody saw my life in a bad light. Guys thought I was cool and girls still thought I was a sweetheart, and well my parents just thought I was a wonderful son. Honestly, this is around the time that I really started to struggle with anorexia and I really had no idea who I really was. I was angry, lost, and just confused.

For the next four years after college I bounced from job to job, drank too much, starved myself, and was in and out of a very destructive relationship with a college girlfriend. Eventually I lost complete control of my life and thought my saving grace would be to get married. So I got engaged and thought my life would change. Yeah, at this point I was pretty sick. Well, I never got married but something wonderful did happen. A month before my wedding day, I found myself lying on the ground crying out for help.

A few days later, I was off to Canopy Cove with the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa purging type. I spent 30 odd days in treatment and it changed my outlook on life. This brings me to the statement I made; “why not me.” So here is my point and it’s pretty simple. A very dear friend told me something very profound;

“God never wastes a suffering”

This simple message was shared to me a few months out of treatment and it really gave me my life back. So yes, when I think about my struggle with alcohol and anorexia, my response is no longer why me, but why not me!! Don’t get me wrong, I would never wish an eating disorder upon anyone, but I do believe that my sufferings have given my life true purpose and meaning. I am not going to waste anymore of this precious life God has blessed me with. I should be dead, and at my bottom, I really didn’t want to live. Yet, God delivered me from the chains of my ED, and gave me life.

I am not going to waste my struggle with anorexia nervosa. I am going to live my life for God and fight to change the world and field of eating disorder recovery. I no longer live for me, but to serve God, and to serve those around me. I am very passionate, caring, loving, and I will fight for anyone struggling with an ED! My struggle as allowed me to grow and become the real Patrick—that’s why I say…why not me!!! I am truly a beautiful child of God!!!

Don’t waste your struggle, fight for recovery, and fight for those beside you. Recovery has been a blessing for me, and I no longer find myself saying; why me, why me!!! No, my life is not perfect, but I am alive and growing every day. I believe every single suffering can change the world for the better. My world has become my community, my facebook group and friends of over 300, my family, every school I speak at, and every support group I attend. My world is having a positive impact on the eating disorder field and those whom I come in contact with. Your world is what you make it, and you have the power to influence and change it.

That’s why I make the statement; “why not me!” I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Though I don’t always like what happens in life, I do know at some point it will all make sense. Yes, recovery can be hard, and so can life. I haven’t really dated since my fiancé’ walked away and my social life really isn’t all that great either. The old me, would just be like why me, why me….Not this time! I try to see everything in a new and positive light. I now have some of the most amazing friends in the world because of my struggles, and I have so many people I can count on. My life has meaning, and I am making a difference, even if it’s a small one.

Eating Disorders are very complex diseases associated with genetics, social and psychological factors. For this reason, it is very hard to answer the question; “why did or do I have to struggle with an ED?” Why does anyone struggle with anything? I don’t really know the answer to that but I do believe that adversity makes us stronger. My struggles are going to save the lives of so many young men and women, and so can yours!!! Why did Lance Armstrong struggle with cancer?? Maybe to help others struggling with cancer. Why did amazing people like Jenni Schaefer and Kathleen MacDonald struggle with ED’s? Maybe to change the face of eating disorder recovery!!!! I don’t really know but I do think it is a lot easier to answer the question; “why not me!” When we have this mindset, we can face our ED and achieve recovery!!!

You are making a difference everyday by fighting for recovery!!!


God Bless

Patty

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First Night in Treatment at Canopy Cove


Eating Disorder Rears its Ugly Face:


--These are the exact words taken from my journal during my stay in treatment for anorexia.

3/28/2008

“I feel so alone, and I just want to run away….But where will I go, and to what?? The first day at treatment was a complete shock, and I feel like this isn’t the right place for me!! Should I stay or should I go?? Am I thinking with a clear mind or is this my eating disorder affecting my judgment? Can I even make a rational decision at this point?

I can’t seem to make sense of any of this…. If this was a lacrosse game, I would know exactly what to do. I used to carry teams on my back. I was fearless and at times, unstoppable!! Why can’t I just bust out a quick “Patty Dive” and stick the ball in the back of the net. Apparently one quick move to the goal is not going to beat this monstrous Eating Disorder. This is one opponent I can’t beat or fight on my own. I tried for 4-years to do this, to fight this demon within, and I just couldn’t do it. I need real help and support. This needs to be a total team effort where I must use every and any resource available. One day at a time Patty, one day at a time!!
The time for me to sneak across the crease and ping the corner will come, I just need to be patient. Mind over Matter!!"

Lessons Learned from 1st Day—

• I need to be 100% committed to recovery
• I can’t do this alone
• Don’t let your guard down
• Don’t fail backwards, only fail forward—meaning I need to learn from my mistakes and become an achiever
• This test will only make me stronger
• This is the hardest battle I will ever face-- never give up and stay the course
• Be open about what you’re feeling and let others in

BELIEVE!!!!

(End Entry)

Reflection (Present)-

Before reflecting upon what I wrote in my journal, I must first tell you about the day. Wow, this day was so crazy and intense. When I got to the grounds of Canopy Cove, I was a complete mess (All ED). I was angry and not very optimistic. The first thing I saw was a group of girls and I was like….”yeah I am not that thin, I am not that sick.” Wow, who was I fooling? I came into treatment at my lowest weight, I was pale, my hair was thinning out, and I couldn’t keep any food in my system. I was sick and needed to be there. That was just my ED feeding me a bunch of lies. At that point in my life, I couldn’t even see how bad and unhealthy I looked. Looking back at pictures now, I see it and it is such a blessing to be in recovery and healthy!!!

So when I got there, I wanted to run… In my exact words when I called my Dad, “get me the hell out of this place, it’s not for me. I am a strong athlete and they want me to talk about feelings and play with horses and do art.” This is all true, in treatment you do all kinds of creative stuff to get you to understand and move away from your ED behaviors and find new and healthy coping skills.

