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.


“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


(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--

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!!!

Patrick Bergstrom

Male Eating Disorder Treatment Journal

Canopy Cove Partial Residential Treatment Program Journal Series


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

God Bless,
Patrick Bergstrom
Founder, I Chose To Live

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


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

--“Together we can make it through somehow”

I Chose To Live and Choose To Care!
Patrick Bergstrom
Mission- Eliminate Eating Disorders!

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.