Trigger warning: this post talks about anorexia and includes weight, height, and calorie information which some may find triggering.
I’m going to share a diary entry I wrote some time ago and have kept private until now. Last night while out with some friends we somehow got onto the topic of eating, weight, etc. when I admitted I’m a recovering anorexic (who is currently in relapse I might add). Seems people like to make comments and observations about my eating habits; namely, how little I eat (on those very rare occasions I eat in public).
Anyway, the following recounts some events of my battle with anorexia. I have condensed the timeline here, but that doesn’t really affect things.
Well, time for another topic that seems to be a constant in my life; my relationship with food, shudders.
I am not sure how my relationship with food formed but I’ve never thought of it as being different from other people’s relationship with food. It would take a few life-altering events to teach me otherwise.
I have always been small, something that has never bothered. I was never picked to play sports in school (thank god) but there have been times being small hasn’t been a blessing. Like when I was in junior high and I wanted to learn to play saxophone; my hands were too small to fit around the instrument to form notes.
To me size played an increasing part of my self-image. I was growing up and hated how tall I had become and I was damned if I was going to allow myself to get bigger than I was. I believe that’s when my relationship with food took a turn for the worst.
Every morning I’d get up and get ready for school, something we all did growing up right? Well, I would wander off to the bathroom to do my makeup and hair to match whatever mood I happened to be in at the time. The problem was my mortal enemy lay inside the bathroom door; sitting there every morning, mocking me, calling me fat. Come on, I dare you, it would taunt, I dare you, come on and just step on me! Most mornings I’ try to ignore it but knew it was watching me and wouldn’t leave me alone until I confirmed how much of a fat pig I was. Tossing the hairbrush down onto the counter, I stripped off my clothes, stood there in bra and panties contemplating if I should I do it. No, I can’t but I have to; I couldn’t resist the not knowing so off came the bra and panties as my foot hovered over my enemy (hey, they do weight something you know). A smile of victory on its face, at 5′ 8″ I was 105 pounds, a verdict that told me no breakfast that morning.
It was senior year of high school, many people had accepted me, and my social circle was growing. It was senior year and I was getting bigger, not taller, just bigger. Damn if I was going to let that interfere with how good I was finally feeling about myself. There was only one way to deal with the problem, to stop eating or at least drastically cut back what ate. That was when my relationship with food took a horrible turn for the worst.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw every ounce of fat. I looked hideous.
I started counting every calorie that passed my lips. I cut my calorie intake down to 500 calories per day. If I went over 500 calories I would work out to burn them off; there was no going over 500 calories per day. It was simply not tolerated. I was going to lose weight if it killed me; funny thing is it almost did.
The first day was the worst, my stomach growled non-stop in protest at the lack of anything for it to do, but I ignored it or drank a ton of water to shut the damn thing up. The second day was easier, the third easier, until I wasn’t eating any more than a handful of celery sticks and carrots in a day. My mortal enemy hadn’t won the battle yet! In two weeks, I’d lost 15 pounds; I was winning or so I thought. The only problem was when I looked in the mirror all I could see was how fat I still was; damn it!
Week 3 didn’t go to well. I was getting constant headaches, was always tired, and missed most of school that week because I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed. I chalked it up to the flu. Those days I missed, all I had to eat was some broth. I mean I was sick, right? Did you know a can of broth only has something like 30 calories for the entire can? Neither did I until that week; so from then on, broth became a new best friend.
Week 4 was the worst. I was no longer feeling hungry, so in my mind that was great but the constant dizziness, tiredness, etc. was taking a toll on my performance at school. A number of my friends asked if I was OK because I looked like a walking skeleton at best or death warmed over was another. I made it through week 4 alive.
Monday, week five of not eating, I got to school on time, and remember having to run to get to first period before the bell. I made it to class just in of time and collapsed unconscious on the floor right inside the doorway. The next thing I remember is Mr. Karington, the teacher, standing over me, looking down with a sad look on his face. Kneeling down he picked me up with one arm, said something to the class, and carried me to the nurse’s office. No matter how much I complained I was fine but none of these dang adults was listening to me.
The nurse’s office had a much larger version of my enemy just inside the doorway; what is it about putting those dang things right inside of doorways anyway? I mean there’s no missing the bloody thing when you have to trip over it to get in or out of the room. Worst of all, they wanted me to stand on the thing. I stopped, slipped off my shoes, took off my earrings, my belts and anything I could that might possibly affect the thing. All the while, the nurse was taking notes. What? Doesn’t everyone take off as much as possible before stepping on the bloody thing? Well, I guess they don’t when at school.
76 pounds! I was horrified and screamed that can’t be right! I was 74 pounds an hour ago! It can’t be right I cried sobbing uncontrollably as the nurse guided me to a cot to lay down.
“When did you eat last?” She asked.
“Um, yesterday why?”
“What did you eat?”
“Some broth, carrots, celery, and a piece of toast, why?”
“When is the last time you ate a meal?”
“Um, I don’t know. Why is it important?”
“Just lay down dear and get some rest”
“OK,” I said laying back onto the cot. I don’t remember falling asleep but I must have instantly. I was tired, more tired than I ever felt in my life.
I woke when the EMTs picked me up to put me on the gurney. I didn’t have the strength to fight or protest about it. They gave the nurse a sad look as they picked me up with such ease.
My life only went downhill from there. At the hospital my mother was there, just great. She’s going to be pissed they pulled her from work for this.
After they examined me, asked me a ton of questions, then left for a bit, and eventually came in to talk to my mother.
“Your daughter has anorexia Ms. ****”
Mom blinked a couple of times, looked at me and then back to the doctor. “What’s the normal method of treating this?”
“Well, anorexia is a psychological disorder and we’d usually recommend therapy, but in your daughters case her life is seriously at risk and we doubt she’d follow a therapists recommendations willingly.”
“So? What do you suggest?”
“Well, if you’d sign these papers we can get her admitted to the mental health ward where she’ll stay until we’re confident she’s going to eat and not be a risk to herself.” (Side note, there definition of recovery was to bring my weight up and didn’t address any of the psychological aspects of anorexia).
“Fine, maybe you guys will have some luck.” She said as she signed the papers, turned, and left.
Goddamn parents! I burst into tears and it took them a couple of hours to calm me from that.
I was in the hospital for 11 weeks before they released me and I still had daily visits for the next two months. I had to take lunch in the nurses office at school until they all were satisfied I was at least eating every day.
While I would like to say my relationship changed by these events, it wasn’t. I still do not eat much and then only when someone reminds me to eat or I consciously stop to think about the last time I ate. Otherwise, I don’t eat; my hunger mechanism doesn’t work anymore as with other people, in that I never really feel hungry.
Oh well, the conversation last night seems to have dug up some old feelings and thoughts this morning.