So I fought with the entire staff, refused to go grocery shopping and just ignored everyone the rest of the day. Yikes, talk about a messy first day. Eating Disorders are like that-- messy and unpredictable. Somehow they got me to stay the weekend. Thank God, because staying at Canopy Cove saved my life!!!

Reflecting on my journal, I can now see how far gone I was and disconnected from myself-- I was 100% Eating Disorder!! I was angry and just miserable. I look back on that day and laugh. Later on in treatment, we actually joked about that day. ED’s are not pretty, and they are very destructive. I was a lost soul, lost in my anorexia and pretty much had destroyed everything positive in my life. So this was a bad day for me, but it was a learning experience. It really opened my eyes to how much help I really needed. If you are struggling, know that you are not alone, and please reach out for help!!!

I also liked the fact that in my journal entry, I compared my ED fight to playing lacrosse. At that moment in treatment, I really knew nothing about Anorexia, so I started to see my battle as something I could relate too. (Lacrosse) Months after treatment, I wrote about my team approach to recovery and you can read that article on the I Chose To Live website at this link-- http://www.ichosetolive.com/recovery.aspx

Treatment is definitely a rollercoaster ride, but it’s worth it. I almost walked away on the first day, but I kept fighting, even when my ED was telling me to run. If I would have left that day, I would not be alive today!!! Your ED is not the answer to life or control, and it will quickly and painfully take everything from you. My hopes are that you will continue with me on this journey as I go back through my journal and reflect on my treatment experience. Learn from my experiences,and believe me when I say, "recovery is possible!!"

Until the next post, stay strong, never give up, and remember—there will never be another you and you’re a beautiful gift to this world.

I Chose To Live,

Patrick Bergstrom

Monday, October 19, 2009

Flight to ED Treatment

Day 1: Plane Flight to Florida (3/28/08)

--These are the exact words taken from my journal during my stay in treatment for anorexia.

“A new journey in my life begins today. I am leaving everything I know behind me and there are so many thoughts and feelings racing through my mind. I am slightly nervous, yet in a strange way, very excited. To be honest, I am quite unsure of what is to come of my future. I believe this is a time to start fresh and find out who I truly am. Somewhere in the past 4 years, I lost myself, and my purpose in life. There were moments of the real me, but they have all been forgotten.

I have been through so much at such a young age, and this will by far top them all. Recovery is going to be the hardest thing I will ever face. I must now go head-to-head with my mind and body! How can a beat this, when it is a part of me??? It knows every move I make before I make it and it knows exactly what I am thinking. This is all very true, but does it know my heart? Does it know the power of love? Love of oneself, love of God, love of family, and love of life….

I have the willingness and strength to never give up! I will fight this battle one day at a time and there will be VICTORY…Patrick you just have to BELIEVE!!!”

-- Entry End

Reflection: (Present)

After reading this today, more than 20 months later, I kind of smiled and just laughed. I sounded pretty positive for a guy who was just diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and given less than a year to live. I also can’t believe I didn’t even mention that just four days earlier, my fiancé’ chose to call off the wedding and engagement during my intervention. (a pretty painful and low moment in my life) I think I was a bit amped up on coffee and well trying to make my first journal entry a positive one. I remember this day like it was yesterday. I was so scared and the plane ride was a complete blur. I was given a book before I left—“Failing Forward,” by John Maxwell and read it in the terminal and throughout treatment. This book got me fired up and pretty much kept me from fleeing the airport. This is also probably why I was so optimistic in my first post. (read this book, as it changed my life and outlook on failure)

I was completely clueless to what was about to happen to me. I was really sick, my weight was extremely low, and I was completely depressed. I was also angry at the world and at God. I couldn’t understand why I had to struggle with an eating disorder. I remember screaming in my head—why me, why me God??? I was completely absorbed and warped by my eating disorder. That charming and hopeful personality I had was all but gone. Doubting myself, I really didn’t know if I wanted to live. The above post doesn’t show this, but that’s exactly what I was thinking. My next post (night one) will clearly show my eating disorder personality!!

That’s the thing with eating disorders-- one moment you can put on that charming front, and the next, you are completely out of control. That was my existence for four long and painful years. Part of my ED was about control, and looking back on it now-- I was so out of control…..Pure Insanity!!! I can look back now and laugh and smile, because I am in a much better place. I am happy with my life, and who I truly am. The fact is that this one short plane ride to Florida would totally change the course of not only the next 30-days, but the rest of my life.

Again, I am doing this series as part of my recovery as I have learned to never get comfortable in life and recovery. I want to learn from these posts, and I hope you will learn and grow with me on this journey. This is by far the mildest entry. So hang on because the next 30 days are going to be a wild and exciting adventure into the mind of my ED….and how I found myself and freedom!!!

Believe,
Patrick Bergstrom

Male Eating Disorder Treatment Journal

Canopy Cove Partial Residential Treatment Program Journal Series

Introduction—

My name is Patrick and I have been in strong recovery from anorexia nervosa for more than 20+ months. Back in March of 2008, I spent more than 30 days at a residential treatment program in Florida. I was the only guy and everything I experienced there was completely new to me. Going into treatment, I was broken and slowly dying. I went in a month before me scheduled wedding day. I was scared, lost, and not sure if I really wanted to live. I was a guy suffering with an (illness) that is perceived as something only upper class white women suffer from. (This is clearly not the case)

For days in treatment, I fought to understand who I was, and how I could overcome something that just seemed so hopeless. I am here today to tell you that there is hope, and that recovery is possible. I believe treatment gave me the foundation to live a life free from the bonds and chains of an eating disorder. While in treatment, I was encouraged to keep a journal, and that is exactly what I did.

Today, I am starting a new recovery blog series and I am going to share my personal journal, taking you inside the mind of a male athlete struggling with anorexia. Why would I share something so personal you might ask? For many reasons, I am doing this for myself. I want to see and feel the amazing growth I have taken on in the past 20 some months. I was taught in treatment to separate your eating disorder from the real you, and that’s exactly what I did. My “ED” had a name, a face, and a monstrous personality. Today, I am a much different person-- I am very compassionate, caring, loving, outgoing, and genuine. My journal will clearly illustrate my “ED” face and show glimpses of my true identity. After each daily journal post, I will then reflect on how I feel about that particular day now. (almost 2 years later)

My hopes are to show the world that recovery is possible, and to help those better understand the mindset of a male with an eating disorder. I hope this proves to be a very exciting, and educational series. I look forward to your comments as you embark on this 30 day journey with me.

