Hello, my name is Rein. I am 16 and have been battling anorexia nervosa for four years. Although I have had an ED (eating disorder) for that time, I have had problems with my body since I was eight. When I was eight, I thought that I was disgusting, and in writing my letter to Santa (i.e., the only way to get presents), I asked him for liposuction. I ended missing a lot of things that would have been really exciting and fun because I was so uncomfortable with my weight. In fact, I passed up on a Colorado river rafting trip with my friend because I didn't want anyone to see me in a bathing suit.
Things just got worse as I got older. Life with my mother was proving to be unbearable. I was sexually abused by my grandfather for the third or fourth time, and I had started a new school. I originally started with vomiting after meals and taking diet pills, but by my 13th birthday I had discovered this "wonderful" new way to cope. I could not eat, and I would lose weight! It was great...at first. A friend's mom saw me about two weeks later and commented that I had lost a lot of weight. A little warning bell went off my head, but I thought "Nope, not me. Other girls have eating disorders, I just want to be healthier and lose a little weight."
I entered high school, and my anorexia became full-blown. I had been experimenting before, but now it was all-consuming. In February of 1999, two dear friends came to me, after they had been excused from a class period to talk to the counselor because they were crying in class, and told me that they were scared and that I needed help. They begged me not to do this; they said I had already lost too much. At the time I had dropped about 20 to 30 lbs. That's when I began treatment, but I was determined that I was not going to be "treated." "After all," I thought to myself, "I don't have a problem." I b.s.'ed my way through two shrinks, and I was constantly playing games with my nutritionist. I went to see my doctor in December of 1999. At this point I was at 113 lbs., down from 149. I had started to develop different health problems.
I saw my therapist on January 4, 2000. It is a day I will never forget as long as I live. It was the day that I was admitted to UCLA's adolescent eating disorder and mood disturbance ward. The car ride there was surreal; it wasn't happening. But it was, and for the next six weeks "2 West" was my home. At first I hated it with a passion. I hated being on calorie count. I hated the twice-a-week weigh-ins. I hated being on three-hour obs (observation) after I had anything to eat or drink, including water. I didn't want to change.
NOVA came to the ward about two or three weeks into my stay. I had a friend who had been on the ward but had really changed and been released who was going to be interviewed by NOVA. (Hi Erin!!!) I never believed that I could do it, get to her level. She seemed so strong, and she was an inspiration to me. I thought well maybe, maybe I can. I still couldn't get out from beneath the force of my ED. I had to lose weight! Then a girl, "anon," came in who was 13 and had been to five other hospitals.
It's been almost a year since my admission. I have had my ups and downs. Everyday I have to fight to hold the ED at bay. Even as recently as a couple of days ago, when I had gone so far and struggled so long, I couldn't hold on anymore. I am exhausted. I had to give in and rest...at least for a little while. Yesterday, I thought I didn't have anything to fight with. I was ready to give him (my ED) my body so my mind and spirit could rest. Today, after the help of very dear friends and mentors, I feel that although I can't start fighting back right away, I still have something to fight back with. That's the most important thing to remember. If you give up on yourself, you aren't going to go anywhere happy.
Sometimes I hear people say, "Oh, I wish I was anorexic" or "Look at her" (pointing at an anorexic model), "I wish I could look like that." I feel like going up to them and just shaking them! Once you start down this path, it has you. It has you for the rest of your life. I will have to deal with this every day of my life. It will get easier but it will still be there.
I just want to tell anyone out there that it's not the way to go. Please, get help now. Don't lose yourself, your life, everything... It's too high of a price to pay. Some reading this are thinking "No, it's not," but I know people who are in their 60s and are still anorexic or bulimic. And to society: Stop portraying only the extreme cases of this disease! You can die from this disease at any time and at any weight! It's scary but it's true. That is the message that we need to teach. You don't have to be Karen Carpenter to die, you can be any age, any weight.
I hope that I have helped someone by writing this. That's the goal of telling you my experiences—to help. I want to thank NOVA, too, for portraying eating disorders as they are not—as some media glamor thing.
Love Always, Rein from California
Throughout my life I have been sensitive when it came to dealing with food. I remember once when I was six, I said to my mom, "Mommy, wouldn't it be cool if you could just throw up everything you eat?" Of course, I didn't know what I was talking about, but the idea stayed in the back of my mind for years.
My eating disorder began to take control when I was in the seventh grade. School was getting harder, friends were getting cliquey, and my life was changing. I didn't want change. I couldn't handle it. My way of handling these changes was to simply not eat. It felt good, like I had achieved something nobody else had. I kept with it for about a year, when I discovered the art of purging.
My eighth-grade year was like hell. I ate nothing, and when I did eat, I immediately threw it up. I was incredibly depressed and suicidal, and yet I kept up my happy facade in front of my peers. It wasn't till the end of eighth grade that my parents confronted me. They immediately got me into therapy, but I hated it. It didn't help, and I continued my downward spiral.
One day my dad came home to find that I had fainted. I don't know what happened. One second I was walking downstairs, the next my dad was holding an ice pack to my head. That's when I got admitted to the hospital. I stayed there for a month and got intensive therapy.
It's been over a year since my inpatient experience, and I've come a long way. I'm still in therapy and on medication. I see my doctor once a week. But I'm not restricting my eating nearly as much, and I work hard to keep my food inside me. I think I'll always have food issues, and I'll always have to fight the ED voice in my head. But I've come such a long way. And I'm proud of me.
I fit the stigma of the typical anorexic girl. I am young, white, and come from an affluent area. Since I was six years old I could tell that I was not as thin as other girls. My mother helped me work out a "special diet." I took dance, was a member of the country-club swim team, and played basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, and softball. By the time I was 10, I had a very severe eating disorder. I wouldn't eat for days, and then I'd sneak a whole box of cookies into my room and gorge. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get thin, and it was the central problem of my very young life. High school only increased the need to be thin. I stopped having periods, my hair was falling out, and I was consistently sick, but people always commented on how great I looked. I am much better now, but I still have to make sure I'm not taking my dieting too far.
Many people don't know about the long-term effects of anorexia, especially combined with overstress on the body caused by working out too much at a young age. I find it hard to digest food, and I now have scoliosis of the spine and degenerative arthritis in my lower two vertebras and hips. Malnutrition and extreme stress on my body due to exercise wore down my still growing bones. My spine feels like it is trying to tie itself in a knot. I never thought any thing was wrong with my eating habits at the time, but hindsight is 20/20.
I am glad NOVA is doing this special. I believe awareness and understanding will help people realize there is a difference between being healthy and fit, and being thin. By manipulating the Zone diet and obviously abstaining from eating, models and actresses have dramatically begun to drop weight within the last year. I find this is alarming because so many young girls look to them for an example. Girls, please mind the words of Linda Stassi of the New York Post: "Anorexia is a disease, not a fashion statement."