Alex Liepmann remembers the first time the doubts came. She was just 8 years old and participating in a 2K run. “They gave us sunglasses and there was a picture of a girl on the label. I remember thinking I looked nothing like her and being sad about it.”
For two months, Alex stayed at CHEO where she received ongoing supervision, various kinds of therapy and the chance to spend time with other patients going through the same challenges. She learned about self-care and new strategies for when things weren’t going well.Those negative thoughts continued for several years as Alex’s focus on the need lose weight increased. Things escalated in Grade 7, resulting in admission to CHEO with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. “I can definitely say that I wouldn’t be here today without CHEO. They saved my life.”
Today, Alex says we need to talk about anorexia and help erase the stigma.
Today, Alex says we need to talk about anorexia and help erase the stigma. “A lot of people think it’s just a phase that girls go through – that all girls just want to lose weight. They don’t understand the severity behind it or why it’s happening. And that makes it much harder to get help.”
Alex has just finished her first year at the University of Ottawa, studying psychology. She is also on the university’s rugby team. “Rugby has been a big part of my recovery and a huge part of my life,” she says. “Now when I have those feelings, I know that it’s a symptom of something else. It’s like a warning sign and I know what to do.”
Eating disorders are diseases of the brain and need to be treated and studied. They are one of the most misunderstood mental health illnesses and have the highest mortality rate. Only 50% of individuals who are treated recover.
Alex says she’ll be participating in the RBC Race for the Kids because she wants to give back to CHEO. “I owe my recovery to them and I want to help others.”