Here is a brief overview of the treatment center I stayed at:

Canopy Cove Treatment Center

Canopy Cove is an eating disorder treatment center located in Tallahassee, Florida. Their program offers compassionate, comprehensive treatment for females and males of various ages, struggling with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorders. This is where I received treatment for my eating disorder and gained the life skills to return to the life I now live today. Canopy Cove uses the “Recovery Model,” which recognizes that an eating disorder is not merely just about food, yet it focuses on deeper unresolved issues. This model represents more than behavioral change; it embraces personal growth and development of life management skills. Therefore, you can fully recover, not remaining in a continuous process of "recovering." To learn more about Canopy Cove and the various treatment plans they offer, you can visit the website at www.canopycove.com

God Bless,
Patrick Bergstrom
Founder, I Chose To Live

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Courage

“Courage”
I Chose To Live!

The popular female artist, Superchick has a song entitled, “Courage” where she gracefully writes about her battle to overcome an eating disorder. I was first introduced to this song in the summer of 2008 by my younger sister, shortly after returning from a thirty day stay at a residential eating disorder treatment center in Florida. This is not the type of music a former men’s college lacrosse player would be listening to, but in March of that year, my life changed forever.

This song completely described the life I was living and how I was feeling on the inside. This verse particularly hits home for me.

"You should know you're not on your own
These secrets are walls that keep us alone
I don't know when but I know now
Together we'll make it through somehow”

On March 19, 2008, I found my life spiraling out of control and I had no idea what was wrong with me. My body was completely rejecting food, my hair was falling out and my skin was puffy and pale. I had no energy left; my weight was at an all time low. I could barely get out of bed. I found myself in tears crying out; “I am dying…I need help but I don’t know what to do.” To this day, I don’t know why I cried out for help but it saved my life. I was once told by my Dad that, “Patrick, you are one moment away from significant and great change-- life is just like that.” I had no idea that moment in my life would be when I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, and given less than twelve months to live.

I didn’t want to die, I was way too young, and I had so many goals and aspirations to accomplish. I found myself asking the question you may be pondering in your head at this very moment. How does a muscular and successful college twenty-two year old lacrosse player find himself in the life threatening grips of an eating disorder? I previously mentioned the lyrics to a song and I believe within these simple words, lies the answer to my four year struggle with an eating disorder.

-- “These secrets are walls that keep us alone.”

For the majority of my existence, I was known only by my academic and athletic achievements. I was raised in the foothills of Western Maryland where I was trained to be a fierce lacrosse player. Lacrosse was everything to me, and nothing else really mattered. I had a very typical childhood and was the middle child of two loving and caring parents. As far back as my memory serves me, I was on the mission to be “perfect” in all aspects of my life. I wanted to be the best, finishing second was not an option. I was the ultimate athlete, student and “perfectionist.” However, what I didn’t know at the time was that nothing can or will ever be perfect. To my closest friends and family, I was known as a very bright, athletic and happy high school student. However, what they didn’t know was that I was secretly struggling with body image issues and the extreme fear of failure. Nobody ever knew anything was wrong because I was putting on a huge front-- I was building walls that kept me shielded from the world and the truth. I used my athletic prowess and success on the lacrosse field to hide my inner pain and suffering. My life looked quite ideal on the outside and I seemingly coasted through my high school years. I set numerous records in lacrosse, football, and weightlifting during my four years of school, and I always had the “popular’ girlfriend. I used these superficial achievements and model relationships to create a false and unhealthy identity. Nothing could touch me, and I made myself believe that I was invincible. I even went so far as to get a tattoo of the Superman crest on my calf with intersecting lacrosse sticks.

This Superman type of mentality carried me through the first twenty-one years of my life, but eventually the walls I had falsely built, came tumbling down in the form of depression, substance abuse, and Anorexia Nervosa. The word “failure” was not a part of my life nor did I believe that I would ever fail in anything. With this unrealistic type of thinking, I was setting myself up like a ticking time bomb-- inevitably things would explode all around me!

College is usually described as the best years of one’s life but mine was an absolute disaster. In my four years of college; I went to two colleges, had five lacrosse coaches, lost one coach to a fatal surfing accident, suffered both back, head and knee injuries, sat the bench my senior year, and drank excessively to numb the pain. I had no real identity, and when faced with adversity, I crumbled under pressure and used eating as a way of trying to bring control back into my chaotic life.

Somehow I managed to persevere through college and graduated in 2005 with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. Even though I was Academic All-Conference my junior and senior year, I was very unsatisfied with my college lacrosse career. I spent my final game with tears in my eyes watching my team lose from the bench. I loved lacrosse and it was my life but this single event left a sour taste in my mouth and I gave up on the sport. This simple act of putting my lacrosse stick down would prove to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life. For me, lacrosse was my outlet and my way of dealing with life’s many obstacles-- without it, I was left vulnerable and unprotected.

I thought graduating college would give me the spark I needed to turn things around. However, I wasn’t addressing the serious issues that had been eating at me for years. I was depressed, disappointed and had horrible self-esteem. Personal achievement is not the answer to solving problems, but merely a way of fooling yourself into thinking that everything is okay. Again, I was using walls to hide my true feelings of pain, shame, and self-hatred. For the next 3 ½ years I would wage a secret war on both my mind and body. (Anorexia) I starved myself, worked out more, and used alcohol to ease the pain. I was slowly destroying myself but nobody seemed to notice. My illness began to take a toll on my life at work and with my friends and family. I was bouncing from job to job, and couldn’t find any profession I enjoyed. I was isolating myself from my family. I was also in and out of a relationship with my college girlfriend.

In 2006, after losing my girlfriend for the second time and losing yet another job, I decided to move home and get help. I thought to myself-- I think I have an eating disorder! However, I was told by many, that “guys don’t have eating disorders” and I listened. My problem was classified as depression and substance abuse. I went into therapy and I felt much better. I was cured, right? Wrong! Again, this was just another attempt to avoid my real problem, an eating disorder.

Feeling rejuvenated from therapy, I raced back out on my own chasing “perfection.” I got my girlfriend back, found a great job, and seven months later I was engaged. I spent much of 2007 working and planning the wedding. On the outside I looked happier than ever, but I was suffering emotionally on the inside. I kept this front up until March of 2008 and my body just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed an intervention of sort and got just that. The hardest thing for me to do was ask for help but it was the best decision I ever made.

It was one month prior to my wedding day, and I was sitting in a therapy session with my family and fiancés’ family. I was again at a crucial moment in my life. I was dying from anorexia and I needed to go into treatment. At the conclusion of the family session that day, I chose to go into treatment and my fiancé’ chose to walk away. I was sick and she just couldn’t handle it. This was the hardest day of my life but something miraculous would happen the next morning. It was Easter Sunday and my brother and sister were home. That morning they got me to go outside and throw the lacrosse ball around for the first time in four years-- at this moment I knew there was hope!

Riding on pure adrenalin, I spent two straight weeks researching treatment. It was a difficult process because at this time, there weren’t many programs that took men. I finally found a center that met my needs and I was on a plane two days later. I spent thirty days separating myself from my eating disorder. I was taught to see my ED as a separate person and used various types of therapy to uncover my true identity. The shocking thing that I learned was that eating disorders aren’t about food—it’s about trauma, feelings, emotions, low self-esteem, and fears.

I used my obsession for perfection to mask my pain and shame but treatment addressed this hurt and allowed me to see the real me. I found myself playing with horses, doing yoga, singing, and using art therapy to destroy the many walls I had built. Treatment gave me the tools I needed to start a successful recovery and I haven’t looked back since. When I left treatment, “I Chose To Live!”

Treatment gave me an amazing foundation into my recovery and rebuilding my life. It has been more than a year since doctors told me I had less than twelve months to live. I am now a completely different and healthy person. My road to recovery hasn’t been perfect but nothing ever is. I have learned to embrace adversity and to learn from my mistakes. If you fall down and you probably will, get back up and keep pushing forward. Reach out and ask for help if you feel your slipping. Use every possible resource for support. I still see a therapist, and attend support groups.

This past year has been an unbelievable ride and blessing. I now love the life I live and love the real me. I laugh, and I smile! I was able to spend my twenty sixth birthday with my family and friends, and I just recently became an Uncle. When I held this miraculous gift of life in my arms-- I smiled and realized how incredibly beautiful and precious life is. Yes, I lost four years of my life to an eating disorder and yes I hit an extreme bottom, but I am alive today living free from the chains of anorexia. There is hope and recovery is possible!

I am now an Eating Disorder Speaker and Writer. I also run my own support group and I am a Resource Person for NEDA. I have them to thank for truly sparking my recovery and interest in reaching out to help others. NEDA was kind enough to give me a scholarship to their 2008 Conference and it was at that moment where I found my true calling. I realized that there are still so many suffering and that maybe I could to something to help others. I founded, I Chose To Live, LLC (ED outreach based upon using athletic principles in recovery), and now speak openly about my battle and recovery from an eating disorder. In the past year I have traveled all over the country speaking at conferences and on college campuses. I was once a driven superior athlete, now I am a passionate and dedicated Eating Disorder Activist. Where I once used my lacrosse stick to score goals and win games, I now use my writing and voice to help lead others into recovery.

Eating disorders don’t discriminate and neither does recovery-- there is HOPE and you’re never alone in this. If you are suffering from an ED, please reach out and get help! To read my full story and learn more about my outreach, please visit www.ichosetolive.com

--“Together we can make it through somehow”

I Chose To Live and Choose To Care!
Patrick Bergstrom
Mission- Eliminate Eating Disorders!
patrickb@ichosetolive.com

Stories of Hope- National Eating Disorder Assoication

Own Your Recovery

Own your recovery-- make it unique to your surroundings and tailor it to your talents...this is your life, what others say and do doesn't matter....What works for some, may not work for others....Find your swagger and go with it......Recovery is Possible!!

What is your swagger in recovery? (swagger meaning what actions are you taking to live free)

For me (Patty) my recovery swagger is as follows....My faith in God is by far the foundation of my life and recovery. I am alive today because of Gods amazing grace and love. I use athletics (lacrosse and running) to fuel my recovery. Stepping outside for a nice run is so freeing and spiritual for me. I never run for a time, but as a way to connect with both my mind and body. Running for me is a time to clear my head, enjoy nature and to build a closer relationship with myself and God. My writing has become a way for me to express myself and my voice has become a way to share my life experiences (good and bad) with the world...

My friends and family keep me grounded and my recovery friends (all of you) keep me inspired, driven and focused.... I know longer care what people think of me, nor do I need a girlfriend or high paying job to define who I am...My name is Patty, I love who I am and love where I have been and where I am going....I am forever thankful for my recovery and for all of you....Life is an intense journey, sometimes it can even be a war, that is why we have to battle and fight for every second of precious existence. This is your life, and it can and will be whatever you make it-- live with swagger and live in the moment. I am living free today, because I choose to be more than an eating disorder and choose to be an unstoppable warrior.

Thanks,
Patty
ICTL

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Atletes, Coaches, Eating Disorders and Recovery

This is in response to this article--

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-23-tera-moody-marathon-aug23,0,3248337.story?page=1

T. Moody overcomes her Eating Disorder and competes in marathon.

I read this article and being a former college lacrosse player-- I felt compelled to respond! I don't know T. Moody but I was glad I read this. I have not met her but it sounds like she is turning a negative experience in college sports into something positive, much like I am trying to do.

I understand that over exercise is a huge part of eating disorders, but I also think it can be a great resource and strength in recovery. (done in a healthy manner) After treatment, I took a year off from playing lacrosse and running. I now play club lacrosse and I am training for a marathon to raise funding for eating disorder treatment. I have been cleared by doctors, and my therapist. I am in the best shape of my life, both mentally and physically. I run for fun, and never for a time. In college, I ran because I had to, now I do it as a healthy and fun experience!!! I am an athlete and I always will be..... You just don't and can't turn that off-- any athlete can understand and relate to this.

I know in my heart why I run and it feels great! I pray and believe that T. Moody is doing just that same thing. I think her story is inspirational and I am so proud of her strength and passion to stay with the sport she loves. When my college lacrosse career ended-- I gave up on the sport and I struggled for over 4 years with anorexia and substance abuse. I have since found serenity and peace in running and returning to the sport I love. While in treatment I wrote my story-- "A Fallen Athlete"( http://www.ichosetolive.com/files/A_Fallen_Athlete.pdf ) which goes into detail on my struggles with eating disorders, drinking and my recovery. I believe every recovery is different and it can be a very moving thing for an athlete to get back out there and do what they do....

I also understand that one must be careful with exercise while in recovery. Only you know if you are doing it for the right reasons???? We must all stay alert about eating disorders-- that means parents, family, friends and coaches. If you are in recovery, please seek professional guidance when considering exercise.

I wrote this on the topics of athletes, and coaches--

For the Love of the Game
This is where I get real about competitive sports and speak directly to all athletes out there. It does not matter if you’re on the professional, collegiate, high school, or junior high level. It does not matter if you are male or female, or what sport you play. We all share in a unique bond. That bond we share is the love of the game. I hope my story has been eye-opening for all athletes.

If you love the sport you play, don’t turn your back on it. Learn from my mistakes and realize that failure in sports is an inevitable part of the game. Game, that word is defined as something you play for entertainment or fun. Sports are a game, and these games are a big part of all athletes’ lives. However, games are not life. I loved the game of lacrosse, but I took it too far. I put immense pressure on myself to become the best. To me, it became more than a game; it was my life and, eventually, my identity. I was nothing without the game of lacrosse. This is what I thought at the time. I was so caught up in the competitiveness of the sport that I forgot why I was playing it in the first place.

I started playing lacrosse because I loved it, and because it was fun. Lacrosse gave me an avenue to be free from the world around me. The love of the game, the fun and excitement sports provide, is what athletics are all about. I lost sight of this love when (I thought) the game failed me and I ran away from it. Sports are a game and they should never become your sole identity. A sport should never take the individuality of an athlete. However, an athlete should be identified with the sport they play and the excitement they provide for the sport.
Brett Farve is not football, but we identify that name with the amazing accomplishments and miracle plays he gave the sport of football. I know everybody remembers that miraculous Monday night game when Farve, after the recent passing of his Father, led his team to an inspirational victory with four amazing touchdown passes that seemed to fall from the heavens above. Football did not give that to Brett Farve, he gave that memory to football. He gave that day to all of us. I lost sight of all the great things I provided for the sport of lacrosse in my career and I let lacrosse identify me.

I may have not become a well-known professional lacrosse player but I had some amazing moments in my career, just like Farve did. Yet, I was blinded from these memorable achievements because I believed lacrosse defined me. With that mind-set, when I failed in lacrosse, to me it meant I had failed in life. Not knowing how to handle failure, I turned my back on the sport for three years; my life rapidly spiraled downward until I hit rock bottom. (Anorexia) I never truly lost the love for the game, it was just buried deep inside me, with all the pain, shame, and anger I had from my last game. I wanted to be the best, but you can’t always be the best at everything you do. Sometimes it is okay to just be good at something.

All you can do is be the best you can be, nothing else matters. I demanded perfection of myself on the lacrosse field but nothing reaches perfection. I set myself up for failure, and when I failed, I couldn’t handle it. I lost control BUT, thankfully, I ended up in recovery. I couldn’t have done it alone. My story may seem drastic but if it can happen to me, then it can happen to you. Just remember, I grew up as a kid who was a sports junky just like you. That kid who loved lacrosse lost sight of the true meaning of love of the game. However, when I picked that stick back up on Easter Sunday, I was enlightened and reconnected with the sport. (Anorexia been in full remission since that day) I now have that love of the game back and a future to look forward to. Please learn from my experiences and love the game you play. Remember, sports are a game, play hard but have fun.

Athletes’ Greatest Teachers

Coaches are athletes’ greatest teachers. They have the incredible opportunity of taking young kids with amazing dreams and talents and transforming them into remarkable athletes and people. However, notice that I used the word “opportunity.” Every coach has the chance to be an athlete’s greatest mentor, but so many overlook this because winning becomes everything. What is the number one priority of any coach out there? If you asked that question to any coach, I would bet that four out of five coaches would come up with the same answer. That answer, of course, would be to win games.

The ultimate goal of any coach is to take their team to the championship game and win. How are coaches’ careers defined or measured? This answer, just like the above, seems to have a simple response. Coaches are judged and compensated for the amount of success they achieve. The more titles a coach brings to a school, the more his legacy grows. No one talks about or goes into the various sports’ halls of fame for setting the record for most overall losses. Everything in sports focuses on winning. No one wants to hire a losing coach, nor does any player want to be apart of a losing program. Our society seems to have both embraced and accepted this “all or nothing” mentality. The real truth is that in sports, there is so much more than winning.

The hard fact is that, in any sport, at any level, there will only be one championship team at the end of the season. No sport has two or three champions; in the end, only one team wins. What I have learned throughout my athletic career is that there is more than one way to achieve victory in competitive sports. I have been on both sides of teams—winning and losing. Honestly, it feels great to win, and I have been on championship teams. Still, I believe I learned more from losing than I ever did from winning. I believe my story is a true example of that. In my lacrosse career, I lost my final game in both high school and college, as I am sure many other athletes have. It is almost impossible to finish a career or season with a win because, inevitably, only one team wins. Yet, just because you ended the season with a loss doesn’t mean you didn’t accomplish victory. I lost my last high school lacrosse game, but I went on to play in college. This was a huge victory for me.

So many victories occur in sports everyday, but they seem to get overlooked because all we focus on is being that championship team. Do not get me wrong, I love to win and there is nothing wrong with winning or working hard to become a champion. What I am saying is that sometimes it is okay to lose; you can still be victorious. Why does any one athlete play a sport? Yes, more than anything they want to win, but the real reason they play is solely for the love of the game.

Look at Tiger Woods; he is by far the dominant athlete of this era. He defines the true drive to win, but you can tell by his passion on the course, that he truly loves the game. Also, I almost guarantee that if you asked him whether he learned more from winning the Tiger Slam or from the tournament that broke his consecutive win streak, he probably would have said the tournament that ended his streak. Yes, even great athletes like Tiger Woods lose at some point in their careers. You truly learn more from losing than you do winning. By knowing how to lose, you learn to win.

I have had many great coaches throughout my career, and I can vividly remember the life lessons they instilled in me. Many of the best coaches I had prepared me to be successful in my future. I credit Coach Reynolds for giving me the fight and heart to turn my life around. He was only my coach for a short time before his life was tragically taken but his legacy lives on in me. His “get it done” mentality saved my life and has allowed me to be here today to tell my story. No days go by for me that I don’t remember and learn from what he imprinted in my heart. He was not only a great coach, he was my greatest teacher. Coach to win, but teach your players the life lessons that will prepare them to succeed when that final roar of the crowd goes silent. The level at which you coach does not matter. You have the opportunity to change a player’s life for the better. Teach your players to win, allow them to fail, and lead them to victory off the field by the way you coach on the field. Just as Coach Reynolds was and is my mentor, you to can be some player’s greatest life teacher.

Patrick Bergstrom

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Swagger is Being YOU

Swagger

The word “swagger” is defined as walking or strutting with a defiant or insolent air, or to boast or brag noisily. This word has become somewhat of a phenomenon in the past year in hip hop culture, and can be heard all over the radio. Some popular phrases of the word consist of; “swagger of a college kid,” and “nobody has swagger like us.” I must say I have jumped on the “swagger” train and use the word on pretty much a daily basis. Whether it is on facebook, Twitter, or just talking with friends, I am constantly talking about living your life with “swagger.” You can find the word “swagger” pretty much anywhere-- Old Spice now has a Swagger Deodorant!

I do understand the meaning of the word, and that having a “swagger” can be considered a negative and rude trait. However, I see the word “swagger in a completely different light. The word “swagger” for me has become somewhat of an anthem for my recovery from anorexia nervosa. I use this word to describe pretty much how I face every day, and this so called SWAGGER I have, has driven my recovery. I am by no means an arrogant person, nor do I walk around boasting or bragging in an obnoxious manner. I do however live each day like it’s my last and this has become my own SWAGGER! The objective for recovery is to find what works for you, and to go with it. For me, this means living with a bit of vibrant confidence and facing each day with a smile on my face.

We live in a very imperfect world and at any second our lives can be flipped upside down. This is why I think living with a bit of edge or swagger can help when trying to overcome an eating disorder. I was once a very strong and fierce lacrosse player. Coaches described my performance and athletic drive using the word “swagger!” I played with a chip on my shoulder, and I never gave up. There were games where I was completely exhausted but I pushed forward carrying the team on my back. I was never an arrogant or cocky athlete; I just played with heart and will (swagger). This mentality helped me to defeat some of the toughest opponents.

So why am I writing about the word swagger? What is the point or message to this rambling nonsense about a word that could be considered street lingo? The point I am trying to make is simple. Somewhere along my journey through life I lost my “swagger” and that is when I began doubting myself-- which ultimately led to a four year life threatening battle with anorexia nervosa!

While spending over thirty days in a residential treatment program, my eating disorder was tracked back to my senior year of college. My senior year was a complete debacle. I was dating two girls, trying to balance lacrosse and school, not eating, and working out on a regular basis. I was doing anything I could to bring some sort of balance back into my life. My lacrosse coach had given up on me, and I sat the bench my senior year. I began both doubting and hating myself! In other words, my swagger was gone.

I did graduate on time, and desperately tried to move forward with my life. I won’t go into much detail but for the next four years I was in and out of relationships, drinking too much, bouncing from job to job, working out excessively and starving myself in a hopeless attempt to gain some sort of control back. I was pretty much killing myself! Lacrosse was my outlet and my way of expressing myself-- I played with swagger and never gave up. However, after an unsuccessful senior year on the playing field, I gave up on lacrosse and my swagger went flying out the window!

It wasn’t until being diagnosed with anorexia and given less than twelve months to live that I realized what I was missing. My eating disorder became my false identity, and it was just me and my ED-- I was oblivious to the world and had no desire to live. I went into treatment angry at the world, but came out thankful to be alive. I have spent the past year in recovery trying to figure out life and where I fit in. I have come to the conclusion that maybe I don’t fit in, and well I am completely okay with that. I spent the majority of my life trying to fit in and be what everyone else wanted me to be. Where did that get me? (Eating Disorder)

My Dad recently came up to me and said, “Patrick, you finally got your swagger back!” I was in shock at first because I really couldn’t believe my Dad used the word SWAGGER. After the initial shock and a bit of laughter, I began to reflect on my life and the meaning of the word “swagger.” For the greater part of my life I just followed the crowd, and did everything I could to be popular. I put all my effort into being something I wasn’t and eventually that caught up to me in the form of anorexia, substance abuse, and depression. The only time I was really myself was when I was playing lacrosse. With that said, this brings me back to the word swagger. I had a bounce in my step when I played lacrosse and I needed that in my life.

So to me, the word “swagger” simply means being ME! So when I use this word, I am not talking about conceit or EGO. I threw my ego out when I chose recovery and life. I am talking about living your life with confidence and joy. In the past year I have battled back from anorexia and have become a voice to those still suffering. During National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I spoke at Lubbock Christian University to a crowd of over 500 college students. I was never a big fan of public speaking but with a bit of self-confidence, I was able to rise to the occasion and spread awareness and hope. I accomplished this because I am living my life with SWAGGER!

I will simply leave you with this. Life is an endless journey of peaks and valleys. When you are coming up on a peak, be humble, and when you find yourself in a valley, stay true to yourself and LIVE WITH SWAGGER!

Swagger is not following the crowd, its being a leader, its being YOU!
Oh, and one more thing-- I do wear Swagger Old Spice Deodorant!
Believe,
Patrick Bergstrom

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Manna Scholarship Fund


In response to the email below- I Chose To Live, LLC is donating 100% of all the bracelet proceeds to the Manna Scholarship fund which helps those who can't afford eating disorder treatment. There are so many who need and deserve treatment. Please help me by purchasing even just one bracelet. The donations are being matched by a private sponsor if they meet the goal of $30,000. We can make a difference. Thank you so much, this means the world to me as I was able to afford treatment- which in turn changed my life. Lets take a stand and save a life!

You can purchase a bracelet at http://www.ichosetolive.com/ or make a donation to Manna at http://www.mannafund.org/
Blessings and Hope,

Patrick Bergstrom

Email from Manna-

MSF is working on a project to help raise awareness, understanding, and funding for those who are seriously in need of intensive treatment for eating disorders. For example, an email we received today stated:

"I had a relapse this week and it only keeps getting worse. I am with high levels of potassium in my blood, my kidneys are working slow, my heart beat is really irregular... I am so tired that i can't even fix myself a sandwich at this point... But the worst pain is being alone... My dietitian, therapist and family doctor all have called me in today to tell me there has got to be a way for me to go in-patient... I have struggled with this for over 2 years and i have "pushed" as far as i could but now my heart is failing and i am so scared! I pray that someone will listen to me- to my cry for help...I don't want this disease to take all i have left away from me... So please, if there is any hope and way you could help me i cry for it in Jesus name... Is there any posibility for me to get some scholarship funds in this emergency??"

This is just one example of the desperation and dire need of indiviudals who need intensive treatment. We receive letters from men and women from all over the nation who are struggling with life-threatening eating disorders. Our current campaign is aimed at raising up to $30,000 so that we will receive a matching donation from a private donor. We need more funding to put individuals like this one in the hospital ASAP.

Please make your tax-deductible (at least for now!) donations at http://www.mannafund.org/ TODAY so that we can help people get the treatment they need!
Thank you for your support!Genie and the MSF Board of Directors.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

So I embarked on quite an amazing journey to reach out and spread eating disorder awareness and hope. I had the opportunity to speak on an athlete’s panel, participate in the Merrick’s Walk for ED Awareness, and speak at numerous universities and one private high school. I was reflecting on this past week with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. It was at this same time last year that I found myself at my bottom. I was staring down excruciating odds as I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and given less than a year to live. On top of this, my former fiancé walked away, I lost my job, and I was physically and mentally broken. There were moments when I thought I wouldn’t see the light to another day, but God came into my life and I was given a second chance. It is only by Gods grace that I find myself living a life that before only seemed like a hopeless dream. I thought I could never feel happy again, nor did I think I would ever live a life free from the grips of my eating disorder. There were many times I contemplated giving up, but I never did. Believing that I could live again, I went into treatment almost one year ago, and it changed my life. I spent my 25th birthday in treatment, and it was at this moment that; “I Chose To Live.” I now live my life free with the swagger of 10 college kids!

While in recovery, I vowed to not only change my life, but to help others find their way into recovery. This past week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and it was so eye opening to me. What a blessing it was to travel to Georgia and Texas, and see so many passionate college kids speaking out about eating disorders and body image. While in Atlanta, I spoke at Georgia State, Walker High School, and Georgia Tech. What an amazing experience this was. At Tech, I spoke to their freshmen athletes. This was quite intimidating but I truly believe God was right there with me as I spoke to these athletes. Not everyone will struggle with an eating disorder but what a blessing it was to have the room in silence and there focus on my story and message. Yes, my story is about my struggle and recovery with an eating disorder, but it is also about life and making the right choices.

I wanted to personally recognize and thank The Eating Disorder Information Network (EDIN) of Georgia for making this wonderful awareness trip possible. Back in September I met Kris Shock, and it was at this moment that I decided to take my story and share it with college students all over. I truly believe God puts the right people in your life at just the right time. I am a writer, but I was called to take my story and share it on a more personal level. I now speak openly about my struggles and recovery.

After speaking in Georgia, I then traveled to Texas to speak on the campus at Lubbock Christian University. This is where I was truly moved and taken back by Gods amazing grace and love. I had the opportunity to speak 6 different times on the campus, and was able to speak in there chapel which was filled with over 500 students. This was so powerful, and I truly just gave it to God and spoke from my heart. I had a smile on my face the entire day. The students at LCU totally rocked out NEDAW. They had events all week and a truly wonderful exhibit on the progression of eating disorders in a college dorm room. I had the opportunity to walk this exhibit and I was so taken back. This was probably the most powerful and wonderful example of student eating disorder awareness I have ever experienced. I want to thank every student at LCU for all their hard work. LCU is one of many colleges making a REAL difference in the field of eating disorder awareness. I wanted to thank every personal from the bottom of my heart for being a voice during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Each and every voice is making a difference— I consider all of you true heroes. Thank you, thank you, and thank you!

Yes, I am proof that a strong male athlete can suffer the horrible fate of an eating disorder, but more importantly, I am proof that recovery is possible. I now live my life for God and he gets all the glory. I will continue to be a strong voice in the field of eating disorder awareness, and I will never give up on those still suffering and fighting for recovery. I Chose To Live and Choose To Care!
Love and Blessings,
Patty
video

Monday, February 9, 2009

Eating Disorder Awareness Campaign 2009

I Chose To Live
“Voice the Choice-Recovery is Possible”
Eating Disorder Awareness Campaign

February 2009:

· Feb 16th-- University Of Maryland College Park
http://www.freestuff.umd.edu/events.cfm?mode=detail&eventID=7603

Georgia Trip: “Love Your Body” month sponsored by the EDIN.

· Feb 22nd-- Merrick’s Walk and Panel on Athletes and ED

· Feb 23rd -- Georgia State and Georgia Tech
http://www.womenscenter.gatech.edu/bodyimage/plugins/content/index.php?id=3

· Feb 24th-- Georgia Private High School

Texas Trip:

· Feb 25th-- Lubbock Christian University

· March 7th—International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals- Southern California. (Panel)
http://www.iaedpsocal.com/


March:

Wesley College (TBA)
Miami University(TBA)

I Chose To Live Eating Disorder Awareness Bracelets


"I Chose To Live" bracelets are now available!Many people struggling with an Eating Disorder have asked me this one question. “How do you control the E.D. urges when you’re alone and most vulnerable?” At first, I had no response but after thinking about it, I realized that I am never truly alone. I walk with my teammates in all I do. This band will be symbol of life and hope and a reminder that we are never alone in this fight. There is great strength in numbers. Be strong and believe!

Many have also asked for an "I Chose To Live" symbol and this will be my may to show the world I am different...I love who I am and I will fight for eating disorder awareness and prevention. I hope others will join me in making this statement. Be proud of who you are, and be a leader. All I ask is if you wear these simple bracelet, please offer your hand to another friend or stranger still suffering. Be a hero; make the right choice. BE YOU!

We live in a world today where to many people just go with the flow... Recovery is a choice, life is a gift, and being a leader can change the world. One person can make a difference, you can make a difference. One will turn into many! "I Chose To Live" is a stand to change your life and to help others recovery the life they deserve.

It doesn't matter what your battle is....you can overcome it... For me, its was anorexia nervosa, and I Chose To Live.... God Bless!The bracelets are now online @ http://www.ichoestolive.com/ (white band/purple letters) For Love, Life, and Liberty! Get it Done.

Believe,
Patrick Bergstrom
Founder- I Chose To Live, LLC
patrickb@ichosetolive.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Chose To Live 2009 Campaign

Dear Friends and Family,

I just wanted to take the time to wish everyone a happy and blessed 2009. All of you have been in my thoughts and prayers over the past few months. I wanted to give everyone an update on what I have been up to. I have been working hard on my personal recovery and my life is a true miracle and blessing from God. Many have considered 2008 to be one of the most difficult years of my young life. However, I see it in a much different light. Though it was by far the toughest of years for me, and I found myself falling on my face repeatedly. It was a year of true growth and purpose.

My anorexia nervosa and substance abuse is a thing of my past and a part of my life, though it will never define me as a person or a Bergstrom. If anything, it has given my life balance, true meaning and purpose. I am healthier than I have ever been, both mentally and physically. I am also more spiritually connected than I have ever been. So I am writing this letter with a smile on my face and love in my heart. I wanted to thank everyone personally for their amazing love, support and prayers. I have been praying for each of you on a regular basis. I have been told by many that I have accomplished a lot in the past year in the field of eating disorders. This is not a surprise because I am a Bergstrom, and we get things done. However, there is still much work to be done, and I will continue to acquire the help from other great people/organizations to make a real difference. We can and will never give up! My story is going to be published (my first publication) next month in Hagerstown Magazine, and might be in GQ Magazine in the coming months. People have used the words to describe my work as being a hero and a rock star. However, I just see it as me being “Patty.” I give all the glory to God, and know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the amazing support from my family and friends. I am now very humble and enjoy the simple things in life. I was broken but never defeated, and giving up was never an option for me. My parents have been a true blessing in my life, my career, and my recovery. Dad and I still butt heads frequently but it is only out of love and fun.

I have now turned my outreach program (www.ichosetolive.com) into an LLC, and am running my own support organization. My program is based on creative athletic principles and stands to make a huge impact in the world we live in today. I do understand that not everyone is affected by an eating disorder, but everyone can relate to the pressures of body image and failure. For me I Chose To Live, simply means I wake up every day, and live better than the previous. Nothing will ever be perfect but striving for excellence is more than attainable. I now live my life for others and fight to help those who are still struggling in silence. I have recently organized an Eating Disorder Awareness College Campaign where I will be traveling all over the country and speaking to college students and athletes. The tour kicks off at the University of Maryland on February 16th. In late February, I will be in Atlanta, Georgia speaking at 3 universities, and a private high school. (Georgia State, Georgia Tech, etc) From there I will be traveling on to Texas and then off to Long Beach California. I was invited to speak on a panel in California for The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals Conference. Apparently, this is a really big deal, though I am just excited to be able to help in any way I can. Here is the link for the California event if anyone is interested. http://iaedpsocal.com/index.html

While in California, I will also be visiting one of the top treatment centers, and speaking to those patients in treatment. From there, I will be visiting other colleges and campuses throughout March and April. I have also designed I Chose To Live bands to market my organization and to provide awareness and education. You can check the bracelets out online at www.ichosetolive.com (I would love to send everyone a bracelet) My goal is to be able at some point to help others who can’t afford the needed treatment they so deserve. I have also joined up with the major eating disorder non-profits in the U.S. and will be working with them on organizing and participating in events to raise awareness and funding. The one organization that I fully support is the FREED Foundation, which helps those who can’t afford treatment. I will be in NYC next weekend for a benefit concert to help this organization. I am staying very busy and working on building a great and successful future. I am happier than ever, and truly blessed to have such a loving a supportive family. Thank you guys! I also took a lot of time off from the dating scene until I felt confident and healthy. I recently joined eHarmony, which really isn’t my style, but I was convinced by Ryan and Melissa. So apparently it works, as I met an awesome Christian girl, Candace, who I am now dating. She lives in Pittsburgh, and is an accountant. She is quite intelligent and very driven. She also supports what I am doing which is such a blessing. God truly works in mysterious ways and I am so fortunate and excited about this new journey in my life. Thank you again for all the love and support. May your 2009 be filled in abundance with love, joy, good health, and peace!

God Bless,

Patty
patrickb@ichosetolive.com
www.ichosetolive.com